Editor: David Reiss
Brooklyn Law School

August 1, 2014

FHFA Wins on “Actual Knowledge”

By David Reiss

Judge Cote issued an Opinion and Order in Federal Housing Finance Agency v. HSBC North America Holdings Inc., et al. (11-cv-06189 July 25, 2014). The opinion and order granted the FHFA’s motion for partial summary judgment concerning whether Fannie and Freddie knew of the falsity of various representations contained in offering documents for residential mortgage-backed securities (RMBS) issued by the remaining defendants in the case.

I found there to be three notable aspects of this lengthy opinion. First, it provides a detailed exposition of the process by which Fannie and Freddie purchased mortgages from the defendants (who included most of the major Wall Street firms, although many of them have settled out of the case by now). it goes into great length about how loans were underwritten and how originators and aggregators reviewed them as they were evaluated  as potential collateral for RMBS issuances.

Second, it goes into great detail about the discovery battle in a high, high-stakes dispute with very well funded parties. While not of primary interest to readers of this blog, it is amazing to see just how much of a slog discovery can be in a complex matter like this.

Finally, it demonstrates the importance of litigating with common sense in mind. Judge Cote was clearly put off by the inconsistent arguments of the defendants. She writes, with clear frustration,

It bears emphasis that at this late stage — long after the close of fact discovery and as the parties prepare their Pretrial Orders for three of these four cases — Defendants continue to argue both that their representations were true and that underwriting defects, inflated appraisals and borrower fraud were so endemic as to render their representations obviously false to the GSEs. Using the example just given, Goldman Sachs argues both that Fannie Mae knew that the percentage of loans with an LTV ratio below 80% was not 67%, but also that the true figure was, in fact, 67%. (65)

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