insider trading, securities regulation, wiretaps


Two key trends were present in the successful prosecution of Raj Rajaratnam and his coconspirators in one of the largest insider-trading conspiracies in history: the use of wiretaps to investigate and prosecute insider trading and a joint effort between the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Securities & Exchange Commission (SEC) to conduct the investigation. Despite the close working relationship between the DOJ and the SEC, the DOJ never disclosed the fruits of the wiretaps to the SEC, presumably due to its belief that Title III of the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968 (as amended, the “Wiretap Act”)—the comprehensive framework that authorizes the government to conduct wiretaps in certain circumstances—prohibited it from doing so.

Though the Second Circuit in SEC v. Rajaratnam ultimately held that the SEC could obtain wiretap materials from the criminal defendants as part of civil discovery, the question of whether direct disclosure of the wiretap materials from the DOJ to the SEC is prohibited has been raised but not yet addressed. This Note analyzes previous cases addressing the construction of the Wiretap Act’s disclosure provisions and concludes that direct disclosure from the DOJ to the SEC is not prohibited by the Act. It further proposes a process by which civil enforcement agencies, such as the SEC, can request disclosure of wiretap materials through the DOJ in such a way that balances the benefits of disclosure against the privacy interests of the parties whose conversations were intercepted.