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Media Alerts - Fourth Circuit: American Management Services, LLC, d/b/a Pinnacle v. Department of the Army
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February 15, 2013
  Fourth Circuit: American Management Services, LLC, d/b/a Pinnacle v. Department of the Army
Headline: FOIA Exemptions Protect Whistleblower Company's Trade Secrets

Area of Law: Administrative

Issue(s) Presented: Whether the Army lawfully withheld alleged evidence of fraud pursuant to FOIA exemptions when the documents were related to business the Army conducted with two entities involved in litigation.

Brief Summary: In a civil suit between two private real estate companies, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit agreed that Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests could not be used to supplement traditional discovery methods. The companies, Pinnacle and Clark, worked on a joint project to develop and manage private family housing on two Army bases. Clark, however, sought the Army's permission to sue Pinnacle after it found evidence that Pinnacle engaged in fraud. Clark presented the Army with a binder of evidence in support of its request. Thereafter, the Army granted Clark permission to sue.

During discovery, Pinnacle requested the Army produce the binder and other communications, which the Army refused to do. Pinnacle subsequently filed a request with the Army under FOIA for the same documents. In response, the Army released fifty-five pages of documents but withheld an additional eight hundred pages based on FOIA Exemptions 4 and 5, which apply to confidential financial information and inter-agency memoranda, respectively. The Fourth Circuit concluded that the Army lawfully withheld the documents under Exemptions 4 and 5 of FOIA. Non-disclosure under Exemption 4, the court found, was appropriate because releasing the documents would make private entities less willing to share necessary information with the Army. The court concluded that withholding the documents under Exemption 5 was also appropriate because Clark, though not a government agency, shared a common interest with the Army in the ongoing litigation and its communications with the Army qualified as intra-agency communications.

For the full opinion, please visit:

Panel: Chief Judge Traxler, and Judges Wynn and Thacker

Argument Date: 10/23/2012

Date of Issued Opinion: 01/09/2013

Docket Number: No. 12-1274

Decided: Affirmed

Case Alert Author: Brandon K. Moore

Counsel: ARGUED: C. Allen Foster, GREENBERG TRAURIG, LLP, Washington, D.C., for Appellant. Julie Ann Edelstein, OFFICE OF THE UNITED STATES ATTORNEY, Alexandria, Virginia, for Appellee. ON BRIEF: Joe R. Reeder, Eric C. Rowe, GREENBERG TRAURIG, LLP, Washington, D.C., for Appellant. Neil H. MacBride, United States Attorney, Alexandria, Virginia, for Appellee.

Author of Opinion: Traxler, C.J.

Case Alert Circuit Supervisor: Professor Renée Hutchins

Edited: 02/25/2013 at 11:57 AM by Renee Hutchins

    Posted By: Renee Hutchins @ 02/15/2013 03:43 PM     4th Circuit  

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