Skip to content

Case Detail

[Subscribe to updates]
Case TitleThe Center for Investigative Reporting et al v. United States Department of the Treasury
DistrictNorthern District of California
CitySan Francisco
Case Number3:2019cv08181
Date Filed2019-12-16
Date Closed2021-01-25
JudgeMagistrate Judge Joseph C. Spero
PlaintiffThe Center for Investigative Reporting
PlaintiffAaron Glantz
Case DescriptionAaron Glantz, a reporter for the Center for Investigative Reporting, submitted a FOIA request to the Department of Treasury for records concerning real estate purchased with cash of which FinCen is aware. Glantz also requested inclusion in the news media fee category. The agency responded with a Glomar response neither confirming nor denying the existence of records, citing the Bank Secrecy Act under Exemption 3 (other statutes). Glantz filed an administrative appeal. The agency remanded the request for further processing. After hearing nothing further from the agency, Glantz and CIR filed suit.
Complaint issues: Failure to respond within statutory time limit, Litigation - Attorney's fees

DefendantTreasury, Dept of
DefendantUnited States Department of the Treasury
Documents
Docket
Complaint
Complaint attachment 1
Complaint attachment 2
Opinion/Order [39]
FOIA Project Annotation: A federal court in California has ruled that the Department of Treasury's Financial Crimes Enforcement Network properly withheld the identities of the real human owners of residential real estate purchased with cash since 2016 in response to a FOIA request submitted by Aaron Glantz of the Center for Investigative Reporting under Exemption 3 (other statues), citing the Bank Secrecy Act. CIR submitted a FOIA request to FinCEN for all records containing information submitted in response to geographic targeting orders (GTOs), which require financial institutions and other businesses in a specified geographic area to report certain transactions. The BSA provides that while FinCEN must share these reports with state and federal regulators and intelligence agencies upon request, the reports are exempt under FOIA and any other open records laws. The agency initially issued a Glomar response, neither confirming nor denying the existence of records. FinCEN then told CIR that it had located 113,871 pages of responsive records but they were all exempt under the Bank Secrecy Act. The agency also identified Suspicious Activity Reports, which it withheld in full. CIR argued that the Bank Secrecy Act did not apply because it had been amended in 2009 and 2011 without mentioning the OPEN FOIA Act, which requires Exemption 3 provisions passed after 2009 to reference FOIA. Magistrate Judge Joseph Spero disagreed, noting that "although CIR is correct that § 5319 has been amended since 2009, the relevant question under § 552(b)(3)(B) is when the statute was enacted, not when it was most recently amended." He added that "reading the subsequent 2011 amendment " which expanded the bar against disclosure by adding references to state law while still also squaring addressing FOIA " as implicitly authorizing disclosure under FOIA for failure to cite by paragraph Exemption 3 would be contrary to the plain language and clear intent of the BSA." Spero noted that the recent Ninth Circuit decision in Center for Investigative Reporting v. Dept of Justice, 982 F.3ed 668 (9th Cir. 2020), which found that since the Tiahrt Rider, prohibiting DOJ from expending funds on responding to FOIA requests for gun trace data, had been rewritten since 2009 without the required reference to FOIA, it did not qualify as an Exemption 3 statute. Spero pointed out that "here, however, the relevant statutory language of § 5319 was enacted well before 2009, and the post-2009 amendment merely supplemented it with additional language not relevant to this case. That addition does not resemble the enactment of an entirely new appropriations rider, as in the case before the Ninth Circuit." CIR argued that the term "record of report" should be interpreted more broadly to allow disclosure of the spreadsheet. But Spero pointed out that "if Congress had intended to exempt only records underlying or accompanying reports, or only records created by non-governmental entities, it could have written the law to so state." Spero then found that the Bank Secrecy Act fell within an exception for the foreseeable harm test, noting that the foreseeable harm test did not apply to the "disclosure of information that is. . .otherwise exempted from disclosure under subsection (b)(3)." Spero also rejected CIR's contention that some state laws required the disclosure of some of the real estate ownership data. He observed that "CIR has submitted no evidence to show that any information actually collected by FinCEN overlaps with information actually placed in the public domain, under any of the laws cited. Nor. . .has CIR shown how FinCEN might reasonably segregate any public information that might be in its records from nonpublic information that cannot be disclosed under the BSA."
