Articles Posted in Pension Funds

Fidelity Investments Unit Faces ERISA Fiduciary Breach Claims
Fidelity Management Trust Co. has been named a defendant in a class action securities case under ERISA law. The plaintiffs claim that the Fidelity Investments unit is in fiduciary breach under ERISA because it included a stable value fund as an investment alternative for 401(k) plan accounts. They believe that low investment returns and high fees made the fund an unwise investment for participants in a 401(k) plan.

William Perry and James Ellis are the lead plaintiffs. At different times through the Barnes & Noble Inc. 401(k) plan, they were invested in the Fidelity Group Employee Benefit Plan Managed Income Portfolio Commingled Pool (MIP) fund. Plaintiffs believe that the high fees and poor results were because of the deliberate omissions and actions of Fidelity Management Trust as MIP’s fiduciary and trustee.

According to the complaint, before 2009 Fidelity executed an investment strategy that proved unsuccessful when it placed mortgage-backed securities, asset-backed securities, and collateralized loan obligations, and others securitize debt in the portfolio. MIP lost value when the financial crisis struck. After that, Fidelity changed up its asset allocation to lower risk to the fund’s wrap providers, including AIG Financial Products, Monumental Life Insurance Company, JP Morgan Chase Bank, State Street Bank and Trust, and Rabobank Netherland. Plaintiffs believe it is this conservative strategy that led to lower returns. They said that excessive fees, which were paid to wrap providers, hurt them.

Plaintiffs represented by the class include everyone involved in ERISA-governed plans that use the fund.

Billionaire In Court Again for Pension Fund Fraud
Ira Rennert, the billionaire industrialist, is once again accused of pension fraud. This time, the allegations involve $70 million and the fund of another family-controlled company. According to the allegations, Rennert was able to avoid responsibility for pension expenses of his RG Steel company when he lied to the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation. The independent US government entity, which is the plaintiff in this pension fraud case, said it would have terminated RG Steel’s pension plan if it had known that the company was about to be sold. If that had occurred, Rennert’s Renco Group would have had to take care of pension costs.

The government entity claims that Renco president, Ari Rennert, omitted key information and lied when he told PBCG that he would keep them updated of changes. A week later, about 25% of Renco was bought by Cerberus Capital and the former no longer had a pension liability. Renco denies the allegations.

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Ex-Detroit Pension Trustee Gets 11 Years in Prison
Jeffrey Beazley, a former treasurer of the city of Detroit, Michigan, has been sentenced to 11 years behind bars for getting kickbacks and bribes from businessmen who received hundreds of millions of dollars from two of the city’s pension systems. Beasley, a former fraternity brother of ex-Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, was treasurer of the city from 2006 until September 2008. He was in charge of both pension systems and served as trustee for the city’s Police and Fire Retirement System and General Retirement System.

The two pension systems serve over 30,000 pensioners, city employees, and beneficiaries. The kickbacks and bribes were part of a wider corruption scam involving Kilpatrick and others and cost the pensions over $97 million. The former mayor is serving 28-years behind bars for his role. A jury found Beasley guilty of bribery, extortion, and fraud conspiracy.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Trust Sues Petrobras and Its Auditor
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Trust, which is the trust that oversees the $41 billion endowment of the couple’s foundation, has filed a lawsuit accusing Brazil’s Petróleo Brasileiro SA (Petrobras) and its auditor of involvement in a widespread corruption scam. The trust claims they lost millions of dollars because of the scheme. WGI Emerging Markets Fund, LLC, which managed investments for the Gates trust, is a co-plaintiff.

While other plaintiffs have also sued Petrobras, the oil company remains adamant that it was the victim of bribery and a bid rigging plot involving a few company insider and suppliers. Among US investors that have filed over a dozen complaints are those that purchased Petrobras-sold American depositary receipts. These plaintiffs include the Rhode Island city of Providence, public pension funds in Hawaii and Idaho, and the Attorney General of Ohio.

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Goldman Sachs Group (GS) will pay $272 million to more than 400 bond investors, including two electrical pension funds, to settle a lawsuit alleging that it made misleading disclosures in order to sell mortgage securities backed by faulty loans. The lead plaintiff in the case was the NECA-IBEW Health and Welfare Fund, which is an Illinois-based electrical workers pension fund.

When NECA-IBEW filed its lawsuit against Goldman Sachs in 2008, it contended that not only did it make false statements but also it left out key information about the mortgages it sold into 17 trusts the year before. The plaintiff also said that Goldman misled investors about the underwriting of the loans behind the securities, as well as about the quality of appraisals and whether borrowers were capable of paying back their loans. The fund said that the securities’ prices fell during and after the economic crisis while their credit ratings slipped from triple-A to triple C junk grades.

