Judicial Panel Grants Defense Request, Opposed by Plaintiffs, for Pretrial Coordination of Class Action Lawsuits Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1407 and Agrees with Defense Request to Transfer Class Actions to Western District of Michigan
Five federal securities class action lawsuits (two in Oklahoma and one in California, Michigan and Texas) were filed against Macatawa Bank and others arising out of the role played by Macatawa bank’s predecessor-in-interest, Grand Bank, in an alleged fraud perpetrated by Trade Partners, Inc. In re Trade Partners, Inc., Investors Litig., 493 F.Supp.2d 1381, 1381 (Jud.Pan.Mult.Lit. 2007). Defense attorneys for common defendants Macatawa Bank Corp. and Macatawa Bank 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 Western District of Michigan. All plaintiffs opposed pretrial coordination, but argued alternatively for the Western District of Oklahoma as the transferee court. Id. The Judicial Panel granted the motion to centralize the class actions because they involve common questions of fact and will benefit from centralization, id. In rejecting plaintiffs’ argument that “individual questions of fact and law predominate, as evidenced by a ruling in the Western District of Michigan action denying class certification,” the Panel explained that denial of class certification “does not negate the reality that centralization under Section 1407 is necessary in order to eliminate duplicative discovery, prevent inconsistent pretrial rulings, and conserve the resources of the parties, their counsel and the judiciary.” Id.
In selecting an appropriate transferee court, the Judicial Panel noted that either Michigan or Oklahoma would be appropriate venues, but opted Michigan because the action there has been pending longest (so the district court judge was familiar with the issues involved) and because defendants’ headquarters are located there, as were the headquarters of Trade Partners, “and thus relevant documents and witnesses will likely be found there.” In re Trade Partners, at 1381-82.