As I had earlier mentioned, with the combination of Schering-Plough and Merck now closed, the New Jersey federal District Courts have agreed that almost all of the pending ENHANCE related putative federal securities class actions, ERISA claims and shareholders' derivative cases may be coordinated -- at least for the purpose of expediting discovery, and pre-trial motion practice, as it relates to discovery of documents, testimony of common fact witnesses, and depositions of common expert witnesses.
This morning, the court conducted a telephone conference call, to assess the status, and progress on these coordinated efforts. Revealed yesterday, in the papers filed in preparation for this morning's conference call, were several fascinating facts.
Chief among these is the fact that between each of Merck and Schering-Plough, and spanning at least two Congressional investigations, a host of state-level governmental investigations, as well as a plethora of inquiries from the SEC, DoJ, FDA and FTC. . .
Approximately 4.4 million pages of documents have been made available by the two companies, related to the delay in publishing the ENHANCE study, from late 2006, through the ENHANCE study full release/publication date -- March 30, 2008.
There are apparently yet-another 1.1 million pages -- most of which at least some subsets of the various plaintiffs' lawyers have already received. [In another post, I'll lay out the coming timelines, for depositions and potential trial dates, on the federal securities, ERISA and shareholders' derivative causes of action.] In fact, by February 1, 2010, various plaintiffs' law firms may have already submitted as many as 25 formal written questions each, or 75 in total, of Merck (formally called interrogatories) -- and the answers to those 75 posers are due back in court by March 1, 2010. The call this morning should have outlined the status of those responses for the judge.
As I guessed, this development is going to allow significant cost-savings/leverage and coordination among the various plaintiffs' law firms -- and make a slow roll defense nearly impossible [to the detriment of New Merck, and its current and former officers (which term, loosely defined, still includes Hans Becherer, Fred Hassan, Carrie Smith Cox and Tom Sabatino, among others). ]
I think the overall sense of this scheduling letter (and hearing transcript) is that these several separate cases are not going to be back-burnered -- they are all moving forward, under the watchful, and (if need be) prodding, eye of the federal judiciary. So far, it seems as though the lawyers for Merck and Schering-Plough recognize that any stall-tactics, obfuscation or other delaying maneuvers will simply make their position worse, before the court -- and they seem to be producing the 4.4 million pages on a rolling basis, even as I type this.
All of the documents should be in the plaintiffs hands no later than March 15, 2010, under the court's December 22, 2009 orders (Full 24 page PDF file).
. . . .for the purpose of pre-trial discovery only. . . . these
4.45.5 million pages will be coordinated. . . .
Goodness. It is finally happening.