Landmark Supreme Court ruling on FOIA protection favors business

Yesterday, 24 June 2019, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a landmark decision, Food Mktg. Inst. v. Argus Leader Media, 139 S. Ct. 915 (2019), that overturns a half-century of precedent and significantly expands the ability of businesses to block federal agencies from releasing their confidential information to the public under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).

The decision eliminates a requirement established in National Parks & Conservation Assn. v. Morton, 498 F.2d 765 (D.C. Cir. 1974) and generally followed by the federal courts that the party objecting to disclosure show "substantial competitive harm" to support withholding of information under FOIA Exemption 4. This is a significant change for federal contractors who share confidential and proprietary information with the government to compete for government awards, and for other reasons.

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