Writing about the complaint in 2008, HousingWire Publisher Paul Jackson said that some of the claims were over the alleged use of inflated appraisals by the originating entities. He noted that many of the loans in the trusts were of the no-doc, reduced-doc, stated-income ilk, which the plaintiff believes are fraudulent.

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The SEC is accusing investment advisory firm Gray Financial, its co-CEO Robert C. Hubbard IV, and president/founder Laurence O. Gray with fraud. The regulator claims that the three of them of breached their duty to clients by directing certain pension funds to invest in a firm-offered alternative investment even while knowing that the investments were not in compliance with Georgia law.

The SEC’s order said that Gray Financial made the inappropriate recommendations to Atlanta’s:

• Firefighters’ Pension Fund

JPMorgan Ordered to Face $10B Mortgage-Backed Securities Case

A federal judge said that JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPM) must face a class action securities fraud lawsuit filed by investors accusing the bank of misleading them about the risks involved in $10B of mortgage-backed securities that they purchased from the firm prior to the financial crisis.

U.S. District Judge Paul Oetken certified a class action as to the bank’s liability but not for damages. He said it wasn’t clear how investors were able to value the certificates they purchased considering that the market hadn’t been especially liquid. He did, however, say that the plaintiffs could attempt again to seek class certification on class damages.

Financial Guaranty Insurance Company is challenging the city of Detroit, Michigan’s efforts to invalidated $1.45 billion in borrowings that were supposed to resolve unfunded pension liabilities. Instead, they have been named as one of the reasons that the city went into Chapter 9 bankruptcy. The bond insurer is asking a bankruptcy judge to turn down the adversary complaint brought by Detroit to nullify debt that is pension-related.

The city maintains that the debt was issued by its former administration’s mayor and violated state law. It contends that the debts, which were viewed as contract payments, were really concealed borrowings that improperly went beyond the municipal debt limits of the Home Rule City Act.

FGIC says that this stance is a switch for the city, which for years insisted that the obligations were valid. The bond insurer wants damages from Detroit and says the city deceived it so that FGIC agreed to guarantee the transactions.

In U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Danish pension funds (and their investment manager) Unipension Fondsmaeglerselskab, MP Pension-Pensionskassen for Magistre & Psykologer, Arkitekternes Pensionskasse, and Pensionskassen for Jordbrugsakademikere & Dyrlaeger are suing 12 banks accusing them of conspiring to take charge of access and pricing in the credit derivatives markets. They are claiming antitrust violations while contending that the defendants acted unreasonably to hold back competitors in the credit default swaps market.

The funds believe that the harm suffered by investors as a result was “tens of billions of dollars” worth. They want monetary damages and injunctive relief.

According to the Danish pension funds’ credit default swaps case, the defendants inflated profits by taking control of intellectual property rights in the CDS market, blocking would-be exchanges’ entry, and limiting client access to credit-default-swaps prices, and

Second Circuit Dismisses Securities Fraud Lawsuit Against Citigroup

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit has affirmed the district court’s decision to throw out the securities fraud lawsuit filed by a real estate developer against Citigroup (C) and its former CEO Vikram Pandit. Sheldon H. Solow had accused both of them of allegedly making omissions and misstatements that highlighted the bank’s liquidity and capitalization while downplaying financial problems. Because of this, he contends, the financial firm’s stock price became artificially inflated and then fell when the truth about the firm’s financial health became known.

The appeals court held that while Solow, in his securities lawsuit, did an adequate job of pleading alleged misstatements and omissions about Citigroup’s liquidity, he did not succeed in showing that the statements caused his financial losses. It also dismissed his control-person claim against Pandit, saying that there was a failure to plead a primary violation by the bank.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit has affirmed a lower court’s decision to not grant the petition of two pension funds asking to certify a class action of investors that allegedly suffered financial losses in mortgage-backed securities. The Second Circuit said that the Lower Court did not abuse its discretion by denying the motion for class certification.

The institutional investment fraud cases were argued together at both the district court and appeals court levels but have never been officially consolidated. In both mortgage-backed securities lawsuits, the lead plaintiffs—both pension funds—are accusing their respective defendants of making misleading and false statements in the different MBS prospectuses. They are seeking to recover their losses.

Although the MBS that the plaintiffs had purchased were given AAA credit ratings for the majority of the tranches, the delinquency and default rates in the underlying mortgages would go on to dramatically go up. The ratings agencies then went on to downgrade most of these tranches.

The plaintiffs are claiming that the defaults are an indicator that the subcontractors and issuers failed to follow underwriting guidelines. If this is true, then there were false statements in the registration statements at the time the MBS were bought.

