Arbitrageur Fined in Polaroid Phone Caper
Aug. 23, 1989
WILMINGTON, Del. (AP) _ In two hearings Tuesday, a stern Delaware Supreme Court told lawyers and speculators in the high-stakes corporate takeover business that the justices will not tolerate violations of their orders or courtroom rules.
Saying that sneaking a portable telephone into the courtroom was ''reprehensible,'' the justices found New York lawyer and arbitrageur Alexander M. Metviner in contempt of court and fined him $1,000.
Metviner was accused of lying to the justices about having a portable telephone in the courtroom during the Shamrock Holdings Inc. battle for Polaroid Corp.
In a hearing immediately following, the court dismissed contempt proceedings against Barbara Robbins, a partner with the New York-based law firm of Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz. The court said it was convinced she mistakenly released confidential documents to The New York Times concerning the Paramount Communications Inc. bid for Time Inc.
But the court chastised Herbert M. Wachtell, one of the nation's top corporate lawyers and Robbins' attorney, for not apologizing to the court for the ''discomfort the mistake caused the court.''
The newspaper reported the documents had been released by the Delaware Supreme Court.
Metviner, who works for Oppenheimer & Co. in New York, ran afoul of the court in March when he prematurely left the courtroom after the justices dealt a major blow to Shamrock Holdings' $3.2 billion bid for Polaroid. At a March hearing in which Metviner was found in contempt, he said he had merely ''jumped the gun'' in his effort to reach his portable telephone hidden in bushes outside the building. He denied having the phone in the courtroom in violation of court rules.
Twenty days later, however, he admitted he had the phone with him in the courtroom during the entire proceeding.
Chief Justice Andrew D. Christie told Metviner the dignity of the court was at stake and ''violations need to be taken seriously.''
''We need to send a message to those who act in a very unseemly way in the courtroom. We need to send a message this will not be tolerated ... a very strong message,'' Christie said.
In the Robbins case, the court said it felt a responsibility to prevent any future mistakes. The justices suggested New York lawyers consult with Delaware attorneys before releasing documents, or that they contact lawyers who request confidentiality on behalf of their clients.