On June 18, 2015, Justice Marcy Friedman of the New York Supreme Court dismissed RMBS fraud claims brought by Commerzbank AG London Branch (“Commerzbank”) against UBS, Nomura Holdings Inc., Barclays Bank PLC, Citigroup and other banks on the grounds that the fraud claims at issue were barred by the statute of limitations. Ruling for the defendants, Justice Friedman held that New York’s six-year statute of limitations started running on the final purchase date, and not when the certificates started sustaining losses. She also found, in the alternative, that New York’s two-year discovery period for fraud claims was triggered when all the certificates at issue were downgraded. Commerzbank had alleged that the defendant banks had intentionally included toxic loans in securitizations.
On June 22, 2015, United States District Judge Mark G. Mastroianni of the District of Massachusetts largely denied Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company’s (“MassMutual”) motion for partial summary judgment seeking to preclude Deutsche Bank Securities Inc. (“DBSI”) from asserting a due diligence defense with respect to nine of ten RMBS at issue, rejecting the argument that the due diligence performed was facially inadequate. Judge Mastroianni granted the motion as to the tenth securitization, based on his finding that there was no evidence that acquisition diligence was conducted on over 80% of the underlying loan pools.
On June 11, 2015, the New York Court of Appeals issued its decision in the closely-followed case of ACE Securities Corp., Home Equity Loan Trust, Series 2006-SL2 v. DB Structured Products, Inc. New York’s highest court affirmed the First Department’s dismissal of an action brought by HSBC, as Trustee of the Home Equity Loan Trust, Series 2006-SL2 (“Trust”), against DB Structured Products (“DBSP”) on timeliness grounds, concluding that a cause of action for breach of the representations and warranties accrues on the closing date of the transaction. The Court held that New York’s six-year statute of limitations for such breach of contract claims runs from the date the representations and warranties are made. While the trial court reasoned that DBSP’s cure or repurchase obligation under the Pooling and Servicing Agreement (“PSA”) was ongoing, the Court of Appeals explained that DBSP represented and warranted certain facts about the mortgage loans as they existed when the PSA and Mortgage Loan Purchase Agreement were executed and expressly stated they did not survive the closing date. The Court noted that it makes sense that DBSP “[did] not guarantee payment for the life of the transaction because loans may default 10 or 20 years after they have been issued for reasons entirely unrelated to the Sponsor’s representations and warranties.” The court also held that a timely repurchase demand and subsequent expiration of the cure period was not a substantive condition precedent that delayed the accrual of the cause of action; instead, the Court held that it was a procedural prerequisite to suit. Order.
On June 1, 2015, Judge Shira Scheindlin of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York issued a Decision and Order granting in part and denying in part HSBC Bank USA, National Association’s (“HSBC”) motion to dismiss three related actions brought by BlackRock, Royal Park Investments SA/NV, and Phoenix Light SF Ltd., claiming $34 billion in damages. The suits allege that HSBC breached a fiduciary duty to investors as a trustee in 283 residential mortgage backed securities trusts by failing to require lenders and bond issuers to buy back loans that breached representations and warranties. Judge Scheindlin rejected HSBC’s argument that the plaintiffs had failed to plead breaches of representations and warranties on a sufficiently granular basis and also held that plaintiffs had sufficiently alleged that the bank had specific knowledge of breaches of the representations and warranties. Judge Scheindlin dismissed claims for negligent misrepresentation and negligence as time-barred. Judge Scheindlin gave the plaintiffs 30 days to amend their complaint to attempt to cure the deficiencies in their dismissed claim. Order.
On May 22, 2015, Judge Denise Cote of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York denied defendants WMC Mortgage, LLC and GE Mortgage Holding, L.L.C.’s motion for partial summary judgment to dismiss certain loan repurchase claims asserted by Bank of NewYork Mellon in its capacity as RMBS Trustee for GE-WMC Mortgage Securities Trust 2006-I. Defendants argued that because certain loans in the trust had been foreclosed-upon and liquidated, the terms of the operative Pooling and Service Agreement barred recovery. Judge Cote rejected this argument. Following New York State courts construing prevailing New York law, Judge Cote held that money damages could be awarded in lieu of the PSA’s “sole remedy” of loan repurchase for a breaching loan where the granting of equitable relief appears to be impossible or impracticable. The court held that the liquidation of a breaching loan presents such a circumstance, and permitted Bank of New York Mellon’s claims as to foreclosed-upon loans to go forward. Order.
On May 18, 2015, Judge Katherine Forrest of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York dismissed claims in two suits brought by private investors and the National Credit Union Association, respectively, against U.S. Bank and Bank of America in their capacity as trustees for RMBS trusts. The lawsuits asserted several causes of action arising out of the trustees’ alleged failure to fulfill their contractual, statutory, and fiduciary obligations to hundreds of RMBS trusts.
