On February 2, a major bank agreed to a $500 million settlement to resolve years of litigation surrounding the sale of mortgage securities by Bear Stearns, which the company acquired. In re: Bear Stearns Mortgage Pass-Through Certificates Litigation, No. 1:08-cv-08093-LTS (S.D.N.Y. Feb. 2, 2015). The litigation concerned the sale of $17.58 billion in mortgage securities by Bear Stearns, and alleged that the former investment bank “misrepresented the quality of the loans in the loan pools.” Although investors did not accuse Bear Stearns of fraud, they alleged that it was strictly liable and negligent for the losses incurred, evidenced by the downgrading of most mortgage certificates from a AAA rating to below investment grade, or “junk” status. In the settlement, the New York-based institution denied any wrongdoing relating to the mortgage sales of Bear Stearns, which occurred during 2006-2007 prior to acquisition.
On March 18, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia dismissed a lawsuit brought by a non-profit organization challenging the $13 billion global settlement agreement entered by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) and a national financial services firm and banking institution arising out of the 2008 financial crisis. Better Markets, Inc. v. U.S. Dept. of Justice, No. CV 14-190 (BAH), 2015 WL 1246104 (D.D.C. Mar. 18, 2015). The plaintiff—an advocacy group founded to “promote the public interest in the financial markets”—alleged that the DOJ’s decision to enter into the 2013 settlement agreement with the firm was in violation of the Constitution, the Administrative Procedure Act, and FIRREA. The court dismissed the lawsuit on grounds that the advocacy group lacked standing, concluding that the group had failed to show “a cognizable harm, or that the relief it seeks will redress its alleged injuries.”
On February 3, the California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS) announced a $125 million settlement with a large credit rating agency and its parent company to resolve charges made in connection with the agency’s inflated ratings of three structured investment vehicle notes that collapsed during the financial crisis. The CalPERS settlement is separate from the DOJ’s settlement with the same credit rating agency. The state-operated retirement system will collect an additional $176 million from the State of California’s $210 million received from the DOJ settlement, for a total of $301 million.