Bank of America’s Merrill Lynch Settles for $315 million Class Action Lawsuit Over Mortgage-Backed Securities

Bank of America, Corp. has agreed to pay investors $315 million to settle their class action claim accusing Merrill Lynch of misleading them about the risks involved in investing in mortgage-backed securities. If approved, the proposed settlement would be one of the largest reached over MBS that caused investors major losses when the housing market collapsed. The lead plaintiff in this securities case is the Public Employees’ Retirement System of Mississippi pension fund.

The class action lawsuit accused Merrill of misleading investors about $16.5 billion of MBS in 18 offerings that were made between 2006 and 2007. They are claiming possible losses in the billions of dollars. (The offerings occurred before Bank of America bought Merrill.)

The plaintiffs contend that Merrill’s offering documents were misleading. They also believe that the original investment-grade ratings for the securities, which had been backed by loans from Countrywide, IndyMac Bancorp Inc., First Franklin Financial unit, and New Century Financial Corp. were unmerited. Most of these investments were later downgraded to “junk” status.

By agreeing to settle, Bank of America is not admitting to or denying wrongdoing.

This settlement must be approved by US District Judge Jed Rakoff, who just last week rejected the proposed $285M securities settlement between Citigroup Global Markets Inc. and the Securities and Exchange Commission. He ordered that the case be resolved through trial. Rakoff was also the one who refused to approve another proposed Bank of America securities settlement—the one in 2009 with the SEC—for $33 million over misstatements that were allegedly made regarding the purchase of Merrill. Rakoff would later go on to approve the revised settlement of $150 million.

Rakoff has criticized a system that allows financial firms to settle securities fraud allegations against them without having to admit or deny wrongdoing. He also has expressed frustration at the “low” settlements some investment banks have been ordered to pay considering the amount of financial losses suffered by investors.

Our securities fraud lawyers represent individual and institutional clients that sustained losses related to non-traded REITs, private placements, principal protected notes, auction-rate securities, collateralized debt obligations, mortgage-backed securities, reverse convertible bonds, high yield-notes and other financial instruments that were mishandled by broker-dealers, investment advisers, or their representatives. We also work with victims of Ponzi scams, affinity scams, elder financial fraud and other financial schemes.

BofA Merrill unit in $315 mln mortgage settlement, Reuters, December 6, 2011

Public Employees’ Retirement System of Mississippi

More Blog Posts:

Citigroup’s $285M Settlement With the SEC Is Turned Down by Judge Rakoff, Stockbroker Fraud Blog, November 28, 2011

Citigroup’s $285M Mortgage-Related CDO Settlement with Raises Concerns About SEC’s Enforcement Practices for Judge Rakoff, Institutional Investor Securities Blog, November 9, 2011

Ex-Lehman Brothers Holdings Chief Executive Defends Request that Insurance Fund Pay Legal Bills, Stockbroker Fraud Blog, October 19, 2011

Unfortunately, there are many investors that have lost money because they invested in MBS on the advice of financial representatives who did not properly explain the degree of risk involved. While joining a class action case can allow you to recover some losses, you stand a better chance of recouping more by filing your own securities claim and working with an experienced stockbroker fraud law firm.