Nearly All Claims Against U.S. Bank Dismissed in Ambac RMBS Trustee Suit

Orrick - Finance 20/20
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Orrick - Structured Finance Group

On July 16, Judge Schofield in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York dismissed four out of five claims in a suit filed by Ambac Assurance Corp. (Ambac) against U.S. Bank National Association (U.S. Bank), challenging the Bank’s actions as trustee for a Harborview Mortgage Loan Trust. Ambac insured certain certificateholders against low cashflow from the Trust, which was backed by Countrywide-originated mortgages. In August 2011, U.S. Bank filed suit in New York state court against Countrywide and Bank of America, as its successor, alleging failure to comply with representations and warranties. When U.S. Bank agreed to stay the state suit after Countrywide proposed a $56.96 million settlement, Ambac sued U.S. Bank in the S.D.N.Y. to enjoin the settlement, alleging that the Bank breached its obligations to trust beneficiaries by accepting a low settlement amount. In March 2017, U.S. Bank initiated a trust instruction proceeding (TIP) in Minnesota to address its claims against Countrywide; meanwhile, Judge Stein in the S.D.N.Y. found in the Ambac-led suit that, because of the ongoing TIP, U.S. Bank had not yet breached its duties, and therefore Ambac’s claims were not yet ripe. On June 1, 2018, U.S. Bank disclosed its $94 million settlement with Countrywide, conditioned on approval by the Minnesota court.

In the case before Judge Schofield, Ambac alleged that U.S. Bank accepted an unreasonably low settlement, that it improperly released other lucrative claims, and that by agreeing to stay the New York state court action and bringing the TIP, U.S. Bank had wasted trust funds, harming trust beneficiaries. Judge Schofield dismissed four of Ambac’s five claims based on these facts, finding that any alleged injury was hypothetical and far too speculative, and that Ambac had not adequately alleged that U.S. Bank taking different actions would have resulted in a more favorable settlement or negotiation position. She also rejected Ambac’s counts for declaratory judgment, because such a finding would serve no useful purpose and would not resolve all of the outstanding cases. Judge Schofield let Ambac’s breach of contract claim continue, finding that Ambac sufficiently alleged that U.S. Bank’s improper accounting of recoveries under the Pooling and Servicing Agreement harmed Ambac, because it affected the amount and timing of the insurance payments that it made. Opinion and Order.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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