In the latest of the subprime and credit crisis cases to be dismissed, on September 30, 2009, District of Massachusetts Judge Richard G. Stearns dismissed the securities class action lawsuit that had been filed by purchasers of mortgage pass-through certificates against Nomura Asset Acceptance Corporation, certain of its directors and officers, the eight mortgage trusts that had issued the certificates, and the offering underwriters who had supported the 2005 and 2006 public offerings of the certificates. A copy of Judge Stearns’s opinion can be found here.
As discussed in my prior post about this case (here), the plaintiffs initially filed their complaint against Nomura in Massachusetts state court, but the defendants removed the case to federal court. After plaintiffs had amended their complaint, the defendants moved to dismiss. More detailed background regarding the case can be found here.
In their amended complaint (here), the plaintiffs alleged that in connection with each of the eight separate certificate offerings, the defendants had misled investors with respect to the loan underwriting by the originators of the mortgages in the trusts; with respect to the originators’ appraisal practices; with respect to level of delinquencies for the mortgages in the trusts; and with respect to the certificates’ investment ratings.
The court first addressed the standing of the plaintiffs to assert claims against the eight trusts, which, Judge Stearns noted, "are separate legal entities" that "each issued its own securities backed by different pools of mortgages." Judge Stearns found that because the named plaintiffs had only bought certificates from three of the eight defendant trusts, "the named plaintiffs are incompetent to allege an injury caused by purchase of Certificates that they themselves never purchased."
Judge Stearns held, based on the "overwhelming weight of authority," that the named plaintiffs lacked constitutional standing to assert claims against the five trusts from which they had not purchased certificates. Judge Stearns also held that the named plaintiffs lacked standing to assert claims against the offering underwriter defendants that had supported offerings only with respect to the five trusts from which the plaintiffs had not purchased securities. Judge Stearns dismissed the claims against the five trusts and the associated offering underwriter defendants.
Judge Stearns also granted the remaining defendants motions to dismiss the plaintiffs Section 12(a)(2) claims. He held that in order to state a claim under Section 12(a)(2), the plaintiffs must allege that they purchased securities from the defendants. However, the plaintiffs alleged only that they "acquired" the securities "pursuant and/or traceable to" the offerings. In granting the motion to dismiss the Section 12(a)(2) claims, Judge Stearns noted that "if plaintiffs did in fact purchase the Certificates directly from the defendants, they should have said so. An evasive circumlocution does not suffice as a substitute."
Finally, Judge Stearns granted the motion of the remaining defendants to dismiss the remaining claims under Sections 11 and 15 of the ’33 Act. He found with respect to the plaintiffs’ allegations concerning the mortgage originators’ underwriting standards that the offering documents contain a "fusillade of cautionary statements" that "abound with warnings about the potential perils." Judge Stearns noted that plaintiffs’ contention that they were not "on notice" of those perils "begs credulity."
With respect to the alleged misrepresentations regarding loan delinquency, Judge Stearns, noting that the allegedly delinquent loans represent 0.1 percent of the mortgages in the pool, stated that "there is no plausible question regarding materiality."
Finally, with respect to the allegations concerning the certificates’ ratings, Judge Stearns noted that while questions regarding the process by which mortgage-backed securities received ratings have arisen in recent months, none of those questions pertain specifically to the ratings of these certificates. Moreover, none of the later developments "support the inference that the ratings were compromised as of the dates" on which the offering documents became effective.
Because Judge Stearns found that the plaintiffs "have failed to allege a sufficient factual basis to support their claims for Securities Act violations," he granted the defendants’ motions to dismiss with prejudice.
The Nomura action is only one of many securities lawsuits that investors have brought against the securitizers that aggregated mortgages into pools that issued mortgage-backed securities. In many of these cases, as in the Nomura case, the plaintiffs have lumped together many different issuing trusts and many different offerings. In some of these cases, the plaintiffs will face the same "standing" hurdles that confounded the plaintiffs in the Nomura case.
And more to the point, the offering documents provided in connection with many of these mortgage-backed securities offerings, like the documents relating to the offerings at issue in the Nomura case, also contained a "fusillade of cautionary statements" that abound with warnings" about the perils.
During most of 2008 and into early 2009, Plaintiffs aggressively filed these types of Securities Act cases against the securitizers, perhaps on the theory that a Securities Act case (for which there are no scienter pleading requirements) might more easily survive a dismissal motion. However, Judge Stearns opinion in the Nomura suit suggests that these cases could face rigorous scrutiny and may also face substantial difficulty getting over the initial pleading hurdles.
I have in any event added the opinion in the Nomura case to my register of subprime and credit crisis-related lawsuit dismissal motion rulings, which can be accessed here.
Special thanks to a loyal reader for providing a copy of Judge Stearns’s opinion.
Full Disclosure: On October 5, 2009, the Federal Trade Commission announced (here) that it had approved final revisions to the guidance it gives advertisers on how to keep their endorsements and testimonials in compliance with FTC requirements. The FTC’s formal Notice of Adoption of the guidelines can be found here.
These new guidelines have received a great deal of attention for the requirements they purport to impose on bloggers. For example, the Wall Street Journal seemed to think that the FTC’s requirements regarding bloggers is front page news (refer here). The guidelines do seek to impose certain requirements on bloggers. For example, in its press release, the FTC stated that "bloggers who made an endorsement must disclose material connections they share with the seller of a product or service."
Everyone here at The D&O Diary wants to reassure our readers that we have accepted no promotional considerations of any kind in connection with matters discussed on this blog. Of course, it is probably fair to note that no one has ever offered us any promotional considerations, darn it. But readers can be assured that if we ever did have the opportunity to accept any promotional consideration, we would fully disclose the consideration in compliance with FTC requirements.
Our "promotional consideration intake operators" are standing by …
Speakers’ Corner: On October 16, 2009, at 11 am EDT, I will be participating in a one hour webinar sponsored by Advisen, about securities litigation during the third quarter of 2009. Joining me on the panel will be Arthur J. Gallagher’s Phil Norton, Zurich’s Paul Schiavone, and Advisen’s David Bradford. The session will be moderated by Advisen’s Jim Blinn.
This webinar will review securities cases filed and settled during the third quarter, include shareholder derivative suits, securities fraud suits, and other categories of securities-related litigation. The registration materials for the webinar can be found here.