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Current Developments in the Commercial Divisions of the
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Posted: May 14, 2014

Airbnb Subpoena Quashed as Overbroad

On May 13, 2014, Justice Connolly of the Albany County Supreme Court issued a decision in Airbnb, Inc. v. Schneiderman, Index No. 5393-13, quashing a much-publicized subpoena by the State Attorney General’s Office on Airbnb, Inc. seeking information on its clients that rent apartments in New York state.

Justice Connolly rejected most of the arguments advanced by Airbnb, including that the subpoena was an “unfounded fishing expedition,” that the subpoena was being used to enforce “unconstitutionally vague” laws, that the subpoena was “burdensome,” and that the subpoena impermissibly sought “confidential, private information from” Airbnb’s users.  Further, to the extent the subpoena related to Airbnb clients that rented apartments in New York City, the court found the subpoena appropriate.  However, because, the subpoena was not limited to Airbnb hosts whose activities would be covered by the Multiple Dwelling Law or the New York City Hotel Occupancy Tax (potential violations of which the Attorney General was investigating), it was quashed as overbroad.

This decision–which is reported as an Airbnb victory in some press reports–stands more properly as an example of the large permissible breadth of Attorney General investigative subpoenas in the commercial context.  Ultimately, all the court asked of the Attorney General was to limit the subpoena to exclude information about hosts that could not possibly have been breaking the laws at issue.

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