A suit filed by Space Coast Credit Union against several Wall Street banks and ratings agencies over claims it lost more than $100 million from collateralized debt obligations that were sold to Eastern Financial Florida Credit Union, was recently put on hold.
The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida said this week it would need more time to review the banks’ and rating agencies’ motion for dismissal.
Among the banks named in the Space Coast suit were Wells Fargo Securities, formerly known as Wachovia Capital Markets, J.P. Morgan Securities, formerly known as Bearn Stearns & Co. Inc., Merrill Lynch and its subsidiary, Merrill Lynch Home Loans, UBS Securities, and Barclay’s Capital Inc. Other defendants named were Richard S. Fuld Jr., former chairman/CEO of Lehman Brothers, and Moody’s Investors Service Inc.
Eastern Financial Florida was conserved by the NCUA in 2009 and merged soon after with Space Coast.
In its complaint filed in early 2012, the $3 billion Space Coast in Melbourne, Fla., said the CDOs led to a phony demand for residential mortgage loans, which also led to creating one of the state’s largest housing catastrophes.
Space Coast said creating and selling CDOs revolved around shoe-horning residential mortgage securities into Moody's and S&P's credit rating models to generate investment grade ratings, according to the CU’s suit. Investors were misled because they relied on the credit ratings, the credit union said.
In May 2011, Space Coast filed a suit against Barclays saying the $10 million worth of the firm’s Markov CDOs bought by Eastern Financial Florida were based on riskier synthetic assets. The purchase allegedly led to losses on the entire investment.
Last spring, the Wall Street banks told a federal court judge in Miami that Eastern Financial was warned about the risks associated with CDOs.
“Each of the 12 CDOs at issue here was offered pursuant to a separate offering circular. These offering circulars contained page after page of disclosures and disclaimers, explaining to Eastern Financial the nature and risks of the particular CDO investments, the place of each tranche within each CDO, and the credit rating expected to be assigned by the rating agencies of each tranche,” according to a joint motion from the banks and ratings agencies to dismiss the suit.
A separate U.S. Department of Justice suit filed this week against the S&P and other firms claimed the agency assigned false high ratings on the CDOs in exchange for payments from several of its Wall Street clients.