Wells Fargo & Co. failed to win dismissal of a lawsuit in which the U.S. government accused the nation’s largest mortgage lender of fraud by lying about the quality of home loans it submitted to a government insurance program.
U.S. District Judge Jesse Furman in Manhattan said on Tuesday the U.S. Department of Justice may pursue all of its federal statutory claims against Wells Fargo, which is also the fourth-largest U.S. bank.
In a 60-page decision, he also dismissed claims of unjust enrichment and some other claims because they were either brought too late, or the government had supposedly been aware of Wells Fargo’s misconduct at the time they arose.
The lawsuit filed last October accused Wells Fargo of misleading the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development into believing its loans qualified for insurance from HUD’s Federal Housing Administration. It sought damages and civil penalties expected to reach hundreds of millions of dollars.
Wells Fargo spokesman Ancel Martinez had no immediate comment.
The lawsuit is one of several filed by the government seeking to hold lenders liable for shoddy mortgage loans that helped fuel the U.S. housing and financial crises.
These lawsuits, including the case against Wells Fargo, have accused lenders of violating either the federal False Claims Act, the Financial Institutions Reform, Recovery and Enforcement Act of 1989 (FIRREA), or both.
FIRREA was adopted after the 1980s savings-and-loan crisis. It has become a favorite tool of authorities to address alleged mortgage fraud because of its 10-year statute of limitations—twice the length as under other federal securities laws.
Jury selection began on Tuesday in Manhattan federal court in a lawsuit in which the government accused Bank of America Corp. of violating FIRREA through the fraudulent sale of risky loans to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
In 2012, the government settled False Claims Act mortgage cases for $1 billion with Bank of America, $202.3 million with Deutsche Bank AG, $158.3 million with Citigroup Inc. and $132.8 million with Flagstar Bancorp Inc.
The case is U.S. v. Wells Fargo Bank NA, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, No. 12-07527.