The National Credit Union Administration has sued a JPMorgan Chase (JPM) unit claiming Bear Stearns & Co., which it acquired in 2008, used misleading documents in selling $3.6 billion in mortgage-backed securities to four corporate credit unions that later failed.
The documents said the mortgage originators had adhered to underwriting guidelines that had been "systematically abandoned," the credit union agency said in a federal court lawsuit filed Dec. 14 in Kansas City, Kan.
"Because the mortgages in the pools collateralizing the [residential mortgage-backed securities] were largely underwritten without adherence to the underwriting standards in the offering statements, the RMBS were significantly riskier than represented," the NCUA said in its complaint.
The Alexandria, Va.-based agency is responsible for recovering losses to minimize the costs to its industry-funded stabilization fund. Its complaint was filed as liquidator of the U.S. Central Federal Credit Union and the Western Corporate Federal Credit Union, both placed into conservatorship in 2009 and involuntary liquidation a year later, and the Southwest Corporate Federal Credit Union and Members United Corporate Federal Credit Union, which were placed in conservatorship and then liquidation in 2010.
Jennifer Zuccarelli, a JPMorgan Chase spokeswoman, did not immediately respond to a telephone message seeking comment.
The complaint follows similar lawsuits the credit union agency filed against other banks, including one in September against Barclay and those previously against a unit of Credit Suisse Group AG, Royal Bank of Scotland Group, the Wachovia Corp. unit of Wells Fargo (WFC) and Goldman Sachs Group (GS).
JPMorgan was also the target of a separate claim in June 2011.
Barclays last month filed papers seeking dismissal of the lawsuit against it, arguing the claims were filed too late.
Deutsche Bank AG, Citigroup (NYSE:C) and HSBC Holdings agreed in November 2011 and March 2012 to pay a combined $171 million to resolve similar accusations, with $145 million from Deutsche Bank, $20.5 million from Citigroup and $5.3 million from HSBC. The banks didn't admit or deny wrongdoing.
"Firms like Bear, Stearns acted unfairly by ignoring the rules for underwriting," NCUA Board Chairman Debbie Matz, said today in a statement. "They packaged these securities and then told buyers the paper was sound. When the securities plunged in value, we learned the truth. NCUA is now working to hold these underwriters accountable and secure recoveries on behalf of federally insured credit unions."
The case is National Credit Union Administration Board v. Bear Stearns & Co. and was filed in the U.S. District Court, District of Kansas (Kansas City).