Appealing Treasury Department’s FOIA Response On Hank Paulson AIG Records
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The following letter was mailed today to the Treasury Department’s Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) division. It is a response to a two year old FOIA request that asked for records concerning former Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson’s communications during a period that included the AIG bailout.
The Treasury Department claimed, amazingly, that no official records could be found and gave me 35 days to appeal the no records response as of the date of the letter, which was dated August 27th, 2015.
Below is the letter I sent back to the person who sent the response, Mr. Deryl L. Richardson, who serves as the assistant director of FOIA and transparency at the Treasury Department.
Our letter to the Treasury Department
Dear Mr. Richardson,
I find the no records response issued by the Treasury Department in response to my FOIA request [2013- 05-168] communicated in your letter of August 27th, 2015 to be both unacceptable and improbable.
Former Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson has spoken publicly and written in his own memoir, “On The Brink,” that he had numerous communications regarding American International Group (AIG) during the period covered by the request [June 1, 2008 to January 20, 2009] with government officials, corporate officers at AIG, and private associates.
Specifically, Mr. Paulson wrote in published work that he spoke with then-New York Federal Reserve Chairman Timothy Geithner, Bill Osborn of Northern Trust, AIG’s former CEO Robert Willumstad, and Goldman Sachs banker Ken Wilson about AIG in the period covered by the FOIA request.
He conducted these discussions and communications in his official capacity as then-Secretary of the Treasury Department.
Therefore, I hereby appeal the integrity of the search and ask that a new search be conducted to locate responsive records. Be sure to search all systems of record that may hold responsive records.
I also hasten to add that if the Treasury Department’s contention that Mr. Paulson kept all communications for that period regarding AIG out of the official record is accurate, Mr. Paulson appears to have violated 44 U.S. Code § 3101 of the Federal Records Act.
Though the act has been amended recently and become a focal point for current news events, it is my understanding that Chapter 31 was part of the Federal Records Act of 1950 and thus the law when Mr. Paulson served as head of the Treasury Department.
If, as your response suggests, Mr. Paulson kept no official communications on a matter he has disclosed being involved in publicly in his official capacity, he likely violated the law. Did officials at the Treasury Department offer Mr. Paulson any guidance on his conduct related to the Federal Records Act or raise any concerns with the appropriate authorities?
I look forward to your response and will send this letter by both regular and certified mail.