On January 31, Justice Barbara R. Kapnick of the Supreme Court of New York for New York County approved, with one exception, an US$8.5 billion settlement between Bank of America and a group of RMBS investors. The Bank of New York Mellon, acting as the trustee for trusts that in the aggregate issued US$424 billion in RMBS backed by mortgages originated by Countrywide, entered into an agreement with Bank of America in 2011 to resolve claims alleging breaches of representations and warranties and alleged violations of prudent servicing obligations. After more than two years of State and Federal Court proceedings, Justice Kapnick approved the settlement, and found that BNY Mellon as Trustee did not abuse its discretion or act in bad faith or outside the bounds of reasonable judgment in reaching the settlement, except to agree to the settlement of certain loan modification claims, which the Court did not approve. The Court declined to approve the compromise of the loan modification claims based on its conclusion that BNY Mellon settled those claims “without investigating their potential worth or strength.” Order.
On November 21, the Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit affirmed the dismissal of a suit brought by South Korea‘s Woori Bank against Merrill Lynch & Co., Inc. and Bank of America Corp. on statute of limitations grounds. The bank brought claims for fraud, rescission, negligent misrepresentation and unjust enrichment on May 18, 2012 stemming from its $143 million investment in several collateralized debt obligations. The Second Circuit agreed with the lower court that publicity about Merrill Lynch’s CDOs, related lawsuits and government investigations sufficiently alerted Woori to any claims prior to May 2009. The bank’s claims were therefore time-barred under South Korea’s applicable three year statute of limitations. Decision.
On December 2, Bank of America announced that it settled claims brought by Freddie Mac for $404 million. The settlement resolves all remaining representations and warranties claims against Bank of America brought by Freddie Mac related to residential mortgage loans sold to the government-controlled company between 2000 and 2009. The settlement does not cover loan servicing obligations, loans in private label securitizations, or securities and disclosure claims. Press Release.
On August 6, the SEC and the U.S. Department of Justice filed parallel civil suits against several Bank of America affiliates, alleging that the bank defrauded investors in connection with its packaging and sale of US$850 million in RMBS. The actions, both filed in the Western District of North Carolina, allege that BofA misled investors by failing to disclose information concerning the quality of the loans backing the RMBS, including their origination channel, misrepresenting compliance with underwriting guidelines, and making other false statements in loan tapes and free writing prospectuses filed with the SEC. The SEC sued BofA for alleged violations of Sections 17(a)(2), 17(a)(3), and 5(b)(1) of the Securities Act of 1933. SEC Complaint. The DOJ sued BofA for alleged violations of Sections 1001 and 1014 of the Financial Institutions Reform, Recovery and Enforcement Act of 1989. DOJ Complaint.
On May 29, Justice Eileen Bransten in the Supreme Court of the State of New York partially granted a motion to dismiss in a case by U.S Bank against Bank of America and Countrywide seeking the repurchase of 4,484 mortgages securitized in a $1.75 billion RMBS trust. Justice Bransten held that U.S. Bank could not, under the relevant contracts, seek repurchase of all loans in the trust on the basis of alleged “pervasive breaches” of representations and warranties related to mortgage loans, and therefore dismissed the portion of U.S. Bank’s complaint seeking complete repurchase of all loans. Justice Bransten, however, held that U.S. Bank’s claim for repurchase of 495 individual loans for which U.S. Bank had provided notice of breach to Countrywide, and that Countrywide had not yet repurchased, was adequately pled and thus could proceed. Order.
On May 8, Judge Jed Rakoff of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York dismissed claims by the United States for damages and civil penalties under the False Claims Act against Countrywide and Bank of America. The court held that the government could proceed with its claims for violations of the Financial Institutions Reform, Recovery, and Enforcement Act (FIRREA) of 1989. FIRREA permits the government to recover civil penalties for fraudulent activities that “affect” federally insured financial institutions. The government alleged that Countrywide’s mortgage origination business had defrauded Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. The court noted it would explain its reasoning at a later date. Order. Amended Complaint.
On May 6, Judge Mariana Pfaelzer of the United States District Court for the Central District of California allowed American International Group, Inc. (AIG) to proceed with several of its claims against Bank of America and related entities arising from AIG’s purchase of Countrywide-issued RMBS. The court held that AIG has standing to bring suit, rejecting the argument that AIG had assigned its claims to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. Among other causes of action, the court upheld certain claims for fraudulent inducement on the grounds that AIG adequately alleged misstatements regarding loan-to-value ratios, compliance with underwriting guidelines, appraisal values and credit ratings, but dismissed fraud claims as to borrower-provided owner-occupancy data. The court also dismissed AIG’s claims based on alleged oral misrepresentations for failure to specify the speakers, and dismissed AIG’s fraud claims against two underwriters for failure to allege awareness of any misconduct at Countrywide. Order.
On May 6, Judge Katherine Forrest of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York denied Bank of America and U.S. Bank’s motions to dismiss an action relating to their roles as trustees of Washington Mutual mortgage-backed securities. Plaintiffs, including the Policemen’s Annuity and Benefit Fund of Chicago and other entities, claimed the trustees failed to notify certificate-holders of breaches of the Pooling and Servicing Agreements relating to the completeness of mortgage files and compliance with loan underwriting guidelines. The court held the Trust Indenture Act plausibly applies to the securities at issue and requires trustees to provide notice of all defaults known to it within ninety days. The court also held that Plaintiffs adequately pleaded that defaults occurred, such as the failure of certain entities to correct flaws in the mortgage files, and that defendants plausibly knew that certain representations in the Pooling and Servicing Agreements had been breached. Judge Forrest noted that Plaintiffs must ultimately prove that the trustees had actual, rather than constructive, knowledge of the alleged breaches and that the existence of even pervasive practices is not necessarily sufficient evidence of actual knowledge. Order.
On May 6, monoline insurer MBIA announced that it had reached a $1.7 billion settlement with Bank of America in connection with alleged fraud and breach of contract claims related to Countrywide-issued mortgage-backed securities insured by MBIA. Under the terms of the settlement, Bank of America will make a $1.6 billion cash payment, will transfer back $134 million of MBIA’s securities, and will extend MBIA a $500 million credit line. The settlement ends litigation pending in the Supreme Court for the State of New York since 2008. The agreement also affected other MBIA-issued policies insuring Bank of America’s credit default swaps, and grants Bank of America warrants to purchase approximately 10 million shares of MBIA common stock. The settlement is subject to approval by the New York State Department of Financial Services. Press Release.
On April 22, Judge Mariana R. Pfaelzer of the United States District Court for the Central District of California dismissed as time-barred the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation’s (FDIC) $31 million suit against JPMorgan Chase & Co., Bank of America, Citigroup and Deutsche Bank AG related to the sale of RMBS originated by Countrywide. FDIC sued as receiver for Strategic Capital Bank. Judge Pfaelzer held that a reasonable investor in Countrywide securities could have sued before May 22, 2008, and therefore a reasonably diligent investor should have discovered alleged misstatements in the offering documents before that date. The Court held that the statute of limitations for later-filed federal claims was not tolled by an earlier action because it was filed in state court, and the plaintiff had not purchased any of the same tranches as Strategic Capital Bank. Decision.