Standard Poors Wants DOJ’s Mortgage Debt Lawsuit Against It Tossed

Standard Poors is asking a judge to dismiss the US Justice Department’s securities lawsuit against it. The government claims that the largest ratings agency defrauded investors when it put out excellent ratings for some poor quality complex mortgage packages, including collateralized debt obligations, residential mortgage-backed securities, and subprime mortgage-backed securities, between 2004 and 2007. The ratings agency, however, claims that the DOJ has no case.

Per the government’s securities complaint, financial institutions lost over $5 billion on 33 CDOs because they trusted S & P’s ratings and invested in the complex debt instruments. The DOJ believes that the credit rater issued its inaccurate ratings on purpose, raising investor demand and prices until the latter crashed, triggering the global economic crisis. It argues that certain ratings were inflated based on conflicts of interest that involved making the banks that packaged the mortgage securities happy as opposed to issuing independent, objective ratings that investors could rely on.

Now, S & P is claiming that the government’s lawsuit overreaches in targeting it and fails to show that the credit rater knew what the more accurate ratings should have been, which it contends would be necessary for there to be grounds for this CDO lawsuit. In a brief submitted to the United States District Court for the Central District of California, in Los Angeles, S & P’s lawyers argue that there is no way that their client, the Treasury, the Federal Reserve, or other market participants could have predicted how severe the financial meltdown would be.

S & P is also fighting over a dozen other CDO lawsuits filed by state attorneys general that make similar securities fraud allegations. The states are generally invoking their consumer-protection statutes, which carry a lower burden of proof, and the credit rating agency is seeking to have their securities lawsuits moved to federal court.

S.&P. Seeks Dismissal of U.S. Civil Suit Over Rating of Mortgage Debt, NY Times, April 22, 2013

U.S. Sues S&P Over Ratings, The Wall Street Journal, February 5, 2013

More Blog Posts:

US Justice Department Sues Standard and Poor’s Over Allegedly Fraudulent Ratings of Collateralized Debt Obligations, Stockbroker Fraud Blog, February 5, 2013

Standard & Poor’s Misled Investors By Giving Synthetic Derivatives Its Highest Ratings, Rules Australian Federal Court, Institutional Investor Securities Blog, November 8, 2012