Court Rules that Victims of Fraudulent Sales of Derivative Securities Must File Separate Claims – No Class Action Allowed

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit has affirmed a lower court’s decision to not grant the petition of two pension funds asking to certify a class action of investors that allegedly suffered financial losses in mortgage-backed securities. The Second Circuit said that the Lower Court did not abuse its discretion by denying the motion for class certification.

The institutional investment fraud cases were argued together at both the district court and appeals court levels but have never been officially consolidated. In both mortgage-backed securities lawsuits, the lead plaintiffs—both pension funds—are accusing their respective defendants of making misleading and false statements in the different MBS prospectuses. They are seeking to recover their losses.

Although the MBS that the plaintiffs had purchased were given AAA credit ratings for the majority of the tranches, the delinquency and default rates in the underlying mortgages would go on to dramatically go up. The ratings agencies then went on to downgrade most of these tranches.

The plaintiffs are claiming that the defaults are an indicator that the subcontractors and issuers failed to follow underwriting guidelines. If this is true, then there were false statements in the registration statements at the time the MBS were bought.

While the plaintiffs had made their claims under the 1933 Securities Act’s Sections 11, 12, and 15, the appeals court said that only claims under Section 11 needed to be discussed, as the claims under the other two sections were derivatives of the Section 11 claims. Under Section 11, a prima facie case has to have proof that a registration statement included material misstatements or omissions. However, since it isn’t a fraud provision, a culpable mental state on the issuer’s part is not required.

Section 11 claims are subject to an affirmative defense in that the issuer can show that when the acquisition took place the buyer had knowledge about a specific omission or untruth. The district court held that to determine whether each buyer had knowledge of specific untruths or omissions at the time of purchase, individual inquiries overriding the common issues would be needed. This holding was affirmed by the appeals court. The second circuit also said that the district court only looked at the facts “on the limited record available on this case.” It noted that district court judge, Harold Baer Jr. has since this decision not to certify the plaintiffs in these two cases granted class certification in similar litigation. (Public Employees’ Retirement System of Mississippi v. Goldman Sachs Group)

The appeals court said that its review was limited to the class definition rejected by the lower court judge and to the record the way it was when the motion to certify was made. It said the appeals determination was “without prejudice to further motion practice in the district court on the matter.”

New Jersey Carpenters Health Fund v. RALI Series 2006-QO1 (PDF)

Boilermaker Blacksmith National Pension Trust v. Harborview Mortgage Loan Trust 2006-4 (PDF)

More Blog Posts:

Morgan Stanley Sued by MetLife for Securities Fraud Over $757 Million in Residential Mortgage-Backed Securities, Institutional Investor Securities Blog, April 28, 2012

H & R Block Subsidiary Option One Mortgage Corporation to Pay $28.2M to Residential Mortgage-Backed Securities Investors, Institutional Investor Securities Blog, April 25, 2012

FDIC Objects to Bank of America’s Proposed $8.5B Settlement Over Mortgage-Backed Securities, Stockbroker Fraud Blog, August 30, 2011

$63 Million Mortgage-Backed Securities Lawsuit Against Bank of America is Second One Filed by Western and Southern Life Insurance Co. Against the Financial Firm, Institutional Investor Securities Blog, August 29, 2011

Contact our mortgage-backed securities fraud lawyers at Shepherd Smith Edwards and Kantas, LTD, LLP.