JP Morgan Pays Off Ambac for Full Amount of RMBS Fraud Claim

I once told millions of RT’s Keiser Report viewers JP Morgan was going to pay at least $1 billion dollars to mortgage insurer Ambac for Bear Stearns committing system wide mortgage-back securities fraud and then trying to cover it with accounting tricks. Last night that report came true when JPM settled with Ambac for $995 million over a lawsuit, filed in 2008, asking for mega millions in damages resulting from breach of contract and fraud.

Sadly it’s taken one day and five years after I first reported an explosive story at The Atlantic, with on the record former Bear Stearns employees detailing how Bear Stearns stole billions from their own clients, to get JP Morgan to pay Ambac the money Bear Stearns owed them. It reads like a move by the bank to avoid a summary judgment decision from Judge Ramos, who could have ruled Bear Stearns committed fraud by lying to Ambac about the quality of the loans in the RMBS and also lying about how Bear Stearns ran it’s own due dilly operations. The fraud claim would have tripled the damages instead of just a breach of contract claim that usually only awards actually damages.

On July 14, 2015 in front of New York state Judge Ramos, in Manhattan Supreme Court, Ambac’s attorney Erik Haas argued during a partial summary judgment motion on the issue of justifiable reliance. The bank’s big law lawyers at Sullivan Cromwell had moved for Judge Ramos to rule before the case got in front of a jury on JPM/Bear Stearns’s fraudulent misrepresentation. The central argument is: was Ambac fraudulently induced to insure billions of residential mortgage backed securities packaged and sold by Bear Stearns. Team JPM thought Ramos was going to rule in their favor and if you were listening to the beginning of the hearing Judge Ramos sure sounded like he didn’t think the fraud claim should go to a jury. But during oral argument attorney Eric Haas appears to have convinced Judge Ramos to see why Ambac thought they had the evidence to prove Bear Stearns/JP Morgan’s culpability in the fraud and felt so good about their legal argument winning that they asked Judge Ramos to rule right then from the bench.

Attorney Haas detailed some of the fraud they found during discovery to Judge Ramos at the July hearing saying,” And further still, in the transaction that came after that, they said, Oh, don’t worry. Don’t worry. We now have a seller monitoring program in place and it shows that only 3 percent of all of these loans come from terminated sellers. That was a lie. 14 percent, up to 14 percent of them came from terminated sellers and almost 50 percent of the loans in the transaction came from sellers that were downgraded and that had material credit risk. They lied.” The hearing transcript also says Bear Stearns didn’t even set up a ‘seller monitoring program’ till late 2006 and lied to Ambac before late 2006 that they had the program. A program which could have helped figured out if Bear was putting already defaulting 2nd lien loans into the transaction Ambac was insuring.

JP Morgan argued at the hearing that because Ambac didn’t do a loan by loan due diligence of their own, where they might have discovered that Bear Stearns was lying before they insured it, that Ambac shouldn’t be able to bring a fraud claim. Ambac’s response was that wasn’t practical or normal course of business in these transaction because they relied on what Bear Stearns told them about what was in the security and on the due diligence reports Bear paid a third party to do for insurers. Ambac said, Bear Stearns wasn’t a fly by night bucket shop that needed its work to be checked and rechecked but a bulge bank with years of reputation and transactional trust built into the market.

Ramos said in court that he would reserve ruling and not make a decision right from the bench. But after he thought about the hearing, for the first time in seven years, he told JPM and Ambac it’s time to settle. JP Morgan clearly dragged out negotiations and chose to announce the near billion dollar payout after their year-end 2015 earnings were released earlier this month. Unfortunately, as a result of the settlement Judge Ramos never got to officially rule on the summary judgment hearing or if the fraud claim should go to trial.

The bank’s lawyers were also working the court system to drag out this litigation so when they settled enough time had passed the statute of limitations for Bear Stearns stockholder lawsuits so they couldn’t use this case to prove Bear Stearns executives committed fraud.

The original Ambac lawsuit, filed December 2008, asked for $900 million in damages for problems in second lien loans. Then Erik Haas of Paterson Belknap, the pioneering attorney who discovered the deep level of fraud at JPM and Bear Stearns, added on another suit for first lien loan fraud. It’s the 2nd lawsuit that forced JPM to pay additional millions for a total payout to Ambac of $995 million. A number Ambac’s CEO said Tuesday will greatly impact their earnings. Unfortunately, the win for Ambac investors is five years overdue.

Yesterday JP Morgan was telling investors in public filings the $1 billion payout won’t have a significant impact to earnings in the following quarter. That’s because they have a few billion set aside in legal reserves to payout lawsuits like this. But if JPM knew it could afford to payoff Ambac then why waste their investors money on millions in legal fees fighting these fraud charges since they took over the Bear Stearns in 2008. Why after the DOJ forced the bank to pay $13 billion in 2013 for this rmbs fraud did they drag out the Ambac case and force Ambac to spend more big dollars on attorney fees thus delaying dollars the insurer desperately needed to fund its operations. (Ambac had to file for bankruptcy in 2010 which it has now come out of) And why, as Frontline’s doc film The Untouchables pointed out, have the men that allegedly spearheaded the Bear Stearns fraud, Tom Marano, Mike Nierenberg and Jeff Verschleiser never been charged with a crime?

