Case of the Day: In re Michael Wilson & Partners, Ltd.

The case of the day is In re Michael Wilson & Partners, Ltd. (10th Cir. 2013). We first encountered this case in June 2012. Here was my description of the case:

Back in 2006, Michael Wilson & Partners, a British Virgin Islands company providing consultancy services in Kazakhstan among other places in Eastern Europe and Asia, applied for leave [under § 1782] to serve subpoenas on Sokol Holdings, Inc., Frontier Mining, Ltd., and their principals, Thomas Sinclair and Brian C. Savage, both Australians. According to Wilson, its former director, John Forster Emmott, an Englishman, and its former employees, Robert Colin Nicholls and David Ross Slater, had wrongfully deprived Wilson of corporate opportunities by doing business with Sokol and Frontier, and Sokol, Frontier, and their principals were likely to have information relevant to Wilson’s claims against Emmott, Nicholls, and Slater, which were pending before the High Court in England and the Supreme Court of New South Wales. The judge granted the ex parte application, and after much further wrangling, Sokol, Frontier, et al. produced documents responsive to the subpoenas and provided testimony under FRCP 30(b)(6). In 2011—nearly five years after Wilson’s application—Sokol, Frontier, et al. moved for reimbursement of costs and fees incurred in responding to the subpoenas. In total, they sought $2.15 million, of which nearly $1.6 million was costs and approximately $550,000 was fees. There were 325,000 documents reviewed and 15,000 ultimately produced.

The district court found that Sokol, Frontier, Sinclair, and Savage were entitled to half of the allowed costs (the magistrate judge allowed $427,172, so the court awarded $213,586) but not to attorney’s fees. Sokol, Frontier, Sinclair and Savage appealed.

The court affirmed. The analysis is not particularly interesting or illuminating. But it’s worth reminding ourselves of what can happen when lawyers let discovery costs get out of hand.

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