The most dramatic moment at the Sept. 21 hearing on Bank of America’s proposed $8.5 billion settlement with Countrywide mortgage-backed securities investors came near the end, when Gibbs & Bruns partner Robert Madden stood up to address Manhattan federal judge William Pauley’s concerns about how the settlement came to be. Tall and clear-spoken, Madden captured the judge’s attention as he explained that his clients, a group of 22 large institutional investors, hadn’t entered a sweetheart deal with BofA, but had banded together to force the bank to pony up billions to investors for claims BofA thought it would never have to deal with.
“The problem was that these repurchase claims were lying fallow,” Madden said, according to the transcript of the hearing. “No one was doing anything. None of (the investors now objecting to the deal) were doing anything. And, I’m sorry to say, the trustee wasn’t doing anything. Limitations were running on those claims, and nothing was happening.”
Or was it?
I’ve learned that in the summer of 2010, as Gibbs & Bruns began to push Countrywide MBS trustee Bank of New York Mellon to act on its assertions that mortgages underlying the Countrywide securities were deficient, another group of Countrywide MBS investors was finalizing its own notice of default to serve on BNY Mellon. Members of the RMBS Clearinghouse, run by former Patton Boggs partner Talcott Franklin, had undertaken an extensive analysis of the underlying Countrywide mortgages, and, according to two sources familiar with the Clearinghouse’s activities, were on the verge of sending BNY Mellon a notice that would trigger put-back litigation.
The asset management firms BlackRock and PIMCO were key members of Franklin’s Clearinghouse. But they were also Gibbs & Bruns clients. On Aug. 4, 2010, Gibbs & Bruns partner Kathy Patrick sent an email to her MBS clients, including BlackRock, PIMCO, the New York Federal Reserve Bank, and MetLife. In that email, Patrick made it clear that Gibbs & Bruns clients should not support the Clearinghouse’s effort.
“Since some of you were previously in the Clearinghouse, it may be that Mr. Franklin believes (mistakenly) that he is authorized to send a notice of default on your behalf,” the email said. “If you have not already done so, it is important that you promptly advise him that he is not authorized to send a notice of default on your behalf … You should also make clear that he should not include your bonds in the count of any bonds he uses to reach the percentages required to tender such a notice.”