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Banks Find A New Way To Profit Off Foreclosures

Banks Find A New Way To Profit Off Foreclosures


They never lost a single penny from the foreclosures but made billions of profits. Course whatever they ask for they will pay a price to get it…except not to you.

HuffPO-

Banks helped create the housing crisis, and now they’re seeking a new way to profit from it. As Bloomberg reported Monday, several financial and investment companies have submitted proposals to the federal government, suggesting ways that they can help manage a program to rent out 180,000 foreclosed homes.

Fair and affordable housing advocates are calling on the Obama administration to reject help from the financial sector, or at least limit its influence.

“It’s really a question of whether the banks that made so much money creating this crisis are going to profit again,” Jeremy Rosen, policy director at the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty, told The Huffington Post.

[HUFFINGTONPOST]

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DAN RATHER: Avoiding the Auction Block – RALI Series Exposed, Goldman Sachs, Aurora, UBS, CitiGroup

DAN RATHER: Avoiding the Auction Block – RALI Series Exposed, Goldman Sachs, Aurora, UBS, CitiGroup


HuffPO-

No other state has experienced the dizzying heights of the housing boom or the depths of the subsequent bust quite like California. Today, four metro areas in the Golden State have the highest foreclosure rates in the country, eclipsing — for the first time — even Las Vegas, Nevada. In last night’s look at the housing crisis that continues to cripple this country, we traveled to southern California and met Lise Johnson, a mother of four who’s been in the same home for 12 years and is desperate to stay put.

[HUFFINGTON POST]

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FHFA v. UBS | Alleging violations in private label MBS sales to FannieMae and FreddieMac

FHFA v. UBS | Alleging violations in private label MBS sales to FannieMae and FreddieMac


UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK
———————————-
FEDERAL HOUSING FINANCE AGENCY
AS CONSERVATOR FOR THE FEDERAL
NATIONAL MORTGAGE ASSOCIATION
AND THE FEDERAL HOME LOAN
MORTGAGE CORPORATION,

-AGAINST-

UBS AMERICAS INC., UBS REAL ESTATE
SECURITIES INC., UBS SECURITIES,
LLC, MORTGAGE ASSET
SECURITIZATION TRANSACTION, INC.,
DAVID MARTIN, PER DYRVIK, HUGH
CORCORAN, and PERTER SLAGOWITZ

[ipaper docId=61071280 access_key=key-2fomkzd72dimz4spdbu4 height=600 width=600 /]

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New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman Probing Lender Processing Services, Nationwide Title Clearing

New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman Probing Lender Processing Services, Nationwide Title Clearing


Just last week Chicago AG Lisa Madigan announced she was probing them as well. Note: some mistakenly say “National” instead of “Nationwide” below…

NY POST-


Indeed, New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman recently said that his office is probing mortgage processing firm Lender Processing Services and National Title Clearing.

Schneiderman also launched a probe into the mortgage securitization practices of major investment banks Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, Deutsche Bank and UBS.


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JPMorgan, UBS, Deutsche Bank Said to Be Added to Probe

JPMorgan, UBS, Deutsche Bank Said to Be Added to Probe


Bloomberg-

JPMorgan Chase & Co., UBS AG and Deutsche Bank AG are being probed in an expanded investigation by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman into mortgage securitization, according to a person familiar with the matter.

Four bond insurers also were subpoenaed: Ambac Financial Group Inc., MBIA Inc., Syncora Holdings Ltd. and Assured Guaranty Ltd., according to the person, who couldn’t be identified because the probe isn’t public.


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Bank of America, Citibank, UBS Violated Antitrust Law, Fund Says in Suit

Bank of America, Citibank, UBS Violated Antitrust Law, Fund Says in Suit


Do you see the direction this is heading…

BLOOMBERG-

A West Virginia pension fund sued Bank of America Corp. (BAC), Citigroup Inc. (C)’s Citibank unit and UBS AG (UBSN) claiming they manipulated the London Interbank Offered Rate, or Libor, in violation of U.S. antitrust law.

The Carpenters Pension Fund of West Virginia filed a complaint in federal court in Manhattan yesterday claiming the banks and a group of unnamed co-conspirators deliberately understated their borrowing costs to depress Libor, lowering their interest expenses on products tied to the rate.

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Bernie Madoff: JPMorgan Doesn’t Have A Chance In Hell And HSBC And UBS Are Going To “Have Problems”

Bernie Madoff: JPMorgan Doesn’t Have A Chance In Hell And HSBC And UBS Are Going To “Have Problems”


via: Business Insider

Madoff said: “JPMorgan doesn’t have a chance in hell of not coming up with a big settlement.”

“I am not a banker but I know that $100bn going in and out of a bank account is something that should alert you to something.”

“JPMorgan got all the financial statements.”

“There were senior people at the bank who knew what was going on,” he emphasized, without naming anyone. There will be a big interview with Madoff in this weekend’s Financial Times.

continue reading…Business Insider

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Bank of America, Deutsche Bank, UBS Assets Seized in Italy

Bank of America, Deutsche Bank, UBS Assets Seized in Italy


Bank of America, UBS Assets Seized in Italy Swap Probe

December 21, 2010, 7:55 AM EST

By Elisa Martinuzzi

(Adds details from second paragraph.)

Dec. 21 (Bloomberg) — Italy’s finance police seized 22 million euros ($29 million) from six lenders including Bank of America Corp. amid allegations of fraud in a probe focusing on the sale of derivatives to five municipalities in central Italy.

Police said they took 15 million euros from Bank of America, and 1.7 million euros each from Deutsche Bank AG and UBS AG, according to an e-mailed statement. The remainder was seized from Natixis SA, Dexia Crediop SpA and Banca Monte Paschi di Siena SpA.

The amount represents the alleged illicit profit the banks made from selling derivatives to the city of Florence, the region of Tuscany and three other municipalities in the region, the police said. The local governments have lost about 123 million euros on the swaps that adjusted payments on 1.4 billion euros of debt, the police said.

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Banks’ Self-Dealing Super-Charged Financial Crisis

Banks’ Self-Dealing Super-Charged Financial Crisis


ProPublica

Over the last two years of the housing bubble, Wall Street bankers perpetrated one of the greatest episodes of self-dealing in financial history.

Faced with increasing difficulty in selling the mortgage-backed securities that had been among their most lucrative products, the banks hit on a solution that preserved their quarterly earnings and huge bonuses:

They created fake demand.

A ProPublica analysis shows for the first time the extent to which banks — primarily Merrill Lynch, but also Citigroup, UBS and others — bought their own products and cranked up an assembly line that otherwise should have flagged.

The products they were buying and selling were at the heart of the 2008 meltdown — collections of mortgage bonds known as collateralized debt obligations, or CDOs.

