bankruptcy

JUDGE RESCINDS 5-YEAR OLD LOAN AND AMORTIZES TENDER OVER 30 YEARS

Posted on May 23, 2010. Filed under: bankruptcy, Case Law, FHA, Foreclosure Defense, Fraud, Loan Modification, Mortgage Fraud, Mortgage Law, Predatory Lending, Refinance, right to rescind, Truth in Lending Act |

This is proof positive that the outcome of your case depends entirely on the judge’s disposition and sensibilities. When there is clear and convincing evidence of predatory lending and fraud, the court can use its equitable powers to remediate the inequities.

In Re McGee v. Gregory Funding LLC, Dist. Court, D. Oregon 2010, on September 22, 2005 Plaintiff refinanced his home for $174,900 at 7.54% with a one year balloon payment of $175,999.66. Defendant received $9,800 as a loan origination fee and Plaintiff signed an option to extend the loan for an additional fee of $6980. TILA and HOEPA disclosures were not provided at settlement and the balloon rider was never signed by Plaintiff.

The following year Plaintiff tried obtaining a conventional loan but since Defendant did not report the payment history on Plaintiffs loan, he could not qualify for a refinance with any other lender. As such Plaintiff had to extend his loan with Defendant for another year and in the process ended up paying Defendant additional $9500 in fees. Again no material disclosures were provided.

On December 19, 2007 Plaintiff entered in to a third transaction with Defendant by signing an amendment for $216,216 at 7.54% that included advances for property taxes, legal fees and a modification fee totaling $14,320.68. Again Defendant failed to provide disclosures.

Plaintiff filed for bankruptcy protection in the District of Oregon on September 22, 2008, which was confirmed on April 16, 2009. The Bankruptcy Court ordered relief from the automatic stay on September 2, 2009.

Plaintiff filed a motion for temporary restraining order/preliminary injunction (“TRO/PI”). The court granted plaintiff’s motion for a TRO on November 10, 2010, prohibiting defendants from executing its proposed sale of plaintiff’s property on the Multnomah County Courthouse steps scheduled November 10, 2010 at 10:00 a.m.

Judge Ann Aiken found it troubling that Plaintiff was charged a total of $36, 418.81 in loan origination fees for three transactions over a four-year period, stating that considering the FHA recently announced a limitation of loan origination fees charged to borrowers as no more than 1% of the loan amount, Plaintiff’s loan fees of 5% and 7%, even considering the increased risk associated with a sub-prime loan, runs counter to 12 C.F.R. section 226.23(f)’s comment that fees must be bona fide and reasonable.

The court stated that HOEPA rescission does not have a statute of limitations subject to tolling, but a statute of repose that creates a substantive right not subject to tolling. Notwithstanding the foregoing the judge held that pursuant to King v. State of California, 784 F.2d 910.915 (9th Cir. 1986, cert denied, 486 U.S. 802 (1987), there was authority to allow Plaintiff to rescind the first transaction under the doctrine of equitable tolling. “Pursuant to the Ninth Circuit’s ruling in King, supra, it is permissible for district courts to evaluate specific claims of fraudulent concealment and equitable tolling to determine if the general rule would be unjust or frustrate the purpose of the Act”. The court found those circumstances existed here and therefore warranted tolling.

Finally to overcome Plaintiffs inability to obtain new financing for tender purposes, the court ordered Defendant to file an amended proof of claim with the bankruptcy court using the tender amount as the secured debt payable at 7.547% interest over 30 years.

In re: James P. McGee, Plaintiff,

v.

GREGORY FUNDING, LLC, an Oregon limited liability company, and RANDAL SUTHERLIN, Defendants.

Civil No. 09-1258-AA.

United States District Court, D. Oregon.

February 20, 2010.

Tami F. Bishop, M. Caroline Cantrell, M. Caroline Cantrell & Assoc. PC, Portland, Oregon, Attorneys for Debtor/Plaintiff.

Kathryn P. Salyer, Farleigh Wada Witt, Portland, Oregon, Attorney for Defendants.

OPINION AND ORDER

ANN AIKEN, District Judge.

Plaintiff filed a motion for temporary restraining order/preliminary injunction (“TRO/PI”). The court granted plaintiff’s motion for a TRO on November 10, 2010, prohibiting defendants from executing its proposed sale of plaintiff’s property on the Multnomah County Courthouse steps scheduled November 10, 2010 at 10:00 a.m. On November 23, 2010, the date scheduled to hear plaintiff’s motion for a preliminary injunction, the parties elected to forego oral argument and submit the matter to the court on the briefs. Plaintiff’s motion for a preliminary injunction is granted.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff brings this action for injunctive relief, actual damages, statutory damages, attorney fees and costs against defendants for violation of the Truth in Lending Act, 15 U.S.C. sections 1601 et seq. and 1640(a) (“TILA”), among others.

Plaintiff, an African-American male, alleges this is a “residential predatory lending case” arising from a “fraudulent” home mortgage refinance transaction originated by defendant Gregory Funding, LLC with defendant Randal Sutherlin as the loan interviewer. Defendants originated a series of three loan transactions with plaintiff signed on September 12, 2005, September 26, 2006, and December 19, 2007. Plaintiff alleges those loans “stripped plaintiff of his home equity and put him at risk of losing his home.” Plaintiff alleges that he failed to receive accurate, material disclosures required by TILA and the Home Ownership and Equity Protection Act of 1994 (“HOEPA”) at the closing of both his second and third loans. As a result, plaintiff exercised his right to rescind the 2006 and 2007 loans under TILA, and filed the action at bar to enforce those rights.

Plaintiff filed for bankruptcy protection in the District of Oregon on September 22, 2008, which was confirmed on April 16, 2008. The Bankruptcy Court ordered relief from the automatic stay on September 2, 2009.

In September 2005, plaintiff contacted defendant Gregory Funding, LLC (“Gregory”) to request information regarding refinancing his home. At that time there was a pending foreclosure sale on plaintiff’s home. Plaintiff had recently started a new job. Defendant Sutherlin visited plaintiff’s home to discuss refinancing and spent about fifteen minutes with plaintiff. Later that day, Sutherlin phoned plaintiff to inform him that the loan was approved and the closing would take place within a couple of weeks. Plaintiff was not asked to provide tax returns, pay stubs, or complete a credit application at any point during the refinance. There is no record of a real estate appraisal completed at any point to determine the value of plaintiff’s home. On September 12, 2005, plaintiff signed the closing documents and refinanced his home for $174,900 at 7.54% interest with a one-year balloon payment of $175,999.66. A fixed rate balloon note was signed setting forth 12 principal and interest payments of $1,100 with the first payment due November 1, 2005, and a late payment fee of $55. Defendant Gregory received $9,800 as a loan origination fee from the transaction. Plaintiff signed an option to extend the loan for a fee of $6,980. The loan maturity date was October 1, 2006.

The material disclosures required by HOEPA for a high cost loan were not provided to plaintiff prior to or at the closing. Plaintiff did not sign and receive his two copies of his right to cancel under TILA and the balloon rider to the deed of trust was unsigned at closing.

In August 2006, plaintiff began shopping for a conventional loan; however, due to defendant Gregory not reporting the payment history on plaintiff’s loan, he was unable to qualify for a refinance with another lender. Plaintiff therefore entered into a second loan transaction with defendants on September 21, 2006. Plaintiff signed a document titled First Amendment to Promissory Note at defendants’ office on September 21, 2006. The transaction was for $184,400 at 7.54% interest with a one-year balloon payment of $185,559.72. The first amendment set forth 12 principal and interest payments of $1,159.72 and a late payment fee of $57.99 with the first payment due November 1, 2006. Defendant Gregory received $9,500 as a loan fee from the transaction. The loan maturity date was October 1, 2007. Again, the material disclosures required by HOEPA for a high cost loan were not provided to plaintiff prior to or at the closing including the HUD H-8 form (explaining a limited right to cancel for same lender refinancing).

Plaintiff made the November and December 2006 and January 2007, payments and did not make another payment until November 2007. He made a payment of $2,500 on November 15, 2007, and another payment of $3,500 on November 29, 2007. On December 1, 2007, plaintiff was an estimated $6,177.26 in arrears. In early December 2007, plaintiff discussed his refinancing options with defendant Sutherlin. On December 19, 2007, plaintiff believed he was entering into a 30-year principle and interest conventional mortgage when he entered into the third loan transaction with defendants.

Plaintiff alleges that Sutherlin failed to inform him that the loan was an interest only loan with a balloon payment due in 30 years of an amount higher than the original loan amount. Plaintiff was not asked to provide proof of his income or ability to repay the loan prior to signing the second amendment. This transaction was for $216,216 at 7.54% interest with a loan maturity date of December 31, 2007 under the second amendment to the note. According to the second amendment, Gregory advanced an additional $21,406.46 to borrower as 1) property insurance ($450); 2) property taxes (46,223.23); 3) lender attorney fees ($360); 4) one-day interest ($52.55); and 5) extension and modification fee ($14,320.68). The first amendment was $14,400 plus $21,406.46 in lender advances under the second amendment for a total of $205,806.46. The second amendment is for an explained difference of $10,409.54. Plaintiff was not provided a good faith estimate prior to closing or a HUD statement at closing detailing the loan fees and costs paid to defendant. The additional loan fee under the second amendment was $16,216. Gregory advanced all but $1,895.32 of the fee. Plaintiff paid the balance at closing of the second transaction.

Again, defendants failed to provide any material disclosures required by HOEPA for a high cost loan including the HUD H-8 form. The limited right to cancel provided on the H-8 form for same lender refinancing was not provided to plaintiff when he signed the first amendment to the promissory note. Plaintiff did not make any payments under the second amendment to the note. Defendant charged plaintiff $30,906.46 in fees for the 2006 and 2008 loans and an additional $9,840 for the original loan in 2005, for a total of $40,746.46 in fees for the three transactions. Plaintiff alleges these fees are excessive and unreasonable. Further, plaintiff alleges that defendants’ actions in refinancing plaintiff’s loan three times within a two year period without regard to the best interest of plaintiff establishes an egregious pattern or practice of making loans in violation of 12 C.F.R. section 226.32.

Gregory set a foreclosure sale date for September 23, 2008, in the interior foyer of the Multnomah County Courthouse. Plaintiff filed for bankruptcy protection under Chapter 13 on September 22, 2008.

The sale of plaintiff’s home was held on October 27, 2009, with defendant as the sole bidder. Defendant now moves to execute its proposed sale of plaintiff’s home.

STANDARDS

The party seeking a preliminary injunction must demonstrate that he is (1) likely to succeed on the merits; (2) likely to suffer irreparable harm in the absence of preliminary relief; (3) the balance of equities tips in his favor; and (4) an injunction is in the public interest. Winter v. Natural Res. Def. Council, Inc., 129 S. Ct. 365, 374 (2008).

“Under either formulation, the moving party must demonstrate a significant threat of irreparable injury. . . .” Id. “A plaintiff must do more than merely allege imminent harm sufficient to establish standing; a plaintiff must demonstrate immediate threatened injury as a prerequisite to preliminary injunctive relief.” Caribbean Marine Services Co. v. Baldridge, 844 F.2d 668, 674 (9th Cir. 1988) (emphasis in original). “Speculative injury does not constitute irreparable injury.” Goldie’s Book Store v. Super. Ct. of State of Cal., 739 F.2d 466, 472 (9th Cir. 1984). If the party seeking the injunction cannot demonstrate irreparable injury, then the district court need not address the merits and may deny the motion for an injunction. Oakland Tribune, Inc. v. Chronicle Pub. Co., 762 F.2d 1374, 1376 (9th Cir. 1985).

DISCUSSION

Defendants assert that plaintiff is not entitled to enjoin the foreclosure sale because (1) the issue is moot because the foreclosure sale was completed by delivery and recording of a Trustee’s Deed, prior to this court’s entry of the TRO on November 10, 2009; and (2) plaintiff’s preliminary injunction claim fails on the merits because plaintiff’s rescission claim is time barred.

Moot, Not Likely to Succeed on Merits and No Irreparable Harm

Defendants argue plaintiff’s claim for injunction is moot. The property at issue was sold at a foreclosure sale on October 27, 2009, and a Trustee’s Deed was recorded on November 6, 2009. This court entered a TRO on November 10, 2009. Justiciability requires the existence of an actual case or controversy. Plaintiff must meet the “case or controversy” requirements at all stages of the litigation and “not merely at the time” the lawsuit is instituted. Roe v. Wade, 410 U.S. 113, 125 (1973). A case becomes moot “if, at some time after the institution of the action, the parties no longer have a legally cognizable stake in the outcome.” Goodwin v. C.N.J., Inc., 436 F.3d 44, 49 (1st Cir. 2006).

Defendants also argue that plaintiff is not likely to succeed on the merits. Plaintiff agrees that the only claim supporting his motion for injunction is the rescission claim under TILA. Pursuant to 15 U.S.C. section 1635(f), “an obligor’s right of rescission . . . expires three years after the date of consummation of the transaction, . . . notwithstanding the fact that the information and forms required under this section or any other disclosures required under this chapter have not been delivered to the obligor.” Section 1635(f) represents an absolute limitation on rescission actions which bars any claim filed more than three years after consummation of the transaction. Miguel v. Country Funding Corp., 309 F.3d 1161 (9th Cir. 2002). This remains true regardless of a foreclosure. 15 U.S.C. section 1635(I); Beach v. Ocwen Federal Bank, 523 U.S. 410, 417-18 (1998).

The loan to plaintiff occurred on September 12, 2005. Defendants argue that any right to rescind that loan, including the trust deed given to secure it, timed out as of September 11, 2008.

Finally, defendants argue that there is no irreparable harm to plaintiff. Defendants assert that plaintiff will not suffer irreparable harm and instead will suffer only monetary injury. Monetary injury is not normally considered irreparable. LA Mem’l Coliseum Comm’n v. NFL, 634 F.2d 1197, 1202 (9th Cir. 1980). Defendants assert that the foreclosure is complete, therefore, the only possible remedy remaining is monetary damages.

I disagree and grant plaintiff’s motion for preliminary injunction. There is no dispute that the right of rescission on subsequent transactions applies only to the extent that the lender advances new funds to the obligor. 12 C.F.R. 226.23(f)(2). That section provides as follows:

(f) Exempt Transactions. The right to rescind does not apply to the following:

(2) A refinancing or consolidation by the same creditor of an extension of credit already secured by the consumer’s principal dwelling. The right of rescission shall apply, however, to the extent the new amount financed exceeds the unpaid principal balance, any earned unpaid finance charge on the existing debt, and amounts attributed solely to the costs of the refinancing or consolidation.

Therefore, for purposes of rescission, a new advance does not include amounts solely attributed to the cost of refinancing, including finance charges on the new transaction such as an extension fee.

Defendants argue that the only additional “credit” advanced in the first extension was for the extension fee, which is a finance charge and not part of the “amount financed” for purposes of Regulation Z.

