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SEC v. Galleon Management

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  • Federal Appeals Court Protects Innocent Targets of Government Surveillance: A federal appeals court in New York overruled a lower court order that would have disclosed thousands of wiretapped conversations, to the Security and Exchange Commission. The appeals court called the disclosure a "clear and indisputable" abuse of discretion. In SEC v. Galleon, the SEC sought 18,150 private conversations, obtained by the FBI, before any determination of whether the interceptions were relevant or lawful.The court issued the order which was then appealed. EPIC filed an amicus brief and urged the appellate court to protect "the privacy rights of hundreds of individuals" who had no involvement in the case. The court agreed and found that "ordering discovery of the wiretap materials before any determination of the legality of the surveillance involved exceeded the district court’s discretion." For more information, see EPIC: SEC v. Galleon and EPIC: Wiretapping. (Sep. 29, 2010)
  • Federal Court to Hear Oral Argument in Wiretap Abuse Case: A federal court in New York will hear oral argument today in SEC v. Galleon, a case involving the disclosure of federal wiretap recordings. EPIC filed a "friend of the court" brief, urging the court to protect the privacy of innocent individuals who were inadvertently recorded on the wiretaps. A trial court judge ordered disclosure of all wiretaps conducted in a criminal investigation, even though no court has ruled on the recordings' legality or relevance. EPIC noted that "hundreds of thousands of individuals are recorded on wiretaps every year," and "80% of those personal communications are wholly unrelated to criminal activity." For more information, see EPIC: SEC v. Galleon and EPIC Wiretapping. (Jul. 8, 2010)
  • EPIC Urges Federal Court to Protect Individuals from Wiretap Abuse: EPIC filed a "friend of the court" brief, urging a federal appeals court to protect the privacy of innocent individuals who were inadvertently recorded on federal wiretaps. In SEC v. Rajaratnam, a trial court judge ordered disclosure of all wiretaps conducted in a criminal investigation, even though a court has yet to rule on the recordings' legality or relevance. EPIC noted that "hundreds of thousands of individuals are recorded on wiretaps every year," and "80% of those personal communications are wholly unrelated to criminal activity." For more information, see SEC v. Galleon and EPIC Wiretapping. (Apr. 30, 2010)

Background

The issue in SEC v Galleon is whether an individual is required to turn over more than 18,000 wiretapped conversations acquired by the government in a criminal case when the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) compels the disclosure of such material in a separate but related civil case. On October 16, 2009, the United States Attorney's Office brought charges and the SEC filed a civil complaint against Raj Rajaratnam and others for insider trading. Rajaratnam is the founder of Galleon Group, a New York based hedge fund management firm.

Prosecutors in the criminal case have full access to the wiretapped telephone conversations between Rajaratnam and other individuals (including individuals who are not parties in the case), but the SEC does not and sought to force Rajaratnam to disclose the information. Rajaratnam and Danielle Chiesi (another named defendant) were given the wiretap evidence by prosecutors in the criminal case once they were indicted. No court has ruled on the propriety, Constitutionality, or relevance of the wiretaps.

The government intercepted over 18,000 telephone conversations and communications involving more than 550 individuals from ten different telephones over a sixteen-month period. While the SEC alleges that the communications reveal Rajaratnam and other defendants' involvement in insider trading, the wiretaps unquestionably also include private communications. Some of the telephone calls consist of conversations between Rajaratnam and his wife, his daughter, other family members and his doctor.

As part of discovery in the civil case, the SEC sought to force Rajaratnam and Chiesi to turn over the wiretaps in December 2009. Both defendants opposed turning over the documents, and the SEC filed a motion with the district court to compel disclosure. On February 9, 2010, a federal district court in Manhattan ordered the defendants to produce the wiretap materials to the SEC by February 15, 2010. Rajaratnam and Chiesi were also ordered to produce the wiretap materials to any other party in the case who requested the documents.

On the same day the order was issued, Rajaratnam and Chiesi requested a stay pending appeal of the district court's order, for a temporary administrative stay to allow the Court of Appeals to consider a stay, and for certification. The district court denied all of the requests on February 11, 2010. Immediately thereafter, Rajaratnam and Chiesi asked the Second Circuit Court of Appeals for an emergency stay pending appeal from the district court's order, which was granted the next day.

The case has been referred to a three-judge appeals panel, and the appeals court set June 8 as the deadline for all briefs before a date for oral arguments is set.

EPIC's Interest

EPIC has done extensive work in bringing to light the increased use of wiretapping and the importance of data minimization. EPIC's webpage on wiretapping tracks the government's use of wiretapping, which has increased over the years. According to the 2008 Wiretap report, federal and state courts issued 1,891 orders for the interception of wire, oral or electronic communications in 2008, down from 2,208 in 2007. As in the last three years, no applications for wiretap authorizations were denied by either state or federal courts. The total number of authorized wiretaps has grown in each of the six past calendar years, beginning in 2003.

In March 2010, EPIC filed an amicus brief in City of Ontario v. Quon, a case in which the Supreme Court had to decide whether a government employer could search the content of text messages sent from an employee's pager. EPIC's amicus brief argued that data minimization practices should be applied to public sector searches because of the Fourth Amendment reasonableness requirement and the fact that communications devices today collect and store detailed personal information, including internet search history, text messages, emails and locational data. In the Galleon case, the wiretap evidence contains information not relevant to the SEC's case and personal conversations involving third parties that should not have to be disclosed.

Cases like Galleon present an opportunity for courts to affect privacy protection in instances where the government has collected wiretap evidence. The district court's decision to force the defendants to disclose the wiretap evidence threatens to erode the privacy protections inherent in the Wiretap Act, which strictly limits how wiretap evidence may be disclosed.

Legal Documents

Second Circuit Court of Appeals

SEC v. Galleon Management Group, et al., Case No. 10-0462

United States District Court for the Southern District of New York

SEC v. Galleon Management, LP, et al., Case No. 09-CV-8811-JSR (S.D.N.Y.)

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