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Feinberg v. T. Rowe Price Group, Inc.

United States District Court, D. Maryland

December 3, 2019

DAVID G. FEINBERG, et al., and all others similarly situated, Plaintiffs
v.
T. ROWE PRICE GROUP, INC., et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          J. Mark Coulson United States Magistrate Judge

         This matter has been referred to me for discovery and all related scheduling. (ECF No. 75). Presently before the Court is T. Rowe Price Groups' (“Defendants”) Motion to Compel Further Interrogatory Responses. (ECF No. 120). David Feinberg, and all others similarly situated (“Plaintiffs”) filed an Opposition (ECF No. 120-10), and Defendants filed a Reply (ECF No. 120-12). This issue is fully briefed, and no hearing is necessary. See Local Rule 105(6) (2018). For the reasons stated below, Defendants' Motion to Compel Further Interrogatory Responses is GRANTED in PART.

         I. Background

         As pertinent to this Motion, Plaintiffs allege that Defendants violated the Employment Retirement Income Security Act (“ERISA”) by limiting the investment options of the T. Rowe Price U.S. Retirement Program (“the Plan”) to a range of investment options offered by T. Rowe, to the exclusion of other funds by non-T. Rowe affiliated providers. (ECF No. 120-2 at 2). In addition, Plaintiffs allege that the Plan's investment options were too expensive, Defendants imprudently failed to remove funds that underperformed, Defendants relied upon improper benchmarks to assess performance, and Defendants used Plan assets to seed new investment vehicles. Id.

         Regarding the discovery posture of this matter, a scheduling order was issued on December 18, 2018, establishing a June 1, 2019 deadline for the service of fact discovery requests including requests for admission. (ECF No. 65). On March 27, 2019, the fact discovery deadline was reestablished as July 30, 2019.[1] (ECF No. 73). Shortly thereafter, on April 17, 2019, this case was referred to me for discovery and related scheduling, prompted by a motion to compel filed by Plaintiffs regarding Defendants' Response to Request for Production of Documents. (ECF No. 75). The motion was denied. (ECF No. 76.)

         In short order, this Court next dealt with various discovery disputes centered largely on the discovery of Electronically Stored Information (“ESI”). (ECF Nos. 85, 94, 104 & 105). On July 1, 2019, the Court also granted the parties' joint motion to extend the schedule deadlines by ninety days, extending the deadline for service of written discovery to September 30, 2019, and fact discovery to October 28, 2019. (ECF No. 103).

         On August 19, 2019, Plaintiff filed a Motion for Targeted ESI Discovery Relief (ECF No. 107), to which Defendants responded on September 3, 2019. (ECF No. 110). This Court denied Plaintiffs' Motion (ECF No. 111).[2] On September 30, 2019, Counsel filed an additional joint motion for a thirty-five day extension of time to complete fact discovery, which this Court granted on that same day, thereby extending the discovery deadline to December 2, 2019. (ECF Nos. 114 and 115). Thus, the parties have been engaged in fact discovery for almost a year, have appropriately and promptly sought Court assistance when necessary, and hopefully would agree that the Court has responded in a nimble fashion to resolve disputes as they arose.

         The question pending before the Court is whether to compel Plaintiffs to fully respond to Defendants' Interrogatories, specifically numbers 4, 5, 6, 7, 9, 10, 12, and 14, with the information available to them at this stage of the case now that fact discovery has closed. (ECF No. 120 at 1). Plaintiffs resist answering, arguing that the interrogatories are premature, overly broad, unduly burdensome, and/or compound.

         II. The Discovery at Issue

         The interrogatories at issue are as follows.

         Interrogatory number four requests that Plaintiffs:

State all facts and identify all Documents and Communications that You believe support Your contention that Plan Investment Options charged the Plan and/or Plan participants excessive or unreasonable fees at any point during the Relevant Time Period. See Compl. ¶ 53-74. Include in Your response an identification of Investment Options allegedly bearing excessive or unreasonable fees, and the period of time within the Relevant Time period during which You contend those Investment Options' fees were excessive or unreasonable. (ECF No. 120-4 at 8).

         Plaintiffs object on the grounds that the interrogatory is premature (by which Plaintiffs mean prior to the close of expert discovery), overbroad, unduly burdensome, compound and impermissibly seeks discovery of expert information prior to an obligation to provide same. (ECF No. 120-5 at 7). Plaintiffs also object to the phrase “excessive or unreasonable fees” as an improper distillation of the allegations in paragraphs 53-74 of Plaintiffs' Second Amended Complaint. Id.

         Interrogatory number five requests that Plaintiffs:

State all facts and identify all Documents and Communications that You believe support Your contention that the Plan's Investment Options charged fees that “were generally many times higher than the fees in comparable funds offered by other mutual fund companies that were frequently used by other plans.” Compl. ¶ 52. Include in Your response an identification of the purportedly “comparable funds” and all facts purporting to show that those funds are “comparable” to one or more of the Investment Options. (ECF No. 120-4 at 8).

         Plaintiffs raise the same objections. (ECF No. 120-5 at 8).

         Interrogatory number six requests that Plaintiffs:

Identify all Investment Options that You contend had a “cheaper, yet materially identical Sub-advised analogue[] that could have replaced the Investment Option in the Plan at any point during the relevant Time Period. Compl. ¶ 68. Include in Your response an identification of each “cheaper, yet materially identical Sub-Advised analogue[]” that corresponds to each Investment Option and the period of time within the Relevant Time Period during which you contend that the “cheaper, yet materially identical Sub-Advised analogue[]” was available. (ECF No. 120-4 at 7-8).

         Plaintiffs objects that the interrogatory is premature and seeks disclosure of expert information prior to any obligation to provide same. (ECF No. 120-5 at 8).

         Interrogatory number seven requests that Plaintiffs:

Identify the investment Options that You contend were “underperforming” or “poorly performing investments” that Defendants imprudently and disloyally “failed to monitor” and remove at any point during the Relevant time period. See Compl. ¶¶ 75-90. Include in Your response an identification of the date on which You contend a prudent fiduciary would have removed the identified Investment Options. (ECF No. 120-4 at 7-8).

         Plaintiffs object that the interrogatory is premature and compound and seeks disclosure of expert information prior to any ...


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