Skip to main content
Menu Icon Menu Icon

InfoBytes Blog

Financial Services Law Insights and Observations

8th Circuit affirms almost $20 million in damages and attorney’s fees in RMBS action

Courts Appellate Eighth Circuit Mortgages RMBS Settlement Attorney Fees Interest


On February 2, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit affirmed a district court order requiring a mortgage lender to pay $5.4 million in damages and $14 million in attorney’s fees for selling mortgages that did not meet agreed-upon contractual representations and warranties to a now-defunct company that packaged and resold the loans to residential mortgage-back securities (RMBS) trusts. The now-defunct company was sued by the RMBS trusts after loans underlying the securitizations began defaulting at a high rate during the 2008 financial crisis. A liquidating trust was established to oversee wind-down measures after the company filed for bankruptcy. The liquidating trust later began suing originators for indemnification over the allegedly defective mortgages. In 2020, the district court ruled in favor of the liquidating trust and entered judgment for $5.4 million in damages, $10.6 million in attorney’s fees, $3.5 million is costs, $2 million in prejudgment interest, and $520,212 in “post-award prejudgment interest.” The district court found, among other things, that the lender had breached its client contracts, and that in doing so, contributed to the now-defunct company’s “losses, damages, or liabilities within the scope of the contractual indemnity.” The court also found the liquidating trust’s damages methodology to be reasonable and nonspeculative. The lender appealed, disagreeing with how the underlying contracts were interpreted, as well as the allocation of multi-party damages and the post-trial award of fees, costs, and interest.

On appeal, the 8th Circuit disagreed, concluding that the terms of the parties’ contract made the lender liable. The appellate court also rejected the lender’s contention that it should not be expected to pay the claims against the now-defunct company because they were extinguished in bankruptcy, and that the methodology used to calculate the damages was inaccurate. In awarding $5.4 million in indemnification damages, the appellate court held that the district court properly found that the expert’s “‘calculation of damages was reasonable and non-speculative,’ and that his methodology produced a reasonably certain measure of [the liquidating trust’s] indemnifiable damages.” The 8th Circuit further concluded that the fee award was fair and that the district court had accounted for the complexity of the case and the importance of conducting a detailed loan-by-loan analysis. The appellate court also accused the lender of relitigating already decided issues and driving up the costs. However, the 8th Circuit did order the district court to recalculate the post-judgment interest award using guidance under 28 U.S.C. § 1961(a) rather than the 10 percent prejudgment interest rate under Minnesota law.