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Articles Posted in Mortgage-Backed Securities

In two mortgage-backed securities settlements reached with the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), Nomura Securities International will collectively pay customers about $25M. The enforcement actions involve residential mortgage-backed securities (RMBS) and commercial mortgage-backed securities (CMBS), respectively.

According to the SEC, Nomura failed to properly supervise its bond traders, who are accused of making statements that were false and misleading to customers by trying to get them to buy RMBS and CMBS. This purportedly included providing misleading information about:

    • How much Nomura had paid for the securities.

Morgan Stanley (MS) has agreed to a $150M settlement with the California State Teachers’ Retirement System (CalSTRS) and the California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS) to resolve claims that it misled investors about the risks involved in mortgage-backed securities, which both pension funds purchased from 2003 to 2007. CalSTRS and CalPERS lost millions of dollars from investing in these MBSs prior to the 2008 financial crisis.

In a news release, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra accused Morgan Stanley of placing profits over the pension funds’ public employees and teachers when the firm didn’t fully disclose the MBSs’ risks. These complex investments package together thousands of mortgage loans, and not all of the loans share the same level of quality.

Mr. Becerra’s office, which conducted a probe into Morgan Stanley’s handling of MBS sales, found that the brokerage firm did not “accurately” portray many of the underlying mortgages’ “true” traits. Meanwhile, the broker-dealer allegedly overstated the quality of certain subprime loans, including those from New Century Financial, which eventually went bankrupt. Morgan Stanley is accused of knowing about these misrepresentations but doing nothing to remedy the matter.

The US government has filed a civil lawsuit against UBS AG and a number of its UBS-based affiliates accusing them of defrauding investors who purchased residential mortgage-backed securities (RMBS) from the firm in the two years prior to the 2008 economic crisis. UBS purportedly securitized over $41B of mortgage loans in deals that ended up becoming “catastrophic failures.”

According to a news release by the US Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Georgia, which was published by the US Department of Justice, the federal government is alleging that UBS:

• Misled investors about the quality of billions of dollars worth of Alt-A and subprime mortgage loans that were backing 40 RMBS deals.

HSBC will pay a $765M penalty over claims involving its packaging, marketing, and sale of residential mortgage-backed securities prior to the 2008 economic crisis. According to the US Attorney Bob Troyer, from the beginning HSBC employed a due diligence process that it knew was ineffective, “chose” to place faulty mortgages in deals, and disregarded these problems even as it sold the RMBSs to investors. As a result, contends the US government, investors, including federally-insured financial institutions that bought the HSBC Residential Mortgage-Backed Securities that were backed by faulty loans, sustained “major losses.”

HSBC had touted using a proprietary model that would choose 20% of the riskiest loans for further examination and another 5% that would be randomly chosen. The government, however, claims that the financial firm’s trading desk exerted undue influence on which loans would be securitized and sometimes failed to employ a random sample. Outside vendors then studied the chosen loans.

The US alleges that even when a number of loans were marked as low grade, HSBC “waived” them through or regraded them, and concerns about loans that had defaulted right away were purportedly disregarded. The bank even allegedly continued to buy loans from an originator who was found to likely be providing loans that were fraudulent.

In yet another mortgaged securities-related resettlement, Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) has agreed to pay $500M to settle New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s case accusing the bank of misrepresentations and deceptive practices related to it sale residential mortgage-backed securities (RMBS). $400M of the payment is consumer relief, while $100M is a fine that will go to the state.

NY’s probe concentrated on 44 mortgage securitizations that RBS issued leading up to the 2008 financial crisis. The NY AG said that during that time, due diligence vendors cautioned the bank that a lot of the loans it was buying were not in compliance with underwriting guidelines. Still, the bank bundled the loans and touted them as secure to investors, many of whom bought the RMBSs.

Schneiderman’s probe found that some of the mortgages backing the bonds at issue had over 100% loan to value ratios, meaning that “they were ‘underwater’.” Now, RBS is admitting that it sold mortgage bonds backed by loans that failed to abide by underwriting guidelines even as the bank maintained that they were, in fact, in compliance.

The bank also acknowledged that it had limited how much diligence it performed on mortgages, resulting in a lot of the loans being securitized even though no due diligence was conducted at all.

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Walter A. Morales III, a money manager who for years worked with high net worth individual investors and pension funds, is now barred from the securities industry. Morales resolved the US Securities and Exchange Commission’s 2012 civil lawsuit accusing him and his Commonwealth Advisors of fraud and mismanagement this week.

The regulator contends that of the approximately $750M that his clients invested through him, Morales and his firm lost over $178M in subprime and residential mortgage-backed securities (RMBSs). According to the Commission, Morales lied about heavy mortgage-backed securities losses to clients and instead tried to conceal them through trades involving his different hedge funds while touting prices that were fraudulent.

