Articles Posted in Subprime Mortgage

FINRA says that Barclays Capital Inc. will pay $3 million over charges of inadequate supervision related to the residential subprime mortgage securitizations and the misrepresentation of delinquency data. The SRO claims that between 3/07 and 10/10, Barclays misrepresented three RMBS’s historical delinquency rates.

Per industry rules, financial firms have to give investors certain performance information for securities that they issue. FINRA says that Barclay’s Capital misrepresented the historical delinquency rates for the RMBS between March 2007 and December 2010. This inaccurate data was published on the company’s website, which impacted how investors were able to evaluate other securitizations.

Historical delinquency rates, which provide historical performance information for previous securitizations with mortgage loans, are key in helping an investor determine and RMBS’s value and whether mortgage holders’ inability to make loan payments could disrupt future returns. The inaccurate information that was posted on the Barclay’s Capital website was referred to as historical delinquency rates in five subsequent residential subprime mortgage securitizations and had errors that were key enough to impact investors.

According to FINRA Enforcement Chief Brad Bennett, Barclay lacked a system that could ensure that delinquency data that was published was accurate.

Barclays has settled the case. However, the financial firm is not denying or admitting to the charges.

It was just earlier this year that FINRA fined Merrill Lynch $3 Million and Credit Suisse Securities $4.5 Million over misrepresentations involving RMBS. Both financial firms settled the allegations without denying or admitting to the charges.

According to the SRO, in 2006, 21 RMBS’s historical delinquency rates were misrepresented by Credit Suisse. The financial firm allegedly knew that this information was not accurate yet failed to adequately look into the mistakes, tell clients about the errors, or correct the information, which was published on its we site. The delinquency errors for six of the 21 securitizations were enough to impact the way investors were able to evaluate subsequent securitizations. Credit Suisse also allegedly did not define or name the methodology that was applied in determining the mortgage delinquencies in five other subprime securitizations. (Disclosing which method was issued is required because there are different standards for determining delinquencies.)

Regarding the charges against Merrill Lynch, the SRO claims 61 of the financial firm’s subprime RMBS had historical delinquency rates that were misrepresented. However, upon discovering the mistakes, Merrill Lynch published the correct data online. In eight cases, the delinquencies impacted investors’ ability to assess subsequent securitizations.

FINRA Fines Barclays Capital $3 Million for Misrepresentations Related to Subprime Securitizations, FINRA, December 22, 2011

Finra Fines Credit Suisse, Bank of America Over RMBS Errors, Bloomberg, May 26, 2011

More Blog Posts:
Morgan Keegan Settles Subprime Mortgage-Backed Securities Charges for $200M, Stockbroker Fraud Blog, June 29, 2011

Investors Want JP Morgan Chase & Co. To Explain Over $95B of Mortgage-Backed Securities, Institutional Investor Securities Blog, December 17, 2011

Federal Home Loan Banks Say Countrywide Financial Corp Mortgage Bond Investors May Be Owed Way More than What $8.5B Securities Settlement with Bank of America Corp. is Offering, Institutional Investor Securities Blog, July 22, 2011

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Bank of America Corp. has agreed to a record $335 million settlement to pay back Countrywide Financial Corp. borrowers who were billed more for loans because of their nationality and race, while creditworthiness and other objective criteria took a back seat. All borrowers that were discriminated against qualified to receive mortgage loans under Countrywide’s own underwriting standards.

The settlement is larger than any past fair-lending settlements (totaling $30M) that the US Justice Department has been able to obtain to date. Countrywide was acquired by Bank of America in 2008.

According to the Justice Department, Countrywide charged higher fees and interest rates to over 200,000 Hispanic and black borrowers while directing minorities to more costly subprime mortgages despite the fact that they qualified for prime loans. Meantime, the latter were given to non-Hispanic white borrowers who had similar credit profiles.

The Securities and Exchange Commission has charged six ex-executives of the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation (Freddie Mac) and the Federal National Mortgage Association (Fannie Mae) with securities fraud. The Commission claims that they not only knew that misleading statements were being made claiming that both companies had minimal holdings of higher-risk mortgage loans but also they approved these messages.

