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Securities and Exchange Commission v. Goldstone

United States District Court, D. New Mexico

January 31, 2017

SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION, Plaintiff,
v.
LARRY A. GOLDSTONE; CLARENCE G. SIMMONS, III and JANE E. STARRETT, Defendants.

          Michael H. Hoses Assistant United States Attorney United States Attorney's Office Albuquerque, New Mexico and Stephen C. McKenna Gregory A. Kasper Dugan Bliss Danielle Voorhees Ian S. Karpel Securities and Exchange Commission Denver, Colorado Attorneys for Plaintiff Securities and Exchange Commission

          Robert Badal Santa Barbara, California and Skye Lynn Perryman Michael A. Lamson April N. Williams Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale & Dorr LLP Washington, D.C. and Randall R. Lee Aaron Thompson Daniel Crump Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale & Dorr LLP Los Angeles, California and Heather S. Tewksbury Christopher W. Johnstone Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale & Dorr LLP Palo Alto, California and Jerry L. Marks Robert J. Liubicic Elena Kilberg Alisa Schlesinger Paul M. Torres Milbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCloy LLP Los Angeles, California and Bruce D. Hall Andrew G. Schultz Melanie B. Stambaugh Rodey, Dickason, Sloan, Akin, & Robb P.A. Albuquerque, New Mexico Attorneys for Defendants Larry Goldstone, Clarence G. Simmons, III, and Jane E. Starrett

          Peter J. Dennin George A. Salter Hogan Lovells U.S. LLP New York, New York and William Spencer Reid Keleher & McLeod P.A. Albuquerque, New Mexico Attorneys for Intervenor KPMG, LLP

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

         THIS MATTER comes before the Court on the Plaintiff Securities and Exchange Commission's Motion in Limine to Exclude Argument or Evidence that the Defendants did not Violate Rule 13b2-2 as a Result of Providing the “Tie-Out Document” to KPMG, filed March 17, 2016 (Doc. 392)(“Motion”). The Court held a hearing on May 11, 2016. The primary issue is whether the Court should allow the Defendants, Larry A. Goldstone, Clarence G. Simmons, III, and Jane E. Starrett, [1] to introduce evidence that, on February, 27, 2008, Thornburg Mortgage provided to its auditor, KPMG, LLC, a “Tie-Out Document, ” which constituted a schedule of margin calls that Thornburg Mortgage received in the two weeks before that date. The Court will allow the Defendants to introduce evidence related to the Tie-Out Document, because such evidence is not irrelevant to whether the Defendants violated rule 13b2-2 and because the danger of unfair prejudice does not substantially outweigh the Tie-Out Document's probative value. Accordingly, the Court denies the Motion.

         FACTUAL BACKGROUND

         The Court takes its facts from the Complaint, filed March 13, 2012 (Doc. 1). The Court presents the facts solely to provide context for the Motion. It continues to adhere to the decisions on the facts that it reached in SEC v. Goldstone, No. CIV. 12-0257 JB/GBW, 2015 WL 5138242 (D.N.M. August 22, 2015)(Browning, J.)(“Summary Judgment Opinion”).

         The Defendants are Thornburg Mortgage officers: Goldstone was the chief executive officer, Simmons was the chief financial officer, and Starrett was the chief accounting officer. See Complaint ¶ 1, at 1. The SEC alleges that the Defendants were involved in fraudulent misrepresentations and omissions made in connection with the 2007 Form 10-K.[2] See Complaint ¶¶ 1-3, at 1-2. The SEC asserts that the Defendants misled and withheld important financial information from Thornburg Mortgage's outside auditor, KPMG, LLP, such as the impending collapse of a large European hedge fund that held mortgage-backed securities (“MBS”) similar to the Thornburg Mortgage's adjustable rate mortgage (“ARM”) securities.[3] Complaint ¶¶ 76-79, at 22.

