The Federal Housing Finance Agency, the conservator for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, has finally reaped the first settlement in the massive litigation campaign it launched against Wall Street two years ago.
The FHFA on Tuesday voluntarily dismissed its case against General Electric Co., which owns the financial services firm GE Capital, after the parties notified U.S. District Judge Denise Cote in Manhattan that they’d reached a settlement. The deal, which Reuters first reported on Wednesday, puts an end to the FHFA’s claims that GE duped Freddie into buying $550 million in mortgage-backed securities by misrepresenting the quality of the underlying loans. The FHFA didn’t disclose the terms of the settlement, which also resolves the agency’s claims over the same offerings against MBS underwriters Morgan Stanley and Credit Suisse Group AG.
The FHFA unleashed a flurry of suits in September 2011 against banks that sold MBS to Fannie and Freddie, targeting GE, Bank of America Corporation, Credit Suisse, JPMorgan Chase, Royal Bank of Scotland, UBS AG, and a dozen more financial titans. Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan filed 14 of the complaints, while Kasowitz Benson Friedman & Torres filed the rest, including the one against GE. Between the cases, the FHFA sought to recover a staggering $190 billion. The $550 million at stake in the GE suit made it one of the smaller cases. By way of comparison, in the JPMorgan case the agency is seeking to recover $33 billion.
Judge Cote, who’s overseeing almost all the cases, has so far rejected every dismissal bid by the defendants. In May, she struck down an argument by defense lawyers that most of the FHFA’s federal claims are time-barred, as we reported here. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit heard an appeal of that ruling in November. In recent months, Cote has refused to dismiss common law fraud claims against JP Morgan Chase, Deutsche Bank AG, and other defendants.
FHFA counsel Mark Kasowitz didn’t immediately return a call seeking comment. The FHFA said in a statement that it is “pleased this lawsuit has been resolved and appreciates the work of Freddie Mac in this matter.”
Vernon Broderick and Greg Danilow of Weil, Gotshal & Manges represented GE.