A former MFS Investment Management bond fund manager has sued the U.S. Treasury to obtain access to their files that he says is critical to his defense in a case the Securities and Exchange Commission has brought against him, The Patriot Ledger reports. Steven Nothern filed the suit, claiming that under the Freedom of Information Act, he should have access to the documents.

Nothern sued the agency already, in February, asking a judge to order the Treasury to allow him to depose five of their officials.

“We’re disappointed that the Treasury department seems to wish to avoid disclosing embarrassing information that we believe is critical to Steve Nothern’s defense,” said his attorney John Shope, of  Foley Hoag. “It seems to me that the government is trying to blame Steve Nothern for its own mistakes.”

The case against Nothern stems from an announcement on Oct. 31, 2001, when the Treasury said it would no longer issue 30-year bonds. The Treasury held a 9 a.m. press conference but said that the information would be embargoed until 10 a.m.

Peter Davis, a consultant whose clients included MFS, was at that press conference but left 30 minutes early to call clients with the news. Davis settled with the SEC in 2003, agreeing to pay 2003.

The Commission then brought civil charges against Nothern and a Goldman Sachs economist, who, acting on Davis’s tip, purchased 30-year bonds ahead of the 10 a.m. embargo. The SEC originally dropped its case against Nothern but then refilled it again in 2005.

Nothern says that not only had Davis left a voice mail message for him at around 9:40 that day, but a broker called at 9:30 to say there were rumors the Treasury would stop issuing 30-year bonds. Then, when he saw an announcement on the Treasury’s website before 10 a.m., he began tracking the price of the bonds. Seeing them rising, he decided to buy some, not knowing about the embargo.

According to Nothern’s lawsuit, the Treasury said it has 637 pages documenting what it did that day but that it won’t release 272 of those pages. He also wants the Treasury to release a computer disc that will show when the Treasury posted the news on its website.

“Treasury has encouraged the SEC’s prosecution of this action as a means of deflecting criticism from its many mistakes and misjudgments relating to the Oct. 31, 2001 announcement,” Nothern’s lawsuit states. “Because Treasury’s interest in placing all the blame for Oct. 31, 2001 on private parties like Nothern, it has an incentive to deny him the testimony and other information he needs to defend himself.”

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