         Thornburg Mortgage was a publicly traded single-family mortgage lender and real estate investment trust, founded in 1993, headquartered in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and was once the second-largest independent mortgage company in the United States of America after Countrywide Financial Corporation. See Complaint ¶ 2, at 1; id. ¶ 20, at 7. During the time relevant to the Complaint's allegations, Thornburg Mortgage's shares were traded on the New York Stock Exchange. See Complaint ¶ 20, at 7. Thornburg Mortgage's lending operations focused on “jumbo” and “super-jumbo”[4] ARM securities; Thornburg Mortgage also purchased ARM securities that third parties originated. See Complaint ¶ 21, at 7. Thornburg Mortgage used most of its earnings to pay dividends, and obtained financing for its mortgage and investment business through reverse repurchase agreements[5] which ARM securities backed. See Complaint ¶ 3, at 2. Thornburg Mortgage's reverse repurchase agreements “typically consisted of a simultaneous sale of pledged securities to a lender at an agreed price in return for Thornburg Mortgage's agreement to repurchase the same securities at a future date (the maturity date) at a higher price.” Complaint ¶ 22, at 7-8. The reverse repurchase agreements required Thornburg Mortgage to maintain a certain degree of liquidity and subjected Thornburg Mortgage to margin calls if the value of the ARM securities serving as collateral on the agreements fell below a specified level. See Complaint ¶ 22, at 8. A margin call would generally require Thornburg Mortgage to pay cash to reduce its loan amount or to pledge additional collateral to the lender, either on the same day that Thornburg Mortgage received the margin call or on the following day, unless the parties agreed otherwise. See Citigroup Global Markets, Inc. as Intermediating Agent for Citigroup Global Markets Limited and [Counterparty] Thornburg Mortgage, Inc., International Securities Lenders Association ISLA Global Master Securities Lending Agreement § 5.8, at 11, filed May 21, 2012 (Doc. 37-6)(brackets in original); Master Repurchase Agreement Between Greenwich Capital Markets, Inc., and Thornburg Mortgage, Inc. § 4(c) at 5, filed July 20, 2012 (Doc. 60-2); id. at § 11(a), at 7-8; Master Repurchase Agreement Between Credit Suisse First Boston Corporation and Thornburg Mortgage Asset Corporation § 4(c), at 4, filed July 20, 2012 (Doc. 60-3); id. at § 11(a), at 7; Complaint ¶ 23, at 8. Thornburg Mortgage's failure to timely meet a margin call was an event of default and allowed a lender to declare Thornburg Mortgage in default, which would trigger cross-defaults on Thornburg Mortgage's other reverse repurchase agreements, and all lenders with whom Thornburg Mortgage had defaulted were then allowed to seize and to sell the ARM securities collateralizing Thornburg Mortgage's loans. See Complaint ¶ 24, at 8. Receiving margin calls was part of Thornburg Mortgage's normal course of business, as the value of its ARM securities often fluctuated. See Complaint ¶ 25, at 8.

         Citigroup Global Markets, Inc.'s margin call on February 21, 2008, was the largest of the three margin calls that Thornburg Mortgage could not immediately meet -- $196 million. See Complaint ¶ 33, at 10. In response to Thornburg Mortgage's inability to meet the Citigroup Global margin call on February 21, 2008, Citigroup Global sent a letter to Goldstone and Simmons, stating that Thornburg Mortgage had breached the parties' reverse repurchase agreement and reserving Citigroup Global's right to declare Thornburg Mortgage in default. See Complaint ¶ 3, at 2; id. ¶ 34, at 10-11 (citing Letter from Stephen G. Malekian to Thornburg Mortgage, Inc., Re: The Global Master Securities Lending Agreement dated as of September 20, 2007 Between Citigroup Global Markets, Inc. as Intermediating Agent for Citigroup Global Markets Limited and Together with Citigroup Global Markets, Inc. and Thornburg Mortgage (dated Feb. 21, 2008), filed May 21, 2012 (Doc. 37-7)(“Citigroup Global Letter”)). Citigroup Global made clear that, although Citigroup Global was not exercising its rights under the reverse repurchase agreement, it was not waiving its right to declare Thornburg Mortgage in default or to amend the underlying reverse repurchase agreement. See Complaint ¶ 34, at 11. In an email from Goldstone to Simmons, Starrett, and others, dated February 21, 2008, Goldstone stated that he had negotiated a “payment plan with Citigroup Global in order to satisfy the call by the end of [the following] week[.]” Complaint ¶ 61, at 18 (alterations in original)(quoting Email from Clay Simmons to Nyira Gitana, Subject: FW: TMA Update at 2 (sent February 21, 2008, at 9:30 a.m.), filed May 21, 2012 (Doc. 37-10)). Thornburg Mortgage paid the Citigroup Global margin call over seven days and made the final payment of seventy-five million dollars on February 27, 2008. See Complaint ¶ 35, at 11.

