April 11, 2014
Reiss on BoA-FHFA Settlement
Inside The GSEs quoted me in BofA MBS Lawsuit Settlement Shrinks List of FHFA Defendants (behind a paywall). It reads,
It’s only a matter of time before the remaining big bank defendants settle lawsuits filed by the Federal Housing Finance Agency over billions in non-agency mortgage-backed securities sold to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac in the years leading up to the housing crisis, predicts a legal expert.
Last week, Bank of America agreed to a $9.3 billion settlement that covers its own dealings as well as those of Countrywide Financial and Merrill Lynch, which it acquired in 2008. The agreement covers some $57 billion of MBS issued or underwritten by these firms.
BofA did not admit liability or wrongdoing but it will pay $5.8 billion in cash to Fannie and Freddie and repurchase about $3.5 billion in residential MBS at market value. In return, FHFA’s lawsuits against the bank will be dismissed with prejudice.
The FHFA said it is working to resolve the remaining lawsuits regarding non-agency MBS purchased by the GSEs between 2005 and 2007. The suits involve alleged violations of federal and state securities laws and allegations of common law fraud. One week earlier, the Finance Agency announced that Credit Suisse Group had agreed to pay $885 million to settle a similar lawsuit.
Under the terms of that agreement, Credit Suisse will pay approximately $234 million to Fannie and approximately $651 million to Freddie. In exchange, certain claims against Credit Suisse related to the securities involved will be released.
So far, the FHFA’s lawsuits have recovered $19.5 billion in total payments. Expect more where that came from, said David Reiss, a professor at Brooklyn Law School.
“Every case is different and each institution has a different risk profile in terms of litigation strategy,” said Reiss. “The BofA settlement is so high profile because it’s Countrywide. It gives a lodestar when trying to figure out how low [defendants] can go in a settlement offer.”
Prior to the BofA deal, the FHFA had collected $8.9 billion in prior settlements. The Morgan Stanley settlement is the fourth largest of those settlements, behind Deutsche Bank, which agreed to pay $1.93 billion in December, and JPMorgan Chase, which reached a $4 billion settlement in October.
The bank defendants have repeatedly tried and failed to dismiss the FHFA suits on procedural grounds, including a claim that the cases were no longer timely.
In October, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal from the banks, prompting the expectation in legal circles that few, if any, of the remaining cases will ever go to trial.
“I don’t think that if you are a [big bank] defendant, that you see a particularly favorable judiciary,” said Reiss. “You see that the government is able to reach deals with companies in front of you and I think you’re thinking about settling.”
Entities that have yet to settle non-agency MBS claims with the FHFA include Barclays Bank, First Horizon National Corp., Goldman Sachs, HSBC, Nomura Holding America and the Royal Bank of Scotland.| Permalink