U.S. District Judge Mariana Pfaelzer of federal court in Los Angeles is poised to deliver a ruling in AIG's mortgage-backed securities case against Countrywide that could have an impact on just about every company headquartered in New York. The issue: How long do N.Y. businesses have to bring fraud claims? Are they entitled to the benefit of the state's generous six-year statute of limitations? Or, as Countrywide argues in a supplemental motion to dismiss filed on March 23, are companies headquartered in New York instead restricted to the generally stingier time limits in their states of incorporation?
To understand how this question arose in AIG's MBS case, we have to back up a few steps. It's no secret that in MBS litigation, there's no more potent defense than arguments that investors waited too long to file suit. It's a quick, clean way to excise big chunks of a plaintiff's case, particularly because federal securities claims, with exceptions for American Pipetolling (if you don't know, don't ask), are generally time-barred after three years under the statute of limitations or the more-obscure-until-MBS-litigation statute of repose. That's why we've seen so many MBS plaintiffs -- including AIG and the satellite insurance companies that are also plaintiffs in its Countrywide suit -- assert state-law fraud claims in addition to federal securities claims.