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In re Ameriquest Mortgage Co. Mortgage Lending Practices Litigation

November 7, 2006

IN RE AMERIQUEST MORTGAGE CO. MORTGAGE LENDING PRACTICES LITIGATION


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Marvin E. Aspen, District Judge

MDL No. 1715

Centralized before the Honorable Marvin E. Aspen

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Multiple sets of plaintiffs' attorneys -- as well as counsel for defendants -- have submitted several rounds of proposals for the organization and management of the class action and individual lawsuits comprising the above-captioned Multi-District Litigation.

The submissions cover the following issues: (1) the selection of a firm or firms to act as lead plaintiffs' counsel and plaintiffs' liaison counsel; (2) the composition of any committees of plaintiffs' attorneys; (3) whether and to what extent the cases should be divided into discrete groups and, if divided, which firms should represent the plaintiffs in each respective group; (4) discovery scheduling; (5) the application of this case management plan to later-instituted and add-on cases; (6) trial and mediation preparation; and (7) other such matters concerning the way the case is managed.

After reviewing all of the submissions, we set forth the following organizational structure for case management.

I. REASSIGNED CASES

The following actions have been transferred by the MDL Panel or have otherwise been reassigned to us:

Abbreviated Case Name Civil Case Number Andersen, et al. v. Ameriquest Mortgage Co., et al. 06-cv-1981 Applegate, et al. v. Ameriquest Mortgage Co., et al. 06-cv-4867 Balark, et al. v. Ameriquest Mortgage Co., et al. 06-cv-2430 Barletta v. Ameriquest Mortgage Co., et al. 06-cv-4560 Besterfield v. Ameriquest Mortgage Co., et al. 06-cv-2676 Billings, et al. v. Ameriquest Mortgage Co., et al. 06-cv-1849 Black, et al. v. Argent Mortgage Co., et al. 06-cv-4418 Bricker, et al. v. Ameriquest Mortgage Co., et al. 06-cv-4528 Brown, et al. v. Ameriquest Mortgage Co., et al. 06-cv-2830 Calder v. Ameriquest Mortgage Co., et al. 06-cv-5146 Cashen, et al. v. Ameriquest Mortgage Co., et al. 06-cv-4683 Clarke, et al. v. Ameriquest Mortgage Co., et al. 06-cv-4201 Cleveland v. Ameriquest Mortgage Co., et al. 06-cv-4306

D. Brown v. Ameriquest Mortgage Co., et al. 05-cv-4723

K. Brown et al. v. Ameriquest Mortgage Co., et al. 05-cv-5111 Bergquist v. Ameriquest Mortgage Co., et al. 06-cv-1438 Buckner v. Ameriquest Mortgage Co., et al. 05-cv-6808 Dearden v. Ameriquest Mortgage Co., et al. 06-cv-2912 Doolittle et al. v. Ameriquest Mortgage Co., et al. 05-cv-5033 Dougherty, et al. v. Ameriquest Mortgage Co., et al. 06-cv-2482 Eskra v. Ameriquest Mortgage Co., et al. 06-cv-1879 Eson, et. al. v. Argent Mortgage Co., et al. 06-cv-2829 Filian, et al. v. Ameriquest Mortgage Co., et al. 06-cv-2826 Furgeson v. Ameriquest Mortgage Co., et al. 04-cv-7627 Gajewski v. Ameriquest Mortgage Co., et al. 06-cv-3050 Garcia v. Argent Mortgage Co., et al. 06-cv-1829 Gburek v. Argent Mortgage Co., et al. 06-cv-2639 Geis v. Ameriquest Mortgage Co., et al. 06-cv-1716 Gelman, et al. v. Ameriquest Mortgage Co., et al. 06-cv-4684 Gerbig, et al. v. Ameriquest Mortgage Co., et al. 06-cv-4868 Grabowski v. Ameriquest Mortgage Co., et al. 06-cv-2549 Grabs v. Argent Mortgage Co., et al. 06-cv-2809 Green v. Argent Mortgage Co., et al. 06-cv-2045 Hall v. Ameriquest Mortgage Co., et al. 06-cv-1944 Hanson v. Ameriquest Mortgage Co., et al. 06-cv-1876 Harris v. Ameriquest Mortgage Co., et al. 05-cv-4025 Harris, et al. v. Town & Country Credit Corp., et al. 06-cv-3048 Hawkins v. Ameriquest Mortgage Co., et al. 06-cv-1848 Holzmeister v. Ameriquest Mortgage Co., et al. 05-cv-5911 Jenkins v. Argent Mortgage Co., et al. 06-cv-2044 Jewell v. Ameriquest Mortgage Co., et al. 06-cv-0269

