After four years and tens of millions of dollars in legal fees, Defense lawyers in the Fannie Mae securities fraud suit asked a federal judge today to send the case to mediation.
Attorneys for Fannie Mae and its former auditor, KPMG, first made the request yesterday afternoon in a joint motion filed with Judge Richard Leon of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. The move amounts to the two corporations’ hardest push yet to settle the hodgepodge of litigation that grew from Fannie’s 2004 accounting scandal.
The attorney general of Ohio filed suit against Fannie Mae and KPMG in 2005 on behalf of the state’s pensions, following revelations that for years the mortgage giant had vastly overstated its profits. Fannie and KPMG quickly filed suit against each other as well.
At a status conference today, lawyers for the two companies said they were nearly ready to resolve their claims against one another, but that lawyers representing Fannie's investors were refusing to take part in meaningful settlement talks.
"If we did get things settled with the plaintiffs, it would be a global settlement," said O'Melveny & Myers partner Jeffrey Kilduff, who represents Fannie Mae.
In their motion, KPMG and Fannie accused the investors of refusing to acknowledge “the drastically changed landscape” following Fannie’s government takeover. The motion notes that in his Congressional testimony, the head of Fannie’s government caretaker said the company could be split into a “good bank” and “bad bank,” to flush out its toxic assets. Such a split would essentially end any chance of the investors recovering a judgment from the suit.
Mediation would let the plaintiffs “hear from an objective third-party what the likelihood of eventual recovery is,” the motion states.
At the status conference, lead plaintiffs’ counsel Stanley Chesley, name partner of Waite, Schneider, Bayless & Chesley played down the possibility that the company would be broken up, and said he would be open to settlement talks if Fannie’s government conservator were to take part.
“I cannot sit and settle this case in fear,” he said.
By the end of the hearing, Judge Leon had not indicated whether or not he would order the case into mediation. But with Fannie Mae on government life support, he said it would be “in the interest of taxpayers and the parties” to finally settle.