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e-CFR data is current as of August 3, 2020

Title 16Chapter ISubchapter APart 3Subpart D → §3.31

Title 16: Commercial Practices
Subpart D—Discovery; Compulsory Process

§3.31   General discovery provisions.

(a) Discovery methods. Parties may obtain discovery by one or more of the following methods: Depositions upon oral examination or written questions; written interrogatories; production of documents or things for inspection and other purposes; and requests for admission. Except as provided in the rules, or unless the Administrative Law Judge orders otherwise, the frequency or sequence of these methods is not limited. The parties shall, to the greatest extent practicable, conduct discovery simultaneously; the fact that a party is conducting discovery shall not operate to delay any other party's discovery. Unless all parties expressly agree otherwise, no discovery shall take place before the issuance of a prehearing scheduling order under §3.21(c), except for the mandatory initial disclosures required by paragraph (b) of this section.

(b) Mandatory initial disclosures. Complaint counsel and respondent's counsel shall, within 5 days of receipt of a respondent's answer to the complaint and without awaiting a discovery request, provide to each other:

(1) The name, and, if known, the address and telephone number of each individual likely to have discoverable information relevant to the allegations of the Commission's complaint, to the proposed relief, or to the defenses of the respondent, as set forth in §3.31(c)(1); and

(2) A copy of, or a description by category and location of, all documents and electronically stored information including declarations, transcripts of investigational hearings and depositions, and tangible things in the possession, custody, or control of the Commission or respondent(s) that are relevant to the allegations of the Commission's complaint, to the proposed relief, or to the defenses of the respondent, as set forth in §3.31(c)(1); unless such information or materials are subject to the limitations in §3.31(c)(2), privileged as defined in §3.31(c)(4), pertain to hearing preparation as defined in §3.31(c)(5), pertain to experts as defined in §3.31A, or are obtainable from some other source that is more convenient, less burdensome, or less expensive. A party shall make its disclosures based on the information then reasonably available to it and is not excused from making its disclosures because it has not fully completed its investigation.

(c) Scope of discovery. Unless otherwise limited by order of the Administrative Law Judge or the Commission in accordance with these rules, the scope of discovery under all the rules in this part is as follows:

(1) In general. Parties may obtain discovery to the extent that it may be reasonably expected to yield information relevant to the allegations of the complaint, to the proposed relief, or to the defenses of any respondent. Such information may include the existence, description, nature, custody, condition, and location of any books, documents, other tangible things, electronically stored information, and the identity and location of persons having any knowledge of any discoverable matter. Information may not be withheld from discovery on grounds that the information will be inadmissible at the hearing if the information sought appears reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence.

(2) Limitations. Complaint counsel need only search for materials that were collected or reviewed in the course of the investigation of the matter or prosecution of the case and that are in the possession, custody or control of the Bureaus or Offices of the Commission that investigated the matter, including the Bureau of Economics. The Administrative Law Judge may authorize for good cause additional discovery of materials in the possession, custody, or control of those Bureaus or Offices, or authorize other discovery pursuant to §3.36. Neither complaint counsel, respondent, nor a third party receiving a discovery request under these rules is required to search for materials generated and transmitted between an entity's counsel (including counsel's legal staff or in-house counsel) and not shared with anyone else, or between complaint counsel and non-testifying Commission employees, unless the Administrative Law Judge determines there is good cause to provide such materials. The frequency or extent of use of the discovery methods otherwise permitted under these rules shall be limited by the Administrative Law Judge if he or she determines that:

(i) The discovery sought from a party or third party is unreasonably cumulative or duplicative, or is obtainable from some other source that is more convenient, less burdensome, or less expensive;

(ii) The party seeking discovery has had ample opportunity by discovery in the action to obtain the information sought; or

(iii) The burden and expense of the proposed discovery on a party or third party outweigh its likely benefit.