As the housing boom began to slow in mid-2006, investors became skittish about the riskier parts of those investments. So the banks created — and ultimately provided most of the money for — new CDOs. Those new CDOs bought the hard-to-sell pieces of the original CDOs. The result was a daisy chain [1] that solved one problem but created another: Each new CDO had its own risky pieces. Banks created yet other CDOs to buy those.

Individual instances of these questionable trades have been reported before, but ProPublica’s investigation shows that by late 2006 they became a common industry practice.

Source: Thetica SystemsSource: Thetica Systems

An analysis by research firm Thetica Systems, commissioned by ProPublica, shows that in the last years of the boom, CDOs had become the dominant purchaser of key, risky parts of other CDOs, largely replacing real investors like pension funds. By 2007, 67 percent of those slices were bought by other CDOs, up from 36 percent just three years earlier. The banks often orchestrated these purchases. In the last two years of the boom, nearly half of all CDOs sponsored by market leader Merrill Lynch bought significant portions of other Merrill CDOs [2].ProPublica also found 85 instances during 2006 and 2007 in which two CDOs bought pieces of each other’s unsold inventory. These trades, which involved $107 billion worth of CDOs, underscore the extent to which the market lacked real buyers. Often the CDOs that swapped purchases closed within days of each other, the analysis shows.

There were supposed to be protections against this sort of abuse. While banks provided the blueprint for the CDOs and marketed them, they typically selected independent managers who chose the specific bonds to go inside them. The managers had a legal obligation to do what was best for the CDO. They were paid by the CDO, not the bank, and were supposed to serve as a bulwark against self-dealing by the banks, which had the fullest understanding of the complex and lightly regulated mortgage bonds.

It rarely worked out that way. The managers were beholden to the banks that sent them the business. On a billion-dollar deal, managers could earn a million dollars in fees, with little risk. Some small firms did several billion dollars of CDOs in a matter of months.

“All these banks for years were spawning trading partners,” says a former executive from Financial Guaranty Insurance Company, a major insurer of the CDO market. “You don’t have a trading partner? Create one.”

The executive, like most of the dozens of people ProPublica spoke with about the inner workings of the market at the time, asked not to be named out of fear of being sucked into ongoing investigations or because they are involved in civil litigation.

Keeping the assembly line going had a wealth of short-term advantages for the banks. Fees rolled in. A typical CDO could net the bank that created it between $5 million and $10 million — about half of which usually ended up as employee bonuses. Indeed, Wall Street awarded record bonuses in 2006, a hefty chunk of which came from the CDO business.

The self-dealing super-charged the market for CDOs, enticing some less-savvy investors to try their luck. Crucially, such deals maintained the value of mortgage bonds at a time when the lack of buyers should have driven their prices down.

But the strategy of speeding up the assembly line had devastating consequences for homeowners, the banks themselves and, ultimately, the global economy. Because of Wall Street’s machinations, more mortgages had been granted to ever-shakier borrowers. The results can now be seen in foreclosed houses across America.

The incestuous trading also made the CDOs more intertwined and thus fragile, accelerating their decline in value that began in the fall of 2007 and deepened over the next year. Most are now worth pennies on the dollar. Nearly half of the nearly trillion dollars in losses to the global banking system came from CDOs, losses ultimately absorbed by taxpayers and investors around the world. The banks’ troubles sent the world’s economies into a tailspin from which they have yet to recover.

It remains unclear whether any of this violated laws. The SEC has said [4] that it is actively looking at as many as 50 CDO managers as part of its broad examination of the CDO business’ role in the financial crisis. In particular, the agency is focusing on the relationship between the banks and the managers. The SEC is exploring how deals were structured, if any quid pro quo arrangements existed, and whether banks pressured managers to take bad assets.

The banks declined to directly address ProPublica’s questions. Asked about its relationship with managers and the cross-ownership among its CDOs, Citibank responded with a one-sentence statement:

“It has been widely reported that there are ongoing industry-wide investigations into CDO-related matters and we do not comment on pending investigations.”

None of ProPublica’s questions had mentioned the SEC or pending investigations.

Posed a similar list of questions, Bank of America, which now owns Merrill Lynch, said:

“These are very specific questions regarding individuals who left Merrill Lynch several years ago and a CDO origination business that, due to market conditions, was discontinued by Merrill before Bank of America acquired the company.”

This is the second installment of a ProPublica series about the largely hidden history of the CDO boom and bust. Our first story [5] looked at how one hedge fund helped create at least $40 billion in CDOs as part of a strategy to bet against the market. This story turns the focus on the banks.

Merrill Lynch Pioneers Pervert the Market
By 2004, the housing market was in full swing, and Wall Street bankers flocked to the CDO frenzy. It seemed to be the perfect money machine, and for a time everyone was happy.

Homeowners got easy mortgages. Banks and mortgage companies felt secure lending the money because they could sell the mortgages almost immediately to Wall Street and get back all their cash plus a little extra for their trouble. The investment banks charged massive fees for repackaging the mortgages into fancy financial products. Investors all around the world got to play in the then-phenomenal American housing market.

The mortgages were bundled into bonds, which were in turn combined into CDOs offering varying interest rates and levels of risk.

Investors holding the top tier of a CDO were first in line to get money coming from mortgages. By 2006, some banks often kept this layer, which credit agencies blessed with their highest rating of Triple A.

Buyers of the lower tiers took on more risk and got higher returns. They would be the first to take the hit if homeowners funding the CDO stopped paying their mortgages. (Here’s a video explaining how CDOs worked [6].)

Over time, these risky slices became increasingly hard to sell, posing a problem for the banks. If they remained unsold, the sketchy assets stayed on their books, like rotting inventory. That would require the banks to set aside money to cover any losses. Banks hate doing that because it means the money can’t be loaned out or put to other uses.

Being stuck with the risky portions of CDOs would ultimately lower profits and endanger the whole assembly line.

The banks, notably Merrill and Citibank, solved this problem by greatly expanding what had been a common and accepted practice: CDOs buying small pieces of other CDOs.

Architects of CDOs typically included what they called a “bucket” — which held bits of other CDOs paying higher rates of interest. The idea was to boost overall returns of deals primarily composed of safer assets. In the early days, the bucket was a small portion of an overall CDO.

One pioneer of pushing CDOs to buy CDOs was Merrill Lynch’s Chris Ricciardi, who had been brought to the firm in 2003 to take Merrill to the top of the CDO business. According to former colleagues, Ricciardi’s team cultivated managers, especially smaller firms.

Merrill exercised its leverage over the managers. A strong relationship with Merrill could be the difference between a business that thrived and one that didn’t. The more deals the banks gave a manager, the more money the manager got paid.

As the head of Merrill’s CDO business, Ricciardi also wooed managers with golf outings and dinners. One Merrill executive summed up the overall arrangement: “I’m going to make you rich. You just have to be my bitch.”

But not all managers went for it.