Similarly, defendants argue that the Second Amendment also did not include any advances which gave rise to the right of rescission. In the second extension, $6,673.23 was advanced to pay insurance premiums and property taxes both due. Defendants assert that these amounts are considered advances to protect the collateral, and could have been made by defendants under the existing trust deed without further action by plaintiff. Therefore, defendants assert, these amounts would also be considered part of the “costs” of refinancing. Further, the second extension included advances for $360 in attorney’s fees, $52.55 in prepaid interest, and $14,320.68 toward the extension fee. Defendants assert that all of these amounts are finance charges for the purposes of Regulation Z, and therefore, excluded from the amount financed in determining whether “new funds” have been advanced for rescission purposes.

Section 1635(e)(2), however, provides an express exemption for a “refinancing or consolidation (with no new advances) of the principal balance then due and any accrued and unpaid finance charges of an existing extension of credit by the same creditor secured by an interest in the same property.” 12 C.F.R. section 226.23(f). The regulation states that the right to rescind applies “to the extent the new amount financed exceeds the unpaid principal balance, any earned unpaid finance charge on the existing debt, and amount attributed solely to the costs of refinancing or consolidation.” Here, plaintiff’s refinancing of his original loan (second transaction) with defendant was exempt from rescission, except “to the extent the new amount financed exceeded the unpaid principal balance, any earned unpaid finance charge on the existing debt, and amounts attributed solely to the costs of refinancing or consolidation.” The second transaction signed on September 21, 2006, was for $184,400 and included $9,500 as an additional amount paid to defendants. The amount financed, $184,400, exceeded the balance of the first loan ($174,900); therefore, plaintiff had a right to rescind the second transaction (the First Amendment to the Promissory Note). Similarly, the third transaction also falls under the exemption as it was for the amount of $216,216 with finance charges of $17,078.81. The amount financed, $216,216 exceeded the balance of the second transaction ($184,400), and therefore plaintiff had a right to rescind the third transaction.

While true that section 1635(e)(2) limits a rescission of a refinance with no new advances, the Board’s regulation clearly states that new amounts financed that exceed the unpaid principal balance, any earned unpaid finance charge on the existing debt, and amounts attributed solely to the costs of refinancing or consolidation are rescindable under the TILA. The Board’s construction of section 1635(d)(2) is entitled to deference. See Household Credit Services, Inc. v. Pfennig, 541 U.S. 232 (2004) (recognizing the Board and its staff are designed by Congress as the primary source of interpretation of truth-in-lending law). Therefore, pursuant to section 12 C.F.R. 226.23(f)(2), the refinancing exemption applies to the additional amounts financed and renders both the second and third transactions subject to rescission under 15 U.S.C. section 1635.

Moreover, Official Staff Comment 4 to 12 C.F.R. section 226.23(f), holds that for purposes of the right of rescission, generally “a new advance does not include amounts attributed solely to the costs of refinancing[,]” however, those fees allocated to the borrower must be “bona fide and reasonable in nature.” Plaintiff paid lender fees in the amount of 5.63% of the loan amount in his first transaction with defendants. In his second transaction, he paid 5.15% of the loan amount in lender fees; and finally, in his third transaction, plaintiff paid 7.9% of the loan amount in lender fees. Plaintiff was charged a total of $36,418.81 in loan origination fees for three transactions. In a little over four years, from September 12, 2005, to October 27, 2009, plaintiff’s debt to defendants increased from $174,900 to $253,945.92, or $79,045.92. Given that the Federal Housing Administration (“FHA”) recently announced a limitation on loan origination fees charged to a borrower as no more than 1% of the loan, plaintiff’s loan fees of 5% and 7%, even considering the increased risk associated with a sub-prime loan, seems “unreasonable,” and runs counter to section 226.23(f)’s comment that borrower fees must be “bona fide and reasonable.”

Finally, due to the lack of disclosures including a Good Faith Estimate of costs, it is difficult to discern whether the fees paid by plaintiff were bona fide and reasonable real estate related fees that are nonrescindable as a new advance, or a finance charge that is rescindable under 15 U.S.C. section 1635; 12 C.F.R. section 226.23(f)(2). Given these circumstances, the court will construe the statute in the light most favorable to plaintiff, deeming the fees unreasonable finance charges, and therefore allowing plaintiff to rescind the second and third loan transactions.

The Home Ownership and Equity Protection Act, (“HOEPA”), an amendment to TILA, created a special class of regulated closed end loans made at high annual percentage rates or with excessive costs and fees. HOEPA prohibits balloon payments and early financing unless it is in the best interests of the borrower. The lender is required to verify the borrower’s ability to repay the loan before extending credit. 15 U.S.C. section 1639. Mandatory compliance for creditors began on October 1, 2002, and if creditors fail to comply with the HOEPA required disclosures and prohibitions, the consequence is rescission under section 1635. HOEPA rescission does not have a statute of limitations subject to tolling, but a statute of repose that creates a substantive right not subject to tolling. TILA section 130(e).

Further, home equity loans that exceed either an APR trigger of 8% or a points and fees trigger of 8% are subject to additional consumer protections, including: three day advance disclosures regarding the high cost of the loan; and prohibitions on abusive loan terms and creditor practices. As calculated by plaintiff, the September 12, 2005, transaction has an APR rate spread of 9.06% and a 6.45% points and fees. The second transaction from September 21, 2006, has an APR rate spread of 8.021% and 5.43% points and fees. The final transaction from December 19, 2009 has an APR rate spread of 4.475% and 8.12% points and fees. All three transactions fall under HOEPA as high rate loans that required additional disclosures to plaintiff not less than three business days before closing the loan. Plaintiff maintains the required disclosures were never provided to him by defendants.

Besides regulating the cost of a home loan, HOEPA prohibits balloon payments, early refinancing also knows as “loan flipping,” and making unaffordable loans without verifying the borrower’s ability to repay the loan. All three transactions at issue here contained balloon payments in violation of HOEPA. The first two transactions contained a term of five years or less along with a balloon payment.

HOEPA and TILA. provide the authority for this court to allow plaintiff to rescind both the second and third transactions with defendant. Pursuant to King v. State of California, 784 F.2d 910, 915 (9th Cir. 1986), cert. denied, 484 U.S. 802 (1987), this court also has authority to allow plaintiff to rescind the first transaction under the doctrine of equitable tolling. King held, “the doctrine of equitable tolling may, in the appropriate circumstances, suspend the limitations period until the borrower discovers or had reasonable opportunity to discover the fraud or nondisclosures that form the basis of the TILA action[.]” Pursuant to the Ninth Circuit’s ruling in King, supra, it is permissible for district courts to evaluate specific claims of fraudulent concealment and equitable tolling to determine if the general rule would be unjust or frustrate the purpose of the Act. I find those circumstances exist here and therefore adjust the Limitations period accordingly to allow plaintiff to rescind the first transaction.

Finally, defendants argue that regardless of plaintiff’s ability to rescind the transactions, plaintiff is still not likely to succeed on the merits of his recession claim because plaintiff is unable to repay the loan proceeds. Plaintiff’s loan has been in default status for several years. He obtained protection of the bankruptcy court and then defaulted on the Loan post-petition, thus causing the bankruptcy court to order relief from the stay. The burden of proof that plaintiff can repay the loan proceeds rests with plaintiff, without such a showing, plaintiff cannot prove that he is likely to succeed on the merits. See Yamamoto v. Bank of New York, 329 F.3d 1167, 1172 (9th Cir. 2003)(when lender contests notice of rescission, the security interest is not extinguished upon giving the notice and instead occurs only when the court so orders, and upon terms the court deems just, including conditioning rescission on the repayment of the loan proceeds).

Plaintiff represents to this court that he intends to modify his current bankruptcy plan to make monthly adequate protection payments toward tender through his Chapter 13 plan in a manner similar to making payments on secured personal property under 11 U.S.C. section 11326. The tender, including the interest rate of 7.547%, would be amortized over 30 years. Defendant would file an amended proof of claim using the tender amounts as the secured debt. Brian Lynch, the Chapter 13 trustee, is agreeable to working with plaintiff in putting together a proposal to pay the tender requirement. A comparative market analysis of the property estimates the property’s current value ranging from $200,000 to $225,000 considering the economy, sales, and market trends. Plaintiff is currently residing in his home with his children. He intends to make a monthly payment through his chapter 13 bankruptcy plan as adequate protection to defendants. Plaintiff has current homeowner’s insurance and he will be responsible for maintaining the property taxes with the county. Further, I find that plaintiff will suffer irreparable harm if he and his children are rendered homeless by the sale of his home. I find that plaintiff is likely to succeed on the merits, he is likely to suffer irreparable harm in the absence of the injunction; the balance of equities tip in his favor; and an injunction is in the public interest.

CONCLUSION

Plaintiff’s motion for a preliminary injunction (doc. 5) is granted. Defendants’ motion to strike plaintiff’s exhibits (doc. 27) is denied.

IT IS SO ORDERED.

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In re GIFTY SAMUELS, Debtor

Posted on March 16, 2010. Filed under: Banking, bankruptcy, Case Law, Foreclosure Defense, Mortgage Law | Tags: , , , , |

In re GIFTY SAMUELS, Debtor

Chapter 11, Case No. 06-11656-FJB

UNITED STATES BANKRUPTCY COURT FOR THE DISTRICT OF MASSACHUSETTS, EASTERN DIVISION

415 B.R. 8; 2009 Bankr. LEXIS 1954

July 6, 2009, Decided

CASE SUMMARY:

PROCEDURAL POSTURE: In contested Chapter 11 proceedings, movant creditor, as trustee–under a pooling and servicing agreement–of a mortgage investment trust, sought summary judgment as to an objection filed by the debtor to its secured claim, which was based on a promissory note and a mortgage given as security. The debtor challenged the creditor’s claim that it was the holder of the note and the owner of the mortgage and its standing to enforce its rights.

OVERVIEW: The debtor alleged that defects existed in the creditor’s proof of chain of title to the promissory note and the mortgage. The creditor argued that it held the documents as a successor-in-interest to the original bankruptcy claimant. The court agreed, finding that the loan originator had endorsed both the note and the mortgage in blank–converting them into bearer instruments–then delivered them to the creditor as pool trustee. In 2008, an assignee acting under a limited power of attorney (LPA) executed a confirmatory assignment of the mortgage, which it recorded. Although the documents submitted with the proof of claim did not show a valid assignment of rights, depriving the claim of prima facie validity, the creditor met its burden of showing that it held rights to the note and the mortgage. Under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 106, § 3-205(b) the creditor was the holder of the note, which it had standing to enforce under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 106, § 3-301. The assignee retroactively ratified the mortgage through the 2008 LPA. The postpetition transfer of the recorded mortgage did not constitute a transfer of an estate asset in violation of the automatic stay in 11 U.S.C.S. § 362(a).

OUTCOME: The court granted summary judgment in favor of the bank.

JUDGES: Frank J. Bailey, United states Bankruptcy Judge.

OPINION BY: Frank J. Bailey

OPINION

MEMORANDUM OF DECISION ON MOTION OF DEUTSCHE BANK FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT ON DEBTOR’S OBJECTION TO ITS PROOF OF CLAIM

By the motion before the Court, Deutsche Bank National Trust Company,  [*11]  as trustee under a pooling and servicing agreement of a certain mortgage investment trust (“Deutsche Bank”), seeks summary judgment as to the objection filed by Chapter 11 debtor Gifty Samuels to its secured claim. Deutsche Bank’s claim is based on the contention that Deutsche Bank is the present holder of a promissory note given by Samuels to Argent Mortgage Company, LLC (“Argent”), and the owner of the mortgage given by Samuels to Argent to secure the promissory note. By her objection, Samuels now challenges not the validity of the underlying note and mortgage but only Deutsche Bank’s claim to be the holder of the note and owner of the mortgage and thus its standing to enforce these. Finding the motion for summary judgment to be well-supported, the Court will grant summary judgment and overrule the objection to claim.

PROCEDURAL HISTORY

Gifty Samuels filed a petition for relief under  [**2] Chapter 13 of the Bankruptcy Code on June 1, 2006, thereby commencing this bankruptcy case. Upon discovery that her debt exceeded the eligibility limits for Chapter 13, she moved to convert her case to one under Chapter 11, and the Court granted that motion on August 10, 2006. She has remained a debtor in possession under Chapter 11 since that time.

AMC Mortgage Services, Inc., as loan servicer for Argent, filed a proof of a claim in the case on June 23, 2006 for $ 292,206.37, and an amended proof of claim on September 18, 2006 for $ 294,466.50. 1 Both indicated that the claim in question was secured, but neither included an attached promissory note or mortgage or identified the property securing the debt.

1   The original proof of claim appears on the claims register as number 3-1, the amended as -2.

The property securing this debt was certain real property owned by Samuels and located at 316B, Essex Street, Lynn, Massachusetts. AMC Mortgage Services, Inc., as loan servicer for Argent, moved for relief from the automatic stay as to this property on April 2, 2007. [Doc. # 143] After a hearing, the court denied the motion without prejudice to renewal but, in the same order, expressly permitted  [**3] AMC Mortgage Services, Inc. to file an affidavit of noncompliance seeking further court action if the Debtor, commencing in July 2007, failed to make timely monthly mortgage payments. [Doc. # 198]

On November 9, 2007, Citi Residential Lending, Inc. (“Citi Residential”), by Mario Vasquez, a duly authorized agent, filed such an affidavit of noncompliance. [Doc. # 239] In the affidavit, Mr. Vasquez stated that Citi Residential “is now the servicer for Argent Mortgage Company” and that Samuels had failed to make her monthly mortgage payments. On November 23, 2007, the Court held a hearing on the affidavit and the underlying motion for relief, resulting in entry of an agreed order of that same date, granting Citi Residential relief from the automatic stay to foreclose, effective January 31, 2008. [Doc. # 251]

On February 1, 2008, in an Omnibus Objection to claims, Samuels objected to the amended claim of AMC Mortgage Services (Claim No. 3-2), stating that “[t]his claim alleges a security interest but fails to identify the property securing the claim or to attach a copy of any documentation in support of the claim.” [Doc. # 267] Citi Residential Lending filed a response to the objection [Doc.  [**4] # 294] that identified the property in question as the real property at 316B Essex Street, Lynn, Massachusetts,  [*12]  and included as attachments the relevant promissory note and mortgage. Just prior to the preliminary hearing on the objection, the Debtor filed a report and hearing agenda that, with respect to this claim, stated:

A response was filed by Citi Residential Lending, Inc. regarding this claim []. The response includes a copy of the Note and Mortgage, as requested in the objection, but fails to demonstrate that AMC or Citi Residential is the actual holder of the note and mortgage, such as by attaching a copy of an assignment(s). The response also fails to provide a complete Loan History or to provide an affidavit of the keeper of records regarding the amount owed as of the date of the response.

The Debtor thus essentially retracted her original grounds for objecting–failure to identify the property and lack of supporting documentation–and raised new grounds: lack of evidence that AMC or Citi Residential was the actual holder of the promissory note and mortgage. The court held a preliminary hearing on the objection as so amended on April 15, 2008 and a continued hearing on June  [**5] 20, 2008. The court then issued a procedural order requiring (i) that the claimant file documentation establishing true ownership of the note and mortgage that form the basis for its claim and then (ii) that the Debtor file a response indicating whether it accepts the evidence as establishing the validity of the claim, including (in the event of rejection) an explanation as to why.

