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July 29, 2016

29 July 2016

FOIA Improvement Act of 2016: The Presumption of Openness” and Other Significant Changes

On June 30, 2016, President Obama signed the FOIA Improvement Act of 2016 (the Act). The Act adds provisions to the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) that may assist requesters, as well as lead to increased disclosure. However, business records currently protected by existing interpretations of FOIA exemptions should continue to be protected despite these changes. The flagship change enacts the Obama Administration’s “presumption of openness” by codifying an already-existing executive branch policy that restricts an agency’s discretionary power to withhold documents to situations where disclosure would result in foreseeable harm. Other changes include a 25-year sunset provision for protection of privileged pre-decisional inter- or intra-agency memoranda under exemption 5; procedural changes intended to streamline requests and reduce delay; and increased emphasis on FOIA’s alternative dispute resolution services to assist requesters.

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