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Articles Tagged with residential mortgage-backed securities

The Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) has filed a more than $1B residential mortgage-backed securities (RMBS) fraud lawsuit against Wells Fargo (WFC) on behalf of Freddie Mac. The government-owned mortgage company had invested in over $1B in RMBSs backed by NovaStar loans prior to the 2008 financial crisis. NovaStar, once a subprime lender, is no longer in operation.

While several banks underwrote the securities, the investor fraud case is targeting Wachovia Capital Markets, LLC, an ex-Wachovia brokerage firm, that is now Wells Fargo Securities, LLC. Wachovia was a Wells Fargo acquisition in 2008.

According to the RMBS fraud case, FHFA claims that offering documents sent to Freddie about the quality of the loans backing the RMBSs were misleading. The independent federal agency contends that Wachovia, which played a part in packaging these securities, put out registration statements that were also allegedly misleading and included misrepresentations that eventually resulted in Freddie Mac sustaining huge financial losses.

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.

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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The U.S. Justice Department has filed a civil securities fraud case against Paul Mangione, a former senior Deutsche Bank (DB) trader. According to the government, Mangione, who headed up the bank’s subprime trading, took part in a fraudulent scam that involved misrepresenting the loans backing two residential mortgage-backed securities that the bank was selling, resulting in investors losing hundreds of millions of dollars.

The DOJ’s RMBS fraud complaint contends that Mangione committed fraud when selling the ACE 2007-HE5 and ACE 2007-HE4, which were $400M and $1B securities, respectively. He allegedly did this by misleading investors about the loans backing the investments and the originating practices of DB Home Lending, which is a Deutsche Bank subsidiary and was the primary loan originator.

According to the US government, the former Deutsche Bank head trader “fraudulently induced” different investors, including financial institutions, pension plans, government-sponsored editions, and religious organizations, to invest almost $1.5B in the two RMBSs, resulting in “extraordinary losses” for them. Mangione allegedly provided offering documents for the HE5 and HE4 that he knew included misrepresentations about compliance lending guidelines, loan characteristics, appraisal accuracy, and other matters. The documents made it appear as if DB Home had put into place underwriting guidelines that “generated quality loans,” as well as processes to properly oversee loan production.

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According to Bloomberg, US prosecutors are conducting a criminal probe into whether hedge funds inflated the value of bonds to enhance the fees they were paid. Sources told the news media outlet that prosecutors want to know whether hedge funds solicited fake price quotes from brokers, which would have let the funds artificially raise the value of illiquid securities in their portfolios.

Just this week, a witness in the residential mortgage-backed securities fraud criminal trial against three ex-Nomura Holdings Inc. traders—they are accused of lying about RMBS prices to clients—stated under oath that he had given a Premium Point Investments LP trader fake quotes. The witness, ex-broker Frank DiNucci Jr., claims that two of the defendants, Michael Gramins and Ross Shapiro, are among the ones that trained him to lie to customers about bond prices. DiNucci, who pleaded guilty to fraud and conspiracy and making misrepresentations,previously worked at Nomura. He also worked at Auriga USA LLC and AOC Securities LLC.

Because certain securities are hard to price, hedge funds depend on brokers and third parties for estimates and quotes to determine how to value debt. Holding artificially inflated securities in the portfolios can allow a hedge fund to tout a better performance and get paid more for performance and management fees. It also allows them to conceal when some holdings do poorly.

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In Manhattan, U.S. District Judge Katherine Polk Failla ruled that a few dozen funds may pursue their mortgage-backed securities fraud lawsuits against Wells Fargo & Co. (WFC) According to Reuters, five lawsuits are involved and plaintiffs include funds from Prudential Financial Inc.(PRU), BlackRock Inc. (BLK), TIAA-CREF, and Pacific Investment Management Co. (PIMICO) Judge Failla also said that the National Credit Union Administration (NCUA) could proceed with its MBS fraud claims against the San Francisco-based bank, which it filed on behalf of five credit unions that failed after they bought $2.4B in residential mortgage-backed securities.

