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In re Signet Jewelers Ltd. Sec. Litig.

United States District Court for the Southern District of New York

September 5, 2019, Decided; September 5, 2019, Filed

1:16-cv-06728 (CM) (SDA)

Opinion

 [*133]  OPINION AND ORDER

STEWART D. AARON, United States Magistrate Judge:

Before the Court is Plaintiff's Letter-Motion (ECF No. 181) seeking to compel the production of documents regarding the work of two public relations ("PR") firms, including communications with members of those firms, that were withheld by Defendants in whole or in part on attorney-client privilege grounds. For the reasons set forth below, Plaintiff's motion is GRANTED IN PART and DENIED IN PART.

BACKGROUND

In this lawsuit, which was commenced in August 2016, Lead Plaintiff, the Public Employees' Retirement System of Mississippi ("Plaintiff"), alleges that Defendants Signet Jewelers Limited ("Signet") and certain of its senior executives (collectively, the "Defendants") committed securities fraud by misrepresenting [**3]  (1) the health of Signet's credit portfolio, and (2) Signet's alleged "pervasive" culture of sexual harassment. (Fifth Amended Complaint, ECF No. 111, ¶¶ 1-25.) In late-2015/early-2016, The Capitol Forum ("CF") "published a series of articles accusing Signet of fraudulently stating its financials to conceal the quality of its in-house consumer lending program." (Defs.' 8/22/19 Ltr., ECF No. 183, at 2.) In response to this event, Signet's outside counsel retained two PR firms, Joele Frank ("JF") and Ogilvy & Mathers ("Ogilvy"). (Pl.'s Letter-Motion, ECF No. 181, at 1; Defs.' 8/22/19 Ltr. at 2.)1

Signet's "PR firms and outside counsel, along with members of Signet management including in-house counsel, formed a 'strategic communications steering committee [SCSC],' which convened to discuss a communications strategy to neutralize the climate of negative and often inaccurate media coverage in light of the legal and reputational risks facing the company." (Defs.' 8/22/19 Ltr. at 2.) The SCSC "kicked off" during a communications summit in February 2016 (the "Summit"). (Pl.'s Letter-Motion at 1.)

After the filing of this lawsuit, the Washington Post ("WaPo"), on February 27, 2017, "published [**4]  a front page story containing salacious allegations of sexual harassment at Signet drawn from declarations submitted in an employment arbitration" filed before the American Arbitration Association, Jock et al. v. Sterling Jewelers. (Defs.' 8/22/19 Ltr. at 2 & Ex. 2.) Signet's outside counsel retained Ogilvy in response to this event as well. (Pl.'s Letter-Motion at 2; Defs.' 8/22/19 Ltr. at 2.)

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332 F.R.D. 131 *; 2019 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 151259 **; 2019 WL 4197201

IN RE SIGNET JEWELERS LIMITED SECURITIES LITIGATION

Subsequent History: Affirmed by In re Signet Jewelers Ltd. Sec. Litig., 2019 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 187427 (S.D.N.Y., Oct. 7, 2019)

Prior History: Dube v. Signet Jewelers Ltd., 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 57624 (S.D.N.Y., Apr. 14, 2017)

CORE TERMS

emails, redacted, attorney-client, in-house, advice, withheld, media, log, disclosure, waived, unredacted