         In the last week of February, 2008, Thornburg Mortgage had to sell the interest-only portions of its ARM loans (“I/O Strip Transactions”) to generate sufficient cash to meet the margin calls it received in the second half of the month. Complaint ¶ 36, at 11. The I/O Strip Transactions further depleted Thornburg Mortgage's liquidity to meet margin calls. See Complaint ¶ 36, at 11. In an email from Goldstone to Simmons and Starrett on February 22, 2008, Goldstone informed them of some of Thornburg Mortgage's plans to raise liquidity to meet margin calls: “‘Citi sold two of [Thornburg Mortgage's] IO securities6 as well for a gain of approximately $25 million and net proceeds to Citi of $10 million.'” Complaint ¶ 67, at 19-20 (alteration in original)(quoting Email from Larry Goldstone to Garret Thornburg, Anne Anderson, David Ater, Eliot Cutler, Francis Mullin III, Ike Kalangis, Michael Jeffers, Owen Lopez, and Stuart Sherman, Subject: TMA Update - Friday Morning, February 22 at 2 (sent February 22, 2008 at 8:42 a.m.), filed May 21, 2012 (Doc. 37-8 at 2)(“Feb. 22, 2008, Email”)). In an email sent February 25, 2008, Goldstone informed Simmons and Starrett that Thornburg Mortgage was “‘moving towards resolving [its] margin issues'” through, among other strategies, having “‘sold some additional IO securities[.]'” Complaint ¶ 68, at 20 (quoting Email from Larry Goldstone to the Thornburg Mortgage Board of Directors (sent February 25, 2008, at 5:03 p.m.), filed May 21, 2012 (Doc. 37-9)(“Feb. 25, 2008, Email”)).

         The Defendants planned to quickly raise cash to satisfy Thornburg Mortgage's future margin calls after filing the 2007 Form 10-K. Complaint ¶ 32, at 10. The Defendants did not plan to disclose that Thornburg Mortgage was late in meeting margin calls. See Complaint ¶ 32, at 10. In an email, from Goldstone to Simmons and Starrett, on February 22, 2008, Goldstone stated that Thornburg Mortgage was “‘planning to sell two of [its] TMA securities'” to meet margin calls and that this sale would “‘allow[] us to keep our current situation quiet while we deal with it.'” Complaint ¶ 67, at 20 (alterations in original)(quoting Feb. 22, 2008, Email at 2).

         The Defendants “scrambled” to meet Thornburg Mortgage's margin calls before filing the 2007 Form 10-K. Complaint ¶ 30, at 9-10. In an email from Goldstone dated February 22, 2008, which Simmons and Starrett received, Goldstone stated:

We don't want to disclose our current circumstance until it is resolved. Our goal for resolution i[s] the filing of our 10-K. How we disclose this issue and what we say will depend on where we are next week when we need to file. But, our plan is to say that we had margin calls and all have been met.

         Complaint ¶ 30, at 10 (alteration in original)(quoting Feb. 22, 2008, Email at 2). Goldstone also discussed in the same email strategies that would allow Thornburg Mortgage “‘to keep [its] current situation quiet while we deal with it.'” Complaint ¶ 31, at 10 (alteration in original)(quoting Feb. 22, 2008, Email at 2). Goldstone also stated: “‘Hopefully our disclosure will be a simple one, meaning all margin calls have been met.'” Complaint ¶ 31, at 10 (quoting Feb. 22, 2008 Email at 3).

