Virginia Court Shoots Down “Splitting the Note” and “Double Recovery” Theories

Posted on April 15, 2010. Filed under: Banking, Case Law, Foreclosure Defense, Mortgage Law | Tags: , , , , , , |

In Forez v. Goldman Sachs Mortgage, Lexis 35099 (E.D Va. 2010) plaintiffs asserted that Defendants lacked “authority” to foreclose under Virginia’s non-judicial  foreclosure statutes. Second, Plaintiffs argued that loan  securitization bars foreclosure because securitization “splits” the Note from the  Deed of Trust or because “credit enhancements” related to securitized notes absolve borrowers of any liability under a  mortgage loan as a “doub1e recovery.”

The only problem was that there was no evidence the subject loan had been securitized. The loan had been originated by CTX Mortgage who had sold it to Goldman Sachs who subsequently sold it to Freddie Mac. The list of usual suspects included MERS as nominee for the lender and Litton as the servicer. Regardless, the court held that under Virginia law negotiation of a note or bond secured by a deed of trust or mortgage carries with it the security instrument without formal assignment or delivery. The court cited to Stimpson v. Bishop, 82 Va. 190, 200-01 (1886) (“It is undoubtedly true that a transfer of a secured debt carries with it the security without formal assignment or delivery.”). And in Williams v. Gifford, the Supreme Court of Virginia ruled:

[I]n Virginia, as to common law securities, the law is that both deeds of trust and mortgages are regarded in equity as mere securities for the debt and whenever the debt is assigned the deed of trust or mortgage is assigned or transferred with it.

139 Va. 779, 784, 124 S.E. 403 (1924).

“Thus, even if, as Plaintiffs assert without any factual support, there has been a so-called “split” between the Note and the Deed, the purchaser of the First Note, in this case GSMC and then Freddie Mac, received the debt in equity as a secured  party.”

The court further noted “federal law explicitly allows for the creation of mortgage-related securities, such as the Securities Act of 1933 and the Secondary Mortgage Market Enhancement Act of 1984. Indeed, pursuant to 15 U.S.C. § 77r-1, “[a]ny person, trust, corporation, partnership, association, business trust, or business entity . . . shall be authorized to purchase, hold, and invest in securities that are . . . mortgage related securities.” Id. § 77r-1(a)(1)(B). Foreclosures are routinely and justifiably conducted by trustees of securitized mortgages. Therefore, the court held “Plaintiffs arguments for declaratory judgment and quiet title based on the so-called “splitting” theory fail as a matter of law.”

According to Plaintiffs “any alleged obligation was satisfied, once the default was declared, because the various credit enhancement policies paid out making any injured party whole.” Plaintiffs averred that foreclosure on the Property to collect on payment owed under the First Note will result in a double recovery prohibited by Virginia statute and case law. However, the court went on to say that Plaintiffs’ double recovery argument against Defendants is based on false assumptions because neither MERS, Litton, nor Goldman own the Notes or securitized the Notes. Therefore, the court concluded, none of the named Defendants could receive a “double recovery,” assuming such claim existed.

Judge Claude Hilton reminded the Plaintiffs “no provision in the U.S. or Virginia Codes supports [their] argument that credit enhancements or credit default swaps (“CDS”) are unlawful. No decision from any court in any jurisdiction supports such a claim.”

Hilton further stated that “Plaintiffs’ double recovery theory ignores the fact that a CDS contract is a separate contract, distinct from Plaintiffs’ debt obligations under the reference credit (i.e. the Note). The CDS contract is a “bilateral financial contract” in which the protection buyer makes periodic payments to the protection seller. See Eternity Global Master Fund Ltd. v. Morgan Guar. Trust Co., 375 F.3d 168, 172 (2d Cir. 2004).”

If the credit event occurs, noted Hilton, the CDS buyer recovers according to the terms of the CDS contract, not the reference credit. “Any CDS “payout” is bargained for and paid for by the CDS buyer under a separate contract. See In re Worldcom, Inc. Sec. Litig., 346 F. Supp. 2d 628, 651 n.29 (S.D.N.Y. 2004) (explaining that a premium is paid on a swap contract to the seller for credit default protection, and if the default event does not occur, payer has only lost the premium).”

The court held that “CDS do not, as Plaintiffs suggest, indemnify the buyer of protection against loss, but merely allow parties to balance risk through separate third party contracts. Therefore, Plaintiffs’ “double recovery” argument fails as a matter of law.”

Dean Mostofi

National Loan Audits

301-867-3887

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Would you like a bag of chips with your frozen loan audit?

Posted on March 23, 2010. Filed under: Banking, Case Law, Foreclosure Defense, Mortgage Audit, Mortgage Fraud, Mortgage Law, Truth in Lending Act | Tags: , , , , , , , |

Every day I get calls from attorneys or people facing foreclosure asking about my services as a forensic loan auditor and expert witness. Generally the callers are reasonably well informed about my work and know what they can and cannot expect from an audit. But yesterday a nice lady from Ohio called and asked for information on a frozen loan audit! And increasingly I am getting calls from people who begin by asking what I charge, immediately followed by how many pages long my audits are! Maybe I am getting a little sensitive as I am nearing my 49th birthday but I become irritated when I am made to feel like a server at a fast food joint. Not that there is anything wrong with being a server, but what would be an appropriate response to such a dumb question?  Today’s special is all you can read for $299 and a bag of chips at no extra cost. Will that be for here or to go?

What is this fascination with size and quantity that drives the average consumer? He wants a McMansion, a Big Mac, an Extra Large Latte, a Jumbo Dog, a Super Sized Pizza, and a Voluminous Frozen Audit. Or is it forensic? Who cares, as long as you get a lot of pages and one of them money back guarantees. Oh yes, we love a money back guarantee.  But seriously, why would someone facing foreclosure or having difficulty making mortgage payments care about the size of an audit? Are they calling five auditors and going with the cheapest who offers the most words for the money? Is that how you hire a professional these days?

Of course, I can’t place the entire blame on consumers who are simply trying to find the most affordable solution for perhaps the biggest problem they have had to face – losing their home. Understandably they are trying to find a method to measure the value of such an esoteric service as a forensic loan audit, which no one had even heard about until a few months ago. You can’t blame them for wanting to shop and compare products before buying and parting with their hard earned money. It is the service providers who are misleading the public and selling them a thick pile of worthless junk packaged as a forensic loan audit with a guarantee that if no violations are discovered a refund will be issued with no questions asked. I wonder how many refunds on these fake audits have been issued.

There are even law firms now peddling these audits for up to $2500 a pop but delivering nothing more than a standardized list of technical violations with some added legalese and fictitious causes of action thrown in for good measure (such as Rescission and Breach of the Covenant of Good Faith and Fair Dealing, none of which are valid or independent causes of action but they sound good). After all, how can you justify charging $2500 for a template audit, if you don’t embellish it with a few Latin words no one can pronounce or omit citations to inapposite case law inserted to fill space for lack of meaningful research.

This industry has been flooded with unprofessional ex loan officers and underemployed ambulance chasing lawyers who have setup shop as auditors with cheap copycat websites and a subscription to compliance software, representing themselves as experts offering hope to distressed homeowners, who in their desperation for keeping their homes and stopping foreclosure are easy prey.

What these unsavory characters are selling is essentially overpriced data entry and a template report purporting to be a legal analysis of the homeowner’s rights and remedies for alleged violations of the Truth in Lending Act (TILA), Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (RESPA), Fair Credit Reporting Act, Predatory Lending, Breach of Fiduciary Duty, Negligence, Fraud and Unfair or Deceptive Acts or Practices to name a few. After completion of the audit the borrower is usually encouraged to demand a response from the lender via a Qualified Written Request (QWR), which the auditor/lawyer sometimes offers to draft and submit as an added bonus with the assurance that as soon as the lender is served with their masterfully prepared QWR and sees the auditor’s impressive findings, its lawyers begin trembling with fear of being sued and offer to settle for pennies on the dollar. All that for $399 and a money back guarantee! How can anyone turn down such an offer? Yes please, I will have one audit and a bag of chips to munch on while laying back on my couch watching the bank get on its knees and beg for my forgiveness. I want to watch them grovel before they rescind my predatory loan and hand over the deed to my house free and clear. After all this is America.

