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COMSTOCK INTL., INC. v. EXPORT-IMPORT BANK OF THE

February 7, 1979

COMSTOCK INTERNATIONAL (U.S.A.), INC., Plaintiff,
v.
EXPORT-IMPORT BANK OF the UNITED STATES, Defendant



The opinion of the court was delivered by: GASCH

Plaintiff Comstock International (U.S.A.), Inc. ("Comstock"), an American corporation, has brought this action under the Freedom of Information Act ("FOIA") *fn1" to compel defendant to release certain identified documents held by it. Defendant Export-Import Bank of the United States ("Eximbank"), an independent federal agency, is a banking corporation that seeks to facilitate and finance exports and imports between the United States and other countries. See 12 C.F.R. § 402.1(a) (1978). To accomplish this purpose Eximbank extends loans, guarantees, and other forms of financial assistance. This Court has jurisdiction over the matter under 5 U.S.C. § 552(a)(4)(B).

 FACTUAL BACKGROUND

 In June, 1974, Eximbank executed a loan agreement by which it made available a line of credit for over $ 21 million in favor of Sonatrach ("Societe Nationale pour la Recherche, la Production, le Transport, la Transformation et la Commercialisation des Hydrocarbures"), a national oil and gas development company wholly owned by the Republic of Algeria. The agreement also provided that Eximbank would guarantee a line of credit in an equal amount to be made by Chase Manhattan Bank.

 Sonatrach planned to use the funds to expand the capacity of an oil pipeline from the Haoud El Harma oil field to the port of Skikda in Algeria. The construction work on the pipeline was to be performed by a consortium of firms, which included plaintiff. The General Electric Company ("GE"), which had formed the consortium, was to supply equipment and other firms would provide various engineering and technical services. During 1974-1975, pursuant to the terms of the loan agreement, Sonatrach and GE submitted at least five progress reports regarding the construction project to Eximbank.

 On January 30, 1978, plaintiff made a request under the FOIA that Eximbank release documents pertaining to loans made by it to Sonatrach, including the Pipeline loan. *fn2" Although defendant released a large number of documents relating to the loan agreement, other documents were withheld. *fn3" On March 10, 1978, plaintiff filed an administrative appeal of the refusal to release the following documents:

 
Progress Report, Feb. 27, 1975, GE, with attachments;
 
Progress Report, Sept. 14, 1976, Sonatrach, with attachments;
 
Progress Report, March 3, 1976, GE, with attachments;
 
Progress Report, Jan. 31, 1976, Sonatrach, with attachments;
 
Progress Report, Oct. 31, 1976, Sonatrach, with attachments; and
 
Loan Agreement among Sonatrach, Chase Manhattan Bank and Eximbank, June 10, 1974, Eximbank Credit No. 4997. *fn4"

 All of these documents relate to the construction project financed by the Eximbank loan. The Loan Agreement details the terms and conditions under which Eximbank and Chase Manhattan Bank extended credit to Sonatrach for the purchase of goods and services for the Skikda project. The progress reports describe the progress of construction by the five-member construction consortium led by General Electric.

 On April 11, 1978, Eximbank notified plaintiff that the documents in question would continue to be withheld on the basis of the commercial and financial information exemption to the FOIA. 5 U.S.C. § 552(b)(4). Having exhausted its administrative remedies, plaintiff instituted this lawsuit on June 16, 1978. Presently before the Court are the parties' cross-motions for summary judgment. Sonatrach has filed a brief ...


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