(3) Electronically stored information. A party or third party need not provide discovery of electronically stored information from sources that the party or third party identifies as not reasonably accessible because of undue burden or cost. On a motion to compel discovery, the party or third party from whom discovery is sought must show that the information is not reasonably accessible because of undue burden or cost. If that showing is made, the Administrative Law Judge may nonetheless order discovery if the requesting party shows good cause, considering the limitations of paragraph (c)(2). The Administrative Law Judge may specify conditions for the discovery.

(4) Privilege. Discovery shall be denied or limited in order to preserve the privilege of a witness, person, or governmental agency as governed by the Constitution, any applicable act of Congress, or the principles of the common law as they may be interpreted by the Commission in the light of reason and experience.

(5) Hearing preparations: Materials. Subject to the provisions of §3.31A, a party may obtain discovery of documents and tangible things otherwise discoverable under paragraph (c)(1) of this section and prepared in anticipation of litigation or for hearing by or for another party or by or for that other party's representative (including the party's attorney, consultant, or agent) only upon a showing that the party seeking discovery has substantial need of the materials in the preparation of its case and that the party is unable without undue hardship to obtain the substantial equivalent of the materials by other means. In ordering discovery of such materials when the required showing has been made, the Administrative Law Judge shall protect against disclosure of the mental impressions, conclusions, opinions, or legal theories of an attorney or other representative of a party.

(d) Protective orders; orders to preserve evidence. In order to protect the parties and third parties against improper use and disclosure of confidential information, the Administrative Law Judge shall issue a protective order as set forth in the appendix to this section. The Administrative Law Judge may also deny discovery or make any other order which justice requires to protect a party or other person from annoyance, embarrassment, oppression, or undue burden or expense, or to prevent undue delay in the proceeding. Such an order may also be issued to preserve evidence upon a showing that there is substantial reason to believe that such evidence would not otherwise be available for presentation at the hearing.

(e) Supplementation of disclosures and responses. A party who has made a mandatory initial disclosure under §3.31(b) or responded to a request for discovery with a disclosure or response is under a duty to supplement or correct the disclosure or response to include information thereafter acquired if ordered by the Administrative Law Judge or in the following circumstances:

(1) A party is under a duty to supplement at appropriate intervals its mandatory initial disclosures under §3.31(b) if the party learns that in some material respect the information disclosed is incomplete or incorrect and if the additional or corrective information has not otherwise been made known to the other parties during the discovery process or in writing.

(2) A party is under a duty to amend in a timely manner a prior response to an interrogatory, request for production, or request for admission if the party learns that the response is in some material respect incomplete or incorrect.

(f) Stipulations. When approved by the Administrative Law Judge, the parties may by written stipulation (1) provide that depositions may be taken before any person, at any time or place, upon any notice, and in any manner and when so taken may be used like other depositions, and (2) modify the procedures provided by these rules for other methods of discovery.

(g) Disclosure of privileged or protected information or communications; scope of waiver; obligations of receiving party. (1)(i) The disclosure of privileged or protected information or communications during a part 3 proceeding or during a Commission precomplaint investigation shall not operate as a waiver if:

(A) The disclosure is inadvertent;

(B) The holder of the privilege or protection took reasonable steps to prevent disclosure; and

(C) The holder promptly took reasonable steps to rectify the error, including notifying any party that received the information or communication of the claim and the basis for it.

(ii) After being notified, the receiving party must promptly return, sequester, or destroy the specified information and any copies it has; must not use or disclose the information until the claim is resolved; must take reasonable steps to retrieve the information if the party disclosed it before being notified; and may promptly present the information to the Administrative Law Judge under seal for a determination of the claim. The producing party must preserve the information until the claim is resolved.

(2) The disclosure of privileged or protected information or communications during a part 3 proceeding or during a Commission precomplaint investigation shall waive the privilege or protection as to undisclosed information or communications only if:

(i) The waiver is intentional;

(ii) The disclosed and undisclosed information or communications concern the same subject matter; and

(iii) They ought in fairness to be considered together.

