Mark Cuban's feud with SEC rears its head in email fight

Mark Cuban's feud with SEC rears its head in email fight
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Billionaire investor and reality TV star Mark Cuban is calling on Congress to pass an email privacy bill without carve-outs for the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). 

Cuban, who was outraged when the SEC tried to prosecute him for insider trading in 2013, is urging lawmakers not to grant the agency any exemptions as Congress considers a widely supported bill that would force the government to obtain a warrant when obtaining customer emails from an Internet company.  


"As the target of an SEC investigation, I know that the SEC has a broad array of tools at their disposal to obtain information directly from targets. There is no evidence to suggest that these tools are insufficient," Cuban wrote in a letter to leaders of the House and Senate Judiciary committees. 

The letter is dated Sept. 30, a day before the House panel held a hearing on the subject. 

Concerns from the SEC and law enforcement agencies have prevented the Email Privacy Act from advancing out of committee for the past few years, despite the bill having support from more than 300 members. 

"The SEC's prescription is simply bad public policy," Cuban said, arguing the agency's requested exemption would violate the Fourth Amendment. 

Cuban's feud with the SEC goes back 2013, when he successfully fought insider trading charges brought by the agency. It was reported that he spent more money on lawyers to defend the case than the proposed fine. 

“It’s personal,” Cuban said at the time. “When you take all these years of my life and try to make a point, it’s personal."

The Email Privacy Act is aimed at closing a loophole in the 1986 Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) that lets the government use a subpoena, rather than a warrant, to force Internet companies such as Google to hand over customers' electronic communications if they are more than 180 days old.

Civil enforcement agencies and law enforcement stopped using the ECPA loophole after a 2010 court ruling found that government demands for tech companies to turn over customer emails without a warrant is a violation of the Fourth Amendment.

Supporters of the bill want the law to be updated to reflect the court decision. 

But the SEC and other civil enforcement agencies want the ability to obtain emails from a Internet company if the target of an investigation refuses to give them up. 

Because the SEC lacks authority to obtain criminal warrants, it wants to create some other mechanism.