The six people charged are former Freddie Mac CEO and Chairman of the Board Richard F. Syron, ex-Chief Business Officer and Executive Vice President Patricia L. Cook, and former ex-Single Family Guarantee Executive Vice President Donald J. Bisenius. The three ex-Fannie Mae executives that the SEC has charged are former CEO Daniel H Mudd, ex-Fannie Mae’s Single Family Mortgage Executive Vice President Thomas A. Lund, and ex- Chief Risk Officer Enrico Dallavecchia.

In separate securities fraud lawsuits, the SEC accuses the ex-executives of causing Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae to issue materially misleading statements about their subprime mortgage loans in public statements, SEC filings, and media interviews and investor calls. SEC enforcement director Robert Khuzami says that the former executives “substantially” downplayed what their actual subprime exposure “really was.”

The SEC contends that in 2009, Fannie told investors that its books had about $4.8 billion of subprime loans, which was about .2% of its portfolio, when, in fact, the mortgage company had about $43.5 billion of these products, which is about 11% of its holdings. Meantime, in 2006 Freddie allegedly told investors that its subprime loans was somewhere between $2 to 6 billion when, according to the SEC, its holdings were nearer to $141 billion (10% of its portfolio). By 2008, Freddie had $244 billion in subprime loans, which was 14% of its portfolio.

Yet despite these facts, the ex-executives allegedly continued to maintain otherwise. For example, the SEC says that in 2007, Freddie CEO Syron said the mortgage firm had virtually “no subprime exposure.”

It was in 2008 that the government had to bail out both Fannie and Freddie. It continues to control both companies. The rescue has already cost taxpayers approximately $150 billion, and the Federal Housing Finance Administration, which acts as its governmental regulator, says that this figure could rise up to $259 billion.

Today, Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae both entered into agreements with the government that admitted their responsibility for their behavior without denying or admitting to the charges. They also consented to work with the SEC in their cases against the ex-executives.

The Commission is seeking disgorgement of ill-gotten gains plus interest, financial penalties, officer and director bars, and permanent and injunctive relief.

SEC Charges Former Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac Executives with Securities Fraud, SEC, December 16, 2011

More Blog Posts:

Former US Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson Told Hedge Funds About Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac Bailouts in Advance, Institutional Investor Securities Blog, November 30, 2011

Morgan Keegan Settles Subprime Mortgage-Backed Securities Charges for $200M, Stockbroker Fraud Blog, June 29, 2011

Freddie Mac and Fannie May Drop After They Delist Their Shares from New York Stock Exchange, Stockbroker Fraud Blog, June 25, 2010

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According to the SEC, FINRA, and state regulators, Morgan Keegan & Company and Morgan Asset Management have consented to pay $200 million to settle subprime mortgage-backed securities-related charges. Also agreeing to pay penalties over their alleged misconduct are Morgan Keegan comptroller Joseph Thompson Weller and ex- portfolio manager James C. Kelsoe Jr.

The two men were accused of causing the false valuation of subprime mortgage backed securities in five Morgan Asset Management-related funds. Per the SEC’s administrative order, Kelsoe directed the fund accounting department to arbitrarily execute price adjustments to the fair values of certain portfolio securities. These adjustments disregarded the lower values for the same securities that outside broker-dealers provided as part of the pricing process. Kelsoe’s directives and the actions that were taken as a result would sometimes cause Morgan Keegan to not price the bonds at current, fair value.

The SEC also says that Kelsoe screened and affected at least one broker-dealer’s price confirmations. That broker-dealer had to provide interim price confirmations that were below the value that the funds were valuing certain bonds at but greater than the initial confirmations that the broker-dealer meant to provide. The interim price confirmations allowed the funds to not mark down the securities’ value to reflect current fair value. Kelsoe is also accused of getting the broker-dealer to withhold price confirmations in certain instances where they would have been significantly lower than the funds’ current valuations of the relevant bonds. The SEC says that Kelsoe fraudulently kept the Navs of funds from being reduced when they should have gone down when the subprime securities market deteriorated in 2007.

