Buying a Cow and Selling Hamburgers- A Closer Look at Mortgage Securitization

Posted on April 2, 2010. Filed under: Banking, Foreclosure Defense, Mortgage Law, Securitization | Tags: , , , , , , |

Our legal system is extremely difficult to understand and maneuver by a non attorney, partly because there is no single source or authority for answering complicated legal questions. For example how do you know if your mortgage was eviscerated through the securitization process? Did securitization of the note and mortgage constitute conversion of the asset thereby rendering the mortgage unenforceable? This question has not been answered by a high court yet but there is no shortage of legal scholars and practitioners analyzing the securitization process and its impact on the housing market and the economy as a whole.

Most agree that securitization changes the traditional debtor creditor relationship and interferes with contractual rights derived from a mortgage transaction. When two parties enter in to a contract they normally have the right to modify the terms of their agreement as long as there is mutual assent. When a contractual relationship is ongoing, as is the case with a mortgage contract, it is not uncommon for the parties to amend their agreement as and when unforeseen events occur or circumstances change. The main reason for doing so is to mitigate losses when modification is in the best interest of both parties and no better alternative is available.

Securitization, because of its complex structure and infusion of additional parties into the mortgage transaction, militates to an entirely different and unique set of priorities, obligations and interests that often conflict and compete with one another. In many instances, although it may be economically feasible for both the borrower and note holder to modify the loan, the rules of the securitization agreement prohibit or limit change of loan terms, thereby forcing the servicer to foreclose rather than negotiate. Securitization interferes with the mortgagee’s and mortgagor’s rights to freely engage in loss mitigation negotiations in order to mitigate their own losses, without having to be concerned with losses that may be incurred by a third party, who was not a party to the original mortgage contract.

One practitioner, Richard Kessler Esq., has compared securitization to buying a cow and selling hamburgers – “The people who buy hamburgers have paid for and are legally entitled to the hamburger but do not thereby become owners of or acquire an ownership interest in the cow… It [securitization] renders the mortgage note used to generate income unenforceable by eliminating the status of note holder.”

More than 60% of all mortgages are securitized representing in excess of seven trillion dollars in outstanding mortgage debt. (Source: Wikepedia, Mortgage-Backed-Securities) Once a mortgage loan has been funded by the originating lender the loan (note and mortgage) is sold to a sponsor who forms a pool of hundreds of loans and transfers them to a pass-through/conduit trust (REMIC), which issues certificates backed by the cash flow generated from the mortgage notes. The certificates are simultaneously sold to a broker/underwriter who subsequently sells them to investors. Additionally a trustee is appointed to manage the trust, who in turn appoints a servicer for collecting payments from borrowers, managing the escrow accounts, forwarding the payments to investors and when necessary initiating and processing foreclosures.

In order to qualify for a REMIC status which allows the cash to flow to certificate holders without taxation at the trust/conduit level (investors will still pay income tax individually) Mr. Kessler states that all legal and beneficial interest in the mortgage loans must be transferred to certificate holders, rendering the trust effectively asset free. “Therefore, neither the trustee nor the servicing agent can have any legal or equitable interest in the mortgages”. The investors are the purported owners and holders of the notes but the terms of the pooling and servicing agreement (PSA) do not allow them to foreclose or participate in controlling the mortgage notes. “The certificate holders bear the losses but do not control the mortgages. As such the moral hazard is severed from command and control thereby restructuring the debtor creditor relationship created by the original note and mortgage”. Richard Kessler, MEMORANDUM OF POINTS AND AUTHORITIES IN SUPPORT OF DEFENDANTS MOTION TO DISMISS.

“The certificate holders, therefore, cannot be [note]holders because they lack the necessary rights and powers conferred by holding the note: the right to payment, the right to sell or transfer the note, the right to foreclose and the right to modify the terms and conditions of the note or mortgage with the consent of the mortgagor.” id

In the event of default ordinarily the trustee initiates foreclosure proceedings claiming the secured party is the conduit trust, but one can argue this is legally impossible since the trust, in order to qualify for a REMIC status, cannot own a legal or equitable interest in the mortgage loans. Further, the investors cannot appoint the trustee as their agent to foreclose on the mortgage since as demonstrated above they are not the holders of the note. A principal cannot convey rights to an agent which the principal lacks. The rights of certificate holders are created by and derive from contractual obligations granted by and pursuant to the PSA as opposed to those conferred to holders of the notes.

