Bank of America $8.5 billion mortgage settlement case opens

Mon Jun 3, 2013 7:54pm EDT
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By Karen Freifeld

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Bank of America Corp's (BAC.N: Quote) proposed $8.5 billion settlement with investors in mortgage securities that went bad during the financial crisis offers billions more than they are likely to get if they go to trial, a lawyer for the trustee who helped negotiate the deal argued Monday.

Matthew Ingber, a lawyer for Bank of New York Mellon, the trustee overseeing the securities, made the case for the deal as a long-awaiting proceeding for approval of the settlement got underway in state court in New York.

Bank of America agreed to the settlement in June 2011 to resolve the claims of investors in bonds issued by mortgage lender Countrywide Financial Corp, which Bank of America bought in 2008.

Twenty-two institutional investors, including BlackRock Inc (BLK.N: Quote), MetLife Inc (MET.N: Quote) and Allianz SE's (ALVG.DE: Quote) Pacific Investment Management Co entered into the settlement. American International Group Inc (AIG.N: Quote) and others have objected, saying the settlement offered them only a fraction of the money they lost.

Bank of New York Mellon, as the trustee, is asking a New York state court to approve the settlement and make it binding on all the investors.

In court on Monday, Ingber said Countrywide had a maximum of $4.8 billion in assets to pay a judgment on the claims. If the settlement is not approved, investors probably won't be able to hold Bank of America responsible for misrepresentations made by Countrywide on the quality of the underlying mortgages, he said.

"You may hear a lot from the objectors about what the trustee should have done or could have done or might have done," Ingber told Justice Barbara Kapnick, who must decide whether to approve the deal. "But, your honor, all those coulda, woulda, shoulda are irrelevant if the pot of gold isn't going to be there."

Opening arguments are set to continue on Tuesday, with Texas attorney Kathy Patrick making the case for the institutional investors who support the settlement.   Continued...

The logo of the Bank of America is pictured atop the Bank of America building in downtown Los Angeles November 17, 2011. REUTERS/Fred Prouser