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Buffett Won't Have to Turn Over Documents, Judge Says

A federal judge overseeing the trial of four former executives at the General Re unit of Berkshire Hathaway said the reinsurer need not turn over some documents involving Berkshire Chairman Warren Buffett.

Ronald Ferguson, Gen Re's former chief executive, had issued a subpoena seeking all written communications in the year 2000 among Buffett, Joseph Brandon and Franklin "Tad" Montross. The latter two executives are now Gen Re's chief executive and president, respectively.

Ferguson has been seeking documents he contends would show that Buffett approved a 2000 transaction that prosecutors say allowed the insurer American International Group to fraudulently inflate reserves by $500 million.

U.S. District Judge Christopher Droney agreed with Gen Re's argument that the subpoena was unenforceable because it was too broad and burdensome and sought irrelevant documents.

"If Brandon or Montross ever directly questioned Buffett about his approval of the (transaction), Ferguson would already be in possession of this evidence," the judge wrote. "Proving that Brandon and Montross frequently communicated with Buffett on other business matters is not probative of whether Ferguson misrepresented Buffett's approval ... to them."

The judge granted part of two separate subpoenas that Ferguson issued to affiliates of Verizon Communications seeking some phone records.

Opening arguments are scheduled for Jan. 7 in the U.S. District Court in Hartford, Connecticut.

Others charged in the case include former Gen Re Chief Financial Officer Elizabeth Monrad, former Gen Re senior vice president Christopher Garand, former Gen Re assistant general counsel Robert Graham, and former AIG head of reinsurance Christian Milton. They and Ferguson each pleaded innocent.

Last month, prosecutors named Buffett as a possible witness in the case. On Monday they said they do not plan to call Buffett to the stand without evidence from the defendants that he was involved in or approved the transaction at issue. They said calling the billionaire might create a distraction.