(h) Restriction on filings. Unless otherwise ordered by the Administrative Law Judge in his or her discretion, mandatory initial and supplemental disclosures, interrogatories, depositions, requests for documents, requests for admissions, and answers and responses thereto shall be served upon other parties but shall not be filed with the Office of the Secretary, the Administrative Law Judge, or otherwise provided to the Commission, except to support or oppose a motion or to offer as evidence.

Appendix A to §3.31: Standard Protective Order.

For the purpose of protecting the interests of the parties and third parties in the above-captioned matter against improper use and disclosure of confidential information submitted or produced in connection with this matter:

IT IS HEREBY ORDERED THAT this Protective Order Governing Confidential Material (“Protective Order”) shall govern the handling of all Discovery Material, as hereafter defined.

1. As used in this Order, “confidential material” shall refer to any document or portion thereof that contains privileged information, competitively sensitive information, or sensitive personal information. “Sensitive personal information” shall refer to, but shall not be limited to, an individual's Social Security number, taxpayer identification number, financial account number, credit card or debit card number, driver's license number, state-issued identification number, passport number, date of birth (other than year), and any sensitive health information identifiable by individual, such as an individual's medical records. “Document” shall refer to any discoverable writing, recording, transcript of oral testimony, or electronically stored information in the possession of a party or a third party. “Commission” shall refer to the Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”), or any of its employees, agents, attorneys, and all other persons acting on its behalf, excluding persons retained as consultants or experts for purposes of this proceeding.

2. Any document or portion thereof submitted by a respondent or a third party during a Federal Trade Commission investigation or during the course of this proceeding that is entitled to confidentiality under the Federal Trade Commission Act, or any other federal statute or regulation, or under any federal court or Commission precedent interpreting such statute or regulation, as well as any information that discloses the substance of the contents of any confidential materials derived from a document subject to this Order, shall be treated as confidential material for purposes of this Order. The identity of a third party submitting such confidential material shall also be treated as confidential material for the purposes of this Order where the submitter has requested such confidential treatment.

3. The parties and any third parties, in complying with informal discovery requests, disclosure requirements, or discovery demands in this proceeding may designate any responsive document or portion thereof as confidential material, including documents obtained by them from third parties pursuant to discovery or as otherwise obtained.

4. The parties, in conducting discovery from third parties, shall provide to each third party a copy of this Order so as to inform each such third party of his, her, or its rights herein.

5. A designation of confidentiality shall constitute a representation in good faith and after careful determination that the material is not reasonably believed to be already in the public domain and that counsel believes the material so designated constitutes confidential material as defined in Paragraph 1 of this Order.

6. Material may be designated as confidential by placing on or affixing to the document containing such material (in such manner as will not interfere with the legibility thereof), or if an entire folder or box of documents is confidential by placing or affixing to that folder or box, the designation “CONFIDENTIAL—FTC Docket No. XXXX” or any other appropriate notice that identifies this proceeding, together with an indication of the portion or portions of the document considered to be confidential material. Confidential information contained in electronic documents may also be designated as confidential by placing the designation “CONFIDENTIAL—FTC Docket No. XXXX” or any other appropriate notice that identifies this proceeding, on the face of the CD or DVD or other medium on which the document is produced. Masked or otherwise redacted copies of documents may be produced where the portions masked or redacted contain privileged matter, provided that the copy produced shall indicate at the appropriate point that portions have been masked or redacted and the reasons therefor.

7. Confidential material shall be disclosed only to: (a) the Administrative Law Judge presiding over this proceeding, personnel assisting the Administrative Law Judge, the Commission and its employees, and personnel retained by the Commission as experts or consultants for this proceeding; (b) judges and other court personnel of any court having jurisdiction over any appellate proceedings involving this matter; (c) outside counsel of record for any respondent, their associated attorneys and other employees of their law firm(s), provided they are not employees of a respondent; (d) anyone retained to assist outside counsel in the preparation or hearing of this proceeding including consultants, provided they are not affiliated in any way with a respondent and have signed an agreement to abide by the terms of the protective order; and (e) any witness or deponent who may have authored or received the information in question.

