U.S. Press Freedom Tracker

Bloomberg subpoenaed for reporter communications, quashed by judge

Incident Details

Date of Incident
January 4, 2023
New York, New York
Bloomberg News

Subpoena/Legal Order

Legal Orders
Legal Order Target
Legal Order Venue

A portion of the Jan. 4, 2023, subpoena ordering media company Bloomberg to turn over communications between its former reporter Stephanie Ruhle and the founder of Under Armour and others as part of an ongoing lawsuit against the retailer.

January 4, 2023

Bloomberg Television parent Bloomberg LP was issued a subpoena for communications between former anchor Stephanie Ruhle and Under Armour founder Kevin Plank on Jan. 4, 2023, as part of an ongoing lawsuit against the sportswear company. A judge quashed the subpoena more than six months later.

A shareholder suit alleged that Under Armour had artificially inflated its share price, costing a shareholder pension fund millions, according to Fox News. Shareholders argued that Ruhle, now a host at MSNBC, advised Plank and did damage control for the company using her platform at Bloomberg Television.

Shareholders had subpoenaed Bloomberg for Ruhle’s communications with Plank and others, as well as any emails sent or received by her concerning Under Armour. They then filed a motion on March 15 to compel the media company to comply with the requests.

Bloomberg argued, however, that shareholders’ allegations that the communications were not protected by reporter’s privilege because Ruhle’s journalistic independence was compromised were false and unfounded.

Magistrate Judge Gabriel Gorenstein ruled in favor of Bloomberg, quashing the subpoena on Aug. 25. “The personal relationship between Ruhle and Plank did not mean that Ruhle was not acting as a journalist with respect to her dealings with Under Armour,” he wrote.

According to court filings reviewed by the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker, Ruhle gave a deposition in the underlying suit in early 2023. The Tracker was unable to determine whether Ruhle was compelled or voluntarily gave testimony. But Gorenstein said no efforts were made to question Ruhle during her deposition about who she communicated with about Under Armour.

“We will thus not rely on speculation that documents may exist at Bloomberg to justify piercing the journalist privilege,” Gorenstein wrote.

Ruhle did not respond to requests for comment.

In a statement to Puck, a Bloomberg News spokesperson said: “The reporter’s privilege offers essential protections for all newsrooms. It allows journalists to engage in newsgathering without outside interference or pressure, and we think it’s worth fighting for.”

A Bloomberg spokesperson declined to comment further when reached by the Tracker.

The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker catalogues press freedom violations in the United States. Email tips to [email protected].