Supreme Court to Hear Arguments on Confidential Business Information

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The issue before the Court in Food Marketing Institute vs. Argus Leader Media is whether FOIA’s Exemption 4 protects from mandatory disclosure store-level SNAP redemption data. Retailers carefully safeguard such sensitive information, which has significant value to competitors. FMI therefore intervened in the lawsuit on appeal to argue that store-level SNAP redemption data constitutes confidential commercial information, and is therefore exempt from disclosure under FOIA. Argus Leader, a South Dakota newspaper owned by Gannett, has argued that taxpayers have a right to know where government dollars are spent. FMI and its members don’t disagree with that general proposition—but food retailers of all sizes and geographic locations have expressed apprehension about the release of this individualized, highly granular information, which says less about how and where government money is spent than on the specific competitive position of particular stores and companies. Smaller companies have expressed concern over larger U.S. competitors receiving the data, and larger U.S. players have expressed concern about international online operators without existing U.S. stores gaining access to this confidential sales data.

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