         Goldstone and Simmons also learned, on February 27, 2008, that a large European hedge fund with substantial MBS holdings, similar to those Thornburg Mortgage held, was collapsing. See Complaint ¶ 38, at 12. Goldstone anticipated that the European hedge fund's collapse would negatively affect Thornburg Mortgage's ARM securities and sent an email to Simmons on February 27, 2008, in which he said:

Also, you should know that a large Alt-A hedge fund in Europe is blowing up this afternoon. UBS credit just mentioned it to me. They got hit with 20 point haircuts on Alt-A and AAA's overnight. I think we will get this a little more gradually, but we should be ready for it.[7]

         Complaint ¶ 38, at 12 (quoting Email from Larry Goldstone to Clay Simmons at 2, sent February 27, 2008, at 3:48 p.m.), filed May 21, 2012 (Doc. 37-21)(“Feb. 27, 2008, Goldstone/Simmons Email”)). Simmons sent an email to Goldstone and others regarding the potential collapse of the European hedge fund, stating: “‘This makes it even more critical to be done with Citi today so we can get the K filed.'” Complaint ¶ 39, at 12 (quoting Email from Clay Simmons to Thornburg Mortgage Employee Patrick Feldman and Larry Goldstone at 2 (sent February 27, 2008, at 8:08 a.m.), filed May 21, 2012 (Doc. 37-20)(“Feb. 27, 2008, Simmons/Feldman Email”)). Later on February 27, 2008, Simmons sent an email to Starrett, in which he stated: “‘I gave [Thornburg's SEC Reporting manager] ¶ 6:00 AM Thursday deadline to file the K. I do not want there to be any issues based on Thursday activity.'” Complaint ¶ 40, at 12 (alteration in original)(quoting Email from Clay Simmons to Jane Starrett at 2 (sent February 27, 2008, at 10:35 a.m.), filed May 21, 2012 (Doc. 37-38)(“Feb. 27, 2008, Simmons/Starrett Email”)).

         Thornburg Mortgage filed its 2007 Form 10-K on February 28, 2008, approximately twelve hours after sending its last payment to Citigroup Global and meeting its outstanding margin calls. See Complaint ¶ 3, at 6; id. ¶ 41, at 12. Goldstone, Simmons, and Starrett drafted and reviewed Thornburg Mortgage's 2007 Form 10-K before filing it, and Goldstone and Simmons signed the Form 10-K. See Complaint ¶ 7, at 3. In the 2007 Form 10-K, Goldstone and Simmons represented that Thornburg Mortgage had successfully met its margin calls without selling any assets. See Complaint ¶ 7, at 3; 2007 Form 10-K at 35 (“[D]espite these challenges, we successfully continue to meet all margin calls, we maintain existing short-term financing facilities with our existing finance counterparties and we have successfully added new financing capacity since year end.”); id. at 39 (“In the event that we cannot meet future margin calls from our available cash position, we might need to selectively sell assets in order to raise cash. To date, no such sales have been required . . . .”). Thornburg Mortgage's 2007 Form 10-K accounted for the I/O Strip Transactions as the issuance of secured debt.[8] See Complaint ¶ 37, at 11. The 2007 Form 10-K also stated that Thornburg Mortgage had the “‘intent and ability to hold its ARM Securities until their value recovered in the market, '” notwithstanding that the lenders which declared Thornburg Mortgage in default of reverse repurchase agreements could have seized Thornburg Mortgage's ARM securities pledged as collateral. Complaint ¶ 8, at 3 (quoting 2007 Form 10-K at 41). In accordance with the statement that Thornburg Mortgage had the intent and ability to hold its ARM securities until their value recovered, Thornburg Mortgage did not recognize $427.8 million in losses associated with its ARM securities that served as collateral on its reverse repurchase agreements. See Complaint ¶ 8, at 4. Thornburg Mortgage also reported a fourth-quarter 2007 profit. See Complaint ¶ 11, at 4. “Thornburg's . . . Form 10K and accompanying financial statements were also incorporated into the company's active Form S-3 ASR[9] registration statement, relating to Thornburg Mortgage's dividend reinvestment and stock purchase plan, which was signed by Goldstone and Simmons and had been filed with the Commission on December 10, 2007.” Complaint ¶ 89, at 26.

