Bank of New York Mellon Corp. Must Contend with Pension Fund Claims Over Countrywide Mortgage-Backed Securities

The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York has decided that investors can sue Bank of New York Mellon (BK) over its role as trustee in Countrywide Financial Corp.’s mortgage-backed securities that they say cost billions of dollars in damages. While Judge William Pauley threw out some of the clams filed in the securities fraud lawsuit submitted by the pension funds, he said that the remaining ones could proceed. The complaint was filed by the Benefit Fund of the City of Chicago, the Retirement Board of the Policemen’s Annuity, and the City of Grand Rapids General Retirement System. The retirement board and Chicago’s benefit fund hold certificates that 25 New York trusts and one Delaware trust had issued, and BNY Mellon is the indentured trustee for both. Pooling and servicing agreements govern how money is allocated to certificate holders.

In Retirement Board of Policemen’s Annuity and Benefit Fund of City of Chicago v. Bank of New York Mellon, the plaintiffs are accusing BNYM of ignoring its responsibility as the investors’ trustee. They believe that the bank neglected to review the loan files for mortgages that were backing the securities to make sure that there were no defective or missing documents. The bank also allegedly did not act for investors to ensure that loans having “irregularities” were taken from the mortgage pools. As a result, bondholders sustained massive losses and were forced to experience a great deal of uncertainty about investors’ ownership interest in the mortgage loans. The plaintiffs are saying that it was BNYM’s job to perfect the assignment of mortgages to the trusts, certify that documentation was correct, review loan files, and make sure that the trust’s master servicer executed its duties and remedied or bought back defective loans. Countrywide Home Loans Inc. had originally been master servicer until it merged with Bank of America (BAC).

The district court, in granting its motion, limited the lawsuit to the trusts in which the pension fund had interests. It also held that the fund only claimed “injury in fact” in regards to the trusts in which it held certificates. The court found that the certificates from New York are debt securities and not equity and are covered under the Trust Indenture Act. The plaintiffs not only did an adequate job of pleading that Bank of America and Countrywide were in breach of the PSAs, but also they adequately pleaded that defaults of the PSAs were enough to trigger BNYM’s responsibilities under Sections 315(b) and (c). The court, however, threw out the claims that BNYM violated Section 315(a) by not performing certain duties under the PSAs and certain other agreements.

BNYM says it will defend itself against the claims that remain.

Bank of NY Mellon must face lawsuit on Countrywide, Reuters, April 3, 2012

Judge Rejects Bank Of NY Mellon Motion To Dismiss Countrywide Suit, Fox, April 3, 2012

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