|In re Alecta Tjänstepension Ömsesidigt, et al. v. Herbert, et al.
|United States District Court for the Northern District of California
|Honorable Araceli Martínez-Olguín
|Alecta Tjänstepension Ömsesidigt; Neil Fairman
|James Herbert II; Hafize Erkan; Michael Roffler; Olga Tsokova; Michael Selfridge; Neal Holland; and KPMG LLP
|October 21, 2021 to April 28, 2023, inclusive
This securities fraud class action arises out of misrepresentations and omissions made by former executives of First Republic Bank (“FRB” or the “Bank”) and FRB’s auditor, KPMG LLP, about significant risks faced by FRB that led to its dramatic collapse in May 2023, the second largest bank collapse in U.S. history.
FRB was a California-based bank that catered to high-net worth individuals and businesses in coastal U.S. cities. Leading into and during the Class Period, FRB rapidly grew in size: in 2021 alone, FRB grew total deposits by 36% and total assets by 27%. In 2022, FRB grew by another 17%, exceeding $200 billion in total assets. During this period, Defendants assured investors that the Bank’s deposits were well-diversified and stable. Defendants also assured investors that they were actively and effectively mitigating the Bank’s liquidity and interest rate risks.
The Complaint alleges that Defendants failed to disclose material risks associated with the Bank’s deposit base and with respect to Defendants’ management of liquidity and interest rate risk. In contrast to Defendants’ representations regarding the safety and stability of FRB, the Complaint alleges that Defendants relied on undisclosed sales practices to inflate the Bank’s deposit and loan growth, including, for example, by offering abnormally low interest rates on long-duration, fixed-rate mortgages in exchange for clients making checking deposits. And contrary to Defendants’ representations that they actively and responsibly managed the Bank’s interest rate risk, the Complaint details how Defendants continually violated the Bank’s interest rate risk management policies by concentrating the Bank’s assets in long-duration, fixed rate mortgages. In 2022, when the Federal Reserve began rapidly raising interest rates, the Bank’s low-interest, long-duration loans began to decline in value, creating a mismatch between the Bank’s assets and liabilities. Internally, FRB’s interest rate models showed severe breaches of the Bank’s risk limits in higher rate scenarios, and Defendants discussed potential corrective actions at risk management meetings. However, Defendants took no corrective action, continued to mislead investors about the Bank’s interest rate risk, and only amplified the Bank’s risk profile by deepening the Bank’s concentration in long-duration loans.
On October 14, 2022, investors began to learn the truth when FRB announced financial results for the third quarter of 2022, which showed that rising interest rates had begun to impact the Bank’s key financial metrics and that the Bank had lost $8 billion in checking deposits. Despite these trends, Defendants continued to reassure investors that Bank’s deposits were well-diversified and stable, that FRB had ample liquidity, and that rising interest rates would not limit the growth in FRB’s residential mortgage loan business. In FRB’s 2022 annual report (released in February 2023, and audited by KPMG), Defendants further claimed that, despite the Bank’s increasing interest rate risks, the Bank possessed the ability to hold its concentrated portfolio of long-duration loans and securities to maturity. The undisclosed risks materialized further on March 10, 2023, when peer bank Silicon Valley Bank failed and FRB experienced massive deposit withdrawals of up to $65 billion over two business days, constituting over 40% of the Bank’s total deposits. Defendants did not reveal these catastrophic deposit outflows to the market and instead reassured investors regarding the Bank’s liquidity position. In the ensuing weeks, FRB’s financial position unraveled further, resulting in multiple downgrades by rating agencies, and additional disclosures regarding the magnitude of FRB’s deposit outflows and the Bank’s worsening liquidity position. On May 1, 2023, FRB was seized by regulators and placed into receivership. These disclosures virtually eliminated the value of FRB’s common stock and preferred stock.
On February 13, 2024, Plaintiffs filed a 203-page complaint on behalf of a putative class of investors who purchased FRB common stock and preferred stock, alleging violations of Sections 10(b), 20(a), and 20A of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934. Defendants’ responses to the complaint are due on April 29, 2024.