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HSBC must face lawsuit over failed credit unions

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(Reuters) — A federal judge rejected HSBC Holdings P.L.C.’s bid to dismiss a U.S. lawsuit claiming that its failure to perform its duties as trustee for $2.37 billion of residential mortgage-backed securities contributed to the downfall of five federal credit unions.

U.S. District Judge Shira Scheindlin in Manhattan on Monday night said the National Credit Union Administration had standing to sue even though most of the debt had been resecuritized, and the new trustee refused to sue HSBC on its behalf.

The lawsuit is one of many in which the NCUA is seeking to recover investment losses that led to the 2009 and 2010 failures of the U.S. Central, Western Corporate, Constitution Corporate, Members United Corporate and Southwest Corporate credit unions.

Some lawsuits targeted banks that allegedly sold securities backed by defective residential mortgages. Other lawsuits targeted trustees who allegedly failed to monitor loan servicers or to require banks to buy back defective loans.

An HSBC spokeswoman declined to comment.

Judge Scheindlin rejected HSBC’s argument that the March 20 lawsuit concerning its oversight of 37 RMBS trusts dating from 2004 to 2007 came too late, having been filed six years after the first two credit unions failed.

She also said the NCUA could still pursue claims as the credit unions’ “conservator” or “liquidating agent,” despite having resecuritized their distressed mortgage securities and guaranteed payments on the newly issued notes.

The NCUA did this “to fulfill its governmental purpose of stabilizing the credit union system,” Judge Scheindlin wrote. “It seems perverse to conclude, based on these actions, that NCUA is not bringing suit as a conservator or liquidating agent, simply because it took this extra step.”

Bond issuers appoint trustees to ensure that payments are funneled to investors, as well as to handle much of the back-office work after securities are sold.

In May, U.S. District Judge Katherine Forrest in Manhattan dismissed a similar NCUA lawsuit against Bank of America Corp. and U.S. Bancorp over 74 RMBS trusts, noting that securities there had been resecuritized.

Judge Scheindlin said she disagreed with part of Judge Forrest’s ruling, but that the case could also be distinguished on its facts. The NCUA filed an amended complaint against Bank of America and U.S. Bancorp last week.