The documentation required by the first prong of this order was filed by Deutsche Bank National Trust Company, as Trustee, in trust for the registered holders of Argent Securities Inc., Asset-Backed Pass-Through Certificates, Series 2005-W3 (“Deutsche Bank”). In the response to which the documentation was attached [Doc. # 363], 2 Deutsche Bank claimed to be the present holder of the mortgage at issue. The Debtor filed a response indicating that she did not accept the documents adduced as evidence establishing the validity of the lien. [Doc. # 366]

2   Deutsche Bank also filed a Supplemental Response [Doc. # 364].

On August 19, 2008, Citi Residential, as loan servicer and attorney-in-fact for Deutsche Bank, then moved to amend proof of claim No. 3, stating that AMC Mortgage Services, Inc. had incorrectly named  [**6] Argent as the creditor in that proof of claim. [Doc. # 377] Citi Residential said in the motion that in fact the loan is held by Deutsche Bank, and therefore that the proof of claim should name Deutsche Bank as the creditor. The motion further stated that effective October 1, 2007, Citi Residential had replaced AMC Mortgage Services, Inc. as servicer of the loan. On October 21, 2008, and over the Debtor’s objection, the court granted this motion. Accordingly, on October 24, 2008, Deutsche Bank National Trust Company, as Trustee, in trust for the registered holders of Argent Securities Inc., Asset-Backed Pass- Through Certificates, Series 2005-W3, filed proof of claim No. 14-2, complete with supporting documents, as an amendment to claim No. 3-2. The supporting documents, filed as exhibits to the proof of claim, included (i) the Samuels Note, (ii) the Samuels Mortgage, (iii) on the Samuels Mortgage, a registry stamp constituting evidence that the Mortgage was recorded on August 23, 2005; (iv) a Confirmatory Assignment of the Samuels Mortgage and Note from Argent to Deutsche Bank, dated August 4, 2008, bearing a registry stamp constituting evidence that the Confirmatory Assignment was  [**7] recorded on August 11, 2008; and (v) a Limited Power of Attorney from Argent  [*13]  to Citi Residential, dated October 18, 2007 (the “2007 LPA”).

On September 29, 2008, while the motion to amend proof of claim was pending, and pursuant to FED. R. BANKR. P. 3001(e)(2), Citi Residential filed evidence–essentially a notice–of transfer of claim No. 3 (as amended) other than for security [Doc. # 396]. The notice indicates that Claim No. 3 was transferred from AMC Mortgage Services, Inc., as loan servicer for Argent, to Citi Residential, as loan servicer and attorney in fact for Deutsche Bank. The clerk promptly then notified AMC Mortgage Services, Inc. of the evidence of transfer and established a deadline for the alleged transferor to object, failing which the transferee would be substituted for the original claimant without further order of the court. AMC Mortgage Services, Inc. filed no objection, and the time to object has long since passed.

On December 11, 2008, Deutsche Bank then filed the present Motion for Summary Judgment as to Claim No. 14 [Doc. # 415]. 3 Deutsche Bank construes the Debtor’s objection to Claim No. 3 as in fact an objection to Claim No. 14 (because Claim No. 14 is an  [**8] amendment to Claim No. 3) and, by its motion for summary judgment, seeks an order overruling the objection and allowing Claim No. 14. In support of the motion, Deutsche Bank submitted the affidavits of Ronaldo Reyes, Diane E. Tiberend, and Margarita Guerreo and the exhibits authenticated by these affiants. The Debtor has filed an opposition to the motion and, in support of her opposition, an unauthenticated deposition of Tamara Price. 4 Price is a Citi Residential employee that was deposed in another case. The court held a hearing on the motion on March 31, 2009 and took the matter under advisement.

3   A motion for summary judgment may appropriately be filed as to an objection to claim. An objection to claim is a contested matter. Pursuant to FED. R. BANKR. P. 9014(c), Rule 7056 of the Federal Rules of Bankruptcy Procedure applies to contested matters. Rule 7056 in turn makes FED. R. CIV. P. 56 applicable.

4   In her opposition, the Debtor also asks the court to take judicial notice of the entire record of this case, but she fails to identify particular documents or parts of the record of which she would have the court take judicial notice.

ARGUMENTS OF THE PARTIES

This contested matter has  [**9] evolved in two significant respects since its inception with the Debtor’s filing of her objection to Claim No. 3. First, the underlying claim has been amended, such that the claim in issue is no longer Claim No. 3, filed by AMC Mortgage Services, Inc., as loan servicer for Argent, but Claim No. 14-2, filed by Deutsche Bank, with Deutsche Bank claiming to be the successor in interest to Argent as holder of the same promissory note and mortgage that formed the basis of the Claim No. 3. Second, the grounds of objection have changed: the Debtor’s original objection–that the proof of claim “alleges a security interest but fails to identify the property securing the claim or to attach a copy of any documentation in support of the claim”–has been satisfied, the note and mortgage having been adduced and the property having been identified. Instead, the objection has now become a challenge to Deutsche Bank’s contention that it holds the promissory note and owns the mortgage on which the claim is based. It is this particular objection, as it is leveled against Claim No. 14-2, that is presently before the court as the subject of Deutsche Bank’s motion for summary judgment. Neither party disputes  [**10] that the issue so framed is properly  [*14]  before the Court, the lack of a formal objection to Claim No. 14-2 notwithstanding.

Deutsche Bank’s argument in support of summary judgment is as follows. Pursuant to a certain Mortgage Loan Purchase and Warranties Agreement, the following sequence of transfers occurred: Argent, as the originator of the loan and payee and original holder of the note, sold the loan in question to Ameriquest Mortgage Company LLC, which, in turn sold the loan to Argent Securities, Inc., which deposited the loan into the ARSI Series 2005-W3 Pool subject to the Pooling and Servicing Agreement (“PSA”) dated as of October 1, 2005 between Argent Securities, Inc. as Depositor, Ameriquest as Master Servicer, and Deutsche Bank, as Trustee. Accordingly, Argent endorsed the original promissory note in blank, without recourse–thus converting it into a bearer instrument, negotiable by transfer of possession alone–and delivered it to Deutsche Bank as pool Trustee, which has had actual physical custody of the note since August 18, 2005. The mortgage followed a similar path, twice: first on August 18, 2005, when Argent Mortgage Company LLC, the original mortgagee, assigned the mortgage  [**11] in blank and delivered it to Deutsche Bank as pool Trustee; and a second time on August 4, 2008, when Citi Residential, acting under a limited power of attorney from Argent, executed on behalf of Argent a confirmatory assignment of the mortgage to Deutsche Bank as pool Trustee and recorded the same in the applicable registry of deeds. In addition, Deutsche Bank argues, Argent ratified the assignment of the mortgage to Deutsche Bank by raising no objection to the court’s notice of evidence of transfer of claim.

The Debtor argues that Deutsche Bank must show that it is the lawful owner of both the note and the mortgage. The Debtor does not dispute that the promissory note was indorsed in blank and transferred to Deutsche Bank and that Deutsche Bank is now, and since August 18, 2005 has been, in possession of the note. The Debtor instead concentrates her opposition on the mortgage, arguing that there exist several defects in Deutsche Bank’s chain of title, or at least in Deutsche Bank’s proof of the chain of title. First, the Debtor argues that Argent’s original assignment of the mortgage in blank was ineffective because a mortgage is an interest in land that, under the statute of frauds,  [**12] requires a conveyance in writing that identifies the assignee; Argent’s conveyance in blank, though in writing, does not identify an assignee and therefore, the Debtor concludes, was ineffective.

Second, the Debtor contends that the PSA required that all mortgages acquired thereunder had to be funneled to Deutsche Bank, as pool trustee, through the entity designated by the PSA as “depositor,” ARSI. A failure to follow this protocol–such as by direct assignment of the mortgage from the loan originator to the pool trustee, bypassing the depositor–would, the Debtor contends, constitute a breach of the PSA, a breach of fiduciary obligations under the PSA to investors, a breach of federal regulations, and an act giving rise to unfavorable tax consequences for the investors. The Debtor argues that because the mortgage assignments described by Deutsche Bank do not indicate that title passed to Deutsche Bank through the depositor, the assignments of the mortgage must be invalid.

Third, the Debtor argues that the confirmatory assignment is invalid because the vice-president of Citi Residential who executed that assignment, a Ms. Tamara Price, indicated in a deposition in an unrelated case that  [**13] (1) she signs documents  [*15]  presented to her for signing without knowing what she is signing and (2) she signs these documents outside the presence of a notary, after which the documents are forwarded to a notary for completion. The Debtor further argues that Price patently lied when she recited in the Confirmatory Assignment that the original assignment “was lost”; the assignment in blank was produced in this proceeding and therefore was not lost. The Debtor does not elaborate on the consequences or import of these allegations. Nor does he dispute that Ms. Price had authority to execute the assignment and that she actually did execute it.

Fourth, the Debtor argues very briefly that, because the execution and recording of the confirmatory assignment occurred after she filed her bankruptcy petition, these acts constituted violations of the automatic stay and of 11 U.S.C. § 549 (permitting a trustee to avoid certain postpetition transfers). In support of this argument, the Debtor cites In re Beaulac, 298 B.R. 31 (Bankr. D. Mass. 2003) without elaboration. She offers no explanation as to how the postpetition transfer of a mortgage already in existence and previously recorded can constitute  [**14] a transfer of an asset of the estate or a violation of the automatic stay. She further suggests that she has the power to avoid the “unauthorized postpetition conveyance” but does not explain how or on what grounds and has not moved to avoid the conveyance.

SUMMARY JUDGMENT STANDARD

[HN1] A party is entitled to summary judgment only upon a showing that there is no genuine issue of material fact and that, on the uncontroverted facts, the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. FED R. CIV. P. 56(c). Where, as here, the burden of proof at trial would fall on the party seeking summary judgment, that party must support its motion with evidence–in the form of affidavits, admissions, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and the like–as to each essential element of its cause of action. The evidence must be such as would permit the movant at trial to withstand a motion for directed verdict under FED. R. CIV. P. 50(a). Anderson v Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 250, 106 S. Ct. 2505, 91 L. Ed. 2d 202 (1986). If the motion is properly supported, the burden shifts to the adverse party to submit evidence demonstrating the existence of a genuine issue as to at least one material fact. If the adverse party does not so respond,  [**15] “summary judgment, if appropriate, shall be entered against the adverse party.” FED. R. CIV. P. 56(e); Jaroma v. Massey, 873 F.2d 17, 20 (1st Cir. 1989). The court makes no findings of fact but only determines whether there exists a genuine issue of material fact and, if not, whether, on the uncontroverted facts, the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.

DISCUSSION

a. Burden of Proof

The present motion seeks summary judgment as to a proof of claim. The burdens with respect to proofs of claim were summarized by Judge Somma in In re Long, 353 B.R. 1, at 13 (Bankr. D. Mass. 2006):

[HN2] A proof of claim executed and filed in accordance with the Federal Rules of Bankruptcy Procedure constitutes prima facie evidence of the validity and amount of the claim. FED. R. BANKR. P. 3001(f); see also Juniper Dev. Group v. Kahn (In re Hemingway Transp., Inc.), 993 F.2d 915, 925 (1st Cir. 1993). In order to rebut this prima facie evidence, the objecting party must produce “substantial evidence.” United States v. Clifford (In re Clifford), 255 B.R. 258, 262 (D. Mass. [*16] 2000) (Hemingway Transport, 993 F.2d at 925). If the objecting party produces substantial evidence in opposition to the proof  [**16] of claim and thereby rebuts the prima facie evidence, the burden shifts to the claimant to establish the validity of its claim. Hemingway Transport, 993 F.2d at 925 (“Once the trustee manages the initial burden of producing substantial evidence . . . the ultimate risk of nonpersuasion as to the allowability of the claim resides with the party asserting the claim.”). Where the proof of claim is not filed in accordance with the Federal Rules of Bankruptcy Procedure, the proof of claim does not constitute prima facie evidence of the validity and amount of the claim, and therefore the burden of proof rests at all times on the claimant.

In order for a proof of claim to be executed and filed in accordance with the Federal Rules of Bankruptcy Procedure, it must satisfy (among other things) two requirements set forth in Rule 3001 itself. First, “when a claim . . . is based on a writing, the original or a duplicate shall be filed with the proof of claim.” FED. R. BANKR. P. 3001(c). Second, “[i]f a security interest in property of the debtor is claimed, the proof of claim shall be accompanied by evidence that the security interest has been perfected.” FED. R. BANKR. P. 3001(d).

Deutsche Bank contends  [**17] that its amended proof of claim (No. 14-2) enjoys prima facie validity, and that the Debtor has not rebutted this prima facie validity with substantial evidence or any evidence at all. The Debtor disagrees, arguing that the proof of claim was not supported by documents showing a complete chain of title and therefore does not constitute prima facie evidence of the claim, such that the burden rests from the start on the claimant.

The Court agrees with the Debtor: the documents attached to Proof of Claim No. 14-2–in relevant part, the Note, the Mortgage, the Confirmatory Assignment, and the 2007 LPA–do not, by themselves, establish the necessary chain of title. The Note and Mortgage are in fact the underlying documents on which the claim is based, but they identify Argent as payee and mortgagee, not Deutsche Bank. Deutsche Bank attempted to show that it now holds the rights originally given to Argent by attaching the Confirmatory Assignment to its proof of claim. The Confirmatory Assignment, being an assignment in writing from Argent to Deutsche Bank of all rights under the Note and Mortgage, would suffice but for one problem: its validity is contingent on the limited power of attorney  [**18] pursuant to which Citi Residential executed it for Argent, but the 2007 LPA that was attached to the proof of claim does not authorize the particular type of mortgage assignment that was involved in the Confirmatory Assignment.

The 2007 LPA expressly authorizes Citi Residential to execute, on behalf of Argent, only two kinds of mortgage assignment: (i) “the assignment of any Mortgage or Deed of Trust and the related Mortgage Note, in connection with the repurchase of the mortgage loan secured and evidenced thereby,” and (ii) “the full assignment of a Mortgage or Deed of Trust upon payment and discharge of all sums secured thereby in conjunction the refinancing thereof.5 The Confirmatory Assignment was not executed in connection with the repurchase of a mortgage loan or the refinancing of  [*17]  this loan, and the 2007 LPA does not authorize mortgage assignments of any other kind. A further paragraph in the 2007 LPA authorizing Citi Residential to foreclose on mortgages is not an authorization to execute assignments of mortgages, even where the assignment would facilitate a foreclosure of the mortgage. 6 Where the 2007 LPA narrowly circumscribed the two types of mortgage assignment it did  [**19] authorize Citi Residential to execute, the further grant of authority to foreclose should not be construed broadly to authorize additional types of mortgage assignment.

5   2007 LPA (attached as Exhibit 4 to Proof of Claim No. 14-2), at PP 6 and 7 (emphasis added).

6   Judge Feeney reached this same conclusion with respect to identical language in another limited power of attorney from Argent to Citi Residential. See In re Hayes, 393 B.R. 259, 268, 270 (Bankr. D. Mass. 2008).

