Articles Posted in Collateralized Debt Obligations

Walter A. Morales III, a money manager who for years worked with high net worth individual investors and pension funds, is now barred from the securities industry. Morales resolved the US Securities and Exchange Commission’s 2012 civil lawsuit accusing him and his Commonwealth Advisors of fraud and mismanagement this week.

The regulator contends that of the approximately $750M that his clients invested through him, Morales and his firm lost over $178M in subprime and residential mortgage-backed securities (RMBSs). According to the Commission, Morales lied about heavy mortgage-backed securities losses to clients and instead tried to conceal them through trades involving his different hedge funds while touting prices that were fraudulent.

The regulator claims that Walters and his investment adviser firm recommended that the hedge funds buy into Collybus, a collateralized debt obligation (CDO) that was considered among the most high risk of such investments and the lowest of tranches. MBSs were sold into CDOs at outdated prices even while Morales was purportedly aware that the market for RMBSs had since dropped. When the CDOs kept doing poorly, Commonwealth employees were directed to engage in manipulative trading among the hedge funds they advised to hide a $32M loss sustained by one of the funds that invested in Collybus.

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The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan has decided that the shareholder lawsuit brought against Goldman Sachs (GS) for its high-risk subprime securities leading up to the 2008 financial crisis cannot move forward as a class action securities fraud case. The court said that a lower court judge had put too much of a burden on the bank by mandating that it prove that the misleading statements and conflicts of interest alleged by the plaintiffs did not affect its stock price. Shareholders, however, are allowed to pursue shareholders class certification again.

The plaintiffs contend that between 2007 and the middle of 2010, they lost over $13B because the Wall Street bank was not forthcoming about being able to deal with certain conflicts. They accused Goldman Sachs of hiding short positions made in a number of subprime mortgage collateralized debt obligations, including the:

  • Timberwolf
  • Anderson Mezzanine Funding 2007-1
  • Abacus 2007 AC-1
  • Hudson Mezzanine Funding 2006-1

 

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The New York State Supreme Court has ruled that the $45M institutional investor fraud case against Patriarch Partners and owner Lynn Tilton may proceed. The financier had sought to have the fraud charges against her dropped.

The plaintiff is Norddeutsche Landesbank Girozentrale. The German bank, known as Nord/LG, invested in Tilton’s Zohar debt fund. Nord/LG later accused Tilton of misrepresenting the fund’s structure and brought a collateralized debt obligation lawsuit against her and her firm.

The German bank contends that it didn’t know that fraud might have occurred until the US Securities and Exchange Commission brought a civil case against Tilton and her firm in 2015. The regulator wants disgorgement of about $200M in allegedly bogus fees that Tilton and Patriarch purportedly collected for their services. The SEc also wants to bar Tilton from the industry.

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Ex-Visium Fund Manager on Trial for Bond Fraud
Jury selection is scheduled to begin this week in the criminal trial against Stefan Lumiere, an ex-Visium Asset Management LP portfolio manager. Lumiere, who managed the Visium Credit Opportunities Fund, is accused of falsely inflating the value of securities in a fund and committing bond fraud.

Visium Asset Management LP is a New York based-hedge fund. The $8B investment hedge fund shut down in 2016 after a criminal investigation that led to charges against a number of people, including Sanjay Valvani, who  killed himself several months ago following allegations of insider trading.

According to prosecutors, from ’11 to ’13, Lumiere was among a number of people who conspired to bilk investors through the mismarking of securities’ values that were in a fund that invested in healthcare company-issued debt. The prosecution believes that the alleged misconduct caused the net asset value of the fund to be overstated by tens of millions of dollars monthly. Meantime, investors were fooled into thinking the bonds were very liquid even though they were illiquid.

Lumiere pleaded not guilty to securities fraud, conspiracy, and wire fraud charges last year.

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Goldman Sachs Group Inc. (GS) has arrived at a settlement with  ACA Financial Guaranty Corp. The bond insurer’s securities fraud lawsuit accuses the investment bank of fraudulently persuading it to guarantee payments on the , a collateralized debt obligation, prior to the financial crisis. ACA Financial Guaranty claims that Goldman and hedge fund Paulson & Co. fooled it into insuring the CDO. Details of the CDO fraud settlement have not been disclosed.

In its $120M CDO fraud case, ACA claimed it was deceived into thinking that Paulson & Co. would hold Abacus for the long-term, when, in fact, the fund played a part in choosing the CDO’s assets before taking a short position and bet that the mortgages underlying the securities would fail. ACA alleged that Abacus was set up in a manner to allow Paulson to make “huge profits” and Goldman to earn “huge fees.”

Although a NY judge had said that the case, brought in 2011, could proceed, an appeals court reversed that decision in 2013. The New York Supreme Court reversed the appeals court’s ruling in 2015.

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According to a letter written by prosecutors to Moody’s (MCO), the U.S. Department of Justice intends to sue the credit rating agency and its Moody’s Investors Services unit over valuations that the latter assigned to mortgage-backed securities leading up to the 2008 financial crisis. The MBS fraud case is expected to make claims about the way the agency rated collateralized debt obligations and residential mortgage-backed securities, as well as allege violations of the Financial Institutions Reform, Recovery, and Enforcement Act as it pertains to rating RMBSs and CDOs. Moody’s disclosed the expected case in an update that also included third quarter earning results.

Aside from the DOJ case, several states’ Attorney Generals are expected to pursue their own claims against Moody’s, except that their cases would be brought under state law.

