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Citigroup and JPMorgan Sued by Louisiana Pension Funds

Two Louisiana pension funds filed lawsuitas against Citigroup and JPMorgan Chase in the wake of the subprime fallout and 2008 credit crunch. The Louisiana Sheriffs’ Pension and Relief Fund and the Louisiana Municipal Employees’ Retirement System allegesd that Citigroup and JPMorgan misled investors in more than $29 billion of Citigroup’s securities offerings dating back to May 2006.

The proposed class-action lawsuits also name former Citigroup chairman Charles Prince and more than a dozen underwriters of the securities offerings, including units of Bank of America Corp., Goldman Sachs Group Inc., UBS AG, Barclays PLC, Deutsche Bank AG and Fortis.

The complaint, which was filed Oct. 1 in New York State Supreme Court in Manhattan, contends that Citigroup “harmed investors by causing a significant decline in the value of the securities purchased in or traceable to a series of securities offerings.”

The suit also claims that Citigroup failed to disclose its “massive exposure to losses from its mortgage-related assets” and failed to write down the assets to properly reflect their true value.

The success of public pension funds depends on the entities that serve as the steward of the fund’s assets. In a number of instances that are just now coming to light, that work has been severely flawed. Meanwhile, pension fund managers continue to reassure retirees and current employees that their funds are safe and the assets sufficient to pay benefits for several years.

The truth is that it depends on the quality and quantity of the securities contained in the fund’s portfolio, as well as the valuation model used to determine the value of the assets. Many portfolios of large pension funds include a high concentration of hard-to-value and difficult-to-sell assets, including mortgage-related securities and other collateralized pools of debt. These investments do not readily trade on the secondary market. Therefore, the value assigned to them simply does not reflect their actual value.