An executive from Trainer Wortham, a CDO manager, recalls a 2005 conversation with Ricciardi. “I wasn’t going to buy other CDOs. Chris said: ‘You don’t get it. You have got to buy other guys’ CDOs to get your deal done. That’s how it works.'” When the manager refused, Ricciardi told him, “‘That’s it. You are not going to get another deal done.'” Trainer Wortham largely withdrew from the market, concerned about the practice and the overheated prices for CDOs.

Ricciardi declined multiple requests to comment.

Merrill CDOs often bought slices of other Merrill deals. This seems to have happened more in the second half of any given year, according to ProPublica’s analysis, though the purchases were still a small portion compared to what would come later. Annual bonuses are based on the deals bankers completed by yearend.

Ricciardi left Merrill Lynch in February 2006. But the machine he put into place not only survived his departure, it became a model for competitors.

As Housing Market Wanes, Self-Dealing Takes Off
By mid-2006, the housing market was on the wane. This was particularly true for subprime mortgages, which were given to borrowers with spotty credit at higher interest rates. Subprime lenders began to fold, in what would become a mass extinction. In the first half of the year, the percentage of subprime borrowers who didn’t even make the first month’s mortgage payment tripled from the previous year.

That made CDO investors like pension funds and insurance companies increasingly nervous. If homeowners couldn’t make their mortgage payments, then the stream of cash to CDOs would dry up. Real “buyers began to shrivel and shrivel,” says Fiachra O’Driscoll, who co-ran Credit Suisse’s CDO business from 2003 to 2008.

Faced with disappearing investor demand, bankers could have wound down the lucrative business and moved on. That’s the way a market is supposed to work. Demand disappears; supply follows. But bankers were making lots of money. And they had amassed warehouses full of CDOs and other mortgage-based assets whose value was going down.

Rather than stop, bankers at Merrill, Citi, UBS and elsewhere kept making CDOs.

The question was: Who would buy them?

The top 80 percent, the less risky layers or so-called “super senior,” were held by the banks themselves. The beauty of owning that supposedly safe top portion was that it required hardly any money be held in reserve.

That left 20 percent, which the banks did not want to keep because it was riskier and required them to set aside reserves to cover any losses. Banks often sold the bottom, riskiest part to hedge funds [5]. That left the middle layer, known on Wall Street as the “mezzanine,” which was sold to new CDOs whose top 80 percent was ultimately owned by … the banks.

“As we got further into 2006, the mezzanine was going into other CDOs,” says Credit Suisse’s O’Driscoll.

This was the daisy chain [1]. On paper, the risky stuff was gone, held by new independent CDOs. In reality, however, the banks were buying their own otherwise unsellable assets.

How could something so seemingly short-sighted have happened?

It’s one of the great mysteries of the crash. Banks have fleets of risk managers to defend against just such reckless behavior. Top executives have maintained that while they suspected that the housing market was cooling, they never imagined the crash. For those doing the deals, the payoff was immediate. The dangers seemed abstract and remote.

The CDO managers played a crucial role. CDOs were so complex that even buyers had a hard time seeing exactly what was in them — making a neutral third party that much more essential.

“When you’re investing in a CDO you are very much putting your faith in the manager,” says Peter Nowell, a former London-based investor for the Royal Bank of Scotland. “The manager is choosing all the bonds that go into the CDO.” (RBS suffered mightily in the global financial meltdown, posting the largest loss in United Kingdom history, and was de facto nationalized by the British government.)

Source: Asset-Backed AlertSource: Asset-Backed Alert

By persuading managers to pick the unsold slices of CDOs, the banks helped keep the market going. “It guaranteed distribution when, quite frankly, there was not a huge market for them,” says Nowell.The counterintuitive result was that even as investors began to vanish, the mortgage CDO market more than doubled from 2005 to 2006, reaching $226 billion, according to the trade publication Asset-Backed Alert.

Citi and Merrill Hand Out Sweetheart Deals
As the CDO market grew, so did the number of CDO management firms, including many small shops that relied on a single bank for most of their business. According to Fitch, the number of CDO managers it rated rose from 89 in July 2006 to 140 in September 2007.

One CDO manager epitomized the devolution of the business, according to numerous industry insiders: a Wall Street veteran named Wing Chau.

Earlier in the decade, Chau had run the CDO department for Maxim Group, a boutique investment firm in New York. Chau had built a profitable business for Maxim based largely on his relationship with Merrill Lynch. In just a few years, Maxim had corralled more than $4 billion worth of assets under management just from Merrill CDOs.

In August 2006, Chau bolted from Maxim to start his own CDO management business, taking several colleagues with him. Chau’s departure gave Merrill, the biggest CDO producer, one more avenue for unsold inventory.

Chau named the firm Harding, after the town in New Jersey where he lived. The CDO market was starting its most profitable stretch ever, and Harding would play a big part. In an eleven-month period, ending in August 2007, Harding managed $13 billion of CDOs, including more than $5 billion from Merrill, and another nearly $5 billion from Citigroup. (Chau would later earn a measure of notoriety for a cameo appearance in Michael Lewis’ bestseller “The Big Short [7],” where he is depicted as a cheerfully feckless “go-to buyer” for Merrill Lynch’s CDO machine.)

Chau had a long-standing friendship with Ken Margolis, who was Merrill’s top CDO salesman under Ricciardi. When Ricciardi left Merrill in 2006, Margolis became a co-head of Merrill’s CDO group. He carried a genial, let’s-just-get-the-deal-done demeanor into his new position. An avid poker player, Margolis told a friend that in a previous job he had stood down a casino owner during a foreclosure negotiation after the owner had threatened to put a fork through his eye.

Chau’s close relationship with Merrill continued. In late 2006, Merrill sublet office space to Chau’s startup in the Merrill tower in Lower Manhattan’s financial district. A Merrill banker, David Moffitt, scheduled visits to Harding for prospective investors in the bank’s CDOs. “It was a nice office,” overlooking New York Harbor, recalls a CDO buyer. “But it did feel a little weird that it was Merrill’s building,” he said.

Moffitt did not respond to requests for comment.

Under Margolis, other small managers with meager track records were also suddenly handling CDOs valued at as much as $2 billion. Margolis declined to answer any questions about his own involvement in these matters.

A Wall Street Journal article [8] ($) from late 2007, one of the first of its kind, described how Margolis worked with one inexperienced CDO manager called NIR on a CDO named Norma, in the spring of that year. The Long Island-based NIR made about $1.5 million a year for managing Norma, a CDO that imploded.

“NIR’s collateral management business had arisen from efforts by Merrill Lynch to assemble a stable of captive small firms to manage its CDOs that would be beholden to Merrill Lynch on account of the business it funneled to them,” alleged a lawsuit filed in New York state court against Merrill over Norma that was settled quietly after the plaintiffs received internal Merrill documents.

