Judicial Panel Grants Defense Request for Pretrial Coordination of Class Action Lawsuits Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1407, Opposed by Some Class Action Plaintiffs and Two Attorneys General, but Transfers Actions to Southern District of California
Seven class actions – three in the Central District of California, two in the Southern District of California, one in Illinois and one in Kentucky – were filed against Countrywide Financial Corp. and affiliated entities; the various class action complaints “aris[e] out of allegations that Countrywide engaged in predatory lending practices by (1) originating and/or servicing residential mortgages in an unlawful, unfair or deceptive fashion, (2) misrepresenting or concealing the terms, risk, or suitability of the loans; and/or (3) placing borrowers in loans that they could not afford.” In re Countrywide Financial Corp. Mortgage Marketing & Sales Practices Litig., ___ F.Supp.2d ___ (Jud.Pan.Mult.Lit. October 14, 2008) [Slip Opn., at 1-2]. Four related class actions were filed in Connecticut, Florida , Indiana and the West Virginia, and were treated as potential tag-along actions by the Judicial Panel. Id., at 1 n.2 Defense attorneys for Countrywide Bank, Countrywide Home Loans, and Bank of America 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 Central District of California; plaintiffs in both class actions supported the motion. Id., at 1. The various class action plaintiffs generally agreed on centralization, but could not agree on an appropriate transferee court. Class action plaintiffs in one of the putative nationwide class actions pending in the Central District of California supported the defense motion, but plaintiffs in another class action pending in the Central District of California, as well as plaintiffs in the Kentucky tag-along class action, argued for centralization in the Western District of Kentucky. Id. Still other plaintiffs – including Attorneys General for California and Illinois – opposed centralization entirely. Id.
The Judicial Panel granted the motion to centralize the class action lawsuits. In re Countrywide Financial, at 2. The Panel explained at page 2, “Centralization under Section 1407 will eliminate duplicative discovery; avoid inconsistent pretrial rulings, including on the issue of class certification in some actions; and conserve the resources of the parties, their counsel and the judiciary. The sufficiency of class allegations is an overarching issue in the putative nationwide class actions in this MDL proceeding.” With respect to the argument of the Attorneys General that federal jurisdiction over their actions is improper and that their actions should be remanded to state court, the Judicial Panel concluded that “these motions can be presented to the transferee judge”; however, the Panel “urge[d] the transferee judge to consider them expeditiously.” Id., at 2. The Judicial Panel transferred the class actions to the Southern District of California, because “(1) two of the seven actions in this docket are pending in this district, (2) Countrywide’s principal place of business is in California, and parties, witnesses and documents may be found there, and (3) the Southern District of California has the capacity to handle this litigation.” Id., at 2-3.