Someone opposed to the proposed class action settlement has asserted that the SLX SSH loans are no longer collectible because CIT Group (SLX’s parent company) has “written off” the SSH loans. This assertion is a false claim. I spoke with class counsel Andy August about this today. Here are his thoughts:
"This assertion is not true and is dangerously misleading. The person who made the accusation is neither a lawyer nor accountant and clearly lacks an understanding of the requirements for Securities and Exchange Commission filings, accounting, tax or federal securities laws. Regrettably, this assertion was made without prior consultation with Class Counsel (or any other lawyer, apparently).
From the very beginning of Class Counsels’ involvement in the case Class Counsel closely monitored CIT’s SEC filings regarding its SSH loan portfolio. Class Counsel has also been in touch with the lawyers who have filed securities class actions on behalf of investors in CIT. For example, everyone who attended and participated in the initial mediation in August 2008 knew that CIT had established a loss reserve for the SSH loans in excess of $120 million. In fact, this amount was one of the factual bases for the negotiations that followed. Class Counsel has monitored every subsequent SEC filing and nothing in any of the filings or the fact that CIT filed bankruptcy (SLX did not file bankruptcy) alters SLX’s ability to attempt to collect every dollar owed to it under the loans.
Class counsel has consulted with securities, accounting, bankruptcy and tax experts who have unanimously advised that CIT’s most recent filings, which treat the loans as “non-accrual” loans, have no effect whatsoever on SLX’s ability to collect from you the full amount of the loans if they prevail. The following is a lay explanation obtained by Mr. August of why a lender, under the circumstances present here, may make a change in how a loan is accounted on its books. It explains that “non-accrual” is not the same as walking away from a loan and that characterizing a loan portfolio as in “non-accrual”, has no impact on a lender’s ability to collect in any way:
Normally, the lender will treat itself as receiving income as interest comes due—accrues—on the loan. Under normal circumstances, the lender can expect to actually receive the cash in a very short period of time afterward. When a borrower defaults and does not pay its interest, and the default continues for several months, the lender will reach the point where it begins to doubt if it will ever receive the cash for the interest that is accruing. At that point, it does not make business sense and, in fact, is in many cases against federal securities laws, to keep acting as if the lender were receiving income. As a result, the lender places the loan on “nonaccrual”, and stops posting income from the loan. This is a bookkeeping and accounting action only. It does not mean the lender will not attempt to collect every nickel of money due to it.
Because there has been no collection activity on the SSH loans for more than two years, CIT is obligated to treat the loans as “non-accrual” loans in its SEC filings. However, CIT’s compliance with federal “Fresh Start Accounting” rules does nothing to change the realities of SLX’s ability to collect the SSH loans. Please do not think or believe otherwise."
I agree with Andy August's analysis. In my own bankruptcy practice, I have seen many instances of banks collecting on or selling old debts that others described as having been "written off."
As of today, Judge Merryday has neither approved of nor rejected the proposed settlement, nor has he given any indication of when he will issue his ruling. I will post complete information about his ruling as soon as the ruling is made.