A number of ratings companies have come under fire over their alleged failure to provide accurate warnings about the risks involved in investing in MBSs and CDOs leading up to the economic crisis. In 2013, the DOJ sued Standard & Poor’s over similar allegations, along with the claim that the agency misled investors for its own profit while misrepresenting the actual risks involved in the securities. Last year, S & P settled with the DOJ, the District of Columbia, and 19 states for almost $1.4B. The government and the states took issue with the way S & P rated the CDOs and RMBSs that it issued from ’04 to ’07.

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Aozora Bank Ltd. has asked a New York appeals court to allow it to sue Credit Suisse (CS) again over losses that it claims it sustained from a $1.5B collateralized debt obligation.  The Japanese lender claims that a lower court erred in dismissing the claims it had previously brought on the grounds that they were submitted too late.
It was last year  that New York Supreme Court Judge Charles E. Ramos  threw out the CDO fraud lawsuit on the grounds that the state’s statute of limitations had already passed.  In New York, fraud claims can be brought within two years from when a plaintiff could have, with reasonable diligence, realized that it was defrauded or within six years of when a transaction had closed.
Aozora believes that Credit Suisse employed a “trash bin” for its assets that were toxic. The Japanese lender purchased the Jupiter High-Grade CDO V Ltd CDO notes for $40M on 5/11/07 but did not file it’s case until 6/26/13. Ramos said that Aozara failed to prove that there was no way  it could have discovered the problems with the Jupiter V notes that it purchased from Credit Suisse before that filing date.
 

Goldman Sachs Group Inc. (GS) and Basis Capital’s Basis Yield Alpha Fund have reached an agreement to settle the $1B collateralized debt obligation fraud lawsuit brought by the Australian hedge fund against the bank several years ago. The Basis Yield Alpha Fund accused Goldman Sachs of making false statements related to its marketing of the Timberwolf, a mortgage-linked investment, and the Point Pleasant collateralized debt obligation (CDO). (The Timberwolf investment was named in the 2011 U.S. Senate report that found that Goldman misled clients about mortgage-backed securities.)

The Australian hedge fund, in its complaint, claimed that Goldman falsely claimed that the market for CDO investments had become stable even though it knew that was not the case. These particular securities dropped in value within weeks of purchase by the fund.

The Basis Yield Alpha Fund is convinced that Goldman sold the securities to rid itself of the toxic subprime mortgages while making money by shorting the securities. The fund sought repayment of over $67M it claims was lost by investing in the collateralized debt obligations, as well as $1B in punitive damages. Goldman, which argued that the fund’s losses were caused by the demise of the housing market and not because of any alleged misrepresentations, claimed that the Australian hedge fund filed its CDO fraud lawsuit to try to get the bank to pay these losses.

U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren has issued a report in which she claims that the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and the U.S. Department of Justice have been doing a poor job on enforcement when it comes to going after companies and individuals for corporate crimes.

In Rigged Justice: How Weak Enforcement Lets Corporate Offenders off Easy, Warren takes a closer look at what she describes as the 20 worst federal enforcement failures of 2015. The Senator noted that that when federal agencies caught large companies in illegal acts, they failed to take substantial action against them. Instead, companies were fined for sums that in some cases could be written off as tax deductions.

Some of the 2015 cases that Warren Mentions:
• Standard & Poor’s consented to pay $1.375B to the DOJ, DC, and 19 states to resolve charges that it bilked investors by putting out inflated ratings misrepresenting the actual risks involved in collateral debt obligations and residential mortgage-backed securities. Warren Points out that the amount the credit rater paid is less than one-sixth of the fine the government and states had sought against it, and at S & P did not have to admit wrongdoing. No individuals were prosecuted in this case.

Citigroup (C), Barclays (BARC), JPMorgan Chase (JPM), Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS), and UBS AG (UBS) paid the DOJ $5.6B to resolve claims that their traders colluded together to rig exchange rates. As a result, the firms made billions of dollars while investors and clients suffered. While admissions of guilt were sought, no individuals were prosecuted. Also, the SEC gave the banks waivers so they wouldn’t have to deal with collateral damages from pleading guilty.

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Performer Ne-Yo Files Countersuit Against Citibank Over Alleged $5.4M Securities Fraud
Singer Ne-Yo is suing Citibank (C), claiming that the financial institution should have had the proper safeguards and procedures in place that could have prevented his ex-money manager Kevin Foster from allegedly bilking him of $4.5M. The performer had filed a securities case against Foster and the latter’s employer, V. Brown & Co., in 2014.

Ne-Yo sought $8M. $4.5M of which Foster had purportedly swindled by moving funds out of the singer’s accounts to the money manager’s own accounts and the accounts of others. Ne-Yo sought $3.5M for service payments he says that he paid Foster and V. Brown between ’05 and ’13.

The performer claims that Foster forged his name on loan documents and took the money, including $1.4M from Citibank that the singer claims he never signed off on. Right before Ne-Yo sued his ex-manager, however, Citi filed its own lawsuit against him for the loan.

Now, Ne-Yo is saying that Citibank never told him of the numerous transactions made by Kevin, some of which involved his overdrawn account at the bank.

Sec Issues Over $700K Award to Whistleblower
The Securities and Exchange Commission is issuing an over $700K award to an individual who blew the whistle on a company. The information that the person provided led to a successful enforcement action. The whistleblower, an industry expert, was not employed at the company. This is the first time a company outsider has been issued this type of award since the SEC opened its whistleblower office in 2011.

Because the regulator protects the confidentiality of whistleblowers, the individual’s identity has not been revealed. SEC Enforcement Division Director Andrew Ceresney said that the agency values voluntary submissions by industry experts with ‘first-hand” information of wrongdoing committed by company insiders.”

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