Conferences Begin on Trying Mountain of Fund Cases

April 2, 2004 ( - Four federal judges have begun working out just how to properly try nearly 100 lawsuits against six mutual fund companies accused of widespread trading abuses affecting potentially millions of investors.

U.S. District Judges J. Frederick Motz , Andre Davis, Catherine Blake and Frederick Stamp were scheduled to meet with attorneys in Baltimore to begin settling on a pretrial schedule for the case, which affects companies across the country, the Associated Press reported.

The case was assigned to U.S. District Court in Baltimore in February by the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation. The panel picked Maryland because the lawsuits were spread across the country and Maryland was a “district with the capacity and experience to steer this litigation on a prudent course.”

Motz , a federal judge in Baltimore, is a member of the panel. Davis and Blake are judges in Baltimore. Stamp is a judge in West Virginia. Blake will sit in on hearings and scheduling conference to help organize the litigation. She will be the first judge to be assigned as an additional judge, if needed and her schedule permits, Motz said.

“This is now going to be sort of ground zero for the federal securities litigation involving the mutual fund fraud that has been in the news,” said Andrew Levy, a trial attorney and adjunct professor at the University of Maryland School of Law who specializes in multidistrict litigation, told the AP.

In a letter to attorneys, Motz asked that they be ready to discuss proposed deadlines for the designation of lead counsel, filing amended complaints and the resolution of class certification issues.

Motz also said the judges plan to establish different tracks in the litigation, but they have not decided what tracks should be linked together.

Investors are suing Janus Capital Group Inc., Strong Capital Management Inc., Bank One Corp., Bank of America Corp., Putnam Investments and Alliance Capital Holdings.

Plaintiffs contend the fund managers gave preferential treatment to wealthy customers at the expense of ordinary investors. Fund managers allegedly allowed rich clients to book after-hours trades at prices already closed to most fund shareholders. Plaintiffs also argue that fund mangers allowed market timing.