Mortgage Fraud: Société Générale, S.A. Will Pay Civil Penalty to Resolve Claims Related to Its Activities
Société Générale Agrees To Pay $50 Million Penalty To Settle RMBS Fraud Claims
United States Attorney Robert L. Capers announced today that Société Générale, S.A. will pay a $50 million civil penalty to resolve claims related to its activities, which were conducted through several affiliates (together, “SocGen”), in connection with the marketing, sale, and issuance of a residential mortgage-backed security (“RMBS”) named SG Mortgage Securities Trust 2006-OPT2 (“SG 2006-OPT2”). As part of the agreement, SocGen has acknowledged in writing that it made false representations to prospective investors in SG 2006-OPT2. Investors, including federally insured financial institutions, suffered significant losses on their investments in SG 2006-OPT2.
The settlement includes a statement of facts agreed to by SocGen, whereby SocGen acknowledges responsibility for its conduct. For example, SocGen acknowledges that it falsely represented to investors that the loans underlying SG 2006-OPT2 were originated generally in accordance with the loan originator’s underwriting guidelines. Indeed, as detailed in the statement of facts, SocGen’s third-party due diligence vendor for SG 2006-OPT2 determined that almost 40% of the loans it reviewed were underwritten outside of guidelines and lacked adequate compensating factors to make the loans eligible for securitization. SocGen acknowledges that it did not disclose these results to investors.
Likewise, SocGen represented to investors that, at the time of origination, no loan in SG 2006-OPT2 had a loan-to-value or combined loan-to-value ratio of more than 100% (in other words, that the value of any mortgage on a property did not exceed the value of the property itself) – a representation that SocGen now acknowledges was false. Moreover, SocGen knew that there were industry-wide problems with subprime loan origination practices. As described by a senior member of SocGen’s Contract Finance group, “The whole process [was] a joke.”
“SocGen’s acknowledgement of its misconduct in the securitization of SG 2006-OPT2 was a critical component of this resolution. It severely impacted investors and institutions across the United States, including in this district. Most emphatically, it was not a ‘joke’”, stated United States Attorney Capers. “We will not tolerate investment banks making false representations to investors – if and when they do so, they will be held accountable.” Mr. Capers extended his grateful appreciation to the Office of the Inspector General for the Federal Housing Finance Agency for its assistance in conducting the investigation in this matter.
The $50 million civil monetary penalty resolves claims under the Financial Institutions Reform Recovery and Enforcement Act of 1989, which authorizes the federal government to impose civil penalties against financial institutions that violate various predicate offenses, including wire and mail fraud. As part of the settlement, SocGen has agreed to fully cooperate with any ongoing investigations related to the conduct covered by the agreement.
Assistant U.S. Attorneys Clayton P. Solomon, Morgan J. Clark, and Katharine E.G. Brooker led the government’s investigation.
About the RMBS Working Group: The RMBS Working Group, part of the Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force, was established by the Attorney General in late January 2012. The Working Group has been dedicated to initiating, organizing, and advancing new and existing investigations by federal and state authorities into fraud and abuse in the RMBS market that helped precipitate the 2008 Financial Crisis. The Working Group’s efforts to date have resulted in settlements providing for tens of billions of dollars in civil penalties and consumer relief from banks and other entities that are alleged to have committed fraud in connection with the issuance of RMBS.