United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division
BUDICAK, INC., on behalf of itself and all other similarly situated, Plaintiff,
LANSING TRADE GROUP, LLC and JOHN DOES NOS. 1-6, Defendants.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
E. CHANG, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
proposed class action, Budicak, Inc. sued Lansing Trade
Group, LLC and unknown individuals, alleging that Lansing
unlawfully manipulated wheat futures and options contracts
traded on the Chicago Board of Trade (CBOT) in violation of
the Commodity Exchange Act, 7 U.S.C. § 1, et
seq., the Sherman Antitrust Act, 15 U.S.C. § 1, and
common law unjust enrichment and restitution. R. 1, Class
Action Compl. Lansing now moves to transfer the case to
the District of Kansas, where the company is based. R. 26,
Defs.' Mot. Transfer. Budicak, which is based in Oak
Brook, Illinois, prefers to litigate the matter here in
Chicago. See R. 32, Pl.'s Resp. Br. For the
reasons explained below, Lansing's motion is granted.
is a commodity merchandising company that buys, sells,
handles, and stores physical commodities such as wheat in the
cash market. Class Action Compl. ¶ 50, In early March
2015, Lansing allegedly caught wind of an insider tip:
another market participant was planning to register and
tender delivery of a large number of wheat shipping
certificates. Id. 55. This tip meant that there
was a lack of demand for wheat and that the price of futures
contracts would drop. Id. ¶ 55. Budicak alleges
that Lansing used this insider information to come up with a
plan to manipulate the prices of wheat futures and contracts.
Id. ¶ 56. At least three Lansing traders,
identified in the complaint as Lansing Traders 1, 2, and 3,
were in on the plan and communicated internally among
themselves and externally with John Doe Defendants to
effectuate their scheme. Id. ¶ 11.
March 3, 2015, the insider tip came to fruition. A market
participant registered and tendered 250 wheat certificates,
and the price of wheat contracts and associated
spreads began declining. Class Action Compl.
¶¶ 58-59. So Lansing's traders began increasing
its wheat spread and wheat call option positions at the new
lower prices. Id. ¶ 59. And then, within the
next few days, Lansing's traders bought all 250 wheat
certificates with the plan to cancel them for load-out soon
after. Id. ¶ 60. In other words. Lansing
planned to order the physical grain to be
“loaded-out” for transport. Id. ¶
49. This would signal to other market participants that there
was immediate demand for the market because someone
supposedly wanted the wheat taken out of storage.
Id. But the demand, according to Budicak, was in
fact artificial. Id. ¶ 61. Nevertheless, even
the perception of an increased demand meant that the
value of Lansing's own wheat spread and wheat call option
positions would go up. Id. ¶¶ 61-62. So to
make sure that the market knew about the demand, Lansing
Trader 1 allegedly asked the writer of a daily cash-wheat
newsletter, as well as multiple market participants, to
spread the word on Lansing's intent to cancel and
load-out the wheat certificates. Id. ¶¶
65-67. And they did. Id. ¶ 65. Meanwhile,
Lansing's long wheat spread and wheat call option
positions gradually increased in value according to plan.
Id. ¶ 61. By March 10, 2015, Lansing had
cancelled all of its wheat certificates. Id. ¶
to the complaint, Lansing's scheme caused harm to Budicak
and others who transacted in CBOT wheat futures and options
contracts at the artificial prices. Class Action Compl.
¶ 14. To obtain a remedy for the alleged scheme, Budicak
brings this proposed class action, alleging that Lansing
violated the CEA and Sherman Act.
the convenience of the 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.” 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a). To justify a
transfer of venue, several factors must be satisfied: (1)
venue must be proper in the transferor district, (2) venue
would be proper in the transferee district, (3) the
transferee district would be more convenient for the parties
and witnesses, and (4) transfer would serve the interests of
justice. See Jaramillo v. DineEquity, Inc., 664
F.Supp.2d 908, 913 (N.D. Ill. 2009); see also Coffey v.
Van Dorn Iron Works, 796 F.2d 217, 219 n.3 (7th Cir.
1986). “Section 1404(a) is intended to place discretion
in the district court to adjudicate motions for transfer
according to an individualized, case-by-case consideration of
convenience and fairness.” Stewart Org., Inc. v.
Ricoh Corp., 487 U.S. 22, 29 (1988) (cleaned
see also Coffey, 796 F.2d at 219 (“The
weighing of factors for and against transfer necessarily
involves a large degree of subtlety and latitude, and,
therefore, is committed to the sound discretion of the trial
judge.”). The moving party has the burden of
establishing “that the transferee forum is clearly more
convenient.” Coffey, 796 F.2d at 219-20.
Moreover, because § 1404(a) does not specify the weight
to be accorded each factor, the decision is left to the
discretion of the court. See Coffey, 796 F.2d at
219; see generally 15 C. *1128 Wright & A.
Miller, Federal Practice § 3844- 47 (1986).
begin, for the purposes of this motion, neither party
contests that venue is proper in this District and also would
be proper in the proposed transferee district, the District
of Kansas. The Court therefore turns to whether transfer
would provide greater convenience and serve the interests of
justice. As detailed below, both factors weigh in favor of
assessing convenience, “courts generally consider the
availability of and access to witnesses, ... each party's
access to and distance from resources in each forum[, ] ...
the location of material events[, ] and the relative ease of
access to sources of proof.” Research Automation,
Inc. v. Schrader-Bridgeport Int'l., Inc., 626 F.3d
973, 978 (7th Cir. 2010) (citations omitted). On the whole,
the elements favor litigating this case in Kansas.
most of the relevant witnesses in this case are located in
Kansas. Lansing is headquartered in Overland Park, Kansas,
where most of the key witnesses and employees likely to have
direct knowledge of the alleged unlawful scheme live and
work. See R. 26-1, Declaration of Lansing Vice
President Mike Lemke ¶¶ 5-8. In particular, Lansing
Trader 3 and the Lansing Executive identified in
Budicak's complaint as being directly involved with the
alleged scheme continue to work in Lansing's Overland
Park office and live in the Kansas City area. Id.
¶ 5. In addition to the individuals identified in
Budicak's complaint, many current and former employees
who are likely to have knowledge about Budicak's
claims-including Lansing's Vice President of Grains,
Chief Executive Officer, senior location managers, and
trader's assistants and accounting staff-likewise work
and live in the Kansas City area. Id. ¶ 7.
These employees are likely to have knowledge of the
development or approval of the alleged strategy, relevant
trading in wheat futures and options, and the cash market
sales of the futures Lansing loaded out. Id. And if
this case continues to be litigated and goes to trial in
Chicago, all of these witnesses would have to incur travel
expenses, which are a “central measure of
[in]convenience.” Craik v. Boeing Co., 37
F.Supp.3d 954, 962 (N.D. Ill. 2013).
those witnesses, Budicak points out that two non-party
witnesses do not live in Kansas: the market-newsletter writer
and the market participant. Pl.'s Resp. Br. at 9. But
only the market participant is located in Chicago; the
newsletter writer is located in Oregon City, Oregon.
Id.; Declaration of Lansing Vice President Mike
Lemke ¶ 6. So either way, regardless of where this case
is litigated, the market-newsletter writer would be
inconvenienced. And the inconvenience of the market
participant alone does not outweigh the inconvenience that
the various witnesses discussed above would incur if they
were to have to travel here. Thus, Lansing has met its burden
of identifying potential non-party witnesses and explaining
the subject matter of their testimony, supporting its
contention that there is greater convenience in litigating in
Kansas. See Heller Fin., Inc. v. Midwhey Powder ...