LBBW Luxemburg SA has filed a securities fraud lawsuit against Wells Fargo & Co. (WFC) and its unit Wachovia Corp. over an alleged $1.5 billion securities fraud scam. The case involves transaction in 2006 involving Wells Fargo selling what they allegedly touted as securities with high ratings to LBBW and other customers. LBBW, a Landesbank Baden-Wurttemberg subsidiary, bought $40 million of these residential mortgage-backed securities.
Now, the European bank is contending that the underlying mortgages were riskier than represented and not worth their buying price. Within a year, the securities had defaulted. LBBW is alleging common law fraud, breach of contract, constructive fraud, negligent misrepresentation, and breach of fiduciary duty.
Per the plaintiff’s attorneys, the alleged financial fraud was discovered after the SEC investigated a $5.5 million investment that the Zuni Indian Tribe’s employee pension fund made. The Securities and Exchange Commission had accused Wachovia of selling overpriced equity in Grant Avenue II, a collateralized debt obligation, to the tribe and another investor. The Commission contended that after marking down some of the equity to 52.7 cents on the dollar, Wachovia charged 90 cents and 95 cents on the dollar. The bank was also accused of misleading investors in Longshore 3, another CDO, by saying that assets had been acquired from affiliates at prices that were fair market when, actually, claims the regulator, 40 securities had been moved at prices that were above market and Wachovia moved assets at prices that were stale so it wouldn’t have to report the losses.
The SEC said that while it did not consider Wachovia to have acted improperly in the way it structured the CDOs, the bank violated investment protection rules by using stale prices, even as buyers were being told the prices were fair market value, and charging excessive markups in secret. The Commission found that the Zuni Indians and other investors suffered financial losses as a result. Last year, Wachovia agreed to pay $11 million to settle charges accusing it of violating federal securities laws in its sale of MBS leading up to the collapse of the housing market.
European Bank LBBW Sues Wells Fargo Over Alleged $1.5 Billion Securities Fraud, The Sacramento Bee, October 1, 2012
German bank sues Wells Fargo alleging $1.5 billion securities fraud, San Francisco Business Times, October 2, 2012
Wells Fargo Settles Case Originating At Wachovia, The New York Times, April 5, 2012
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