Articles Posted in Mortgage-Backed Securities

According to Bloomberg, US prosecutors are conducting a criminal probe into whether hedge funds inflated the value of bonds to enhance the fees they were paid. Sources told the news media outlet that prosecutors want to know whether hedge funds solicited fake price quotes from brokers, which would have let the funds artificially raise the value of illiquid securities in their portfolios.

Just this week, a witness in the residential mortgage-backed securities fraud criminal trial against three ex-Nomura Holdings Inc. traders—they are accused of lying about RMBS prices to clients—stated under oath that he had given a Premium Point Investments LP trader fake quotes. The witness, ex-broker Frank DiNucci Jr., claims that two of the defendants, Michael Gramins and Ross Shapiro, are among the ones that trained him to lie to customers about bond prices. DiNucci, who pleaded guilty to fraud and conspiracy and making misrepresentations,previously worked at Nomura. He also worked at Auriga USA LLC and AOC Securities LLC.

Because certain securities are hard to price, hedge funds depend on brokers and third parties for estimates and quotes to determine how to value debt. Holding artificially inflated securities in the portfolios can allow a hedge fund to tout a better performance and get paid more for performance and management fees. It also allows them to conceal when some holdings do poorly.

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UBS Group AG (UBS) has paid the National Credit Union Administration $445M to settle claims brought on behalf of Western Corporate Federal Credit Union and U.S. Central Federal Credit Union, which both failed after they sustained losses from residential mortgage-backed securities they purchased through the broker-dealer.The two credit unions went into conservatorship several years ago and have since shut down.

UBS settled this latest case without denying or admitting to wrongdoing. The lender had previously paid NCUA $79.3M to resolve similar allegations involving two other credit unions that also failed. With that settlement, the bank also did not deny or admit wrongdoing.

To date, NCUA has recovered nearly $5B in settlements from big banks related to the faulty securities that they sold to corporate credit unions.

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The US Securities and Exchange Commission said that Barclays Capital (BARC) has agreed to pay over $16.5M as part of a settlement resolving allegations accusing the company of failing to properly supervise two of its ex-mortgage bond traders. The men are accused of lying to clients, as well as overcharging some of them. According to the regulator, Barclays did not put into place or execute the proper supervisory procedures that could have stopped or detected the alleged residential mortgage-backed securities fraud.

The two traders, David Wong and Yoon Seok Lee, are accused of making misleading or false statements to the firm’s customers about RMBS securities, how much Barclays makes for facilitating the trades, and other pertinent information. Lee and Wong also are accused of making excessive mark-ups on certain transactions without telling customers.

The SEC said that the ex-Barclays traders’ actions, which would have occurred between 6/2009 and 12/2012, caused Barclays to earn $15.5M in profits.

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Ex-Jefferies Trader Will Go to Prison for Mortgage-Backed Securities Fraud After All
Jesse Litvak, the ex-Jefferies (JEF) managing director, has once again been sentenced to two years in prison. Litvak was found guilty of mortgage-backed securities fraud in 2014 and sentenced to two years behind bars. The conviction at the time was for multiple securities fraud charges and for making false statements, as well as for defrauding TARP.

Claiming that expert witnesses hadn’t been able to testify for him, Litvak was able to get that sentence tossed. However, the US government continued to go after him and he was found guilty on one fraud count. Now, he has again been sentenced to two years in prions.

Litvak also must pay $2M because he lied about bond prices to a customer. (The earlier conviction had come with a $1.75M fine.) According to U.S. District Judge Janet C. Hall, Litvak’s victims only invested because he lied to them.

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In Manhattan, U.S. District Judge Katherine Polk Failla ruled that a few dozen funds may pursue their mortgage-backed securities fraud lawsuits against Wells Fargo & Co. (WFC) According to Reuters, five lawsuits are involved and plaintiffs include funds from Prudential Financial Inc.(PRU), BlackRock Inc. (BLK), TIAA-CREF, and Pacific Investment Management Co. (PIMICO) Judge Failla also said that the National Credit Union Administration (NCUA) could proceed with its MBS fraud claims against the San Francisco-based bank, which it filed on behalf of five credit unions that failed after they bought $2.4B in residential mortgage-backed securities.

The funds are seeking to hold Wells Fargo liable for breach of contract and conflict of interest involving over four dozen trusts, breach of due care, and breach of fiduciary duty. Failla, however, did not allow claims contending violation of a NY law related to mortgage trusts, as well as claims of general negligence, to proceed.

