In the latest development in a number of civil lawsuits nationwide, where mutual fund investors are alleging that several fund companies allowed improper trading, a federal judge last week lifted the ban on plaintiffs from using documents that would help them build their case against the companies.

U.S. District Judge J. Frederick Motz granted the plaintiffs' request to discovery, or to have access to documents that defendants in the case, such as Janus Capital Group, Putnam Investments, Strong Capital Management, Alliance Capital and other mutual fund companies, have submitted to state and federal regulatory agencies for settlement determinations.

But the fund companies involved in the case are not taking this lying down. At a hearing earlier this month in U.S. District Court in Baltimore, attorneys for the companies asked the judges to postpone any discovery until after the June hearings, where it will be determined whether or not to dismiss the lawsuits. Attorneys said that more than $2 billion already has been set aside as recovery claims, to be paid through independent distribution consultants.

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