Filing a FOIA Request
Individuals should ensure that the information they seek is not already in the public domain before submitting FOIA requests. FinCEN has some information available to the public listed in its electronic reading room at https://www.fincen.gov/filing-foia-request. Also, a search of the FinCEN Home page can assist requesters in locating information about FinCEN and lists of available publications. Information about points of contact and addresses are also accessible on this site for your convenience.
If the information is not in the public domain, please follow the suggestions listed below when preparing your FOIA request:
- Identify the records requested (be as specific as possible, i.e., describe the subject matter of the records, and, if known, indicate the dates of the records, the places where they originated, and the names of the originating persons or offices);
- State that the records are requested under the Freedom of Information Act;
- Include daytime telephone numbers in case additional information is needed before answering requests; and
- Forward all requests to FinCEN’s Disclosure Office by one of the methods listed below:
We accept requests by mail, email or the Treasury's FOIA web portal:
FinCEN Disclosure Office
P.O. Box 39
Vienna, VA 22183
File your request using Treasury’s FOIA online web portal at https://www.foia.gov
Individuals with questions concerning their requests may call FinCEN’s FOIA Hotline at (703) 905-5034.
Once the request is received, a letter of acknowledgement will be sent to the requester and a search of FinCEN records will be made.
Although FinCEN makes every effort to respond to FOIA requests as promptly as possible, in some cases it simply cannot do so within the specified time period. This may be due either to the size of the request or to the fact that the agency has a backlog of previously received requests that are awaiting processing.
When responsive records are found, a determination will be made as to what information, if any, can be released. A request for records may be denied if the requested record contains information that falls into one or more of the nine categories of exemptions or three exclusions under the Act. See the section of the FOIA Web page entitled Exemptions and Exclusions.
Processing a FOIA Request
FinCEN processes requests of various sizes on different tracks based on the amount of work or time (or both) involved in processing the request in accordance with the Department of the Treasury’s disclosure regulations at 31 CFR Part 1 and Privacy Act Regulations.
Requests for records that are readily identifiable by the Freedom of Information Office and that have already been cleared for public release may be placed on a fast track and responded to more quickly.
All other requests are normally processed on a first-in, first-out basis, however, some circumstances require cases to be taken out of queue. This may be due either to the complexity of the request or to the fact that the requester has demonstrated a compelling need to obtain the information on an expedited basis.
Except in the following circumstances, requests are handled under the normal processing time of 20 business days:
- in the case of expedited treatment when a requester demonstrates a compelling need for the records sought or when FinCEN makes a determination to expedite the response;
- when the running of such time is suspended for payment of fees, and
- in unusual circumstances, as defined in 5 USC § 552(a)(6)(B). (The time limit may be extended for a period not to exceed 10 business days as stated in a written notice to the requester setting forth the reasons for the extension and the date on which a determination is expected to be dispatched; or an alternative period as mutually agreed to by the Freedom of Information Office and the requester when the Freedom of Information Office notifies the requester that the request cannot be processed in the specified time.)
FinCEN will provide any reasonably segregable portion of a record that is requested after deleting the portions that are exempt.
Reasons Access May Be Denied Under the FOIA
FinCEN may withhold records by authorization of one of the FOIA's nine exemptions or three exclusions. The exemptions protect against disclosure of information that would harm the following: national security, the privacy of individuals, the proprietary interest of business, the functioning of the government, and other important recognized interests.
When a record contains some information that qualifies as exempt, the entire record is not necessarily exempt. Instead, the FOIA specifically provides that any reasonably segregable portions of a record must be provided to a requestor after the deletion of the portions that are exempt. FOIA requires FinCEN to identify the location of a deletion in the released portion of the record and to record at the place of deletion the exemption(s) or exclusion(s) authorizing it.
Administrative Appeals and Judicial Review
If requested information is found inappropriate for disclosure and access is denied, FOIA requesters may appeal the denial of information within 35 days from the date of the denial letter. The following information should be stated in the appeal:
- Reasons why the requested information should be released under the Act; and
- Why the denial may be in error.
FOIA requesters shall attach copies of their original requests and response letters to all appeals, clearly mark the letters and the outside envelopes, "FOIA Appeal," and mail appeals to the following address:
Financial Crimes Enforcement Network
P.O. Box 39
Vienna, VA 22183
You will be notified of the status of your appeal if it is not likely that a decision will be provided to you within 20 business days.
After your appeal has been decided, if you are not satisfied that FinCEN has handled your FOIA request in accordance with the law, you have the right to challenge the agency's action in a lawsuit filed (1) in the U.S. District Court where you reside, (2) where you have your principal place of business (if any), (3) in the District of Columbia, or (4) where the records are located, if they are not located in the District of Columbia. You have up to six years to file suit from the time your right to sue begins. The court may require the Government to pay court costs and reasonable attorney’s fees for you if you win a substantial portion of your case.