Group of 18 financial institutions sue MBIA over separation of businesses, WSJournal reports

Report: Banks sue MBIA over split of businesses

NEW YORK — MBIA Inc. is the target of a lawsuit by a group of 18 financial institutions claiming that the bond insurer’s separation of its businesses early this year was fraudulent, The Wall Street Journal said Wednesday.

The paper said the lawsuit was filed in New York state court on Wednesday afternoon by a group of U.S. and foreign banks including JPMorgan Chase & Co., Bank of America Corp., Morgan Stanley, Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce, Barclays PLC and UBS AG.

Armonk, N.Y.-based MBIA split its operations during the first quarter to separate its traditional municipal bond insurance business from the riskier operations that had led to five consecutive quarterly losses.

According to The Wall Street Journal, the banks believe MBIA Insurance is undercapitalized and will not be able to write new insurance. The paper said they specifically object to a transfer of $5 billion in cash and securities to a dedicated municipal-bond insurance company from the main insurance business.

In reporting its first-quarter results earlier this week, MBIA said it did not write any new policies during the quarter due to downgrades of its insurance financial strength credit ratings last year. The company said it does not expect to write a significant amount of new business until its ratings are upgraded — and added that an upgrade is unlikely in the near future.

The paper noted that similar lawsuits have been brought against the bond insurer in recent weeks by hedge funds and investment funds that own debt securities issued or insured by MBIA.

MBIA shares lost 45 cents, or 7.3 percent, to close at $5.69 on Wednesday, and tumbled 56 cents, or nearly 10 percent, to $5.13 in aftermarket electronic trading.

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