NIR declined to comment.

Banks had a variety of ways to influence managers’ behavior.

Some of the few outside investors remaining in the market believed that the manager would do a better job if he owned a small slice of the CDO he was managing. That way, the manager would have more incentive to manage the investment well, since he, too, was an investor. But small management firms rarely had money to invest. Some banks solved this problem by advancing money to managers such as Harding.

Chau’s group managed two Citigroup CDOs — 888 Tactical Fund and Jupiter High-Grade VII — in which the bank loaned Harding money to buy risky pieces of the deal. The loans would be paid back out of the fees the managers took from the CDO and its investors. The loans were disclosed to investors in a few sentences among the hundreds of pages of legalese accompanying the deals.

In response to ProPublica’s questions, Chau’s lawyer said, “Harding Advisory’s dealings with investment banks were proper and fully disclosed.”

Citigroup made similar deals with other managers. The bank lent money to a manager called Vanderbilt Capital Advisors for its Armitage CDO, completed in March 2007.

Vanderbilt declined to comment. It couldn’t be learned how much money Citigroup loaned or whether it was ever repaid.

Yet again banks had masked their true stakes in CDO. Banks were lending money to CDO managers so they could buy the banks’ dodgy assets. If the managers couldn’t pay the loans back — and most were thinly capitalized — the banks were on the hook for even more losses when the CDO business collapsed.

Goldman, Merrill and Others Get Tough
When the housing market deteriorated, banks took advantage of a little-used power they had over managers.

The way CDOs are put together, there is a brief period when the bonds picked by managers sit on the banks’ balance sheets. Because the value of such assets can fall, banks reserved the right to overrule managers’ selections.

According to numerous bankers, managers and investors, banks rarely wielded that veto until late 2006, after which it became common. Merrill was in the lead.

“I would go to Merrill and tell them that I wanted to buy, say, a Citi bond,” recalls a CDO manager. “They would say ‘no.’ I would suggest a UBS bond, they would say ‘no.’ Eventually, you got the joke.” Managers could choose assets to put into their CDOs but they had to come from Merrill CDOs. One rival investment banker says Merrill treated CDO managers the way Henry Ford treated his Model T customers: You can have any color you want, as long as it’s black.

Once, Merrill’s Ken Margolis pushed a manager to buy a CDO slice for a Merrill-produced CDO called Port Jackson that was completed in the beginning of 2007: “‘You don’t have to buy the deal but you are crazy if you don’t because of your business,'” an executive at the management firm recalls Margolis telling him. “‘We have a big pipeline and only so many more mandates to give you.’ You got the message.” In other words: Take our stuff and we’ll send you more business. If not, forget it.

Margolis declined to comment on the incident.

“All the managers complained about it,” recalls O’Driscoll, the former Credit Suisse banker who competed with other investment banks to put deals together and market them. But “they were indentured slaves.” O’Driscoll recalls managers grumbling that Merrill in particular told them “what to buy and when to buy it.”

Other big CDO-producing banks quickly adopted the practice.

A little-noticed document released this year during a congressional investigation into Goldman Sachs’ CDO business reveals that bank’s thinking. The firm wrote a November 2006 internal memorandum [9] about a CDO called Timberwolf, managed by Greywolf, a small manager headed by ex-Goldman bankers. In a section headed “Reasons To Pursue,” the authors touted that “Goldman is approving every asset” that will end up in the CDO. What the bank intended to do with that approval power is clear from the memo: “We expect that a significant portion of the portfolio by closing will come from Goldman’s offerings.”

When asked to comment whether Goldman’s memo demonstrates that it had effective control over the asset selection process and that Greywolf was not in fact an independent manager, the bank responded: “Greywolf was an experienced, independent manager and made its own decisions about what reference assets to include. The securities included in Timberwolf were fully disclosed to the professional investors who invested in the transaction.”

Greywolf declined to comment. One of the investors, Basis Capital of Australia, filed a civil lawsuit in federal court in Manhattan against Goldman over the deal. The bank maintains the lawsuit is without merit.

By March 2007, the housing market’s signals were flashing red. Existing home sales plunged at the fastest rate in almost 20 years. Foreclosures were on the rise. And yet, to CDO buyer Peter Nowell’s surprise, banks continued to churn out CDOs.

“We were pulling back. We couldn’t find anything safe enough,” says Nowell. “We were amazed that April through June they were still printing deals. We thought things were over.”

Instead, the CDO machine was in overdrive. Wall Street produced $70 billion in mortgage CDOs in the first quarter of the year.

Many shareholder lawsuits battling their way through the court system today focus on this period of the CDO market. They allege that the banks were using the sales of CDOs to other CDOs to prop up prices and hide their losses.

“Citi’s CDO operations during late 2006 and 2007 functioned largely to sell CDOs to yet newer CDOs created by Citi to house them,” charges a pending shareholder lawsuit against the bank that was filed in federal court in Manhattan in February 2009. “Citigroup concocted a scheme whereby it repackaged many of these investments into other freshly-baked vehicles to avoid incurring a loss.”

Citigroup described the allegations as “irrational,” saying the bank’s executives would never knowingly take actions that would lead to “catastrophic losses.”

In the Hall of Mirrors, Myopic Rating Agencies
The portion of CDOs owned by other CDOs grew right alongside the market. What had been 5 percent of CDOs (remember the “bucket”) now came to constitute as much as 30 or 40 percent of new CDOs. (Wall Street also rolled out CDOs that were almost entirely made up of CDOs, called CDO squareds [10].)

The ever-expanding bucket provided new opportunities for incestuous trades.

It worked like this: A CDO would buy a piece of another CDO, which then returned the favor. The transactions moved both CDOs closer to completion, when bankers and managers would receive their fees.

Source: Thetica SystemsSource: Thetica Systems

ProPublica’s analysis shows that in the final two years of the business, CDOs with cross-ownership amounted to about one-fifth of the market, about $107 billion.Here’s an example from early May 2007:

  • A CDO called Jupiter VI bought a piece of a CDO called Tazlina II.
  • Tazlina II bought a piece of Jupiter VI.

Both Jupiter VI and Tazlina II were created by Merrill and were completed within a week of each other. Both were managed by small firms that did significant business with Merrill: Jupiter by Wing Chau’s Harding, and Tazlina by Terwin Advisors. Chau did not respond to questions about this deal. Terwin Advisors could not reached.

Just a few weeks earlier, CDO managers completed a comparable swap between Jupiter VI and another Merrill CDO called Forge 1.

Forge has its own intriguing history. It was the only deal done by a tiny manager of the same name based in Tampa, Fla. The firm was started less than a year earlier by several former Wall Street executives with mortgage experience. It received seed money from Bryan Zwan, who in 2001 settled an SEC civil lawsuit over his company’s accounting problems in a federal court in Florida. Zwan and Forge executives didn’t respond to requests for comment.

