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In re SLB Enter. Rico Litig.

Judicial Panel On Multidistrict Litigation

July 31, 2019, Filed

MDL No. 2899

Opinion

 [*1351]  ORDER DENYING TRANSFER

Before the Panel: Plaintiff in one action (ASI) moves under 28 U.S.C. § 1407 to centralize this litigation in the Southern District of Iowa. This litigation consists of six actions pending in two districts, as listed on Schedule A. Plaintiffs in all actions support centralization in the Southern District of Iowa. All responding defendants support, or do not oppose, centralization, but request the Central District of California or, alternatively, the District of New Jersey.1

On the basis of the papers filed and the hearing session held, we conclude that centralization is not necessary for the convenience of the parties and witnesses or to further the just and efficient conduct of the litigation. The actions unquestionably involve nearly identical factual allegations that affiliated toy companies based  [*1352]  largely in Hong Kong and California, doing business under the names SLB Toys, Manley Toy Direct, Toy Quest, and other alleged shell companies (together, the SLB companies) are engaged in a common scheme to evade court judgments. But [**2]  ] where only a minimal number of actions are involved, the proponent of centralization bears a heavier burden to demonstrate that centralization is appropriate. See In re: Transocean Ltd. Sec. Litig. (No. II), 753 F. Supp. 2d 1373, 1374 (J.P.M.L. 2010). Movant has failed to do so here.

There are only six actions in this litigation pending in two districts. Moreover, all five actions in the Southern District of Iowa action are assigned to the same judge. Thus, as a practical matter, there are only two sets of pretrial proceedings to coordinate. Such coordination should be aided by the fact that plaintiffs are represented by the same counsel in all actions. Additionally, the number of involved defense counsel appears to be limited. Although plaintiffs have named a total of 19 defendants in their nearly identical complaints, the four defendants appearing in the Panel proceedings are represented by two counsel, and the underlying dockets indicate that only one additional firm is representing six recently served defendants.2

Moreover, there appear to be other alternatives to centralization. For example, plaintiffs could seek Section 1404 transfer of the District of Minnesota action to the Southern District of Iowa where all other actions on the motion are [**3]  pending.3 Although the responding defendants prefer another district at this time, a reasonable prospect still exists that the multidistrict character of this litigation may be eliminated without resort to centralization.4 Alternatively, the parties could agree to stay discovery in the later-filed Iowa actions under the first-to-file rule.5

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412 F. Supp. 3d 1350 *; 2019 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 133981 **

IN RE: SLB ENTERPRISE RICO LITIGATION

CORE TERMS

centralization, Toy, MULTIDISTRICT, proceedings, coordinate, responding, appearing, districts, parties

Civil Procedure, Preliminary Considerations, Venue, Multidistrict Litigation, Federal Venue Transfers, Subject Matter Jurisdiction, Jurisdiction Over Actions, Concurrent Jurisdiction