By David Ingram
WASHINGTON, Feb 1 (Reuters) - A U.S. appeals court ruled on
Friday that a journalist does not have a legal right to see
consultant reports prepared for American International Group
Inc as part of an agreement between the company and
The unanimous ruling from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the
District of Columbia Circuit reversed a finding in a lower court
that the reports must be disclosed.
The information in question grew out of a 2004 dispute
between AIG and the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. In
resolving the dispute, AIG agreed to hire an outside consultant
to review some of its internal policies.
After unsuccessfully asking the SEC for a copy of the
consultant's work, including any reports and other information,
journalist Sue Reisinger filed a request in federal court in
Washington in 2011.
A judge ordered AIG and the SEC to turn over copies of the
records, but the appeals court disagreed, finding that the
reports are not public records under the law.
"Documents created by the independent consultant are not
government documents," Judge Janice Rogers Brown wrote for a
That the reports were at some point provided to the
government still does not make them public, she added.
Reisinger is a reporter for Corporate Counsel and American
Lawyer magazines, owned by ALM Media Properties LLC. Thomson
Reuters is a direct competitor with ALM.
"On behalf of a public that deserves to see these documents,
I am obviously disappointed with the ruling," Reisinger wrote in
an email in response to a request for comment.
AIG and the SEC opposed the release of the reports, which
were written by James Cole, a lawyer then in private practice.
Cole is now the No. 2 official at the U.S. Justice Department.
An SEC spokesman said the ruling speaks for itself. A lawyer
for AIG did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Follow us on Twitter @ReutersLegal | Like us on Facebook