Some practitioners argue that because the pooling and servicing agreement restricts the mortgagee’s ability to modify the loan and since the mortgagor was never notified of or consented to such restrictions, this amounts to a unilateral and illegal modification of the mortgage contract, thereby rendering it null and void. I, however, don’t understand this theory, since modification is not an express right or obligation under the terms of the mortgage contract and thus restricting it cannot be considered a unilateral amendment and hence a breach of contract. Further, even if we assume arguendo that the mortgage has been illegally modified, I am not so sure voiding the contract will be the proper remedy.

Others proffer that securitization interferes with a mortgagors right of redemption since he/she is restricted from negotiating directly with the mortgagee who may have been willing to accept a reasonable settlement offer but cannot do so because such decisions are no longer made by the actual note holder and not predicated on the mutual interests of mortgagee and mortgagor. For example often the competing interests of junior and senior tranches within a securitized pool of mortgages makes it impossible to negotiate a loan modification that under normal circumstances would have been beneficial to both the debtor and creditor. One can also argue “this constitutes either a breach of contract or a tortious interference with a contract, or both.” George Beckus Esq, blog.floridaforeclosurelawyer.org

The only conclusion I can draw with any certainty from the above analysis is that securitization and its legal and economic implications are difficult to understand or measure and even harder to explain. Imagine trying to explain all this to a judge with the cow and hamburger analogy. Judges are not always as smart as they are proclaimed to be and they resist novel legal theories, specially when they can hurt the banks. At the end of the day, regardless of how persuasive a theory may sound or how passionately it is argued by its proponents, until it becomes law it is just a theory.

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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Wells Fargo Slapped With $155,000 Judgment for Trespass

Posted on March 12, 2010. Filed under: Banking, Case Law, Foreclosure Defense, Mortgage Law | Tags: , , , , |

Wells Fargo, Plaintiff v. Steven E. Tyson, SUSAN L. TYSON, LEITH ANN TYSON, LINDSAY TYSON and KYRA TYSON, Defendants

2007-28042

SUPREME COURT OF NEW YORK, SUFFOLK COUNTY

2010 NY Slip Op 20079; 2010 N.Y. Misc. LEXIS 410

March 5, 2010, Decided

JUDGES: JEFFREY ARLEN SPINNER, J.S.C.

OPINION BY: JEFFREY ARLEN SPINNER

OPINION

Jeffrey Arlen Spinner, J.

On September 7, 2007 Plaintiff commenced this action claiming foreclosure of a mortgage by filing its Notice of Pendency and Summons and Complaint with the Clerk of Suffolk County. The mortgage at issue was originally given in favor of New Century Mortgage Corporation, Plaintiff’s assignor. Said mortgage was given to secure a note and constitutes a first lien upon premises known as 3 Danville Court, Greenlawn, Town of Huntington, New York. On November 30, 2007, Plaintiff filed an application with this Court seeking the appointment of a referee pursuant to RPAPL § 1321 but withdrew that application on December 5, 2007. Subsequently and on September 18, 2009, Plaintiff filed a second application for the same relief which was granted by Order of this Court dated November 4, 2009.

On January 14, 2010, upon the written request of Defendant STEVEN TYSON, this Court convened a conference in order to address certain serious issues which had arisen with  respect to the property under foreclosure. Defendant took the time to appear in person while Plaintiff dispatched a per diem attorney who had absolutely no knowledge of the matter inasmuch as she was not regular counsel, was not provided with any information and hence no meaningful progress could occur. The Court was thereupon compelled to continue the conference to February 24, 2010, at which time the Defendant again appeared in person, on this occasion, with counsel of record for the Plaintiff, appearing as instructed by the Court.

The issue that brings these parties before the Court at this time concerns the entry, without permission, into Defendant’s dwelling house, by agents dispatched expressly for that purpose by Plaintiff. Plaintiff vociferously  asserts that it has the absolute and unfettered right, under the express terms of the mortgage, to enter the premises at any time, for purposes of inspection and protection of its security interest and that it is free to do so without having to obtain Defendant’s consent for the same. Defendant counters that Plaintiff has wrongfully and without justification entered the dwelling on at least two separate occasions, causing damage to  the premises and resulting in the loss of various items of personalty.