After seemingly coming out of nowhere, Forge won the right to manage a $1.5 billion Merrill CDO. That earned Forge a visit from the rating agency Moody’s.

“We just wanted to make sure that they actually existed,” says a former Moody’s executive. The rating agency saw that the group had an office near the airport and expertise to do the job.

Rating agencies regularly did such research on managers, but failed to ask more fundamental questions. The credit ratings agencies “did heavy, heavy due diligence on managers but they were looking for the wrong things: how you processed a ticket or how your surveillance systems worked,” says an executive at a CDO manager. “They didn’t check whether you were buying good bonds.”

One Forge employee recalled in a recent interview that he was amazed Merrill had been able to find buyers so quickly. “They were able to sell all the tranches” — slices of the CDO — “in a fairly rapid period of time,” said Rod Jensen, a former research analyst for Forge.

Forge achieved this feat because Merrill sold the slices to other CDOs, many linked to Merrill.

The ProPublica analysis shows that two Merrill CDOs, Maxim II and West Trade III, each bought pieces of Forge. Small managers oversaw both deals.

Forge, in turn, was filled with detritus from Merrill. Eighty-two percent of the CDO bonds owned by Forge came from other Merrill deals.

Citigroup did its own version of the shuffle, as these three CDOs demonstrate:

  • A CDO called Octonion bought some of Adams Square Funding II.
  • • Adams Square II bought a piece of Octonion.
  • • A third CDO, Class V Funding III, also bought some of Octonion.
  • • Octonion, in turn, bought a piece of Class V Funding III.

All of these Citi deals were completed within days of each other. Wing Chau was once again a central player. His firm managed Octonion. The other two were managed by a unit of Credit Suisse. Credit Suisse declined to comment.

Not all cross-ownership deals were consummated.

In spring 2007, Deutsche Bank was creating a CDO and found a manager that wanted to take a piece of it. The manager was overseeing a CDO that Merrill was assembling. Merrill blocked the manager from putting the Deutsche bonds into the Merrill CDO. A former Deutsche Bank banker says that when Deutsche Bank complained to Andy Phelps, a Merrill CDO executive, Phelps offered a quid pro quo: If Deutsche was willing to have the manager of its CDO buy some Merrill bonds, Merrill would stop blocking the purchase. Phelps declined to comment.

The Deutsche banker, who says its managers were independent, recalls being shocked: “We said we don’t control what people buy in their deals.” The swap didn’t happen.

The Missing Regulators and the Aftermath
In September 2007, as the market finally started to catch up with Merrill Lynch, Ken Margolis left the firm to join Wing Chau at Harding.

Chau and Margolis circulated a marketing plan for a new hedge fund to prospective investors touting their expertise in how CDOs were made and what was in them. The fund proposed to buy failed CDOs — at bargain basement prices. In the end, Margolis and Chau couldn’t make the business work and dropped the idea.

Why didn’t regulators intervene during the boom to stop the self-dealing that had permeated the CDO market?

No one agency had authority over the whole business. Since the business came and went in just a few years, it may have been too much to expect even assertive regulators to comprehend what was happening in time to stop it.

While the financial regulatory bill passed by Congress in July creates more oversight powers, it’s unclear whether regulators have sufficient tools to prevent a replay of the debacle.

In just two years, the CDO market had cut a swath of destruction. Partly because CDOs had bought so many pieces of each other, they collapsed in unison. Merrill Lynch and Citigroup, the biggest perpetrators of the self-dealing, were among the biggest losers. Merrill lost about $26 billion on mortgage CDOs and Citigroup about $34 billion.

Additional reporting by Kitty Bennett, Krista Kjellman Schmidt, Lisa Schwartz and Karen Weise.


© 2010-17 FORECLOSURE FRAUD | by DinSFLA. All rights reserved.



Posted in bank of america, cdo, citi, CitiGroup, concealment, conspiracy, CONTROL FRAUD, corruption, Credit Suisse, deutsche bank, Economy, goldman sachs, investigation, Merrill Lynch, racketeering, RICO, rmbs, stock, STOP FORECLOSURE FRAUD, trade secrets, Wall StreetComments (0)

CLASS ACTION Amended complaint against Countrywide et al Involving $350 Billion of Mortgage-Backed Securities

CLASS ACTION Amended complaint against Countrywide et al Involving $350 Billion of Mortgage-Backed Securities


Other defendants in the case, aside from Countrywide, several of its former top executives, and Bank of America, include 16 underwriters of more than $350 billion in Countrywide securities, among them J.P. Morgan, Deutsche Bank, Bear Stearns, UBS, Morgan Stanley, Edward Jones, Citigroup, Goldman Sachs and Credit Suisse.

July 15, 2010, 8:00 a.m.

False and Misleading Offering Documents Detailed in Class Action Lawsuit Against Countrywide Financial

Cohen Milstein Files Amended Consolidated Complaint in Case Involving $350 Billion of Mortgage-Backed Securities

WASHINGTON, July 15, 2010 /PRNewswire via COMTEX/ — Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll PLLC filed an Amended Consolidated Class Action Complaint this week in its landmark litigation against Countrywide Financial Corporation and other underwriter defendants who were prominently involved in the failure of mortgage-backed securities over the last several years.

Countrywide, since acquired by Bank of America, was one of the largest and most controversial institutions involved in mortgage-backed securities. Other defendants in the case, aside from Countrywide, several of its former top executives, and Bank of America, include 16 underwriters of more than $350 billion in Countrywide securities, among them J.P. Morgan, Deutsche Bank, Bear Stearns, UBS, Morgan Stanley, Edward Jones, Citigroup, Goldman Sachs and Credit Suisse.

Cohen Milstein is Lead Counsel for the Class and Counsel for the Lead Plaintiff, the Iowa Public Employees’ Retirement System, as well as the Oregon Public Employees’ Retirement System and Orange County Employees’ Retirement System. The General Board of Pension and Health Benefits of the United Methodist Church is also named as a plaintiff in the litigation.

“Amidst all this high finance, it’s too easy to lose sight of the fact that pension funds invested heavily in these mortgage-backed securities and so retirees are the real victims here,” commented Steve Toll, Managing Partner at Cohen Milstein and co-chair of its Securities Fraud/Investor Protection practice group.

In the amended complaint, the Plaintiffs further buttress their allegation that the defendants published false and misleading offering documents, including registration statements, prospectuses, and prospectus supplements. Specifically, these documents misrepresented or failed to disclose that underwriting guidelines for the mortgages backing the securities had been systematically disregarded.

According to the lawsuit, from 2005 through 2007 Countrywide was the nation’s largest residential mortgage lender, originating in excess of $850 billion in home loans throughout the United States in 2005 and 2006 alone. Countrywide’s ability to originate residential mortgages on such a massive scale was facilitated, in large part, by its ability to rapidly package or securitize those loans and then, through the activities of the underwriter defendants, sell them to investors as purportedly investment grade mortgage-backed securities.

