Lawyers for Jay-Z told a judge that the Securities and Exchange Commission has gone on a “celebrity hunt” by demanding the rapper submit to unlimited questioning beginning on Friday about a company to which he sold his apparel business more than a decade ago.
Jay-Z is concerned that the SEC’s request is “driven more by governmental fascination with celebrity and headlines than by any proper investigative purpose,” the lawyers wrote Monday in a submission at Manhattan federal court. They said he has agreed to appear for one day before the SEC, which did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Jay-Z, whose birth name is Shawn Carter, must appear before the SEC in Washington on Friday for a deposition of unlimited duration unless he can explain why it should not be required, U.S. District Judge Paul G. Gardelphe wrote last week. The judge also set a hearing for Tuesday, though it was unclear whether Jay-Z will be there or just his lawyers.
The SEC described Jay-Z, whose hits include 99 Problems and Empire State of Mind, as an “important witness” who has “defied two lawful subpoenas,” failing to show up twice for scheduled testimony.
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The commission has sought to depose Jay-Z as part of its probe into possible securities fraud in the reporting of financial results by Iconix Brand Group, which purchased the rapper’s Rocawear apparel brand. The SEC said Jay-Z and Iconix continued some business partnerships after the sale, and that the Rocawear-related assets are among the financial results under scrutiny.
In their submission, Jay-Z’s lawyers called the SEC’s subpoena “unreasonable and, indeed, oppressive,” saying he never had a role in Iconix’s financial reporting and hasn’t been shown to possess any unique and relevant information.
They said the SEC has issued nine subpoenas to Jay-Z, his colleagues and his affiliated businesses, and that nearly 11 000 pages of materials have been submitted. The lawyers wrote that the chief operating officer of two of Jay-Z’s businesses has already testified for a full day before the SEC.
They noted that the entertainer has an extensive business empire employing thousands of people. His schedule, they said, is especially hectic now with a global tour of 45 shows to begin 6 June.
“The upshot imposes unreasonable burdens on Mr. Carter and raises serious questions about whether this exercise has transcended any investigative purpose and crossed over into a celebrity hunt,” they wrote.