Copyright 2010 Crain CommunicationsAll Rights Reserved Business Insurance
August 9, 2010
NEWS; Pg. 0006
Conn. AG may push for legislation after court bars document release
MARK A. HOFMANN
Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal may seek a legislative remedy to a state Supreme Court decision last week that banned him from releasing subpoenaed documents provided by Brown & Brown Inc. in an ongoing antitrust probe.
The Connecticut Supreme Court overturned a lower court decision that would have permitted Mr. Blumenthal to share about 12,000 documents acquired under subpoena from Daytona Beach, Fla.-based Brown & Brown in June 2006 as part of an antitrust probe launched in 2005.
But the attorney general and Brown & Brown could not reach agreement regarding the confidentiality of the material. Before a second group of documents was to be turned over to the attorney general in August 2006, Brown & Brown asked a lower court to determine the scope of confidentiality.
On May 1, 2007, the lower court ruled that limited disclosure of the confidential information was permitted, despite confidentiality provisions contained in the Connecticut Antitrust Act. Brown & Brown appealed.
Last week, the state Supreme Court ruled unanimously that the antitrust law bans disclosure of material gathered in an investigation for all people outside the attorney general’s office with the exception of officials in other states or the federal government, and even that power is conditional.
An attorney for Brown & Brown said her client is pleased that the court recognized that the confidentiality of subpoenaed business records is mandated by the statute.
Michelle Seagull, counsel with Axinn Veltrop & Harkrider L.L.P. in Hartford, Conn., added that Brown & Brown intends to continue to cooperate with the attorney general’s investigation, although without the fear now that competitively sensitive information will be revealed to its competitors.
In a statement, Mr. Blumenthal said the decision in no way limits our authority to subpoena documents and witnesses, and enforce compliance. It will impose some parameters on our ability to show or share documents with others outside the office.
He said the investigation of Brown & Brown will continue as part of a larger insurance investigation. I am reviewing the court’s decision-which reversed two trial court rulings-and will consider seeking legislative action to overrule its impact, Mr. Blumenthal said in the statement.
Ms. Seagull said the ruling could have an impact beyond Brown & Brown.
As more general matter, there are businesses throughout the country that receive subpoenas from Connecticut’s attorney general and likewise they will feel more comfortable working with the Connecticut attorney general to resolve those investigations, Ms. Seagull said.
Brown & Brown Inc. vs. Richard Blumenthal; Connecticut Supreme Court, S.C. 18334; Aug. 2, 2010.
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August 13, 2010