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Federal Housing Finance Agency v. Bank of America Corporation

United States District Court, S.D. New York

December 18, 2014

FEDERAL HOUSING FINANCE AGENCY, etc., Plaintiff,
v.
BANK OF AMERICA CORPORATION, et al., Defendants.

Philippe Z. Selendy, Kathleen M. Sullivan, Christine H. Chung, Jordan A. Goldstein, Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan, New York, New York, for the plaintiff.

Brendan V. Sullivan, Jr., David S. Blatt, Edward J. Bennett, John McNichols, Williams & Connolly LLP, Washington, D.C. for the entity defendants.

Daniel C. Zinman, Neil S. Binder, Richards Kibbe & Orbe LLP, New York, NY, for the individual defendants.

CORRECTED OPINION & ORDER

DENISE COTE, District Judge.

An Order of November 28 denied defendants' August 17 motion to dismiss the Amended Complaint in this action (the "August 17 Motion") on the ground that the Court's prior Opinions in the FHFA litigation "comprehensively address the arguments in support of dismissal raised by the defendants" in this case (the "November 28 Order"). On December 5, defendants moved for reconsideration of the November 28 Order, arguing that "none of the Court's prior opinions, including opinions issued after Defendants filed their Motion, " addressed their argument "that Plaintiff's claims for ten of the certificates at issue are barred because Plaintiff alleges that the [GSEs] purchased those certificates before defendants made the allegedly actionable statements." For the reasons that follow, defendants' December 5 motion for reconsideration is granted; their August 17 motion to dismiss is denied.[1]

BACKGROUND

This is one of sixteen actions currently before this Court in which the Federal Housing Finance Agency ("FHFA" or "the Agency"), as conservator for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac (together, the "Government Sponsored Enterprises" or "GSEs"), alleges misconduct on the part of the nation's largest financial institutions in connection with the offer and sale of certain mortgage-backed securities purchased by the GSEs in the period between 2005 and 2007.[2] As amended, the complaints in each of the FHFA actions assert that the Offering Documents used to market and sell Residential Mortgage-Backed Securities ("RMBS") to one or both of the GSEs during the relevant period contained material misstatements or omissions with respect to the owner-occupancy status, loan-to-value ("LTV") ratio, and underwriting standards that characterized the underlying mortgages. On the basis of these allegations, the complaints assert claims under Sections 11, 12(a)(2), and 15 of the Securities Act of 1933, 15 U.S.C. §§ 77k, l(a)(2), o; the Virginia Securities Act, VA Code Ann. § 13.1-522(A)(ii), (C); and the District of Columbia Securities Act, D.C. Code § 31-5606.05(a)(1)(B), (c). In six of the cases, though not this one, the Agency has also asserted common law claims of fraud and aiding and abetting fraud against certain entity defendants (the "Fraud Claim Cases"). As pleaded, these fraud claims attach to each of the three categories of misstatements upon which the plaintiff's securities law claims are based.[3]

The Court has already issued several Opinions addressing motions to dismiss in other cases brought by the FHFA.[4] Familiarity with those Opinions is assumed; all capitalized terms have the meanings previously assigned to them.

Following this Court's decision of the motion to dismiss in FHFA v. UBS, discovery began in all of the coordinated cases. Briefing of defendants' motions to dismiss in the remaining fifteen cases has occurred in two phases, with the motions in Fraud Claim Cases becoming fully submitted on October 11, 2012. The motions in this case and the remaining nine cases were fully submitted November 9, 2012. Depositions are to begin in all cases in January 2013, and all fact discovery in this matter, 11 Civ. 6195 (DLC), must be concluded by December 6, 2013. Trial in this matter is scheduled to begin in January 2015 as part of the fourth tranche of trials in these coordinated actions.

This case concerns RMBS Certificates allegedly purchased by the GSEs between September 2005 and October 2007. Each of the GSE Certificates pertains to one of 23 securitizations offered for sale pursuant to one of nine shelf-registration statements. The lead defendant is Bank of America Corporation ("BOA"). Several corporate affiliates of BOA and associated individuals are also defendants. BOA affiliates served as lead or co-lead underwriter for each of the 23 securitizations at issue, as depositor for 18 of them, and as sponsor for 17 of those. Each individual defendant signed one or more of the Offering Documents.

DISCUSSION

The argument upon which the defendants seek reconsideration concerns 10 Certificates issued pursuant to shelf registration statements and base prospectuses filed between December 22, 2004 and December 22, 2005.[5] Within days of the settlement of the GSES' contracts for purchase of each of the 10 Certificates, a final prospectus was filed with the SEC on Form 424B5 (the "Final Prospectus" or "424B5 Prospectus"). The Amended Complaint in this action asserts Securities Act claims on the basis of allegedly false statements contained within these Final Prospectuses. As noted, defendants argue that the plaintiff may not recover under either Section 11 or Section 12(a)(2) for these "pre-committed Certificates."

This Court has repeatedly emphasized that neither Section 11 nor Section 12(a)(2) "requires allegations of scienter, reliance, or loss causation in order to state a claim." UBS I , 858 F.Supp.2d at 323 (emphasis supplied); see also Merrill, 2012 WL 5451188, at *4 ("[Section 12(a)(2)] does not require a showing of reliance."); Rombach v. Chang , 355 F.3d 164, 169 n.4 ("Neither Section 11 nor Section 12(a)(2) requires that plaintiffs allege the... reliance element[] of a fraud action."); NECA-IBEW Health & Welfare Fund, 693 F.3d 145, 156 (2d Cir. 2012) ("Neither scienter, reliance, nor loss causation is an element of § 11 or § 12(a)(2) claims.") I. Section 11

Defendants do not dispute that a plaintiff asserting claims under Sections 11 or 12(a)(2) is not required to plead reliance. Rather, relying on Eleventh Circuit precedent, they suggest with regard to Section 11 that the statute creates a presumption that a person acquiring a security has been harmed by her reliance on a defective registration statement. This presumption, they contend, may be overcome where the defendant can show that "reliance is rendered impossible by virtue of a pre-registration commitment" ...


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