Thursday, December 22, 2016

Deutsche Bank to Settle Toxic Mortgage Case with US for $7.2 Billion 

Deutsche Bank has agreed to a $7.2 billion settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice over its sale and pooling of toxic mortgage securities in the run-up to the 2008 financial crisis.

The agreement in principle, announced by Deutsche Bank’s Frankfurt headquarters early Friday morning, offers some relief to the German lender, whose stock was hit hard in September after it acknowledged the Justice Department had been seeking nearly twice as much.

It also highlights the Justice Department’s recent efforts to hold European banks accountable for shoddy securities that contributed to the U.S. housing market collapse.

The department sued Barclays PLC Thursday over similar claims, after having reached $46 billion in settlements with U.S. banks over the last three years.

Agreement final in 2017

Deutsche Bank does not plan a capital increase to cover the settlement, a person close to the bank said. The lender expects the agreement to be finalized in early 2017, before President-elect Donald Trump takes office, said the source, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

Deutsche does expect to record a pretax charge of about $1.17 billion in its fourth quarter because of the civil monetary penalty, according to its press release.

As part of the agreement, Deutsche Bank would pay a civil monetary penalty of $3.1 billion and provide $4.1 billion in consumer relief, such as loan forgiveness. The bank cautioned that there is “no assurance” the two sides will agree on the final documents.

A spokesman for the Justice Department declined to comment. Settling the mortgage-securities case would mean Deutsche Bank has shaken off one legal headache. Three major probes remain: Deutsche faces investigations into the alleged manipulation of foreign exchange rates, suspicious equities trades in Russia, as well as alleged violations of U.S. sanctions on Iran and other countries.

Costly litigation

Since 2012, Deutsche Bank has paid more than 12 billion euros for litigation, including a deal with U.S. mortgage-finance giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

Deutsche Bank’s “troubling practices” were widespread, including when trader Greg Lippmann told colleagues that many home loans the bank was packaging into securities were “crap” and “pigs,” according to a 2011 U.S. Senate subcommittee report.

Lippmann has declined to comment on the report. There has been fear among investors, companies and regulators that the penalties are too much for Deutsche Bank to withstand.

Its shares plunged to a record low of 9.90 euros in September, after the bank confirmed the Justice Department was demanding $14 billion. The stock has recovered substantially, but is down from the beginning of 2016.

Other banks

The Justice Department is pursuing mortgage allegations against other lenders in addition to Barclays. Credit Suisse Group AG is in late-stage negotiations and has resisted a demand by the agency that it pay between $5 billion and $7 billion over its sale of mortgage securities, sources have said.

Royal Bank of Scotland Group PLC, Wells Fargo & Co, UBS Group AG and HSBC are also under investigation, according to company disclosures.

U.S. banks have paid tens of billions of dollars over the past three years to settle with U.S. authorities over misleading investors about the quality of mortgages underlying securities.

In 2013, JPMorgan Chase & Co agreed to pay $13 billion. The following year, Bank of America Corp agreed to pay $16.65 billion, while Citigroup cut a deal for $7 billion. In February this year, Morgan Stanley agreed to pay $2.6 billion, and in April, Goldman Sachs Group Inc negotiated a $5 billion deal.

Deutsche is not the first bank to announce a settlement amount before both sides have agreed on the final documentation. Morgan Stanley disclosed its agreement a year before it was finalized and formally announced.

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