The following facts are not in dispute. Defendant and his wife are the owners, in fee simple absolute, of the premises known as 3 Danville Court, Greenlawn, New York, which are subject to a first lien in favor of Plaintiff. Plaintiff has commenced an action to foreclose that lien, but there has been no devolution of title. Defendant’s personal financial situation is such that he can no longer maintain the high cost of utility service, resulting in the voluntary discontinuance of same. Defendant has previously winterized the plumbing and heating systems in the dwelling, has secured the building, maintains the exterior of the premises and retains virtually all of his personalty in the home including furniture, clothing and foodstuffs. Defendant has, previous to any entry on the premises herein, notified Plaintiff of the discontinuance of utility service and the winterization and securing of the dwelling. Defendant, although he is now residing elsewhere, has not abandoned the property, has not evinced any intent to abandon it and he visits the premises at least once weekly and sometimes with greater frequency. In addition,  Defendant has arranged with a neighbor to keep a watchful eye on the property in his absence.

It is also undisputed that without any notice to Defendant, on or about November 13, 2009, Plaintiff dispatched an agent to the premises who thereupon changed the locks, thus barring Defendant from access to his property. When Defendant contacted Plaintiff relative to his wrongful ouster from the dwelling and demanded access, Plaintiff’s representative denied any knowledge of the entry and directed him to contact Fein Such & Crane, their counsel of record. Upon contacting them, Defendant was advised by someone named Matt that the entry into the home was standard procedure but a new key to the premises would be provided to him by Plaintiff, and Defendant expressly directed that they remain away from the property. In spite of Defendant’s requests Plaintiff caused the property to be entered yet again in late December or early January, at which time Defendant, having been telephoned by his neighbor, actually confronted these persons and urged them to immediately leave the premises. Defendant was able to discover that these persons obtained access by use of a key identical to the one that was previously  provided by Plaintiff to Defendant. Defendant then secured the premises only to return later that day to find his garage open and the loss of various items of personal property, including an 8 kilowatt portable generator, a 14 foot aluminum sectional extension ladder, an aluminum step ladder, a convertible hand truck, an AquaBot pool cleaning device and other items, valued, according to documentation supplied by Defendant, at $ 4,892.00. Defendant thereafter contacted the Suffolk County Police Department and made a full report, which was docketed under central complaint no. 10-85647.

It is at this point that the accounts begin to diverge. Defendant offered sworn testimony as follows: he arrived at the premises on November 17, 2009 to discover that he had been “locked out,” so to speak; upon communicating with Plaintiff, he was redirected to their attorney who informed him that the property was “inspected and secured” due to its abandoned state; they dispatched a new key to him whereupon he discovered that his door lock cylinders had been drilled out; Plaintiff advised Defendant that he was in possession of the premises, that he had not abandoned the dwelling, that it was replete with  his furniture and personal effects and he further instructed them to remain away from the property and to refrain from any entry into the dwelling; according to Defendant, Plaintiff’s representative apologized and stated that they would not enter the premises.

On February 24, 2010, Plaintiff produced a witness, one John Denza, who testified under oath, as follows: at the express direction of Plaintiff, his company (a private property inspection and preservation firm) caused the mortgaged premises to be inspected on November 3, 2009, allegedly found the front door to be wide open and the premises completely unsecured and so notified Plaintiff; Plaintiff faxed his company a work order on November 6, 2009 directing that the locks be changed and the dwelling be secured and winterized and further, that on November 13, 2009 his company caused the locks to be changed; he flatly denied that the locks had been drilled or otherwise forcibly removed, instead asserting that the front door to the premises was ajar and the existing lock cylinders were simply unscrewed and set aside. It was only after a rather probing examination by the Court that Mr. Denza conceded that he had no actual knowledge  as to the matters about which he testified since he never visited the premises, relying instead upon another individual to whom he had delegated all responsibility. Placing things into simpler terms, the totality of his testimony consisted of nothing more than self-serving statements constituting  [*3]  inadmissible hearsay not subject to any exception, Latimer v. Burrows 163 NY 7, 57 NE 95 (1900), People v. Huertas 75 NY2d 487, 553 N.E.2d 992, 554 NYS2d 444 (1990). No testimony or evidence from a party with actual knowledge was proffered by Plaintiff.

The law is clear that  it is both the province and the obligation of the trial court to assess and determine all matters of credibility, Matter of Liccione v. Miuchael A. 65 NY2d 826, 482 NE2d 917, 493 NYS2d 121 (1985), Morgan v. McCaffrey 14 AD3d 670, 789 NYS2d 274 (2nd Dept. 2005). It is for the trial court to apply and resolve issues of witness credibility. Here, Plaintiff has produced a witness who has absolutely no firsthand knowledge of the controversy, hence his testimony is devoid of all probative value and cannot be the subject of any serious consideration. On the other hand, upon assessment of Defendant’s demeanor and comportment, the Court is convinced  that he is telling the truth and he is worthy of belief.