The funds are seeking to hold Wells Fargo liable for breach of contract and conflict of interest involving over four dozen trusts, breach of due care, and breach of fiduciary duty. Failla, however, did not allow claims contending violation of a NY law related to mortgage trusts, as well as claims of general negligence, to proceed.

The investors contend that the bank took “virtually no action” to make sure that lenders either bought back the faulty securities or fixed the loans that were backing the securities once they knew that the loans were poorly underwritten or had defaulted. They accused Wells Fargo of failing to act despite being aware of these problems.

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$165M Class Action Settlement Reached in MBS Fraud Case Involving NovaStar Securities
Royal Bank of Scotland Group Plc (RBS), Wells Fargo & Co. (WFC), and Deutsche Bank AG (DB) have reached a $165M with investors in their class action mortgage-backed securities case involving underwriting for NovaStar Mortgage Inc., a former subprime lender. The lead plaintiff in the case is the New Jersey Carpenters Health Fund.

NovaStar, which filed for bankruptcy last year, had specialized in low quality residential mortgages. Many of these were bundled into risky securities that were issued prior to the 2008 financial crisis. The class action settlement resolves claims contending that the offering documents put together by the banks misled investors into thinking that the loans underlying about $7.55B of NovaStar MBSs were safe and had been underwritten properly.

A district court judge must still approve the settlement. Meantime, despite the resolution, the banks continue to deny wrongdoing.
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Another Jury Finds Ex-Jefferies Group Trader Guilty of RMBS Fraud
A federal jury has convicted Jesse Litvak of one count of securities fraud. The ex-Jefferies Group LLC (JEF) bond trader was tried again on allegations that he bilked customers of $2M when he inflated the prices that he claimed he paid for residential mortgage-backed securities. As a result of his claims, professional investment managers and hedge funds paid too much for bonds.

Another jury had found Litvak guilty of fraud two years ago. However, in 20015, a federal appellate court dismissed parts of the RMBS fraud case against him. The securities fraud charges were retried before a new jury.

During this trial, prosecutors claimed that Litvak’s customers had totally relied on him for bond pricing information. His legal team, however, argued that his customers were sophisticated investors and did what they wanted regardless of his advice.

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In a deal reached with the US Justice Department, Société Générale will pay $50M to settle civil charges accusing the bank of hiding that the residential mortgaged-backed securities (RMBS) that it promoted and sold were of poor quality. According to the government, the French bank made false representations involving the SG Mortgage Securities Trust 2006-OPT2, a $780M debt issue that it organized more than a decade ago. As part of the settlement, Société Générale admitted that it hid how many of the loans underlying the RMBS shouldn’t have been securitized or were not properly underwritten.

In a statement of facts, Société Générale took responsibility for its conduct. The bank admitted that it falsely represented that loans underlying the residential mortgage-backed security had been originated according to the underwriting guidelines of the loan originator. It also represented to investors that when the SG 2006-OPT2 was originated, no loans in the RMBS had a combined loan-to-value ratio or loan-to-value greater than 100%–this is a claim that Societe General is now admitting was false.

As a result of the bank’s actions, said the DOJ, investors lost “significant” amounts of money and they may lose more. Investors that were impacted include a number of financial institutions that are federally insured.

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Moody’s Corp. (MCO) will pay nearly $864M to settle allegations about the way that credit ratings agency rated high-risk mortgage securities, including residential mortgage-backed securities (RMBSs) and collateralized debt obligations (CDOs), leading up to the 2008 financial crisis. The settlement was reached between Moody’s Corporation, Moody’s Analytics Inc., and Moodys’ Investors Services, and the US Department of Justice, the District of Columbia, and 21 US states. Moody’s is accused of knowing that it was inflating the ratings of mortgage securities that were toxic.

As part of the agreement, $437M will be paid as penalty to the DOJ. The rest of the $426.3M would be divided between DC and the states. Moody’s consented to measures that would make sure of its credit ratings’ integrity moving forward, and its chief executive will have to certify measures of compliance for a minimum of five years.

Despite settling, Moody’s maintains that its ratings pre-the 2008 crisis were valid. The credit rater also pointed out that this case has been resolved without any findings that it violated any laws. Moody’s is not admitting any liability. However, in a Statement of Facts, the company admitted to key parts of its purported behavior.

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