SEC Charges J.P. Morgan and Credit Suisse With Misleading Investors in RMBS Offerings
In coordination with the federal-state Residential Mortgage-Backed Securities Working Group, the Securities and Exchange Commission today charged J.P. Morgan Securities LLC and Credit Suisse Securities (USA) with misleading investors in offerings of residential mortgage-backed securities (RMBS). The firms agreed to settlements in which they will pay more than $400 million combined, and the SEC plans to distribute the money to harmed investors.
The SEC alleges that J.P. Morgan misstated information about the delinquency status of mortgage loans that provided collateral for an RMBS offering in which it was the underwriter. J.P. Morgan received fees of more than $2.7 million, and investors sustained losses of at least $37 million on undisclosed delinquent loans. J.P. Morgan also is charged for Bear Stearns' failure to disclose its practice of obtaining and keeping cash settlements from mortgage loan originators on problem loans that Bear Stearns had sold into RMBS trusts. The proceeds from this bulk settlement practice were at least $137.8 million.
J.P. Morgan has agreed to pay $296.9 million to settle the SEC's charges.
According to the SEC's order against Credit Suisse, the firm similarly failed to accurately disclose its practice of retaining cash for itself from the settlement of claims against mortgage loan originators for problems with loans that Credit Suisse had sold into RMBS trusts and no longer owned. Credit Suisse also made misstatements in SEC filings about when it would repurchase mortgage loans from trusts if borrowers missed the first payment due. The firm made $55.7 million in profits and losses avoided from its bulk settlement practice, and its investors lost more than $10 million due to Credit Suisse's practices concerning first payment defaults.
Credit Suisse has agreed to pay $120 million to settle the SEC's charges.
"In many ways, mortgage products such as RMBS were ground zero in the financial crisis," said Robert Khuzami, Director of the SEC's Division of Enforcement. "Misrepresentations in connection with the creation and sale of mortgage securities contributed greatly to the tremendous losses suffered by investors once the U.S. housing market collapsed. Today's actions involving RMBS securities are a continuation of the SEC's strong efforts to pursue wrongdoing committed in connection with the financial crisis."
Mr. Khuzami is a co-chair of the RMBS Working Group, which brings together federal and state agencies to investigate those responsible for misconduct that contributed to the financial crisis through the pooling and sale of RMBS.
RMBS Working Group Co-Chair and U.S. Attorney for the District of Colorado John Walsh said, "Today's filings represent significant steps towards the accomplishment of the Working Group's mission - to investigate and confront the abuses in the residential mortgage-backed securities market that significantly contributed to the Financial Crisis. The Working Group model allows the Department of Justice to lend a hand to other enforcement partners around the country who, in turn, have their own unique resources, talents, and legal tools to contribute to the effort. And the Justice Department's efforts in this area have benefited from SEC's work on its own cases."
RMBS Working Group Co-Chair and New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said, "Today's actions are another step forward in the process of bringing accountability for the misconduct that led to the collapse of the housing market. We will continue to work together on behalf of consumers and investors to ensure that it never happens again."
According to the SEC's complaint against J.P. Morgan filed in federal court in Washington D.C., federal regulations under the securities laws require the disclosure of delinquency information related to assets that provide collateral for an asset-backed securities offering. Information about the delinquency status of mortgage loans in an RMBS transaction is important to investors because those loans are the primary source of funds by which investors can earn interest and obtain repayment of their principal.
The SEC alleges that in the prospectus supplement for the $1.8 billion RMBS offering that occurred in December 2006, J.P. Morgan made materially false and misleading statements about the loans that provided collateral for the transaction. The firm represented that only four loans (.04 percent of the total loans collateralizing the transaction) were delinquent by 30 to 59 days, and that those four were the only loans that had had an instance of delinquency of 30 or more days in the 12 months prior to the "cut-off date" for the transaction. However, at the time J.P. Morgan made these representations, the firm actually had information showing that more than 620 loans (above 7 percent of the total loans collateralizing the transaction) were, and had been, 30 to 59 days delinquent, and the four loans represented as being 30 to 59 days delinquent were in fact 60 to 89 days delinquent.
The SEC's complaint also alleges that Bear Stearns' bulk settlements covered loans collateralizing 156 different RMBS transactions issued from 2005 to 2007. Loan originators were usually required by contract to buy back loans that suffered early payment defaults or had other defects. However, Bear Stearns frequently negotiated discounted cash settlements with these loan originators in lieu of a buy-back on loans that were owned by the RMBS trusts. The firm - both before and after the merger with J.P. Morgan - then kept most of the bulk settlement proceeds. The firm failed to disclose the practice to investors who owned the loans. Bear Stearns repurchased only about 13 percent of these defective bulk settlement loans from the trusts, compared to a nearly 100 percent repurchase rate when loan originators agreed to buy back the defective loans. For most loans covered by bulk settlements, the firm collected money from originators without paying anything to the trusts.