My peers and editors call the five years of my reporting on these crimes successful ‘Impact Reporting’ because I spoke out in print and on TV consistently proving factually how the fraud was committed and not letting the market forget JP Morgan and Bear Stearns crimes. But until at least one of the Bear Stearns executives is criminally charged the investing public doesn’t have their full impact result.

This story has been update with details from the summary judgment hearing now that the court transcripts are public

How the NY AG built his RMBS case against JP Morgan for Bear Stearns Sins

This story has been updated

One documentary film maker, one investigative journalist, and one law firm willing to take a risk led to the lawsuit the New York Attorney General just filed against JP Morgan for a system wide effort to defraud mortgage investors by Bear Stearns.

My readers and viewers of RT’s The Keiser Report know they first learned about Bear Stearns fraud back in 2010 after I was the first journalist to report for The Atlantic Bear Stearns whistleblowers were on the record saying they were directed to make up loan level detail for the mortgage bond raters. From there I broke news again at The Atlantic in January 2011 detailing how Bear’s own internal documents showed the RMBS traders, under Tom Marano, were literally stealing billions from the clients they’d sold the mortgage bonds to via a double dipping scheme.

The documents to outline the double dipping by Bear traders was discovered by PBWT attorney Eric Haas – who also has an accounting background. It was this evidence that enabled him to add a fraud claim, that survived a motion to dismiss, to Ambac’s suit and year and a half later JP Morgan had to admit in their regulatory filings for shareholders that they were now looking at $120 billion in possible RMBS fraud and putback suits. These additional suits filed by the FHFA for the GSE’s and tons of other mortgage investors would have never happen if PBWT hadn’t been first to do the gritty research and detail to build their claims against $JPM/$BS/$EMC.

While this is likely the most impactful reporting of my career it couldn’t have happen with out one documentary film maker, Nick Verbitsky of BlueChip Films. He was first to find former EMC/Bear analyst to go on camera and detail the methods of deceit and fraud by the billions. It was Verbitsky’s unedited interviews that led to my first The Atlantic story. And it was that story to helped open up research for attorneys at Paterson Belknap for their client Amabc.

I remember getting a call notifying me the NY AG’s office had read my reporting and wanted to reach filmmaker Nick Verbitsky to get these unedited whistleblower tapes last year. And then we watched AG Schneiderman slowly start to interview the Bear Stearns whistleblowers which I reported multiple times on RT’s The Keiser Report. A program that was bold enough to trust my reporter instincts, go up against one of the world’s most powerful banks, JP Morgan, and know it was a good idea to warn viewers the bank is going to get their asses sued and it could affect the financial health of the company.

The NY AG also got a push from New York State Assemblyman Morelle who asked him to investigated Bear/JP Morgan for insurance fraud using New York State insurance laws. I first reported the NY AG was beginning his investigation in April 2011 for DealFlow Media’s The distressed Debt Report. Today we see copy cat New York Times reporter Gretchen Morgenson source that people familiar with the AG’s investigation told her he began in the Spring of 2011. In reality Gretchen read my original reporting and the The Atlantic’s mention of it back in April 2011 and I find it absurd that she can’t properly credit where she learned about it first. I have to wonder if Assemblyman Morelle, who chairs the insurance committee, is satisfied with the NY AG only bringing civil fraud charges against JP Morgan – if he’s not will he push the DOJ’s Southern District of New York office to carry the ball over the line and actually charge individual bank traders with criminal wrong doing? You can see a slew of likely illegal actions the Bear traders did that the NY AG left out of his suit in a story I wrote for DealFlow Media last August.

Today’s one of those days when it feels good to be an independent financial journalist and I want to thank my editors at DealFlow Media and The Atlantic along with Max Keiser and his producer Stacy Hebert at RT for publishing all my original reporting on this crime. To my fellow journalist just catching up on the story don’t forget to credit those who were the catalyst for action.

What’s next – I think PBWT and other Big Law firms, who have copied their suit and sued $JPM, are going start taking some serious settlement offers from $JPM and I expect it to be in the billions. I mean look at all additional whistleblowers that came forward from other firms Bear Stearns hired to help them sell mortgage bonds.

As far as JP Morgan shareholders go, if the bank’s payout to settle rmbs fraud and putback claims is in the double-digit billions then I’d expect lawyers to start filing class actions suits against JP Morgan for not disclosing enough rmbs putback risk. This is an issue I wrote about in May. There is also the fact that the SEC went to $JPM back in 2010 and told them they are not holding enough capital for putbacks – I reported this on Max Keiser’s show in November 2010. So why did the SEC allow this big bad bank to under-reserve for the last two years and report higher earnings? That’s a question we’d all like answered but are not likely to get.

Editors Note: Verbitsky’s doc film about Bear Stearns, Confidence Game, is showing at the Bruce Museum on Thursday night in Greenwich,CT. I am a panel guest, along with Roddy Boyd and William Cohan who will be speaking with Veribitsky after the movie. Come see it and hear first hand how we uncovered this fraud and how regulators came to us help build their case.