|Office of the Attorney General - State of Texas
June 14, 1999
Ms. Mary Barrow Nichols
Dear Ms. Nichols:
You have asked whether certain information is subject to required public disclosure under chapter 552 of the Government Code. Your request was assigned ID# 124943.
The Worker's Compensation Insurance Fund (the "Fund") received a request for "a copy of the financial statements for [the "Fund"] for the years 1995 -1998." You indicate that it is not clear to the Fund whether the request is for "public financial documents, or instead seeks some other financial information maintained by the Fund." You asked the requestor to clarify what documents are sought but have not received a reply. Section 552.222(b) of the Government Code provides the following:
(B) If what information is requested is unclear to the governmental body, the governmental body may ask the requestor to clarify the request. If a large amount of information has been requested, the governmental body may discuss with the requestor how the scope of a request might be narrowed, but the governmental body may not inquire into the purpose for which information will be used.
As it appears that there is public information you consider to be responsive to the request for three years of financial statements, we assume that this information has already been provided to the requestor as responsive to the request. Gov't Code § 552.221. If the requestor does not seek more and different information, it may be that the information you consider to be public has fulfilled the request. If the requestor has been provided access to the documents you consider to be public, and the requestor does not seek other documents, the Fund may thus fairly conclude that it has fulfilled its duties under Chapter 552. However, you submitted documents to this office that you contend may be responsive to the request and that you believe are protected from disclosure. Assuming that the requestor truly does seek these additional documents, even though the requestor has not so indicated, we will address your arguments against disclosure of the submitted records.
You assert that the submitted records are excepted from disclosure under sections 552.101, 552.103, and 552.110 of the Government Code. Section 552.101 of the Government Code excepts from disclosure information made confidential by law. You assert that section 2 of article 5.76-3 of the Insurance Code, in conjunction with section 552.101, protects the records from disclosure. Section 2(b) of article 5.76-3 provides:
Except as otherwise provided by this subsection, the fund is subject to the open meetings law, Chapter 551, Government Code, and the open records law, Chapter 552, Government Code. The board may hold closed meetings to consider and refuse to release information relating to claims, rates, the fund's underwriting guidelines, and other information that would give advantage to competitors or bidders.
You assert that release of the submitted records would show how the Fund runs its business and could be used by competitors to financially undercut the Fund. See also Open Records Letters Nos. 98-0904, 98-1233 (1998) (concerning Fund's functions and application of article 5.76-3). We agree that the submitted financial information, if responsive to the current request, is protected from disclosure under section 2(b) of article 5.76-3 of the Insurance Code.(1)
We are resolving this matter with an informal letter ruling rather than with a published open records decision. This ruling is limited to the particular records at issue under the facts presented to us in this request and should not be relied upon as a previous determination regarding any other records. If you have questions about this ruling, please contact our office.
Ruth H. Soucy
Ref: ID# 124943
Encl. Submitted documents, Open Records Letters Nos. 98-0904, 98-1233 (1998)
cc: Mr. Sharik Zatar
1. Because we agree the submitted information is confidential, we need not address your other arguments against disclosure. However, for future reference concerning your section 552.110 argument, we refer you to Birnbaum v. Alliance of Am. Insurers, 1999 WL 314976 (Tex. App.-Austin May 20, 1999, no pet. h.).
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