The investors contend that the bank took “virtually no action” to make sure that lenders either bought back the faulty securities or fixed the loans that were backing the securities once they knew that the loans were poorly underwritten or had defaulted. They accused Wells Fargo of failing to act despite being aware of these problems.

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$165M Class Action Settlement Reached in MBS Fraud Case Involving NovaStar Securities
Royal Bank of Scotland Group Plc (RBS), Wells Fargo & Co. (WFC), and Deutsche Bank AG (DB) have reached a $165M with investors in their class action mortgage-backed securities case involving underwriting for NovaStar Mortgage Inc., a former subprime lender. The lead plaintiff in the case is the New Jersey Carpenters Health Fund.

NovaStar, which filed for bankruptcy last year, had specialized in low quality residential mortgages. Many of these were bundled into risky securities that were issued prior to the 2008 financial crisis. The class action settlement resolves claims contending that the offering documents put together by the banks misled investors into thinking that the loans underlying about $7.55B of NovaStar MBSs were safe and had been underwritten properly.

A district court judge must still approve the settlement. Meantime, despite the resolution, the banks continue to deny wrongdoing.
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Another Jury Finds Ex-Jefferies Group Trader Guilty of RMBS Fraud
A federal jury has convicted Jesse Litvak of one count of securities fraud. The ex-Jefferies Group LLC (JEF) bond trader was tried again on allegations that he bilked customers of $2M when he inflated the prices that he claimed he paid for residential mortgage-backed securities. As a result of his claims, professional investment managers and hedge funds paid too much for bonds.

Another jury had found Litvak guilty of fraud two years ago. However, in 20015, a federal appellate court dismissed parts of the RMBS fraud case against him. The securities fraud charges were retried before a new jury.

During this trial, prosecutors claimed that Litvak’s customers had totally relied on him for bond pricing information. His legal team, however, argued that his customers were sophisticated investors and did what they wanted regardless of his advice.

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In a deal reached with the US Justice Department, Société Générale will pay $50M to settle civil charges accusing the bank of hiding that the residential mortgaged-backed securities (RMBS) that it promoted and sold were of poor quality. According to the government, the French bank made false representations involving the SG Mortgage Securities Trust 2006-OPT2, a $780M debt issue that it organized more than a decade ago. As part of the settlement, Société Générale admitted that it hid how many of the loans underlying the RMBS shouldn’t have been securitized or were not properly underwritten.

In a statement of facts, Société Générale took responsibility for its conduct. The bank admitted that it falsely represented that loans underlying the residential mortgage-backed security had been originated according to the underwriting guidelines of the loan originator. It also represented to investors that when the SG 2006-OPT2 was originated, no loans in the RMBS had a combined loan-to-value ratio or loan-to-value greater than 100%–this is a claim that Societe General is now admitting was false.

As a result of the bank’s actions, said the DOJ, investors lost “significant” amounts of money and they may lose more. Investors that were impacted include a number of financial institutions that are federally insured.

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The mortgage securities fraud deal arrived at between Deutsche Bank (DB) and the Department of Justice is now final. As part of the settlement, the German lender will pay a $3.1B civil penalty and $4.1B in relief to borrowers, homeowners, and others that were impacted because it purportedly misled investors about the mortgage securities it was selling before the housing market failed.

Although the agreement was announced last month, the details of the resolution have just been released to the public. This includes information that as far back as May 2006, a Deutsche Bank supervisor had cautioned one of the firm’s senior traders about one mortgage lender that had become too lax with its underwriting practices.

In a Statement of Facts that was part of the agreement, Deutsche Bank acknowledged that it was aware that it was not fully disclosing the risks involved with the loans that it was bundling and selling. Deutsche Bank CEO John Cryan issued a written statement apologizing “unreservedly” for the bank’s conduct. Cryan said that Deutsche Bank now has better standards in place.

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Jesse Litvak, a former Jefferies Group LLC (JEF) bond trader, is scheduled to go on trial again. It was just two years ago that a jury found him guilty of fraud when he misled customers about the price he paid for residential mortgage-backed bonds.

The criminal charges against him were originally brought by the US attorney’s office in Connecticut three years ago. Prosecutors accused him of bilking customers of $2M when he inflated the prices of what he’d actually paid for the bonds. Because of purported misstatements, professional investment managers and hedge funds overpaid for the residential-mortgage-backed bonds. Meantime, Litvak allegedly made $100K more for his firm for every transaction than was disclosed to his customers.

The jury, in 2014, found that Litvak violated securities laws and they found him guilty on 15 criminal counts, including multiple counts of securities fraud. Litvak had pleaded not guilty to all of the charges. He was then sentenced to two years in prison and ordered to pay a $1.75M.

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