J.P. Morgan settled the SEC's charges by consenting to pay $50.5 million in disgorgement and prejudgment interest and a $24 million penalty for the delinquency misstatements, which the SEC will seek to distribute to harmed investors in the transaction through a Fair Fund. J.P. Morgan agreed to pay $162,065,536 in disgorgement and prejudgment interest and a $60.35 million penalty for the bulk settlement practice misconduct, and the SEC will seek to distribute these funds to harmed investors through a separate Fair Fund. J.P. Morgan consented, without admitting or denying the allegations, to the entry of a final judgment permanently enjoining them from violating Section 17(a)(2) and (3) of the Securities Act of 1933. The settlement is subject to court approval.
According to the SEC's order instituting a settled administrative proceeding against Credit Suisse, the firm and its affiliated entities misled investors in 75 different RMBS transactions through the bulk settlement practice. From 2005 to 2010, Credit Suisse frequently negotiated bulk settlements with loan originators in lieu of a buy-back of loans that were owned by the RMBS trusts. Credit Suisse kept the bulk settlement proceeds for itself and failed to disclose the practice to investors who owned the loans. In nine of the 75 RMBS trusts, Credit Suisse failed to comply with offering document provisions that required it to repurchase certain early defaulting loans. Credit Suisse also applied different quality review procedures for loans that it sought to put back to originators, instituted a practice of not repurchasing such loans from trusts unless the originators had agreed to repurchase them, and failed to disclose the bulk settlement practice when answering investor questions about early payment defaults.
The SEC's order also found that Credit Suisse made misleading statements about a key investor protection known as the First Payment Default (FPD) provision in two RMBS offerings. The FPD provision required the mortgage loan originator to repurchase or substitute loans that missed payments shortly before or after they were securitized. Credit Suisse misled investors by falsely claiming that "all First Payment Default Risk" was removed from its RMBS, and at the same time limiting the number of FPD loans that were put back to the originator.
Credit Suisse settled the SEC's charges by consenting to pay $68,747,769 in disgorgement and prejudgment interest and a $33 million penalty, which the SEC will seek to distribute through a Fair Fund to harmed investors in the 75 RMBS transactions affected by the bulk settlement practice. Credit Suisse agreed to pay $12,256,561 in disgorgement and prejudgment interest and a $6 million penalty, which the SEC will seek to distribute through a separate Fair Fund to harmed investors in the two transactions affected by the FPD misstatements. Credit Suisse agreed to an order, without admitting or denying the allegations, requiring them to cease and desist from violations of Section 17(a)(2) and (3) of the Securities Act and Section 15(d) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934.
These investigations were conducted by members of the SEC Enforcement Division's Structured and New Products Unit in both the Denver and Washington, D.C. offices, including Zachary Carlyle, Mark Cave, Sarra Cho, Allison Herren Lee, Laura Metcalfe, Colin Rand, Thomas Silverstein, John Smith, Andrew Sporkin, Amy Sumner, and Jeffrey Weiss. The trial unit members assigned to this matter were Dugan Bliss, Kyle DeYoung, Jan Folena, and Christian Schultz. The Enforcement Division was assisted by Eugene Canjels and Vance Anthony in the Division of Risk, Strategy and Financial Innovation. The SEC thanks the other agencies who are members of the RMBS Working Group for their assistance and cooperation regarding these enforcement actions.
"These actions demonstrate that we intend to hold accountable those who misled investors through poor disclosures in the sale of RMBS and other financial products commonly marketed and sold during the financial crisis. Our efforts in that regard continue," said Kenneth Lench, Chief of the SEC Enforcement Division's Structured and New Products Unit.
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Today's announcement is part of the ongoing efforts of President Obama's Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force's Residential Mortgage-Backed Securities (RMBS) Working Group, a federal and state law enforcement effort focused on investigating fraud and abuse in the RMBS market that helped lead the 2008 financial crisis. The RMBS Working Group brings together more than 200 attorneys, investigators, analysts and staff from dozens of state and federal agencies including the Department of Justice together with 10 U.S. Attorneys' Offices and the FBI, the Securities and Exchange Commission, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), HUD's Office of Inspector General, the Federal Housing Finance Agency's Office of Inspector General, the Office of the Special Inspector General for the Troubled Asset Relief Program, the Federal Reserve Board's Office of Inspector General, the Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board, the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, and more than 10 state attorneys general offices around the country.
The Working Group is led by five co-chairs: Director of Enforcement for the SEC Robert Khuzami, New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department's Criminal Division Lanny Breuer, Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department's Civil Division Stuart Delery and U.S. Attorney for the District of Colorado John Walsh. The RMBS Working Group Coordinator is Matthew Stegman. For more information about the RMBS working group and the Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force, which is chaired by Attorney General Eric Holder, visit: www.stopfraud.gov