Consequently, the documents submitted with the proof of claim do not by themselves show a valid assignment of rights from Argent to Deutsche Bank and do not fully support the asserted claim. It follows that the proof of claim is not supported by documents adequate to establish the assignment of rights on which it is based, and therefore that the claim does not enjoy prima facie validity. In the alternative, whatever prima facie validity the claim initially enjoyed was rebutted by the Debtor’s pointing out of the defect in the chain of title that was evident in the documents submitted with the proof of claim. Either way, for purposes of the present motion, the proof of claim does not enjoy prima facie validity, and the  [**20] burden is on the claimant, Deutsche Bank, to establish that it now holds the rights given by the Debtor to Argent in the Note and Mortgage.

b. The Factual Record

The evidence adduced in support of summary judgment, when construed in the light most favorable to Samuels, shows the following. There are no genuine issues as to the material facts.

On August 18, 2005, Samuels, as owner of the real property located at 316B Essex Street, Lynn, Massachusetts (“the Property”), executed in favor of Argent Mortgage Company LLC, as lender, a promissory note (“the Note”) in the original principal amount of $ 272,000 and, to secure repayment of the note, a mortgage on the Property (“the Mortgage”). The Mortgage was recorded with the Essex South Registry of Deeds on August 23, 2005.

On the same day that it originated the Samuels loan, Argent endorsed the Note in blank and also executed a written assignment in blank–i.e., without designation of an assignee–of the Note and Mortgage (“the Assignment”). Also on the same day, Argent transmitted the Note, Mortgage, and Assignment to Deutsche Bank in its capacity as custodian of Argent’s original collateral files.

Under a Mortgage Loan Purchase and Warranties  [**21] Agreement (“MLPWA”) 7 dated January 2, 2003 between Argent and its affiliate, Ameriquest Mortgage Company, Inc., Argent regularly and systematically sold and transferred the loans that it originated to Ameriquest for securitization purposes. The MLPWA did not itself effectuate conveyance or sale of any specific loan; under section 2(a) of the MLPWA, a further act would be necessary to effectuate a sale pursuant to the MLPWA: specifically, the execution of an Assignment and Conveyance Agreement. From the affidavit of Diane Tiberand, a senior vice president of ACC Capital Holdings Corporation, the parent company of both Argent and Ameriquest, it is clear that both Argent and  [*18]  Ameriquest believe that the Samuels loan was conveyed by Argent through Ameriquest to Argent Securities, Inc. (“ARSI”) to Deutsche Bank. However, Deutsche Bank has adduced no evidence that the Samuels loan was among those that Argent sold and transferred to Ameriquest, either under the MLPWA or otherwise.

7   Tiberand Affidavit [Doc. 420], Exhibit 1.

Ameriquest securitized its mortgage loans through one of two corporate vehicles; in the case of the Samuels loan, the vehicle Ameriquest used was ARSI. Pursuant to and through  [**22] a Mortgage Loan Purchase Agreement dated October 26, 2005 (“MLPA”) between Ameriquest and ARSI, 8 Ameriquest sold the Samuels loan–or at least whatever interest Ameriquest had therein–to ARSI for subsequent deposit by ARSI into the ARSI Series 2005-W3 pool trust. The sale and transfer of the loan from Ameriquest to ARSI was effectuated by the MLPA itself, which was not merely an agreement to sell but also the actual written instrument of conveyance. Thus, section 1 of the MLPA states, “[t]he Seller hereby sells, and the Purchaser hereby purchases, as of October 28, 2005, certain . . . residential mortgage loans.” The loans in question were identified in a Closing Schedule executed pursuant to Section 2 of the MLPA. The Samuels loan was listed on the closing schedule as Loan No. 83442632, which is the loan number that appears on both the Note and the Mortgage.

8   The Mortgage Loan Purchase Agreement of October 26, 2005 is attached as Exhibit C to the affidavit of Ronaldo Reyes [Doc. 418].

ARSI then deposited the Samuels Loan, or whatever interest ARSI had in that loan, into the ARSI Series 2005-W3 pool trust by transfer to Deutsche Bank as trustee. The deposit into the pool trust was  [**23] done pursuant to a Pooling and Servicing Agreement dated October 1, 2005 (“the PSA”) among ARSI, Ameriquest, and Deutsche Bank. Under the PSA, ARSI, as Depositor, deposited certain designated mortgage loans, including the Samuels loan, into the pool; Ameriquest, as Master Servicer, agreed to be responsible for servicing of the loans, either itself or through one or more subservicers; and Deutsche Bank agreed to serve as trustee to hold legal title to the pooled mortgage loans for the benefit of investors in the pool. ARSI sold and deposited the Samuels loan (and 9,909 other mortgage loans) into the ARSI Series 2005-W3 pool on October 28, 2005. The PSA itself, in conjunction with the schedule of mortgages deposited through it into the pool trust, served as a written assignment of the designated mortgage loans, including the mortgages themselves. Thus in section 2.01, the PSA states: “The Depositor [ARSI], concurrently with the execution and delivery hereof, does hereby transfer, assign, set over and otherwise convey to the Trustee [Deutsche Bank] without recourse for the benefit of the Certificateholders all the right, title and interest of the Depositor, including any security interest  [**24] therein for the benefit of the Depositor, in and to the Mortgage Loans identified on the Mortgage Loan Schedule[.]” (Emphasis added.) Per Section 2 of the MLPA, the Mortgage Loan Schedule for the PSA was the same document as the Closing Schedule executed pursuant to Section 2 of the MLPA, on which was listed the number of the Samuels Loan.

Except only as set forth in the following sentence, Deutsche Bank has had and continues to have possession of the Note and Mortgage evidencing the Samuels loan since August 18, 2005, first as custodian of Argent’s original collateral files and then, from and after October 28, 2005, as trustee  [*19]  of the ARSI Series 2005-W3 pool for the benefit of certificate holders of the trust. In August 2008, Deutsche Bank relinquished physical custody of the collateral file, including the Note, to Citi Residential for purposes of an evidentiary hearing scheduled for August 20, 2008. Citi Residential had by then become servicer of the loan for Deutsche Bank. The collateral file, including the Note, remains in Citi Residential’s physical custody for the benefit of Deutsche Bank.

On October 18, 2007, Argent executed a limited power of attorney (“the 2007 LPA”) under which  [**25] it made Citi Residential its attorney-in-fact for certain purposes. In relevant part, the 2007 LPA gave Citi Residential

full power and authority to sign, execute, acknowledge, deliver, file for record, and record any instrument on its behalf and to perform such other act or acts as may be customarily and reasonably necessary and appropriate to effectuate the following enumerated transactions in respect of any of the mortgages or deeds of trust (the “Mortgages” and “Deeds of Trust”, respectively) and promissory notes secured thereby (the “Mortgage Notes”). 9

The enumerated transactions include, in relevant part:

(6) The assignment of any Mortgage or Deed of Trust and the related Mortgage Note, in connection with the repurchase of the mortgage loan secured and evidenced thereby.

(7) The full assignment of a Mortgage or Deed of Trust upon payment and discharge of all sums secured thereby in conjunction the refinancing thereof.

(8) With respect to a Mortgage or Deed of Trust, the foreclosure, the taking of a deed in lieu of foreclosure, or the completion of judicial or non-judicial foreclosure . . . . 10

9   2007 LPA.

10   2007 LPA, PP 6, 7, and 8.

On August 4, 2008, Argent, acting through Citi Residential  [**26] as attorney in fact for Argent, executed a confirmatory assignment of the Samuels Mortgage to Deutsche Bank. The document was signed for Citi Residential by its vice president Tamara Price. The Confirmatory Assignment states that it was effective as of April 14, 2006. In the confirmatory assignment, Ms. Price also stated that the confirmatory assignment was being executed with intent “to replace the original assignment which due to inadvertence and/or mistake was lost[.]” 11 Citi Residential recorded this confirmatory assignment in the Essex South Registry of Deeds on August 11, 2008. Though the Mortgage itself had previously been recorded, no earlier assignment of the Mortgage had been recorded.

11   Aside from this statement, Deutsche Bank has adduced no evidence that an assignment of the mortgage has been lost; nor does Deutsche Bank allege that there exists a lost assignment or rely on any lost assignment in this motion. There is evidence of only one assignment that predates the Confirmatory Assignment: the assignment in blank that was executed immediately after origination of the loan. That assignment is in evidence here, and there is no evidence that it was ever lost. There exists  [**27] a genuine issue as to whether the original assignment was lost and as to whether Ms. Price’s representation to that effect was knowingly false, but, as explained below, the Court also concludes that these facts are not material to resolution of the present controversy. They present no genuine issue of material fact.

On December 5, 2008, Argent executed another limited power of attorney (“the 2008 LPA”) under which it made Citi Residential its attorney-in-fact for certain purposes. The 2008 LPA stated that it was  [*20]  effective retroactively to September 1, 2007, and that Argent ratified any and all actions theretofore taken by Citi Residential within the scope of the powers granted by the 2008 LPA from and after September 1, 2007. The 2008 LPA expressly stated that the powers it conferred on Citi Residential included the power to execute and record the assignment of any mortgage and the related mortgage note.

Since the recording of the Confirmatory Assignment, record title to the Mortgage has stood in the name of Deutsche Bank. Neither Argent nor Ameriquest claims any interest in the Samuels Mortgage and Note.

c. The Promissory Note

The uncontroverted evidence shows, and the Debtor does not  [**28] dispute, that the Samuels Note was endorsed in blank by its named payee, that possession of the note was thereafter transferred to Deutsche Bank, and that Deutsche Bank is now, and since August 18, 2005 has been, in possession of the note. As a negotiable instrument, the Note may be transferred in accordance with Article 3 of the Uniform Commercial Code as enacted in Massachusetts: [HN3] “When indorsed in blank, an instrument becomes payable to bearer and may be negotiated by transfer of possession alone until specially indorsed.” G.L. c. 106, § 3-205(b). By virtue of its possession of a note indorsed in blank, Deutsche Bank is the holder of the note and as such has standing in this case to seek payment thereof. G.L. c. 106, § 3-301 ([HN4] “Person entitled to enforce” an instrument includes the holder of the instrument.”); First National Bank of Cape Cod v. North Adams Hoosac Savings Bank, 7 Mass. App. Ct. 790, 797, 391 N.E.2d 689 (1979) (“As the holder of the note, [plaintiff] also would be entitled to all payments to be made by the mortgagors on the note.”).

d. The Mortgage

In order to establish that it holds not only the Samuels Note but also the Samuels Mortgage, Deutsche Bank follows two alternate paths. The  [**29] first relies on showing a chain of three assignments of the mortgage: from Argent to Ameriquest, then Ameriquest to ARSI, and then ARSI to Deutsche Bank. The problem with this strategy is that Deutsche Bank has adduced no writing evidencing the first of these transfers, from Argent to Ameriquest. [HN5] A mortgage is an interest in real property, and the statute of frauds accordingly requires that an assignment of a mortgage be in writing. Warden v. Adams, 15 Mass. 233 (1818) (“By force of our statutes regulating the transfer of real estates and for preventing frauds, no interest passes by a mere delivery of a mortgage deed, without an assignment in writing and by deed.”). Deutsche Bank has adduced evidence of an agreement pursuant to which Argent agreed to transfer mortgage loans to Ameriquest, but it has adduced no writing evidencing the assignment of the Samuels Mortgage from Argent to Ameriquest. Consequently, the chain of title is incomplete, and Deutsche Bank must, as it anticipated, fall back on its alternate strategy.

In the alternative, Deutsche Bank relies on the Confirmatory Assignment from Argent to Deutsche Bank, executed for Argent by Citi Residential on August 4, 2008 under  [**30] a limited power of attorney. The Confirmatory Assignment expressly and in writing conveys from Argent to Deutsche Bank both the Samuels Mortgage and the Samuel Note.

The Confirmatory Assignment was not executed by Argent itself but by Citi Residential purporting to act under a limited power of attorney. Deutsche Bank contends that this action by Citi Residential  [*21]  should be deemed a valid and effective act by Argent for three independent reasons: Argent authorized it by the 2007 LPA; Argent ratified it by the 2008 LPA; and Argent further ratified it by not objecting to the evidence of transfer of claim filed by Citi Residential in this bankruptcy case. For the following reasons, the Court rejects the first, accepts the second, and, having accepted the second, does not address the third.

The first is that, prior to the Confirmatory Assignment, Argent had executed a limited power of attorney, the 2007 LPA, that empowered Citi Residential to execute this assignment for Argent. This reliance on an already-existing limited power of attorney is unavailing for the reasons articulated above (in the section on Burden of Proof): the 2007 LPA did not authorize Citi Residential to execute the Confirmatory  [**31] Assignment.

Second, and in the alternative, Deutsche Bank relies on the 2008 LPA, executed by Argent on December 5, 2008, some four months after the confirmatory assignment. The 2008 LPA was expressly retroactive to September 1, 2007, and ratified any and all actions theretofore taken by Citi Residential within the scope of the powers granted by the 2008 LPA from and after September 1, 2007. The 2008 LPA expressly conferred on Citi Residential the power to execute and record the assignment of any mortgage and the related mortgage note, which powers, I conclude, include the power to execute the Confirmatory Assignment. By its ratification through the 2008 LPA of actions undertaken before it was issued, Argent remedied any lack of authority that may have existed when Citi Residential executed the Confirmatory Assignment. Linkage Corp. v. Trustees of Boston University, 425 Mass. 1, at 18, 679 N.E.2d 191 (1997) (“Where an agent lacks actual authority to agree on behalf of his principal, the principal may still be bound if the principal acquiesces in the agent’s action[.]”).

The Debtor argues that the Confirmatory Assignment should nonetheless be deemed ineffective for three reasons. First she argues that  [**32] the confirmatory assignment is invalid because the vice-president of Citi Residential who executed that assignment, a Ms. Tamara Price, indicated in a deposition in an unrelated case that (1) she signs documents presented to her for signing without knowing what she is signing and (2) she signs such documents outside the presence of a notary, after which the documents are forwarded to a notary for completion. The Debtor further contends that Price patently lied when she recited in the Confirmatory Assignment that the original assignment “was lost.” The Debtor does not elaborate on the consequences or import of these allegations. The Court sees no reason that these alleged facts, if true, should invalidate the assignment. There is no evidence that Price signed this Confirmatory Assignment without knowing what she was signing, much less that Citi Residential did not know what it was doing by having her sign the Confirmatory Assignment on its behalf, but even if neither Price nor Citi Residential knew what they were doing, that would not invalidate the assignment. Nor does it matter that Price signed documents outside the presence of a notary and then forwarded them to the notary for completion,  [**33] where the Debtor neither disputes that Price did in fact sign the Confirmatory Assignment nor offers argument that this practice was contrary to applicable law and constitutes a defect in the assignment. And any falsity or lie as to the purpose of the confirmatory assignment is immaterial: the Court knows of no requirement that an assignment contain a  [*22]  statement of purpose, truthful or otherwise.

