Pensions Sue Banks, Allege Abuses -- WSJ

By Katy Burne Features Dow Jones Newswires

This article is being republished as part of our daily reproduction of WSJ.com articles that also appeared in the U.S. print edition of The Wall Street Journal (August 18, 2017).

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Three U.S. pension funds sued six major global banks, saying they conspired to block competition in the stock-lending market.

The plaintiffs -- Iowa Public Employees' Retirement System, Orange County Employees Retirement System and Sonoma County Employees' Retirement System -- allege in a complaint seeking class-action status that the banks have been acting together since 2009. The suit was filed Wednesday in federal district court for the Southern District of New York.

The lawsuit is the latest effort by pension-fund plaintiffs and private lawyers to extract penalties from banks for alleged wrongdoing including anticompetitive actions.

The banks named as defendants in the lawsuit are Bank of America Corp., Credit Suisse Group AG, Goldman Sachs Group Inc., J.P. Morgan Chase & Co., Morgan Stanley & Co. and UBS Group AG. Representatives for Credit Suisse, Goldman, J.P. Morgan, Morgan Stanley and UBS declined to comment. Bank of America had no immediate comment.

New York-based stock-lending platform EquiLend, which matches up banks and other firms that want to borrow securities with those seeking to lend them, was also named as a defendant.

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EquiLend is owned by banks including the six other defendants, according to its website. EquiLend didn't immediately comment.

In stock-lending transactions, firms lend out their shares to borrowers for a fee, often using agents as middlemen. There are some $1.72 trillion of shares on loan at any one time, the suit says.

Private lawsuits have already drawn billions of dollars in settlements over the alleged manipulation by banks of foreign-exchange, interest-rate, commodity and off-exchange derivatives markets. Twelve banks and two industry groups in 2015 agreed to pay $1.87 billion to settle accusations that they rigged the credit derivatives markets.

In 2013, Iowa's pension fund was the lead plaintiff in a class-action lawsuit against Countrywide Financial Corp. and others over alleged abuses in the packaging and selling of mortgage bonds that soured in the financial crisis. Defendants agreed to pay $500 million to settle that case.

Those lawsuits were brought under a Democratic administration widely perceived as more friendly to attempts to rein in banks than the Trump administration.

Plaintiff lawyers working on the stock-lending lawsuit are Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll PLLC and Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan LLP. The firms were also co-lead counsel in a lawsuit alleging banks manipulated the interest-rate swaps market. That case is ongoing.

Write to Katy Burne at katy.burne@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

August 18, 2017 02:48 ET (06:48 GMT)