How nice that we can count on private litigation to do the job the Justice Department should be doing!
The American International Group is planning to sue Bank of America over hundreds of mortgage-backed securities, adding to the surge of investors seeking compensation for the troubled mortgages that led to the financial crisis.
The suit seeks to recover more than $10 billion in losses on $28 billion of investments, in possibly the largest mortgage-security-related action filed by a single investor.
It claims that Bank of America and its Merrill Lynch and Countrywide Financial units misrepresented the quality of the mortgages placed in securities and sold to investors, according to three people with knowledge of the complaint.
A.I.G., still largely taxpayer-owned as a result of its 2008 government bailout, is among a growing group of investors pursuing private lawsuits because they believe banks misled them into buying risky securities during the housing boom. At least 90 suits related to mortgage bonds have been filed, demanding at least $197 billion, according to McCarthy Lawyer Links, a legal consulting firm. A.I.G. is preparing similar suits against other large financial institutions including Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase and Deutsche Bank, said the people with knowledge of the complaint, as part of a litigation strategy aimed at recovering some of the billions in losses the insurer sustained during the financial crisis.
The private actions stand in stark contrast to the few credit crisis cases brought by the Justice Department, which is wrapping up many of its inquiries into big banks without filing any charges. The lack of prosecutions — the Justice Department has brought three cases against employees at large financial companies and none against executives at large banks — has left private litigants, mainly investors and consumers, standing more or less alone in trying to hold financial parties accountable.
“When federal authorities don’t fulfill their obligation to enforce the law, they essentially give an imprimatur to the financial entities to do whatever they want and disregard the law,” said Kathleen C. Engel, a professor at Suffolk University Law School in Boston. “To the extent there are places where shareholders and borrowers can pursue claims, they are really serving the function of the government. They are our private attorneys general.”