Banks May Fight Banks as Mortgage Investors Pursue Class Status

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By Thom Weidlich

Sept. 10 (Bloomberg) — Bank of America Corp., JPMorgan Chase & Co. and other banks may pay more to resolve claims over their alleged roles in the collapse of a $2.3 trillion mortgage- backed securities market if sophisticated investors are allowed to sue as a group along with less savvy ones.

Class-action status allows investors to pool financial and legal resources, giving them greater leverage to win larger settlements or verdicts. The banks, however, have a court ruling on their side that may help fend off such blockbuster cases. It says class status is barred because some investors are too sophisticated — in fact, because some of them are other banks, including JPMorgan.

“It is possible to be both an alleged perpetrator and victim at the same time,” said Jacob S. Frenkel, a former U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission lawyer now in private practice in Potomac, Maryland. “It’s unprecedented that you have the most sophisticated institutions as victims, to be in a position where their losses are so great that they have sued.”

The ruling by U.S. District Judge Harold Baer Jr. in Manhattan, favoring defendants Royal Bank of Scotland Group Plc and Ally Financial Inc., held that investors may not sue as a class in part because some of them are being sued over the same claims. Last month, that ruling was countered by two judges in Baer’s courthouse, both of whom ruled that investors in home- loan backed securities may sue as a class.

Read more in Bloomberg Businessweek

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