Second, the Debtor argues that the PSA required that all mortgages acquired thereunder to be funneled to Deutsche Bank, as pool trustee, through the entity designated by the PSA as “depositor,” ARSI. A failure to follow this protocol–such as by direct assignment of the mortgage from the loan originator to the pool trustee, bypassing the depositor–would, the Debtor contends, constitute a breach of the PSA, a breach of fiduciary obligations under the PSA to investors, a breach of federal regulations, and an act giving rise to unfavorable tax consequences for the investors. The Debtor argues that because the Confirmatory Assignment is a direct assignment from Argent to Deutsche Bank that bypasses the depositor, it must be invalid. This argument falls far short of its goal. Even if this direct  [**34] assignment were somehow violative of the PSA, giving rise to unfavorable tax, regulatory, contractual, and tort consequences, 12 neither the PSA nor those consequences would render the assignment itself invalid. In fact, under the Debtor’s own argument, the unfavorable consequences could and would arise only if, and precisely because, the assignment were valid and effective.

12   The Court does not conclude that the Confirmatory Assignment violates the PSA or gives rise to unfavorable tax, regulatory, contractual, or tort consequences; the debtor’s argument is so lacking in detail on all these points as to constitute no real argument at all, certainly none permitting the conclusions she urges on the Court.

Third and last, the Debtor argues very briefly that, because the execution and recording of the confirmatory assignment occurred after she filed her bankruptcy petition, these acts constituted violations of the automatic stay and of 11 U.S.C. § 549 (permitting a trustee to avoid certain postpetition transfers). In support of this argument, the Debtor cites In re Beaulac, 298 B.R. 31 (Bankr. D. Mass. 2003) without elaboration. She offers no explanation as to how the postpetition transfer  [**35] of a mortgage already in existence and previously recorded can constitute a transfer of an asset of the estate or a violation of the automatic stay. She further suggests that she has the power to avoid the “unauthorized postpetition conveyance” but does not explain how or on what grounds and has not moved to avoid the conveyance.

I find no merit in this argument or any of its parts. The postpetition assignment of a mortgage and the related note from one holder to another is not a transfer of property of the estate. The mortgage and note are assets of the creditor mortgagee, not of the Debtor. Nor is the postpetition assignment of a mortgage and the related note an act to collect a debt; the assignment merely transfers the claim from one entity to another. The Debtor cites no particular subsection of 11 U.S.C. § 362(a), the automatic stay, that she contends such an assignment violates, and the court is aware of none.

I need not address the Debtor’s further unsupported contention that the postpetition recording of an assignment of mortgage is a violation of the automatic stay 13 or of 11 U.S.C. § 549(a). 14 As the  [*23]  Debtor herself acknowledges, [HN6] an assignment of mortgage need not be recorded  [**36] in order to be valid against the mortgagor or her grantees. Lamson & Co. v. Abrams, 305 Mass. 238, 241-242, 25 N.E.2d 374 (1940); O’Gasapian v. Danielson, 284 Mass. 27, 32, 187 N.E. 107 (1933). Therefore, even if the recording were void and ineffectual, the assignment to Deutsche Bank would still be valid.

13   The recording of an assignment of mortgage by the assignee of the mortgagee creates a record chain of title for anyone taking through the mortgage and protects the assignee from subsequent transfers by or through the assignor. The Debtor offers no explanation as to how the recording might be an act to collect a debt or a violation of some other section of the automatic stay. In Beaulac, which the Debtor cites without discussion, the mortgage in question had been given to the debtor, not by the debtor; Beaulac is therefore wholly inapposite.

14   The debtor invokes the automatic stay and § 549(a) only defensively.

CONCLUSION

For the reasons set forth above, the Court concludes that there are no genuine issues of material fact and that, on the uncontroverted facts, Deutsche Bank has established that it is in possession of the note and the owner of the mortgage securing it and therefore is entitled to summary judgment  [**37] as a matter of law. A separate order will enter allowing Deutsche Bank’s Motion for Summary Judgment and overruling the Debtor’s objection to its proof of claim, No. 14-2.

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MERS v. LISA MARIE CHONG

Posted on December 9, 2009. Filed under: bankruptcy, Case Law, Foreclosure Defense, Mortgage Law | Tags: , , , , , , |

UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT

DISTRICT OF NEVADA

Dist. Ct. Case No. 2:09-CV-00661-KJD-LRL
Bankr. Ct. Case No. BK-S-07-16645-LBR

Presently before the Court is Appellant’s Appeal under 28 U.S.C. § 158(a) from the Bankruptcy Court’s Order Denying Motion to Lift Stay entered in the Adversary Proceeding No. BKS- 07-16645-LBR, docket no. 49, March 31, 2009.

Having considered the briefs and the record on appeal, including the arguments of parties at the consolidated hearing on November 10, 2009, the Court affirms the Order of the Bankruptcy Court

Procedural History and Facts

On April 14, 2009, Appellant Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems, Inc. (“MERS”) filed Notice of Appeal (#1) appealing the Bankruptcy Court’s order denying Appellant’s motion for relief from stay. This appeal is one of approximately eighteen (18) similar cases in which the Bankruptcy Court ruled that Appellant lacked standing to bring the motion.

In the underlying bankruptcy action, MERS filed its Motion for Relief from Stay (“the Motion”) pursuant to Federal Rule of Bankruptcy Practice (“Rule”) 4001 on January 14, 2008 seeking to have the automatic stay lifted so that MERS could conduct a non-judicial foreclosure saleon debtor’s real property because the debtor lacked the ability to make payments and could not provide adequate security. Trustee Lenard E. Schwartzer (“Trustee”) filed objections to the Motion claiming that MERS did not have standing as a real party in interest under the Rules to file the motion. (Appellant’s Appendix (“Appx.”) Doc. No. 12, p. 34).

In response, Appellant filed the Declaration of Faatima Straggans, an employee of Homecomings Financial, LLC the authorized servicing agent for MERS, attempting to authenticate a copy of the original Deed of Trust (“Deed”) and Note. (Appx. 36–38). The Deed described MERS as beneficiary and identified MERS as the nominee of the original lender, FMC Capital LLC. Id. However, the Declaration identified neither the current owner of the beneficial interest in the Note, nor any of the successors or assignees of the Deed of Trust. The Declaration also failed to assert that MERS, FMC Capital LLC or Homecomings Financial, LLC held the Note.

Due to the similar issues raised regarding motions for relief from stay in approximately twenty-seven (27) cases involving MERS, the Bankruptcy Court set a joint hearing for all twenty seven cases. (Appx. 113–18). The Bankruptcy Court also ordered consolidated briefing for all cases to be filed in Case No. 07-16226-LBR, In re Mitchell, the “lead case”. Id. In a majority of the cases, including the present case, Appellant attempted to withdraw the Motion but was procedurally unable to do so, because the Trustee would not consent. (Appx. 1383, 1902-1904, 1907-1909). MERS informed the Bankruptcy Court that it had attempted to withdraw the Motion, because it had been filed contrary to its own corporate procedures. (Appx. 432). Particularly in this case, MERS was unable to show that a MERS Certifying Officer was in physical possession of the Note at the time the Motion was filed. (Appx. 624).

A final hearing was held on August 19, 2008. (Appx. 650-729). On March 31, 2009, the Bankruptcy Court issued Memorandum Opinions and Orders denying MERS’ motions for relief from stay in Mitchell and two other cases. (Appx. 740-54, 1581-95, 1959-72). In the remaining cases, including the present case, the Bankruptcy Court denied the motions for relief from stay by incorporating the reasoning from the Mitchell Memorandum Opinion. (Appx.46). The Bankruptcy Court held that MERS lacked standing because it was not a real party in interest as required by the Rules. (Appx. 740-54). Specifically, the court found that “[w]hile MERS may have standing to prosecute the motion in the name of its Member as nominee, there is no evidence that the named nominee is entitled to enforce the note or that MERS is the agent of the note’s holder.” (Appx. 753).

The court further held that MERS’ asserted interest as beneficiary under the contract terms did not confer standing because MERS had no actual beneficial interest in the note and, therefore, was not a beneficiary. (Appx. 745-48). MERS now appeals that order asserting that the Bankruptcy Court erred as a matter of law when it determined that MERS may not be a beneficiary under the deeds of trust at issue in the eighteen consolidated cases where the express language of the deeds of trust provide that MERS is the beneficiary. The Trustee continues to assert that MERS lacks standing because it is not a real party in interest. II. Standard of Review

This Court has jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 158(a) and reviews the Bankruptcy Court’s findings under the same standard that the court of appeals would review a district court’s findings in a civil matter. 28 U.S.C. § 158(c)(2). Therefore, the Court reviews the Bankruptcy Court’s factual findings under a clearly erroneous standard, and conclusions of law de novo. See In re Healthcentral.com, 504 F.3d 775, 783 (9th Cir. 2007); In re First Magnus Fin. Corp., 403 B.R. 659, 663 (D. Ariz. 2009). III. Analysis This appeal arises from eighteen cases in which MERS filed motions for relief from stay in the Bankruptcy Court. In each case, either a party or the Bankruptcy Court raised the issue of whether MERS had standing to bring the motion.

In holding that MERS did not have standing as the real party in interest to bring the motion for relief from stay, the Bankruptcy Court determined that MERS was not a beneficiary in spite of language that designated MERS as such in the Deed of Trust at issue. MERS seeks to overturn the Bankruptcy Court’s determination that it is not a beneficiary. However, the Court must affirm the Bankruptcy Court’s order under the facts presented because MERS failed to present sufficient evidence demonstrating that it is a real party in interest.

A motion for relief from stay is a contested matter under the Bankruptcy Code. See Fed. R. Bankr. P. 4001(a); 9014(c). Bankruptcy Rule 7017 applies in contested matters. Rule 7017 incorporates Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 17(a)(1) which requires that “[a]n action must be prosecuted in the name of the real party in interest.” See also, In re Jacobson, 402 B.R. 359, 365-66 (Bankr. W.D. Wash. 2009); In re Hwang, 396 B.R. 757, 766-67 (Bankr. C.D. Cal. 2008). Thus, while MERS argues the bankruptcy court erred when it determined that MERS was not a beneficiary under the deeds of trust, MERS only has standing in the context of the motion to lift stay under the Rules if it is the real party in interest. See Fed. R. Bankr. P. 7017. Since MERS admits that it does not actually receive or forfeit money when borrowers fail to make their payments, MERS must at least provide evidence of its alleged agency relationship with the real party in interest in order to have standing to seek relief from stay. See Jacobson, 402 B.R. at 366, n.7 (quoting Hwang, 396 B.R. at 767 (“the right to enforce a note on behalf of a noteholder does not convert the noteholder’s agent into a real party in interest”)).

An agent for the purpose of bringing suit is “viewed as a nominal rather than a real party in interest and will be required to litigate in the name of his principal rather than his own name.” Hwang, 396 B.R. at 767. This is particularly important in the District of Nevada where the Local Rules of Bankruptcy Practice require parties to communicate in good faith regarding resolution of a motion for relief from stay before it is In other cases movant did not seek to withdraw the Motion, but similarly produced no evidence that it held the note or acted as the agent of the noteholder. filed. LR 4001(a)(3). The parties cannot come to a resolution if those with a beneficial interest in the note have not been identified and engaged in the communication.

In the context of a motion for relief from stay, the movant, MERS in this case, bears the burden of proving it is a real party in interest. In re Wilhelm, 407 B.R. 392, 400 (Bankr. D. Idaho 2009)(citing In re Hayes, 393 B.R. 259, 267 (Bankr. D.Mass. 2008)(“To have standing to seek relief from the automatic stay, [movant] was required to establish that it is a party in interest and that its rights are not those of another entity”)).

Initially, a movant seeking relief from stay may rely upon its motion. Id. However, if a trustee or debtor objects based upon standing, the movant must come forward with evidence of standing. Id.; Jacobson, 402 B.R. at 367 (requiring movant at least demonstrate who presently holds the note at issue or the source of movant’s authority). Instead of presenting the evidence to the Bankruptcy Court, MERS attempted to withdraw the Motion from the Bankruptcy Court’s consideration, citing the failure of a MERS Certifying Officer to demonstrate that a member was in physical possession of the promissory note at the time the motion was filed.1 The only evidence provided by MERS was a declaration that MERS had been identified as a beneficiary in the deed of trust and that it had been named nominee for the original lender.

Since MERS provided no evidence that it was the agent or nominee for the current owner of the beneficial interest in the note, it has failed to meet its burden of establishing that it is a real party in interest with standing. Accordingly, the order of the Bankruptcy Court must be affirmed. This holding is limited to the specific facts and procedural posture of the instant case. Since the Bankruptcy Court denied the Motion without prejudice nothing prevents Appellant from refilling the Motion in Bankruptcy Court providing the evidence it admits should be readily available in its system. The Court makes no finding that MERS would not be able to establish itself as a real party in interest had it identified the holder of the note or provided sufficient evidence of the source of its authority. IV.

Conclusion

Accordingly, IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that the Order of the Bankruptcy Court entered March 31, 2009 is AFFIRMED. DATED this 4th day of December 2009.

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Fair Game – If the Lender Can’t Find the Mortgage

Posted on October 25, 2009. Filed under: Banking, bankruptcy, Case Law, Foreclosure Defense, Housing, Loan Modification, Mortgage Law | Tags: , , , , , , , |

Published: October 24, 2009

FOR decades, when troubled homeowners and banks battled over delinquent mortgages, it wasn’t a contest. Homes went into foreclosure, and lenders took control of the property.

On top of that, courts rubber-stamped the array of foreclosure charges that lenders heaped onto borrowers and took banks at their word when the lenders said they owned the mortgage notes underlying troubled properties.

In other words, with lenders in the driver’s seat, borrowers were run over, more often than not. Of course, errant borrowers hardly deserve sympathy from bankers or anyone else, and banks are well within their rights to try to protect their financial interests.

But if our current financial crisis has taught us anything, it is that many borrowers entered into mortgage agreements without a clear understanding of the debt they were incurring. And banks often lacked a clear understanding of whether all those borrowers could really repay their loans.

Even so, banks and borrowers still do battle over foreclosures on an unlevel playing field that exists in far too many courtrooms. But some judges are starting to scrutinize the rules-don’t-matter methods used by lenders and their lawyers in the recent foreclosure wave. On occasion, lenders are even getting slapped around a bit.

One surprising smackdown occurred on Oct. 9 in federal bankruptcy court in the Southern District of New York. Ruling that a lender, PHH Mortgage, hadn’t proved its claim to a delinquent borrower’s home in White Plains, Judge Robert D. Drain wiped out a $461,263 mortgage debt on the property. That’s right: the mortgage debt disappeared, via a court order.

So the ruling may put a new dynamic in play in the foreclosure mess: If the lender can’t come forward with proof of ownership, and judges don’t look kindly on that, then borrowers may have a stronger hand to play in court and, apparently, may even be able to stay in their homes mortgage-free.

The reason that notes have gone missing is the huge mass of mortgage securitizations that occurred during the housing boom. Securitizations allowed for large pools of bank loans to be bundled and sold to legions of investors, but some of the nuts and bolts of the mortgage game — notes, for example — were never adequately tracked or recorded during the boom. In some cases, that means nobody truly knows who owns what.

To be sure, many legal hurdles mean that the initial outcome of the White Plains case may not be repeated elsewhere. Nevertheless, the ruling — by a federal judge, no less — is bound to bring a smile to anyone who has been subjected to rough treatment by a lender. Methinks a few of those people still exist.

