ZURICH (Reuters) – Credit Suisse said it will sink to a fourth-quarter loss after setting aside hundreds of millions of dollars more than previously expected on Friday for a legal dispute over property debt in the United States.
Chief Executive Thomas Gottstein, who took the helm at Switzerland’s second-biggest bank last February, said in December he wanted to start the new year with a “clean slate” on legacy matters and has set aside some $850 million to address disputes dating back to the financial crisis.
The bank had already set aside $300 million in connection to a decade-long dispute with New York-based municipal bond insurer MBIA regarding a U.S. residential mortgage-backed security (RMBS), but said in December it expected the figure to rise to $680 million.
MBIA sued Credit Suisse in 2009 over hundreds of millions of dollars it paid out to compensate investors after thousands of mortgages failed.
In November, New York Supreme Court Justice Jennifer Schecter ruled that Credit Suisse breached its representations and warranties to MBIA, which indemnified investors in residential mortgage backed securities issued ahead of the 2008 financial crisis.
The judge found that more than half of the mortgages in the transaction at issue were non-conforming and that MBIA “did not assume the risk of loss that they posed.”
“This case involves mortgage loans that contributed to a crippling financial crisis over a decade ago after banks securitised residential mortgages that never should have been issued in the first place,” the ruling stated, determining Credit Suisse must pay damages for warranties breached on the loans.
“It’s a case that went on for 10 years that Credit Suisse refused to discuss settlement on, and now they’ve got a verdict that’s going to more than double their reserves for it,” said Marc Kasowitz, a lawyer for MBIA. “It’s obviously a very substantial win for MBIA.”
The bank on Friday said it had completed a review of other RMBS cases, leading it to set aside additional funds to settle a handful of pending civil claims in the United States.
Despite this, the bank said plans for shareholder returns remain unchanged after Gottstein kickstarted a cost savings plan, paving the way for it to remain one of Europe’s few lenders intending to pay dividends for 2020 and for it to commence a share buyback programme.
The Zurich-based lender plans to begin buying back some 1 billion-1.5 billion Swiss francs in shares from Jan. 12.
The shares fell 3.2% shortly by 0810GMT.
“The drip-feed of negative news in the past two months has been unhelpful, but one would hope that CS is now closer to drawing a line under this,” Citi analysts said in a note.
The bank, which reported a net profit of 852 million Swiss francs in the fourth quarter of 2019, is due to report its fourth-quarter earnings on Feb. 18.
It is not expected to post a loss for the full-year, following nine-month profit of 3.0 billion francs as it weathered the COVID-19 pandemic better than most European peers.
The additional provisions announced on Friday bring the total of exceptional legal and impairment charges for the final quarter – including a nearly half-billion hit on a hedge fund equity stake – to 1.3 billion francs, although it is unlikely all the charges will hit its profit due to tax deductions.
In addition to the profit warning, the Swiss bank gave an update on its December trading, which it said had continued to run at levels similar to those it outlined at its investor day on Dec. 15.
It said its wealth management business was seeing stronger year-on-year trading activity, particularly in Asia, which had helped offset the translational effect of the stronger Swiss franc and pressure on its net interest income.
The investment bank continued to perform well, Credit Suisse said, with fourth-quarter dollar revenue rising by more than 15% compared with a year earlier.
($1 = 0.89 Swiss francs)
(Reporting by Brenna Hughes Neghaiwi and John Revill in Zurich; Additional reporting by Nate Raymond in Boston; Editing by Christopher Cushing, Karishma Singh, Elaine Hardcastle and Louise Heavens)