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Financial Services Law Insights and Observations

Second Circuit Moves MBS Case Back to New York State Court

Class Action RMBS


On February 27, the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit held that a residential mortgage-backed securities (MBS) case that had been removed from New York state court fell within the securities exception to both original and appellate jurisdiction under the Class Action Fairness Act of 2005 (CAFA). BlackRock Financial Management Inc. v. Segregated Account of Ambac Assurance Corp., No. 11-5309, 2012 WL 611401 (2nd Cir. Feb. 27, 2012). The case arose out of claims that the originator and servicer of MBS breached obligations owed to the trusts. After the trustee reached an $8.5 billion settlement agreement, it initiated an Article 77 proceeding in New York state court to confirm that it had authority to enter the settlement under the trust documents and that entry into the settlement did not violate its duties under the agreements and state law. Certain investors intervened and removed the case to federal court under the Class Action Fairness Act (CAFA). The district court denied a motion to remand to state court on the grounds that the case fell within CAFA's securities exception. On this interlocutory appeal, the court concluded that the case was one that solely involved a claim that "relates to the rights, duties (including fiduciary duties), and obligations relating to or created by or pursuant to any security." The court’s rationale was that, based on prior precedent, it did not have jurisdiction over claims that were based "either on the terms of the instruments that create and define securities or on the duties imposed on persons who administer securities," although it did have jurisdiction over "claims based on rights arising from independent sources of state law." Because the underlying Article 77 case sought a declaration authorizing the exercise of the trustee's power to enter a settlement, the trustee was seeking construction of its rights under the Pooling and Servicing Agreement (PSA) and an instruction from the court as to whether it complied with its duties and obligations arising under the PSA. Therefore, the court (i) held that the securities exception of CAFA applied, (ii) dismissed the appeal for lack of jurisdiction, (iii) reversed the district court's order, and (iv) directed the district court to vacate its decision and order and remand the case to state court.