TILA/RESPA

Of course the reality is markedly different than what is purported by these overenthusiastic yet incompetent advocates. I have seen hundreds of audits and they all have one thing in common – they are worthless. First, many of the so called violations these audits uncover, such as failure to issue a good faith estimate within three days of application, or failure to issue a HUD-1 one day prior to settlement, provide for no private right of action, so their only value may lie in establishing a pattern and practice of misrepresentation, deception or on rare occasions fraud. But even if sufficient facts exist for allegations of broker or loan officer misconduct, liability for such conduct ordinarily remains with the original tortfeasor and not the assignee of the loan, who in all likelihood is a holder in due course, unless you can show, for example, that the holder had notice of your claims prior to purchasing the Note or that the Note was not properly negotiated or for various reasons it does not qualify as a negotiable instrument.

As mentioned ordinarily the holder in due course is not liable for disputes or claims you may have against the originator or mortgage broker who sold you the loan unless certain conditions pursuant to HOEPA have been met, or the TILA violation is apparent on the face of the loan documents, or you are using the claim as a defense in a collection action, or if you can state with particularity facts that would make the note and mortgage void under other legal theories. Some courts, however, have held that you cannot use certain claims in nature of recoupment in non judicial foreclosure proceedings in states such as California, while, on the other hand,  a West Virginia court has said: “Securitization model – a system wherein parties that provide the money for loans and drive the entire origination process from afar and behind the scenes – does nothing to abolish the basic right of a borrower to assert a defense to the enforcement of a fraudulent loan, regardless of whether it was induced by another party involved in the origination of the loan transaction, be it a broker, appraiser, closing agent, or another”. Generally a fraudulent loan is not enforceable regardless of the holder in due course status of the party with the right to enforce. The trick is in providing sufficient facts to prove fraud, which, under normal circumstances is not an easy task to accomplish.

Fiduciary Duty

A popular finding proffered by some practitioners is an alleged violation of fiduciary duty by the lender. In general, however, a lender does not owe a fiduciary duty to a borrower. “A commercial lender is entitled to pursue its own economic interests in a loan transaction. This right is inconsistent with the obligations of a fiduciary which require that the fiduciary knowingly agree to subordinate its interests to act on behalf of and for the benefit of another.” Nymark v. Heart Fed. Savings & Loan Assn., 231 Cal. App. 3d 1089, 1093 n.1, 283 Cal. Rptr. 53 (1991). “[A]bsent special circumstances . . . a loan transaction is at arm’s length and there is no fiduciary relationship between the borrower and lender.” Oaks Management Corporation v. Superior Court, 145 Cal. App. 4th 453, 466, 51 Cal. Rptr. 3d 561 (2006).

Determining the existence of a fiduciary relationship involves a highly individualized inquiry into whether the facts of a given transaction establish that there has been a special confidence reposed in one who, in equity and good conscience, is bound to act in good faith and with due regard to the interests of the one reposing the confidence. Mulligan v. Choice Mortg. Corp. USA, 1998 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 13248 (D.N.H. Aug. 11, 1998).

As such, an audit must inquire in to the circumstances surrounding the borrower’s initial introduction to and meeting with the lender’s agent and the content of all verbal and written communications between them. It is important for the auditor to determine the level and extent of trust and confidence reposed by borrower in the lender’s agent. A lender may owe to a borrower a duty of care sounding in negligence when the lender’s activities exceed those of a conventional lender. For example if it can be shown the appraisal was intended to induce borrower to enter into the loan transaction or to assure him that his collateral was sound the lender may have a duty to exercise due care in preparing the appraisal. See Wagner v. Benson, 101 Cal. App. 3d 27, 35, 161 Cal. Rptr. 516 (1980) (“Liability to a borrower for negligence arises only when the lender actively participates in the financed enterprise beyond the domain of the usual money lender.”).

Vicarious Liability

A lender may be secondarily liable through the actions of a mortgage broker, who may have a fiduciary duty to its borrower-client, but only if there is an agency relationship between the lender and the broker. See Plata v. Long Beach Mortg. Co., 2005 U.S. Dist. Lexis 38807, at *23 (N.D. Cal. Dec. 13, 2005); Keen v. American Home Mortgage Servicing, Inc., 2009 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 100803, 2009 WL 3380454, at *21 (E.D. Cal. Oct. 21, 2009).

Therefore, the audit must propound sufficient facts to establish an agency relationship between lender and broker. An agency relationship exists where a principal authorizes an agent to represent and bind the principal. Although lenders offer the brokers incentives to act in ways that further their interests, there needs to be a showing that a lender gave the broker authority to represent or bind it, or that a lender took some action that would have given borrower the impression that such a relationship existed. I have yet to see an audit that provided facts for such a conclusion but instead they are filled with conclusory allegations unsupported by facts. It is not enough to merely state that lender is vicariously liable through the broker or that broker is lender’s authorized agent without specific facts to support such conclusions.

Civil Conspiracy

Under the conspiracy theory a party may be vicariously liable for another’s tort in a civil conspiracy where the plaintiff shows “(1) formation and operation of the conspiracy and (2) damage resulting to plaintiff (3) from a wrongful act done in furtherance of the common design.” Rusheen v. Cohen, 37 Cal. 4th 1048, 1062, 39 Cal. Rptr. 3d 516, 128 P.3d 713 (2006) (citing Doctors’ Co. v. Superior Court, 49 Cal.3d 39, 44, 260 Cal. Rptr. 183, 775 P.2d 508 (1989)), see also Applied Equipment Corp. v. Litton Saudi Arabia Ltd., 7 Cal. 4th 503, 511, 28 Cal. Rptr. 2d 475, 869 P.2d 454 (1994). The California Supreme Court has held that even when these elements are shown, however, a conspirator cannot be liable unless he personally owed the duty that was breached. Applied Equipment, 7 Cal. 4th at 511, 514.

Civil conspiracy “cannot create a duty . . . . [i]t allows tort recovery only against a party who already owes the duty.” Courts have specifically held that civil conspiracy cannot impose liability for breach of fiduciary duty on a party that does not already owe such a duty. Everest Investors 8 v. Whitehall Real Estate Ltd. Partnership XI, 100 Cal. App. 4th 1102, 1107, 123 Cal. Rptr. 2d 297 (2002) (citing Doctors’ Co., 49 Cal. 3d at 41-42, 44 and Applied Equipment, 7 Cal. 4th at 510-512).

Thus, civil conspiracy allows imposition of vicarious liability on a party who owes a tort duty, but who did not personally breach that duty. Doctors’ Co., 49 Cal. 3d at 44 (A party may be liable “irrespective of whether or not he was a direct actor and regardless of the degree of his activity.”).

Joint Venture

Participation in a joint venture with a broker or other party in a predatory lending context gives rise to liability for such claims under a claim of joint venture. See Short v. Wells Fargo Bank Minnesota, N.A., 401 F. Supp. 2d 549, 2005 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 28612, available in 2005 WL 3091873, at 14-15 (S.D.W.Va. Nov. 18, 2005); see also generally Armor v. Lantz, 207 W. Va. 672, 677-78, 535 S.E.2d 737, 742-43 (2000); Sipple v. Starr, 205 W. Va. 717, 725, 520 S.E.2d 884, 892 (1999); Price v. Halstead, 177 W.Va. 592, 594, 355 S.E.2d 380, 384 (1987).

Similarly, if one party is directing or exercising control over loan origination in the circumstance of securitized lending, it is a factual question as to whether there is a principal/agency relationship sufficient to impose such liability on all the participants. See Short v. Wells Fargo Bank Minnesota, N.A., supra, 2005 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 28612, 2005 WL 3091873, at 14-15; England v. MG Investments, Inc., 93 F. Supp. 2d 718, 723 (S.D.W.Va. 2000); Arnold, 204 W.Va. at 240, 511 S.E.2d at 865.

