Justia Government Contracts Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Banking
Edelweiss Fund LLC v. JPMorgan Chase & Co.
Edelweiss brought a qui tam action against financial institutions (California False Claims Act (Gov. Code 12650) (CFCA)), alleging that the defendants contracted to serve as remarketing agents (RMAs) to manage California variable rate demand obligations (VRDOs): tax-exempt municipal bonds with interest rates periodically reset by RMAs. Edelweiss claims that the defendants submitted false claims for payment for these remarketing services, knowing they had failed their obligation to reset the interest rate at the lowest possible rate that would enable them to sell the series at par (face value), and “engaged in a coordinated ‘Robo-Resetting’ scheme where they mechanically set the rates en masse without any consideration of the individual characteristics of the bonds or the associated market conditions or investor demand” and “impose[d] artificially high interest rates on California VRDOs.” Edelweiss alleged that it performed a forensic analysis of rate resetting during a four-year period and that former employees of the defendants “stated and corroborated” this robo-resetting scheme.The trial court dismissed the complaint, concluding that the allegations lacked particularized allegations about how the defendants set their VRDO rates and did not support a reasonable inference that the observed conditions were caused by fraud, rather than other factors.The court of appeal reversed. While allegations of a CFCA claim must be pleaded with particularity, the court required too much to satisfy this standard. The court rejected an alternative argument that Edelweiss’s claims are foreclosed by CFCA’s public disclosure bar. View "Edelweiss Fund LLC v. JPMorgan Chase & Co." on Justia Law
Indiana Municipal Power Agency v. United States
Congress passed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act ARRA) to stabilize the U.S. economy following the 2008 financial crisis, 123 Stat. 115, creating two types of government-subsidized Build America Bonds (BABs). “Direct Payment BABs,” entitled bond issuers to a tax refund from the Treasury Department equal to 35 percent of the interest paid on their BABs. Treasury pays issuers of BABs annually. The payments are funded by the permanent, indefinite appropriation for refunds of internal revenue collections. 31 U.S.C. 1324. Local power agencies (Appellants) collectively issued over four billion dollars in qualifying Direct Payment BABs before 2011. Through 2012, Treasury paid the full 35 percent.In 2011 and 2013, Congress passed legislation reviving sequestration: “[T]he cancellation of budgetary resources provided by discretionary appropriations or direct spending law,” 2 U.S.C. 900(c)(2), 901(a). Treasury stopped making payments to Appellants at 35 percent. Since 2013, Appellants have been paid reduced rates as determined by the Office of Management and Budget’s calculations; for example, 2013 payments were reduced to 8.7 percent.Appellants sued, arguing a statutory theory that the government violates ARRA section 1531 by not making the full 35 percent payments and that the government breached a contract that arises out of section 1531. The Federal Circuit affirmed the Claims Court’s dismissal of the suit. No statutory claim existed because sequestration applied to these payments. No contractual claim existed because the ARRA did not create a contract between the government and Appellants. View "Indiana Municipal Power Agency v. United States" on Justia Law
First Mortgage Corp. v. United States
Ginnie Mae (GM), established by 12 U.S.C. 1717(a)(2)(A) to provide stability in the secondary residential mortgage market and promote access to mortgage credit, guarantees mortgage-backed securities (MBS). FMC, a private corporation, was an originator and servicer of government-guaranteed home mortgages and an issuer of MBS in GM’s program. GM learned of FMC actions that constituted the immediate default of the Guaranty Agreements. FMC undertook an investigation and provided the results to GM, while also complying with SEC requests. GM later terminated FMC from its program. The SEC initiated a civil enforcement action, which terminated in a consent agreement, without FMC admitting or denying the allegations but paying disgorgement and penalties. The Consent Agreement provided that it did not affect FMC’s right to take positions in proceedings in which the SEC is not a party but FMC agreed to not take any action or permit any public statement denying any allegation in the SEC complaint FMC later sued, alleging that GM had breached Guaranty Agreements when it terminated FMC from its program and denied violating those Agreements.The Federal Circuit affirmed the Claims Court’s dismissal. FMC’s breach of contract claims are precluded under the doctrine of res judicata. FMC’s action is essentially a collateral attack on the judgment entered in the SEC action. The SEC and GM are in privity for the purposes of precluding FMC’s claims and “successful prosecution of the second action would nullify the initial judgment or would impair rights established in the initial action.” View "First Mortgage Corp. v. United States" on Justia Law
American Bankers Association v. United States
