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 March 14, several Prudential entities filed suit in the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey against several Bank of America and Merrill Lynch entities in connection with Prudential’s investments in more than $2 billion in RMBS sold by the Defendants. The Complaint alleges that the Defendants made knowingly false statements of material fact and omissions regarding compliance with underwriting guidelines, omissions regarding due diligence results and misrepresentations as to owner-occupancy rates, appraisals, loan-to-value ratios, assignments of the loans underlying the securities to the trusts and the credit ratings of the securities. Prudential asserts causes of action for common-law fraud and fraudulent inducement, aiding and abetting fraud and fraudulent inducement, equitable fraud, negligent misrepresentation, violations of New Jersey’s civil RICO statute and violations of sections 11 and 12(a)(2) of the Securities Act of 1933. Complaint.
On March 15, Judge Eileen Bransten of the Supreme Court of the State of New York granted in part and denied in part motions to dismiss brought by Merrill Lynch, Deutsche Bank and Morgan Stanley entities (together Defendants) in respective lawsuits brought against them by certain Allstate entities related to Allstate’s purchases of RMBS. The court dismissed Allstate’s negligent misrepresentation claim against all Defendants, concluding that Allstate had not alleged either that Defendants had the required specialized knowledge or that Defendants had a special or privity-like relationship with Allstate. The court also dismissed all claims as to two of the Deutsche Bank certificates and federal securities claims against Merrill Lynch as untimely, but rejected Defendants’ arguments that other claims were untimely. The court denied Defendants’ motions to dismiss as to Allstate’s fraud claims. The court also concluded that Defendants can face liability for distributing statements they allegedly knew to be false, even if the statements were originally made by third parties, such as originators or rating agencies. Deutsche Bank Order; Merrill Order; Morgan Stanley Order.
On January 10, Judge Mariana R. Pfaelzer of the United States District Court for the Central District of California dismissed a $193 million suit brought by mutual fund Asset Management Fund against several Bank of America and several related entities, including Merrill Lynch and Countrywide Financial. The case initially was brought in New York Supreme Court and was removed to federal court and later transferred to be part of the Countrywide Multi-District Litigation. The plaintiffs brought claims for common law fraud, fraudulent concealment, negligent misrepresentation, and aiding and abetting the fraud of others. The court held that the suit, alleging misrepresentations regarding the underlying mortgage loans including compliance with underwriting rate of owner occupancy, ratio of LTV, and transfer of title, was untimely under all of the statutes of limitations that could apply. The court granted Asset Management Fund leave to replead as to the $10 million purchase of RMBS it allegedly made after March 1, 2007. Decision.
On December 18, 2012, U.S. Bank, acting in its capacity as Trustee for two Merrill Lynch RMBS trusts that issued over $1 billion in RMBS certificates, filed a complaint in New York Supreme Court against Merrill Lynch. The Trustee alleges that Merrill Lynch breached representations and warranties concerning the borrowers’ income and employment, the borrowers’ debts and debt-to-income ratio at the time the mortgages were originated, property value and loan-to-value ratios, and the owner-occupancy rates of the underlying properties. The Trustee asserts seven causes of action for breach of contract, anticipatory breach, and declaratory judgment, and seeks to require Merrill Lynch to repurchase the loans. Complaint.
On July 16, Judge Lewis A. Kaplan of U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York remanded suits brought by Bayerische Landesbank against Bear Stearns and Merrill Lynch to the Supreme Court of the State of New York, where they were originally filed. The lawsuits allege that Defendants knowingly made misrepresentations in RMBS offering materials concerning the underwriting standards used in connection with the underlying mortgage loans. Defendants sought removal to federal court on the ground that the cases were related to bankruptcy proceedings of the originators of some of the underlying mortgages. Judge Kaplan’s remand order indicated that a further written order may be forthcoming. Order. Notice of Removal.
On May 18, 2012, the FDIC, in its capacity as receiver for two failed banks, filed two actions in the Southern District of New York arising out of the banks’ alleged purchase of RMBS. In the first suit, the FDIC asserts claims on behalf of Citizens National Bank and Strategic Capital Bank that arise out of the banks’ investment in ten RMBS certificates worth $140.5 million issued and/or underwritten by the defendants, including Bear Stearns, Citigroup, Credit Suisse, Merrill Lynch, and Deutsche Bank. Complaint. In the second suit, the FDIC asserts claims on behalf of Strategic Capital Bank arising out of the bank’s investment in five RMBS certificates worth $31 million underwritten by JP Morgan, Citigroup, Bank of America, and Deustche Bank. Complaint. In both suits, the FDIC alleged that the defendant banks violated Sections 11 and 15 of the Securities Act of 1933 by making material misstatements and omissions in the certificates’ registration statements regarding, among other things, the loan to value ratios of the mortgages underlying the certificates, the appraisal standards used in connection with the appraisals of the underlying properties, whether the borrowers intended to occupy the properties as their primary residences, and whether the originators complied with their underwriting guidelines when originating the underlying mortgages. The FDIC seeks a combined total of $77 million in damages, plus attorneys’ fees and costs.
On May 15, 2012, IKB Deutsche Industriebank AG and an IKB affiliate filed two lawsuits against Bank of America and related entities in the New York Supreme Court. The first, in which several Countrywide entities are also defendants, arises out of IKB’s alleged investment in 29 RMBS certificates worth $200.3 million issued by Countrywide. The second, in which several Merrill Lynch entities are also defendants, arises out of IKB’s alleged investment in 13 RMBS certificates worth $56.2 million issued by Bank of America and Merrill Lynch. The summonses with notice filed in the suits are substantively identical. In each, IKB alleges that the offering materials for the RMBS in which it invested contained material misrepresentations and omissions regarding the underwriting standards used to originate the underlying mortgage loans, the statistical characteristics of the loans, the securities’ credit ratings, the legal validity of the assignment of the underlying mortgage loans to the issuing trusts, and the entitlement of the trusts to receive principal and interest payments on the loans. IKB asserts causes of action for common-law fraud, fraudulent inducement, negligent misrepresentation, aiding and abetting fraud, declaratory judgment, and contract claims. IKB seeks actual and punitive damages, rescissory damages, and fees and costs. IKB-BofA/Merrill Summons. IKB-BofA/Countrywide Summons.
German bank Bayerische Landesbank (“BayernLB”) filed suit against Merrill Lynch on May 2 in New York Supreme Court, claiming that Merrill Lynch knowingly made misrepresentations in its offering materials relating to $324 million in residential mortgage-backed securities. The complaint alleges that the offering materials falsely claimed that the mortgage loans had been underwritten to strict underwriting standards, and that Merrill Lynch misrepresented that it had conducted due diligence on the underlying loans before purchasing and securitizing them. BayernLB asserts claims for common law fraud, fraudulent inducement, and aiding and abetting fraudulent inducement, and seeks compensatory, rescissory, and punitive damages. Complaint.
On April 16, 2012, bankrupt insurer Ambac Financial Group filed suit against Bank of America as successor to Merrill Lynch, Merrill Lynch, and certain of its affiliates, in New York County Supreme Court. The complaint alleges that Merrill Lynch fraudulently induced Ambac into insuring $856 million in RMBS consisting of low-quality mortgages. Ambac alleges that Merrill Lynch misrepresented the quality of the loans, the underwriting guidelines followed, the due diligence performed, and the disclosures as to the loans, and that Ambac was required to pay out hundreds of millions of dollars in insured claims. The complaint includes claims for fraudulent inducement, breaches of representations and warranties, breach of contract, indemnification, and reimbursement. Complaint.