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  • WisBar News
    May 27, 2004

    Court rules attorneys exempt from Gramm-Leach-Bliley

    The American Bar Association, joined by more than 26 bar associations, was successful in its lawsuit challenging the FTC's decision that lawyers are subject to the privacy provisions of the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act if, as part of their law practice, they provide real estate, tax, estate planning or other financially related legal advice to individuals.

    Court rules attorneys exempt from Gramm-Leach-Bliley

    May 27, 2004

    The American Bar Association, joined by more than 26 bar associations, was successful in its lawsuit challenging the FTC's decision that lawyers are subject to the privacy provisions of the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act if, as part of their law practice, they provide real estate, tax, estate planning or other financially related legal advice to individuals. The court ruled that to subject attorneys to the Act was beyond its statutory authority and constituted arbitrary and capricious agency action. The FTC has until July 12 to decide whether to appeal.

    In response to the ABA's request, the General Counsel of the FTC has issued a letter stating that unless and until the district court's decision is reversed, the FTC will not bring enforcement actions against or investigate any practicing lawyer for failing to comply with the privacy provisions of the act. The ABA asked the FTC for this assurance because many attorneys have requested guidance about their responsibilities in light of the district court's decision.

    While the ABA is hopeful that the court's decision will stand, the ABA also is seeking Congressional action on this issue. In 2001, the New York State Bar Association (NYSBA) and the ABA challenged the Act's application to lawyers. The State Bar of Wisconsin joined with Ohio in its amicus brief to the NYSBA's action against the FTC.

    Updated information will be posted on the ABA's Web site as it becomes available. For information, contact Ellen C. McBarnette, Legislative Counsel, American Bar Association at (202) 662-1767.



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