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WP Co. LLC v. SBA, No. 20-1240, 20-1614, 2020 WL 6887623 (D.D.C. Nov. 24, 2020) (Boasberg, J.)


WP Co. LLC v. SBA, No. 20-1240, 20-1614, 2020 WL 6887623 (D.D.C. Nov. 24, 2020) (Boasberg, J.)

Re:  Requests for names, addresses, and precise loan amounts of all Paycheck Protection Program ("PPP") and Economic Injury Disaster Loans ("EIDL") borrowers

Disposition:  Denying defendant's motion for a stay and ordering SBA to release requested information by December 1, 2020

  • Litigation Considerations:  The court relates that "[o]n November 5, 2020, in these two Freedom of Information Act cases, [the] Court ordered the Small Business Administration to 'release the names, addresses, and precise loan amounts' for borrowers that had obtained loans approved pursuant to the Paycheck Protection Program and the Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL) program."  "Unhappy with that disposition, the agency now moves to put it on hold, seeking a stay as it decides whether to appeal to the D.C. Circuit."  "Although cognizant that a denial of such Motion could moot an appeal, the Court nonetheless finds that the relevant factors weigh against a stay."  Regarding the merits of the appeal, "[t]he Court does not dispute that the present cases involve a novel application of FOIA Exemptions 4 and 6 and raise serious legal questions and issues that do not lend themselves to immediate or obvious resolution."  However, the court finds that "SBA offers little that it has not already argued and that the Court has not already rejected."  "The Court remains convinced that its prior Opinion correctly resolved the legal issues present in these cases."  Regarding the harm to defendant, the court finds that "once the information has been turned over, the bell cannot be unrung on appeal."  "To be sure, as a technical matter, denying SBA a stay would not itself work 'irreparable harm to [its] appellate rights.'"  "The Court recognizes, however, that other decisions have found irreparable harm in procedural postures akin to the present where disclosure would work a 'de facto deprivation' of the government's basic right to seek review in the Court of Appeals."  However, the court finds that "even if SBA can make out some showing of irreparable harm in the absence of a stay – as the Court is willing to assume – any such injury is substantially outweighed by the harm to Plaintiffs and the public at large should the Court put its Order on ice."  Regarding the public interest, the court finds that "[i]n light of that prevailing – and urgent – public interest, the agency's concerns do not cut in favor of a stay."  The court relates that "[r]ather than directly disputing the importance of the withheld information, SBA downplays its immediate relevance, contending that the records 'are mainly of historical interest' because 'loans have already been made and new applications are not being considered.'"  "On the contrary, [the court finds that] the agency's lending programs remain a live and pressing issue."  "While the withheld data does concern loans previously allocated, the public maintains an urgent and immediate interest in assessing the results of SBA's initial effort at administering a massive small-business relief package and extracting lessons where possible – both to inform a critical, ongoing federal debate and to remedy failures in the loan-disbursement process moving forward."  The court also notes that "[p]laintiffs also point to a continuing trickle of federal prosecutions as evidence that PPP-and EIDL-related fraud 'continues to threaten taxpayer dollars,' thus confirming that the loan data 'remains of ongoing public interest.'"
Court Decision Topic(s)
District Court opinions
Litigation Considerations, Supplemental to Main Categories
Updated December 18, 2020