The attorneys general of Washington, Arizona, South Carolina, Arkansas, Pennsylvania, Colorado, North Carolina, Delaware, Missouri, Idaho, Maine, Mississippi, Indiana, Tennessee, and Iowa want their securities casesagainst Standard & Poor’s Rating Services and its parent company The McGraw-Hill Companies Inc. sent back to their state courts. They contend that the cases don’t have federal jurisdiction.
The AGs submitted their consolidated brief in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. They say that the states’ respective complaints are exclusively state law action causes and the credit rating agency can’t use affirmative defenses to put together federal jurisdiction.
It was the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation that moved the 15 state securities lawsuits against Standard & Poor’s to New York’s federal court. Panel chairman Judge Kathryn Vratil, who presides over the U.S. District Court for the District of Kansas, said that they had determined that the “actions involve common question of fact” and centralizing them would be more convenient and expedient for everyone involved. One common “question of fact” was over whether the credit rater “intentionally misrepresented” that its structured finance securities analysis was unbiased, autonomous, and not impacted by its business ties with securities issuers.
The states, however, believe that transferring the cases to NY, where S & P is located, would be an inconvenience to them, and considering that there has been “cooperation” among AGs, this was not necessary. The AGs believe that comity principals are in favor of the federal court turning down jurisdiction and remanding the securities cases to the state courts.
The majority of the lawsuits were filed on the same day that the US Justice Department filed its own complaint against S & P. The government claims that the credit rating giant inflated the ratings of mortgage investments to “defraud” investors and this contributed to the securities’ failing. The DOJ is accusing S & P of making misrepresentations about the objectivity and independence of these ratings.
Last month, a judge declined to throw out the DOJ’s securities fraud case accusing S & P of submitting a defense that was “puffery.” The company had argued that issuers, investors, legislators, and regulators should not have depended on public statements it made about procedures for offering unbiased credit ratings that were supposedly based on data and free from conflicts of interest.
S & P and other credit raters, such as Moody, have been contending with a number of credit rating fraud lawsuits related to the ratings they issued going back to the financial crisis. Claiming that the agencies concealed risks involved and inflated the ratings, investors want the losses they sustained back. Questions continue to be raised over whether the credit raters put their business interests over investors’ best interests.
AGs urge federal judge to return cases against Standard & Poor’s to state courts, Legal News Online, August 19, 2013
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