Wall Street–At Last–Ponies Up

Wall Street is finally paying—in big heaps of cash—for its sins of the mortgage-backed securities debacle.

Bank of America last week said it would pony up $8.5 billion to settle legal claims by institutional investors who took a bath after buying mortgage backed securities created by Countrywide Financial, the subprime home lender Bank of America bought in 2008. According to several news reports, the deal could spur suits by other investors who bought mortgage-backed securities filled with toxic loans from other banks, including Wells Fargo & Co. and JP Morgan Chase &Co.

It could be a long hot summer for Wall Street and its pampered, see-no-evil executives. In fact, independent bank analyst Chris Whalen believes that Wall Street banks face $200 billion in damages stemming from claims of fraud, according to The Deal.

The Bank of America settlement provides some relief to institutional investors. And now, a recent New York State Supreme Court justice’s ruling states that a group of banks, including, you guessed it, Bank of America, should have their actions examined in an $8 million investment scheme that involves 21 families on Long Island. (Full disclosure: Zamansky & Associates is representing those families in New York State Court.)

The fraud stems from the actions of a purported financial planner, Peter Dawson, who is doing 5 to 15 years in prison. He convinced his clients, who had paid off the total amount or lion’s share of their mortgages, to take out new home loans and give him the money to invest. Dawson promised to pay off those new loans with the money he made from the investments, as well as provide a healthy return. Instead, he stole the money and now the victims cannot pay the new mortgage.

We contend that the loans the banks made were full of warning signs and obviously improper. We also contend that the banks placed their own interests above the customers.

The New York Supreme Court Justice F. Dana Winslow recently rejected the notion that banks are blameless in the Dawson theft, as the New York Times reported on Sunday. “Significantly, the courts have held that banks do owe duties of care to their own customers,” Judge Winslow wrote. “Moreover, there is a public interest in ensuring the alleged duties relied upon are ‘performed with reasonable care’—as evidenced by the recent flurry of consumer-oriented laws and amendments enacted in the wake of the ‘subprime mortgage meltdown.’”

As the Times noted, Justice Winslow’s decision is important in that it takes a different tack than the overly narrow approach taken by the U.S. Supreme Court recently on the issue of third-party liability.

It’s time the banks pay for their sins of the mortgage debacle to all investors, not just large institutions.

About Jacob H. Zamansky 57 Articles

Jacob (”Jake”) H. Zamansky is one of the country’s foremost authorities on securities arbitration law, the legal recourse for investors claiming broker wrongdoing, or for brokers claiming wrongful termination or other misconduct by their employer. Zamansky & Associates, the New York-based law firm he founded, represents both individuals and institutions in complex securities, hedge fund, and employment arbitrations.

Mr. Zamansky was at the forefront of recent efforts to “clean up” Wall Street. In 2001, he successfully sued former Merrill Lynch analyst Henry Blodget on behalf of a New York pediatrician misled by Blodget’s stock research. The case’s successful resolution was the catalyst for New York Attorney General Elliot Spitzer to investigate the conflicts of interest on Wall Street and resulted in the well-reported $1.4 billion Global Settlement, which included many of the biggest names on Wall Street.

More recently, Mr. Zamansky is one of the leading litigators and opinion leaders of the subprime mortgage crisis and the related hedge fund collapses, representing both investors and mortgage borrowers who were defrauded by Wall Street firms and mortgage lenders. Among Mr. Zamansky’s early actions is filing the first arbitration case on behalf of institutional and high net worth investors against Bear Stearns Asset Management with regard to the two hedge funds which collapsed as a result of exposure to subprime mortgage backed securities. He also has filed claims on behalf of individual investors victimized by brokers that steered their portfolios into unsuitable subprime stocks and mortgage borrowers who were fraudulently coerced into inappropriate mortgage and investment transactions.

Earlier in his career, Mr. Zamansky worked for more than 30 years as a litigator, including positions at Skadden Arps, Slate, Meagher and Flom LLP. His tenure also included serving as a federal prosecutor with the Federal Trade Commission.

A native of Philadelphia, Mr. Zamansky has been a frequent expert commentator on CNBC, CNN, and FOX News and has published opinion pieces in The Wall Street Journal, Financial Times and USA Today. He is regularly quoted and his cases have been chronicled in major financial and news publications including The New York Times, USA Today, The Washington Post, BusinessWeek, Fortune and Forbes. He is a frequent lecturer for industry and legal groups around the country. He also writes a blog that can be viewed here.

Visit: Zamansky & Associates

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