On 12 February 2019, the English High Court issued a judgment in proceedings related to the takeover of Autonomy Corporation Limited (now ACL Netherlands BV) by the Hewlett-Packard group in 2011. The question before the Court was whether a U.S. grand jury subpoena served on Hewlett Packard Enterprise (the U.S. parent company of the claimants) required certain documents received by the claimants solely through disclosure in English High Court litigation, as well as witness statements exchanged between the parties to that litigation, to be produced to the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation.

In summary:

  • The Court refused to allow disclosure of the documents in response to the grand jury subpoena on the basis that the subpoena did not override English public policy considerations which seek to preserve a litigant’s right to privacy and confidentiality, nor were the parties to the English proceedings compelled to comply with terms of the subpoena.
  • The decision illustrates the high threshold which needs to be met to obtain the court’s permission to make collateral use of documents disclosed in English proceedings, and demonstrates the level of scrutiny which subpoenas from U.S. authorities will be subjected to by the English courts where they relate to documents disclosed in English proceedings and protected by the English courts’ confidentiality rules.

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