The regulator claims that Walters and his investment adviser firm recommended that the hedge funds buy into Collybus, a collateralized debt obligation (CDO) that was considered among the most high risk of such investments and the lowest of tranches. MBSs were sold into CDOs at outdated prices even while Morales was purportedly aware that the market for RMBSs had since dropped. When the CDOs kept doing poorly, Commonwealth employees were directed to engage in manipulative trading among the hedge funds they advised to hide a $32M loss sustained by one of the funds that invested in Collybus.

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In a civil settlement reached with the US Securities and Exchange Commission, Deutsche Bank Securities will repay commercial mortgage-backed securities customers more than $3.7M over allegedly false and misleading statements related to their purchase of these investments. The firm and its ex-CMBS trading desk head trader Benjamin Solomon agreed to resolve the charges against them but without denying or admitting to regulator’s findings.

According to the SEC’s probe, when selling the CMBSs, Deutsche Bank (DB)’s salespeople and traders made statements that were false and misleading. This caused customers to pay too much for the securities because they were not given accurate information about how much the firm had paid for them. Deutsche Bank also is accused of not having properly designed procedures for surveillance and compliance that could stop and identify the types of wrongful behaviors that would cause commercial mortgage-backed securities buyers financial harm while allowing the firm to profit.

To resolve the CMBS fraud charges, Deutsche Bank will pay customers back all profits on the securities’ trades in which a misrepresentation was made. That figure is over $3.7M, including $1.48M of disgorgement. The bank will also pay a $750K penalty.

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According to Reuters, Royal Bank of Scotland Group plc (RBS) has settled a mortgage-backed securities fraud case brought by the California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS) and the California State Teachers’ Retirement System (CalSTRS) for $125M. The settlement resolves claims alleging that the bank made misrepresentations when selling MBSs to the pension funds, which contend that they sustained millions of dollars in losses as a result.

According to California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, a probe by his office determined that the descriptions the firm provided to investors “failed to accurately disclose the true characteristics” of many of the mortgages backing the securities, but that RBS, which knew about the alleged misrepresentations, did nothing to remedy them. The state AG’s investigation also found that RBS did not conduct the necessary due diligence to eliminate the loans that were of “poor quality.” Becerra contends that RBS purposely misled CalPERS and CalSTRS to enrich itself. He noted that the MBS fraud settlement gives back the money to the pension funds that the bank “wrongfully took” from them.

Already, The California AG’s office has gotten back more than $1B over securities that were sold to the state’s public pension funds, which sustained losses during the economic crisis of 2008. Last year, $150M was recovered from Moody’s, the credit rating agency. In 2015, $210M was recovered from another credit rating agency, Standard & Poor’s. Other banks to have settled include Citigroup (C) for $102M, Bank of America for $300M and J.P. Morgan Chase (JPM) for $300M.

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A jury in Manhattan federal court found that UBS Group (UBS) owes ex-commercial mortgage-backed securities strategist Trevor Murray $903K after he turned whistleblower on the Swiss lender. Murray contends that he was fired after reporting that CMBS traders had tried to affect his research reports, which were supposed to be independent.

Murray claims that UBS CMBS bond trading head and managing director David MacNamara insisted on screening drafts of the strategist’s reports in advance, which violates firm policy. The former UBS strategist accused Kenneth Cohen, his former boss, of being the one to instigate the pre-clearance process and calling his reports “off message.”

Testifying about one instance, Murray spoke about how Cohen instructed him not to put down anything negative regarding the hotel sector since UBS was engaged in financing for a Miami Beach hotel. The ex-UBS strategist said that he disregarded Cohen’s alleged instructions and notified clients about his worries.

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In New York Court of Appeals, MBIA Insurance Corp. and Credit Suisse Securities USA LLC (CS) presented arguments over whether to resuscitate part of the $235M mortgage-backed securities case brought by the insurer against the financial firm. NY Supreme Court Judge Shirley Werner Kornreich previously took out the fraud claim in MBIA’s case after finding that bond insurer wanted the same damages from both that claim and its contract claim. MBIA has since appealed, arguing that Kornreich misread the facts presented, as well as the applicable case law.

The bond insurer contends that both the contract and fraud claims are separate and valid. Credit Suisse, meantime, maintains that contract and fraud claims are “duplicative.”

In addition to cutting the insurer’s fraud claim from the lawsuit, Kornreich rejected MBIA’s request that she find that Credit Suisse breached its warranties regarding the mortgages’ quality in about 29% of instances. The judge also called MBIA to task for not doing its own due diligence regarding the loans’ quality.

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