Editor: David Reiss
Brooklyn Law School

March 26, 2013

Bransten Trio: Part Deux

By David Reiss

As I work through the Bransten Trio of cases on misrepresentation in the securitization process, I am struck by the arguments of the defendants, arguments that do not seem to carry much weight with judges who hear them.  In the Merrill Lynch case, the defendants (all Merrill-affiliated entities) “argue that it was not reasonable for plaintiffs, as sophisticated investors in the mortgage-backed security market, to rely on ‘unverified information.'” from the mortgage originators that was repeated by the defendants with the defendants making “no representations or warranties as to the accuracy or completeness of that information.”. (22)

This court, like others, does not treat “boilerplate disclaimers and disclosures” as Get Out of Jail Free Cards” for underwriters. (22) The court reviews a number of cases in which courts similarly refuse to treat such disclaimers as such, including

  • Plumbers’ Union Local No. 12 Pension Fund v. Nomura Asset Acceptance Corp., 632 F.3d 762, 773 (1st Cir. 2011)
  • In re Morgan Stanley Mortgage Pass-Through Certificates Litig., 810 F. Supp. 2d 650, 672 (S.D.N.Y. 2011)
  • New Jersey Carpenters Vacation Fund v. Royal Bank of Scotland Group, PLC, 720 F. Supp. 254, 270 (S.D.N.Y. 2010)
  • Pub. Employees’ Ret. Sys. of Mississippi v. Merrill Lynch & Co., Inc., 714 F. Supp. 2d 475, 483 (S.D.N.Y 2010)
  • In re IndyMac Mortgage-Backed Sec. Litig., 718 F. Supp. 2d 495, 509 (S.D.N.Y. 2010)

It will be interesting to see how disclaimers will be modified to offer increased protection to underwriters in the future.  Could an underwriter protect itself by saying that “there is a high likelihood that the representations and warranties contained in offering materials are false and intended solely to convince potential purchasers of the securities to purchase them?”

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