BRADENTON, Fla. — Three Louisiana issuers have seen movement in their federal lawsuits against insurers and underwriters that were involved with their failed variable- and auction-rate securities.
In the suit filed by the Louisiana Citizens Property Insurance Corp. seeking more than $10 million in damages from JPMorgan and Bear, Stearns & Co. over failed auction-rate securities that the state-run, nonprofit insurer was forced to refinance, JPMorgan has filed a motion seeking to have the case transferred from Louisiana to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.
According to JPMorgan’s motion, five similar securities actions are pending in four different federal courts, including two in the Southern District of New York and one each in Pennsylvania and Mississippi.
In all cases, JPMorgan was the broker-dealer of the ARS and the complaints share similar facts as to whether the plaintiffs were injured by JPMorgan’s practices, whether it properly disclosed its practices, and whether it violated securities laws, the investment bank’s motion said.
The Louisiana federal judge assigned to Citizens case has not ruled on the motion to transfer the case to New York.
Citizens allegations against JPMorgan include breach of fiduciary duty, intentional and negligent misrepresentation, fraud, and breach of contract. The suit seeks a jury trial and more than $10 million in damages.
In another Louisiana case, federal Judge Kurt Engelhardt has pushed back oral arguments to May 19 from April 21 on motions to dismiss filed by Ambac Assurance Corp., Ambac Financial Services LLC, Painewebber Capital Services Inc., and UBS Securities LLC, which were named in a suit filed by New Orleans.
The city’s suit involves the failed remarketing of $171 million of taxable variable-rate demand firefighters’ pension bonds, which could not be remarketed when the credit markets began to meltdown causing caused interest to rise to penalty rates and principal payments to be accelerated. Now $128 million of the debt remains outstanding and is held by JPMorgan, the liquidity provider. The city has continued to make all of its debt payments since filing the suit in 2008.
New Orleans is seeking payment for the extra money it has had to pay since the bonds could not be remarketed and it wants the swap to be terminated at no expense to the city.
In yet a third case that already made its way to New York, the Louisiana Stadium and Exposition District filed suit against Merrill Lynch & Co., Merrill Lynch, Pierce, Fenner & Smith Inc., and Financial Guaranty Insurance Co. concerning $240 million of failed auction-rate securities sold in 2006 to refinance higher interest-rate debt and rebuild the Superdome in New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina.
The LSED claims Merrill improperly manipulated the ARS market and FGIC sold a worthless guarantee. The judge in the case has set April 9 to hear oral arguments on FGIC’s motion to dismiss the case against it.