An audit must inquire in to the relationships between parties involved in the joint venture and determine the level of control exercised by one party over another. Again, it is not sufficient to merely recite legal conclusions such as “Crooked Funding LLC controlled Scam Brokers Inc.”.

Fraud and Deceit

In most jurisdictions, “[t]he elements of fraud, which give rise to the tort action for deceit, are (a) misrepresentation (false representation, concealment, or nondisclosure); (b) knowledge of falsity (or scienter); (c) intent to defraud, i.e., to induce reliance; (d) justifiable reliance; and (e) resulting damage.” Small v. Fritz Companies, Inc., 30 Cal. 4th 167, 173, 132 Cal. Rptr. 2d 490, 65 P.3d 1255 (2003).

To prove mail fraud, as an example, the auditor must propound facts with particularity as follows:

Johnny Crookland, Crooked Broker’s President, misrepresented his intention to get borrowers the best rate available at their initial meeting in March 2006. The audit should also contain the date and content of all mailings and communications between the Crooked Broker and the borrowers through which the broker with the aid of a warehouse lender (Scam Fundings LLC) effectuated its scheme to defraud: (1) direct mail advertisement from Crooked Broker showing a teaser interest rate of 6.75% with zero broker fees or points (2) a “good faith estimate” of the loan terms mailed by Crooked Broker on March 26 which did not mention anything about a $5,890 fee for origination, (3) the first (rejected) loan document, with an interest rate of 7% which included a $ 5,890 fee, presented to the borrowers on April 13 at the first closing (though presumably mailed or faxed from the warehouse lender’s office in New York shortly before that date) (4) borrowers refusal to sign the closing documents because of the unauthorized fee that appeared on the HUD-1 on closing day, (5) a second good faith estimate mailed by Crooked Broker on April 16, showing 7% interest but this time without the unauthorized fee; and the second (accepted) loan document, which was presented in Baltimore on April 19 but at a higher rate of 7.125% and now subject to a yield spread premium that was never disclosed or explained  as to how it may impact total finance charges over the length of the loan. (6) Crooked Broker’s statement in response to borrowers’ inquiry about the yield spread premium that it was standard practice and paid by lender with no impact on total finance charges payable by borrowers.

Show Me the Note

The template audits invariably omit a detailed inquiry in to the securitization process after the loan was funded by the Originator and sold to investors through securitization. Often the only theory proffered by incompetent auditors revolves around the “show me the note” defense, which has been shot down by almost every court in every jurisdiction because it lacks merit. A lost note affidavit can easily overcome this argument, so by itself as a foreclosure defense strategy this does nothing but cast doubt on a borrower’s credibility.

A skilled auditor will carefully examine all documents including the Note, Mortgage/DOT, Mortgage/DOT Assignment, Note Endorsement/Allonge, Notice of Default and the Pooling and Servicing Agreement to determine the identity of all parties involved in the chain of securitization and their respective interests in the Note and Mortgage.

Once settlement occurs the Note and Mortgage are normally transferred to a document custodian (e.g. Wells Fargo), while numerous book entries record their movement through the securitization chain which normally begins with the Originator (e.g. Mason Mortgage) who then sells them to an aggregator (e.g. Countrywide Home Loans) who then sells them with a thousand other loans to a Depositor (e.g. Asset Securities Inc.) who then deposits them with a Trustee (e.g Wells Fargo) for the benefit of the securitization trust (e.g Asset Securities Trust IV-290989 – 2003) which issues securities backed with the pool of mortgages (MBS).  The trustee also selects a Servicer (e.g Countrywide Home Loans) to collect borrower payments and process foreclosures/short sales on behalf of the investors who own the MBS.

When there is default and in order to effectuate foreclosure, the Servicer asks the document custodian for the collateral file that pursuant to the PSA should contain the original Note indorsed by the Originator (e.g. Mason Mortgage), usually in blank thereby converting it in to a bearer instrument, and the Mortgage/DOT with an executed assignment either already recorded or in recordable form. Usually this is where everything can fall apart for the secured party attempting to foreclose and where the best defense opportunities may be uncovered by a skilled examiner.  Without giving away too much proprietary information here is a list of some questions a diligent auditor should be asking:

  1. Was the execution of the Mortgage/DOT by the borrower properly witnessed and acknowledged?
  2. Was the Note legally negotiated and formally transferred from the Originator to the Aggregator, from the Aggregator to the Depositor and from the Depositor to the Trustee?
  3. Was the Note indorsed by an authorized agent of its holder before each transfer?
  4. Is the Indorsement evidenced by an Allonge while there is room for an Indorsement on the original Note?
  5. Was the Note negotiated to its current holder prior to the date of default?
  6. Did the Mortgage travel with the Note through the chain of securitization?
  7. Is the Mortgage held by MERS?
  8. Has the Mortgage assignment been properly recorded?
  9. Was the Mortgage and Note assigned to the Trustee by MERS?
  10. Was MERS authorized or allowed to assign the Mortgage?
  11. Who signed the assignment on behalf of MERS?

MERS and Splitting the DOT from the Note

The practical effect of splitting the deed of trust from the promissory note is to make it impossible for the holder of the note to foreclose, unless the holder of the deed of trust is the agent of the holder of the note. Without the agency relationship, the person holding only the note lacks the power to foreclose in the event of default. The person holding only the deed of trust will never experience default because only the holder of the note is entitled to payment of the underlying obligation.  The mortgage loan becomes ineffectual when the note holder did not also hold the deed of trust.”  Bellistri v. Ocwen Loan Servicing, LLC, 284 S.W.3d 619, 623 (Mo. App. 2009).

Some courts have found that, because MERS is not the original holder of the promissory note and because there is no evidence that the original holder of the note authorized MERS to transfer the note, the language of the assignment purporting to transfer the promissory note is ineffective. “MERS never held the promissory note, thus its assignment of the deed of trust to Ocwen separate from the note had no force.” 284 S.W.3d at 624; see also In re Wilhelm, 407 B.R. 392 (Bankr. D. Idaho 2009) (standard mortgage note language does not expressly or implicitly authorize MERS to transfer the note); In re Vargas, 396 B.R. 511, 517 (Bankr. C.D. Cal. 2008) (“[I]f FHM has transferred the note, MERS is no longer an authorized agent of the holder unless it has a separate agency contract with the new undisclosed principal. MERS presents no evidence as to who owns the note, or of any authorization to act on behalf of the present owner.”); Saxon Mortgage Services, Inc. v. Hillery, 2008 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 100056, 2008 WL 5170180 (N.D. Cal. 2008) (unpublished opinion) (“[F]or there to be a valid assignment, there must be more than just assignment of the deed alone; the note must also be assigned. . . . MERS purportedly assigned both the deed of trust and the promissory note. . . . However, there is no evidence of record that establishes that MERS either held the promissory note or was given the authority . . . to assign the note.”).

IN CONCLUSION, the value of a forensic loan audit lies not in its word count, size or thickness but rather in the knowledge and expertise of the individual performing the work and examining the documents. Many of the worthless template audits produced by scammers consist of more than 100 pages of garbage and pointless recitations of statutes you can find online or in any library. Moreover, finding a technical violation in loan documents is a virtual certainty, so a money back guarantee is merely a marketing gimmick offered by unscrupulous con artists to gain your trust and to distract you from what really counts. If you are worried about word count and a money back guarantee you are missing the point. And if you are looking for the least expensive audit advertised on the web, you will certainly get what you pay for. An authentic audit done right takes at least 3 hours to complete (a more detailed analysis can take over 8 hours) and a skilled auditor charges between $250 to $300 per hour, so do the math.

