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Fast Company subpoenaed for identifying information on confidential source

August 9, 2019

Business magazine Fast Company was subpoenaed on Aug. 9, 2019, for communications and documents relating to a 2017 article concerning the arrest of a tech investor in London.

Venture capital investor, entrepreneur and philanthropist Shervin Pishevar was arrested in May 2017 in the United Kingdom on suspicion of sexual assault. According to a memorandum of law filed by Pishevar’s attorneys and obtained by the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker, Pishevar was released on bail the following day. City of London Police confirmed that July that they would take no further action against him due to insufficient evidence.

In June 2017, Pishevar, known for his investments in companies like Uber and AirBnB, obtained an injunction in England to prevent UK publication The Sun from publishing his name in any future articles about the incident, according to the memo.

A confidential source reached out to Fast Company senior news editor Marcus Baram in New York, alleging that they possessed a copy of Pishevar’s arrest report. Baram met with the individual in Washington, D.C., in September 2017 and received a copy of the alleged police report.

Fast Company published an article containing a statement from Pishevar confirming his arrest, as well as details provided from the source and report in November. The police report was later proven to be fabricated.

In early August, lawyers representing Pishevar filed an application for discovery by a foreign party to serve Fast Company — through Mansueto, the legal entity controlling the magazine — with a subpoena to produce information. The memo stated the information was for use in “contemplated criminal and civil proceedings in England,” or possible future court cases.

The application was granted by a federal judge for the Southern District of New York on Aug. 9.

The subpoena, obtained by the Tracker, asked for all documents and communications relating to the forged police report, particularly any information that could be used to determine the identity of the forger and anyone who helped distribute the report. Fast Company largely complied with the subpoena, with lawyers for both parties exchanging emails in September and October.

Fast Company did not, however, provide information that would have identified Baram’s confidential source, stating that Baram claimed reporter’s privilege under New York’s shield law. Lucas Bento, an attorney for Pishevar, acknowledged in an email to Fast Company’s general counsel Alison Anthoine that such identifying information was the central aim of the subpoena.

“While we recognize the source’s name is not being redacted in any of the documents, can you please provide us further information about the individual who distributed the forged police report to Mr. Baram,” Bento wrote, “including his or her name or alias, contact information, Signal contact information (including screen name and number), or other identifying information (such as gender, race, age, height, weight, eye color, hair color, glasses, or dress).”

Bento also threatened to pursue a court-ordered deposition of Baram if Fast Company did not provide the identifying information voluntarily. In subsequent emails, Anthoine provided information about the individual whom the source said provided them the report, but not about the source.

Bento followed through on the threat to pursue testimony and documents from Baram, filing an application for additional discovery on Oct. 31, 2019. Attorneys for Baram filed a memo in opposition to the application on Dec. 4.

This article was updated to reflect that Shervin Pishevar confirmed his arrest to Fast Company.

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

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