More important, the case is an alert to lenders that dubious proof-of-ownership tactics may no longer be accepted practice. They may even be viewed as a fraud on the court.

The United States Trustee, a division of the Justice Department charged with monitoring the nation’s bankruptcy courts, has also taken an interest in the White Plains case. Its representative has attended hearings in the matter, and it has registered with the court as an interested party.

THE case involves a borrower, who declined to be named, living in a home with her daughter and son-in-law. According to court documents, the borrower bought the house in 2001 with a mortgage from Wells Fargo; four and a half years later she refinanced with Mortgage World Bankers Inc.

She fell behind in her payments, and David B. Shaev, a consumer bankruptcy lawyer in Manhattan, filed a Chapter 13 bankruptcy plan on her behalf in late February in an effort to save her home from foreclosure.

A proof of claim to the debt was filed in March by PHH, a company based in Mount Laurel, N.J. The $461,263 that PHH said was owed included $33,545 in arrears.

Mr. Shaev said that when he filed the case, he had simply hoped to persuade PHH to modify his client’s loan. But after months of what he described as foot-dragging by PHH and its lawyers, he asked for proof of PHH’s standing in the case.

“If you want to take someone’s house away, you’d better make sure you have the right to do it,” Mr. Shaev said in an interview last week.

via Fair Game – If the Lender Can’t Find the Mortgage – NYTimes.com.

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IN RE DARRELL ROYCE SHERIDAN, SHERRY ANN SHERIDAN, Chapter 7 Debtors.

Posted on October 25, 2009. Filed under: bankruptcy, Case Law, Foreclosure Defense, Mortgage Law | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , |

Sheridan_decision

In this Chapter 7 case, the trustee, Ford Elsaesser (“Trustee”), objects to amotion under § 362(d) for relief from the § 362(a) automatic stay.1 Motions under § 362(d) are common in bankruptcy cases.2 Most stay relief requests proceed promptly to entry of an order, after proper notice, without any objection.

However, changes in mortgage practices over the past several years have created a number of new issues. The one highlighted in this case is the standing of the moving creditor. Serial assignments of the mortgagee’s interest(s) and the securitization of mortgages have complicated what was previously a generally straight-forward standing analysis. Though many creditors provide in their motions adequate explanation and documentation of their standing to seek relief on real estate secured debts, Trustee challenges the adequacy of the subject motion in this case.

Following hearing and consideration of the arguments of the parties, the Court determines that Trustee’s objection is well taken and the same will be sustained. The motion for stay relief will be denied.

BACKGROUND AND FACTS

On June 24, 2008, Darrell and Sherry Ann Sheridan (“Debtors”) filed their joint chapter 7 bankruptcy petition, schedules and statements. They scheduled a fee ownership interest in a residence located in Post Falls, Idaho. See Doc. No. 1 at sched. A (the “Property”). Debtors asserted the Property’s value was $225,000.00. Id. They indicated secured claims existed in favor of “Litton Loan Servicing” ($197,000.00) and “Citimortgage” ($34,000.00). Id. at sched. D.

While this left no apparent equity in the Property, Debtors nevertheless claimed the benefit of an Idaho homestead exemption. Id. at sched. C.4

Sheridan_decision

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U.S. Bank v. Ibanez

Posted on October 15, 2009. Filed under: bankruptcy, Case Law, Foreclosure Defense, Mortgage Law |

“when a foreclosure is noticed and conducted for one party by another, the name of the principal must be disclosed in the notice”

“A mortgage is a contract. It is fundamental and basic that a party seeking to exercise a contractual right (here, the power of sale) has the contractual right to do so at the time of its exercise.”

“I am puzzled at this since, as noted above and discussed more fully below, the plaintiffs’ own securitization documents required mortgage assignments to be made to the plaintiffs in recordable form for each and every loan at the time the plaintiffs acquired them. Surely, compliance with this requirement would (and certainly should) have been a priority for an entity issuing securities dependent on recoveries from loans, such as these, known from the start to have a higher than normal risk of delinquency and default.”

“since the blank mortgage assignments failed to name an assignee, they were ineffective to transfer any interest in the mortgage”

“actually holding something and having only the right to be its holder are two very different things. To obtain a mortgage assignment you do not actually possess presumes, at the least, that you have a demonstrable right to get it, that you will be able to determine the entity that validly holds the mortgage you need assigned (not always easy when all previous assignments have not been recorded at the Registry),1 that that entity will still be operational,2 that it will be able to find the relevant paperwork, that it will have someone with authority to execute the relevant paperwork, and that it will be able to do so in a timely fashion. These presumptions are not always accurate. See n. 21, supra. As noted above, even the plaintiffs, armed with all their contractual rights, knowledge, and (presumably) access to the relevant files and authorized persons, took ten months in Ibanez, and fourteen months in Larace, to get actual mortgage assignments in recordable form.”

us-bank-v-ibanez

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Ruling by judges rattles mortgage industry

Posted on October 4, 2009. Filed under: Banking, bankruptcy, Case Law, Foreclosure Defense, Loan Modification, Mortgage Audit, Mortgage Fraud, Mortgage Law | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , |

A bankruptcy judge here, joining judges across the country, is throwing a bit of sand in the gears of the mortgage machine and its ruthless foreclosure blade.

She has raised this issue: In many home foreclosures springing out of bankruptcy proceedings, the foreclosure is being triggered by a representative of the lender — a surrogate that may not have a legal, equity stake in the proceedings.

As a result, it is conceivable — though still something of a legal long shot — that the homeowner who is filing for bankruptcy protection could end up saving his house.

The argument that a lender’s surrogate can’t trigger foreclosure has drawn notice of Nevada homeowners, who are preparing a class action lawsuit. They are seeking a preliminary injunction this month to stop their foreclosures.

First, some background:

Law and custom have long required that property transactions be recorded with a county clerk or “recorder of deeds,” along with information about the person who holds the mortgage, and, if there are multiple mortgages, the place in line of each creditor.

For big lenders, tracking that information in hundreds of jurisdictions across the country was an onerous process, so the biggest, including Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, set up a company that would do it all electronically. It is called Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems and is recognized by its acronym.

The MERS name wound up on millions of mortgages, including more than 987,000 in Nevada alone, according to the company.

via Ruling by judges rattles mortgage industry – Saturday, Oct. 3, 2009 | 2 a.m. – Las Vegas Sun.

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LANDMARK NATIONAL BANK V. KESLER

Posted on September 15, 2009. Filed under: Banking, bankruptcy, Case Law, Foreclosure Defense, Mortgage Law | Tags: , , , , , , , , |

No. 98,489

IN THE COURT OF APPEALS OF THE STATE OF KANSAS

LANDMARK NATIONAL BANK,

Plaintiff/Appellee,

v.

BOYD A. KESLER,

Appellee/Cross-Appellant,

MILLENNIA MORTGAGE CORP.,

Defendant,

MORTGAGE ELECTRONIC REGISTRATION

SYSTEMS, INC. AND SOVEREIGN BANK,

Appellants/Cross-Appellees,

and

DENNIS BRISTOW AND TONY WOYDZIAK,

Intervenors/Appellees.

SYLLABUS BY THE COURT

1. A party is not contingently necessary in a mortgage-foreclosure lawsuit when that party is called the mortgagee in a mortgage but is not the lender, has no right to the repayment of the underlying debt, and has no role in handling mortgage payments.

2. In a mortgage-foreclosure lawsuit, a district court does not abuse its discretion when it denies a motion to intervene that is filed by an unrecorded mortgage holder or its agent after the mortgage has been foreclosed and the property has been sold.

Appeal from Ford District Court; E. LEIGH HOOD, judge. Opinion filed September 12, 2008. Affirmed.

Tyson C. Langhofer and Court T. Kennedy, of Stinson Morrison Hecker, L.L.P., of Wichita, for appellants/cross-appellees.

Ted E. Knopp, of Ted E. Knopp, Chartered, of Wichita, for appellee/cross-appellant Boyd A. Kesler.

Ted E. Knopp, of Ted E. Knopp, Chartered, of Wichita, for intervenors/appellees Dennis Bristow and Tony Woydziak.

Before GREENE, P.J., MARQUARDT and LEBEN, JJ.

LEBEN, J.: Landmark National Bank brought a suit to foreclose its mortgage against Boyd Kesler and joined Millennia Mortgage Corp. as a defendant because a second mortgage had been filed of record for a loan between Kesler and Millennia. In a foreclosure suit, it is normal practice to name as defendants all parties who may claim a lien against the property. When neither Kesler nor Millennia responded to the suit, the district court gave Landmark a default judgment, entered a journal entry foreclosing Landmark’s mortgage, and ordered the property sold so that sale proceeds could be applied to pay Landmark’s mortgage.

But Millennia apparently had sold its mortgage to another party and no longer had interest in the property by this time. Sovereign Bank filed a motion to set aside the judgment and asserted that it now held the title to Kesler’s obligation to pay the debt to Millennia. And another party, Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems, Inc. (“MERS”), also filed a motion to set aside the judgment and asserted that it held legal title to the mortgage, originally on behalf of Millennia and later on behalf of Sovereign. Both Sovereign and MERS claim that MERS was a necessary party to the foreclosure lawsuit and that the judgment must be set aside because MERS wasn’t included on the foreclosure suit as a defendant.

The district court refused to set aside its judgment. The court found that MERS was not a necessary party and that Sovereign had not sufficiently demonstrated its interest in the property to justify setting aside the foreclosure.

I. The District Court Properly Refused to Set Aside the Foreclosure Judgment Because MERS Was Not a Necessary Party.

To resolve these claims, we will review some basic concepts of mortgages and foreclosure proceedings. We must pay close attention not only to the terms given to the parties in carefully crafted documents but also to the roles each party actually performed. No matter the nomenclature, the true role of a party shapes the application of legal principles in this case.

A mortgage grants a title or lien against a property as security for the payment of a debt or the performance of a duty. The “mortgagor” is the borrower who grants a mortgage in exchange for a loan; the “mortgagee” is the lender who gives the loan secured by the mortgage. See Black’s Law Dictionary 1031, 1034 (8th ed. 2004). The mortgagee is so well understood as the lender that Black’s Law Dictionary defines a “foreclosure” as an action brought by the lender/mortgagee: a foreclosure is a “legal proceeding to terminate a mortgagor’s interest in property, instituted by the lender (the mortgagee) either to gain title or to force a sale in order to satisfy the unpaid debt secured by the property.” Black’s Law Dictionary 674. Similarly, the tie between a mortgage and an underlying debt is so intrinsic that Kansas law provides that “[t]he assignment of any mortgage . . . shall carry with it the debt thereby secured.” K.S.A. 58-2323. Indeed, an assignment of a mortgage without the debt transfers nothing. 55 Am. Jur. 2d, Mortgages § 1002. Thus, the mortgagee, who must have an interest in the debt, is the lender in a typical home mortgage.

But for reasons thought beneficial by a group of lenders who trade mortgages, the form of mortgage used in this case designates an entity that is not the lender as the mortgagee. See MERSCORP, Inc. v. Romaine, 8 N.Y.3d 90, 96, 828 N.Y.S.2d 266, 861 N.E.2d 81 (2006) (MERS was established by large lenders to allow easy electronic trading and tracking of mortgages). Specifically, the mortgage says that the mortgagee is MERS, though “solely as nominee for Lender.” Does this mean that MERS really was the mortgagee, even though it didn’t lend money or have any rights to loan repayments? Assuming so, MERS argues that it was a necessary party to the foreclosure and that the foreclosure must be set aside. But the premise upon which MERS bases this argument is flawed.

What is MERS’s interest? MERS claims that it holds the title to the second mortgage, not the real estate. So it does, but only as a nominee. In terms of the roles that we’ve discussed in the mortgage business, MERS holds the mortgage but without rights to the debt. The district court found that MERS was merely an agent for the principal player, Millennia. While MERS objects to its characterization as an agent, it’s a fair one.

MERS had no right to the underlying debt repayment secured by the mortgage; MERS did not even act as the servicing agent to receive the payments and remit them to the lender. MERS’s right to act to enforce the mortgage was strictly limited: if “necessary to comply with law or custom,” MERS could foreclose the mortgage or enter a release of the mortgage. MERS certainly could not act at odds to its principal, the lender. Its role fits the classic definition of an agent: one “‘authorized by another to act for him, or intrusted with another’s business.'” In re Tax Appeal of Scholastic Book Clubs, Inc., 260 Kan. 528, 534, 920 P.2d 947 (1996) (quoting Black’s Law Dictionary 85 [4th ed. 1968]).

Only one Kansas case has discussed the meaning of nominee in any detail. In Thompson v. Meyers, 211 Kan. 26, 30, 505 P.2d 680 (1973), the court noted that the meaning of the term may vary from a pure straw man or limited agent to one who has broader authority.

But whatever authority the nominee may have comes from the delegation of that authority by the principal. In its ordinary meaning, a nominee represents the principal in only a “nominal capacity” and does not receive any property or ownership rights of the person represented. See, e.g., Cisco v. Van Lew, 60 Cal. App. 2d 575, 583-84, 141 P.2d 433 (1943); see also Applebaum v. Avaya, Inc., 812 A.2d 880, 889 (Del. 2002) (referring to nominees “as agents of the beneficial owners”). The Millennia mortgage does not purport to give MERS any greater rights than normally given a nominee. The mortgage says that MERS acts “solely as nominee for Lender.” There is no express grant of any right to MERS to transfer or sell the mortgage or even to assign its duties as nominee. Nor does MERS obtain any right to the borrower’s payments or even a role in receiving payments.

MERS and Sovereign correctly note that a foreclosure judgment may be set aside for failure to join a contingently necessary party. E.g., Wisconsin Finance v. Garlock, 140 Wis. 2d 506, 512, 410 N.W.2d 649 (1987). For the purposes of our case, a party is contingently necessary under K.S.A. 60-219 if the party claims an interest in the property at issue and the party is so situated that resolution of the lawsuit without that party may “as a practical matter substantially impair or impede [its] ability to protect that interest.” The real issue is that of the lender, the true mortgagee, to protect its security interest against the property. Whether MERS may act as a nominee for the lender, either to bring a foreclosure suit or for some other purpose, is not at issue in Landmark’s foreclosure lawsuit. Moreover, an agent for a disclosed principal is not a necessary party to a lawsuit adjudicating the substantive rights of the principal. Hotel Constructors, Inc. v. Seagrave Corp., 99 F.R.D. 591, 592 (S.D.N.Y. 1983); Liles v. Winters Independent School District, 326 S.W.2d 182, 188 (Tex. App. 1959).

In support of the necessary-party argument, MERS and Sovereign cite Dugan v. First Nat’l Bank in Wichita, 227 Kan. 201, 606 P.2d 1009 (1980). In Dugan, a bank agreed to act as escrow agent for three parties who loaned money and obtained a mortgage as collateral. The bank was to receive all repayments made on the various loans and then remit them to the lenders in the appropriate percentages; the bank was also the named mortgagee, apparently due to the multiple lenders who were separate actors. The court held that the bank and the lenders were all necessary parties to the lawsuit, in which the borrower sought reformation or cancellation of the mortgages based on fraud and breach-of-fiduciary-duty claims. The bank was a necessary party even though it had no direct financial interest in the loans and would “be affected only tangentially in its position as designated mortgagee and escrow agent.” 227 Kan. at 212.