Remember an audit is merely a tool that should be handled with care by a seasoned attorney. It does not magically stop foreclosure while you lay back on the couch with a bag of chips. A lengthy template audit attached to a lengthy QWR sent to a lender’s loss mitigation department will most likely end up in the trash. The best way to measure the quality and value of an auditor’s work, short of a referral, is by picking up the phone, speaking to him and making sure he knows what he is talking about. Surround yourself with smart and skilled advocates and you will be a step or two ahead of the bank trying to take your home away.  That I can guarantee.

Dean Mostofi, President

National Loan Audits

Tel: 301-867-3887

E-mail: dean@lenderaudits.com

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Fannie Mae to rent out homes instead foreclosing

Posted on November 5, 2009. Filed under: Foreclosure Defense, Housing, Mortgage Law | Tags: , , , , , , |

Fannie Mae to rent out homes instead foreclosing

By ALAN ZIBEL (AP) – 4 hours ago

WASHINGTON — Thousands of borrowers on the verge of foreclosure will soon have the option of renting their homes from Fannie Mae, under a policy announced Thursday.

The government-controlled company, through its new “Deed for Lease” program, will allow borrowers to transfer ownership to Fannie Mae and sign a one-year lease, with month-to-month extensions after that.

The program will “eliminate some of the uncertainty of foreclosure, keeps families and tenants in their homes during a transitional period, and helps to stabilize neighborhoods and communities,” Jay Ryan, a Fannie Mae vice president, said in a statement.

But the effort is likely to affect a relatively small number of homeowners. In the first half of the year, Fannie Mae took back about 1,200 properties through this process, known as a deed-in-lieu of foreclosure. That pales in comparison to the 57,000 foreclosed properties the company repossessed in the period.

While neither option is particularly attractive for the homeowner, a deed-in-lieu does less harm to the borrower’s credit record.

The rental program is designed to help homeowners who don’t qualify for a loan modification under the Obama administration’s plan, but still want to remain in their homes. Fannie Mae is not planning to market the homes for sale during the one-year rental period.

Fannie Mae has hired an outside company, which officials declined to identify, to manage the properties.

To qualify, homeowners have to live in the home as their primary residence and prove that they can afford the market rent, which would be determined by the management company. The rent can’t be more than 31 percent of their pretax income.

Fannie Mae’s sibling company, Freddie Mac, launched a similar effort in March. That policy, however, requires the foreclosure to be complete and only allows month-to-month leases. A Freddie Mac spokesman declined to say how many borrowers have participated.

via The Associated Press: Fannie Mae to rent out homes instead foreclosing.

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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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Foreclosures Are More Profitable Than Loan Modifications, According To New Report

Posted on October 23, 2009. Filed under: Foreclosure Defense, Housing, Mortgage Law | Tags: , , , , , , |

Mortgage companies are more likely to foreclose on homeowners than modify their loans because they make more money off foreclosures, argues a new report by a consumer advocacy group.

While homeowners, lenders and investors typically lose money on a foreclosure, mortgage servicers do not, says report author Diane E. Thompson, of counsel at the National Consumer Law Center. Servicers are the companies that manage the mortgages and collect payments.

“Servicers may even make money on a foreclosure,” she writes. “And, usually, a loan modification will cost the servicer something. A servicer deciding between a foreclosure and a loan modification faces the prospect of near certain loss if the loan is modified and no penalty, but potential profit, if the home is foreclosed.”

Thompson attributes this to a system of perverse incentives created by lawmakers and rulemakers in the market, like credit rating agencies and bond issuers. The private rulemakers typically dictate how a servicer can account for potential losses and profits. They hold enormous sway over securitized mortgages, which are owned by investors. More than two-thirds of mortgages issued since 2005 have been securitized, notes the report, using data from the industry publication Inside Mortgage Finance.

via Foreclosures Are More Profitable Than Loan Modifications, According To New Report.

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New law denies homeowners access to legal representation

Posted on October 23, 2009. Filed under: Banking, Case Law, Foreclosure Defense, Housing, Legislation, Loan Modification, Mortgage Law, Politics | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

California has a new law on the books that bans collection of advance fees from firms that provide loan modification services to people struggling to avoid foreclosure.

Other real estate related bills signed into law this month by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger aim to crack down on abusive lending practices by mortgage brokers; provide more safeguards for seniors taking out reverse mortgages; and require lenders to provide a summary translation of loan papers to non-English speakers.

Effective Oct. 11, Senate Bill 94 made it illegal for anyone to collect advance fees from consumers seeking a loan modification. The legislation closed a loophole that previously allowed state- licensed real estate brokers and attorneys to collect advance payments for loan modification services provided a client signed off on forms approved by the state Department of Real Estate.

SB 94 was written by state Sen. Ron Calderon, D-Montebello.

“Over the past two years, unscrupulous attorneys and real estate brokers have abused their trusted roles and exploited desperate homeowners seeking to avoid foreclosure. The loophole that allowed this abusive practice has now been closed, and homeowners should avoid any person charging upfront fees for foreclosure relief services,” state Attorney General Jerry Brown said in a statement.

Advance payments previously collected before Oct. 11 are not impacted by the law but no additional fees can be collected going forward,


said Tom Pool, a Department spokesman.

About 1,000 real estate brokers had previously submitted the required paperwork to collect advance payments before the law became effective, he said. More than 1,300 consumers have contacted the department with complaints about foreclosure rescue firms, most of which involved paying advance fees and not getting the loan modification assistance that was promised, he said. In many cases, the fees were collected by people who were not even licensed to offer loan modifications.

SB 94 only allows fees to be collected after the promised services are provided. Consumers must also be told that similar services are available from nonprofit housing counseling agencies approved by the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development. Consumers must also be told they have the option of calling their lender directly to request a change in loan terms.

Effective Jan. 1, three other laws will kick in to provide more protections to consumer who take out home loans:

  • Assembly Bill 260, written by state Assemblyman Ted Lieu, D-Torrance, extends federal mortgage lending laws to state-regulated mortgage brokers. Among other things, mortgage brokers would be prohibited from steering borrowers into higher-priced, subprime loans in cases where they could qualify for a lower-interest, fixed-rate loan.AB 260 restricts the type of home loans that consumers have access to, said John Holmgren, an Oakland-based mortgage broker and spokesman for the California Association of Mortgage Brokers, which opposed the legislation.

    For now, subprime loans have pretty much gone away in response to tougher lending standards but Holmgren expects that demand for such products will eventually return when the economy improves.

    “It would be wonderful if every consumer had perfect credit” but that is not the case, Holmgren said. “It’s bad for those consumers (with poor credit scores) because it restricts their choice and that’s what this does … In this troubled economy, there is a number of people whose credit has suffered.”

    Mortgage brokers would also be banned from offering negative amortization loans, which results in a growing loan balance the longer the borrower holds the loan. Strict caps would also be placed on prepayment penalties.

  • Assembly Bill 329 adds existing consumer protections for reverse mortgages, which allow seniors to convert equity held in a home into tax-free income or a lump-sum payment while continuing to live in the home. Among other things, the law extends counseling requirements that apply to Federal Housing Administration-backed reverse mortgages to all lenders who offer reverse mortgages. The bill was written by state Assemblyman Mike Feuer, D-Los Angeles.n”‚Assembly Bill 1160 requires mortgage lenders to provide a translated summary document in the language in which it was originally verbally negotiated with a borrower whose primary language is not English. The translation requirement applies to Spanish, Chinese, Tagalog, Vietnamese and Korean languages. The law, written by state Assemblyman Paul Fong, D-Cupertino, extends translation requirements that already apply to mortgage brokers.

    Contra Costa Times

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    Memoranda in Support of Motions to Dismiss Foreclosure

    Posted on October 21, 2009. Filed under: Case Law, Foreclosure Defense | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

    2.3     Memoranda in Support of Motions to Dismiss Foreclosure

    2.3.1  Memorandum in Support of Motion to Dismiss, Case #4

    IN THE CIRCUIT COURT, FOURTH

    JUDICIAL CIRCUIT, IN AND FOR

    DUVAL COUNTY, FLORIDA.

