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Reuters loses court appeal over hedge fund story

Reuters on Friday lost an appeal against a court ruling that stopped it from publishing a story about a British hedge fund.

Three Court of Appeal judges said that a lower court was correct to rule that the story would breach Brevan Howard Asset Management's right to confidentiality and was not of sufficient public interest to justify its publication.

Reuters had argued that the March ruling by a High Court judge had given "insufficient weight" to matters of public interest and had failed to take into account the "limited" scope of the confidential information it wanted to publish.

"Despite that raft of criticisms of the Judge's judgment, we are clear that the appeal should be dismissed," Court of Appeal judge Terence Etherton wrote.

A spokesman for Reuters said the agency was deeply disappointed.

"We continue to believe that the public interest in publication of this information outweighs the confidentiality concerns raised here," he said.

A spokesman for Brevan Howard said the firm "welcomes the decision of the court that supports the importance of its ability to communicate with its investors in a candid and responsible manner".

Brevan Howard, one of Europe's biggest hedge fund managers, said the Reuters story contained highly sensitive information it had sent to 36 potential investors electronically.

Reuters obtained information for the story from confidential sources but when it contacted the hedge fund to ask questions before publication, Brevan Howard sought an injunction on the grounds of breach of confidence.

Under Britain's legal system, individuals and companies can file for privacy or confidentiality injunctions to try to stop the media publishing information that they say is confidential.

Reuters argued in court that public interest outweighed confidentiality concerns because hedge funds invest on behalf of institutional investors including pension funds, which affect the finances of millions of people.

However the appeal court said the judge in March had balanced the public interest case against Brevan Howard's right to confidentiality and had made no error of law in his decision. ■