Judge Cote Grants Partial Summary Judgment in RMBS Suit

On July 10, 2015, Judge Denise Cote of the Southern District of New York granted partial summary judgment in favor of defendants WMC Mortgage LLC and GE Mortgage Holding LLC in an action filed by Trustee Bank of New York Mellon (“BoNY”) in connection with the sale of over $900 Million in RMBS.  Judge Cote dismissed BoNY’s failure to repurchase claim against WMC, citing ACE v. DB Structured Products, which held that a failure to repurchase claim is not a separately enforceable right that gives rise to a separate breach of contract claim independent of a claim for breach of representations and warranties.  Judge Cote also dismissed BoNY’s indemnification claims against both defendants as duplicative of BoNY’s claim for breach of the representations and warranties in the Mortgage Loan Purchase Agreements (“MLPAs”).  BoNY’s primary claim, for breach of representations and warranties, was not a subject of the motion for partial summary judgment.  Opinion and Order.

In a separate decision, also issued on July 10, Judge Cote denied the defendants’ request for a jury trial, holding that the Trustee’s remaining claims, for breaches of the MLPAs and Pooling and Servicing Agreement seek equitable remedies.  Opinion and Order.

Rating Agency Developments

On April 23, Fitch released its updated criteria for rating operational risk of U.S. servicers of RMBS and small balance commercial securitiesReport.

On April 23, Fitch released its updated criteria for rating operational risk of servicers of various structured finance products, including RMBS, CMBS, and ABS.  Report.

On April 22, Moody’s released its rating methodology for monitoring scheduled amortization UK student loan-backed securities.   Report.

On April 21, Fitch released its updated criteria for analyzing trust-preferred CDOsReport.

On April 17, DBRS released its updated criteria for commercial paper liquidity support for non-bank issuers. Report.

On April 17, DBRS released its criteria for rating market-linked securitiesReport.

Rating Agency Developments

On March 27, DBRS released its updated methodology for rating North American commercial mortgage-backed securities (CMBS).  Report.

On March 27, Fitch released its updated criteria for analyzing U.S. wireless tower transactionsReport.

On March 31, Fitch released its updated criteria for analyzing loans securing residential mortgage-backed securities (RMBS) under the ability-to-repay and qualified mortgage standards that the Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection adopted as part of its amendments to Regulation Z under the Truth in Lending Act.  Report.

On April 1, DBRS released its updated methodology for the surveillance of European structured finance and covered bonds transactionsReport.

Motion to Dismiss Action Against RMBS Trustee Denied

On March 31, 2015, Judge Shira Scheindlin of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York denied HSBC Bank USA, National Association’s (“HSBC”) motion to dismiss an action brought by a consortium of investors in RMBS for lack of subject matter jurisdiction.  The plaintiffs’ Complaint alleges, inter alia, that HSBC failed to discharge its duties as Trustee for 271 RMBS Trusts in violation of the Trustee Indenture Act (“TIA”) and state common law.  Because the TIA governs only 27 of the 271 Trusts at issue, the plaintiffs invoked supplemental jurisdiction as the basis for the court to hear the claims as to the remaining 244 Trusts.  Judge Scheindlin denied HSBC’s motion, holding that the plaintiffs’ claims all arise from the “same nucleus of operative fact” because the relevant governing agreements all contain substantially similar contract provisions and impose similar duties on HSBC in its capacity as Trustee.  Judge Scheindlin added that judicial economy would be served by retaining supplemental jurisdiction as proof of both the TIA and non-TIA claims would require depositions of many of the same witnesses.  Order.

UBS and Capital Ventures Settle RMBS Dispute

On March 26, Capital Ventures International and several UBS affiliates filed a stipulation of dismissal after reaching a settlement disposing of all claims in the action.  The terms of the settlement are undisclosed.  Capital Ventures had sued UBS for alleged violations of the Massachusetts Uniform Securities Act in connection with $131 million in RMBS that Capital Ventures allegedly purchased from UBS.  Stipulation.

RBS Motion to Dismiss RMBS Fraud Claim Granted in Part

On March 20, U.S. District Judge Paul G. Gardephe of the Southern District of New York granted in part and denied in part Defendants’ motion to dismiss a complaint filed by several HSH Nordbank affiliates against several RBS affiliates relating to Plaintiffs’ investment in RMBS issued or underwritten by RBS.  The court held that Plaintiffs sufficiently alleged fraudulent intent in connection with alleged misstatements concerning the underlying loans’ compliance with underwriting guidelines, but failed to do so in connection with alleged misstatements concerning the loans’ LTV and CLTV ratios, and owner occupancy rates, as well as the RMBS certificates’ credit ratings and the validity of the assignment of the mortgages to the RMBS trusts.  The court thus allowed Plaintiffs’ fraud and aiding and abetting fraud claims to proceed as to alleged misstatements concerning compliance with underwriting guidelines only.  The court separately dismissed Plaintiffs’ claims for negligent misrepresentation and fraudulent concealment due to the absence of privity, as well as Plaintiffs’ claim for rescission based on mutual mistake.  Order.