    CASE NO.:

    DIVISION:

    MORTGAGE ELECTRONIC REGISTRATION

    SYSTEMS, INC.,

    Plaintiff,

    vs.

    [DEFENDANT], DECEASED, ET AL

    Defendants.

    SEPARATE DEFENDANT, [SEPARATE DEFENDANT]’S MOTION TO CANCEL SUMMARY JUDGMENT HEARING, DISMISS PLAINTIFF’S COMPLAINT, OR IN THE ALTERNATIVE, MOTION FOR MORE DEFINITE STATEMENT

    The Separate Defendant, [Separate Defendant],by and though her undersigned attorney, files this motion to cancel the summary judgment hearing, and dismiss the Plaintiff’s Complaint for failure to join an indispensable party, or in the alternative, for more definite statement, pursuant to Rules 1.460,  1.210(a), 1.130(a) and 1.140(b)(7) of the Florida Rules of Civil Procedure and states:

    1.  This defendant was not able to access legal representation prior to her contact with Attorney [Attorney for Defendant] of Jacksonville Area Legal Aid, Inc., on February 23,

    2.  This separate defendant was served with a summons and complaint in this foreclosure action on January 1, 2005 and she was noticed for the February 24, 2005 summary judgment hearing on January 24, 2005.

    3.  Counsel for Defendant has made known to Plaintiff’s attorney this request for continuance of the scheduled hearing so that this defendant is able to have the benefit of legal representation to defend and protect her interests in this residential foreclosure.  However, counsel for plaintiff advises that he does not have authority without further contact with the plaintiff to consent to such continuance.

    5.  No prejudice will result to Plaintiff because of this Motion for Continuance.

    WHEREFORE, for the above stated reasons, Defendants request that the Court grant a continuance of the hearing on the Plaintiff’s Motion for Summary Final Judgment.

    MOTION TO DISMISS PLAINTIFF’S COMPLAINT, OR IN THE ALTERNATIVE, MOTION FOR MORE DEFINITE STATEMENT

    1.   This separate defendant is the owner of the property which is the subject of this mortgage foreclosure Complaint.  She requests the Court dismiss this action pursuant to Rule 1.210(a) and 1.140(7), because it appears on the face of the Complaint that a person other than the Plaintiff is the true owner of the claim sued upon and that the Plaintiff is not the real party in interest and is not shown to be authorized to bring this action.  In re: Shelter Development Group, Inc., 50 B.R. 588 (Bankr.S.D.Fla. 1985) [It is axiomatic that a suit cannot be prosecuted to foreclose a mortgage which secures the payment of a promissory note, unless the Plaintiff actually holds the original note, citing Downing v. First National Bank of Lake City, 81 So.2d 486 (Fla. 1955)],  See also 37 Fla. Jur. Mortgages and Deeds of Trust §240 (One who does not have the ownership, possession, or the right to possession of the mortgage and the obligation secured by it, may not foreclose the mortgage)

    2.         Fla.R.Civ.P. Rule 1.130(a) requires a Plaintiff to attach copies of all “bonds, notes, bills of exchange, contracts, accounts, or documents upon which action may be brought” to its complaint.  The plaintiff has failed to attach a copy of the Promissory Note upon which its claim is based and the assignment attached to plaintiff’s complaint is only an assignment of the mortgage and not the note.  The assignment attached to the plaintiff’s complaint conflicts with the allegation in paragraph 3 of the plaintiff’s complaint which alleges that the assignment is of the mortgage and the promissory note.

    .           3.         Fla.R.Civ.P. Rule 1.310(b) provides that all exhibits attached to a pleading shall be considered a part of the pleading for all purposes.  It appears on the face of MERS’ Complaint that it is not the proper party to bring this action

    4.  Further, although the plaintiff names itself in the complaint as “Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems, Inc., as Nominee For Homecomings Financial Network, Inc.” the documents attached to the plaintiff’s complaint conflict and therefore cancel out said allegations.

    5.    In this case, MERS’ allegations of material facts claiming it is the owner of the subject note are inconsistent with the documents attached to the Complaint.   Further, MERS has alleged it does not have the original promissory note.  When exhibits are inconsistent with the plaintiff’s allegations of material fact as to who the real party in interest is, such allegations cancel each other out. Fladell v. Palm Beach County Canvassing Board, 772 So.2d 1240 (Fla. 2000); Greenwald v. Triple D Properties, Inc., 424 So. 2d 185, 187 (Fla. 4th DCA 1983); Costa Bella Development Corp. v. Costa Development Corp., 441 So. 2d 1114 (Fla. 3rd DCA 1983).

    6.  Rule 1.210(a) of the Florida Rules of Civil Procedure provides, in pertinent part:

    “Every action may be prosecuted in the name of

    the real party in interest, but a personal representative,

    administrator, guardian, trustee of an express trust, a party

    with whom or in whose name a contract has been made for

    the benefit of another, or a party expressly authorized by

    statute may sue in that person’s own name without joining

    the party for whose benefit the action is brought…”

    The plaintiff in this action meets none of these criteria.

    7.  The plaintiff must allege that it is the owner and holder of the note and mortgage in question in order to be entitled to maintain an action on the note and mortgage which the plaintiff has not properly alleged in this case. Your Construction Center, Inc. v. Gross, 316 So. 2d 596 (Fl. 4th DCA 1975)

    8. Plaintiff Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems, Inc. (“MERS”) does not have standing to pursue this action.  Standing depends on whether a party has a sufficient stake in a justiciable controversy, whether a legally cognizable interest would be affected by the outcome of the litigation.  Nedeau v Gallagher 851 So.2d 214, 2003 Fla. App. LEXIS 9762, 28 Fla. L. Weekly D 1537 (1st District, 2003).

    9.  Standing encompasses not only the “sufficient stake” definition, but at the at least equally important requirement that the claim be brought by or on behalf of one who is recognized by the law and a “real party in interest”, that is “the person in whom rests, by substantive law, the claim sought to be enforced.  Kumar Corp. v Nopal Lines, Ltd, et al 462 So. 2d 1178, 1985 Fla.App.  LEXIS 11940.41U.C.C. Rep. Serv. (Callaghan) 69; 10 Fla. L. Weekly 189 (3rd District1985).

    10. It is axiomatic that a suit cannot be prosecuted to foreclose a mortgage which secures the payment of a promissory note, unless the Plaintiff actually holds the original note. A Plaintiff that does not hold the original notes sued has no standing and such action must be dismissed with prejudice Shelter Development Group v. MMA of Georgia, Inc 50 B.R. 588 (USBC, S.D. Florida 1985) Downing v. First National Bank of Lake City, , 81 So. 2d 486, (Fla., 1955) Tamiami Abstract and Title Company v.  Berman, 324 So. 2d 137 (Fla 3rd DCA> 1975) Laing v. Gainey Builders, Inc. 184 So. 2d 897 (Fla. 1st DCA 1966).  See also Davanzo v. Resolute Insurance Company, et al. 346 So.2d 1227, 1977 Fla.App. LEXIS 16014  (One who holds legal title to a mortgaged property is an indispensable party in suit to foreclose a mortgage).

    WHEREFORE, this separate defendant requests the Court to dismiss the Plaintiff’s complaint with prejudice; or alternatively to order the Plaintiff to add the owner and holder of the subject note and mortgage as an indispensable party to this foreclosure action, and award this defendant attorney’s fees and all other relief to which she proves herself entitled.

    CERTIFICATE OF SERVICE

    The undersigned certifies that a true copy of this document has been faxed and mailed by U.S. Mail to [Attorney for Plaintiff] this _______________________________.

    JACKSONVILLE AREA LEGAL AID, INC.,

    ____________________________________

    [Attorney for Separate Defendant]

    Attorneys for Separate Defendant

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    Lawyers Tempted By Foreclosure Crisis

    Posted on October 14, 2009. Filed under: Foreclosure Defense, Fraud, Loan Modification, Mortgage Law | Tags: , , , , , , , , |

    The foreclosure crisis has resulted in a lot of work for lawyers hired to try to help struggling owners hang onto their homes.

