The New Century Financial securities class action lawsuit – which was the first of the subprime-related securities class action lawsuits when it was filed in February 2007 – has been settled for $124,827,088, subject to court approval. The plaintiffs’ July 30, 2010 unopposed motion for settlement approval can be found here.


The settlement actually consists of three separate settlement stipulations and three corresponding settlement funds. Of the total settlement amount, $65,077, 088 will be paid on behalf of the thirteen former New Century directors and officers; $44,650,000 will be paid on behalf of KPMG, New Century’s auditor; and $15 million will be paid on behalf of the offering underwriter defendants.


The $65 million to be paid in the class action settlement on behalf of the individual directors and officers is actually part of a larger settlement on the individuals’ behalf. As reflected in the separate director and officer settlement stipulation filed in connection the motion for settlement approval, a total of $91,102,331.51 will be paid in cash by eleven directors’ and officers’ liability insurers (which are listed on page 11 of the stipulation) in order to settle in whole or in part not only the claims against them in the securities class action lawsuits but also the claims pending against some or all of the individuals in proceedings before the SEC, in separate litigation brought against them by other plaintiffs, as well as bankruptcy trustee claims.


As reflected at greater length here, plaintiff investors first filed their action against the defendants in February 2007. New Century filed for bankruptcy in April 2007. In March 2008, the New Century bankruptcy examiner filed a report (refer here) finding, among other things, that the company had "engaged in a number of significant improper and imprudent practices related to its loan originations" that "created a ticking time bomb that detonated in 2007." On December 3, 2008, Central District of California Judge Dean Pregerson denied the defendants’ motions to dismiss (refer here).


The New Century Financial case was one of the higher profile subprime-related securities class action lawsuits and one of the most prominent in which the motion to dismiss was denied. However, as reflected in my running tally of subprime related case resolutions and settlements (which can be accessed here), it is only the fourth largest subprime securities suit settlement so far, behind the Countrywide settlement ($624 million), the Merrill Lynch settlement ($475 million) and the Merrill Lynch bondholders settlement ($150 million).


Unlike those larger settlements, however, in the New Century Financial case there was no viable entity remaining to fund a larger settlement. The size of the insurers’ contribution and the number of insurers involved in the D&O settlement stipulation suggests that the remaining D&O insurance was exhausted to fund the D&O portion of the settlement. These figures also suggest that there were certain constraints on the possible size of the settlement. KPMG’s very sizeable contribution of $44.75 million toward the settlement represents a significantly greater contribution that it paid in the much larger Countrywide settlement ($24 million).


I suspect that this was an enormously difficult settlement to pull off. Given the number of parties, the number of proceedings, the number of insurers, and the amount of money at stake, trying to settle this case undoubtedly was challenging, particularly since continuing defense expenses eroded the amount of insurance remaining as the settlement negotiations went forward. I tip my hat to the lawyers involved in bringing this settlement together.


The SEC’s separate July 30, 2010 announcement of its settlement of its enforcement action pending against three former New Century directors and officers can be found here. The stipulation of settlement in the class action lawsuit specifies that the portion of the $91 million in insurance funds is to be paid in part on behalf of the three individuals in the SEC proceeding; however, the stipulation specifies that these amounts "shall not be applied towards penalties owed pursuant to" the SEC settlement.


Another Subprime Securities Suit Settlement: In addition to the New Century Financial case, the subprime-related securities class action lawsuit involving The PMI Group also recently settled. The company announced in its August 3, 2010 filing on Form 1-Q (here) that on July 13, 2010 the parties agreed to a proposed settlement of $31.25 million, subject to court approval. The settlement is to be funded entirely by The PMI Group’s insurers. Background regarding the case can be found here. Like the New Century Financial case, the PMI Group subprime-related securities class action lawsuit had also survived a motion to dismiss, as discussed here.


A Different Sort of Insurance Cover: Being an astronaut is a dangerous occupation, and those that climb into space launch vehicles understandably would want life insurance in case the worst were to happen. However, life insurers have proven reluctant to insure astronauts.


As reflected in this fascinating post on the UK Insurance blog (here), the interesting way the crews for the Apollo 11 through 16 dealt with this issue was for each crew member to sign specially issued, stamped and marked envelopes, with the idea that were the worst to happen, the value of the "insurance covers" would "sky-rocket" allowing the astronauts’ families to secure financial benefits without formal insurance.


Fortunately, none of the missions that used this makeshift form of insurance suffered any fatalities (though Apollo 1 did meet an unfortunate fate and later Space Shuttle Challenger and Columbia missions did suffer terrible disasters). The Apollo missions "insurance covers" were never used and now trade among collectors.


Special thanks to loyal reader Chris Areheart for sending along this interesting item.