44 CFR 5.57 - Predisclosure notification procedures for confidential commercial information.
(a) In general. Business information provided to FEMA by a business submitter shall not be disclosed pursuant to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request except in accordance with this section. For purposes of this section, the following definitions apply:
(1) Confidential commercial information means records provided to the government by a submitter that arguably contain material exempt from release under Exemption 4 of the Freedom of Information Act, 5 U.S.C 552(b)(4), because disclosure could reasonably be expected to cause substantial competitive harm.
(2) Submitter means any person or entity who provides confidential commercial information to the government. The term submitter includes, but is not limited to, corporations, State governments, and foreign governments.
(b) Notice to business submitters. FEMA shall provide a submitter with prompt notice of receipt of a Freedom of Information Act request encompassing its business information whenever required in accordance with paragraph (c) of this section, and except as provided in paragraph (g) of this section. The written notice shall either describe the exact nature of the business information requested or provide copies of the records or portions of records containing the business information.
(c) When notice is required.
(1) For confidential commercial information submitted prior to January 1, 1988, FEMA shall provide a submitter with notice of receipt of a FOIA request whenever:
(i) The records are less than 10 years old and the information has been designated by the submitter as confidential commercial information;
(ii) FEMA has reason to believe that disclosure of the information could reasonably result in commercial or financial injury to the submitter; or
(iii) The information is subject to prior express commitment of confidentiality given by FEMA to the submitter.
(2) For confidential commercial information submitted to FEMA on or after January 1, 1988, FEMA shall provide a submitter with notice of receipt of a FOIA request whenever:
(i) The submitter has in good faith designated the information as commercially or financially sensitive information; or
(ii) FEMA has reason to believe that disclosure of the information could reasonably result in commercial or financial injury to the submitter.
(3) Notice of a request for confidential commercial information falling within paragraph (c)(2)(i) of this section shall be required for a period of not more than 10 years after the date of submission unless the submitter requests, and provides acceptable justification for, a specific notice period of greater duration.
(4) Whenever possible, the submitter's claim of confidentiality shall be supported by a statement or certification by an officer or authorized representative of the company that the information in question is in fact confidential commercial or financial information and has not been disclosed to the public.
(d) Opportunity to object to disclosure.
(1) Through the notice described in paragraph (b) of this section, FEMA shall afford a submitter 7 working days within which to provide FEMA with a detailed statement of any objection to disclosure. Such statement shall specify all grounds for withholding any of the information under any exemptions of the Freedom of Information Act and, in the case of Exemption 4, shall demonstrate why the information is contended to be a trade secret or commercial or financial information which is considered privileged or confidential. Information provided by a submitter pursuant to this paragraph may itself be subject to disclosure under the FOIA.
(2) When notice is given to a submitter under this section, FEMA shall notify the requester that such notice has been given to the submitter. The requester will be further advised that a delay in responding to the request, i.e., 10 working days after receipt of the request by FEMA or 20 working days after receipt of the request by FEMA if the time limits are extended under unusual circumstances permitted by the FOIA, may be considered a denial of access to records and the requester may proceed with an administrative appeal or seek judicial review, if appropriate.
(e) Notice of intent to disclose. FEMA shall consider carefully a submitter's objections and specific grounds for nondisclosure prior to determining whether to disclose business information. Whenever FEMA decides to disclose business information over the objection of a submitter, FEMA shall forward to the submitter a written notice which shall include:
(1) A statement of the reasons for which the submitter's disclosure objections were not sustained;
(2) A description of the business information to be disclosed; and
(3) A specified disclosure date, which is 7 working days after the notice of the final decision to release the requested information has been mailed to the submitter. FEMA shall inform the submitter that disclosure will be made by the specified disclosure date, unless the submitter seeks a court injunction to prevent its release by the date. When notice is given to a submitter under this section, FEMA shall notify the requester that such notice has been given to the submitter and the proposed date for disclosure.
(f) Notice of lawsuit.
(1) Whenever a requester brings legal action seeking to compel disclosure of business information covered by paragraph (c) of this section, FEMA shall promptly notify the submitter.
(2) Whenever a submitter brings legal action seeking to prevent disclosure of business information covered by paragraph (c) of this section, FEMA shall promptly notify the requester.
(g) Exception to notice requirement. The notice requirements of this section shall not apply if:
(1) FEMA determines that the information shall not be disclosed;
(2) The information has been published or otherwise officially made available to the public;
(3) Disclosure of the information is required by law (other than 5 U.S.C. 552); or
(4) The information was required in the course of a lawful investigation of a possible violation of criminal law.