Big law firms move to shield client info from Meta in FTC antitrust case

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Meta and Facebook logos are seen in this illustration taken February 15, 2022. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration

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  • LinkedIn, Twitter and other companies accuse Meta's Facebook of "stunning" scope of subpoenas
  • Arnold & Porter, Clifford Chance among firms advising nonparty clients whose data at issue
  • Meta's lawyers argue FTC document proposal will harm ability to defend

(Reuters) - Several large U.S. law firms representing non-party technology and web companies on Wednesday asked a Washington, D.C., federal judge to restrict the ability of Meta's Facebook to see some sensitive business information that is being produced as part of the U.S. Federal Trade Commission's antitrust case against the social media giant.

Lawyers for third-party companies LinkedIn Corp, Match Group Inc, Oracle Corp, Pinterest Inc, Reddit Inc, Snap Inc and Twitter Inc said in a joint court filing "the breadth of Meta's subpoenas is stunning." Meta is asking for information including strategic plans, product offerings and potential acquisitions since 2010.

"Meta is casting an extraordinarily wide net for extremely sensitive materials from nonparties," attorneys for the companies told U.S. District Judge James Boasberg. The other tech companies urged Boasberg to fashion a "protective" order that would restrict what information Meta's in-house lawyers can see and who can see it.

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Lawyers from Clifford Chance represent Snap and Pinterest, and Arnold & Porter Kaye Scholer represents LinkedIn, Match and Oracle. Debevoise & Plimpton represents Reddit, and Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati represents Twitter.

Attorneys for the nonparties on Thursday either declined to comment or did not immediately return messages seeking comment.

A spokesperson for the FTC declined to comment. A lawyer for Meta in Washington, D.C., at Kellogg, Hansen, Todd, Figel & Frederick also declined to comment.

Meta is contesting the FTC's claims that the company abused its market power to stifle competition.

Meta's lawyers proposed that two in-house counsel be allowed to see material labeled as "highly confidential." The company's attorneys argue that the FTC has fashioned a protective order that "would effectively bar Meta's lawyers from assisting in Meta's defense."

FTC lawyers said in a court filing on Wednesday that Meta's proposal "fails to protect third parties' interests and the public interest."

"Many businesses that do not compete with Meta in the provision of personal social networking services may be harmed by the disclosure of confidential information," FTC lawyers told the court.

LinkedIn and the other nonparties said in their filing that Meta's in-house team should not have access to that material unless the company shows a "particularized need" to review it.

The case is Federal Trade Commission v. Meta, U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, No. 1:20-cv-03590-JEB.

For plaintiff: Daniel Matheson of the FTC

For Meta: Mark Hansen at Kellogg Hansen

Read more:

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