Articles Posted in Subprime Mortgage

A U. S. district court judge said that Deutsche Bank AG (DB) must face part of a mortgage fraud case accusing the German bank of bilking investors who purchased over $5.4M of preferred securities. The plaintiffs, led by two individuals and Belmont Holdings Corp., claim that Deutsche Bank hid its exposure to the subprime mortgage market.

Judge Doborah Batts turned down the bank’s bid to throw out claims related to about $2.55B of securities sold in 11/07 and 2/08. She did, however, dismiss claims involving $2.9B of securities sold in 5/07, 7/07, and 5/08. Investors claim that Deutsche Bank should have notified them in offering documents that it had significant exposure to subprime markets via collateralized debt obligations and residential mortgage-backed securities. They believe that early notification could have prevented them from purchasing the preferred securities before their values dropped, resulting in billions of dollars of losses.

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According to Alayne Fleischmann, the whistleblower who gave the evidence which helped resident in a $13 billion mortgage settlement from JPMorgan Chase(JPM) to the U.S. Department of Justice last year, that amount was not enough. Fleischmann, a lawyer, joined the financial firm as a deal manager in 2006.

She says that not long after she started working there she noticed that about half of the loans in a multimillion-loan pool included overstated incomes. Such loans, she said, were likely at risk for default—a precarious position for both the investors and the securities. Fleischmann said that she notified management about how the bank was re-selling subprime mortgages to customers without letting them know about the risks. She also spoke about how one bank manager wanted to put in place a non-email policy so there would be no paper trail to show that the firm was aware that such activities were happening.

It was the sale of toxic sub-prime loans by JPMorgan and other US banks that incited the US housing market crisis, which eventually spurred the global financial meltdown of 2008. Repackaged loans were sold to pension funds and other institutional investors, with many buyers unaware of the high default risks involved.

In the State Supreme Court in Manhattan, Justice Melvin Schweitzer found JPMorgan Chase (JPM) liable for breach of contract when it put high-risk subprime mortgages in an account held by investor Leonard Blavatnik. Now, the financial firm must pay the Russsian-American billionaire more than $50 million in damages–$42.5 million for the breach and 5% interest from beginning May 2008. However, JPMorgan was not found liable for negligence.

Blavatnik, who Forbes magazine says is the 44th wealthiest person in the world, filed his securities fraud case against JPMorgan in 2009. He contended that the investment bank lost over $100 million on about a $1 billion investment made by CMMF L.L.C., which is a fund that Access Industries, his company, created. He says JPMorgan promised him that the money would be invested conservatively but instead breached a 20% mortgage-backed securities limit when it misclassified securities that were backed by a subprime loans pool—ABS home-equity loans—as asset-backed instead of as MBSs.

Access, Blavatnik’s company, claims that the bank kept holding the securities even though it knew that they were not right for the portfolio. In May 2008, CMMF shut down the account.

The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York has refused the Securities and Exchange Commission’s request to reinstate its antifraud claim against Goldman Sachs & Co. (GS) executive Fabrice Tourre for alleged misstatements related to a collateralized debt obligation connected to subprime mortgages. Judge Katherine Forrest said that the facts did not offer enough domestic nexus to support applying 1934 Securities Exchange Act Section 10(b). To do so otherwise would allow a 10(b) claim to be made whenever a foreign fraudulent transaction had even the smallest link to a legal securities transaction based in the US, she said, and that this is “not the law.” The case is SEC v. Tourre.

The SEC had sued the Goldman and its VP, Tourre, over alleged omissions and misstatements connected with the ABACUS 2007-AC1’s sale and structuring. This 2007 CDO was linked to subprime residential mortgage-backed securities and their performance. The Commission claimed Goldman had misrepresented the part that Paulson & Co., a hedge fund, had played in choosing the RMBS that went into the portfolio underlying the CDO and that Tourre was primarily responsible for the CDO deal’s marketing and structuring.

In 2010, Goldman settled the SEC’s claims by consenting to pay $550M, which left Tourre as the sole defendant of this case. Last year, the court dismissed one of the Section 10(B) claims predicated on $150 million note purchases made by IKB, a German bank, because of Morrison v. National Australia Bank Ltd. In that case, the US Supreme Court had found that this section is applicable only to transactions in securities found on US exchanges or securities transactions that happen in this country. The court, however, did let the regulator move forward under Section 10(b) in regards to other ABACUS transactions, and also the 1933 Securities Act’s Section 17(a).