At the February 24, 2010 conference, Plaintiff’s counsel doggedly insisted that Plaintiff was wholly justified in taking the actions complained of by Defendant (entry upon the property), asserting that it had done so in accordance with the rights conferred upon it under the terms of the mortgage and therefore Plaintiff bore no liability whatsoever to Defendant. At no time was there any denial that Plaintiff had caused Defendant’s property to be entered on more than one occasion, counsel simply asserting that Plaintiff had the right to enter into and protect the property as it saw fit.

Though not specifically enumerated by counsel, the Court presumes that Plaintiff derives its claimed rights from Paragraph 7(b) of the mortgage herein, which states, in pertinent part, that “Lender, and others authorized by Lender may enter on and inspect the Property. They will do so in a reasonable manner and at reasonable times. If it has a reasonable purpose, Lender may inspect the inside of the home or other improvements on the Property. Before or at the time an inspection is made, Lender will give me notice stating a reasonable purpose for such [**9] interior inspection.” Though this contractual provision clearly requires some kind of notice to Defendant, there is no indication that any notice at all was provided to Defendant. Indeed Plaintiff does not even advance any claim that it has complied with this section but instead baldly asserts, through counsel and not through any person with actual knowledge, that it has what appears to be an unfettered right to enter the premises at any time.

Presumably, counsel for Plaintiff further relies upon the express provisions of Paragraph 9 of the mortgage which states, in pertinent part, that “If…I have abandoned the Property, then Lender may do and pay for whatever is reasonable and appropriate to protect Lender’s interest in the Property…Lender’s actions may include but are not limited to: (a) protecting and/or assessing the value of the Property; (b) securing and/or repairing the Property;…Lender can also enter the Property to make repairs, change locks…and take any other action to secure the Property.” This section presupposes that Defendant has abandoned the property. It logically follows then that abandonment would be a strict pre-requisite to Plaintiff’s right of entry upon and within the premises. Here, Defendant’s testimony plainly reveals that he has not abandoned the property in any manner whatsoever and therefore the required condition precedent to Plaintiff’s entry does not exist.

A fair reading of the contractual provisions set forth, supra makes it abundantly clear that any and all actions taken by Plaintiff must be reasonable and, where entry into improvements on the property s contemplated, then the same must be accomplished only upon notice to the other party. It is apparent that Plaintiff has breached its own contract by its failure to give notice and further, that its actions are not reasonable under the circumstances presented. This is especially true herein since the condition precedent to Plaintiff’s right of entry has not occurred.

Since the mortgage at issue is an instrument promulgated by the lender to the borrower and since the operative and binding terms thereof are not negotiable by the borrower, such an instrument is considered to be a contract of adhesion which is typically construed against the drafter thereof, Belt Painting Corp. v. TIG Insurance Company 100 NY2d 377, 795 N.E.2d 15, 763 N.Y.S.2d 790 (2000). Under the circumstances presented to this Court, it is appropriate  [**11] and fair that the terms of the instrument be construed in favor of Defendant.

In the matter before the Court, it is apparent that Plaintiff has perpetrated a trespass against the real property of Defendant, which is actionable and subjects Plaintiff to liability for damages. Distilled to its very essence, trespass is characterized by one’s intentional entry, with neither permission nor legal justification, upon the real property of another, Woodhull v. Town of Riverhead 46 AD3d 802, 849 NYS2d 79 (2nd Dept. 2007). The injury arising  therefrom afflicts the owner’s right of exclusive possession of the property, Steinfeld v. Morris 258 AD 228, 16 NYS2d 155 (1st Dept. 1939), Kaplan v. Incorporated Village of Lynbrook 12 AD3d 410, 784 NYS2d 586 (2nd Dept. 2004). [HN3] The elements of a claim for trespass are intent coupled with the entry upon the land that is in possession of another. In order for trespass to lie, general intent is legally insufficient. Instead, there must be a specific intent, either to enter the land or to engage in some act whereby it is substantially certain that such entry onto the land will result therefrom, Phillips v. Sun Oil Co. 307 NY 328, 121 NE2d 249 (1954). The intent  [**12] need not be illegal or unlawful, MacDonald v. Parama Inc. 15 AD2d 797, 224 NYS2d 854 (2nd Dept. 1962) but even one who enters the land upon the erroneous belief that he has the right to enter thereon will be held liable in trespass, Burger v. Singh 28 AD3d 695, 816 NYS2d 478 (2nd Dept. 2006). Trespass will lie against a party if entry upon the land was perpetrated by a third party, such as an independent contractor or other party, at the direction of the party to be charged, Gracey v. Van Kamp 299 AD2d 837, 750 NYS2d 400 (4th Dept. 2002). It follows then, both logically and legally, that the injured party must have been in possession, whether actual or constructive, at the time that the alleged wrongful entry occurred, Cirillo v. Wyker 51 AD2d 758, 379 NYS2d 505 (2nd Dept. 1976). In the matter that is presently sub judice, it is clear that a trespass has occurred on at least two separate occasions. It is apparent to the Court that this trespass was perpetrated against the property of Defendant and was done at the special instance and request and upon the affirmative directive of Plaintiff. Since the Court finds that liability for trespass lies against Plaintiff and in favor of Defendant,  [**13] the Court must now move forward to consider and to determine the damages, if any, that should properly be awarded to Defendant.

