Judge Mostly Denies Deutsche Bank National Trust Co.’s Motion to Dismiss in RMBS Class Action

On February 3, Judge Alison Nathan of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York largely denied Deutsche Bank National Trust Co.’s (the “Trustee’s”) motion to dismiss in a proposed class action brought by Royal Park Investments SA/NV over $3.1 billion in losses in residential mortgage-backed securities.  Royal Park alleged that the Trustee failed to require the loan sellers to repurchase or substitute loans when it became aware that the underlying mortgages were defaulting.  Judge Nathan rejected the Trustee’s argument that Royal Park failed to make a written demand to initiate a repurchase action as required in the trusts’ pooling and service agreements, holding that the Trustee had an obligation to provide notice to the other parties when it independently discovered breaches of representations and warranties.  Judge Nathan did, however, dismiss Royal Park’s derivative claims on behalf of 10 trusts that held the loans because the suit was direct rather than derivative in nature.  Order.

Morgan Stanley Settles RMBS Litigation with FDIC for $63M

On January 29, Morgan Stanley and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation agreed to settle five suits encompassing state and federal claims alleging that Morgan Stanley made misrepresentations in offering residential mortgage-backed securities to three now-defunct banks.  Morgan Stanley will pay $63 million to the FDIC, as receiver for Colonial Bank of Montgomery, Alabama, Security Savings Bank of Henderson, New York, and United Western Bank of Denver, Colorado.  Morgan Stanley denied all liability regarding the claims, and the settlement agreement specified that the parties settled in order to avoid further litigation.  The settlement was reached in coordination with the Department of Justice.  Settlement and Release Agreement.

Ambac and J.P. Morgan Reach $995M RMBS Settlement

On Monday, January 25, 2016, monoline insurer Ambac Assurance Corporation (“Ambac”) reached a $995 million settlement with J.P. Morgan, resolving two RMBS actions pending before Justice Ramos in the Supreme Court of the State of New York and Ambac’s objections to J.P. Morgan’s $4.5 billion global settlement with RMBS trustees.  We previously covered Ambac’s actions against J.P. Morgan here, here and here.  In those actions, Ambac brought claims against J.P. Morgan as the successor to EMC Mortgage and Bear Stearns for alleged misrepresentation of the quality the loans underlying eleven RMBS transactions.  The settlement also resolves Ambac’s objections to J.P. Morgan’s 2014 settlement with RMBS trustees of claims for alleged breaches of representations and warranties and servicing deficiencies. The adequacy of that settlement is currently the subject of an Article 77 proceeding before Justice Friedman of the Supreme Court of the State of New York, which we previously covered herePress Release.  Stipulation of Withdrawal.

Eleven Banks Reach Settlement with Commonwealth of Virginia on RMBS Claims

On Friday, January 22, 2016, eleven banks, including Merrill Lynch, RBS, and Barclays, agreed to settle claims brought by the Commonwealth of Virginia in a 2014 action alleging misrepresentations as to the nature, quality, characteristics, and risk profile of RMBS certificates. The certificates were purchased by the Virginia Retirement System, an agency of the Virginia Commonwealth.  In its complaint, the Commonwealth alleged injury of $383.91 million and demanded treble damages of $1.15 billion, plus a civil penalty of $5,000-$11,000 per violation.  The settlement announced on January 22 is for $63 million.  Press ReleaseComplaint.

Trustees Seek Approval of $4.5 Billion Settlement

On January 20, trial commenced before Justice Marcy Friedman in New York County Supreme Court to determine whether Deutsche Bank, U.S. Bank, and the other trustees of 330 RMBS trusts acted reasonably when they reached a $4.5 billion settlement of claims against JP Morgan in its capacity as sponsor of those trusts.  Under the proposed agreement, JP Morgan would make a $4.5 billion payment to be distributed among the trusts and perform certain mortgage loan servicing improvements in exchange for a release of claims related to mortgage loan representations and warranties and mortgage loan servicing.  There are two objectors that have challenged the validity and fairness of the settlement:  Ambac, which insured eight of the trusts, and W&L Investments, LLC, a certifcateholder in two of the trusts. The trial is expected to last roughly two weeks.  Amended Petition.

