A Large Amount of Money is Lost. Will Legal Malpractice Claims Follow?
We saw Margin Call. Dexia SA/NV v Morgan Stanley 013 NY Slip Op 51696(U); Decided on October 16, 2013; Supreme Court, New York County; Bransten, J. is the litigation that might have followed the events in Margin Call.
Admittedly there is no legal malpractice claim in Dexia. We wonder what will happen now that the Court has determined that the assignment of certificates in this mega multi-million dollar transaction laced the right to sue for fraud.
"n this action for common-law fraud, aiding and abetting fraud, and fraudulent inducement, defendants Morgan Stanley ("MS"), Morgan Stanley & Co., Inc. ("MS & Co."), Morgan Stanley ABS Capital I Inc. ("MSAC"), Morgan Stanley Capital I Inc. ("MSC"), Morgan Stanley Mortgage Capital Inc. ("MSMC"), and Morgan Stanley Mortgage Capital Holdings LLC bring the instant motion to dismiss the amended complaint, pursuant to CPLR 3211. Defendants contend that plaintiffs lack standing to bring fraud claims and that plaintiffs have not pled the requisite elements to state a cause of action sounding in fraud. Plaintiffs FSA Asset Management LLC ("FSAM"), Dexia SA/NV, Dexia Holdings, Inc. ("DHI"), and Dexia Crédit Local SA ("DCL") oppose the motion.
This action concerns 29 residential mortgage-backed securities ("RMBS"), which FSAM purchased from MS & Co in 2006 and 2007, for a total of $626 million. On June 30, 2009, FSAM assigned the securities to Dexia SA/NV, DHI, and DCL for face value, via a put option transaction. By the time this instant action was filed, all 29 RMBS at issue had been downgraded to "junk" status.
Investors in RMBS receive payments from the cash flow generated by thousands of mortgages, which have been deposited into designated pools. The actual securities held by the investor are pass-through participation certificates, which are an ownership interest in the issuing trust, the entity that holds the pools.
The first step in the securitization process is the creation of a pool of designated mortgages by the sponsor. The mortgages can be originated by the sponsor itself, purchased from other financial institutions, or be a mixture of self-originated and purchased loans. Before creating the pool, the sponsor reviews a sample of the mortgages in order to verify that they comport with underwriting guidelines.
After the pool of designated mortgages has been created by the sponsor, the mortgages are transferred to the depositor. The depositor carves up the projected cash flow from the mortgages into tranches; the tranches are ordered by seniority on the basis of risk, thus, any losses in the loan pool are applied to the junior (riskiest) tranches first. Once the tranche structure has been finalized, the proposed security is sent to rating agencies for evaluation. Next, the depositor transfers the mortgage pool to the issuing trust, which issues participation certificates for each tranche. The issuing trust then conveys the participation certificates to the depositor as consideration for the mortgages.
Once the depositor is in possession of the participation certificates, the underwriter will begin marketing the RMBS to potential investors, providing them with free writing prospectuses and term sheets. The depositor then transfers the certificates to the underwriter, who will sell them to investors and remit the proceeds to the depositor, minus underwriting fees.
In this action, MS & Co. underwrote and sold all the RMBS in dispute, MSMC was the sponsor of 15 of the 21 securitizations, MSAC served as depositor for 17 of the securitizations, and MSC served as depositor for three of the securitizations.
Plaintiffs allege they were fraudulently induced into purchasing the RMBS by defendants. Specifically, plaintiffs allege defendants misrepresented the due diligence and underwriting standards on the underlying mortgages, misrepresented the loan to value ("LTV") ratios of the mortgaged properties, and misrepresented the debt to income ("DTI") ratios of the borrowers. Plaintiffs further contend that defendants misrepresented the risks associated with the RMBS in general, and made misrepresentations to rating agencies, resulting in artificially high ratings. Plaintiffs assert that in reliance on defendants' misrepresentations, they were damaged by paying far more for the RMBS than they were worth. Plaintiffs pray for compensatory, rescissory and punitive damages, as well as costs and expenses incurred in this action. "
"Furthermore, plaintiffs' own pleadings contradict their assertion that FSAM intended to assign fraud claims, in that they allege that "[t]he Dexia Plaintiffs could not have uncovered Morgan Stanley's fraud until 2011, at the earliest, regardless of the amount of due diligence that they performed." (Am. Compl. ¶ 259.) It is unclear how FSAM could have intended to convey fraud claims of which it was not aware, and were not discoverable for a year and a half after the assignment. "It is manifest that the plaintiff did not intend to assign the cause of action . . . because neither at the time of the assignment, nor of the execution of the conveyance, had the plaintiff discovered the fraud." Fox, 157App. Div. at 368. If FSAM had intended to assign fraud claims which they had not yet discovered, it could have included express language to that effect.
The court concludes that FSAM did not assign fraud claims to assignee-plaintiffs Dexia SA/NV, DHI and DCL; to the extent any fraud claims exist, they remain with FSAM alone. "
"In an action for fraud, "[t]he true measure of damage is indemnity for the actual pecuniary loss sustained as the direct result of the wrong or what is known as the out-of-pocket' rule." Lama Holding Co. v. Smith Barney, 88 NY2d 413, 421 (1996) (internal quotation marks and citations omitted). "Damages are to be calculated to compensate plaintiffs for what they lost because of the fraud, not to compensate them for what they might have gained." Id. FSAM sustained no losses on the RMBS it purchased; it received exactly the purchase price upon the sale to the Dexia plaintiffs. There is also no allegation that pass-through payments due to FSAM as holders of the participation certificates were missed. To the extent FSAM did receive pass through payments, the RMBS were profitable to them, and there can be no claim of damages. See Jung Hing Leung v. Lotus Ride, 198 AD2d 155, 156 (1st Dep't 1993).
Even if the court is to accept as true that there have been material misrepresentations, scienter, and justifiable reliance by FSAM, without damages, the claims must be dismissed. [*6]Deception without damages is not actionable, nor is deception, in and of itself, a legally cognizable injury. Small v. Lorillard Tobacco Co., 94 NY2d 43, 56-57 (1999). "