Subprime Litigation Sets High-Water Mark in Q2
The S&L crisis of the early 1990s has already been surpassed on one area -- the number of subprime lawsuits that have taken shape in the collapse of much of the mortgage banking industry. According to a study released Wednesday by Navigant Consulting, Inc. (NCI), the number of subprime-related cases filed in federal courts through the second quarter of 2008 has topped the 559 S&L lawsuits recorded during the last major financial crisis in the States. Of the 607 subprime-related cases filed in federal courts over the 18 months though June, Navigant said 310 were filed in just the first six months of 2008 -- more than the 297 filed during all of 2007. "We are now more than a year into the credit crisis, and the litigation continues to pile up," said Jeff Nielsen, who leads Navigant Consulting's financial services disputes & investigations group. In the second quarter, more than three new cases were filed for every one that was disposed (most of which were filed in earlier quarters). Still, the Navigant report notes that certain categories of filings are beginning to slow: borrower class action lawsuits, for example, which have led all case types tracked by Navigant to date, declined more than 60 percent from the prior quarter. In the March 2008 quarter, by comparison, new filings had outnumbered dispositions by almost five to one. "While signs are emerging that we might be approaching the end of the beginning of the subprime-related filings," said Nielsen, "the downhill portion of this journey will not begin in earnest until the number of cases being disposed in a quarter approaches the number of new filings." Securities cases overtook borrower class actions for only the second time in the six quarters tracked by Navigant to date, accounting for 41 percent of total filings. The second quarter’s securities filings received a boost from 11 new lawsuits related to the collapse of the auction-rate securities market, bringing the total number of ARS cases to 22 through June 2008, according to Navigant. The rest of the second quarter filings were comprised of borrower class actions (26 percent) and commercial contract disputes (16 percent), among other case types. “The credit crisis remains fluid,” Nielsen said, “which means new waves of litigation could still emerge.” The Navigant report notes that the rising number of bank failures is one such example. “One lesson of the S&L crisis,” said Nielsen, “is that while a bank can be seized and even reconstituted over a weekend, the resulting litigation can linger for years.” For more information, visit http://www.navigantconsulting.com. Disclosure: The author held no relevant positions when this story was published; indirect holdings may exist via mutual fund investments. HW reporters and writers follow a strict disclosure policy, the first in the mortgage trade.