Of the $200 million, Morgan Keegan must pay a $75 million penalty to the SEC, $25 million in disgorgement, and $100 million to a state fund that would then pay investors.

Morgan Keegan to Pay $200 Million to Settle Fraud Charges Related to Subprime Mortgage-Backed Securities, SEC, June 22, 2011
Morgan Keegan Entities to Pay $200M In Settlement Over Subprime MBS Valuations, Law 360, June 22, 2011

More Blog Posts:
Morgan Keegan Ordered by FINRA to Pay RMK Fund Investors $881,000, Stockbroker Fraud Blog, April 24, 2011
Morgan Keegan & Co. Inc. Must Pay $250K to Couple that Lost Investments in Hedge Fund with Ties to Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities, Stockbroker Fraud Blog, March 16, 2011
Morgan Keegan to Pay $9.2M to Investors in Texas Securities Fraud Case Involving Risky Bond Fund, Stockbroker Fraud Blog, October 6, 2010 Continue Reading ›

Bank of America Corp. (BAC) and the New York State Common Retirement Fund have settled the latter’s securities fraud lawsuit accusing Merrill Lynch & Co. Inc. of concealing the risks involved in investing in the subprime mortgage market. Under the terms of the settlement, Bank of America, which owns Merrill Lynch, will pay $4.25 million.

The comptroller’s office is keeping the terms of the securities settlement confidential. State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli did announce last July that the New York pension fund wanted to recover losses sustained by investors from Merrill’s alleged “fraud and deception” that “artificially inflated” the value of Merrill stock, which rapidly declined when the extent of exposure was revealed.

By opting out of a similar class action complaint involving other funds, the state pension fund has a chance of recovering more from the investment bank. Another securities lawsuit that has yet to be resolved seeks to recover losses related to Bank of America’s proxy disclosure when acquiring Merrill.

The demise of the subprime mortgage market a few years ago contributed to the crisis in the housing market and the economic collapse that has affected millions in the US and the rest of the world. Investors have since stepped forward and filed securities claims and lawsuits against investment banks, brokers, and others in the financial industry for misrepresenting the risks involved with subprime mortgages that have resulted in losses in the billions.

DiNapoli, BOA/Merrill Lynch settle for $4.25 million, Capitol Confidential, January 13, 2011

The Subprime Mortgage Market Collapse: A Primer on the Causes and Possible Solutions, The Heritage Foundation

NY comptroller settles Merrill Lynch fraud suit, BusinessWeek, January 13, 2011

New York State Common Retirement Fund

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According to California Superior Court Judge Richard Kramer Fitch Inc., Standard and Poor’s parent (MHP) McGraw-Hill Companies Inc., Fitch, Inc., and Moody’s Corp. (MCO), were merely exercising their First Amendment right to free speech when they gave their highest rating to three structured investment vehicles (SIVs) that collapsed when the mortgage market failed in 2008 and 2007. The ruling, in California Public Employees’ Retirement System v. Moody’s Corp. now leaves the plaintiffs with a steep burden of proof. The plaintiff, the largest pension fund in the US, is seeking more than $1 billion in securities fraud damages stemming from the inaccurate subprime ratings.

Per the securities complaint, CAlPERS is accusing the defendants of publishing ratings that were “unreasonably high” and “wildly inaccurate” and applying “seriously flawed” methods in an “incompetent” manner. The plaintiff contends that the high ratings that were given to the SIVs contributed to their collapse during the economic crisis.

BNA was able to get court transcripts that indicate that the ruling came on a motion under California’s anti- Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation (SLAPP) statute, which offers a special procedure to strike a complaint involving the rights of free speech and petition. If a defendant persuades the court that the cause of action came from a protected activity, the plaintiff must prove that the claims deserve additional consideration. Now CalPERS must show a “probability of prevailing.”

Under the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, there is no longer any protection from private litigation for ratings agency misstatements. Now, an investor only has to prove gross negligence to win the case. However, per Wayne State University Law School Peter Henning, in BNA Securities Daily, Dodd-Frank’s provision may not carry much weight if a ratings agency’s First Amendment rights are widely interpreted.