         Thornburg Mortgage began receiving margin calls at 6:00 a.m. on February 28, 2008. See Complaint ¶ 41, at 12-13. Thornburg Mortgage's stock prices fell after it filed the 2007 Form 10-K. See Complaint ¶ 10, at 4; Thornburg Hit with Margin Calls; Shares Slide, Dow Jones Newswires, Feb. 28, 2008, filed May 21, 2012 (Doc. 37-29)(“Feb. 28 Dow Jones Newswire”); Thornburg, MF Global Send Financial Stocks Lower, Dow Jones MarketWatch, Feb. 28, 2008, filed May 21, 2012 (Doc. 37-30). Simmons commented to Goldstone, in an early-morning email regarding Thornburg Mortgage's falling stock prices: “I guess the recent development section did not go over well. If they only knew.” Complaint ¶ 10, at 4 (quoting Email from Clay Simmons to Larry Goldstone at 2 (sent February 28, 2008, at 6:33 a.m.), filed May 21, 2012 (Doc. 37-24)(“Feb. 28, 2008, Simmons/Goldstone Email”)). In an email from Goldstone to Thornburg Mortgage's Investor Relations department on February 28, 2008, at 5:29 a.m., Goldstone instructed the group to “‘try to calm the panic, '” and to inform investors that “‘[a]ll margin calls met, ' ‘[l]enders are fine, ' and ‘[w]e have sufficient operating cash[.]'” Complaint ¶ 94, at 27 (alterations in original). See Email from Larry Goldstone to Thornburg Mortgage IR Department Employees Amy Pell, Suzanne O'Leary Lopez, and Allison Yates at 2, (sent February 28, 2008, at 5:29 a.m.), filed May 21, 2012 (Doc. 37-27). At 6:56 a.m., Goldstone informed Thornburg Mortgage's Board of Directors in an email that he estimated Thornburg Mortgage had approximately forty million dollars available in cash at that time. See Complaint ¶ 95, at 28; Email from Larry Goldstone to Thornburg Mortgage Board of Directors at 2, (sent February 28, 2008, at 6:56 a.m.), filed May 21, 2012 (Doc. 37-11)(“Feb. 28, 2008, Email”). As of 7:30 a.m. on February 28, 2008, Thornburg Mortgage had received over $100 million in margin calls. See Complaint ¶ 9, at 4; id. ¶ 41, at 13.

         In the afternoon of February 28, 2008, Goldstone appeared on CNBC's Street Signs. See Complaint ¶ 98, at 28. On Street Signs, Goldstone stated that: (i) he did not believe Thornburg Mortgage would need to sell assets; (ii) Thornburg Mortgage had “‘met all of [its] lending requirements'”; and (iii) Thornburg Mortgage had “‘liquidity and cash available to continue to support the portfolio.'” Complaint ¶ 98, at 28 (alterations in original)(quoting Street Signs: Interview with Larry Goldstone at 3:54-4:09, CNBC television broadcast February 28, 2008, filed May 21, 2012 (Doc. 37-1)).

         On the evening of February 28, 2008, Thornburg Mortgage received a default notice from J.P. Morgan Chase Bank, N.A. for an unpaid margin call that J.P. Morgan had issued to Thornburg Mortgage earlier that day. See Complaint ¶ 41, at 13. At the end of the day on February 28, 2008, Goldstone, Simmons, and Starrett confirmed, via email, that the “‘top messages [they] reinforced in the market'” were: “‘We have met all margin calls to date, and we expect to continue to do so. We have sufficient operating cash, and we don't expect to sell assets to meet margin calls. We returned to profitability during the fourth quarter despite a tough market.'” Complaint ¶ 96, at 28 (alterations in original).