District Court Allows NCUA’s RMBS Suit to Proceed Against RBS

Nat’l Credit Union Admin. Bd. v. RBS Sec. Inc. et al., No. 2:11-cv-05887 (C.D. Cal. July 18, 2011)

On March 16, 2015, Judge George Wu of the United States District Court for the Central District of California denied RBS Securities Inc.’s motion to dismiss the National Credit Union Administration’s second amended complaint.  In July 2011, NCUA sued RBS on behalf of WesCorp, a federal credit union, in order to recover billions of dollars for failed wholesale credit unions claiming investment banks misled them about the nature and quality of offered RMBS.  NCUA alleges that RBS’ underwriters downplayed investment risks and made misrepresentations in offering documents by underestimating the likelihood that borrowers would default on their mortgages.  Judge Wu said that the court would not consider a motion to dismiss parts of claims under F.R.C.P. 12(b)(6).  He noted that his approach differed from that of Judge John W. Lungstrum of the District of Kansas, who agreed to hear motions to dismiss portions of a claim in NCUA v. RBS Secs., Inc., No. 11-2340-JWL (D. Kan. June 20, 2011), denying and granting those motions in part.  Order.

 

US Bank Cannot Revive Majority of MBS Suit Against Citigroup

U.S. Bank NA v. Citigroup Global Markets Realty Corp., No. 1:13-cv-06989 (S.D.N.Y. Oct. 1, 2013)

On March 16, 2015, Judge George B. Daniels of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York denied the majority of claims in U.S. Bank’s attempt to refile an amended complaint against Citigroup Global Markets Realty Corp. and CitiMortgage, Inc.  U.S. Bank, as RMBS trustee, had sued Citigroup in October 2013, alleging that it breached representations and warranties in a $832 million RMBS deal.  In November 2014, Judge Daniels dismissed most of the claims, but permitted leave to amend.  In addressing U.S. Bank’s proposed amendments, Judge Daniels first held that the cause of action for breach of representations and warranties was untimely as to certain loans under the six-year statute of limitations.  Next, it dismissed U.S. Bank’s second claim that Citigroup independently discovered defects in the loan pool through due diligence or government investigations, because U.S. Bank failed to allege non-speculative facts plausibly showing such discovery.  These rulings were substantially similar to those set forth in the November 2014 order.  Finally, Judge Daniels permitted U.S. Bank’s third cause of action to proceed, holding that the plaintiff sufficiently pleaded that CitiMortgage discovered breaches of representations and warranties during its servicing of the securitized loans, and did not fulfill its contractual duties to notify the parties of the breaches and to enforce Citigroup’s cure or repurchase obligation.  Order

Court Approves RMBS Settlement, Rejecting Institutional Investors’ Attempts to Scuttle It

On March 12, 2015, Judge Katherine B. Forrest of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York approved a $69 million settlement between the plaintiffs and defendants in Policemen’s Annuity & Benefit Fund of the City of Chicago v. Bank of America and dismissed the case with prejudice.  Plaintiffs, a class of investors, had sued Bank of America and U.S. Bancorp in their capacity as trustees for 50 Washington Mutual RMBS.  Plaintiffs alleged that the trustees breached the Trusts’ Governing Agreements and the duty of food faith and fair dealing, and violated the Trust Indenture Act.  Judge Forrest’s approval of the settlement came one week after she denied certain institutional investors’ motion to intervene in the action for purposes of blocking the settlement.  The institutional investors, led by BlackRock and PIMCO, currently are asserting derivative claims against U.S. Bank, as Trustee, on behalf of 843 RMBS Trusts, and asserted that the settlement excluded them while simultaneously releasing their claims as to RMBS Trusts that overlapped between the two actions.  The Court disagreed, finding that although BlackRock and PIMCO were excused from the settlement, the settlement did not release the claims they were pursuing.  Order Approving Settlement.  Stipulation and Settlement.  Order Re Motion to Intervene.

New York Supreme Court Holds RMBS Claims Are Timely, But Accrual Provision Unenforceable

On March 3, 2015, Justice Marcy S. Friedman of the New York Supreme Court granted in part and dismissed in part Defendant Greenpoint Mortgage Funding, Inc.’s Motion to Dismiss an action in which it was said to have misrepresented the quality of loans underlying an RMBS transaction.  Plaintiff-Trustee, U.S. Bank National Association, argued that the case was timely under a provision of the governing Mortgage Loan Sale Agreement providing that no claim accrues for breach of a repurchase obligation until the purchaser discovers a breaching loan (or is so notified), the seller fails to cure such breach, and the purchaser makes a demand for cure.  The court rejected the plaintiff’s reliance on this accrual provision, citing earlier decisions holding that New York law precludes the extension of an applicable statute of limitations by contract.  The court nonetheless concluded that the action was timely, finding that the plaintiff had pled sufficient facts to state a claim that Greenpoint was aware of breaches within the limitations period.  Additionally, Justice Friedman granted the motion to dismiss the plaintiff’s claims for (1) reimbursement of attorney’s fees, as these were not encompassed by the MLSA’s indemnification provisions, (2) all claims that sought relief beyond that permitted under the contract’s sole remedy provision, and (3) claims for breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing, which the court found to be duplicative of the underlying contract claim.  Order.