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SECURITIES & E. COM'N v. FIRST NAT. FINANCE

March 28, 1975

SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION, PLAINTIFF,
v.
FIRST NATIONAL FINANCE CORPORATION ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Julius J. Hoffman, Senior District Judge.

MEMORANDUM OF DECISION AND ORDER

This is an action by the Securities Exchange Commission to enjoin alleged fraudulent offers and sales of securities. It is brought under Section 17 of the Securities Act of 1933, Section 10(b) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, and Rule 10b-5 thereunder. There are six defendants: three corporations and three individuals. The corporate defendants are the First National Finance Corporation (FNF), Leichner Industries, Inc. (Leichner), and Burhold, Inc. (Burhold). The individual defendants are Roy Burslem, president of each of the three corporations; Robert Dedman, a former director of FNF and Leichner; and Rex Thorn, a current director of FNF and Leichner. With the exceptions of Thorn and Dedman, all defendants move, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a), for the transfer of this case to the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Illinois at Danville. Thorn and Dedman have interposed no objection to the requested transfer.

The movants assert that the case should be transferred because the Eastern District of Illinois is the residence of the principal individual defendant and the principal witnesses, the principal place of business of the three corporations, and the district in which a Chapter XI (arrangement) proceeding involving the three corporations is pending and the corporate books and records are located. In opposition, the SEC contends that these factors do not establish the balance of inconvenience required to disturb plaintiffs' choice of forum. The Commission asserts further that because many of the alleged fraudulent offerings occurred in the Northern District of Illinois, defendants' motion should be denied.

28 U.S.C. § 1404(a) provides as follows:

  a) For the convenience of parties and witnesses, in the
  interest of justice, a district court may transfer any civil
  action to any other district or division where it might have
  been brought.

Under this section, the movant must show a "clear balance of inconvenience." Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific R.R. Co. v. Igoe, 220 F.2d 299 (7th Cir. 1955), cert. denied, 350 U.S. 822, 76 S.Ct. 49, 100 L.Ed. 735 (1955); Butterick Company, Inc. v. Will, 316 F.2d 111 (7th Cir. 1963); Hammond Corp. v. General Electric Credit Corp., 374 F. Supp. 1356 (N. D.Ill. 1974).

I.

Where The Action Might Have Been Brought

The parties have not disputed that this action might have been brought in the Eastern District of Illinois. Venue under both the Securities Act of 1933 and the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 is proper in the district "wherein the defendant is found or is an inhabitant or transacts business . . . ." 15 U.S.C. § 77v, 78aa. Because the three corporations have their principal places of business in Champaign, Illinois, located in the Eastern District, and defendant Burslem resides there, venue is proper in the Eastern District under these sections. Although defendants Dedman and Thorn have legal residences in states other than Illinois, venue is not thereby destroyed. Securities and Exchange Commission v. National Student Marketing Corp., 360 F. Supp. 284 (D.C. 1973).

II.

The Convenience of Parties and Witnesses

The complaint alleges that the defendants omitted, in the course of offering and selling certain securities, to state material facts relating to the financial condition of two of the corporate defendants, FNF and Leichner. Among the principal witnesses, therefore, will be the officers and employees with knowledge of the financial condition of the two corporations. These persons, according to the affidavit of defendant Burslem, reside in the Eastern District of Illinois. Plaintiff argues, on the other hand, that approximately 70% of the FNF investors, that is, 110 out of a total number of 160, reside in the Northern District of Illinois. During oral argument on this motion, counsel for the SEC stated that some of these investors would be called as witnesses. There is no indication, however, that any of the investors have knowledge of the financial condition of FNF and Leichner at the time of the alleged fraudulent offerings and sales. The principal witnesses are those material to the Court's decision on a motion to transfer under 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a). Grey v. Continental Marketing Associates, Inc., 315 F. Supp. 826 (N.D.Ga. 1970).

The corporate defendants have their principal places of business in the Eastern District of Illinois. The principal individual defendant, Roy Burslem, and the principal witnesses, reside in the Eastern District. The SEC admits that while defendant Dedman is a legal resident of Nashville, Tennessee, he is "often" in Champaign, Illinois. The Northern and Eastern Districts of Illinois are equally convenient for defendant Thorn, who resides in Biloxi, Mississippi. On balance, therefore, it is reasonable to ...


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