Shepherd Smith Edwards & Kantas LTD LLP Founder and Stockbroker fraud lawyer William Shepherd had this to say: “There have long been many restrictions on ‘speech,’ including life threats, trademarks, defamation, conspiracy, treason and threats of blackmail. But the age-old standard restriction is ‘you can’t shout fire in a crowded theater.’ The reason is that strangers might rely on the words and be injured by your ‘speech.’ How is this different than shouting ‘AAA- rated,’ knowing that strangers will rely on the words and be harmed by this ‘speech?’ The difference is that Wall Street can say anything it wants, while the rest of us have to just sit down and shut up.”

CalPERS has until March 18, 2011 to respond to the court.

Related Web Resources:
Ratings by Moody’s, Fitch, S&P Ruled to Be Protected Speech, BusinessWeek, December 11, 2010

Calpers Sues Rating Companies Over $1 Billion Loss, Bloomberg, July 15, 2010


California Public Employees’ Retirement System v. Moody’s Corp., Justia Dockets

Credit Ratings Agencies, Stockbroker Fraud Blog

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In what one investment banking official is calling a “second wave” of securities litigation stemming from the credit and subprime crisis of 2008, financial firms are now suing other financial institutions for damages. While speaking on a Practising Law Institute panel, Morgan Stanley managing director D. Scott Tucker noted that this “second wave” is the “exact opposite of the first wave,” which was primarily brought by smaller pension funds or states claiming violations of the 1933 Securities Act and the 1934 Securities Exchange Act.

Tucker said that with this new wave, most of the plaintiffs are financial institutions, including investment managers and hedge funds, that are asserting common law fraud and making other state law claims. Also, these latest lawsuits are primarily individual cases, rather than class actions. The securities at the center of this latest wave of litigation are complex structured products, such as credit default swaps, collateralized debt obligations, and mortgage-backed securities, as well as complaints involving private placements and derivatives or securities that don’t trade on liquid markets.

Our securities fraud lawyers at Shepherd Smith Edwards & Kantas LTD LLP represent institutional investors who suffered financial losses because of their dealings with investment companies. Unlike other law firms, our stockbroker fraud lawyers will never represent brokerage firms.

Goldman Sachs International has been ordered by the United Kingdom’s Financial Services Authority to pay $27 million. The FSA says that Goldman failed to notify it about the US Securities and Exchange Commission’s probe into the investment bank’s marketing of the Abacus 2007-AC1 synthetic collateralized debt obligation, a derivative product tied to subprime mortgages.

Goldman Sachs and Co. has settled the SEC’s case for a record $550 million dollars. However, even though Goldman knew for months in advance that SEC charges were likely, the investment bank did not notify regulators, shareholders, or clients.

FSA’s Enforcement and Financial Crime Managing Director Margaret Cole says that while GSI didn’t intentionally hide the information, it became obvious that the investment firm’s reporting systems and controls were defective and that this was why its ability to communicate with FSA was well below the level of communication expected. Cole says that large institutions need to remember that their reporting obligations to the FSA must stay a priority.

FSA contends that Goldman was in breach of FSA Principle 2, which says that a firm has to “conduct its business with due skill, care, and diligence,” FSA Principle 3, which talks about a firm’s responsibility to “organize and control its affairs responsibly and effectively, with adequate risk management systems,” and FSA Principle 11, which stresses a firm’s responsibility to disclose to the FSA that “of which it would reasonably expect notice.”

For example, Fabrice Tourre, a Goldman vice president that worked on the Abacus team and who became an FSA-approved person after he was transferred to GSI in London, was later slapped with SEC civil charges. Along with Goldman, the SEC accused Tourre of alleged misrepresentations and material omissions in the way the derivatives product was marketed and structured.

Cole notes that FSA was disappointed that even though senior members of GSI in London were aware that Tourre had received a Wells Notice that SEC charges were likely, they did not take into account the regulatory implications that this could have for the investment firm. Because of the failure to notify, Tourre ended up staying in the UK and continued to perform at a “controlled function for several months without further enquiry or challenge.”