Claims Against RMBS Trustees Dismissed

On January 19, Judge Richard Berman of the Southern District of New York dismissed, for lack of jurisdiction, the vast majority of claims asserted against Deutsche Bank and Wells Fargo in their respective capacities as RMBS trustees for 564 and 273 RMBS trusts, pooling a collective $826.5 billion in securitized loans.  Plaintiffs in the two actions claimed the court had federal jurisdiction over certain of the claims arising from the Trustee Indenture Act of 1939, and asked the court to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over the accompanying state law claims as well.  Judge Berman held that while the court was empowered to exercise supplemental jurisdiction it would not do so, because the state claims pressed by Plaintiffs predominated over the federal ones.  Judge Berman stressed that Plaintiffs asserted no federal claims in connection with almost 90% of the trusts at issue in the Deutsche Bank action and roughly 96% of trusts at issue in the Wells Fargo action.  The court concluded that to permit such a relatively small number of federal claims to pull in a much larger body of state claims would improperly allow “a federal tail…to wag what is in substance a state dog.”  The court granted plaintiffs three weeks to file a joint amended complaint with the state law claims removed.  The court did not rule on the merits of Plaintiffs’ TIA or state law claims.  Order.

New York Appellate Court Affirms Motion to Dismiss RMBS Complaint Against Morgan Stanley

On January 12, 2016, the Appellate Division, First Department, of the New York State Supreme Court affirmed a trial court order granting Morgan Stanley’s motion to dismiss claims brought by Dexia SA’s subsidiary FSA Asset Management LLC (“FSAM”). Plaintiffs asserted fraud claims against Defendants based on allegations that Defendants knowingly misrepresented the quality of more than $626 million in RMBS sold by Morgan Stanley to Plaintiffs in 2006 and 2007.  The Court’s ruling rested on a recent New York Court of Appeals decision holding that the right to assert a fraud claim related to a contract or note does not automatically transfer with the respective contract or note, and that there must be some language to evince that intent and transfer such rights.  Specifically, the Court found that FSAM’s agreement to deliver “all right, title and interest” in the RMBS to the Dexia Plaintiffs did not transfer the right to bring fraud claims.  The Court also concluded that FSAM could not establish damages because it received from the Dexia Plaintiffs the same amount it originally paid for the securities. Opinion.

Commerzbank AG Sues Four RMBS Trustees Alleging Violations of Duties to Investors

On December 23 and 24, Commerzbank AG filed four actions in the Southern District of New York against Deutsche Bank National Trust Company, HSBC Bank USA, N.A., Wells Fargo Bank, N.A., and the Bank of New York Mellon in their capacities as trustees for a number of RMBS trusts.  Commerzbank, as an RMBS investor, alleges that the trustees violated their contractual, fiduciary, and statutory duties by, among other things, failing to address servicers’ “looting” of the trusts.  Commerzbank further alleges that the trustees failed to act to defend the trusts’ interest against misconduct by sponsors and originators for the deals at issue.  The complaints in these actions are substantially similar, and closely parallel other RMBS cases alleging violations of the Trust Indenture Act and the Streit Act, as well as breach of contract, breach of fiduciary duty, negligence and breach of the covenant of good faith.  We have previously covered similar suits by the National Credit Union Administration and Pacific Investment Management Company. Representative Complaint.

RMBS Claims Against Bank of New York Mellon Remain in Federal Court

On December 18, Judge William Pauley III of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York denied Bank of New York Mellon’s motion to dismiss RMBS claims regarding fourteen trusts and one indenture trust for lack of subject matter jurisdiction.  With respect to the indenture trust, the Court held that it did have original jurisdiction over that claim because the federal Trust Indenture Act (“TIA”) implicitly creates a private right of action.  Judge Pauley exercised supplemental jurisdiction over plaintiffs’ Pooling and Servicing Agreement (“PSA”) claims for the remaining fourteen trusts.  Citing Judge Shira Scheindlin’s March 31, 2015 decision in BlackRock v. HSBC, Judge Pauley held that both the TIA and PSA claims share a common nucleus of operative fact because all of the trusts at issue in the case were sponsored by Countrywide affiliates and serviced by Countrywide Home Loan Servicing.  Judge Pauley dismissed any concern that allowing a single TIA claim to create jurisdiction over fourteen state law claims would “allow a federal tail to wag a state dog,” noting Countrywide’s imprint on every transaction as sponsor and servicer.  Judge Pauley also highlighted that the case has been pending in the S.D.N.Y. for over four years and to create parallel proceedings would be both inconvenient and against the interests of judicial economy. Decision.

Morgan Stanley Settles RMBS Suits With NCUA

On December 10, 2015, the National Credit Union Administration (“NCUA”) announced Morgan Stanley’s agreement to pay $225 million to settle litigation brought in New York and Kansas federal courts by NCUA as liquidating agent of U.S. Central Federal Credit Union, Western Corporate Federal Credit Union, Members United Corporate Federal Credit Union, and Southwest Corporate Federal Credit Union (the “Credit Unions”), all of which failed during the financial crisis.  In the settled claims – previously covered here and here – NCUA alleged that Morgan Stanley had materially misrepresented the collateral characteristics of RMBS it sold to the Credit Unions.  Morgan Stanley did not admit fault in the settlement. Press release.