It is generally a serious violation of our rules for counsel to pass private notes to a witness in an investigational hearing or deposition, or otherwise coach or consult with a witness, while a question is pending. 16 CFR 2.9(b)(1). Happily, violations of this rule are very rare. But, with the recent shift to remote depositions and hearings, we want to remind the bar that neither this rule nor our vigilance in enforcing it have been relaxed.
Recently, Alimentation Couche-Tard and CrossAmerica Partners (collectively ACT) agreed to pay a $3.5 million civil penalty to settle allegations that they violated a Commission divestiture order that was designed to prevent their merger from harming consumers. A close read of the Commisson’s action in this case yields some timely advice for any company that is subject to a divestiture order.