Jiles v. Argent Mortgage Co., et al. 06-cv-2771 Jimenez v. Ameriquest Mortgage Co., et al. 05-cv-1009 Jones v. Ameriquest Mortgage Co., et al. 06-cv-2397 Jude v. Town & Country Credit Corp., et al. 06-cv-1691 Kessler v. Ameriquest Mortgage Co., et al. 06-cv-4999 Key v. Ameriquest Mortgage Co. 05-cv-1077 King Smith v. Town & Country Credit Corp., et al. 06-cv-3704 Lappin, et al. v. Ameriquest Mortgage Co., et al. 06-cv-5147 Leach v. Ameriquest Mortgage Co., et al. 06-cv-5000 Luedtke et al. v. Ameriquest Mortgage Co., et al. 05-cv-4644 Lurry-Payne v. Ameriquest Mortgage Co., et al. 06-cv-1547 Magliano et al. v. Ameriquest Mortgage Co., et al. 06-cv-1945 Martin v. Argent Mortgage Co., et al. 06-cv-1947 Mayfield v. Town & Country Credit Corp. 05-cv-6158 McGowan v. Ameriquest Mortgage Co., et al. 06-cv-1831 Melecio, et al. v. Town & Country Credit Corp., et al. 06-cv-2832 Mills v. Ameriquest Mortgage Co., et al. 05-cv-3976 Mormon v. Ameriquest Mortgage Co., et al. 06-cv-2514 Murray et al. v. Ameriquest Mortgage Co. 05-cv-1218 Perry v. Ameriquest Mortgage Co., et al. 05-cv-6172 Pinkstak et al. v. Ameriquest Mortgage Co., et al. 05-cv-5035 Polydoros et al. v. Ameriquest Mortgage Co., et al. 05-cv-6517

Rehbock v. Ameriquest Mortgage Co., et al. 06-cv-1581 Rocco, et. al. v. Ameriquest Mortgage Co., et al. 06-cv-2897 Rodriguez et al. v. Town & Country Credit Corp., et al. 06-cv-1950 Rodriguez, et al .v. Ameriquest Mortgage Co., et al. 06-cv-2187 Salazar et al. v. Ameriquest Mortgage Co., et al. 05-cv-4162 Sedgwick, et al. v. Ameriquest Mortgage Co., et al. 06-cv-2333 Smith, et al. v. Ameriquest Mortgage Co. 05-cv-0648 Smith, et al. v. Ameriquest Mortgage Co., et al. 06-cv-2828 Solnin, et al. v. Ameriquest Mortgage Co., et al. 06-cv-4866 Spencer v. Ameriquest Mortgage Co., et al. 06-cv-2396 Talley, et al. v. Ameriquest Mortgage Co. 05-cv-1080 Thibodeau, et al. v. Ameriquest Mortgage Co., et al. 06-cv-5148 Thompson v. Ameriquest Mortgagte Co., et al. 06-cv-1546 Tieri v. Ameriquest Mortgage Co., et al. 06-cv-2683 Treadwell, et al. v. Ameriquest Mortgage Co. 05-cv-1078 Tremble v. Town & Country Credit Corp. 05-cv-2625 Walker, et al. v. Ameriquest Mortgage Co., et al. 06-cv-2807 Warren v. Ameriquest Mortgage Co., et al. 06-cv-4415 Wertepny et al. v. Ameriquest Mortgage Co. 05-cv-1402 Wessel, et al. v. Ameriquest Mortgage Co., et al. 06-cv-1899 Wisniewski v. Town & Country Credit Corp., et al. 06-cv-2697

