US seeks $14 bn from Deutsche Bank over mortgage bonds

Deutsche faces further looming problems in the shape of an investigation by New York regulators into alleged money laundering at its Russian branch (AFP Photo/Daniel Roland)

New York (AFP) - Authorities in the US are seeking as much as $14 billion from Deutsche Bank to resolve allegations stemming from the sale of mortgage securities in the 2008 crisis, the German financial giant confirmed Thursday.

The payout would be the largest ever inflicted on a foreign bank in the United States, easily surpassing the $8.9 billion that the French bank BNP Paribas paid in 2014 for sanctions violations.

But in a quick reaction, Deutsche Bank rejected the $14 billion figure, which the bank said was an opening proposal in settlement talks with US prosecutors.

"Deutsche Bank has no intent to settle these potential civil claims anywhere near the number cited," the statement said.

"The negotiations are only just beginning. The bank expects that they will lead to an outcome similar to those of peer banks which have settled at materially lower amounts."

The US investment bank Goldman Sachs in April agreed to pay more than $5 billion to settle similar allegations.

US authorities have accused major banks of misleading investors about the values and quality of complex mortgage-backed securities sold before the 2008 financial crisis.

Much of the underlying lending was worthless or fraudulent, delivering billions of dollars in losses to holders of the mortgage bonds when the housing market collapsed, bringing down numerous banks and touching off the country's worst recession since the 1930s.

According to securities filings, Deutsche Bank as of June 30 had set aside $5.5 billion to resolve pending legal matters. In the mortgage-backed securities matter, the bank is aiming for an amount between $2 billion and $3 billion, according to knowledgeable sources.

The US Justice Department declined to comment.

Bank of America in 2014 paid out nearly $17 billion in a related enforcement action but federal authorities have faced stinging criticism for failing to hold individuals to account.

In recent years, Deutsche Bank has found itself mired litigation and enforcement actions around the world.

US market regulators last year fined the German lender $55 million, concluding that it had overvalued its holdings of credit derivatives by at least $15 billion during the financial crisis.

In 2015 and 2016 Deutsche Bank failed so-called stress tests conducted by the US central bank that were designed to determine whether it had adequate capital strength to weather shocks such as those of the financial crisis.

In June, the International Monetary Fund described the bank as a "major systemic risk," leaving its chief executive John Cryan to strive to convince markets that Deutsche Bank was bound to recover.

In April of last year, Deutsche Bank also paid a record $2.5 billion to settle American and British charges that it had manipulated the London Interbank Offered Rate, or Libor, affecting commercial interest rates.

The bank also settled with the US Fed and New York's Department of Financial Services of alleged sanctions violations in Syria and Iran.

In July Deutsche Bank posted a 98 percent year-on-year drop in second-quarter profits, with net earnings recorded at only $22 million, which Cryan, the bank's chief, attributed to "sustained restructuring."

Cryan plans to cut 9,000 jobs worldwide by 2020, while the bank's share price has fallen to around 10 percent of its pre-crisis value.

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