Judge: New York AG Must Decide on Revealing Spitzer’s Emails on AIG

May 17, 2012

New York’s Attorney General must review his predecessor’s private emails relating to a probe of American International Group Inc. and decide whether to release them to the public, a state judge has ruled.

The office of Attorney General Eric Schneiderman must gain access to an email account belonging to former Attorney General Eliot Spitzer even though it was private, state Supreme Court Justice Christopher Cahill wrote. Cahill’s order was dated April 30 and seen by Reuters on Thursday.

A spokesman for Schneiderman said his office is reviewing Cahill’s decision.

Spitzer sued former AIG Chief Executive Maurice “Hank” Greenberg and former Chief Financial Officer Howard Smith in 2005, claiming the insurance giant fraudulently inflated reserves and hid more than $200 million in losses. Spitzer’s successors, Andrew Cuomo and Schneiderman, have continued to pursue the case.

Smith commenced a freedom of information lawsuit in 2008, alleging that Spitzer used a private email account provided by the Democratic National Committee to conduct business related to investigations of AIG and other Wall Street banks. Smith wanted access to the emails to build a defense in the AIG fraud case.

Schneiderman’s office argued that because it did not have possession of the email account, it was not required to release the emails under the state Freedom of Information Law.

Cahill disagreed.

“The determination as to whether a document is a public record subject to disclosure under FOIL must focus on the content and purpose of the document, not its location or the means by which it was transmitted,” the judge wrote.

Spitzer, a Democrat, went on to become governor of New York and resigned in 2008 amid a prostitution scandal.

The case is Howard Smith v. New York State Office of the Attorney General, New York State Supreme Court, Albany County No. 3670-08.

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