Financial Institutions Litigation

Financial Institutions Litigation

Overview

Financial institutions operate in a dynamic and treacherous environment. The financial crisis has spawned new regulations and greater scrutiny. Data breaches occur with increasing frequency. Borrowers blame lenders for their losses. Loan officers and tellers bring wage and hour claims. And class actions, fines and prosecutions amplify the risk.

We help financial institutions navigate litigation that threatens their business. We defend lender liability claims and class actions, and we prosecute affirmative claims to enforce the contractual rights of financial institutions. We also craft compliance programs and conduct internal investigations to minimize risk of litigation.

Our ranks include the former general counsel of a national financial institution, regular advisers to regional bank officers and directors, and attorneys who help clients purchase distressed banks. These lawyers serve as resources for a core group of litigators who represent our clients in court and carry out internal investigations.

Lender Liability Claims

Lenders are under constant threat of claims challenging the way they administer their loans and enforce their contractual rights. Commercial borrowers who default often accuse their lenders of causing their losses. Consumer borrowers routinely respond to breach of contract and foreclosure actions by asserting a kitchen sink of counterclaims.

We help banks defend lender liability claims. Examples of our work include:

  • Complete trial victory for a Fortune 100 financial institution after a multi-week jury trial, defeating a claim for $65 million in damages for alleged tortious interference, breach of fiduciary duty, and fraud. In the same case we prevailed on our counterclaim enforcing the lender’s right to priority over junior lenders, recovering over $1 million for our client.
  • Dismissal of a multimillion-dollar claim against a national bank challenging its refusal to further extend a loan and its enforcement of defaults, defeating claims for negligent and fraudulent misrepresentation without any discovery expense to the client.

Class Action Defense

Financial institutions face a wide range of class action lawsuits concerning debt collection activity, fees, adequacy of disclosures, lending practices, and handling and reporting of credit information. The lawyers who bring these cases are knowledgeable, well-coordinated and aggressive, and the potential exposure is substantial.

We have the experience to attack these claims efficiently and minimize exposure. We know class actions inside and out, and we defend them from coast to coast. We were lead trial counsel in the largest class action case ever tried by jury in Illinois. We have served as national coordinating counsel for major corporate clients, and we are one of a handful of class action defense firms selected by an industry-leading client after a lengthy “convergence” process.

Consumer Class Actions 

We have represented financial institutions and other clients in a variety of lawsuits brought under consumer protection statutes, including the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA), the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), the Fair and Accurate Transactions Act (FACTA), the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (RESPA), the Truth in Lending Act (TILA), and numerous state unfair and deceptive practices statutes. Illustrative class action representations of financial institutions include:

  • Defended several lenders in real estate finance cases, many of which were brought as class actions, alleging overcharging for insurance and failing to offer rebates of PMI coverage.
  • Defended a putative class action under TILA alleging that a mailing included misleading finance charge disclosures and improper security interest disclosures.
  • Obtained dismissal of a putative class action against a bank client challenging the failure to record mortgage assignments.
  • Defended a variety of financial industry and other clients against putative TCPA class actions.

Employment Class Actions

We defend clients in a wide variety of employment-related class actions, including wage and hour claims, Fair Labor Standards Act collective actions, class actions alleging discrimination, overtime cases, meal and rest break class actions, and employee misclassification actions.

Claims Against Borrowers and Third Parties

We frequently help financial institutions enforce their loan agreements against delinquent borrowers. We also pursue claims against title insurance companies, fidelity bond companies, and appraisers. We investigate losses resulting from fraud, employee misconduct and professional malpractice.

We have obtained numerous multimillion-dollar recoveries for our clients, both in court and through settlement. For example, we:

  • Obtained seven-figure settlements on fidelity bond claims arising from employee conflicts of interest and Ponzi schemes.
  • Represented bank lenders in the foreclosure of a 43-story condominium building that became embroiled in a bankruptcy proceeding. The bankruptcy court rejected the debtor's plan and awarded the property to the lenders together with $9 million held in escrow.
  • Obtained judgments in excess of $10 million and dismissal of lender liability counterclaims within six months of substituting for prior counsel in foreclosure actions that had been pending for years.
  • Obtained summary judgment on liability and prevailed at damages trial for more than $2 million in damages against title insurance company for breach of closing protection letter.
  • Prosecuted breach of contract claims under appraisal services contract resulting in settlements exceeding $50 million.