Issues: Exemption 3 - Statutory prohibition of disclosure
Opinion/Order [47]
User-contributed Documents
 
Docket Events (Hide)
Date FiledDoc #Docket Text

2019-12-161COMPLAINT for Injunctive Relief against United States Department of the Treasury (Filing fee $ 400.00, receipt number 0971-13985079.). Filed by Aaron Glantz, The Center for Investigative Reporting. (Attachments: # 1 Exhibit, # 2 Civil Cover Sheet) (Baranetsky, Diana) (Filed on 12/16/2019) Modified on 12/26/2019 (gbaS, COURT STAFF). (Entered: 12/16/2019)
2019-12-162Proposed Summons. (Baranetsky, Diana) (Filed on 12/16/2019) (Entered: 12/16/2019)
2019-12-163Certificate of Interested Entities by Aaron Glantz, The Center for Investigative Reporting (Baranetsky, Diana) (Filed on 12/16/2019) (Entered: 12/16/2019)
2019-12-174Case assigned to Magistrate Judge Joseph C. Spero. Counsel for plaintiff or the removing party is responsible for serving the Complaint or Notice of Removal, Summons and the assigned judge's standing orders and all other new case documents upon the opposing parties. For information, visit E-Filing A New Civil Case at http://cand.uscourts.gov/ecf/caseopening. Standing orders can be downloaded from the court's web page at www.cand.uscourts.gov/judges. Upon receipt, the summons will be issued and returned electronically. Counsel is required to send chambers a copy of the initiating documents pursuant to L.R. 5-1(e)(7). A scheduling order will be sent by Notice of Electronic Filing (NEF) within two business days. Consent/Declination due by 12/31/2019. (ajsS, COURT STAFF) (Filed on 12/17/2019) (Entered: 12/17/2019)
2019-12-175CONSENT/DECLINATION to Proceed Before a US Magistrate Judge by Aaron Glantz, The Center for Investigative Reporting.. (Baranetsky, Diana) (Filed on 12/17/2019) (Entered: 12/17/2019)
2019-12-266Initial Case Management Scheduling Order with ADR Deadlines: Case Management Statement due by 3/13/2020. Initial Case Management Conference set for 3/20/2020 02:00 PM in San Francisco, Courtroom G, 15th Floor. (gbaS, COURT STAFF) (Filed on 12/26/2019) (Entered: 12/26/2019)
2019-12-267Summons Issued as to United States Department of the Treasury. (gbaS, COURT STAFF) (Filed on 12/26/2019) (Entered: 12/26/2019)
2020-01-068CERTIFICATE OF SERVICE by Aaron Glantz, The Center for Investigative Reporting (Baranetsky, Diana) (Filed on 1/6/2020) (Entered: 01/06/2020)
2020-01-249NOTICE of Appearance by John Wesley Samples (Samples, John) (Filed on 1/24/2020) (Entered: 01/24/2020)
2020-01-2410STIPULATION TO EXTEND TIME WITHIN WHICH TO ANSWER filed by United States Department of the Treasury, The Center for Investigative Reporting and Aaron Glantz. (Samples, John) (Filed on 1/24/2020) Modified on 1/27/2020 (amgS, COURT STAFF). (Entered: 01/24/2020)
2020-01-2711ORDER GRANTING re 10 Stipulation to Extend Time Within Which to Answer filed by The Center for Investigative Reporting, Aaron Glantz, United States Department of the Treasury. Signed by Chief Magistrate Judge Joseph C. Spero on 1/27/2020. (klhS, COURT STAFF) (Filed on 1/27/2020) (Entered: 01/27/2020)
2020-01-2712CLERK'S NOTICE Re: Consent or Declination: Defendant shall file a consent or declination to proceed before a magistrate judge. Note that any party is free to withhold consent to proceed before a magistrate judge without adverse substantive consequences. The forms are available at: http://cand.uscourts.gov/civilforms. (Party/parties were also notified via telephone or email.) Consent/Declination due by 2/10/2020. (klhS, COURT STAFF) (Filed on 1/27/2020) (Entered: 01/27/2020)
