Class Action Defense Cases-In re New York Bancorp: New York Federal Court Grants Defense Motion To Dismiss Securities Class Action And Rejects Plaintiffs' Meritorious Remand Motion As Untimely
Court Holds Allegations in Securities Class Action Fail to Meet Heightened Pleadings Requirements Mandated by FRCP Rule 9(b) and the PSLRA (Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995), and Denies Plaintiffs Request To Rule on its Year-Old Remand Motion as Untimely
Plaintiff investors filed separate putative class actions against New York Community Bancorp (NYCB) and several of its officers alleging violations of federal securities laws by making materially false and misleading statements to investors. In re New York Community Bancorp, Inc., Securities Litig., 448 F.Supp.2d 466, 469 (E.D.N.Y. 2006). The federal court eventually consolidated 11 such class action lawsuits, and appointed lead plaintiff and lead counsel. Following the filing of a Consolidated and Amended Class Action Complaint, defense attorneys filed a motion to dismiss and certain plaintiffs filed a motion for reconsideration of the consolidation order. Id. The district court denied the motion for reconsideration and granted the defense motion to dismiss.
The amended class action complaint alleged violations of the Securities and Exchange Act of 1934 (“Exchange Act”) and the Securities Act of 1933 (“Securities Act”) on behalf of NYCB shareholders. In re New York Comm. Bancorp, at 469. NYCB went through a period of substantial earnings growth and acquired several financial institutions, building "a unique and profitable core lending business comprised of multi-family mortgage loans." Id., at 470. Over time, however, market conditions changed and NYCB expanded into a " risky, but common, leveraging strategy involving mortgage-backed securities known as the 'carry trade.'" Id. The complaint alleged that NYCB diverted increasingly large sums away from conservative investments and to carry trade investments, but continually held itself out as a risk-adverse, conservative community bank. Id., at 471. The court summarized the material allegations of the complaint as follows: "In particular, the Plaintiffs allege that the Defendants: (1) falsely represented that NYCB was uniquely able to thrive in an environment of rising interest rates and that its business prospects remained strong; (2) highlighted a false strategy of deleveraging following the acquisition of Roslyn; and (3) failed to adequately disclose the extent of the risks of the carry trade activity." Id.
The court first addressed the motion for reconsideration, which additionally sought to reinstate a motion that the plaintiffs had filed more than a year earlier to remand to state court one of the class action lawsuits. In re New York Comm. Bancorp, at 474. Plaintiffs had filed their class action in state court, and the defense removed the lawsuit to federal court. Plaintiffs filed a motion to remand arguing that the Securities Litigation Uniform Standards Act of 1998 (SLUSA) prohibits removal of cases based exclusively on the Securities Act. When the federal court consolidated the 11 securities class actions, it did not specifically address the remand motion but the practical effect of the court's ruling was to deny the motion. Id., at 475. In evaluating the plaintiffs' motion, the district court concluded that even though claim of improper removal appears to have merit, id., the fact remained that plaintiffs' motion was too late, id., at 475-76.