In response, Kesler cites Moore v. Petroleum Building, Inc. 164 Kan. 102, 187 P.2d 371 (1947). In Moore, a plaintiff had intervened in a past foreclosure action and later filed suit to enjoin a bank and escrow holder from delivering deeds to another party. The bank was used only to hold deeds that would be delivered upon termination of the leases and was not a party to the original foreclosure. The court held that the plaintiff should have raised issues regarding his rights under the escrow agreement in the previous foreclosure case, noting that “there probably was no necessity that [the bank] should have been made a party, for it stood by only as a custodian of the deeds and for no other purpose.” 164 Kan. at 108.

We find Moore closer to our facts than Dugan. Like the bank in Moore, MERS did not receive any funds on behalf of Millennia or Sovereign. The mortgage set out clearly that the borrower, Kesler, was to pay his monthly payments to the lender. The mortgage also suggests that the reputed mortgagee, MERS, was not interested in receiving notices of default. The Millennia mortgage, which was duly recorded in the public record, included a section titled “Request For Notice of Default and Foreclosure Under Superior Mortgages or Deeds of Trust.” As the district court noted, that section provided that both “Borrower and Lender request” the holder of any mortgage with priority “give Notice to Lender, at Lender’s address set forth on page one of this Mortgage, of any default . . . and of any sale or other foreclosure action.” Millennia’s address was noted on page one of the mortgage; the mortgage did not list MERS as an entity to contact upon default or foreclosure.

Two older Kansas cases should also be noted, though the parties didn’t cite them. In Swenney v. Hill, 65 Kan. 826, 70 P. 868 (1902), the court faced a situation somewhat different than today’s typical residential-mortgage. As part of the same transaction, a couple borrowed money and then gave mortgage bonds to two individuals and a mortgage to an investment company. Repayment of the loan was made to the bondholders, but the mortgagee/investment company had “extensive rights and active powers over the relationship” between the borrowers and the bondholders. 65 Kan. at 828. While the court did not concern itself with why this structure had been chosen, it determined that the mortgagee/investment company was a necessary party because it had a right under the written agreements to advance additional funds, thus increasing the amount of the lien, as well as the right to declare the loan matured and bring suit. In addition, the mortgage could not be released by the bondholders alone; the mortgagee/investment company was also required to approve it. We do not know from the court’s opinion whether the investment company organized the transaction initially or made any guarantee of repayment to the bondholders, but the court said that the investment company had “substantial rights and interests.” 65 Kan. at 829.

A second relevant case is Gibson v. Ledwitch, 84 Kan. 505, 114 P. 851 (1911). It involved the converse of our case–a party sued to quiet title against a mortgage, which would clear the title from the encumbrance of that mortgage. But the plaintiff joined only a trustee who had no beneficial interest in that mortgage; the beneficial owner was not made a party. The court held that the judgment did not bind the beneficial holder of the mortgage since the trustee had no right to the payments, was not the party to declare default, and had no authority to transfer or foreclose the mortgage.

We also believe that the decisions in Swenney and Gibson are supportive of the result here. MERS does not have the sort of “substantial rights and interests” that the investment company had in Swenney. MERS points to its ability to foreclose or to release the mortgage, authority provided in the mortgage “if necessary to comply with law or custom.” Kansas law does require through K.S.A. 58-2309a that a mortgage holder promptly release a mortgage when the debt has been paid; MERS could be required as a matter of law to file a mortgage release after a borrower proved that the debt had been paid. Other than that, however, it is hard to conceive of another act that MERS–instead of the lender–would be required to take by law or custom. And although Gibson involves the converse of our case, it suggests that a party with no beneficial interest is outside the realm of necessary parties.

In addition to the claim that MERS was a necessary party under K.S.A. 60-219, MERS and Sovereign also argue that the failure to include MERS violated its due process rights. But MERS had no direct property interests at stake; even its right to act on behalf of its principal was not at issue in Landmark’s suit. Without a property interest at stake, there can be no due process violation. State ex rel. Tomasic v. Unified Gov’t of Wyandotte County/Kansas City, 265 Kan. 779, 809, 962 P.2d 543 (1998).

We do not attempt in this opinion to comprehensively determine all of the rights or duties of MERS as a nominee mortgagee. As the mortgage suggests may be done when “necessary to comply with law or custom,” courts elsewhere have found that MERS may in some cases bring foreclosure suits in its own name. Mortgage Electronic Registration v. Azize, 965 So. 2d 151 (Fla. Dist. App. 2007). On the other hand, some have suggested potential problems created by MERS’s practices, MERSCORP, Inc. v. Romaine, 8 N.Y.3d 90, 100-04, 828 N.Y.S.2d 266, 861 N.E.2d 81 (2006) (Kaye, C.J., dissenting), or with the handling of paperwork documenting who owns what in the residential-mortgage industry in general. E.g., In re Nosek, 386 B.R. 374, 385 (Bankr. D. Mass. 2008); In re Foreclosure Cases, 2007 WL 3232430 (N.D. Ohio 2007) (unpublished opinion). In this case, we are only required to address whether the failure to name and serve MERS as a defendant in a foreclosure action in which the lender of record has been served is such a fatal defect that the foreclosure judgment must be set aside. We hold that it is not.

II. The District Court Did Not Abuse Its Discretion by Denying Motions of MERS and Sovereign to Intervene After the Judgment Had Been Entered.

Neither MERS nor Sovereign argue that Landmark was required to join Sovereign. But both MERS and Sovereign argue that the district court wrongly denied their motions to intervene.

On this argument they face a major hurdle: the Kansas Supreme Court has held that there is no jurisdiction even to consider a motion to intervene made after the entry of judgment and the expiration of the 10-day period for filing new-trial motions. Smith v. Russell, 274 Kan. 1076, Syl. ¶ 4, 58 P.3d 698 (2002). Even so, timeliness is to be determined from the specific circumstances of each case. See Mohr v. State Bank of Stanley, 244 Kan. 555, 562, 770 P.2d 466 (1989). Although some caselaw allows intervention after judgment “where it is necessary to preserve some right which cannot otherwise be protected,” these authorities generally have allowed intervention so that there would be appropriate representation in an appeal when a party that originally participated in the case is no longer adequately representing the intervenor’s interest. E.g., Hukle v. City of Kansas City, 212 Kan. 627, 631-32, 512 P.2d 457 (1973). Of course, that’s not our situation.

The intervention argument faces another hurdle too: the decision whether to permit intervention may be reversed only when no reasonable person could agree with the district court’s decision. See Mohr, 244 Kan. at 561-62; Farmers Group, Inc. v. Lee, 29 Kan. App. 2d 382, 385, 28 P.3d 413 (2001). Sovereign’s motion to intervene was filed 76 days after foreclosure, 53 days after the court ordered the property sold, and 26 days after the property was sold. MERS’s motion to intervene was filed 134 days after foreclosure, 111 days after the court ordered the property sold, and 84 days after the property was sold. Especially in light of Smith‘s holding that a court lacked jurisdiction when the motion to intervene came after the 10-day period for filing new-trial motions, we believe it would be extremely difficult–even if the district court had jurisdiction to grant intervention–to reverse for an abuse of discretion on motions filed as far after judgment as those of Sovereign and MERS.

MERS and Sovereign argue that their intervention motions were timely because the time for filing an appeal had not yet run. They base this argument on a claim that the time to file an appeal doesn’t begin until the sheriff’s sale of the property is confirmed. But a judgment of foreclosure is a final judgment for appeal purposes when it determines the rights of the parties, the amounts to be paid, and the priority of claims. Stauth v. Brown, 241 Kan. 1, 6, 734 P.2d 1063 (1987). The foreclosure judgment in this case did so. We find no abuse of discretion in denying intervention.

III. Separate Claims by Kesler and Other Parties Are Not Properly Raised on Appeal.

Dennis Bristow and Tony Woydziak, who together bought the property at a sheriff’s sale, have sought to proceed with Kesler on a cross-appeal to challenge the district court’s orders enjoining them from finalizing sale of the property while the appeal was heard. They also seek a ruling that Sovereign is bound by the district court’s judgment.

Kesler, Bristow, and Woydziak raise issues that are not based on the same judgments on which MERS and Sovereign have filed their appeal. The joint notice of appeal from MERS and Sovereign noted an appeal from “(1) Journal Entry of Judgment filed September 6, 2006; (2) Order filed January 18, 2007; (3) Supplemental Order filed January 18, 2007; and (4) Order Denying Motions for Reconsideration filed March 22, 2007.” But Kesler, Bristow, and Woydziak attempted to include a separate district court decision, entered May 2, 2007, which had denied their motions to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction the motions to intervene by MERS and Sovereign and also granted a stay pending appeal to MERS and Sovereign. A cross-appeal must involve the same judgment as the underlying appeal, but Kesler, Bristow, and Woydziak argue a separate issue from a different district court order.

Even if the same judgment were involved, notice of a cross-appeal must be filed within 20 days of the notice of appeal. MERS and Sovereign filed their joint notice of appeal on March 28, 2007; Kesler, Bristow, and Woydziak did not seek to file a cross-appeal within 20 days of that date.

This court is without jurisdiction to address the separate issues raised on appeal by Kesler, Bristow, and Woydziak.

Conclusion

The district court properly determined that MERS was not a contingently necessary party in Landmark’s foreclosure action. The district court also was well within its discretion in denying motions from MERS and Sovereign to intervene after a foreclosure judgment had been entered and the foreclosed property had been sold. The judgment of the district court is affirmed.

END

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DEUTSCHE BANK NATIONAL TRUST COMPANY v. ROLANDO CAMPBELL, et al.

Posted on July 8, 2009. Filed under: Banking, bankruptcy, Case Law, Foreclosure Defense, Legislation, Loan Modification, Mortgage Audit, Mortgage Law | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Deutsche Bank has some explaining to do.  Why would they buy a nonperforming loan from MERS 142 days after a payment default?

The instant foreclosure application states that defendant CAMPBELL defaulted on his mortgage payments by failing to make his April 1, 2007 and subsequent monthly loan payments. Yet, on August 20, 2007, 142 days subsequent to defendant CAMPBELL’s alleged May 1, 2007 payment default, plaintiff DEUTSCHE BANK was willing to take an assignment of the instant nonperforming loan from MERS, as nominee for FIRST FRANKLIN. Thus, the Court requires, upon renewal of this motion for summary judgment and an order of reference, a satisfactory explanation from an officer of the FIRST FRANKLIN MORTGAGE LOAN TRUST 2006-FF11 as to why DEUTSCHE BANK purchased a nonperforming mortgage loan from MERS, as nominee for FIRST FRANKLIN.

DEUTSCHE BANK NATIONAL TRUST COMPANY, as trustee for First Franklin Mortgage Loan Trust 2006-FF 11, 3476 Stateview Boulevard Fort Mill, SC 29715, Plaintiff,
v.
ROLANDO CAMPBELL, et al., Defendants.
31764/07
Supreme Court of the State of New York, Kings County.
Decided December 16, 2008.
Tracy M Fourtner, Esq., Steven Baum PC, Buffalo NY, Plaintiff.
ARTHUR M. SCHACK, J.
Plaintiff’s motion for summary judgment and an order of reference for the premises located at 780 New Jersey Avenue, Brooklyn, New York (Block 4299, Lot 43, County of Kings) is denied without prejudice, with leave to renew upon providing the Court with: a copy of a valid assignment of the instant mortgage to plaintiff DEUTSCHE BANK NATIONAL TRUST COMPANY, AS TRUSTEE FOR FIRST FRANKLIN MORTGAGE LOAN TRUST 2006-FF11 (DEUTSCHE BANK); a satisfactory explanation of the conflict of interest by plaintiff’s counsel, Steven J. Baum, P.C., with respect to the August 20, 2007 assignment of the instant mortgage and note from MORTGAGE ELECTRONIC REGISTRATION SYSTEMS, INC. (MERS), as nominee for FIRST FRANKLIN, A DIVISION OF NATIONAL CITY BANK OF IN (FIRST FRANKLIN), by Darleen Karaszewski, Esq., the assignor, an attorney employed by Steven J. Baum, P.C., plaintiff’s counsel, and the simultaneous representation by Steven J. Baum, P.C., of assignee plaintiff DEUTSCHE BANK; and, an affidavit by an officer of the FIRST FRANKLIN MORTGAGE LOAN TRUST 2006-FF11, explaining why plaintiff DEUTSCHE BANK purchased the instant nonperforming loan.

Background
Defendant ROLANDO CAMPBELL borrowed $420,000.00 from FIRST FRANKLIN on May 1, 2006. The note and mortgage were recorded in the Office of the City Register, New York City Department of Finance on June 2, 2006, at City Register File Number (CRFN) 2006000308921. MERS, the nominee of FIRST FRANKLIN for the purpose of recording the mortgage, purportedly assigned the mortgage and note to plaintiff DEUTSCHE BANK on August 20, 2007, effective August 10, 2007, with the assignment recorded on September 11, 2007, at CRFN 2007000467191. The assignment was executed by “Darleen Karaszewski, Esq. On [sic] behalf of MERS, by Corporate Resolution dated 7/19/07.” Neither a corporate resolution nor a power of attorney to Ms. Karaszewski were recorded with the assignment. Thus, the assignment is invalid and plaintiff DEUTSCHE BANK lacks standing to bring the instant foreclosure action.

Further, the assignor, Ms. Karaszewski, according to the Office of Court Administration’s Attorney Registration, has as her business address, “Steven Baum, P.C., 220 Northpointe Parkway, Suite G, Amherst, NY 14228-1894.” Two days after Ms. Karaszweski executed the invalid MERS assignment, August 22, 2007, plaintiff’s counsel, Steven J. Baum, P.C., commenced the instant action on behalf of purported assignee DEUTSCHE BANK, with the filing of a notice of pendency, and the summons and complaint in the Kings County Clerk’s Office. The Court is concerned that the simultaneous representation by Steven J. Baum, P.C. of both MERS and DEUTSCHE BANK is a conflict of interest in violation of 22 NYCRR § 1200.24, the Disciplinary Rule of the Code of Professional Responsibility, entitled “Conflict of Interest; Simultaneous Representation.”

The instant foreclosure application states that defendant CAMPBELL defaulted on his mortgage payments by failing to make his April 1, 2007 and subsequent monthly loan payments. Yet, on August 20, 2007, 142 days subsequent to defendant CAMPBELL’s alleged May 1, 2007 payment default, plaintiff DEUTSCHE BANK was willing to take an assignment of the instant nonperforming loan from MERS, as nominee for FIRST FRANKLIN. Thus, the Court requires, upon renewal of this motion for summary judgment and an order of reference, a satisfactory explanation from an officer of the FIRST FRANKLIN MORTGAGE LOAN TRUST 2006-FF11 as to why DEUTSCHE BANK purchased a nonperforming mortgage loan from MERS, as nominee for FIRST FRANKLIN.

