On February 6, 2015, Judge Stanley Chesler of the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey granted in part and denied in part Bank of America’s motions to dismiss two related cases filed against it by several Prudential Insurance Company affiliates. Prudential asserted common law fraud, misrepresentation, and RICO claims against several Bank of America entities arising out of Prudential’s investment in $1.9 billion in RMBS. Judge Chesler dismissed Prudential’s fraud claim, holding that Prudential failed to adequately allege falsity and/or scienter in connection with alleged misstatements concerning occupancy status, appraisals, and credit ratings. He also held that, for the 21 securitizations at issue for which Bank of America served as underwriter only, Prudential failed to allege with the required specificity which Bank of America entity made which challenged representations. Judge Chesler dismissed both of Prudential’s negligent misrepresentation claims. He granted Prudential limited leave to amend in connection with the fraud claim relating to those securitizations for which Bank of America served as underwriter only. Opinion.
On December 23 and 24, Phoenix Light SF Limited and other RMBS certificateholders filed suit against HSBC, Wells Fargo, Deutsche Bank, Bank of New York Mellon, U.S. Bank, and Bank of America in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York regarding $2.4 billion in RMBS. The complaints assert causes of action under the Trust Indenture Act and a provision of the New York Real Property Law known as the Streit Act, as well as under state law for breach of contract, breach of fiduciary duty, negligence, gross negligence, and negligent misrepresentation. Plaintiffs allege that the trustees breached their duties under the governing trust agreements by failing to notify the investors of deficiencies in the loans, failing to take action to address those alleged deficiencies, and failing to require the repurchase of defective loans. Plaintiffs seek compensatory damages and unspecified equitable relief. HSBC Complaint. Wells Fargo Complaint. Deutsche Bank Complaint. BNY Mellon Complaint. U.S. Bank and Bank of America Complaint.
On December 27, Ambac Assurance Corporation filed a complaint against several Countrywide entities and Bank of America Corporation in New York state court, seeking to recover at least $600 million in damages in connection with claims payments Ambac allegedly made under insurance policies it issued on eight RMBS trusts. Ambac alleges that between 2005 and 2007, Countrywide made false and misleading statements at meetings with Ambac and in prospectus supplements and loan tapes issued in connection with the trusts that induced Ambac to issue its insurance policies. Ambac asserts a cause of action for fraudulent inducement against the Countrywide entities and a cause of action for successor liability against Bank of America. Complaint.
On November 25, the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit upheld the dismissal of IKB Deutsche Industriebank AG’s suit against Bank of America. IKB alleged that BofA fraudulently misrepresented the quality of loans underlying mortgage backed securities sold in 2005 and 2006. The court held that the complaint’s generalized allegations that BofA knew of claimed mortgage defects by virtue of access to due diligence reports prepared by Clayton and BofA’s own due diligence procedures were not sufficient to plead fraudulent intent. The court also affirmed dismissal of IKB’s claim for fraud relating to representations about the transfer of mortgages to the issuing trust, holding that these representations constituted promises to perform in the future and thus were not the proper subject of a fraud claim absent allegations that there was an intent not to perform at the time the promises were made. Summary Order.
On October 30, Bank of America notified Judge Katherine B. Forrest of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York of a planned settlement of an action brought by pension funds in 2012. The funds had alleged that Bank of America and U.S. Bank violated their duty to ensure that the loans underlying 19 Washington Mutual RMBS portfolios did not contain missing, defective, or incomplete documents, and to ensure that defective loans were removed from the trusts. The complaint included claims for violating the Trust Indenture Act of 1939, breach of contract, and breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing. Letter. Complaint.
On August 28, in light of a settlement reached between the parties, Judge Mariana R. Pfaelzer of the United States District Court for the Central District of California dismissed a lawsuit brought by National Integrity Life Insurance Company against various Bank of America and Countrywide entities in connection with more than US$447 million in RMBS. The complaint alleged claims under the Securities Act of 1933, the Ohio Securities Act, the Ohio Corrupt Activities Act, and various common law causes of action arising out of alleged misstatements made in the RMBS offering documents. The amount and terms of the settlement were not disclosed. Order.
On August 18, Judge Katherine Forrest of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York terminated a pending motion for class certification in light of a settlement in principle reached between a class of RMBS investors and Bank of America N.A. and U.S. Bank N.A., the trustees for the RMBS trusts. Plaintiffs had alleged that Bank of America and U.S. Bank allowed incomplete or defective loan files as well as loans with underwriting errors to remain in the loan pool, despite their statutory duty as trustees to have such loans repurchased from the trusts. The amount and terms of the settlement were not disclosed. Order.
On March 26, Bank of America and the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA), as conservator of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, announced a settlement of FHFA’s RMBS-related suits against the Bank. The Bank has agreed to pay approximately US$9.3 billion to settle allegations that it violated federal and state securities laws in connection with private-label RMBS purchased by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac between 2005 and 2007. Pursuant to the agreement, approximately US$5.83 billion will be allocated by FHFA to settle all claims asserted in four lawsuits brought by FHFA against Bank of America, Countrywide, and Merrill Lynch, and the remainder will be allocated to repurchases by Bank of America of RMBS held by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Bank of America Press Release. FHFA Press Release. Settlement Agreement.
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.