Supreme Court Rejects the Government’s “Fishy” Interpretation of Sarbanes-Oxley Obstruction Statute

February 2015

On February 25, the United States Supreme Court issued a decision in Yates v. United States. This case involved the interpretation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1519, a statute that was added as part of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002, and which provides that a person is guilty of a crime if he or she “knowingly alters, destroys, mutilates, conceals, covers up, falsifies, or makes a false entry in any record, document, or tangible object with the intent to impede, obstruct, or influence” a federal investigation. The particular allegedly obstructive act at issue in Yates involved a fisherman who discarded undersized red grouper which previously had been caught in violation of federal conservation regulations. The Eleventh Circuit affirmed a conviction and the Supreme Court, in a split decision, reversed.

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