In order to generate a steady flow of mortgage loans to sustain this mass production of mortgage-backed securities, Countrywide routinely issued loans to borrowers who otherwise would never have qualified for them – and indeed, did not qualify for the loans they received — through, for example, “low doc” and “no doc” loan programs, often with adjustable interest rates that had been designed for borrowers with higher incomes and better credit.

Upon pooling these mortgages and issuing them as MBS certificates, over 92% received the very highest, investment-grade ratings from rating agencies; ultimately, however, 87% were downgraded to junk. Tellingly, one year after the date of the certificate offerings, delinquency and default rates on the underlying mortgages had increased 2,525% from issuance. In explaining such an unprecedented collapse in ratings on these certificates in 2008 and 2009, the rating agencies noted that they were forced to change their models because of previously undisclosed and systematic “aggressive underwriting” practices used to originate the mortgage loan collateral. Along with the exponential increases in delinquency and default rates of the underlying mortgages and the collapse of the certificates’ ratings, the value of the certificates plummeted.

Plaintiffs’ complaint alleges that the Defendants’ actions violated Sections 11, 12(a)(2), and 15 of the Securities Act of 1933, legislation, still on the books, originally enacted in response to similar abuses that led to the Great Depression.

The Countrywide case is pending before Judge Mariana R. Pfaelzer in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California.

Cohen Milstein has been named lead or co-lead counsel by courts in eight of the most significant mortgage-backed securities cases currently being litigated, including Lehman Brothers, Bear Stearns and Washington Mutual as well as Countrywide.

Docket No. 2:10-CV-00302

SOURCE Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll PLLC

Copyright (C) 2010 PR Newswire. All rights reserved

© 2010-17 FORECLOSURE FRAUD | by DinSFLA. All rights reserved.



Posted in bank of america, CitiGroup, class action, lawsuit, mbs, STOP FORECLOSURE FRAUDComments (1)

FULL COMPLAINT | Cambridge Place Investment Management Inc. v. Morgan Stanley, 10-2741, Suffolk Superior Court (Boston)

FULL COMPLAINT | Cambridge Place Investment Management Inc. v. Morgan Stanley, 10-2741, Suffolk Superior Court (Boston)


[ipaper docId=34161218 access_key=key-hnn1p8grrpy85crm4rc height=600 width=600 /]

Read More…

Mortgage Investors Suing For MBS FRAUD… Is your Trust named?

© 2010-17 FORECLOSURE FRAUD | by DinSFLA. All rights reserved.



Posted in lawsuitComments (0)

Mortgage Investors Suing For MBS FRAUD… Is your Trust named?

Mortgage Investors Suing For MBS FRAUD… Is your Trust named?


Now these investors should know better…See the picture you’ll see what I mean? You can probably make out a few possibilities.

We can’t even get justice and we are quite a few million!

Mortgage Investors Turn to State Courts for Relief

By GRETCHEN MORGENSON Published: July 9, 2010
The NEW YORK TIMES

INVESTORS who lost billions on boatloads of faulty mortgage securities have had a hard time holding Wall Street accountable for selling the things in the first place.

For the most part, banks have said they can’t be called out in court on any of this because they had no idea that so many of these loans went to people who lacked the resources to make even their first mortgage payment.

Wall Street firms were intimately involved in the financing, bundling and sales of these loans, so their Sergeant Schultz defense rings hollow. They provided hundreds of millions of dollars in credit to dubious underwriters, and some even had their own people on site at the loan factories. Many Wall Street firms owned mortgage lenders outright.

Because many of the worst lenders are now out of business, investors in search of recoveries have turned to the banks that packaged the loans into securities. But successfully arguing that Wall Street aided lenders in a fraud is tough under federal securities laws. This is largely a result of Supreme Court decisions barring investors from bringing federal securities fraud cases that accuse underwriters and other third parties as enablers.

Where there’s a will, however, there’s a way. And state courts are proving to be a more fruitful place for mortgage investors seeking redress, legal experts say.

In late June, for example, Martha Coakley, the attorney general of Massachusetts, extracted $102 million from Morgan Stanley in a case involving Morgan’s extensive financing of loans made by New Century, a notorious and now defunct lender that was based in California.

Morgan packaged the loans into securities and sold them to clients, even after its due diligence uncovered problems with the underlying mortgages that New Century fed to the firm, Ms. Coakley said. In settling the matter, Morgan neither admitted nor denied the allegations. Her investigation is continuing.

One of the most interesting aspects of this case “is the active role of state regulators relying upon state law to protect investors,” said Lewis D. Lowenfels, an authority on securities law at Tolins & Lowenfels in New York. “This state focus may well fill a void left by the U.S. Supreme Court’s increasingly narrow interpretation of the antifraud provisions of the federal securities laws as well as the relatively few S.E.C. enforcement actions initiated in this area.”

Last Friday, an investment management firm that lost $1.2 billion in mortgage securities it bought for clients filed suit in Massachusetts state court against 15 banks, accusing them of abetting a fraud. The firm, Cambridge Place Investment Management of Concord, Mass., purchased $2 billion in mortgage securities from the banks, and it says the banks misrepresented the risks in the underlying loans — both in prospectuses and sales pitches.

The complaint says the banks misled Cambridge Place by maintaining that the mortgages in the securities it bought had met strict underwriting requirements related to the borrowers’ ability to repay the loans. Cambridge also contends it relied on the banks’ claims of having conducted due diligence to verify the quality of the loans bundled into the securities.

The complaint also details the anything-goes lending practices during the subprime mortgage boom.

Interviews in the complaint with 63 confidential witnesses turned up such gems as Fremont Investment & Loan, which had been based in California, approving loans for pizza delivery men with reported monthly incomes of $6,000, and management at Long Beach Mortgage, also in California, directing underwriters to “approve, approve, approve.”

One Long Beach program made loans to self-employed borrowers based on three letters of reference from past employers. A former worker said some letters amounted to “So-and-so cuts my lawn and does a good job,” adding that the company made no attempt to verify the information, the complaint stated.

Such tales are hardly shockers. But they provide important context when Cambridge moves up the ladder to the banks that bundled and sold the loans.

For example, the complaint contended that Credit Suisse, from whom it bought $88 million of mortgage securities in 2005 and 2006, told Cambridge of its “superior” due diligence, including a performance review of every loan. Three-quarters of these loans are delinquent, in default, foreclosure, bankruptcy or repossession, the complaint said.

Bear Stearns, now a unit of JPMorgan Chase, sold Cambridge $65 million of securities. It owned three mortgage lenders and told Cambridge it sampled the loans it sold to check underwriting procedures, borrower documentation and compliance, the complaint said.