While the plaintiffs had made their claims under the 1933 Securities Act’s Sections 11, 12, and 15, the appeals court said that only claims under Section 11 needed to be discussed, as the claims under the other two sections were derivatives of the Section 11 claims. Under Section 11, a prima facie case has to have proof that a registration statement included material misstatements or omissions. However, since it isn’t a fraud provision, a culpable mental state on the issuer’s part is not required.

Section 11 claims are subject to an affirmative defense in that the issuer can show that when the acquisition took place the buyer had knowledge about a specific omission or untruth. The district court held that to determine whether each buyer had knowledge of specific untruths or omissions at the time of purchase, individual inquiries overriding the common issues would be needed. This holding was affirmed by the appeals court. The second circuit also said that the district court only looked at the facts “on the limited record available on this case.” It noted that district court judge, Harold Baer Jr. has since this decision not to certify the plaintiffs in these two cases granted class certification in similar litigation. (Public Employees’ Retirement System of Mississippi v. Goldman Sachs Group)

The appeals court said that its review was limited to the class definition rejected by the lower court judge and to the record the way it was when the motion to certify was made. It said the appeals determination was “without prejudice to further motion practice in the district court on the matter.”

New Jersey Carpenters Health Fund v. RALI Series 2006-QO1 (PDF)

Boilermaker Blacksmith National Pension Trust v. Harborview Mortgage Loan Trust 2006-4 (PDF)


More Blog Posts:

Morgan Stanley Sued by MetLife for Securities Fraud Over $757 Million in Residential Mortgage-Backed Securities, Institutional Investor Securities Blog, April 28, 2012

H & R Block Subsidiary Option One Mortgage Corporation to Pay $28.2M to Residential Mortgage-Backed Securities Investors, Institutional Investor Securities Blog, April 25, 2012

FDIC Objects to Bank of America’s Proposed $8.5B Settlement Over Mortgage-Backed Securities, Stockbroker Fraud Blog, August 30, 2011

$63 Million Mortgage-Backed Securities Lawsuit Against Bank of America is Second One Filed by Western and Southern Life Insurance Co. Against the Financial Firm, Institutional Investor Securities Blog, August 29, 2011

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The California Public Employees’ Retirement System is suing Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc., its ex-executives, and a number of bond underwriters for fraud and of making materially false statements about mortgage-backed securities losses. CalPERS, a $229 billion public pension fund, owned about $700 million Lehman bonds and 3.9 million shares of Lehman bonds when Lehman filed for bankruptcy in September 2008. Because of the economic crisis, CalPERS funds lost $100 billion in value from September 2008 and March 2009.

In its securities fraud complaint, CalPERS accused Lehman of “dramatically” borrowing to fund its real estate investments from 2004 to 2007—high-risk activity that investors were not told about. Other defendants include ex-Lehman Chief Executive Richard S. Fuld Jr., ex-Lehman Chief Financial Officers Erin Callan and Christopher O’Meara, 9 Lehman directors, and 33 others firms, including Wells Fargo Securities, Citigroup Global Markets Inc., and Mellon Financial Markets. The defendants allegedly failed to disclose not just Lehman’s exposure to Alt-A lending and subprime, but also its mortgage-related assets’ true value.

This securities complaint is CalPERS second action against members of Wall Street that sold mortgage-backed securities. In July 2009, CAlPERS sued Standard & Poor’s, Moody’s Investors Services Inc., and Fitch Inc. The complaint accused the financial rating companies of giving top grades to bonds that ended up sustaining huge financial losses when the subprime mortgage securities market collapsed.

Also, CalPERS has a shareholder lawsuit against Bank of America Corp. (BAC) over its Merrill Lynch acquisition. The pension fund also has a case against BofA’s Countrywide Financial.

Related Web Resources:
Calpers Alleges Top Lehman Execs Misled On Exposures, Financials, The Wall Street Journal, February 8, 2011

CalPERS suit accuses Lehman Bros. of fraud, Los Angeles Times, February 9, 2011

CalPERS

Related Blog Posts About Pension Funds:
Quadrangle Cofounder and CalPERS Partner Steven Rattner Settles NY Pension Fund Corruption Probe for $10M, Institutional Investors Securities Blog, January 4, 2011

Securities Fraud Lawsuit Against UBS Securities LLC by Detroit Pension Funds Won’t Be Remanded to State Court, Says District Court, Institutional Investors Securities Blog, January 17, 2011

In Securities Fraud Case Against Morgan Stanley Pension Fund Doesn’t Have Standing to Bring Certain Claims, Says Court, Institutional Investors Securities Blog, October 4, 2010

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