In First Amendment case, judge rules publisher must turn over data it received |

In First Amendment case, judge rules publisher must turn over data it received

WASHINGTON – A judge ruled Tuesday in a First Amendment case that publisher McGraw-Hill must surrender data to government regulators about possible price manipulation in the natural gas market.U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth said the reporter’s privilege to protect the confidentiality of sources is outweighed by the government’s need for the information.”News gatherers are not entitled to an absolute privilege,” Lamberth wrote.The Commodity Futures Trading Commission has evidence that an unnamed energy company allegedly attempted to affect prices in the natural gas market by submitting false data to Platts, a McGraw-Hill division. Platts produces a monthly report that can influence prices, potentially affecting billions of dollars worth of natural gas transactions.Lamberth noted the long-held distinction in which the reporter’s privilege is typically overcome in a criminal investigation; in civil cases, confidentiality typically prevails.Lamberth said that while the CFTC is not investigating criminal wrongdoing as in a grand jury probe, the agency is investigating possible violations of law.”Just as criminal laws aspire to protect the public, the false reporting and price manipulation provisions of the Commodities Exchange Act are also designed to protect the public,” Lamberth wrote.”To the extent that Platts’ publications were erroneous, the public interest in truthful news reporting – the very interest safeguarded by the privilege – is threatened,” the judge stated.The CFTC said it is turning to Platts for information only after concluding that information it got from the energy company was incomplete.Vail, Colorado

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