Editor: David Reiss
Brooklyn Law School

December 3, 2015

Reps and Warranties Mean What They Say

By David Reiss

Derek Jensen

The New York Appellate Division, 1st Department, issued a ruling in Bank of New York Mellon v. WMC Mortgage, 654464/12 (Dec. 1, 2015) that stands for the proposition that representations and warranties regarding mortgage-backed securities mean what they say and say what they mean. The opinion opens,

This breach of warranty action arises from a residential mortgage backed securitization called the J.P. Morgan Mortgage Acquisition Trust 2006-WMC4 (the Trust). The Trust was arranged and sponsored by defendant J.P. Morgan Mortgage Acquisition Corporation (JPMMAC), which made certain representations and warranties as to the quality of the mortgage loans in the Trust. We find that plaintiff’s interpretation of the language of the representations and warranty at issue is the only reasonable interpretation . . ..

The Pooling and Servicing Agreement represented and warranted that

“With respect to the period from [the] Whole Loan Sale Date to and including the Closing Date, [JPMMAC] hereby makes the representations and warranties contained in paragraph (a) . . . of Schedule 4 attached hereto . . . . [that] [t]he information set forth in the Mortgage Loan Schedule and the tape delivered by [WMC] to [JPMMAC] is true, correct and complete in all material respects.”

It also stated that if “JPMMAC breached a representation or warranty it made . . . it was to cure the breach within 90 days after notification; if it failed to do so, it was to repurchase the defective mortgage loan or substitute a qualifying loan for the defective one.” This is pretty standard stuff so far.

By 2012, it appeared that more than 40% of the mortgages remaining in the pool were delinquent and that the R&Ws had been violated. The certificate holders therefor demanded that JPMMAC repurchase the mortgages that were in breach of the R&Ws, which JPMMAC refused to do.

JPMorgan argued, against the plain language of the R&Ws, that it only covered defects that arose during a short period prior to the closing date of the securitization. The Court gave short shrift to this implausible reading of the R&Ws.

This opinion does not make new law, but one wonders what effect it will have on securitization business practices. R&Ws are driven by many things — concerns about credit risk, but also tax compliance with the REMIC rules, to name a couple.  I am curious as to how MBS R&Ws have changed since the early 2000s — and whether the parties to these transactions understand how R&Ws allocate risk among them.

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