Judge's Decision May Shorten Countrywide Settlement Proceedings

The judge’s decision in a hearing the New York State Supreme Court held Tuesday afternoon on the $8.5 billion Countrywide Financial Corp. settlement appears to have kept the proceedings shorter than they otherwise might have been.

According to a Barclays Capital report, a key determination in this case is whether BNY Mellon can pursue an “Article 77” proceeding or whether the case should be heard via a plenary action.

The report said that the judge chose the Article 77 proceeding. According to Barclays, this narrows the scope of discovery and keeps the proceeding shorter than otherwise.

Analysts said the judge still possesses some discretion on how detailed the discovery can be. More details on the final review/discovery process will be available in early May.

The other issue in this case was whether the New York and Delaware attorneys general would be admitted as interveners. This is key to the case's timing because it can extend discovery to issues including whether the servicing changes proposed are beneficial to borrowers and/or if the settlement amount is fair payment. No immediate decision was made, although a final decision is likely in the coming weeks.

Overall, Barclays analysts considered the court's decision to be somewhat positive since the judge is allowing the case to proceed through an Article 77 procedure.

A final decision is probably not going to extend beyond one to two years, which is positive, Barclays said. But, it seems likely that even under an Article 77 proceeding, the judge might have a somewhat broader discovery process than BNY had proposed. It seems that the base case for the cash coming into the transactions is expected in the middle of 2013. The chances of a very long or short discovery process has somewhat lessened with this new development.