Judicial Watch Files FOIA Lawsuit Against Consumer Financial Protection Bureau for Records of Headquarters' Remodeling Cost Overruns
March 19, 2014 - WASHINGTON, DC
Judicial Watch announced today that on March 19, 2014, it filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit on behalf of the Washington Examiner, against the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) seeking to obtain records detailing $90 million in cost overruns for the remodeling of the CFPB Washington headquarters (The Washington Newspaper Publishing Company LLC v. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (No. 1:14-cv-00444)).
According to a February 14 Examiner article, over the past two years, the cost of the remodeling project has soared from $55 million to $145 million. At the request of Rep. Patrick McHenry, chairman of the House Financial Services Committee's subcommittee on oversight and investigations, the Federal Reserve inspector general has now initiated an investigation into the cost overruns.
On July 24, 2013, Richard Pollack, the Washington Examiners Senior Investigative Reporter, filed a FOIA request with CFPB seeking access to records concerning the headquarters' renovation. Over the course of several months, the CFPB notified the Examiner that it had located a total of 350 pages responsive to the FOIA request. However, CFPB informed the Examiner it was withholding 335 of the 350 pages.
In an editorial addressing the CFPB refusal to comply with its FOIA request, the Examiner observed:
CFPB officials resolutely refuse to provide relevant documents sought by the Examiner concerning the building renovation. The few cursory documents that were turned over shed no light on the project. Since CFPB has all the time in the world, plus legions of lawyers and a huge budget that Congress can't touch, odds are good that shining the disinfectant of sunlight won't happen any time soon. That's an open invitation for waste, abuse and corruption.
Mark Tapscott, the executive editor of the Washington Examiner, said, "Documents to explain why a government bureau is spending so lavishly on renovations to its headquarters are exactly the kind of information the FOIA is meant to make available to taxpayers. We shouldn't have to go to court to get them, but it's important to make the point that the American people have just as much of a right to know what CFPB is doing with their money as they do their local dogcatchers."
Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton stated, "From its inception, the CFPB has been placed dangerously out of reach of the American people. And it has acted with arrogant indifference to attempts to pierce its veil of secrecy. Judicial Watch is happy to help The Washington Examiner obtain these documents on behalf of the public interest."
In June, 2013 Judicial Watch obtained records from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) revealing that the agency has spent millions of dollars for the warrantless collection and analysis of Americans' financial transactions. The documents also revealed that CFPB contractors may have been required to share the information with "additional government entities."
The full extent of the CFPB personal financial data collection program was revealed in a document entitled "INDEFINITE-DELIVERY INDEFINITE-QUANTITY (IDIQ) STATEMENT OF WORK" stating: "The CFPB seeks to acquire and maintain a nationally representative panel of credit information on consumers for use in a wide range of policy research projects... The panel shall be a random sample of consumer credit files obtains from a national database of credit files." At the time, the US Chamber of Commerce accused the CFPB of breaking the law by demanding the account-level data without a warrant or National Security Letter.