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In 2002, Judge Samuel L. Alito Jr., who owned $390,000 in Vanguard mutual funds, ruled in favor of Vanguard in a case involving a Massachusetts woman who was trying to regain the assets of her late husband's IRA's. The funds were frozen by Vanguard following a court ruling in favor of the husband's business partner.
The woman, Shantee Maharaj, requested Alito's financial disclosure forms after he ruled against her appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeal, Third Circuit, and it was then that she discovered Alito's ownership of Vanguard funds. It turns out that in 1990, when Alita was seeking Senate approval for his judgeship on the appeals court, he told members of the Senate that he would recuse himself from any cases involving Vanguard. However, when Maharaj tried to have him removed from her case, Alito argued that he was not required to recuse himself.
In 2004, Alito said that his holdings did not constitute a conflict of interest because his investments were in mutual funds, making him an investor in Vanguard, not an owner. Federal judicial ethics rules permit judges to rule on cases involving some mutual funds in which they have a stake, but not those in which shares comprise ownership. The Vanguard Fund describes itself as owned by the ''fund's shareholders."