The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that the facts in the record do not allow for the withholding of names of whistleblowers pursuant to Exemption 6 in this case. The case concerns communications sent to HUD about violations of the Real Estate Settlement Procedures act by Prudential Locations Real Estate. Prudential made a FOIA request to find out who was providing this information to the government. HUD withheld identifying information as to the third parties providing the material and HUD filed suit. The government won at the district court, but Prudential filed an appeal.
The 9th Circuit ruled that the outcome of the case would depend on who provided the information to HUD. In other words, would that person or persons be stigmatized by being publicly revealed. The court said if it was a Prudential employee then they would likely be stigmatized and it would lead to a violation of their privacy; but if it was a competitor there would likely be no problem with releasing the identify of the individual. Unfortunately, the government failed to provide that information on the record and the case was remanded to the district court for further development of the record consistent with the appellate decision.