Editor: David Reiss
Brooklyn Law School

December 20, 2013

More on Misrepresentation

By David Reiss

NY Supreme Court Justice Schweitzer (NY County) issued a Decision and Order on a motion to dismiss in HSH Nordbank AG, et al., v. Goldman Sachs Group, Inc., et al., No. 652991/12 (Nov. 26, 2013) that builds on the NY jurisprudence of RMBS misrepresentation. The decision notes that “The gravamen of the complaint is that Goldman Sachs knew that” its metrics and representations regarding various RMBS “were false, but did not alert Nordbank.” (2) In particular,

Nordbank alleges that Goldman Sachs knew that loan originators had systematically abandoned underwriting guidelines described in the Offering Materials. It alleges that Goldman Sachs knowingly reported false credit ratings, owner-occupancy percentages, appraisal amounts, and loan-to-value ratios. It alleges that although Goldman Sachs represented otherwise in the Offering Materials, Goldman Sachs never intended to properly effectuate transfer of the underlying notes and mortgages that collateralized the Certificates. (2)

The Court found that Nordbank “sufficiently alleged that Goldman Sachs had knowledge that originators were deliberately inflating appraisal values to artificially obtain understated CLTV ratios that corresponded with lower risk.” (9) As a result, “the complaint sufficiently describes actionable misrepresentations regarding appraisal values, loan-to-value ratios, and owner-occupancy rates.” (9)

Nordbank also alleged

that it has suffered losses totaling more than $1.5 billion as a result of the alleged misrepresentations regarding the loans’ conformity with originators’ underwriting guidelines. Specifically, Nordbank alleges that it has been unable to transfer notes and mortgages that have declined in value because of the poor quality of the underlying loans. The representations at issue allegedly resulted in higher rates of default, an impaired ability to obtain forecloses, and ultimately, a lower cash flow to Certificate-holders like Nordbank. Because Nordbank has sufficiently alleged a chain of causation leading from the alleged abandonment of underwriting standards to a decline in the market value of the Certificates, the complaint cannot be dismissed for failure to allege lost causation. (20)

As this decision was on a motion to dismiss, none of these findings result in actual liability for Goldman Sachs, but they do provide a road map for what liability could look like.  As I have noted in the past, it will be interesting to see how this body of law will affect the securitization process going forward.

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