Perhaps Imperial Pacific International’s (IPI) desire to move litigation over the release of its financial data to federal court wasn’t such a smart idea, after all. But, then again, the company isn’t exactly known for its smart ideas. The company behind the embattled Imperial Palace on the U.S.-controlled island of Saipan has been fighting against having to reveal its financial health to gambling regulators, asserting that the information is private. It sued to prevent the information from being distributed and subsequently asked that the case be heard by a federal judge, but has now been denied its request.
According to a report by Marianas Variety, Northern Mariana Islands District Court Chief Judge Ramona V. Manglona denied the injunction petition, which was entered against the Commonwealth Casino Commission (CCC). Manglona released a 25-page ruling this past Tuesday in which she asserted that she was required to “reconcile laws” protecting two public interests – the public’s interest in an open government and the interests of an individual or entity in preventing private information in the government’s possession from being given to the public.
In trying to make that reconciliation, Manglona explains, “The risk of undermining public confidence in privacy rights is diminished by the fact that IPI is in a unique position; as the exclusive casino licensee, it is subject to regulations that govern no individual or other business in the CNMI [Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands].”
Two IPI subsidiaries, Imperial Pacific Properties and Grand Marianas (CNMI), have raised concerns to the courts about their own data being released. Manglona was empathetic to their situation “and how their parent company incorporates their information in its public filings with CCC,” but added that “those concerns are for their parent company IPI to address.”
The judge explains that IPI and the interveners “have not shown that irreparable harm is likely without an injunction, that the balance of equities tips in their favor, or that an injunction is in the public interest,” but pointed out that the subsidiaries were able to demonstrate that there was some merit to their arguments. However, it isn’t enough to rule in favor of the injunction and she explains that “without a hardship balance that tips sharply toward the plaintiffs, a preliminary injunction for their benefit is not warranted.”
IPI has tried to argue that its financial data was private and, as such, protected by the Constitution. The CCC counters that it needs the information to properly perform its duties and to ensure IPI is operating within the boundaries of regulations. The judge agrees with the commission, saying that privacy rights extend only to individuals and “should not be read to endow corporations with constitutionally protected rights.”
She concluded, “None of the three cases to which IPI cites in support of its equal protection argument treats individuals and corporations as similarly situated persons; instead they apply equal protection to different classes of natural persons.”
Despite the fact that the financial data is already available publicly – it was released incidentally as a result of the lawsuit and by other individuals who had been sent copies prior to the injunction request – IPI is still going to fight to keep it from being released. It has announced that it will appeal the judge’s decision.