The Federal Reserve Act of 1913 established a system that includes the Federal Reserve Board of Governors and 12 regional Reserve Banks. The Board exercises broad regulatory supervision over the Reserve Banks, which serve as banks to the U.S. government and to commercial banks who are members of the Federal Reserve System. The Act set the statutory rate for dividend payments on Federal Reserve Bank stock at six percent per year, which remained in effect until 2016, when an amendment (12 U.S.C. 289(a)(1)) effectively reduced the dividend rate for certain stockholder banks to a lower variable rate. Plaintiffs argued that banks that subscribed to Reserve Bank stock before the amendment are entitled to dividends at the six percent rate and that, by paying dividends at the amended rate, the government breached a contractual duty or effected a Fifth Amendment taking. The Federal Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the suit. There is no “clear indication” of the government’s intent to contract in either the language of the Federal Reserve Act or the circumstances of its passage. Plaintiffs did not allege a legally cognizable property interest arising from its “statutory rights” and the requirement that member banks subscribe to reserve bank stock under the Act does not constitute a regulatory taking. View "American Bankers Association v. United States" on Justia Law
Starr International Co. v. United States
Shareholders lacked standing to challenge, as an illegal exaction, U.S. government’s acquisition of AIG stock as loan collateral. In 2008, during one of the worst financial crises of the last century, American International Group (AIG) was on the brink of bankruptcy and sought emergency financing. The Federal Reserve Bank of New York granted AIG an $85 billion loan, the largest such loan to date. The U.S. Government received a majority stake in AIG’s equity under the loan, which the Government eventually converted into common stock and sold. One of AIG’s largest shareholders, Starr, filed suit alleging that the Government’s acquisition of AIG equity and subsequent actions relating to a reverse stock split were unlawful. The Claims Court held that the Government’s acquisition of AIG equity constituted an illegal exaction in violation of the Federal Reserve Act, 12 U.S.C. 343, but declined to grant relief for either that or for Starr’s reverse-stock-split claims. The Federal Circuit vacated in part, holding that Starr and the shareholders it represented lack standing to pursue the equity acquisition claims directly, as those claims belong exclusively to AIG, rendering the merits of those claims moot. The court affirmed as to Starr’s reverse-stock-split claims. View "Starr International Co. v. United States" on Justia Law
Biafora v. United States
In the 1950s and ’60s, to encourage private developers to construct, own, and manage housing projects for low- and moderate-income families, the government insured mortgages on those projects in exchange for provisions, such as a 40-year mortgage term, an agreement to maintain affordability restrictions for the duration of the mortgage, and prepayment limitations or prohibitions. The Emergency Low Income Housing Preservation Act of 1987 and the Low-Income Housing Preservation and Resident Homeownership Act of 1990 instituted a process to request the right to prepay mortgages. There were substantive restrictions on HUD granting prepayment requests, limiting its discretion, 12 U.S.C. 4108(a)). Prepayment is one step toward renting at market prices. The Acts permit HUD to grant incentives rather than permission to prepay. Owners claimed that the Acts constituted an as-applied taking. The Claims Court granted the government’s motions: for summary judgment that the takings claims for some properties were unripe for failure to exhaust administrative remedies; for summary judgment that no taking occurred for properties for which mortgages did not include a prepayment right; and for summary judgment of collateral estoppel as to one owner. The Federal Circuit affirmed as to ripeness and prepayment, but reversed as to collateral estoppel. View "Biafora v. United States" on Justia Law
Trustmark National Bank v. Roxco Ltd.
Roxco, Ltd. was hired as the general contractor for several public-construction projects for the State of Mississippi, including four building projects at the University of Mississippi, Jackson State University, and Alcorn State University. Pursuant to Section 31-5-15, in order to access the retainage on its state-construction projects, Roxco substituted securities valued at $1,055,000. These securities were deposited in a safekeeping account at Trustmark National Bank. Upon being notified of Roxco’s default, the State instructed Trustmark to transfer the funds from the treasury bills into the state treasury account. By letter, Roxco directed Trustmark not to transfer the funds from the treasury bills to the State’s account. Notwithstanding Roxco’s letter, Trustmark deposited the funds into the State’s account. Roxco filed suit against Trustmark for breach of contract and conversion. Trustmark argued that Section 31-5-15 permitted the release of the funds in the safekeeping account. A jury found in favor of Roxco and awarded $3,720,000 in damages. Aggrieved, Trustmark filed this appeal. Finding that the trial court should have granted Trustmark's motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict, the Supreme Court reversed and remanded the case for further proceedings. View "Trustmark National Bank v. Roxco Ltd." on Justia Law