Steven Fink

Partner

New York


Read full biography at www.orrick.com
Steve Fink, a partner in the New York office, practices in the areas of commercial and securities litigation.

Steve has handled a wide range of investment-related disputes, including RMBS disclosure and put-back litigation, structured finance waterfall disputes, disputes between private equity fund managers and their limited partners, auditor liability matters, and disputes concerning financing arrangements for life settlements and alternative energy projects.  He has also been heavily involved in litigation concerning the termination and valuation of derivatives transactions, including credit default swaps, interest rate swaps and reserve fund agreements, among others.

Posts by: Steven J. Fink

New York Appellate Court Holds Repurchase Demand Analysis Is Not Protected Work Product

On June 23, 2016, the First Department of the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court of the State of New York decided an appeal in an action brought by Bank of New York Mellon, as RMBS Trustee, against WMC Mortgage and JP Morgan. In its decision, the Court held that originator WMC’s repurchase demand analysis is not protected work product because it was not primarily prepared in anticipation of litigation and was a regular part of the loan originator’s business. The court therefore affirmed the decision of the trial court, Justice Shirley Werner Kornreich, ordering WMC Mortgage to produce the repurchase demand analysis. Order.

RMBS Suit to Proceed Against Morgan Stanley

On June 16, 2016, Justice Marcy S. Friedman of the Supreme Court of the State of New York largely denied Morgan Stanley’s motion to dismiss a breach of contract action brought by RMBS trustee Wilmington Trust Company. The court dismissed the trustee’s claim for indemnification of attorney’s fees, finding that the contracts did not unmistakably contemplate such indemnification. The court denied without prejudice defendant’s motion to dismiss the trustee’s claim as to non-Morgan Stanley loans in the offering at issue, as the parties did not have the opportunity to address the import of recent RMBS precedent or whether the repurchase demand in this case included any such loans. The court will receive further briefing on the import of a 2015 intermediate appellate court decision, previously covered here, on plaintiff’s claim that the bank improperly failed to notify the trustee of breaches Morgan Stanley discovered. The court denied the remainder of Morgan Stanley’s motion to dismiss. Following her prior decisions (such as her decision in ACE on remand from the Court of Appeals, covered here), Justice Friedman held that the trustee’s claims for breach of contract were timely filed within the statute of limitations, and that its claim for damages was not precluded by the repurchase protocol. Order.

Judge Mostly Denies Deutsche Bank National Trust Co.’s Motion to Dismiss in RMBS Class Action

On February 3, Judge Alison Nathan of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York largely denied Deutsche Bank National Trust Co.’s (the “Trustee’s”) motion to dismiss in a proposed class action brought by Royal Park Investments SA/NV over $3.1 billion in losses in residential mortgage-backed securities.  Royal Park alleged that the Trustee failed to require the loan sellers to repurchase or substitute loans when it became aware that the underlying mortgages were defaulting.  Judge Nathan rejected the Trustee’s argument that Royal Park failed to make a written demand to initiate a repurchase action as required in the trusts’ pooling and service agreements, holding that the Trustee had an obligation to provide notice to the other parties when it independently discovered breaches of representations and warranties.  Judge Nathan did, however, dismiss Royal Park’s derivative claims on behalf of 10 trusts that held the loans because the suit was direct rather than derivative in nature.  Order.

Morgan Stanley Settles RMBS Litigation with FDIC for $63M

On January 29, Morgan Stanley and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation agreed to settle five suits encompassing state and federal claims alleging that Morgan Stanley made misrepresentations in offering residential mortgage-backed securities to three now-defunct banks.  Morgan Stanley will pay $63 million to the FDIC, as receiver for Colonial Bank of Montgomery, Alabama, Security Savings Bank of Henderson, New York, and United Western Bank of Denver, Colorado.  Morgan Stanley denied all liability regarding the claims, and the settlement agreement specified that the parties settled in order to avoid further litigation.  The settlement was reached in coordination with the Department of Justice.  Settlement and Release Agreement.

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.

RMBS Suit Against WMC Mortgage LLC Dismissed as Time-Barred

On July 10, 2015, Judge Alvin Hellerstein of the Southern District of New York granted defendant WMC Mortgage LLC’s motion for judgment on the pleadings in an action brought by the Federal Housing Financial Agency (“FHFA”) and Deutsche Bank National Trust Co. (“DBNTC”), in its capacity as Trustee of the SABR 2006-WM4 Trust.  Judge Hellerstein held that the action was time-barred under New York’s six-year statute of limitations, citing the New York Court of Appeals’ decision in ACE Securities Corp., Home Equity Loan Trust, Series 2006-SL2 v. DB Structured Products, Inc.  Judge Hellerstein concluded that the date on which the statute of limitations began to run was the signing date of the Pooling and Servicing Agreement, as opposed to the closing date, because the signing date was the point at which “all the right, title and interest” to the mortgage loans were transferred to the Trustee, and when all misrepresentations were made.  Order.

HSBC Motion to Dismiss Denied in Part in Trustee RMBS Suits by Blackrock, Royal Park Investments, and Phoenix Light

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.

JP Morgan Reaches Agreement in Principle to Settle Dispute Over $17.6B in MBS

On January 8, 2015, plaintiffs in a class action lawsuit against JP Morgan Chase informed the court that the parties had an agreement in principle to settle the case. The suit was initially commenced against Bear Stearns in August of 2008, and alleged that the bank misrepresented the underwriting process and the quality of the underlying loans in connection with $17.6 billion in RMBS. The settlement will be subject to approval by Judge Swain of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York. Preliminary papers seeking such approval are scheduled to be filed on February 2, 2015.  Endorsed Status Report.

Delaware Chancery Court Revives Repurchase Litigation

On January 12, 2015, Vice Chancellor Laster of the Delaware Chancery Court granted the plaintiff’s motion for reargument and revived the breach of contract claims that the court had previously held to be untimely in Bear Stearns Mortgage Funding Trust 2006-SL1 v. EMC Mortgage Corp. and JPMorgan Chase Bank, N.A.. First, the court concluded that a controlling Delaware Supreme Court decision the parties had not previously identified required application of New York’s six year statute of limitations, rather than Delaware’s three-year limitation period. The lawsuit was commenced within six years of the alleged breach, rendering it timely under New York law. Second, the court alternatively reasoned (in dicta) that even assuming Delaware law applied, the action would be timely due to the contract’s accrual provision, which stated that the repurchase claims would not accrue until the plaintiff’s demands were refused. This constituted a “condition precedent” to the action that tolled accrual under Delaware law, a position New York courts have to date rejected. The Court further concluded that the accrual provision validly extended the statute of limitations as permitted by a recent Delaware statute, which permits parties to extend the period up to 20 years (under New York law, parties are not permitted to extend the limitations period by agreement).  Order.

NCUA Sues U.S. Bank and Bank of America for Allegedly Failing to Comply with RMBS Trustee Duties

On December 16, National Credit Union Administration filed a lawsuit in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York against U.S. Bank N.A. and Bank of America N.A., in their capacity as trustees for 99 RMBS trusts. NCUA filed the suit as liquidating agent for five failed credit unions collectively alleged to have purchased certificates in the trusts at issue. NCUA alleges that U.S. Bank and Bank of America breached their duties under the governing trust agreements by failing to properly review and monitor the loans backing the RMBS, 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. The complaint asserts causes of action under the Trust Indenture Act and the Streit Act, a New York statute that governs administration of mortgage trusts, and seeks compensatory damages and unspecified equitable relief.  Complaint.