General Electric has put its defunct subprime mortgage business into bankruptcy to help resolve remaining legal liabilities over defective loans.
WMC Mortgage has already settled 13 lawsuits in which investors alleged it misrepresented the quality of the mortgages it sold, agreeing to pay a total of $870 million in compensation.
But a suit filed by TMI Trust Co., a successor to the Law Debenture Trust of New York, is still pending, with the plaintiff seeking about $980 million. WMC said in bankruptcy court papers filed on Tuesday that it may also face indemnification claims from large financial institutions that were sued over toxic mortgages.
The WMC board “has determined that the commencement of this chapter 11 case … will enable WMC to maximize the value of its remaining assets, resolve disputed and unliquidated claims that might be asserted against it, and make a fair and equitable distribution to its creditors,” the company’s CEO, Mark Asdourian, said.
GE last week paid $1.5 billion to settle Department of Justice allegations that WMC’s sales of residential mortgage loans before the 2008 financial crisis violated the Financial Institutions Reform, Recovery, and Enforcement Act.
But according to Asdourian, WMC’s limited cash on hand and “its inability to receive ongoing financial support” from GE left it unable to resolve potential claims “outside the confines of chapter 11 and the protections and finality it affords.”
As of Tuesday, WMC had approximately $175,000 in cash or cash equivalents.
As Reuters reports, the filing “is part of GE’s effort to address liabilities incurred through many years of expansion under prior management, while improving profitability and cash flow.”
WMC, formerly Weyerhaeuser Mortgage Co., was reportedly the nation’s sixth-biggest subprime lender when it was acquired by GE in 2004 under former CEO Jeff Immelt. But federal bank regulators ranked it as one of the worst subprime mortgage lenders in major metro areas, with more than 10,000 foreclosures between 2005 and 2007, when it originated more than $65 billion in loans.
After WMC halted loan originations, it sold most of its assets to DLJ Capital in December 2007.