May 262011
 
 May 26, 2011  Court, Workplace

Adam Klasfeld reports:

An executive facing civil securities fraud charges cannot use marital privilege to protect emails he sent to his wife from a work account, a federal judge ruled on Monday.

The Securities and Exchange Commission filed a civil fraud action in May 2009 against Reserve Management Co., chairman Bruce Bent Sr., vice chairman and president Bruce Bent II, and Resrv Partners.

The federal complaint accuses the defendants of failing disclose their Reserv Primary Fund’s vulnerability in the wake of the collapse of Lehman Bros.

In prosecuting that case, the SEC sought about 60 emails that Bent II sent to his wife, Rebecca, between Sept. 15 and 16, 2008.

Bent II complained that the emails were protected by marital privilege.

U.S. District Judge Paul Gardephe shot down that argument in a 20-page order Monday, saying that the emails were not confidential because they were sent from an address that he knew was monitored by his company.

Read more on Courthouse News.

As in Quon, the question as to whether other parties have a reasonable expectation of privacy – or in this case, marital privilege – arose. As Klasfeld reports:

In a footnote, Judge Gardephe likewise dismissed Rebecca Bent’s motion arguing that she never used the server her husband used and did not waive her own marital privilege.

“Mrs. Bent’s arguments misapprehend the nature of this Court’s inquiry,” Gardephe wrote. “[T]he issue is not whether Bent II can waive marital privilege on behalf of his spouse,” he added. “Instead, the issue is whether the emails exchanged by Bent II and Mrs. Bent were ever – in the eyes of the law – confidential.”

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