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9th Circuit to Law Firms: Turn Over to Grand Jury Discovery Documents of Foreign LCD Makers Obtained During Civil Discovery in Related Antitrust Class Action

February 6, 2011 Leave a comment

by Christopher Dize

For foreign companies doing business in the United States, avoiding getting sued may be hard enough without having to worry about whether you’re being investigated by a grand jury and the U.S. Department of Justice.

However, life can be really difficult for foreign companies that are not only getting sued, but also have to turn over their civil litigation documents for investigations of possible criminal conduct.

Under a recent 9th Circuit ruling, this is exactly the kind of misfortune that has befallen several foreign LCD manufacturers. The foreign companies, including LG Display, Sharp, and Chunghwa Picture Tubes, are embroiled in an antitrust class action suit and are simultaneously being investigated for antitrust criminal behavior.

Even though it couldn’t find any precedent to support its decision, the court ruled that if the documents were in the country then they were within the “grasp” of the grand jury.

The 9th Circuit’s ruling comes as a big victory for the DOJ.  It gives prosecutors expanded power to subpoena foreign documents that have entered the country for civil litigation purposes.

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