Court Approves Majority of BofA Pact With MBS Investors
Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Barbara Kapnick (See Profile) approved most of a $8.5 billion settlement Friday struck between Bank of America and investors exposed to major losses from troubled mortgage-backed securitizations prior to the financial crisis.
It was the final ruling issued by the Commercial Division judge before her appointment to the Appellate Division, First Department becomes effective today.
In a 54-page ruling, Kapnick said the settlement—reached in June 2011 with 22 investors after a year of discussion only to be challenged by a small contingent of investors led by insurance behemoth AIG for allegedly falling short of covering actual losses—was made in good faith and within the bounds of reasonableness.
The judge held that Bank of New York Mellon, as the trustee for these certificate holders, "did not abuse its discretion in entering into the settlement agreement and did not act in bad faith or outside the bounds of reasonable judgment."
Kapnick, who presided over a nine-week evidentiary hearing in 2013 during an Article 77 proceeding initiated to approve the settlement, noted it was "clear" that BNYM placed "considerable weight" on the fact that the settlement had the backing of 22 institutional investors, including BlackRock, MetLife, Pa-cific Investment Management Company and the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation.
The settlement, which involves 530 trusts comprised of loans that stemmed from subprime lender Countrywide Financial acquired by Bank of America in 2008, extinguishes potential claims arising from a failure to repurchase faulty loans and successor liability, among others.
Friday's much-anticipated decision from the trial court was regarded as an opportunity to establish some precedent-setting groundwork as to what extent trustees have a duty in protecting the interests of investors of such securities.
Kapnick did reject one piece of the settlement in holding that the trustee had not acted in good faith in settling loan modification claims, which involves the repurchase of up to $31 billion worth of modified loans that are separate from the $8.5 billion figure.
"It is clear that the Trustee was aware of the issue and did include it in a list of settlement issues to discuss with Bank of America," Kapnick wrote, adding that BNYM could have retained an expert to "opine on the contract interpretation of the various provisions of the PSAs that address the repurchase of modified loans."
Kapnick stayed an entry of her judgment until Feb. 7.