         As part of Thornburg Mortgage's auditing process in 2007, Thornburg Mortgage had to assess whether it had the intent and ability to hold its ARM securities until maturity, or when they recovered their value on the market -- referred to as an “other-than-temporary impairment . . . analysis” (“OTTI analysis”).[10] Complaint ¶¶ 49-50, at 50-51. As part of Thornburg Mortgage's 2007 audit, KPMG assessed whether Thornburg Mortgage's OTTI analysis was accurate. See Complaint ¶ 49, at 14-15.[11] The Defendants did not disclose to KPMG: (i) Thornburg Mortgage's “precarious” financial condition, Complaint ¶ 51, at 15; (ii) that Thornburg Mortgage was in violation of its repurchase agreements and relying on lender forbearance to meet its margin calls, see Complaint ¶ 51, at 15; (iii) that Thornburg Mortgage had used I/O Strip Transactions to meet margin calls in the last two weeks of February, 2008, see Complaint ¶ 99, at 29; (iv) that Thornburg Mortgage had received the Citigroup Letter, see Complaint ¶ 99, at 29; or (v) that the European hedge fund was on the verge of collapse, see Complaint ¶ 76, at 22.

         The Defendants each signed Thornburg Mortgage's February 27, 2008, management representation letter to KPMG, in which they represented that: (i) Thornburg Mortgage was in compliance with all aspects of its contractual obligations that would have a material effect on its consolidated financial statements in the event of a noncompliance; (ii) Thornburg Mortgage had the intent and ability to hold its impaired securities for a sufficient period of time to allow for them to recover their value in the market; (iii) Thornburg Mortgage had experienced no subsequent events requiring it to adjust or disclose its financial statements; and (iv) Thornburg Mortgage's financial statements disclosed all matters of which the Defendants were aware that were relevant regarding Thornburg Mortgage's ability to continue as a going-concern. See Complaint ¶ 57, at 17. Goldstone and Simmons did not inform the auditor of the possible collapse of a large European hedge fund, which held ARM securities similar to Thornburg Mortgage's. See Complaint ¶ 76, at 22. “[A]t or about the time” that Simmons learned of the possible collapse of the European hedge fund, he had “just advised . . . Thornburg's outside auditor that he believed the MBS market had reached its lowest point and MBS prices were not likely to deteriorate further.” Complaint ¶ 77, at 22-23.

         On March 3, 2008, KPMG requested from the Defendants evidence “that the events subsequent to filing were unforeseeable catastrophic events.” Email from KPMG Senior Manager Jennifer Hall to Larry Goldstone, Jane Starrett, Clay Simmons, and Shawn Buniel at 2, (sent March 3, 2008, 11:44 p.m.), filed May 21, 2013 (Doc. 37-28)(“March 3, 2008, Hall Email”). The requested evidence included “correspondence with lenders/attorneys/shareholders, emails.” Request for Correspondence, attached to March 3, 2008 Hall Email at 3-4, filed May 21, 2012 (Doc. 37-28)(“Request for Correspondence”). See Complaint ¶ 100, at 29. KPMG also requested a “position paper, ” which “provides the Company's assessment of the ability to hold securities for the foreseeable future as of August 27, 2008, including but not limited to . . . [c]orrespondence with counter parties for the two weeks prior to filing, along with supporting evidence.” Request for Correspondence at 4. At the time, KPMG, as auditor, was considering whether to restate Thornburg Mortgage's financial statements and was reevaluating its audit opinion's validity. See Complaint ¶ 99, at 29. Goldstone and Simmons were aware of the Citi Letter, but did not provide it to the auditor. See Complaint ¶ 101, at 29. KPMG did not become aware of the Citi Letter while preparing its Restatement. See Complaint ¶ 101, at 29. Simmons reviewed and approved an analysis for the auditor which explained that Thornburg Mortgage's margin calls on February 28, 2008, and the corresponding collapse in the mortgage market were part of “‘an unforeseeable catastrophic decline in mortgage market valuations.'” Complaint ¶ 102, at 29 (quoting ...


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