Confidence: High Court grants injunction to prevent Reuters using leaked confidential documents

Reuters cannot use information from the confidential documents of a hedge fund manager company after the High Court granted an interim injunction.

Brevan Howard Asset Management LLP sent a package of confidential documents to 36 potential investors. Information from those documents reached a financial journalist at Reuters news agency, who intended to publish. Reuters approached Brevan Howard to confirm the accuracy of the information, and Brevan Howard sought an injunction.

The court decided that the documents were clearly confidential – those to whom they were sent had been telephoned and told they were confidential, and the documents themselves were password-protected and stated that they were confidential.

Although Reuters said it did not have the documents themselves, the court found that an experienced financial journalist would likely have been aware of the confidentiality of the information. In any event, Reuters were told the material was confidential when they approached Brevan Howard.

Whilst there is a public interest in material relating to hedge funds, which can affect the financial markets and investments and pensions of individuals, the court found there was no public interest in breaching confidentiality in this case. There had been no wrongdoing or hypocrisy on Brevan Howard’s part which publication would have exposed. It is highly desirable that full and frank information should be given to potential investors without the risk of it being made public.

The case is an example of the application of the test for confidentiality and the public interest, which is relevant to the use of leaked documents throughout journalism, which can often be an important source of information. Anyone using leaked documents should consider carefully the circumstances in which they were obtained, and what public interest there is in publishing before doing so.

Reuters have been granted permission to appeal. zoom-in will report on any further developments in the case.