A Little Birdy Told Me

Whether the plaintiffs in a securities class action should be required to disclose the identities of their confidential witnesses as part of the discovery process is an issue that continues to be the subject of litigation. The 10b-5 Daily had a post last year about an E.D. of Pa. decision in which the court held that the defendants were entitled to the names of all individuals known by the plaintiff to have relevant knowledge, but the plaintiff was not required to specifically identify the confidential witnesses relied upon in the complaint. The court did note, however, that it would consider revisiting its decision if the defendants were presented with an overwhelming list of names.

How many names would be “overwhelming”? A court in the N.D. of Cal. has an answer: 77. In In re Harmonic, Inc. Sec. Litig., 245 F.R.D. 424 (N.D. Cal. 2007), the court found the only effect of allowing the plaintiffs to withhold the names of the five confidential witnesses relied upon in the complaint would be “to force the Defendants to expend resources on taking the depositions of 77 people [i.e., the witnesses identified in the plaintiffs’ initial disclosures] in order to obtain the information.” The court also rejected the plaintiffs’ argument that the names of their confidential witnesses were protected work product, noting that the information would “inevitably come to light.”

Holding: Motion to compel answers to interrogatories concerning confidential witnesses granted.

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