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Kenny v. Pacific Investment Management Company LLC.

United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Seattle

July 6, 2018

ROBERT KENNY, Plaintiff,



         On May 22, 2018, the Court requested supplemental briefing to summarize all previous arguments to seal documents for the pending Motions for Summary Judgment, Dkts. #154 and #162. See Dkt. #232. This matter comes before the Court on the subsequent Motion to Seal filed by Defendants. Dkt. #235.

         “There is a strong presumption of public access to the court's files.” LCR 5(g). “Only in rare circumstances should a party file a motion, opposition, or reply under seal.” LCR 5(g)(5). Normally the moving party must include “a specific statement of the applicable legal standard and the reasons for keeping a document under seal, with evidentiary support from declarations where necessary.” LCR 5(g)(3)(B). However:

Where parties have entered a litigation agreement or stipulated protective order (see LCR 26(c)(2)) governing the exchange in discovery of documents that a party deems confidential, a party wishing to file a confidential document it obtained from another party in discovery may file a motion to seal but need not satisfy subpart (3)(B) above. Instead, the party who designated the document confidential must satisfy subpart (3)(B) in its response to the motion to seal or in a stipulated motion.

         LCR 5(g)(3). A “good cause” showing under Rule 26(c) will suffice to keep sealed records attached to non-dispositive motions. Kamakana v. City & County of Honolulu, 447 F.3d 1172, 1180 (9th Cir. 2006) (internal citations omitted). For dispositive motions, the presumption may be overcome by demonstrating “compelling reasons.” Id.; Foltz v. State Farm Mutual Auto. Ins. Co., 331 F.3d 1135-36 (9th Cir.2003). Applying the “compelling reasons” standard, the Ninth Circuit has found appropriate the sealing of documents attached to a motion for summary judgment when court records could be used “as sources of business information that might harm a litigant's competitive standing.” Ctr. for Auto Safety v. Chrysler Grp., LLC, 809 F.3d 1092, 1097 (9th Cir. 2016), cert. denied, 137 S.Ct. 38 (2016).

         As an initial matter, the parties appear to agree that certain documents and portions of documents should be sealed to protect personally identifiable information, medical information, and attorney-client privileged information. The Court agrees there are compelling reasons to seal these documents and will keep them under seal: Dkt. #163: Exs. 34, 37, and 43; Dkt. #179: Ex. 56 and Ex. 7 at 138:12-140:18; Dkt. #189: Ex. 3; Dkt. #205: Ex. 3 and Ex. 1 at 371:2- 372:9. Plaintiff must submit new redacted versions of Dkt. #179 Ex. 7 and Dkt. #205 Ex. 1 with only these redactions.

         The remaining documents Defendants wish to seal fall into the following categories. See Dkt. #235, 5-6 (chart of exhibits).

         A. Personnel Evaluations

         Defendants request to seal employee performance self-evaluations for three PIMCO executives, Brent Harris (Chairman of the PIMCO Funds), Douglas Hodge (former CEO), and Peter Strelow (Co-Chief Operating Officer). These self-evaluations are anywhere from three to eight years old. Defendants argue that they “reveal PIMCO's highly confidential business strategies and information about PIMCO's operations and internal governance, ” and considers such trade secrets. Dkt. #235 at 9. Defendants contend that public revelation of these self-evaluations could lead to poaching of clients or employees by PIMCO's competitors. Id.

         The Court finds Defendants have failed to demonstrate that these documents reveal information rising to the standard of trade secrets or otherwise protected business information. These evaluations tell of business accomplishments in broad strokes. Much of the information was retrospective when it was drafted years ago, is likely stale, and is unlikely to harm PIMCO. PIMCO's argument that self evaluations could lead to the poaching of employees is speculative and unsupported. Plaintiff is to file unsealed versions of all of these exhibits (Dkt. #163: Exs. 20-22; Dkt. #179: Exs. 36-39).

         B. Individual Compensation Data

         This category of exhibits includes information about compensation paid to PIMCO managing directors and portfolio managers as recently as 2016. Defendants argue that the exhibits showing this category of information could lead to harm for PIMCO. Dkt. #235 at 10 (citing Beaulieu Grp., LLC v. Bates, No. EDCV 15-1090, 2016 WL 7626471 JGB, at *3-4 (C.D. Cal. Oct. 18, 2016)). Defendants specifically contend that “disclosure of individual compensation amounts could destabilize a firm's internal business dynamics, ” and “would be a boon to competitors who could use such information to recruit PIMCO personnel or otherwise compete with PIMCO for talent.” Id. The Court generally agrees with these arguments, finds that PIMCO would likely suffer at least some harm internally and externally from the publication of these exhibits, and finds that PIMCO has set forth compelling reasons to keep them sealed. Dkt. #163: Ex. 23 and Dkt. #179: Ex. 33 are to REMAIN SEALED.

         C. Business Strategy Discussions Among Senior Management

         Exhibit 32 from Dkt. #179 is a document entitled “Murder on the PIMCO Express, ” authored by William H. Gross. According to Defendants it discusses compensation information and PIMCO's confidential internal governance matters and business strategies. The Court has reviewed this document and finds that it discusses these topics only in the most general terms unlikely to reveal trade secret or ...

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