Among others named in the suit are Bank of America, Barclays, Citigroup, Countrywide, Deutsche Bank, Goldman Sachs, Merrill Lynch, Morgan Stanley and UBS. All of those, as well as Credit Suisse and JPMorgan, declined to comment.

CAMBRIDGE’S lawyers brought its case in Massachusetts under laws barring those who sell securities from making false statements about them or omitting material facts. Jerry Silk, a senior partner at Bernstein Litowitz Berger & Grossmann who represents Cambridge, said, “This case represents yet another example of Wall Street banks’ failure to live up to their basic responsibility to investors — to tell the truth about the securities they are selling.”

Mr. Silk’s firm has jousted with Wall Street underwriters before. In 2004, it recovered $6 billion in a suit against banks that underwrote debt issued by WorldCom, the defunct telecom. Denise L. Cote, the federal judge overseeing that matter, concluded that because investors rely so heavily on underwriters, courts must be “particularly scrupulous in examining the conduct,” she said.

It is too soon to tell if investors will recover losses in mortgage securities. But the efforts are reminiscent of those in the mid-90s against brokerage firms that cleared trades and provided capital to dubious penny-stock outfits such as A. R. Baron and Sterling Foster.

For decades, companies that cleared such trades — Bear Stearns was a big one — escaped liability for fraud at these so-called “bucket shops.” But regulators went after clearing firms by accusing them of facilitating such acts; in a 1999 lawsuit, the Securities & Exchange Commission accused Bear Stearns of enabling a fraud at A. R. Baron. Bear Stearns paid $35 million in fines and restitution to settle the case.

If trust in capital markets is to return, investors must be able to believe what they read in prospectuses. Without that minimum standard, how can Wall Street expect the markets to function again?

A version of this article appeared in print on July 11, 2010, on page BU1 of the New York edition.

COMPLAINT:

[ipaper docId=34161218 access_key=key-hnn1p8grrpy85crm4rc height=600 width=600 /]

© 2010-17 FORECLOSURE FRAUD | by DinSFLA. All rights reserved.



Posted in bankruptcy, CONTROL FRAUD, foreclosure, foreclosure fraud, foreclosures, mbs, rmbs, securitizationComments (2)

Inflated House Value the MAIN SOURCE in Lawsuits against Banks

Inflated House Value the MAIN SOURCE in Lawsuits against Banks


Another SMASHING article by The NyTimes Gretchen Morgenson! Outstanding work!

Fair Game

The Inflatable Loan Pool

By GRETCHEN MORGENSON Published: June 18, 2010

AMID the legal battles between investors who lost money in mortgage securities and the investment banks that sold the stuff, one thing seems clear: the investment banks appear to be winning a good many of the early skirmishes.

But some cases are faring better for individual plaintiffs, with judges allowing them to proceed even as banks ask that they be dismissed. Still, these matters are hard to litigate because investors must persuade the judges overseeing them that their losses were not simply a result of a market crash. Investors must argue, convincingly, that the banks misrepresented the quality of the loans in the pools and made material misstatements about them in prospectuses provided to buyers.

Recent filings by two Federal Home Loan Banks — in San Francisco and Seattle — offer an intriguing way to clear this high hurdle. Lawyers representing the banks, which bought mortgage securities, combed through the loan pools looking for discrepancies between actual loan characteristics and how they were pitched to investors.

You may not be shocked to learn that the analysis found significant differences between what the Home Loan Banks were told about these securities and what they were sold.

The rate of discrepancies in these pools is surprising. The lawsuits contend that half the loans were inaccurately described in disclosure materials filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

These findings are compelling because they involve some 525,000 mortgage loans in 156 pools sold by 10 investment banks from 2005 through 2007. And because the research was conducted using a valuation model devised by CoreLogic, an information analytics company that is a trusted source for mortgage loan data, the conclusions are even more credible.

The analysis used CoreLogic’s valuation model, called VP4, which is used by many in the mortgage industry to verify accuracy of property appraisals. It homed in on loan-to-value ratios, a crucial measure in predicting defaults.

An overwhelming majority of the loan-to-value ratios stated in the securities’ prospectuses used appraisals, court documents say. Investors rely on the ratios because it is well known that the higher the loan relative to an underlying property’s appraised value, the more likely the borrower will walk away when financial troubles arise.

By back-testing the loans using the CoreLogic model from the time the mortgage securities were originated, the analysis compared those values with the loans’ appraised values as stated in prospectuses. Then the analysts reassessed the weighted average loan-to-value ratios of the pools’ mortgages.

The model concluded that roughly one-third of the loans were for amounts that were 105 percent or more of the underlying property’s value. Roughly 5.5 percent of the loans in the pools had appraisals that were lower than they should have been.

That means inflated appraisals were involved in six times as many loans as were understated appraisals.

David J. Grais, a lawyer at Grais & Ellsworth in New York, represents the Home Loan Banks in the lawsuits. “The information in these complaints shows that the disclosure documents for these securities did not describe the collateral accurately,” Mr. Grais said last week. “Courts have shown great interest in loan-by-loan and trust-by-trust information in cases like these. We think these complaints will satisfy that interest.”

The banks are requesting that the firms that sold the securities repurchase them. The San Francisco Home Loan Bank paid $19 billion for the mortgage securities covered by the lawsuit, and the Seattle Home Loan Bank paid $4 billion. It is unclear how much the banks would get if they won their suits.

Among the 10 defendants in the cases are Deutsche Bank, Credit Suisse, Merrill Lynch, Countrywide and UBS. None of these banks would comment.

As outlined in the San Francisco Bank’s amended complaint, it did not receive detailed data about the loans in the securities it purchased. Instead, the complaint says, the banks used the loan data to compile statistics about the loans, which were then presented to potential investors. These disclosures were misleading, the San Francisco Bank contends.

In one pool with 3,543 loans, for example, the CoreLogic model had enough information to evaluate 2,097 loans. Of those, it determined that 1,114 mortgages — or more than half — had loan-to-value ratios of 105 percent or more. The valuations on those properties exceeded their true market value by $65 million, the complaint contends.

The selling document for that pool said that all of the mortgages had loan-to-value ratios of 100 percent or less, the complaint said. But the CoreLogic analysis identified 169 loans with ratios over 100 percent. The pool prospectus also stated that the weighted average loan-to-value ratio of mortgages in the portion of the security purchased by Home Loan Bank was 69.5 percent. But the loans the CoreLogic model valued had an average ratio of almost 77 percent.

IT is unclear, of course, how these court cases will turn out. But it certainly is true that the more investors dig, the more they learn how freewheeling the Wall Street mortgage machine was back in the day. Each bit of evidence clearly points to the same lesson: investors must have access to loan details, and the time to analyze them, before they are likely to want to invest in these kinds of securities again.

