Spotlight: Annie Bell Adams, American pensioner whose home has been repossessed
Nikhil Kumar is The Independent's New York correspondent. He was formerly assistant editor on the foreign desk and has also done a variety of jobs on the city desk, where he wrote about markets, commodities and other business and economics topics.
Tuesday 16 October 2012
So – who is she?
Ms Adams, aged 65, was among the millions of Americans who had their homes repossessed as the US housing market hit a brick wall. And like so many others, her mortgage was reportedly bundled up – or securitised – into debt instruments that were sold on to investors by the big international banks.
Ok. But why is she different?
Because now she is taking on the giants of Wall Steet and the City. Ms Adams is one of the lead plaintiffs in a first of its kind case that seeks to pin the blame for higher mortgage payments on the alleged fiddling of the Libor rates by traders at banks in Europe and North America. Her case is reported to be the first that involves ordinary homeowners, as opposed to professional investors.
Yes. The London interbank offered rate. Set by the banks, it forms the basis for trillions of dollars of financial contracts around the world. But it was thrust into the public spotlight earlier this year after Barclays paid hundreds of millions in penalties to settle claims that it tried to manipulate the rate.
Sorry – and the connection with Ms Adams is?
Ms Adams and her fellow plaintiffs had taken out what were known as Libor Plus adjustable rates mortgages that tracked the benchmark interest rate. By fiddling with Libor the traders were able to raise the payments made by ordinary mortgage holders like Ms Adams. Or so the suit alleges. The lawyer representing Ms Adams and the others leading the case was reported to have said that the potential group of plaintiffs could number in the tens of thousands.
Will she succeed?
Impossible to tell. But the fact that the plaintiffs are ordinary Americans – including a pensioner who lost her home – is likely to fan interest as it works its way through the legal system.
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