J.P. Morgan’s outside counsel at Sullivan & Cromwell are showing signs of desperation in their mortgage securities fraud lawsuits. You know the ones that the bank says in SEC fillings are now $140 billion of litigation. Last week the banks lawyers got a Reuters reporter to write a hit piece on the New York Attorney General’s $22 billion civil fraud suit against JPM / Bear Stearns.
The Reuters story, by Karen Freifeld, basically speculated a judge would be looking at a conflict of interest in the AG’s office because they hired a top lawyer from the firm, PBWT, who first discovered some of the alleged Bear Stearns rmbs fraud. Freifeld starts by writing a line that ‘legal experts’ think the former PBWT attorney who worked on the Ambac v. JP Morgan Securities suit has a conflict because she also played a role in the NY AG’s suit. Karla Sanchez, the lawyer in question, started with the NY AG in January 2011 – after the explosive amended Ambac complaint was filed. This is the complaint you just saw me talking about in the Frontline film The Untouchables.
It’s odd for Retuers to not quote actual working lawyers in the story and leave the reader guessing that the reporter actually found attorneys to back up her claim. I called five securities lawyers last week trying to get one of them to go on the record that they saw a conflict here but none would. That’s because Robert Sacks, JPM’s puffy chested outside counsel from Sullivan & Cromwell, doesn’t actually lay out in the motion what he thinks the conflict is.
The Reuters reporter, who has indirectly become a JP Morgan’s flack, also doesn’t explain to the reader that JP Morgan’s lawyer, Sacks, didn’t actually file a motion in the NY AG’s case in New York civil supreme court. All he really did is indirectly mention the idea in a damn footnote in a motion for an entirely different case. On February 19th Sacks filed a motion trying to stop Judge Ramos from allowing AMBAC/PBWT to get loan file discovery and CLAS database records from third-party due diligence firm Clayton – info they been asking for over a year that Clayton is also fighting to not turn over because it’s likely really really damaging. [ You see on top of all this Clayton is apparently STILL covering up for it's big bank clients even though they signed an agreement to help the State of New York prosecute their financial crisis cases in turn for them not getting sued for their role in billions of rmbs fraud. ] It’s this motion that has the footnote that Reuters in turn made into a story to discredit the NY AG’s head of economic cases.
Here is what the footnote says:
Defendants understand that, upon joining the NYAG, this former PBWT partner was
initially screened from participating in the NYAG’s investigation relating to Bear Stearns, but
that the screen was later lifted and she participated in the investigation. Following concerns
raised by defendants, the NYAG apparently reimposed the screen. Defendants have asked the
NYAG to confirm whether there is additional information about this lawyer’s involvement in the
matters leading up to the NYAG’s suit against Bear Stearns that they should be aware of before
deciding what further action is warranted.
Somehow that footnote made the Reuters reporter think this:
The case against JPMorgan is similar to one that the lawyer had worked on before joining the Attorney General’s office, JPMorgan said in court papers this week, raising the possibility of a conflict of interest.
I did some background checking on what the lawyer in question here, Karla Sanchez, did at PBWT. She ran all of discovery in the monoline suits so yea she would know where the bodies are buried. But she didn’t leave PBWT and go work for a firm to use that info to harm her prior client Ambac. That’s where a real conflict would be. Instead people inside the AG’s office explain she simply led an administrative role in overseeing his case – for a little while – that is a copy cat of the Ambac case. But then so is nearly every rmbs putback case against JP Morgan/Bear Stearns filed in the last two years by clients of Bear’s mortage trading team. The real bulldog lawyer the AG put on the case actually came from the DOJ and joined last summer. I was told by someone familare with the case she was frustrated with the lack of action against the banks at the DOJ and jumped to work for the NY AG because he was actually going to try and hold them accountable. Her name is Virginia Romano and she’s actually known to get things done and not roll over.
Reuters went out and spent a few $ to even FOIA the AG’s records to show when Karla did or didn’t have her hands on the case. This is where the NY AG did something kind of stupid. They originally wouldn’t let her touch the case out of extra caution that JP Morgan would complain. Then they figured it was ok for her to play an admin role in the case – it’s not like she brought over whistleblower emails from the Ambac litigation – the AG actually had to subpoena PBWT for that kind of stuff in May 2011. And by the time she joined his office most of what Ambac had was public anyway because their suit had finally been unsealed and I broke news about it at The Atlantic. JP Morgan did end up complaining about her working the case so the NY AG took her off it. The NY AG should have stuck to their guns and just left Karla on the case. This all happen last year. Which is why it’s odd that Attorney Sacks is brining it up now in a footnote in a lawsuit that isn’t the NYAG’s case. And keep in mind NO motions have been filed in the AG’s suit against JP Morgan talking about a conflict of interest that Reuters somehow thinks could affect his case.
Now using footnotes in a legal motion to say something nasty that the press can then turn use as quotes for a story is an old trick – even PBWT has done it in their litigation against JP Morgan. Heck I’ve found some of great details in my series of reporting on this fraud in footnotes. But the reporter then has the responsibility to check out if actually true. Big Law lawyers like JP Morgan has hired often do dirty block and tackle moves for their clients and this one simply reads like they are trying to distract Judge Ramos from the real issues at hand and just be an all out dick trying to smear one of the NY AG’s top lawyer.
There was actually some real news on this case last week. JP Morgan had asked the court to assign the case to Judge Ramos – who is also trying the Ambac case. Ramos is an old judge who has said in court testimony he doesn’t like Ambac’s fraud claim although he hasn’t ruled it out. A few days after Sacks filed the motion that is the subject of this story Ramos was removed from the case. Yep on Thursday Judge Marcy Friedman became the new judge on the NY AG’s case. So all the ranting Sacks has been making to Ramos in the Ambac case about the AG’s case is kind of moot now as he’s got a new judge to brow beat into believing that the JPM (via Bear) didn’t really steal billions from their own rmbs clients.
Editors Note: AMBAC and JP Morgan have a conference meeting with Judge Ramos on Monday (2-25) at 4p.m. If the Reuters reporter is looking for some real news on these cases that’s a good place to start. I emailed Robert Sacks at Sullivan & Cromwell to ask how long he’d been working with the Retuers reporter to get that story published but he didn’t answer the email.
Here is motion Sacks filed that started this whole story:
JPM Brief 75