© 2010-17 FORECLOSURE FRAUD | by DinSFLA. All rights reserved.



Posted in foreclosure, foreclosure fraud, foreclosuresComments (1)

Too BIG to Fail, Too BIG for Jail? Bid-Rigging Conspiracy

Too BIG to Fail, Too BIG for Jail? Bid-Rigging Conspiracy


March 26 (Bloomberg) — JPMorgan Chase & Co., Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. and UBS AG were among more than a dozen Wall Street firms involved in a conspiracy to pay below-market interest rates to U.S. state and local governments on investments, according to documents filed in a U.S. Justice Department criminal antitrust case.

A government list of previously unidentified “co- conspirators” contains more than two dozen bankers at firms also including Bank of America Corp., Bear Stearns Cos., Societe Generale, two of General Electric Co.’s financial businesses and Salomon Smith Barney, the former unit of Citigroup Inc., according to documents filed in U.S. District Court in Manhattan on March 24.

The papers were filed by attorneys for a former employee of CDR Financial Products Inc., an advisory firm indicted in October. The attorneys, as part of their legal filing, identified the roster as being provided by the government. The document is labeled “list of co-conspirators.”

None of the firms or individuals named on the list has been charged with wrongdoing. The court records mark the first time these companies have been identified as co-conspirators. They provide the broadest look yet at alleged collusion in the $2.8 trillion municipal securities market that the government says delivered profits to Wall Street at taxpayers’ expense.

‘Sufficient Evidence’

“If the government is saying they are co-conspirators, the government believes they have sufficient evidence that they can show they were part of the conspiracy,” said Richard Donovan, a partner at New York-based law firm Kelley Drye & Warren LLP and co-chair of its antitrust practice. Donovan isn’t involved in the case.

The government’s case centers on investments known as guaranteed investment contracts that cities, states and school districts buy with the money they receive through municipal bond sales. Some $400 billion of municipal bonds are issued each year, and localities use the contracts to earn a return on some of the money until they need it for construction or other projects.

The Internal Revenue Service sometimes collects earnings on those investments and requires that they be awarded by competitive bidding to ensure that governments receive a fair return. The government charges that CDR ran sham auctions that allowed the banks to pay below-market interest rates to local governments.

CDR Fights Case

CDR, a Los Angeles-based local-government adviser, was indicted in October along with David Rubin, Zevi Wolmark and Evan Zarefsky, three current or former executives. The company and the three men have denied wrongdoing. Since last month, three former CDR employees who weren’t charged in the initial indictment have pleaded guilty and agreed to cooperate with the Justice Department.

More than a dozen financial firms are also facing civil suits filed by municipalities over the alleged conspiracy. Yesterday, U.S. District Judge Victor Marrero in Manhattan refused to toss out a lawsuit brought by Mississippi and other bond issuers.

Brian Marchiony, a spokesman for JPMorgan in New York; Doug Morris, a spokesman for UBS in New York; and Danielle Romero- Apsilos, a spokeswoman for Citigroup in New York, all declined to comment. A Societe Generale spokesman, Jim Galvin; Lehman spokeswoman Kimberly MacLeod, and GE Capital spokesman Ned Reynolds in Stamford, Connecticut, also declined to comment. Bank of America spokeswoman Shirley Norton in San Francisco declined to comment. Bear Stearns was bought by JPMorgan in 2008, the same year Lehman Brothers collapsed.

‘Absolute Disaster’

Laura Sweeney, a Justice Department spokeswoman in Washington, declined to comment.

Banks may choose to cooperate with prosecutors because in light of the government bailout funds they’ve received “a guilty plea would just be an absolute disaster for some of these companies,” said Nathan Muyskens, a partner at Shook, Hardy & Bacon in Washington and former trial attorney with the Federal Trade Commission’s Bureau of Competition.

“There have been antitrust investigations where there have been companies involved that were just never indicted,” he said in a phone interview.

At the same time, the government will probably focus on seeking to convict individual bankers, he said.

“When someone goes to jail for five years, that resonates,” he said. “When a company pays $200 million, it’s simply a balance sheet issue. Jail time is what captures corporate America’s attention.”

Lawyers’ Filing

In a court filing yesterday, defense lawyers said they “inadvertently” included the names of individual and company co-conspirators in a motion asking the court to compel the government to provide more specific evidence of the alleged misconduct. They asked the court to strike the entire exhibit in which the list appears. Judge Marrero granted the request.

The government’s probe became public in 2006 when federal investigators raided CDR and two competitors and issued subpoenas to more than a dozen firms. The “co-conspirators” on the list released in court this week also included Wachovia Corp., which was purchased by San Francisco-based Wells Fargo & Co. in 2008. Elise Wilkinson, a Wells Fargo spokeswoman in Charlotte, North Carolina, didn’t return a call today seeking comment.

October Indictments

The indictments released in October didn’t identify any of the sellers of the investment contracts involved in the alleged conspiracy. They were identified only as Provider A and Provider B. They paid kickbacks to CDR after winning investment deals brokered by the firm, according to the indictments.

The firms did this by paying sham fees tied to financial transactions entered into with other companies, prosecutors said. Kickbacks were paid from 2001 to 2005, ranging from $4,500 to $475,000 each, according to the Justice Department.

According to the list contained in the court filing this week, the investment contracts involved were created by units of GE and divisions of Financial Security Assurance Holdings Ltd., a bond insurer formerly part of Brussels-based lender Dexia SA.

The kickbacks were paid out of fees generated by transactions entered into with two financial institutions that weren’t identified in the October court filing. The March 24 list filed by the defense named the two firms as UBS and Royal Bank of Canada.

Dexia Sale

Dexia completed the sale of FSA’s bond-insurance business in July to Assured Guaranty Ltd. of Hamilton, Bermuda, while retaining its outstanding investment contracts.

Thierry Martiny, a spokesman for Dexia in Brussels, declined to comment. FSA, based in New York, was the biggest insurer of U.S. municipal bonds in 2007 and 2008.

“We have no comment,” said Betsy Castenir, a spokeswoman for Assured Guaranty in New York, in an e-mail response. “Dexia has responsibility for the liabilities of the Financial Products business.”

Royal Bank of Canada “has been fully cooperating with the government,” Kevin Foster, a spokesman for the bank in New York, said in an e-mailed statement. “We have no knowledge or evidence of wrongdoing by any of our employees.”

The case is U.S. v. Rubin/Chambers, Dunhill Insurance Services Inc., 09-CR-01058, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).

To contact the reporters on this story: William Selway in San Francisco at wselway@bloomberg.net; Martin Z. Braun in New York at mbraun6@bloomberg.net

Last Updated: March 26, 2010 13:09 EDT

Posted in bank of america, bloomberg, chase, citi, concealment, conspiracy, corruption, jpmorgan chase, wachoviaComments (0)


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