    But it has also resulted in a record number of complaints concerning claimed unscrupulous practices, some of which have already led to disciplinary action, according to a Daily Business Review article reprinted in New York Lawyer (reg. req.).

    “There has definitely been a trend in the last six months or year where attorneys are having some involvement in loan modification scams,” says Arne Vanstrum of the Florida Bar.

    He says the Florida Bar received 100 complaints in the last six months concerning lawyers involved in loan modifications, many of them in South Florida. Meanwhile, the state attorney general’s office got 756 complaints through August, a record. In all of 2008, the AG’s office got only 61 such complaints, the business publication recounts in a lengthy article.

    Meanwhile, the California State Bar has taken the unusual step of making public the names of 16 attorneys accused of misconduct concerning loan modification matters.

    Attorneys often get into trouble because of fee issues. Clients should be charged based on the amount of time it takes to handle their matter, not the size of the mortgage, says George Castrataro. He formerly worked for the Legal Aid Service of Broward County and is now in private practice. Clients also need to be clearly informed if representation will not begin until they have made a number of monthly payments to cover a required minimum retainer, he tells the Daily Business Review.

    Another potential ethical pitfall is presented if a lawyer is too closely involved with a non-law-firm loan modification company, says Ryan Wiggins, who serves as deputy director of the state AG’s office.

    Under a 2008 federal law that doesn’t apply to attorneys, loan modification companies can’t charge upfront fees, he explains to the business publication. This has led a number of firms to affiliate with attorneys, but unless the attorney is acting as a lawyer and actually representing company clients he or she is then in violation of the federal law, too, according to Wiggins.

    Many complainants also contend that lawyers take their money and then do little or no wor

    via Tempted By Foreclosure Crisis, Some Lawyers Overcharge & Underwork | ABA Journal – Law News Now.

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    Marcy Kaptur to Banks: “Produce The Note”

    Posted on October 12, 2009. Filed under: Foreclosure Defense, Fraud, Loan Modification, Mortgage Audit, Mortgage Fraud, Mortgage Law, Politics, Predatory Lending, right to rescind, Truth in Lending Act | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

    Fight Club entered popular culture in 1999 when director David Fincher adapted Chuck Palahniuk’s novel into a film that reflected the zeitgeist of modern America with its empty culture, obsession with aesthetic beauty, and slavish under and middle classes.

    Warning: Decade-old spoiler coming up.

    The film ends with the agents of “Project Mayhem,” protagonist Tyler Durden’s followers, destroying the headquarters of the major credit card companies with many tons of explosives. Durden’s theory is that without the records of debt, everyone gets a fresh start. They are no longer slaves to the banks, and they are free.

    This concept resonated hugely with Americans, and not just the douche bag frat boys who taped Brad Pitt’s six-pack to their dorm walls. Citizens are working harder for less these days, and the American ennui originating from Reagan’s tyrannical reign of deregulation, union busting, and middle-class rape has now exploded into severe disillusionment and anger. Americans are being crushed by debt, can’t afford health care, and have less job security than ever.

    Even the dimmest Americans know they’re getting screwed by Wall Street fat cats, and nothing could have made that reality clearer than the bailouts: $1 trillion dollars of taxpayer money that went to line the pockets of the guys and gals who crashed the economy.

    And if that wasn’t bad enough, once the fat cats and credit card companies’ armies of Repo Men were through collecting the contents of the houses, they came back for the houses themselves. The banks tried to sell the old, familiar lie that “irresponsible people” i.e. “black people” went and got themselves into a mess they couldn’t dig themselves out of, which was almost always a lie. Subprime lenders issued mortgages in a predatory fashion, frequently lied, and used creative math to convince people they could afford mortgages with hidden, adjustable interest rates.

    Those that can afford to play Capitalism: The Game prosper, while the rest of society suffers. Of course, those of us who don’t work for the Big 4 banks in the Too Big To Fail gang, wither and die. Today, The New York Times announced the 100th small bank failure of 2009. Don’t expect any mourning. The bank isn’t named “JPMorgan Chase.”

    It’s projected that by 2012, there will be eight million home foreclosures in the United States. Lots of politicians are siding with the banks during the foreclosure epidemic, but a few brave souls are standing up to the Wall Street criminals.

    More…

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    MERS v. Southwest Homes of Arkansas

    Posted on October 5, 2009. Filed under: Case Law, Finance, Foreclosure Defense, Mortgage Audit, Mortgage Law | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , |

    MORTGAGE ELECTRONIC REGISTRATION SYSTEM, INC., APPELLANT, VS. SOUTHWEST HOMES OF ARKANSAS, APPELLEE

    No. 08-1299

    SUPREME COURT OF ARKANSAS

    2009 Ark. LEXIS 121

    March 19, 2009, Opinion Delivered

    NOTICE:

    THE LEXIS PAGINATION OF THIS DOCUMENT IS SUBJECT TO CHANGE PENDING RELEASE OF THE FINAL PUBLISHED VERSION.

    SUBSEQUENT HISTORY: Rehearing denied by Mortgage Elec. Registration Sys. v. Southwest Homes of Ark., Inc., 2009 Ark. LEXIS 458 (Ark., Apr. 23, 2009)

    PRIOR HISTORY: [*1]

    APPEAL FROM THE BENTON COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT, NO. CIV07-223-2, HON. DAVID S. CLINGER, JUDGE.

    DISPOSITION: AFFIRMED.

    COUNSEL: George Nicholas Arnold – Counsel for the Appellant.

    Howard Keith Morrison – Counsel for the Appellant.

    Thomas D. Stockland – Counsel for the Appellee.

    JUDGES: JIM HANNAH, Chief Justice. IMBER, DANIELSON and WILLS, JJ., concur.

    OPINION BY: JIM HANNAH

    OPINION

    JIM HANNAH, Chief Justice

    Mortgage Electronic Registration System, Inc. (”MERS”) appeals a decision of the Benton County Circuit Court denying its motion to set aside a decree of foreclosure and to dismiss the foreclosure action. 1 MERS alleges that the circuit court erred in ordering foreclosure because as the holder of legal title it was a necessary party that was never served. We affirm the circuit court and hold that under the recorded deed of trust in this case, James C. East, as trustee under the deed of trust, held legal title. Because MERS was at most the mere agent of the lender Pulaski Mortgage Company, Inc., it held no property interest and was not a necessary party. As this case presents an issue of first impression, our jurisdiction is pursuant to Arkansas Supreme Court Rule 1-2(b)(1).

    1 Mortgage Electronic Registration System, Inc.’s (”MERS”) motion was [*2] entitled Motion to Set Aside Default Judgment; however, the circuit court found, and the parties agree, that MERS was never served. Because MERS was never served, it could not have failed to respond to that service and suffer a default judgment. The relief sought was that the decree of foreclosure be set aside and the foreclosure action be dismissed.

    This case arises from foreclosure on a 2006 mortgage granted in a one-acre lot. A prior deed of trust also encumbered the property. In 2003, Jason Paul Lindsey and Julie Ann Lindsey entered into a deed of trust on a one-acre lot in Benton County to secure a promissory note. The lender on that deed of trust was Pulaski Mortgage, the trustee was James C. East, and the borrowers were the Lindseys. MERS was listed on the deed of trust as the “Beneficiary” acting “solely as nominee for Lender,” and “Lender’s successors and assigns.” The second page of the deed of trust states that “the Borrower understands and agrees that MERS holds only legal title to the interests granted by the Borrower and further that MERS as nominee of the Lender has the right to exercise all rights of the Lender including foreclosure.” The deed of trust was recorded.

