Native Production Warranted Where Alleged Backdating of Documents is at the Heart of Parties’ Dispute

Ryan v. Gifford, 2007 WL 4259557 (Del. Ch. Nov. 30, 2007)

In this letter opinion, the court ruled upon a number of discovery disputes, including one relating to the format of production.  Plaintiff sought an order compelling a defendant to respond to documents requests “in native file format, with original metadata, but without a separate production of metadata.”  Granting that portion of plaintiff’s motion, the court explained:

[M]etadata may be especially relevant in a case such as this where the integrity of dates entered facially on documents authorizing the award of stock options is at the heart of the dispute.  This relevance is further illustrated by the fact that Maxim’s special committee, as well as Deloitte & Touche, undoubtedly reviewed metadata as part of their investigation into the backdating problems at Maxim.  This latter fact also undermines the asserted burdensomeness of producing documents in native file format.  Maxim need not produce metadata separately, but the Court does order the production of documents identified in plaintiffs’ July 3rd motion to compel in a format that will permit review of metadata, as plaintiffs have clearly shown a particularized need for the native format of electronic documents with original metadata.

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