However, following Absolute Activist Value Master Fund Ltd. v. Facet in which the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit earlier this year found that ““irrevocable liability is incurred or title passes” within the US securities transaction may be considered domestic even if trading did not occur on a US exchange, the SEC requested that the court revive the Section 10(b) claim. Although IKB was the one that had recommended the CDO to clients, including Loreley Financing, it was Goldman that obtained the title to $150 million of the notes through the Depository Trust Co. in New York. Goldman then sent the notes to the CDO trustee in Chicago before the notes were moved from the DTC to Goldman’s Euroclear account to Loreley’s account. The Commission said that, therefore, transaction that the claim was based on had closed here.

Noting in its holding that Section 10(b) places liability on any person that employs deception or manipulation related to the selling or buying of a security, the court said that the Commission was trying to premise the domestic move of the notes’ title from the CDO trustee to Goldman at the closing in New York as a “hook” to show liability under this section. The court pointed out that while the title of the transfer that took place in New York was legal and it wasn’t until later that the alleged fraud happened. The “fraud was perpetuated upon IKB/Loreley, not Goldman” so “no fraudulent US-based” title transfer related to the note purchase is “sufficient to sustain a Section 10(b) and rule 10b-5 claim against Tourre” for the transaction.

SEC v. Tourre (PDF)

Morrison v. National Australia Bank Ltd. (PDF)

More Blog Posts:
Goldman Sachs Ordered by FINRA to Pay $650K Fine For Not Disclosing that Broker Responsible for CDO ABACUS 2007-ACI Was Target of SEC Investigation, Stockbroker Fraud Blog, November 12, 2010

Goldman Sachs Settles SEC Subprime Mortgage-CDO Related Charges for $550 Million, Stockbroker Fraud Blog, November 12, 2010

Class Action MBS Securities Lawsuit Against Goldman Sachs is Reinstated by 2nd Circuit, Institutional Investor Securities Blog, September 14, 2012

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The Massachusetts Securities Division is claiming that Putnam Advisory Co. deceived investors about its actual involvement in Pyxis 2006 and Pyxis 2007, two $1.5 billion collateralized debt obligations comprised of midprime and subprime mortgage-backed securities. In its administrative complaint, the state contends that Putnam represented to investors that it would act as an independent advisor when to the Pyxis CDOs when, in fact, Magnetar Capital, a hedge fund, was also involved creating in and structuring key aspects of both and even recommended that certain collateral to be included in them while then proceeding to take a substantial short position on that collateral. Putnam denies the allegations.

The state says that Magnetar proceeded to benefit from the downgrades of subprime assets in the two CDOs while making a net gain of about $67 million on aggressive positions and equity investments linked to the two of them. Meantime, Putnam earned $8.81 million in collateral management fees for the Pyxis CDOs. Massachusetts Secretary of Commonwealth William F. Galvin says that his office will continue to look at how banks misled the buyers of subprime mortgage-backed securitized debt instruments.

In other securities news, the SEC is accusing Yorkville Advisors LLC, its president and founder Mark Angelo, and CFO Edward Schinik of revising certain books to appeal to potential investors and succeeded in getting pension funds and funds of funds to invest $280 million into two Yorkville hedge funds. This allegedly let Yorkville charge at least $10 million in excessive fees. All three three defendants are denying the allegations.

Citigroup (C) has agreed to pay $590 million settle a shareholder class action collateralized debt obligation lawsuit filed by plaintiffs claiming it misled them about the bank’s subprime mortgage debt exposure right before the 2008 economic collapse By settling, Citigroup is not admitting to denying any wrongdoing. A federal judge has approved the proposed agreement.

Plaintiffs of this CDO lawsuit include pension funds in Illinois, Ohio, and Colorado led by ex-employees and directors of Automated Trading Desk. They obtained Citigroup shares when the bank bought the electronic trading firm in July 2007. The shareholders are accusing bank and some of its former senior executives of not disclosing that Citigroup’s CDOs were linked to mortgage securities until the bank took a million dollar write down on them that year. Citigroup would later go on to write down the CDOs by another tens of billions of dollars.

The plaintiffs claim that Citigroup used improper accounting practices so no one would find out that its holdings were losing their value, and instead, used “unsupportable marks” that were inflated so its “scheme” could continue. They say that the bank told them it had sold billions of dollars in collateralized debt obligations but did not tell them it guaranteed the securities against losses. The shareholders claim that to conceal the risks, Citi placed the guarantees in separate accounts.