2020-02-1913CONSENT/DECLINATION to Proceed Before a US Magistrate Judge by United States Department of the Treasury.. (Samples, John) (Filed on 2/19/2020) (Entered: 02/19/2020)
2020-02-2114ANSWER to Complaint byUnited States Department of the Treasury. (Attachments: # 1 Exhibit 1, # 2 Exhibit 2)(Samples, John) (Filed on 2/21/2020) (Entered: 02/21/2020)
2020-02-2815ADR Certification (ADR L.R. 3-5 b) of discussion of ADR options (Samples, John) (Filed on 2/28/2020) (Entered: 02/28/2020)
2020-02-2816ADR Certification (ADR L.R. 3-5 b) of discussion of ADR options (Baranetsky, Diana) (Filed on 2/28/2020) (Entered: 02/28/2020)
2020-03-1317JOINT CASE MANAGEMENT STATEMENT filed by United States Department of the Treasury. (Samples, John) (Filed on 3/13/2020) (Entered: 03/13/2020)
2020-03-1718CLERK'S NOTICE CONTINUING INITIAL CASE MANAGEMENT CONFERENCE. (This is a text-only entry generated by the court. There is no document associated with this entry.) Case Management Statement due by 6/12/2020. Initial Case Management Conference, previously set for 3/20/2020 is re-set for 6/19/2020 02:00 PM in San Francisco, Courtroom F, 15th Floor. (klhS, COURT STAFF) (Filed on 3/17/2020) (Entered: 03/17/2020)
2020-06-1019STIPULATION WITH PROPOSED ORDER Joint filed by United States Department of the Treasury. (Attachments: # 1 Declaration)(Samples, John) (Filed on 6/10/2020) (Entered: 06/10/2020)
2020-06-1120Order, signed as modified on 6/11/2020, by Chief Magistrate Judge Joseph C. Spero granting 19 Stipulation to Continue Case Management Conference. Case Management Statement due by 6/26/2020. Initial Case Management Conference set for 7/10/2020 02:00 PM in San Francisco, Courtroom F, 15th Floor.(klhS, COURT STAFF) (Filed on 6/11/2020) (Entered: 06/11/2020)
2020-06-2521STIPULATION WITH PROPOSED ORDER filed by United States Department of the Treasury. (Samples, John) (Filed on 6/25/2020) (Entered: 06/25/2020)
2020-06-2522STIPULATION WITH PROPOSED ORDER Joint Stipulation to Continue Joint Case Management Statement and Case Management Conference filed by United States Department of the Treasury. (Attachments: # 1 Declaration of Wesley Samples)(Samples, John) (Filed on 6/25/2020) (Entered: 06/25/2020)
2020-06-2523Order, signed 6/25/2020, by Chief Magistrate Judge Joseph C. Spero granting 21 Stipulation Re: Statutory Exempt Geographic Target Reports.(klhS, COURT STAFF) (Filed on 6/25/2020) (Entered: 06/25/2020)
2020-06-2524Order, signed 6/25/2020, by Chief Magistrate Judge Joseph C. Spero granting 22 Stipulation to Continue Initial Case Management Conference. Case Management Statement due by 7/17/2020. Initial Case Management Conference set for 7/24/2020 02:00 PM in San Francisco, Courtroom F, 15th Floor.(klhS, COURT STAFF) (Filed on 6/25/2020) (Entered: 06/25/2020)
2020-07-1725STIPULATION WITH PROPOSED ORDER Joint Stipulation to Continue Joint Case Management Statement and Case Management Conference and [Proposed] Order filed by United States Department of the Treasury. (Attachments: # 1 Declaration of Wesley Samples)(Samples, John) (Filed on 7/17/2020) (Entered: 07/17/2020)
