The list of banks suing MBIA just got smaller. Wells Fargo Bank, formerly Wachovia Bank, pulled out of three lawsuits against the insurer that challenged the New York State Insurance Department’s approval of the restructuring of MBIA Insurance Corp. into two entities.
The restructuring divided MBIA into MBIA Insurance Corp. that held policies many saw as higher in risk, such as MBS and an entity that insures municipal bond policies, National Public Finance Guarantee Corp.
Wells Fargo joined a larger group of banks holding MBIA policies that are challenging the restructuring. The group alleges that the transfer of municipal bond insurance policies to National stuck them with the riskier assets. Banks filed the original lawsuit in May 2009 under the debtor and creditor law and common law.
The banks were also part of a group holding MBIA policies that pursued a separate Article 78 action against Eric Dinallo, former superintendent of the New York Insurance Department (NYID). That suit claimed the regulator’s approval of the restructuring — which took place after MBIA Insurance lost its triple-A ratings in the financial crisis — was fraudulent.
Wells Fargo’s withdrawal from both lawsuits lowers the number of banks listed as plaintiffs in the case to eight from about 20 when the suit was originally filed. The banks still named in the lawsuit include the Royal Bank of Scotland, BNP Paribas, HSBC Bank, Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Morgan Stanley, Natixis, Société Générale and UBS.
In its filings, Wells Fargo did not provide reasons for dropping the lawsuits. Court documents mentioned that the actions were “discontinued with prejudice.” Experts close to the case explained that such language typically involves a settlement.
Spokespersons for MBIA, the bank policyholders and the state Insurance Department declined to comment.
Wells Fargo is likely not the last bank to withdraw from the lawsuits against MBIA, said Manal Mehta, co-founder of hedge fund Branch Hill Capital, which owns shares of MBIA in its funds.
“The number of plaintiffs has continued to come down,” he said. “I suspect that that trend is going to continue, where MBIA is going to try and settle as many of these out of court as possible. And it’s not clear to me that we’ll ever see a trial for MBIA’s transformation.”