Prior to the economic collapse of 2008, Citi had underwritten about $70 billion in CDOs. It, along with other Wall Street firms, had been busy participating in the profitable, growing business of packaging loans into complex securities. When the financial crisis happened, the US government had to bail Citigroup out with $45 billion, which the financial firm has since paid back.

This is not the first case Citigroup has settled related to subprime mortgages and the financial crisis. In 2010, Citi paid $75 million to settle SEC charges that it had issued misleading statements to the public about the extent of its subprime exposure, even acknowledging that it had misrepresented the exposure to be at $13 billion or under between July and the middle of October 2007 when it was actually over $50 billion. Citigroup also consented to pay the SEC $285 million to settle allegations that it misled investors when it didn’t reveal that it was assisting in choosing the mortgage securities underpinning a CDO while betting against it.

This week, Citi agreed to pay a different group of investors a $25 million MBS settlement to a securities lawsuit accusing it of underplaying the risks and telling lies about appraisal and underwriting standards on residential loans of two MBS trusts. The plaintiffs, Greater Kansas City Laborers Pension Fund and the ‪City of Ann Arbor Employees’ Retirement System,‬ had sued Citi’s Institutional Clients Group. ‬

This $590 million settlement of Citigroup’s is the largest one reached over CDOs to date and one of the largest related to the economic crisis. According to The Wall Street Journal, the two that outsize this was the $627 million that Wachovia Corp. (WB) agreed to pay over allegations that investors were misled about its mortgage loan portfolio’s quality and the $624 million by Countrywide Financial (CFC) in 2010 to settle claims that it misled investors about its high risk mortgage practices.

Citigroup in $590 million settlement of subprime lawsuit, The New York Times, August 29, 2012

Citi’s $590 million settlement: Where it ranks, August 29, 2012

Citigroup to Pay $25 Million to Settle MBS Lawsuit, American Banker, August 31, 2012

Citigroup Said To Pay $75 Million To Settle SEC Subprime Case, Bloomberg, July 29, 2010

More Blog Posts:
Amerigroup Shareholders Claim Goldman Sachs Advisers’ Had Conflicts of Interest That Influenced $4.5B Sale of Company to WellPoint, Institutional Investor Securities Blog, August 21, 2012

Morgan Keegan Settles Subprime Mortgage-Backed Securities Charges for $200M, Stockbroker Fraud Blog, June 29, 2011

Wells Fargo Securities Settles for Over $6.5M SEC Charges Over Allegedly Improper Sale of ABCP Investments with Risky MBS and CDOs, Institutional Investor Securities Blog, August 14, 2012

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The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York has decided that ex-Federal National Mortgage Association executives do have to contend with a Securities Exchange Commission enforcement lawsuit over their alleged role in underplaying just how exposed the company was to high risk loans. Ex-Fannie Mae (FNM) CEO Daniel Mudd, former single family mortgage business EVP Thomas Lund, and ex-chief risk officer Enrico Dallavecchia had sought to have the lawsuit dismissed because they said that the Commission failed to make its case against them. Judge Paul Crotty has denied their motion.

The SEC claims that former Fannie Mae executives misled investors about the actual degree to which the company was exposed to “Alt-A” loans and subprime loans when they failed to reveal this information in the mortgage firm’s public disclosures. As a result, Fannie Mae understated its mortgage exposure risk by hundreds of billions of dollars.

The defendants had countered that because Fannie Mae is an independent establishment of this country, per the 1934 Securities Exchange Act’s Section 3(c), government agencies are protected from liability. Crotty, however, did not agree Fannie Mae did not fall under the “independent establishment” category seeing that it is a private corporation, run by a board, did not get federal funding, and traded stock in public.

Citigroup Global Markets Inc. (CLQ) has consented to pay the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority a $3.5M fine to settle allegations that he gave out inaccurate information about subprime residential mortgage-backed securities. The SRO is also accusing the financial firm of supervisory failures and inadequate maintenance of records and books.

Per FINRA, beginning January 2006 through October 2007, Citigroup published mortgage performance information that was inaccurate on its Web site, including inaccurate information about three subprime and Alt-A securitizations that may have impacted investors’ assessment of subsequent RMB. Citigroup also allegedly failed to supervise the pricing of MBS because of a lack of procedures to verify pricing and did not properly document the steps that were executed to evaluate the reasonableness of the prices provided by traders. The financial firm is also accused of not maintaining the needed books and records, including original margin call records. By settling, Citigroup is not denying or admitting to the FINRA securities charges.