2020-07-2026Order, signed 7/20/2020, by Chief Magistrate Judge Joseph C. Spero granting 25 Stipulation to Continue Initial Case Management Conference. Case Management Statement due by 7/24/2020. Initial Case Management Conference set for 7/31/2020 02:00 PM in San Francisco, Courtroom F, 15th Floor. The Initial Case Management Conference will be held by Zoom. Zoom information is located on Judge Spero's web page.(klhS, COURT STAFF) (Filed on 7/20/2020) (Entered: 07/20/2020)
2020-07-2327STIPULATION WITH PROPOSED ORDER re 26 Order on Stipulation, filed by United States Department of the Treasury. (Samples, John) (Filed on 7/23/2020) (Entered: 07/23/2020)
2020-07-2428Order, signed as modified on 7/24/2020, by Chief Magistrate Judge Joseph C. Spero granting 27 Stipulation for Summary Judgment Briefing Plan. Plaintiff's Cross Motions/Opposition due by 10/1/2020. Defendant's Dispositive Motion due by 9/10/2020. Plaintiff's Replies due by 11/12/2020. Defendant's Cross-Opposition and Reply due by 10/22/2020. Motion Hearing set for 12/11/2020 09:30 AM in San Francisco, Courtroom F, 15th Floor before Magistrate Judge Joseph C. Spero.(klhS, COURT STAFF) (Filed on 7/24/2020) (Entered: 07/24/2020)
2020-09-1029MOTION for Summary Judgment filed by United States Department of the Treasury. Motion Hearing set for 12/11/2020 09:30 AM in San Francisco, Courtroom F, 15th Floor before Magistrate Judge Joseph C. Spero. Responses due by 10/1/2020. Replies due by 10/22/2020. (Attachments: # 1 Proposed Order, # 2 Declaration, # 3 Exhibit 1 - Vaughn Index, # 4 Exhibit 2 - 11 Pgs Released, # 5 Exhibit 3 - Plaintiffs' FOIA Request, # 6 Exhibit 4 - 7/29/19 letter to Plaintiff, # 7 Exhibit 5 - 8/1/19 letter to FinCEN, # 8 Exhibit 6 - 8/7/19 letter to Plaintiff, # 9 Exhibit 7 - 10/17/19 letter to Plaintiff, # 10 Exhibit 8 - 1/31/20 letter to Plaintiff, # 11 Exhibit 9 - 2/7/20 letter to Plaintiff, # 12 Exhibit 10 - 2/27/20 letter to Plaintiff, # 13 Exhibit 11 - 6/26/20 letter to Plaintiff, # 14 Exhibit 12 - Advisory re GTOs, # 15 Exhibit 13 - GTO #1, # 16 Exhibit 14 - Press Release re GTO #1, # 17 Exhibit 15 - GTO #2, # 18 Exhibit 16 - GTO #3, # 19 Exhibit 17 - Press Release re GTO #3, # 20 Exhibit 18 - GTO #4, # 21 Exhibit 19 - GTO #5, # 22 Exhibit 20 - GTO #6, # 23 Exhibit 21 - GTO #7, # 24 Exhibit 22 - Press Release re GTO #7, # 25 Exhibit 23 - FinCEN Enforcement Statement, # 26 Exhibit 24 - Article from the Real Deal Real Estate News, # 27 Exhibit 25 - Article from the Broward Palm Beach New Times, # 28 Exhibit 26 - Article from the WSJ)(Samples, John) (Filed on 9/10/2020) (Entered: 09/10/2020)
2020-09-1730STIPULATION WITH PROPOSED ORDER Joint Stipulation to Modify the Summary Judgment Briefing Plan and [Proposed] Order filed by United States Department of the Treasury. (Attachments: # 1 Declaration of Wesley Samples)(Samples, John) (Filed on 9/17/2020) (Entered: 09/17/2020)
2020-09-1831Order, signed 9/18/2020, by Chief Magistrate Judge Joseph C. Spero granting 30 Stipulation to Modify Summary Judgment Briefing Plan. Plaintiff's Cross Motions/Opposition due by 10/8/2020. Defendant's Cross-Opposition and Reply due 11/5/2020. Plaintiff's Replies due by 12/3/2020. Motion hearing date set for 1/8/2021 at 9:30 AM. Mbr>(klhS, COURT STAFF) (Filed on 9/18/2020) (Entered: 09/18/2020)
2020-09-18Set/Reset Deadlines as to 29 MOTION for Summary Judgment . Motion Hearing set for 1/8/2021 09:30 AM in San Francisco, Courtroom F, 15th Floor before Magistrate Judge Joseph C. Spero. (klhS, COURT STAFF) (Filed on 9/18/2020) (Entered: 09/18/2020)
