My Wednesday column, “King County’s Bronx cheer for the Wall Street bond raters,” is partly a story about the settlement by Standard & Poor’s, Moody’s Investors Service and Morgan Stanley of two lawsuits brought by investors including King County government. The column had a hole in it that I had hoped to fill before it went on the page: the dollar amount of that settlement.
The companies had paid on condition that King County and the other plaintiffs keep the dollar amount under wraps. Still, as a journalist (and a taxpayer in King County) I’d like to know how much it was.
I can estimate it. If the total demanded by the whole group of plaintiffs was $708 million, and the payment they received was $225 million – an unofficial number reported by the Wall Street Journal – you have a ratio. Apply it to the loss by King County’s investment fund of $38 million, and you get $12 million. The attorneys were retained on a contingency fee. Assume it was 30 percent, and the net to the county fund is $8.4 million.
That’s my estimate; I’d like the real number. The Times filed a Public Disclosure Act request last week asking for the settlement documents on the two lawsuits, which would have real numbers:
Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank, King County, Washington, et al., v. Morgan Stanley & Co. et al. (Civil Action 1:2008-cv-07508), and King County, Washington, et al. v. IKB Deutsche Industriebank AG et al., (Civil Action 1:2009-cv-08387), both of them at U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.
On receipt of our request, the county repeated that it had promised in a legal settlement not to disclose the dollar amount. In reply The Times cited a ruling in which a state court held, “Promises cannot override the requirements of the disclosure law.” Hearst Corp. v. Hoppe, 90 Wn. 2nd 123, 357, 580 P.2d 246 (1978).
King County still has not disclosed how much it was paid – and we’re still asking.