Friday, August 06, 2010

Connecticut Barred from Disclosing Information from Antitrust Investigation

This posting was written by Jeffrey May, Editor of CCH Trade Regulation Reporter.

The Connecticut state attorney general’s office was barred from disclosing material and information gathered during an investigation of possible antitrust violations in the insurance industry, pursuant to a subpoena duces tecum and interrogatories, to persons outside of the office, the Connecticut Supreme Court has decided.

The attorney general’s office could not disclose the materials and information obtained from the target to persons outside of the office in connection with taking oral testimony. However, the state could provide information to officials of other states and the federal government, so long as those officials agreed to abide by the same confidentiality restrictions to which the Connecticut state attorney general was subject.

A lower court improperly construed the confidentiality provisions of a section of the Connecticut Antitrust Act that authorized the state attorney general to demand discovery prior to the institution of any action or proceeding, the state's highest court ruled.

The lower court had denied a request from the target of the investigation—Brown and Brown, Inc.—for a judgment declaring that the state attorney general's office could not disclose any documents or information received pursuant to a subpoena duces tecum and interrogatories because the statute prohibited such disclosure to the public.

Brown and Brown—an independent insurance intermediary that provided a variety of insurance and reinsurance products and services—contended that the requested materials and information contained trade secrets and other valuable commercial and financial information.

The attorney general had argued that the subpoenaed information could be used and shared to the extent necessary to advance the state's investigation and to prepare cases for prosecution, which could require sharing documents with persons outside of the attorney general's office.

State Attorney General’s Statement

The Connecticut Attorney General’s Office issued a statement, in response to the decision on August 2, saying that the opinion “in no way limits our authority to subpoena documents and witnesses, and enforce compliance.”

The office did concede, however, that it would “impose some parameters on our ability to show or share documents with others outside the office.” Attorney General Richard Blumenthal said that he was reviewing the court’s decision and would consider seeking legislative action to overrule its impact.

According to the statement, the investigation into Brown and Brown is continuing as part of an ongoing larger insurance investigation.

The decision is Brown and Brown, Inc. v. Blumenthal, Attorney General, official release date August 10, 2010. It will appear at 2010-2 Trade Cases ¶77,115.

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