Wells Fargo Class Action Defense Cases—In re Wells Fargo Mortgage Lending Practices: Judicial Panel On Multidistrict Litigation (MDL) Grants Defense Motion To Centralize Class Action Litigation But Transfers Class Actions To California

May 16, 2008 | By: Michael J. Hassen

Judicial Panel Grants Defense Request for Pretrial Coordination Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1407 of Class Action Lawsuits Alleging Discriminatory Lending Practices, but Agrees with California Plaintiffs that Northern District of California is Appropriate Transferee Court

Four class action lawsuits (3 in California and 1 in Illinois) were filed against Wells Fargo alleging discriminatory pricing in its mortgage loan products. In re Wells Fargo Mortgage Lending Prac. Litig., ___ F.Supp.2d ___ (Jud.Pan.Mult.Lit. April 10, 2008) [Slip Opn., at 1]. Defense attorneys filed a motion with the Judicial Panel for Multidistrict Litigation (MDL) requesting centralization of the litigation pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1407 in the Northern District of Illinois or, alternatively, in the Southern District of Iowa; lawyers for the various class action plaintiffs agreed that pretrial coordination was appropriate and the Illinois plaintiffs supported transfer to Illinois, but lawyers in the California class actions argued that the Northern District of California was the appropriate transferee court. Id. The Judicial Panel granted the motion to centralize the class action lawsuits, explaining that “[a]ll actions share factual questions relating to whether Wells Fargo engaged in discriminatory residential lending practices, including the imposition of discretionary fees/charges which increased the cost of financing resulting in higher loans for minority borrowers than similarly situated nonminority borrowers.” Id. Further, centralization “will eliminate duplicative discovery; avoid inconsistent pretrial rulings, especially on the issue of class certification; and conserve the resources of the parties, their counsel and the judiciary.” Id. However, the Judicial Panel agreed with the California class action plaintiffs’ request to transfer the lawsuits to the Northern District of California because three of the actions are pending there and because Wells Fargo is headquartered in San Francisco. Id. Accordingly, the Panel ordered the class actions transferred to California, id., at 2.

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