Discussion
The proponent of a summary judgment motion must make a prima facie showing of entitlement to judgment as a matter of law, tendering sufficient evidence to eliminate any material issues of fact from the case. (Alvarez v Prospect Hospital, 68 NY2d 320, 324 [1986]; Zuckerman v City of New York, 49 NY2d 557, 562 [1980]; Sillman v Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp., 3 NY2d 395, 404 [1957]). Failure to make such a showing requires denial of the motion, regardless of the sufficiency of the opposing papers. (Matter of Redemption Church of Christ v Williams, 84 AD2d 648, 649 [3d Dept 1981]; Greenberg v Manlon Realty, 43 AD2d 968, 969 [2d Dept 1974];Winegrad v New York University Medical Center, 64 NY2d 851 [1985]).

CPLR 3212 (b) requires that for a court to grant summary judgment the court must determine if the movant’s papers justify holding as a matter of law “that there is no defense to the cause of action or that the cause of action or defense has no merit.” The evidence submitted in support of the movant must be viewed in the light most favorable to the non-movant. (Marine Midland Bank, N.A. v Dino & Artie’s Automatic Transmission Co., 168 AD2d 610 [2d Dept 1990]). Once the movant has established his or her prima facie case, the party opposing a motion for summary judgment bears the burden of “produc[ing] evidentiary proof in admissible form sufficient to require a trial of material questions of fact . . . mere conclusions, expressions of hope or unsubstantiated allegations or assertions are insufficient” (Zuckerman v City of New York, supra at 562; see also Romano v St. Vincent’s Medical Center of Richmond, 178 AD2d 467, 470 [2d Dept 1991]; Tessier v New York City Health & Hospitals Corp., 177 AD2d 626 [2d Dept 1991]).

Summary judgment shall be granted only when there are no issues of material fact and the evidence requires the court to direct judgment in favor of the movant as a matter of law. (Friends of Animals, Inc., v Associated Fur Mfrs., 46 NY2d 1065 [1979]).

Plaintiff, in the instant action, moved for summary judgment and an order of reference on July 9, 2008. Defendant CAMPBELL appeared pro se, with opposition papers, in the Foreclosure Motion Part on August 7, 2008. The motion was adjourned to October 3, 2008 for oral argument before me. On October 3, 2008 the matter was adjourned to December 12, 2008.

Plaintiff appeared on December 12, 2008 for oral argument, but defendant CAMPBELL defaulted. However, the Court is required to review, as noted above, the motion papers to determine if plaintiff made a prima facie showing of entitlement to judgment as a matter of law, tendering sufficient evidence to eliminate any material issues of fact from the case. (Alvarez v Prospect Hospital, supra; Zuckerman v City of New York, supra; Sillman v Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp., supra). The Court’s review of plaintiff’s moving papers demonstrates that plaintiff DEUTSCHE BANK fails to make such a showing. Therefore, the Court denies the instant motion.

Plaintiff DEUTSCHE BANK must have “standing” to bring this action. The Court of Appeals (Saratoga County Chamber of Commerce, Inc. v Pataki, 100 NY2d, 901, 812 [2003]), cert denied 540 US 1017 [2003]) held that “[s]tanding to sue is critical to the proper functioning of the judicial system. It is a threshold issue. If standing is denied, the pathway to the courthouse is blocked. The plaintiff who has standing, however, may cross the threshold and seek judicial redress.” In Carper v Nussbaum, 36 AD3d 176, 181 (2d Dept 2006), the Court held that “[s]tanding to sue requires an interest in the claim at issue in the lawsuit that the law will recognize as a sufficient predicate for determining the issue at the litigant’s request.

” If a plaintiff lacks standing to sue, the plaintiff may not proceed in the action. (Stark v Goldberg, 297 AD2d 203 [1d Dept 2002]). “Since standing is jurisdictional and goes to a court’s authority to resolve litigation [the court] can raise this matter sua sponte.” (Axelrod v New York State Teachers’ Retirement System, 154 AD2D 827, 828 [3d Dept 1989]).

In the instant action, the August 20, 2007 assignment from MERS to DEUTSCHE BANK is defective. Therefore, DEUTSCHE BANK has no standing to bring this action. The recorded assignment by “Darleen Karaszewski, Esq. On [sic] behalf of MERS, by Corporate Resolution dated 7/19/07,” has neither the corporate resolution nor a power of attorney attached and recorded.

Real Property Law (RPL) § 254 (9) states: Power of attorney to assignee. The word “assign” or other words of assignment, when contained in an assignment of a mortgage and bond or mortgage and note, must be construed as having included in their meaning that the assignor does thereby make, constitute and appoint the assignee the true and lawful attorney, irrevocable, of the assignor, in the name of the assignor, or otherwise, but at the proper costs and charges of the assignee, to have, use and take all lawful ways and means for the recovery of the money and interest secured by the said mortgage and bond or mortgage and note, and in case of payment to discharge the same as fully as the assignor might or could do if the assignment were not made. [Emphasis added]

To have a proper assignment of a mortgage by an authorized agent, a power of attorney is necessary to demonstrate how the agent is vested with the authority to assign the mortgage. “No special form or language is necessary to effect an assignment as long as the language shows the intention of the owner of a right to transfer it [Emphasis added].” (Tawil v Finkelstein Bruckman Wohl Most & Rothman, 223 AD2d 52, 55 [1d Dept 1996]; see Suraleb, Inc. v International Trade Club, Inc., 13 AD3d 612 [2d Dept 2004]).

To foreclose on a mortgage, a party must have title to the mortgage. The instant assignment is a nullity. The Appellate Division, Second Department (Kluge v Fugazy, 145 AD2d 537, 538 [2d Dept 1988]), held that a “foreclosure of a mortgage may not be brought by one who has no title to it and absent transfer of the debt, the assignment of the mortgage is a nullity.” The Appellate Division, First Department, citing Kluge v Fugazy, (Katz v East-Ville Realty Co., 249 AD2d 243 [1st Dept 1998]), instructed that “[p]laintiff’s attempt to foreclose upon a mortgage in which he had no legal or equitable interest was without foundation in law or fact.”

It is clear that plaintiff DEUTSCHE BANK, with the invalid assignment of the instant mortgage and note from MERS, lacks standing to foreclose on the instant mortgage. The Court, in Campaign v Barba (23 AD3d 327 [2d Dept 2005]), held that “[t]o establish a prima facie case in an action to foreclose a mortgage, the plaintiff must establish the existence of the mortgage and the mortgage note, ownership of the mortgage, and the defendant’s default in payment [Emphasis added].” (See Household Finance Realty Corp. of New York v Wynn, 19 AD3d 545 [2d Dept 2005]; Sears Mortgage Corp. v Yahhobi, 19 AD3d 402 [2d Dept 2005]; Ocwen Federal Bank FSB v Miller, 18 AD3d 527 [2d Dept 2005]; U.S. Bank Trust Nat. Ass’n v Butti, 16 AD3d 408 [2d Dept 2005]; First Union Mortgage Corp. v Fern, 298 AD2d 490 [2d Dept 2002]; Village Bank v Wild Oaks Holding, Inc., 196 AD2d 812 [2d Dept 1993]).

Even if plaintiff can cure the assignment defect, plaintiff’s counsel then has to address the conflict of interest in the representation of both the assignor of the instant mortgage, MERS, and the assignee of the instant mortgage, DEUTSCHE BANK. 22 NYCRR § 1200.24, of the Disciplinary Rules of the Code of Professional Responsibility, entitled “Conflict of Interest; Simultaneous Representation,” states in relevant part:
(a) A lawyer shall decline proffered employment if the exercise of independent professional judgment in behalf of a client will be or is likely to be adversely affected by the acceptance of the proffered employment, or if it would be likely to involve the lawyer in representing differing interests, except to the extent permitted under subdivision (c) of this section. (b) A lawyer shall not continue multiple employment if the exercise of independent professional judgment in behalf of a client will be or is likely to be adversely affected by the lawyer’s representation of another client, or if it would be likely to involve the lawyer in representing differing interests, except to the extent permitted under subdivision (c) of this section.(c) in the situations covered by subdivisions (a) and (b) of this section, a lawyer may represent multiple clients if a disinterested lawyer would believe that the lawyer can competently represent the interest of each and if each consents to the representation after full disclosure of the implications of the simultaneous representation and the advantages and risks involved. [Emphasis added]
The Court needs to know if both MERS and DEUTSCHE BANK were aware of the simultaneous representation by plaintiff’s counsel, Steven J. Baum, P.C., and whether both consented. If plaintiff moves to renew its motion for summary judgment and an order of reference, the Court needs an affirmation by Steven J. Baum, Esq., the principal of Steven J. Baum, P.C., explaining if both MERS and DEUTSCHE BANK consented to simultaneous representation in the instant action with “full disclosure of the implications of the simultaneous representation and the advantages and risks involved.

” The Appellate Division, Fourth Department, the Department in which both Ms. Karaszewski and Mr. Baum are registered, (In re Rogoff, 31 AD3d 111 [2006]) censured an attorney, for inter alia, violating 22 NYCRR § 1200.24, by representing both a buyer and sellers in the sale of a motel.

The Court, at 112, found that the attorney, “failed to make appropriate disclosures to either the sellers or the buyer concerning dual representation.” Further, the Court, at 113, censured the attorney, after it considered the matters submitted by respondent in mitigation, including: that respondent undertook the dual representation at the insistence of the buyer, had no financial interest in the transaction and charged the sellers and the buyer one half of his usual fee. Additionally, we note that respondent cooperated with the Grievance Committee and has expressed remorse for his misconduct.

Next, if a power of attorney is used for an agent to act as MERS’ assignor of the instant mortgage and loan to DEUTSCHE BANK, the power of attorney presented to the Court must be an original or a copy certified by an attorney, pursuant to CPLR § 2105. CPLR § 2105 states that “an attorney admitted to practice in the court of the state may certify that it has been compared by him with the original and found to be a true and complete copy.” (See Security Pacific Nat. Trust Co. v Cuevas, 176 Misc 2d 846 [Civ Ct, Kings County 1998]).

Last, the Court requires a satisfactory explanation from an officer of the FIRST FRANKLIN MORTGAGE LOAN TRUST 2006-FF 11 as to why in the middle of our national subprime mortgage financial crisis, plaintiff DEUTSCHE BANK purchased from MERS, as nominee of FIRST FRANKLIN, the instant nonperforming loan. The Court wonders if DEUTSCHE BANK violated a corporate fiduciary duty to the noteholders of the FIRST FRANKLIN MORTGAGE LOAN TRUST 2006-FF11with the purchase of a loan that defaulted 142 days prior to its assignment from MERS to FIRST FRANKLIN MORTGAGE LOAN TRUST 2006-FF11, rather than keep the mortgage loan on FIRST FRANKLIN’s books.

The Court is not sure that the noteholders of the FIRST FRANKLIN MORTGAGE LOAN TRUST 2006-FF11 are aware that DEUTSCHE BANK purchased the instant “toxic” nonperforming mortgage loan for the Trust. It could well be that MERS, as nominee for FIRST FRANKLIN, with the acquiescence of DEUTSCHE BANK, transferred the instant nonperforming loan, as well as others, to the FIRST FRANKLIN MORTGAGE LOAN TRUST 2006-FF11, as part of what former Federal Reserve Board Chairman Alan Greenspan referred to in his October 23, 2008 testimony, before the House Oversight Committee, as “a once in a century credit tsunami.”

Conclusion
Accordingly, it is
ORDERED that the motion of plaintiff DEUTSCHE BANK NATIONAL TRUST COMPANY, AS TRUSTEE FOR FIRST FRANKLIN MORTGAGE LOAN TRUST 2006-FF11, for summary judgment and an order of reference for the premises located at 780 New Jersey Avenue, Brooklyn, New York (Block 4299, Lot 43, County of Kings) is denied without prejudice, and it is further

ORDERED that leave is granted to plaintiff DEUTSCHE BANK NATIONAL TRUST COMPANY, AS TRUSTEE FOR FIRST FRANKLIN MORTGAGE LOAN TRUST 2006-FF11, to renew its motion for summary judgment and an order of reference for the premises located at 780 New Jersey Avenue, Brooklyn, New York (Block 4299, Lot 43, County of Kings), upon presentation to the Court, within sixty (60) days of this decision and order of: (1) a valid assignment of the instant mortgage and note to plaintiff,
DEUTSCHE BANK NATIONAL TRUST COMPANY, AS TRUSTEE FOR FIRST FRANKLIN MORTGAGE LOAN TRUST 2006-FF11; (2) an affirmation from Steven J. Baum, Esq., the principal of Steven J. Baum, P.C., explaining if both MORTGAGE ELECTRONIC REGISTRATION SYSTEMS, INC., the assignor of the instant mortgage and note, and DEUTSCHE BANK NATIONAL TRUST COMPANY, AS TRUSTEE FOR FIRST FRANKLIN MORTGAGE LOAN TRUST 2006-FF11, the assignee of the instant mortgage and note, pursuant to 22 NYCRR § 1200.24, consented to simultaneous representation in the instant action, with “full disclosure of the implications of the simultaneous representation and the advantages and risks involved” explained to them; and, (3) an affidavit from an officer of the FIRST FRANKLIN MORTGAGE LOAN TRUST 2006-FF11, explaining why plaintiff DEUTSCHE BANK NATIONAL TRUST COMPANY, AS TRUSTEE FOR FIRST FRANKLIN MORTGAGE LOAN TRUST 2006-FF11 purchased a nonperforming loan from MORTGAGE ELECTRONIC REGISTRATION SYSTEMS, INC., as nominee for FIRST FRANKLIN, A DIVISION OF NATIONAL CITY BANK OF IN.
This constitutes the Decision and Order of the Court.

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Why banks want you all alone when negotiating a loan modification

Posted on July 5, 2009. Filed under: Banking, bankruptcy, Case Law, Foreclosure Defense, Housing, Legislation, Loan Modification, Mortgage Audit, Mortgage Law, Politics, Predatory Lending, Refinance | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

They are telling you to run away from loan modification companies who charge a fee. They are paying the politicians to introduce laws making it difficult for you to hire an attorney when negotiating a loan workout. They want you to contact them directly and without the assistance of an advocate. They are scaring you to think that anyone who charges a fee for helping you negotiate a loan modification must be a crook. They claim all mortgage professionals, lawyers and forensic loan examiners who charge a fee are scam artists. They say it should all be free because theoretically you can do all of it yourself.

Just like you can file your own taxes and represent yourself in court, you can also spend the time and effort to learn the ins and outs and nuances of negotiating a favorable loan modification with the same predatory bank that put you in the mess you are in. You can stay up all night and study law so you can go up against their high priced lawyers. You can take time off work and stay on the phone four hours a day trying to get through to their loss mitigation departments. You can re-send the same documents over and over again because mysteriously they keep losing your entire file more than once. That is right you can certainly do this all yourself.

And the reason why you should go to the negotiating table all alone and without any backup is because they want to protect you from the big bad lawyers, mortgage auditors and loan modification companies who have the nerve to charge a fee for helping you! Imagine that. People actually want to make a living while providing a valuable service. What a crime.

Is anyone with an IQ above 10 buying this nonsense? If you had a choice would you go to an IRS audit without a skilled CPA? Would you defend yourself in a criminal trial without the best lawyer money could buy? So why should negotiating with a bank be any different than negotiating with the IRS? Because bankers are more ethical than IRS agents? That must be it.

More….

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