Judicial Panel Grants Unopposed Defense Request for Pretrial Coordination of Class Action Lawsuits Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1407, and Transfers Actions to Southern District of New York
Thirty (30) individual and class action lawsuits were filed against Bank of America and other defendants arising out of “alleged misrepresentations and omissions made in the context of Bank of America’s acquisition of Merrill Lynch & Co., Inc.”; 28 of the lawsuits had been filed in New York, and one each in California and Kansas. In re Bank of America Corp. Securities, Derivative & Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) Litig., ___ F.Supp.2d ___ (Jud.Pan.Mult.Lit. June 10, 2009) [Slip Opn., at 1]. Defense attorneys filed a motion with the Judicial Panel for Multidistrict Litigation (MDL) requesting centralization of the class actions pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1407 in the Southern District of New York; plaintiff in the Kansas action requested that the Judicial Panel “coordinate” rather than “consolidate” the lawsuits for pretrial purposes, but otherwise did not oppose the motion. Id. Plaintiffs in a potential tag-along action, filed in Delaware, urged the Panel to transfer the lawsuits to Delaware, id. The Judicial Panel granted the motion to centralize the class action lawsuits and agreed that the Southern District of New York was the appropriate transferee court, particularly because “[m]ost of the 28 actions in this district are already pending before [a single judge], who has had an opportunity to become familiar with the contours of this litigation” and because “both Merrill Lynch and Bank of America have a significant presence in the Southern District of New York” so “[r]elevant documents and witnesses can thus be expected to be found there.” Id., at 2. As for the concerns of the Kansas plaintiff, the Judicial Panel directed her to present to the transferee judge her concerns “regarding the manner and extent of coordination or consolidation of her action with the pretrial proceedings in other actions.” Id.