Jonathan Alpert, the Florida lawyer who has led several class actions challenging banks' brokerage sales practices, was rebuked last week by a federal court in Tampa.
Ruling on a motion brought by Barnett Banks Inc., a magistrate in U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida said Mr. Alpert had improperly disclosed confidential documents when he filed a class action against the bank's securities division in February.
However, the court denied the Jacksonville, Fla., banking company's request to disqualify Mr. Alpert, a partner at Alpert, Barker & Calcutt in Tampa, from the case. Mr. Alpert has filed a number of similar suits against other big banks' securities divisions, including NationsBank Corp. and First Union Corp.
The ruling was the outgrowth of a complaint Barnett lodged over Mr. Alpert's handling of bank documents he gathered in preparing the lawsuit.
Barnett petitioned the court in April to force Mr. Alpert to return several documents, saying they were privileged and confidential. The bank also asked for his removal, saying he violated attorney-client and work- product privileges by attaching them to his February complaint and later filings, thus putting the documents into the public record.
In a June 24 ruling written by U.S. Magistrate Elizabeth A. Jenkins, the court said two documents were indeed privileged because they contained "proprietary marketing and strategy information," and she ordered them sealed.
Reached for comment, Mr. Alpert said he had been slapped on the wrist but was pleased he was not removed from the case.