- TCW Asset Management Co. will continue to face $128 million suit from investors for allegedly lying about the value of mortgage-backed securities.
- A court found that the City of Saratoga Springs failed to timely appeal in case over incorporation of affordable housing.
- The Second Circuit affirmed decision that found that an insurer did not need to pay out $15 million to Nomura for misleading descriptions of residential mortgage-backed securities.
- National Union Fire Insurance Co. filed a brief in case over ski resorts, claiming that claims notes are privileged “because they contain legal advice from outside counsel.”
- Bank of America, Wells Fargo & Citigroup cannot escape the City of Miami’s discriminatory lending suit, which caused a loss in city tax revenue.
- Texas federal judge sanctions the US Environmental Protection Agency for failure to turn over documents that would have killed a Clean Water Act suit brought against Thomas Lipar, a property developer, and four other Lipar companies.
- Mortgage borrowers of Citibank and JPMorgan Chase seek class certification in suit over property inspection fees.
- If appeal fails from Second Circuit judgment, Nomura Holdings & Royal Bank of Scotland Group will pay $33 million more than the $806 million damages for selling risky mortgage securities.
- A New York federal judge found that federal law did not cover many claims in class action against Citibank for “mishandling mortgage-backed securities in more than $17 billion worth of pooled loans.”
- Property owners have petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to determine their standing in suit against several banks, including Bank of New York Mellon, HSBC, US Bank, Deutsche Bank & Wells Fargo, after the Second Circuit denied their claims that those banks did not own their mortgages.
- A class action over highly leveraged mortgage-backed securities against Goldman Sachs is dismissed for lack of evidence.
- The Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association (SIFMA) claims the Fifth Circuit incorrectly interpreted an FDIC statute, by extending the statute of limitations period, when it reinstated $2.1 billion mortgage-backed securities suit, which conflicts with Supreme Court precedent in CTS Corp. v. Waldburger.
Bloomberg quoted me in Nomura, RBS Defective-Bond Suit Loss Seen Spurring Deals. It reads, in part,
Nomura Holdings Inc. and Royal Bank of Scotland Group Plc may face $500 million in damages for what a judge called an “enormous” deception in the sale of defective mortgage-backed securities, a ruling that may spur other banks to settle similar claims tied to the 2008 financial crisis.
Nomura and RBS were excoriated in a 361-page opinion by U.S. District Judge Denise Cote in Manhattan, whose ruling followed the first trial of claims that banks sold flawed securities to government-owned mortgage companies. After a three-week trial, Cote said they misled Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and set a damages formula that may result in the government winning about half its original claim of $1 billion.
“The offering documents did not correctly describe the mortgage loans,” Cote, who heard the case without a jury, wrote Monday. “The magnitude of falsity, conservatively measured, is enormous.”
“They look pretty bad,” Hockett said in an interview. “They look like the strategy has blown up in their faces.”
Cote ordered the Federal Housing Finance Agency, which filed the case, to propose how much the banks should pay as a result of her ruling.
* * *
Cote rejected the banks’ claim that the housing crash, and not defects in the loans, was responsible for the collapse of the mortgage-backed securities.
David Reiss, a professor at Brooklyn Law School, called Cote’s ruling “incredibly thorough.” The judge included detailed factual rulings that may make it difficult for Nomura and RBS to win on appeal, he said.
Bloomberg quoted me in Nomura First to Fight U.S. Toxic Debt Claims at Trial. The article reads in part,
Nomura Holdings Inc. will defend claims by a U.S. regulator that it sold defective mortgage-backed securities to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac before the 2008 financial crisis, becoming the first bank to take such a case to trial.
The Federal Housing Finance Agency, suing on behalf of the two government-owned companies, claims Nomura sold them $2 billion of bonds backed by faulty mortgages. The agency seeks more than $1 billion in damages in the trial, which is set to start Monday in Manhattan federal court.
Nomura, the Tokyo-based investment bank, is choosing to fight claims that 16 other banks settled after the blow-up of toxic mortgage bonds led to the global credit crunch. FHFA has reached $17.9 billion in settlements from banks including Bank of America Corp., JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Goldman Sachs & Co. If Nomura prevails at trial, it may embolden other firms facing mortgage-related suits to defend themselves rather than settle.
* * *
For Nomura and RBS to succeed, they will have to overcome Cote’s rulings as well as the widely held perception that banks packaged toxic debt and pushed it off on unsuspecting investors, said David Reiss, a professor at Brooklyn Law School.
Reiss said Nomura may believe it can show it was more careful than other banks in structuring mortgage-backed bonds and stands a good chance of winning.
As the trial approaches, a settlement becomes less likely, Bloomberg Intelligence analysts Elliott Stein and Alison Williams said yesterday. Stein said a resolution this late in the proceedings may exceed his earlier estimate of $100 million to $300 million, particularly if Cote’s rulings continue to favor FHFA.
Law360 quoted me in Bold 10th Circ. Opinion Muddies FIRREA Challenges. The article opens,
The Tenth Circuit last week gave a strong argument as to why a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision has no bearing on one federal agency’s ability to sue over soured mortgage-backed securities, but that won’t stop big banks from trying to convince different courts otherwise, legal experts say.
The appeals court’s opinion said a June high court ruling did not alter its original ruling that the National Credit Union Administration Board’s suit against Nomura Home Equity Loan Inc. and a number of other MBS originators was not time-barred.
The Supreme Court had found that a lawsuit by North Carolina residents under the federal Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act was time-barred by the state’s statute of repose
But the regulator of federally chartered credit unions is bringing its claim under the Financial Institutions Reform, Recovery and Enforcement Act, and the appeals court said that law’s so-called extender statute was not subject to the same limitations the Supreme Court had found in the Superfund pollution cleanup law at the heart of CTS Corp. v. Waldburger.
Rather, the language of FIRREA and its legislative history made it clear Congress had intended the law to have its own statute of limitations and not be bound by other statutes of repose, the appeals panel wrote, responding to a Supreme Court order that it take a second look at its earlier decision.
Before the Tenth Circuit issued its decision, defense attorneys had looked to the Supreme Court’s remand as a chance to give banks some relief from the lingering hangover of government lawsuits, many of which have ended with banks coughing up hundreds of millions, if not billions, of dollars in damages.
And it’s clear banks will still fight for that relief. In a motion for summary judgment Friday, attorneys for RBS told a Connecticut district court judge he should toss an FHFA suit brought under the extender statute of the Housing and Economic Recovery Act, in light of the time bar established by the Supreme Court in Waldburger.
In doing so, the attorneys also urged the judge to disregard the Tenth Circuit’s opinion, arguing it was flawed.
“Nomura, of course, is not controlling in this circuit, and the opinion on remand fails to faithfully apply the analytical framework established in Waldburger, instead sidestepping Waldburger by focusing on superficial distinctions between the CERCLA and NCUA extender statutes,” the attorneys wrote.
Experts say such disputes will continue on.
“The debate is not over by any stretch of the imagination,” David Reiss, a professor at Brooklyn Law School, said. “There’s enough at stake for powerful and well-financed institutions that this will be played out to the fullest.”
While legal experts say they can’t predict how other jurisdictions will move on similar questions about timeliness under FIRREA, they say the Tenth Circuit approached the task of reaffirming its earlier opinion in a way that appeared designed to withstand high court scrutiny.
“It is a thorough opinion. I think that other courts will take this opinion very seriously,” Reiss said.
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)
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.