(John Disney/Daily Report)
The odds of seeing the Federal Housing Finance Agency go to trial this year in its litigation campaign against Wall Street got a lot slimmer on Friday, when Credit Suisse AG became the latest defendant to throw in the towel.
FHFA, which serves as conservator for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, announced in a press release that it has reached a $885 million settlement with Credit Suisse. The deal resolves a lawsuit in U.S. district court in Manhattan in which FHFA alleged that the bank misled Fannie and Freddie about home loans pooled into mortgage-backed securities that it sold them before the financial crisis.
FHFA brought similar misrepresentation claims against 17 other banks in the summer of 2011. All told, the cases involve more than $200 billion in MBS. The cases have been assigned to U.S. District Judge Denise Cote in Manhattan, who lumped them into three groups. JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Merrill Lynch & Co. were fast-tracked for a bellwether June 2014 trial. Deutsche Bank AG, Goldman Sachs & Co., Credit Suisse AG and Ally Financial were given a September 2014 trial date. The other defendants all had to wait until January 2015.
After losing several key trial rulings (see our prior coverage here, here and here), the defendants have been settling one by one. Credit Suisse is now the ninth to cut a deal. FHFA’s total recoveries have already eclipsed the $10 billion mark.
The Credit Suisse settlement is a bit more surprising than the others. Of all the big banks, Credit Suisse has been the most reluctant to settle MBS cases, maintaining that its mortgage practices weren’t fraudulent.
That defense was called into question this month after internal emails, published by Gretchen Morgenson of the New York Times, revealed Credit Suisse executives making cringeworthy statements like “our diligence process is such a joke.” The emails came to light through discovery in an MBS case brought against the bank by an individual MBS investor, Cambridge Place Investment Management, represented by Bernstein Litowitz Berger & Grossmann.
We could still see a trial in 2015, but the odds of one happening this year are now slim. Of the original six defendants slated to go to trial in 2014, Merrill Lynch is the only one remaining. Merrill’s parent, Bank of America Corp. rolled the dice on a trial in its mortgage fraud case last year and lost, so it may be reluctant to take the aggressive route yet again.
FHFA was represented in the Credit Suisse case by Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan. Cravath, Swaine & Moore, which is handling all of Credit Suisse financial crisis litigation, represented the bank in the case.