Legal Briefing: Another Reason Facebook Privacy Matters -- Subpoenas

A daily look at legal news and the business of law...

Judge Rules on What Facebook Data Can Be Subpoenaed

Lawyers have already exploited Facebook to help win in divorce cases, investigate potential jurors, and market themselves. Now, precedents are being developed to clarify how some information from the social networking site can be used in court. Recently, a judge in a California case ruled on the ability of parties to subpoena Facebook data in a civil suit. His decision: Information that a Facebook user's privacy settings designates as public is subject to subpoena. Information reserved for friends is not. Since the recent privacy turmoil around Facebook centered on how much information was being made public by default, users' information may be far more susceptible to subpoena than they realize.

More Goldman Sachs Deals in the Crosshairs

An Australian hedge fund that lost big on a Goldman Sachs (GS) collateralized debt obligation that Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) memorably called "one shitty deal" has sued Goldman for $1 billion. The fund alleges that Goldman misrepresented who picked the underlying securities in the Timberwolf CDO, and that the true picker's interest was in having the CDO fail -- a similar claim to that made in the Securities and Exchange Commission's lawsuit over Goldman's Abacus CDO. In this deal, however, Paulson & Co. wasn't the bearish investor. Goldman itself allegedly set the CDO up to fail in order to offload its own risk. Unsurprisingly, Goldman denies any wrongdoing.

Yet another Goldman CDO, Hudson Mezzanine, which was also discussed at the congressional hearings, is now reported to be the subject of a second SEC probe. It's too early to tell if charges will be filed, but the mere fact of the probe isn't good news for Goldman. It's already dealing with other investigations and suits, and surely won't appreciate having to devote more resources to its legal and reputational defense.

U-Haul Tried to Fix Prices

U-Haul International just settled with the Federal Trade Commission over the commission's claims that U-Haul tried to fix prices with the Avis Budget Group. Apparently, U-Haul never succeeded in fixing prices, which is perhaps why the settlement doesn't involve any money. Instead, U-Haul has agreed to obey the law and submit itself to certain supervision for the next 20 years. I'm not sure that rises to the level of a slap on the wrist -- it looks like more of a gentle pat.

Reality Isn't CSI

Nearly 400 people in Washington D.C. were convicted of driving while intoxicated based on inflated breath test scores. Apparently the cops weren't calibrating the machines correctly. All 10 machines would report levels 20% higher than reality. While all the defendants suffered undeserved harm, nearly half actually endured jail time because of the faulty test results. One lawsuit has been filed already.

And in the Business of Law ...

• A New Jersey law firm gives basic, but useful and detailed advice for law students hoping to become summer associates, including interviewing tips and background about what the firm looks for and its overall screening process.

• And for deferred associates looking for jobs right now, the New York City law department wants you.

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