2020-10-0832OPPOSITION/RESPONSE (re 29 MOTION for Summary Judgment ) Cross Motion for Summary Judgement filed byAaron Glantz, The Center for Investigative Reporting. (Attachments: # 1 Declaration, # 2 Exhibit, # 3 Declaration, # 4 Declaration, # 5 Proposed Order)(Baranetsky, Diana) (Filed on 10/8/2020) Modified on 10/9/2020 (mclS, COURT STAFF). (Entered: 10/08/2020)
2020-11-0533OPPOSITION/RESPONSE (re 29 MOTION for Summary Judgment , 32 MOTION for Summary Judgment ) Cross Opposition and Reply for Summary Judgment filed byUnited States Department of the Treasury. (Attachments: # 1 Declaration, # 2 Exhibit 1 to Second Declaration)(Samples, John) (Filed on 11/5/2020) (Entered: 11/05/2020)
2020-12-0134STIPULATION WITH PROPOSED ORDER filed by Aaron Glantz, The Center for Investigative Reporting. (Baranetsky, Diana) (Filed on 12/1/2020) (Entered: 12/01/2020)
2020-12-0235Order, signed 12/2/2020, by Chief Magistrate Judge Joseph C. Spero granting 34 Stipulation to Modify Page Numbers for Summary Judgment Briefing.(klhS, COURT STAFF) (Filed on 12/2/2020) (Entered: 12/02/2020)
2020-12-0336REPLY (re 29 MOTION for Summary Judgment ) filed byAaron Glantz, The Center for Investigative Reporting. (Baranetsky, Diana) (Filed on 12/3/2020) (Entered: 12/03/2020)
2021-01-0437CLERKS NOTICE CONTINUING HEARING AND SETTING ZOOM HEARING. Motion Hearing as to 32 CROSS-MOTION for Summary Judgment, 29 MOTION for Summary Judgment , previously set for 1/8/2021 at 9:30 AM, has been re-set for 1/22/2021 09:30 AM in San Francisco, - Videoconference Only before Magistrate Judge Joseph C. Spero. This proceeding will be held via a Zoom webinar. Webinar Access: All counsel, members of the public, and media may access the webinar information at https://www.cand.uscourts.gov/jcs General Order 58. Persons granted access to court proceedings held by telephone or videoconference are reminded that photographing, recordi ng, and rebroadcasting of court proceedings, including screenshots or other visual copying of a hearing, is absolutely prohibited. Zoom Guidance and Setup: https://www.cand.us courts.gov/zoom/ . (This is a text-only entry generated by the court. There is no document associated with this entry.) (klhS, COURT STAFF) (Filed on 1/4/2021) (Entered: 01/04/2021)
2021-01-2238Minute Entry for proceedings held before Chief Magistrate Judge Joseph C. Spero: Motion Hearing held on 1/22/2021 re 29 MOTION for Summary Judgment filed by United States Department of the Treasury, 32 Cross- MOTION for Summary Judgment filed by The Center for Investigative Reporting, Aaron Glantz. Motions SUBMITTED. Total Time in Court: 24 M. Court Reporter: Belle Ball. Plaintiff Attorney: Diana Victoria Baranetsky. Defendant Attorney: John Wesley Samples. (klhS, COURT STAFF) (Date Filed: 1/22/2021) (Entered: 01/22/2021)
2021-01-2239ORDER by Chief Magistrate Judge Joseph C. Spero granting 29 Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment and denying 32 Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment. (jcslc2S, COURT STAFF) (Filed on 1/22/2021) (Entered: 01/22/2021)
2021-01-2540CLERK'S JUDGMENT in favor of United States Department of the Treasury (FinCEN) against The Center for Investigative Reporting, Aaron Glantz (klhS, COURT STAFF) (Filed on 1/25/2021) (Entered: 01/25/2021)
Hide Docket Events
by FOIA Project Staff
Skip to toolbar