New York Expands Countrywide Securities Fraud Suit; Names 26 Underwriters as Defendants
New York city and state officials expanded their shareholder class-action suit against Countrywide Financial Corp. on Friday, expanding the legal fray to include 26 different financial services companies that underwrote Countrywide stock and bond offerings, two global accounting firms, and additional Countrywide officers and directors who signed SEC filings on behalf of the company. â€œThe actions of Countrywide and its underwriters created a situation in which, when the company's stock and bond prices fell, it was investors, and not the company's executives, that sustained heavy losses,â€? said New York City Comptroller William C. Thompson, Jr., who helps run the city's pension funds. "We will pursue every avenue to ensure that those who defrauded investors are held accountable for their actions.â€? Both Thompson and New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, who is the sole trustee New York's $154.5 billion Common Retirement Fund, are lead plaintiffs in the securities fraud suit. Both the city and state funds have lost millions of dollars as Countrywide's stock has fallen dramatically during the mortgage industry bust. The class action alleges that Countrywide made "material misstatements and omissions" regarding its lending practices, artificially inflating the price of the company's securities. The class action also alleges that Countrywide issued stock and bonds based on SEC filings that contained false information. Both Reuters and the Associated Press reported that Countrywide had not responded to a request for comment on the expanded suit. Among those added to the class action: ABN AMRO Inc.; A.G. Edwards & Sons, Inc.; Banc of America Securities LLC; Barclays Capital Inc.; BNP Paribas Securities Corporation; BNY Capital Markets, Inc.; Citigroup Global Markets Inc.; Countrywide Securities Corporation; Deutsche Bank Securities Inc.; Dresdner Kleinwort Wasserstein Securities Inc.; Goldman, Sachs & Co.; Greenwich Capital Markets, Inc.; HSBC Securities (USA) Inc.; J.P. Morgan Securities Inc.; Lehman Brothers Inc.; Merrill, Lynch, Pierce, Fenner & Smith Inc.; Morgan Stanley & Co. Inc.; RBC Capital Markets Corporation; RBC Dominion Securities Inc.; RBC Dain Rauscher Inc.; Scotia Capital Inc.; SG Americas Securities TD Securities Inc.; UBS Securities LLC; Wachovia Capital Markets LLC; Wachovia Securities, Inc.; Grant Thornton LLP; and KPMG LLP. It's pretty clear that the biggest winners out of current market turmoil are the lawyers.