In the first case, brought by a number of institutional investors led by BlackRock, Judge Forrest dismissed claims brought under the federal Trust Indenture Act as to 810 of the 843 trusts at issue because they were governed by Pooling and Servicing Agreements (“PSAs”), rather than indentures, and the TIA does not apply to PSA trusts. She declined to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over the state law claims asserted in connection with the 810 PSA Trusts, holding that allowing 33 indenture trusts to pull in another 810 would allow “a federal tail to wag a state dog.” For the remaining 33 indenture trusts, Judge Forrest dismissed the claims because the plaintiffs failed to make a demand on the proper party (the “Owner Trustee”) or allege any that such demand would have been futile. Judge Forrest granted plaintiffs leave to amend as to the indenture trusts. Order.
In the second case, brought by NCUA, Judge Forrest dismissed claims as to 74 out of the 82 Trusts at issue on standing grounds. Judge Forrest held that the Amended Complaint failed to demonstrate that NCUA retained any right to sue when it re-securitized its certificates in the 74 trusts as part of the NCUA Guaranteed Note Program. She rejected NCUA’s statutory standing argument, holding that 12 U.S.C. § 1787 does not authorize NCUA to sue on behalf of separate statutory trusts created to re-securitize the CCUs’ assets. Additionally, Judge Forrest held that the PSAs did not allow third party beneficiary status to extend beyond direct certificateholders, meaning that NCUA no longer had standing once it ceased being a certificateholder following the re-securitization. Order.
On May 16, 2015, Judge Denise Cote of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York entered a judgment requiring Nomura and RBS to buy back, at a total cost of $806 million, seven RMBS certificates sold to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac from 2005 to 2007. The judgment stemmed from Judge Cote’s May 11, 2015 Opinion finding Nomura and RBS liable for violations of the Securities Act of 1933, the D.C. Securities Act, and the Virginia Securities Act. For those certificates for which FHFA prevailed under multiple statutes, FHFA was permitted to, and did, elect the maximum available remedies. Judge Cote also ordered that FHFA is entitled to post-judgment interest, reasonable attorneys’ fees, and costs. Judgment.
On May 8, 2015, the Federal Home Loan Bank of Boston filed a stipulation of voluntary dismissal with prejudice of claims it levied against JP Morgan Chase & Co., the Bear Stearns Companies Inc., EMC Mortgage Corporation and other entities. FHLB Boston had filed suits seeking rescission and other damages under Massachusetts law, alleging that the defendant banks made material misstatements and omissions about the riskiness of the mortgage pools underlying the securities. There was no mention in the stipulation of whether a settlement had been reached. Stipulation.
On May 11, 2015, Judge Denise Cote of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York found Nomura Holdings Inc. liable for inaccurately characterizing the mortgage loan collateral backing seven RMBS certificates it sold to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac between 2005 and 2007. The suit against Nomura is the last that remains of sixteen lawsuits originally filed against by FHFA against RMBS issuers and sellers alleging violations of Sections 12(a)(2) and 15 of the 1933 Securities Act and state securities laws. Judge Cote’s decision followed a nearly 4-week bench trial that concluded on April 9, 2015.
In a 361-page decision, Judge Cote found, among other things, that 45% to 59% of the sample loans were materially defective insofar as they deviated from relevant underwriting guidelines, and that 27% of the sample loans were subject to inflated appraisals. Judge Cote treated this as strong circumstantial evidence that the appraisers did not believe in the credibility of their appraisals at the time that they were made. Additionally, Judge Cote found that inadequacies in credit ratings of the offered certificates were due to inaccurate loan tapes Nomura provided to the rating agencies. Finally, Judge Cote found that Nomura’s due diligence practices were insufficient, and rejected Nomura’s argument that market conditions, and not the misrepresentations, caused the losses alleged. Judge Cote did not specify the amount of damages and asked the parties to submit a proposed judgment by May 15, 2015. Opinion and Order.
On April 30, 2015, New York’s highest court heard arguments in ACE Securities Corp. v. DB Structured Products Inc. regarding the accrual date for RMBS put-back claims – i.e., the date on which the statute of limitations begins to run. Plaintiff ACE appealed an intermediate appellate court’s ruling that claims for breaches of representations and warranties are time-barred unless brought within six years of the transaction’s closing date. ACE argued that the claim does not accrue, and the statute of limitations does not begin to run, until a demand for cure or repurchase has been made and rejected, contending that investors may not know of the alleged representation and warranty breaches within six years of closing. The defendant argued that if the Court adopted plaintiff’s approach and ruled that a put-back claim does not accrue until demand is made, plaintiffs would be able to tactically take a “wait and see” attitude. Depending on how the deal performs, they potentially could wait for decades after a transaction was entered into before making a repurchase demand, and only then bring suit if the demand is rejected.