 

When pursuing affirmative claims like these, we know that time is money, so we push hard to bring cases to a close quickly and efficiently. With decades of experience handling these matters, we are well versed in the delay tactics that borrowers employ. We vigorously challenge those defenses and press to enforce the loan terms and collect.

White Collar and Internal Investigations

When a financial institution is faced with wrongdoing by an employee, a customer or a business partner, the stakes can be very high. To minimize this risk, clients turn to us to craft compliance programs, conduct internal investigations and respond to regulators' inquiries.

We help develop defensible compliance programs that recognize the highly regulated environment in which our clients operate. We train employees in these programs and we audit the programs’ implementation. Many of our lawyers who do this work are former senior federal prosecutors; they have tested the letter and operation of compliance programs during their time in public service and bring that perspective to our compliance counseling.

We also represent the management and directors of financial institutions in conducting internal investigations into alleged securities fraud, fraud by customers, and fraud by employees.

We have assisted these clients in responding to subpoenas issued by the Department of Justice, the Commodities Futures Trading Commission and the Securities and Exchange Commission, and in criminal forfeiture actions brought against our clients' borrowers.

Cybersecurity and Data Privacy

Data breaches and cyberattacks are in the news every day, and financial institutions are often the target. As recent high-profile breaches show, the danger is very real, and an attack can have dire consequences.

Our lawyers were protecting clients’ confidential information long before “cybersecurity” became a watchword. We have extensive experience investigating and litigating data breaches, working with sophisticated computer forensics analysis to get to the heart of the issue.

Recognizing that it is very difficult to prevent breaches entirely, we work with clients to develop best practices. Then, if a breach occurs, the company can put it in context and demonstrate to the relevant constituencies — regulators, shareholders, customers, employees and the courts — that the company’s data security and culture of compliance are trustworthy.

Financial institutions that bear the consequences of data breaches may be able to pursue relief against retailers and other parties that failed to take proper precautions. We can advise and prosecute these claims to recover costs incurred from false charges and reissuing charge cards.

Trust and Estate Litigation

Many financial institutions act as corporate fiduciaries, often overseeing family wealth over the course of multiple generations. Increasingly these relationships find their way into litigation.

We have a long and distinguished track record of representing corporate fiduciaries in trust and estate litigation, including “rescue” situations where we have been called in to replace or assist prior counsel.  We also counsel financial institutions and train their employees on risk management “best practices” so they can avoid litigation or minimize its impact.

ERISA Litigation

We provide effective representation to plan administrators, broker/dealers, investment advisers and investment managers, trustees, and other fiduciaries in all aspects of ERISA and employee benefits litigation in courts across the country.

Led by a former trial attorney in the ERISA litigation division of the Department of Labor (DOL), our team is composed of skilled trial lawyers who are knowledgeable in the complexities of ERISA. When the need arises, we also collaborate with the firm’s Employee Benefits and Executive Compensation Group. Our strengths are:
  • Defending fiduciaries against fiduciary breach allegations
  • Defending fiduciaries and non-fiduciary service providers against claims alleging violations of ERISA’s prohibited transaction provisions
  • Defending plans against allegations of wrongful denial of benefits 
  • Defending clients in actions alleging delinquent contributions to Taft-Hartley plans and withdrawal liability under Title IV of ERISA
  • Compliance with ERISA and tax laws

 

We have extensive experience representing clients under investigation by the DOL, helping many to avoid further action by the DOL. In addition, we routinely help clients maneuver through the complexities of terminating defined benefit plans and represent clients in cases involving the Pension Benefit Guarantee Corporation.

Intellectual Property

The technological revolution in financial markets has highlighted the need for firms to monetize and protect their technological innovations. We have a particular focus in advising financial market firms on intellectual property issues concerning trading strategies and methodologies and electronic trading systems.

Our attorneys who practice at the intersection of financial markets and intellectual property are known nationwide for their skill and strategy in protecting our clients’ technological innovations and preventing IP entanglements from interfering with their business goals.