Credit Suisse defeats lawsuits over huge U.S. 'volatility' crash

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A U.S. judge on Wednesday dismissed three lawsuits accusing Credit Suisse Group AG CSGN.S of misleading investors about a complex product for betting on stock market swings, and causing huge losses when it lost 96% of its value in one harrowing day.

FILE PHOTO: Switzerland's national flag flies beside a logo of Swiss bank Credit Suisse at its headquarters at the Paradeplatz square in Zurich, July 31, 2019. REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann

U.S. District Judge Analisa Torres in Manhattan said Credit Suisse had warned investors about risks in its VelocityShares Daily Inverse VIX Short-Term Exchange-Traded Notes (“XIV Notes”), and the investors did not show that the Swiss bank intended to defraud them.

Torres adopted U.S. Magistrate Judge Sarah Netburn’s recommendation on Aug. 16 that the lawsuits be dismissed.

Lawyers for the investors did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Credit Suisse did not immediately respond to similar requests.

The XIV notes were among several investment casualties on Feb. 5, 2018, when the Standard & Poor's 500 .SPX dropped 4.1% and a surprise increase in market turbulence punished investors betting on low volatility.

Investors said the price of the notes sank that day to $4.22 from $108.37, a plunge exacerbated by Credit Suisse’s huge purchase of futures contracts -roughly a quarter of the entire VIX futures market - to benefit from the higher volatility.

Credit Suisse soon redeemed the notes at $5.99 each, and according to the investors reaped between $475 million and $542 million of profit in doing so at their expense.

The investors said Credit Suisse concealed their impending distress by failing to regularly update the price of the notes, or warn when it sold 16.28 million of the notes just a week earlier, on Jan. 29, that the prices were vastly inflated.

Torres, however, found no reason to upset Netburn’s findings that Credit Suisse was simply taking advantage of market conditions, and was not trying to saddle investors with losses.

“Judge Netburn did not clearly err in concluding that, notwithstanding the size of the January sale, the innocent explanation for the large volume of XIV notes sales in January 2018 was more plausible than the inference that Credit Suisse engaged in those sales in order to later cause a liquidity crash,” Torres wrote.

Credit Suisse Chief Executive Tidjane Thiam, a defendant in one of the lawsuits, had called the XIV notes “legitimate,” and that investors accepted the risks they would not be successful.

The cases in the U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York are Set Capital LLC v Credit Suisse Group AG et al, No. 18-02286; Eisenberg v Credit Suisse AG et al, No. 18-02319; and Qiu v Credit Suisse Group AG, No. 18-04045.

Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Marguerita Choy