The opinion of the court was delivered by: Denise Cote, District Judge
MEMORANDUM OPINION & ORDER
On May 22, 2003, the Court circulated a draft Consolidation Order in this securities litigation, and requested proposed revisions. Having received and reviewed the comments of counsel, the attached Order is issued.
Counsel for plaintiffs in the class action did not have substantive revisions to suggest for the Order. Counsel for the defendants suggested two additions, which have been added. Liaison Counsel for the actions making individual as opposed to class claims ("Individual Actions") provided the views of four sets of Individual Actions. Two — the New York City Pension Funds and SunTrust Bank and Trusco Capital Management, Inc. — have no proposed revisions.
Two sets of Individual Actions did have objections and, in one instance, a request. The pension funds represented by Milberg Weiss Bershad Hynes & Lerach ("Milberg Weiss Actions") generally object to the proposed order and to several specific provisions of the order, including those which empower Lead Counsel in the securities class action to conduct pretrial proceedings on behalf of all of the cases and which require plaintiffs' counsel in the Individual Actions to communicate with the Court through Liaison Counsel. The Ohio Pension Funds object generally to the order and make one request for a revision, which has been adopted in substance. The Ohio Pension Funds also ask that the restrictions on their right to communicate directly with defense counsel and Lead Counsel be lifted, and that the Court revisit the issue of such direct communications if it becomes a problem in the future.
The Opinion of May 22, 2003 explained the reasons for the issuance of this Order. Repetitive submissions and communications have already become a problem in this action and a drain on the resources of Court and counsel. They divert energy from the pursuit of the merits of the litigation, cause delay, and waste financial resources which should be preserved for the litigants.
There are several provisions in the Order which allow any party whose views need to be heard to communicate those views directly to the Court, and if appropriate to Lead Counsel and defense counsel. Of particular importance in this regard, Paragraph 18 permits any attorney to seek relief from the restrictions in the Order upon a showing of good cause. Paragraph 23 provides that nothing in the Order may be construed to diminish the right of any party to be heard by the Court on matters that are not susceptible to common action or as to which there is a genuine disagreement among counsel. Should one or more Individual Actions identify any discovery or motion practice that is not duplicative, they will have an opportunity to pursue the discovery and motion practice.
On August 15, 2002, the Court entered an Order consolidating securities class actions filed against WorldCom, Inc. ("WorldCom") and those associated with it ("August 15 Order"). The August 15 Order applied and continues to apply to any securities class action filed in or transferred to this Court and assigned to the undersigned which relates to the same subject matter as the actions consolidated by the August 15 Order. The securities class actions were consolidated under the caption In re WorldCom, Inc. Securities Litigation and are referred to as the "Securities Litigation". The August 15 Order appointed the New York State Common Retirement Fund as lead plaintiff for the Securities Litigation. Bernstein Litowitz Berger & Grossmann LLP and Barrack Rodos & Bacine were selected as co-Lead Counsel for the Securities Litigation ("Lead Counsel").
Lawsuits against WorldCom and/or individuals and entities on account of their connections to WorldCom that allege individual, rather than class, claims have also been assigned to this Court and are referred to as the "Individual Actions." By Order dated December 23, 2003 ("December 23 Order"), this Court found that the Individual Actions and the securities class actions involved common questions of law and fact, and that consolidation of these actions for pretrial proceedings was necessary. The Order provided that the defendants would have no obligation to move, answer, or otherwise respond to the complaints in any of the Individual Actions until a separate scheduling order addressing those obligations was issued. The December 23 Order also provided, inter alia, that after a decision was issued on the motion to remand made by New York City Employees' Retirement System ("NYCERS"), in which forty-one Individual Actions represented by Milberg Weiss Bershad Hynes & Lerach LLP were given permission to intervene, Lead Counsel and counsel for plaintiffs in any Individual Action would be invited to present a proposed order for consolidation of the class actions and the Individual Actions for pretrial purposes.
Having received various submissions from counsel regarding the proposed consolidation, and for the reasons set forth in the Opinion of May 22, 2003, it is hereby
I. CONSOLIDATION AND STAY
1. The Individual Actions are consolidated for pre-trial purposes with the Securities Litigation pursuant to Rule 42(a), Fed.R.Civ.P.
2. No action taken hereunder shall have the effect of making any person, firm or corporation a party to any action in which the person or entity has not been named, served, or added as such in accordance with the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.
3. Any Individual Action presently assigned to this Court may file an amended complaint by July 11, 2003. Any Individual Action transferred hereafter to this Court shall have the later of July 11, 2003, or twenty-one days following arrival on this Court's docket to file an amended complaint. No further amendments of any complaint in an Individual Action will be permitted without permission of the Court.
4. The requirement that any defendant named and served in an Individual Action must move, answer or otherwise respond in that action is stayed. If circumstances necessitate action by any Individual Action plaintiff or defendant to protect interests unique to such Individual Action plaintiff or defendant, such plaintiff or defendant may seek relief from the stay by appropriate motion. All defenses of any defendant named and served in an Individual Action, including but not ...