Because FSA did not find that GSI purposely withheld information, the investment bank received a discount on the fine, reducing it from $38.5 million to the current amount.

Securities fraud lawsuits and investigations have followed in the wake of the SEC’s case against Goldman.

Related Web Resources:
FSA fines Goldman Sachs £17.5 million, Reuters, September 9, 2010

Goldman Sachs Settles SEC Subprime Mortgage-CDO Related Charges for $550 Million, Stockbroker Fraud Blog, July 30, 2010

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In a Texas securities case, FINRA arbitration panel has ordered Morgan Keegan & Co., a Regions Financial Corp., to pay 18 investors $9.2M for losses related to risky bond funds. The investors contend that the investment firm committed securities fraud when it convinced them to invest in certain funds that included high-risk “subprime” mortgage assets. Clients also claimed that they were persuaded to automatically reinvest dividends in the funds.

This is the biggest award that an arbitration panel has awarded in a Morgan Keegan case involving six bond funds that were heavily involved in mortgage-related holdings. The funds dropped in value significantly in 2007 and 2008. Hundreds of securities claims against the brokerage firm followed. Last July, Regions Financial announced that Morgan Keegan had recorded a $200M charge for probable costs of the bond fund lawsuits.

Arbitrators in Houston made the ruling in the Texas securities case. Included in the total sum was $1.1M in legal fees that, per state law, will be paid to investors. All of the investors involved were clients of Russell W. Stein, a Morgan Keegan broker. Stein is no longer with the broker-dealer. Regulatory filings indicate that he is currently employed with Raymond James Financial Inc. unit Raymond James & Associates Inc.

Stein and his wife were original claimants in this Texas securities fraud case. They too had invested in the bond funds. Their claims are now part of another case involving a group of other investors. Morgan Keegan is considering appealing the FINRA arbitration panel’s decision.

Related Web Resources:
Morgan Keegan to pay bond fund investors $9.2 mln, Reuters, October 6, 2010
Morgan Keegan Must Pay $9.2Mln To Investors – Panel, Wall Street Journal, October 6, 2010
Morgan Keegan Ordered by FINRA Panel to Pay Investor $2.5 Million for Bond Fund Losses, Stockbroker Fraud Blog, February 23, 2010
Morgan Keegan Again Ordered by Arbitrators to Pay Bond Fund Losses to Investors, Stockbroker Fraud Blog, October 27, 2009
Financial Industry Regulatory Authority
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A US district court judge has issued a ruling in the securities fraud lawsuit against Morgan Stanley and several affiliates. The case, which was brought by West Virginia Investment Management Board (WVIMB), involves mortgage-backed securities.

WVIMB, which bought securities from Morgan Stanley Mortgage Loan Trust 2007-11AR, had filed class claims against securities bought under the trust claiming that the defendants had violated federal securities laws when making mortgage-backed securities sales. However, WVIMB wanted to expand the claims to include 30 other loan trusts even though it hadn’t bought securities from them.

Morgan Stanley and its affiliates contended that WVIMB did not have the legal standing to pursue claims on certificates it didn’t buy. They also said that the plaintiff waited too long to file its claims on Trust 2007-11AR. The court agreed.

According to Judge Laura Taylor Swain’s decision, pension funds do not have standing to bring certain claims, and, at least in court, there will be a distinction made between loan trusts that have separate prospectus supplements even if they have the same shelf registration statement. The court also noted that the pension fund had enough information that it could and should have filed its securities lawsuit sooner. Swain’s decision narrowed the pension fund’s claims that the defendants affiliates violated federal securities laws when making mortgage-backed securities sales.

Mortgage-Backed Securities
Many securities fraud lawsuits that have been filed over the alleged wrongdoings related to the marketing, packaging, and sale of mortgage-backed securities. Retirement funds, pension funds, and other investors are among those that have sued investment firms and banks for misleading them about these securities and failing to reveal the true degree of risk involved in investing in them.

Related Web Resources:
West Virginia Investment Management Board

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