Alex. Brown claims journalistic privilege in court suit

October 26, 1991|By Blair S. Walker

Which of the following job categories doesn't belong?

* A. Newspaper journalist

* B. Television reporter

* C. Stock analyst

There is no difference, according to Alex. Brown & Sons Inc., when it comes to the privilege the Baltimore-based investment banker contends each has to refuse court-related demands to divulge information from sources.

Several stockholders of a Pennsylvania technology company who are suing that firm in a Philadelphia federal court recently found that out.

Jonathan W. Osgood, an Alex. Brown analyst, did an analysis of Surgical Laser Technologies, and the plaintiffs in the Pennsylvania case subpoenaed Alex. Brown to release Mr. Osgood's data.

Alex. Brown refused, claiming that because Mr. Osgood distributes investment information to paying clients, he is entitled to "journalistic privilege."

"I will say on behalf of the firm we didn't make this decision lightly, and we think there's a solid legal foundation for the assertion that our research analysts function as journalists, and therefore are entitled to the protection of journalistic privilege," an Alex. Brown spokeswoman said.

"The attempt being made by counsel for Alex. Brown seems imaginative but does not appear to be soundly based on any legal principle or privilege of which I am aware," Theodore Sherbow, a media lawyer with Weinberg and Green, said.

The plaintiffs claim they were hurt by a drop in the value of Surgical Laser's stock because the firm misrepresented its financial health.

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