Defendants also request the reassignment of four additional cases: Abercrombie v. Argent Mortgage Co, et al. (N.D. Ill., 05-cv-5024), Hubbard v. Ameriquest Mortgage Co., et al. (N.D. Ill., 05-cv-0389), and Washington, et al. v. Ameriquest Mortgage Co., et al. (N.D. Ill., 05-cv-1007).*fn1 All three of these cases have gone through summary judgment briefing, and the court in Washington has ruled on the parties' cross-motions. Given the advanced procedural posture of these three cases, we decline to reassign them and deny Ameriquest's request.

II. CONSOLIDATION

The parties acknowledge significant differences among the reassigned and potential later-assigned cases, but disagree regarding whether and how to categorize the cases for purposes of determining plaintiffs' attorneys' roles, discovery, mediation, and trial. We perceive three distinct types of cases: (1) borrower class actions, (2) non-borrower class actions under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), and (3) individual, non-class suits. All cases will be consolidated for pre-trial purposes and should for the time being continue to be filed under the same Master Docket and Caption, but given the probability that discreet substantive issues will arise in each type of case, lead plaintiffs' counsel will be determined for each category and substantive motions may vary by category.

There shall be two master class complaints, one on behalf of all borrowers, and one on behalf of all non-borrower Fair Credit Reporting Act claimants. The two consolidated class action complaints should be filed by December 6, 2006. Defendants shall have until January 19, 2007 to answer or file Rule 12 motions. With respect to any Rule 12 motions, plaintiffs will have until February 9, 2007 to file their opposition, defendants have until February 23, 2007 to respond, and plaintiffs will then have until March 1, 2007 to reply.

Individuals who wish to opt out of the class actions shall give notice by January 5, 2007.

III. LATER-FILED OR TRANSFERRED ACTIONS

The parties are in substantial agreement that the terms of this Order shall apply to each action subsequently filed in or transferred to this Court alleging claims similar to those set forth in these actions. A later-added party must object to the consolidation of that case or to any other provision of this Order within ten days after the date on which the Clerk mails a copy of this Order to counsel for that party.

We expect counsel to call to the attention of the Clerk the filing or transfer of any action which might properly be consolidated with these actions.

IV. LEAD PLAINTIFFS' COUNSEL, LIAISON COUNSEL, AND COMMITTEES

Some of the law firms representing the plaintiffs in these actions have submitted several rounds of briefs regarding plaintiffs' leadership structure. There are two general positions regarding plaintiffs' leadership: (1) the Lieff/Roddy/James (LRJ) position, led by the law firms of Lieff, Cabraser, Heimann & Bernstein, LLP; Roddy Klein & Ryan; and James, Hoyer, Newcomber & Smiljanich, P.A.; and (2) the ECLG position, set forth by Edelman, Combs, Latturner & Goodwin in concurrence with Daniel Harris, esq. The LRJ position appears to represent the consensus view of the plaintiffs' attorneys: ECLG and Harris have been the only two firms to file competing plans to date.

A. Plaintiffs' Proposals

LRJ proposes the following:

1. The LRJ firms serve as co-lead counsel for all class actions;

2. Miller, Faucher and Cafferty LLP shall serve as Liaison Counsel;

3. An Executive Committee should be formed, chaired by Lerach, Coughlin, Stoia, Geller, Rudman & Robbins, LLP and also including Donovan Searles LLC and Crowder, Bedor & Paulson, LLP;

4. Non-class, or individual, cases should be handled by law firms of those plaintiffs' choosing, with the National Consumer Law Center (NCLC) and Consumer Law Group (CLG) serving as Co-Chairs of an Individual Consumer Claims Steering Committee; and

5. All plaintiffs' counsel shall form a Plaintiffs' Committee of the Whole to work with the co-lead counsel and the Executive Committee.

ECLG and Harris propose that:

1. ECLG serve as lead counsel for class actions alleging violations of the Fair Credit Reporting Act and ...


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