    In [*3] 2006, the Lindseys granted the subject mortgage on the same property to Southwest Homes of Arkansas, Inc. to secure a second promissory note. This mortgage was recorded. On February 9, 2007, Southwest Homes filed a Petition for Foreclosure in Rem against the Lindseys under the 2006 mortgage. The Lindseys, the Benton County Tax Collector, and “Mortgage Electronic Registration System, Inc. (Pulaski Mortgage Company)” were listed as respondents. Pulaski Mortgage was served; however, MERS was never served. Pulaski Mortgage did not file an answer. 2 A Decree of Foreclosure in Rem was entered on April 4, 2007, and the property was auctioned to Southwest. An Order Approving and Confirming Commissioner’s Sale was entered on May 8, 2007. In February 2008, MERS learned of the foreclosure and moved for relief, arguing it was a necessary party to the foreclosure action. The circuit court denied the motion, and this appeal followed.

    2 Pulaski Mortgage was the lender of record. No assignment of the deed of trust was recorded nor had Pulaski Mortgage’s security interest been satisfied of record.

    MERS asserts that it held legal title to the property and, therefore, it was a necessary party to any action [*4] regarding title to the property. The deed of trust indicates that MERS holds legal title and is the beneficiary, as well as the nominee of the lender. It further purports by contractual agreement with the borrower to grant MERS the power to “exercise any and all rights” of the lender, including the right of foreclosure. However the deed of trust provides that all payments are to be made to the lender, that the lender makes decisions on late payments, and that all rights to foreclosure are held by the lender.

    No payments on the underlying debt were ever made to MERS. MERS did not service the loan in any way. It did not oversee payments, delinquency of payments, or administration of the loan in any way. Instead, MERS asserts to be a corporation providing electronic tracking of ownership interests in residential real property security instruments. See In re MERSCORP, Inc. v. Romaine, 8 N.Y.3d 90, 861 N.E.2d 81, 828 N.Y.S.2d 266 (2006). According to MERS, it was developed by the “real estate finance industry” and was designed to facilitate the sale and resale of instruments in “the secondary mortgage market, which include one of the government sponsored entities.”

    MERS contracts with lenders to track security [*5] instruments in return for an annual fee. MERSCORP, supra. Those who contract with MERS are referred to by MERS as “MERS members.” According to MERS, MERS members contractually agree to appoint MERS as their common agent for all security instruments registered with MERS. 3 MERS asserts that it holds the authority to exercise the rights of the lender, and for that purpose, it holds bare legal title. Thus, it is alleged that a principal-agent relationship existed between MERS and Pulaski Mortgage under the contract terms of the deed of trust. 4

    3 The Kansas Court of Appeals, in Lankmark National Bank v. Kesler, 40 Kan. App. 2d 325, 192 P.3d 177 (2008), likewise found that Mortgage Electronic Registration System, Inc. acts as an agent. We note the analysis in this case is consistent with our own but also note that the Kansas Supreme Court granted review of the Landmark case.

    4 MERS is listed as a nominee on the deed of trust. A nominee is “a person designated to act on behalf of another, usu. in a very limited way.” Black’s Law Dictionary 1076 (8th ed. 2004). A nominee is also a “person who holds bare legal title for the benefit of others or who receives and distributes funds for the benefit [*6] of others.” Id. As discussed above, MERS was not designated to act on behalf of another under the facts of this case. Further, it held no title in this case where title vested in the trustee, and finally, it received and distributed no funds for the benefit of others.

    “An agent is a person who, by agreement with another called the principal, acts for the principal and is subject to his control.” Taylor v. Gill, 326 Ark. 1040, 1044, 934 S.W.2d 919, 922 (1996) (quoting AMI 3d 701 (1989)). Thus, MERS, by the terms of the deed of trust, and its own stated purposes, was the lender’s agent, including not only Pulaski Mortgage but also any successors and assigns.

    MERS asserts authority to act, arguing that once it becomes the agent on a security instrument, it remains so for every MERS member lender who acquires ownership. This authority is alleged to arise from the contractual relationship between MERS and MERS members. Thus, MERS argues it may act to preserve the rights of the lender regardless of who the lender may be under the MERS electronic registration. We specifically reject the notion that MERS may act on its own, independent of the direction of the specific lender who holds the repayment [*7] interest in the security instrument at the time MERS purports to act. “[A]n agent is authorized to do, and to do only, what it is reasonable for him to infer that the principal desires him to do in the light of the principal’s manifestation and the facts as he knows or should know them at the time he acts.” Hot Stuff, Inc. v. Kinko’s Graphic Corp., 50 Ark. App. 56, 59, 901 S.W.2d 854, 856 (1995) (citing Restatement (Second) of Agency
    § 33 (1958)). Nothing in the record shows that MERS had authority to act. Here, Pulaski Mortgage was the lender and MERS’s principal. Pulaski Mortgage was a named party in the foreclosure action. Thus, MERS was not acting as the lender’s agent at the time it moved to set aside the decree of foreclosure.

    However, MERS also argues that it holds a property interest through holding legal title. Specifically, it purports to hold legal title with respect to the rights conveyed by the borrower to the lender. We disagree.

    “A deed of trust is ‘a deed conveying title to real property to a trustee as security until the grantor repays a loan.’” First United Bank v. Phase II, Edgewater Addition, 347 Ark. 879, 894, 69 S.W.3d 33, 44 (2001)(quoting Black’s Law Dictionary [*8] 773 (7th ed. 1999)); see also House v. Long, 244 Ark. 718, 426 S.W.2d 814 (1968). The encumbrance created by the deed of trust may be described as a lien. See, e.g., First Amer. Nat’l Bank of Nashville v. Booth, 270 Ark. 702, 606 S.W. 2d 70 (1980).

    Under a deed of trust, the borrower conveys legal title in the property by a deed of trust to the trustee. Phase II, supra. “In this state, the naked legal title to real property included in a mortgage passes to the mortgagee, or to the trustee in a deed of trust, to make the security available for the payment of the debt.” Harris v. Collins, 202 Ark. 445, 447, 150 S.W.2d 749, 750 (1941). The trustee is limited in use of the title to passing title back to the grantor/borrower in the case of payment, or to the lender in the event of foreclosure. See Forman v. Holloway, 122 Ark. 341,183 S.W. 763 (1916). The lender holds the indebtedness and is the beneficiary of the deed of trust. House, supra. A trustee under a deed of trust is not a true trustee. Heritage Oaks Partners v. First Amer. Title, Ins. Co., 155 Cal. App. 4th 339, 66 Cal. Rptr.3d 510 (Cal. Ct. App. 2007). Under a deed of trust, the trustee’s duties are limited to (1) upon default undertaking foreclosure [*9] and (2)
    upon satisfaction of the debt to reconvey the deed of trust. Id.

    In the present case, all the required parties to a deed of trust under Arkansas law are present, the borrower in the Lindseys, the Lender in Pulaski Mortgage, and the trustee in James C. East. Under a deed of trust in Arkansas, title is conveyed to the trustee. Harris, supra. MERS is not the trustee. Here, the deed of trust renamed James C. East as the trustee. The deed of trust did not convey title to MERS. Further, MERS is not the beneficiary, even though it is so designated in the deed of trust. Pulaski Mortgage, as the lender on the deed of trust, was the beneficiary. It receives the payments on the debt.

    The cases cited by MERS only confirm that MERS could not obtain legal title under the deed of trust. MERS relies on Hannah v. Carrington, 18 Ark. 85 (1856); however, that case stands for the proposition that a deed of trust vests legal tide in the trustee. We are also cited to Shinn v. Kitchens, 208 Ark. 321, 326, 186 S.W.2d 168, 171 (1945), where this court stated that “[t]he trustee named in the deeds of trust was a necessary party at the institution of the foreclosure suit, as also, of course, was Kitchens, [*10] the holder of the indebtedness.” East, as trustee, was a necessary party. MERS was not. Finally, we are cited to Beloate v. New England Securities Co., 165 Ark. 571, 575,265 S.W. 83 (1924), where this court stated that the real owner of the debt, as well as the trustee in the mortgage, are necessary parties in the action to recover the debt and foreclose the mortgage. Again, this case supports the conclusion that East was a necessary party and MERS was not.

