Judge Torres ordered the Securities and Exchange Commission to hand over documents related to its former top official, William Hinman, in a significant victory for Ripple.
The SEC used several arguments not to hand over the documents to Ripple. Initially, the Commission argued that they were protected by the privilege of the deliberative process (DPP).
Magistrate Sarah Netburn determined that the internal documents to Hinman’s speech were not agency records, as they expressed the former official’s personal opinion. Therefore, they are not “a necessary link in the agency’s deliberations,” as the SEC said.
Judge Torres rejected the SEC’s attempt to dismiss the decision because the documents concern Hinman’s own opinion, so they are not protected by deliberative process privilege (DPP).
Plaintiff also unsuccessfully attempted to defend attorney-client confidentiality in order to protect Hinman’s emails.
After reviewing the relevant documents, the court also found that the internal speech documents contained messages whose main purpose was to interpret and apply legal provisions that overturned the plaintiff’s assertions of attorney-client privilege.
What can the SEC do now?
But that’s not the end of the story. As attorney James K. Filan explained, the SEC could still play a few procedural cards up its sleeve to delay the circulation of the Hinman documents.
The plaintiff can still ask Judge Torres to reconsider his decision. Alternatively, the SEC may also appeal to the Court of Appeal.
While such maneuvers are unlikely to succeed, the SEC could buy a significant amount of time.
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