Business

Morgan Stanley’s bizarre theory on copyright infringement

Jonathan Strong Contributor
Font Size:

Is investment giant Morgan Stanley trying to hide just how cozy its analysts were with top Education Department officials over strict new rules concerning for-profit colleges?

In the words of Sen. Tom Coburn, Oklahoma Republican, were government bureaucrats “tipping hedge funds on short selling private education”?

Or are the bank’s lawyers, zealously policing the web to keep their company’s proprietary research reports off-line, sending take-down notices like an Al Capone crony with a Gatling gun?

Whatever the case, Morgan Stanley’s bizarre copyright infringement claim against Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics (CREW) is raising eyebrows in the nation’s capitol.

(Amid scandals, Education Department finalizes regulation on for-profit schools)

The bank says an email from one of its analysts to a key Education Department official -– obtained under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) –- is a copyrighted material, forcing document hosting website ScribD to take it down.

CREW, as part of an aggressive investigation into the role of Wall Street short sellers in the Education Department’s “gainful employment” published the results of its prolific FOIA war with Sec. Arne Duncan on Scribd and its own website.

The email in question, from Morgan Stanley analyst Suzanne Stein to Fred Sellers, an Education Department bureaucrat, asks for more information about a detail in the draft version of the just-finalized regulation.

The question is impenetrable without advanced knowledge of how the regulation works (the full email can be viewed here), but appears to be a rather unremarkable request for information.

(Republicans to boycott Harkin hearing on for-profit colleges)

But the bizarre take-down notice is making CREW suspicious.

“From the contents of the email it seems quite clear what Morgan Stanley is really trying to hide is the extent of its efforts to influence Education’s gainful employment regulations,” said Garrett Russo, CREW’s communications director, describing the email as “the document Morgan Stanley doesn’t want you to see.”

Justin Hamilton, a spokesman for the Education Department, scoffed at that notion, saying the email request was completely unremarkable and added some unpleasant words about CREW.

“I think CREW took the crazy-town exit off main street,” he said.

Morgan Stanley officials were unable to determine the exact rationale for their copyright claim Friday afternoon.