8. Disclosure of confidential material to any person described in Paragraph 7 of this Order shall be only for the purposes of the preparation and hearing of this proceeding, or any appeal therefrom, and for no other purpose whatsoever, provided, however, that the Commission may, subject to taking appropriate steps to preserve the confidentiality of such material, use or disclose confidential material as provided by its Rules of Practice; sections 6(f) and 21 of the Federal Trade Commission Act; or any other legal obligation imposed upon the Commission.

9. In the event that any confidential material is contained in any pleading, motion, exhibit or other paper filed or to be filed with the Secretary of the Commission, the Secretary shall be so informed by the Party filing such papers, and such papers shall be filed in camera. To the extent that such material was originally submitted by a third party, the party including the materials in its papers shall immediately notify the submitter of such inclusion. Confidential material contained in the papers shall continue to have in camera treatment until further order of the Administrative Law Judge, provided, however, that such papers may be furnished to persons or entities who may receive confidential material pursuant to Paragraphs 7 or 8. Upon or after filing any paper containing confidential material, the filing party shall file on the public record a duplicate copy of the paper that does not reveal confidential material. Further, if the protection for any such material expires, a party may file on the public record a duplicate copy which also contains the formerly protected material.

10. If counsel plans to introduce into evidence at the hearing any document or transcript containing confidential material produced by another party or by a third party, they shall provide advance notice to the other party or third party for purposes of allowing that party to seek an order that the document or transcript be granted in camera treatment. If that party wishes in camera treatment for the document or transcript, the party shall file an appropriate motion with the Administrative Law Judge within 5 days after it receives such notice. Except where such an order is granted, all documents and transcripts shall be part of the public record. Where in camera treatment is granted, a duplicate copy of such document or transcript with the confidential material deleted therefrom may be placed on the public record.

11. If any party receives a discovery request in any investigation or in any other proceeding or matter that may require the disclosure of confidential material submitted by another party or third party, the recipient of the discovery request shall promptly notify the submitter of receipt of such request. Unless a shorter time is mandated by an order of a court, such notification shall be in writing and be received by the submitter at least 10 business days before production, and shall include a copy of this Protective Order and a cover letter that will apprise the submitter of its rights hereunder. Nothing herein shall be construed as requiring the recipient of the discovery request or anyone else covered by this Order to challenge or appeal any order requiring production of confidential material, to subject itself to any penalties for non-compliance with any such order, or to seek any relief from the Administrative Law Judge or the Commission. The recipient shall not oppose the submitter's efforts to challenge the disclosure of confidential material. In addition, nothing herein shall limit the applicability of Rule 4.11(e) of the Commission's Rules of Practice, 16 CFR 4.11(e), to discovery requests in another proceeding that are directed to the Commission.

12. At the time that any consultant or other person retained to assist counsel in the preparation of this action concludes participation in the action, such person shall return to counsel all copies of documents or portions thereof designated confidential that are in the possession of such person, together with all notes, memoranda or other papers containing confidential information. At the conclusion of this proceeding, including the exhaustion of judicial review, the parties shall return documents obtained in this action to their submitters, provided, however, that the Commission's obligation to return documents shall be governed by the provisions of Rule 4.12 of the Rules of Practice, 16 CFR 4.12.

13. The provisions of this Protective Order, insofar as they restrict the communication and use of confidential discovery material, shall, without written permission of the submitter or further order of the Commission, continue to be binding after the conclusion of this proceeding.

[74 FR 1824, Jan. 13, 2009, as amended at 74 FR 20309, May 1, 2009; 76 FR 52251, 52252, Aug. 22, 2011]

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