Hedge Fund Manager Elliott Management Withdraws Petition Seeking Discovery from Absolute Return + Alpha Regarding Identity of Source of Leaked Investor Letter

On August 31, 2010, hedge fund manager Elliott Management Corporation, along with its managed hedge funds Elliott Associates, L.P. and Elliott International, L.P. (collectively, Elliott), withdrew their petition seeking pre-litigation discovery from hedge fund industry publication Absolute Return + Alpha (Publisher).  Elliott had sought discovery regarding, among other things, the identity of a source that provided Elliott’s June 30, 2010 investor letter to the Publisher.  That copyrighted investor letter contained confidential information regarding Elliott’s investments, trading positions and performance, and Elliott argued in court papers that public disclosure of the information would undermine its negotiations with trading counterparties.  Accordingly, when the Publisher told Elliott that it was going to publish the letter, Elliott sought an emergency order permitting it to take a deposition of the Publisher and conduct other pre-action discovery to find the source of the disclosure.  In an unfiled affidavit, the Publisher argued, among other things, that the New York Reporter’s Shield Law provided it with an absolute privilege to report information obtained from a confidential source without revealing the identity of the source, even if the information was copyrighted and confidential. Although Elliott withdrew its petition before the court had an opportunity to issue a substantive opinion, the petition itself is noteworthy for various reasons.  First, it details five measures taken by a sophisticated hedge fund manager to protect the confidentiality of position and performance information in an investor letter.  (Those five measures are detailed in this article.)  Second, it illustrates the challenge faced by a manager in the event of an unauthorized disclosure of an investor letter.  Had the matter proceeded and had Elliott obtained the identity of the source, Elliott presumably would have faced the unpalatable option of suing one of its own investors for damages arising out of this disclosure (though any such damages would be hard to quantify) or an injunction against further disclosures of information in the June 30 letter or future letters.  Alternatively, or in addition, Elliott might have brought an action against the Publisher, though in the absence of a confidentiality agreement or any other relevant contract between Elliott and the Publisher, the basis of any such claim is not immediately apparent.  This article details the thorough and rigorous process that Elliott used to ensure the confidentiality of its investor letters, and the legal steps it undertook to maintain that confidentiality when, despite those efforts, the content of one of those letters leaked.

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