A Canadian corporation hired to provide helicopter services in Afghanistan for the U.S. Department of Defense is suing in Washington federal court to keep the contents of the contract confidential.
The Canadian Commercial Corp., which bids for defense contracts on behalf of Canadian companies, filed suit yesterday against the Defense Department in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.
At issue is a FOIA request the defense department received in November seeking information on a contract awarded in February 2010 to Canadian Helicopters, including line-item prices and hourly rates for services. The Canadian companies claim the information constitutes trade secrets, and that releasing it would help competitors underbid them in the future. The defense department disagrees, saying the companies have failed to show how releasing the information would place them at a disadvantage.
Thomas Patton of Washington’s Butzel Long Tighe Patton is representing the Canadian companies in the suit. Patton, in a phone interview Friday, said companies have sparred with the defense department in the past over the release of line-item prices.
“Disclosing line-item pricing under a contract where there will be more awards allows anyone else just to see what you’re line-item pricing for particular items and underbid,” Patton said.
A defense department representative could not immediately be reached for comment.
Patton cited a 2008 U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit decision [.pdf] that maintained line-item prices were trade secrets. In that case, the Canadian Commercial Corp. filed suit against the U.S. Air Force to prevent officials from releasing information on another Canadian company’s contract in response to a FOIA request.
The complaint in this case does not identify who requested the FOIA, but Patton said he expects to find out during discovery. In the previous case that went to the appeals court, the FOIA request was made by another company that had bid unsuccessfully for the Air Force contract.
The defense department has told the Canadian companies it won’t release the information in question until the court decides, according to the complaint.