For the lawyers fighting Dexia SA’s mortgage-backed securities lawsuit against JPMorgan Chase & Co., Jed Rakoff giveth, and Rakoff taketh away.
Last month, when we named Daniel Slifkin and J. Wesley Earnhardt of Cravath, Swaine & Moore Litigators of the Week for eviscerating Dexia’s $774 million fraud case against the bank, we noted that the full impact of the decision would only be apparent once U.S. District Judge Jed Rakoff in Manhattan issued an elaborated ruling. Little did we expect that weeks later, in a decision issued on Friday, Rakoff would bring Dexia’s case back from the dead.
Dexia and its lawyers at Bernstein Litowitz Berger & Grossmann allege that JPMorgan or its predecessors duped Dexia into overpaying by $774 million for mortgage-backed securities backed by faulty loans. As we reported, on April 3 Rakoff issued one of his notorious bottom-line orders wiping out all but $5.7 million in potential damages from Dexia’s case.
We surmised that Rakoff was swayed by Cravath’s defense arguments that Dexia had given up its right to sue over most of the securities. Rakoff’s 10-page decision on Friday shows that we were correct. Unfortunately for JPMorgan, it no longer matters. The judge vacated his earlier decision, ruling that he never had jurisdiction to hear the case in the first place.
For that, Dexia can thank the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit–and indirectly, the lawyers at Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan representing American International Group Inc. in its multibillion-dollar MBS case against Bank of America. On April 19 Quinn Emanuel persuaded the Second Circuit to reject the notion that an obscure 1919 law called the Edge Act gives the federal courts jurisdiction over AIG’s claims. The statute gives federal courts original jurisdiction over cases against U.S. banks arising out of foreign banking transactions. BofA had argued that the Edge Act applied because a handful of the mortgages at issue in the case were secured to overseas properties. The Second Circuit disagreed, and remanded the case back to state court.
Now Rakoff has done the same to Dexia’s case against JPMorgan. Not only did he rule that the Second Circuit’s decision applies to Dexia’s claims against JPMorgan, but he rebuffed Cravath’s entreaties that he should at least allow his previous decision to stand.
"[T]he question of the Court’s jurisdiction under the Edge Act is a straightforward matter of subject matter jurisdiction under a federal statute," Rakoff wrote. "Thus, the Court finds that the more prudent course is to remand the case under the Edge Act and to vacate its summary judgment order."
It doesn’t do much to soften the blow to JPMorgan, but Rakoff also threw in a nod to the Lazarus-like turn of events. "Those who don’t believe in ghosts have never been in court, where legal claims are regularly seen rising from the grave," he wrote. "This is a case in point."