In other institutional investment securities news, in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, Kent Whitney an ex-registered floor broker at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, agreed to pay $600K to settle allegations by the Commodity Futures Trading Commission that he made statements that were “false and misleading” to the exchange and others about a scam to trade options without posting margin. The CFTC contends that between May 2008 and April 2010, Whitney engaged in the scam on eight occasions, purposely giving out clearing firms that had invalid account numbers in connection with trades made on the New York Mercantile Exchange CME trading floors. He is said to have gotten out of posting over $96 million in margin.

FINRA says that Barclays Capital Inc. will pay $3 million over charges of inadequate supervision related to the residential subprime mortgage securitizations and the misrepresentation of delinquency data. The SRO claims that between 3/07 and 10/10, Barclays misrepresented three RMBS’s historical delinquency rates.

Per industry rules, financial firms have to give investors certain performance information for securities that they issue. FINRA says that Barclay’s Capital misrepresented the historical delinquency rates for the RMBS between March 2007 and December 2010. This inaccurate data was published on the company’s website, which impacted how investors were able to evaluate other securitizations.

Historical delinquency rates, which provide historical performance information for previous securitizations with mortgage loans, are key in helping an investor determine and RMBS’s value and whether mortgage holders’ inability to make loan payments could disrupt future returns. The inaccurate information that was posted on the Barclay’s Capital website was referred to as historical delinquency rates in five subsequent residential subprime mortgage securitizations and had errors that were key enough to impact investors.

According to FINRA Enforcement Chief Brad Bennett, Barclay lacked a system that could ensure that delinquency data that was published was accurate.

Barclays has settled the case. However, the financial firm is not denying or admitting to the charges.

It was just earlier this year that FINRA fined Merrill Lynch $3 Million and Credit Suisse Securities $4.5 Million over misrepresentations involving RMBS. Both financial firms settled the allegations without denying or admitting to the charges.

According to the SRO, in 2006, 21 RMBS’s historical delinquency rates were misrepresented by Credit Suisse. The financial firm allegedly knew that this information was not accurate yet failed to adequately look into the mistakes, tell clients about the errors, or correct the information, which was published on its we site. The delinquency errors for six of the 21 securitizations were enough to impact the way investors were able to evaluate subsequent securitizations. Credit Suisse also allegedly did not define or name the methodology that was applied in determining the mortgage delinquencies in five other subprime securitizations. (Disclosing which method was issued is required because there are different standards for determining delinquencies.)

Regarding the charges against Merrill Lynch, the SRO claims 61 of the financial firm’s subprime RMBS had historical delinquency rates that were misrepresented. However, upon discovering the mistakes, Merrill Lynch published the correct data online. In eight cases, the delinquencies impacted investors’ ability to assess subsequent securitizations.

FINRA Fines Barclays Capital $3 Million for Misrepresentations Related to Subprime Securitizations, FINRA, December 22, 2011

Finra Fines Credit Suisse, Bank of America Over RMBS Errors, Bloomberg, May 26, 2011

More Blog Posts:
Morgan Keegan Settles Subprime Mortgage-Backed Securities Charges for $200M, Stockbroker Fraud Blog, June 29, 2011

Investors Want JP Morgan Chase & Co. To Explain Over $95B of Mortgage-Backed Securities, Institutional Investor Securities Blog, December 17, 2011

Federal Home Loan Banks Say Countrywide Financial Corp Mortgage Bond Investors May Be Owed Way More than What $8.5B Securities Settlement with Bank of America Corp. is Offering, Institutional Investor Securities Blog, July 22, 2011

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Bank of America Corp. has agreed to a record $335 million settlement to pay back Countrywide Financial Corp. borrowers who were billed more for loans because of their nationality and race, while creditworthiness and other objective criteria took a back seat. All borrowers that were discriminated against qualified to receive mortgage loans under Countrywide’s own underwriting standards.

The settlement is larger than any past fair-lending settlements (totaling $30M) that the US Justice Department has been able to obtain to date. Countrywide was acquired by Bank of America in 2008.

According to the Justice Department, Countrywide charged higher fees and interest rates to over 200,000 Hispanic and black borrowers while directing minorities to more costly subprime mortgages despite the fact that they qualified for prime loans. Meantime, the latter were given to non-Hispanic white borrowers who had similar credit profiles.