    Further, under Arkansas foreclosure law, a deed of trust is defined as “a deed conveying real property in trust to secure the performance of an obligation of the grantor or any other person named in the deed to a beneficiary and conferring upon the trustee a power of sale for breach of an obligation of the grantor contained in the deed of trust.” Ark. Code Ann. § 18-50-101(2) (Repl. 2003). Thus, under the statutes, and under the common law noted above, a deed of trust grants to the trustee the powers MERS purports to hold. Those powers were held by East as trustee. Those powers were not conveyed to MERS.

    MERS holds no authority to act as an agent and holds no property interest in the mortgaged land. It is not a necessary party. In [*11] this dispute over foreclosure on the subject real property under the mortgage and the deed of trust, complete relief may be granted whether or not MERS is a party. MERS has no interest to protect. It simply was not a necessary party. See Ark. R. Civ. P. 19(a). MERS’s role in this transaction casts no light on the contractual issues on appeal in this case. See, e.g., Wilmans v. Sears, Roebuck & Co., 355 Ark. 668, 144 S.W.3d 245 (2004).

    Finally, we note that Arkansas is a recording state. Notice of transactions in real property is provided by recording. See Ark. Code Ann. § 14-15-404 (Supp. 2007). Southwest is entitled to rely upon what is filed of record. In the present case, MERS was at best the agent of the lender. The only recorded document provides notice that Pulaski Mortgage is the lender and, therefore, MERS’s principal. MERS asserts Pulaski Mortgage is not its principal. Yet no other lender recorded its interest as an assignee of Pulaski Mortgage. Permitting an agent such as MERS purports to be to step in and act without a recorded lender directing its action would wreak havoc on notice in this state.

    Affirmed.

    IMBER, DANIELSON and WILLS, JJ., concur.

    CONCUR BY: PAUL E. DANIELSON

    CONCUR

    CONCURRING [*12] OPINION.

    PAUL E. DANIELSON, Associate Justice

    I concur that the circuit court’s order should be affirmed, but write solely because I view the decisive issue to be whether MERS was, pursuant to Arkansas Rule of Civil Procedure 19(a) (2008), a necessary party to the foreclosure action. It can generally be said that “[n]ecessary parties to a foreclosure action are parties whose interest are inseparable such that a court would be unable to determine the rights of one party without affecting the rights of another.” 59A C.J.S. Mortgages § 708 (2008). See also 55 Am. Jur. 2d Mortgages § 647 (2008) (”[A]ll persons who are beneficially interested, either in the estate mortgaged or the demand secured, are proper or necessary parties to a suit to foreclose.”). Moreover, “[p]ersons having no interest are neither necessary nor proper parties, and the mere fact that they were parties to transactions out of which the mortgage arose does not give them such an interest as to make them necessary parties to an action to foreclose
    the mortgage.” Id. Indeed, our rules of civil procedure contemplate the same.

    Rule 19(a) of the Arkansas Rules of Civil Procedure speaks to necessary parties:

    (a) Persons to Be [*13] Joined if Feasible. A person who is subject to service of process shall be joined as a party in the action if (1) in his absence complete relief cannot be accorded among those already parties, or, (2) he claims an interest relating to the subject of the action and is so situated that the disposition of the action in his absence may (i) as a practical matter, impair or impede his ability to protect that interest, or, (ii) leave any of the persons already parties subject to a substantial risk of incurring double, multiple or otherwise inconsistent obligations by reason of his claimed interest. If he has not been joined, the court shall order that he be made a party. If he should join as a plaintiff, but refuses to do so, he may be made a defendant; or, in a proper case, an involuntary plaintiff.

    Ark. R. Civ. P. 19(a) (2008).

    Here, a review of the deed of trust for the subject property reveals four parties to the deed: (1) Jason Paul Lindsey and Julie Ann Lindsey, “Borrower”; (2) James C. East, “Trustee”; (3) MERS, “(solely as nominee for Lender, as hereinafter defined, and Lender’s successors and assigns)”; and (4) Pulaski Mortgage Company, “Lender.” The question, then, is whether MERS, [*14] as nominee, was a necessary party that had an interest “so situated that the disposition of the action in [its] absence may” have impaired its ability to protect its interest or left a subsequent purchaser or other subject to a substantial risk by reason of its interest. The answer is no; MERS, as nominee, was not a necessary party to the foreclosure action, because it held no such interest.

    Initially, I must note that my review of the deed’s notice provision reveals that the deed clearly contemplated the Lender as the party with interest, in that it provided:

    13. Notices. . . . Any notice to Lender shall be given by first class mail to Lender’s address stated herein or any address Lender designates by notice to Borrower. Any notice provided for in this Security’ Instrument shall be deemed to have been given to Borrower or Lender when given as in this paragraph.

    Here, as stated in the circuit court’s order of foreclosure. Pulaski Mortgage, as Lender, was served with notice of the foreclosure action, in accord with paragraph thirteen.

    But, in addition, MERS claims that because it holds legal title, it has an interest so as to render it a necessary party pursuant to Rule 19(a). Indeed, pursuant [*15] to the deed of trust, MERS held “only legal title to the interests granted” by the Lindseys,

    but, if necessary to comply with law or custom, MERS, (as nominee for Lender and Lender’s successors and assigns) has the right to exercise any and all of those interests, including, but not limited to, the right to foreclose and sell the Property; and to take any action required of Lender including, but not limited to, releasing and canceling this Security Instrument.

    “Legal title” is defined as “[a] title that evidences apparent ownership but does not necessarily signify full and complete title or a beneficial interest.” Black’s Law Dictionary 1523 (8th ed. 2004) (emphasis added). Thus, as evidenced by the definition, holding legal title alone in no way demonstrates the interest required by Rule 19(a).

    MERS further claims that its status as nominee is evidence of its interest in the property, making it a necessary party. However, merely serving as nominee was recently held by one court to be insufficient to demonstrate an interest rising to the level to be a necessary party. In Landmark National Bank v. Kesler, 40 Kan. App. 2d 325, 192 P.3d 177 (2008), review granted, (Feb. 11, 2009). MERS also [*16] asserted that it was a necessary party to the foreclosure suit at issue. There, the district court found that MERS was not a necessary party, and the appellate court affirmed. Just as here, MERS was a party to the mortgage “solely as nominee for Lender.” 40 Kan. App. 2d at 327, 192 P.3d at 179. Based on that status, the Kansas court found that MERS was in essence, an agent for the lender, as its right to act to enforce the mortgage was strictly limited. See id.

    Agreeing with MERS that a foreclosure judgment could be set aside for failure to join a “contingently necessary party,” the Kansas court observed that a party was “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.’” Id. at 328, 192 P.3d at 180 (quoting K.S.A. 60-219). Notably, the language of K.S.A. 60-219 quoted by the Kansas court is practically identical to the language of Ark. R. Civ. P. 19(a).

    The Kansas appellate court noted that MERS received no funds and that the mortgage required the borrower [*17] to pay his monthly payments to the lender. See id. It also observed, just as in the case at hand, that the notice provisions of the mortgage “did not list MERS as an entity to contact upon default or foreclosure.” Id. at 330, 192 P.3d at 181. After declaring that MERS did not have a “sort of substantial rights and interests” that had been found in a prior decision and noting that “a party with no beneficial interest is outside the realm of necessary parties,” the Kansas court concluded that “the failure to name and serve MERS as a defendant in a foreclosure action in which the lender of record has been served” was not such a fatal defect that the foreclosure judgment should be set aside. Id. at 331, 192 P.3d at 181-82.

    It is my opinion that the same holds true in the instant case. Here, Pulaski Mortgage, the lender for whom MERS served as nominee, was served in the foreclosure action. But, further, neither MERS’s holding of legal title, nor its status as nominee, demonstrates any interest that would have rendered it a necessary party pursuant to Ark. R. Civ. P. 19(a). For these reasons, I concur that the circuit court’s order should be affirmed.

    IMBER and WILLS, JJ., join.

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