Kaplan Fox is court appointed co-lead counsel on behalf of Plaintiffs, the Public School Teachers’ Pension and Retirement Fund of Chicago, the Arkansas Teachers Retirement System, and the Public Employees’ Retirement Systems of Mississippi, and Painting Industry Insurance and Annuity Funds, in the case against Ambac Financial Group, Inc. (“Ambac”) and certain officers, directors, and underwriters (collectively, “Defendants”) arising out of materially false and misleading statements made by Defendants concerning the underwriting standards and portfolio performance of certain mortgage-related exposures during the Class Period.
Specifically, Plaintiffs allege that throughout the Class Period, Ambac repeatedly represented that it employed “rigorous,” “strict” and “conservative” underwriting standards; that it only guaranteed transactions of high credit-quality and diligently monitored its portfolio; and that it was exposed to minimal risk of loss. Even as the investing public became increasingly concerned about the deteriorating mortgage markets and their potential impact on Ambac, Defendants continued to assure investors that the Company’s mortgage-related exposures involved far less risk than the market in general, and that Ambac was not being negatively affected by the mortgage crisis. These representations – which went to the heart of the Company’s business – were critical to investors and analysts, who relied upon them in concluding that Ambac was, in fact, well-protected against the mortgage downturn.
However, in reality, Ambac had drastically lowered its underwriting standards by the start of the Class Period so that it could guarantee billions of dollars of high risk securities in order to meet aggressive revenue targets. These critical changes—which were not disclosed to investors—had a catastrophic effect on the quality and performance of Ambac’s portfolio of residential mortgage-backed securities (“RMBS”) and collateralized debt obligations (“CDOs”) supported by RMBS. On January 16, 2008—less than two months after Ambac’s CEO had assured investors that Ambac’s mortgage portfolio was not exposed to any material losses—Ambac disclosed: (a) $5.4 billion in “mark-to-market” write-downs of its CDO exposures; (b) a staggering $1.1 billion of CDO impairments; (c) a dramatic tripling of its RMBS loss reserves; (d) a 67% reduction in its dividend (in order to preserve capital); and (e) its CEO’s unexpected “resignation.” With the disclosure of this news, the Company’s stock plummeted 70% in just two days, from $21.14 per share on January 15 to $6.24 per share by January 17, 2008. These write-downs alone wiped out the Company’s previously reported earnings going back to 2002. Promptly after making these disclosures to investors, Ambac lost its “AAA” credit rating, without which it cannot run its business.
On February 22, 2010, Judge Buchwald denied Defendants’ motions to dismiss Plaintiffs’ claims under Sections 10(b) and 20(a) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 and, as to the February 2007 Directly-Issued Subordinated Capital Securities (“DISCS”) Offering, claims under Sections 11, 12, and 15 of the Securities Act of 1933. Discovery is currently underway in this matter.
On September 28, 2011, the Court approved final settlement of this action. The settlement provided for $33,000,000 in cash. The Settlement Fund consisted of the following sub-funds: (1) a $27,100,000 settlement fund established pursuant to the settlement with the Ambac Defendants; and (2) a $5,900,000 settlement fund established pursuant to the settlement with the Underwriter Defendants, with any interest income allocated proportionately between the sub-funds.