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Charles Schwab & Co., Inc. v. Highwater Wealth Management, LLC

United States District Court, D. Colorado

September 27, 2017

CHARLES SCHWAB & CO., INC., Plaintiff,
v.
HIGHWATER WEALTH MANAGEMENT, LLC, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          Nina Y. Wang, United States Magistrate Judge

         This matter is before the court on two related motions:

(1) Defendant Highwater Wealth Management, LLC's (“Highwater”) Motion to Quash Subpoena (“Motion to Quash”) [#39, filed August 14, 2017]; and
(2) Non-Party Gregory Giuffra's “Limited Special Appearance to Quash Subpoena Duces Tecum” (“Motion to Quash”) [#57, filed September 12, 2017].[1]

         The undersigned considers the Motions to Quash pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b), the Order Referring Case dated March 31, 2017 [#6], the Case Reassignment dated April 3, 2017 [#8], and the Memoranda dated August 14, 2017 [#40] and September 13, 2017 [#60]. This court has determined that oral argument will not materially assist in the resolution of this matter. Accordingly, upon careful review of the Motions and related briefing, the applicable case law, and the entire case file, this court DENIES Highwater's Motion to Quash and GRANTS IN PART and DENIES IN PART Mr. Giuffra's Motion to Quash for the reasons stated herein.

         BACKGROUND

         This court has discussed the background of this case in several prior orders, see, e.g., [#41; #61], and does so here only as it pertains to the Motions to Quash. Plaintiff Charles Schwab & Co., Inc. (“Plaintiff” or “Schwab”) initiated this action by filing its Complaint on March 30, 2017. [#1]. Plaintiff alleges that its former employee Gregory Giuffra resigned from Schwab and joined Highwater, and, in doing so, illicitly solicited business from Plaintiff's clients in violation of a non-solicitation agreement (the “Agreement”) with Schwab. [#1]. Plaintiff alleges that Highwater was complicit in Mr. Giuffra's illicit acts and even encouraged them. [#1]. In addition to asserting claims directly against Highwater in this action, Plaintiff and Mr. Giuffra are engaged in arbitration before the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, Inc. (the “FINRA Action”) that is set to commence in December 2017. [#3, #47]. Highwater is not a party to that proceeding. [#3].

         On May 1, 2017, Highwater filed its Answer and asserted counterclaims for: (1) declaratory relief that the Agreement is a void agreement not to compete; and (2) tortious interference with contract and prospective financial advantage. [#16]. Highwater then filed its First Amended Counterclaims (“FAC”), amending its second counterclaim to tortious interference with prospective business relations (“tortious interference”) on May 19, 2017. [#19]. Plaintiff filed a Motion to Dismiss Highwater's tortious interference counterclaim, which the undersigned recommended denying. See [#23; #61]. The court also entered a Scheduling Order in this matter, based in part, upon stipulations by the Parties. [#20; #22]. To that end, the Parties stipulated, and this court approved the following statement:

Schwab is currently involved in a FINRA arbitration with Greg Giuffra. Subject to a protective order to be submitted to the Court for its approval and entry in this civil action, and pursuant to written consent from Giuffra, the parties agree to utilize the discovery conducted (or to be conducted) in the arbitration in an effort to avoid unnecessarily duplicating those efforts. The parties agree to take all other reasonable steps to reduce discovery and related costs, and agree to use a unified exhibit numbering system for exhibits where possible.

[#22 at 8].

         The Parties proceeded through the Arbitration. On July 27, 2017, Schwab served Mr. Giuffra with a subpoena duces tecum (the “Subpoena”), requesting information regarding Mr. Giuffra's communications with Schwab's “Customers.” [#39-1 at 6]. Specifically, Plaintiff sought five (5) categories of documents:

1. All invoices or billing records reflecting calls and/or text messages made or sent to and from [Mr. Giuffra's] Cell Phones [ending in 6651 or 9509].
2. All Documents containing the name, contact information, personal, or financial information of a Customer[2] in any form, specifically including electronically stored information. This request does not seek Documents Concerning a Customer created after the execution of a [limited power of attorney] or other form by the Customer authorizing (i) [Mr.] Giuffra or Highwater to service the Customer or (ii) the transfer of his/her/its assets from Schwab to be serviced by [Mr.] Giuffra at Highwater.
3. All Documents, not previously produced in the Arbitration, Concerning or reflecting a Communication or meeting between [Mr.] Giuffra, and a Customer, including but not limited to all text messages. This request does not seek Documents Concerning a Customer created after the execution of an [limited power of attorney] or other form by the Customer authorizing (i) [Mr.] Giuffra or Highwater to service the Customer or (ii) the transfer of his/her/its assets from Schwab to be serviced by [Mr.] Giuffra at Highwater.
4. All documents Concerning or reflecting a Communication or meeting between [Mr.] Giuffra and a Customer Concerning the Arbitration or Civil Action.
5. Produce for inspection and forensic imagining the Cell Phones.

         Initially, Highwater moved to quash the Subpoena because Schwab seeks duplicative discovery as that sought in the FINRA Action, as well as information from Mr. Giuffra's cell phones that infringe on his rights to privacy and implicate the attorney-client privilege. [#39]. This court discussed Highwater's Motion to Quash during a Telephonic Status Conference held on September 5, 2017, which this court specifically requested that Highwater address the issue of standing in its Reply. Mr. Guiffra then made a “special appearance” to quash the Subpoena on September 12, 2017. [#57]. Schwab counters that the Subpoena is not unduly burdensome or duplicative, and specifically clarified that it was only seeking “new documents not previously produced or old documents not previously produced.” [#46 at 2]. Schwab also argues that Highwater lacks standing to challenge the Subpoena on non-privilege grounds. [Id. at 7-9]. Schwab ...


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