Actual damages may be recovered against the trespasser-tortfeasor though they are not a mandatory component of the claim, Amodeo v. Town of Marlborough 307 AD2d 507, 763 NYS2d 132 (3rd Dept. 2003). The rule applicable herein is that [HN5] where the invasion is de minimis or the actual amount of damages is not capable of calculation nor is it readily quantifiable, then an award of nominal damages will be appropriate under the circumstances, Town of Guilderland v. Swanson 29 AD2d 717, 286 NYS2d 425 (3rd Dept. 1968), aff’d 24 NY2d 802, 249 NE2d 467, 301 NYS2d 622 (1969). Indeed, the damages that are recoverable by the injured party include those resulting from each and every consequence of the trespass, inclusive of both damage to property and injury to the person but only to the extent that such damages arose as a direct result of the wrongful intrusion by the trespasser-tortfeasor, Vandenburgh v. Truax 4 Denio 464, 1847 LEXIS 157 (Supreme Court Of Judicature Of New York, 1847).

Damages for injury to real property are typically calculated and awarded as the lesser amount  of the decline in fair market value versus the cost of restoring the property to its state before the trespass, in other words, the injured party is entitled to recover the amount by which the property has been devalued, Hartshorn v. Chaddock 135 NY 116, 31 NE 997 (1892) Slavin v. State 152 NY 45, 46 NE 321 (1897). In this matter, there is no evidence that the value of the property has been diminished or otherwise adversely affected by the trespass, hence this method of calculation of damages is inapplicable.

In instances where the conduct complained of is willful, wanton or egregious, the Court is vested with the power to award exemplary damages. Exemplary damages may lie in a situation where it is necessary not only to effectuate punishment but also to deter the offending party from engaging in such conduct in the future. Such an award may also be made to address, as enunciated by the Court of Appeals in Home Insurance Co. v. American Home Products Corp. 75 NY2d 196, 550 NE2d 930, 551 NYS2d 481 (1989) “…gross misbehavior for the good of the public…on the ground of public policy“. Indeed, exemplary damages are intended to have a deterrent effect upon conduct which is unconscionable,  egregious, deliberate and inequitable, I.H.P. Corp. v. 210 Central Park South Corp. 12 N.Y.2d 329, 189 NE2d 812, 239 NYS2d 547 (1963).

Since an action to foreclose a mortgage is a suit in equity, Jamaica Savings Bank v. M.S. Investing Co. 274 NY 215, 8 NE2d 493 (1937), all of the rules of equity are fully applicable to the proceeding, including those regarding punitive or exemplary damages, I.H.P. Corp. v. 210 Central Park South Corp., supra. Indeed this Court is persuaded that Judge Benjamin Cardozo was most assuredly correct in stating that “The whole body of principles, whether of law or of equity, bearing on the case, becomes the reservoir drawn upon by the court in enlightening its judgment” Susquehannah Steamship Co. Inc. v. A.O. Andersen & Co. Inc. 239 NY 285 at 294, 146 NE 381 (1925). In a suit in equity, the Court is empowered with jurisdiction to do that which ought to be done. While the Court notes that the formal distinctions between an action at law and a suit in equity have long since been abolished in New York (see CPLR 103, Field Code of 1848 §§ 2, 3, 4, 69), the Supreme Court is nevertheless vested with equity jurisdiction and  [*5]  the distinct rules governing equity are still very much  [**16] applicable, Carroll v. Bullock 207 NY 567, 101 NE 438 (1913). Therefore, in a matter where the conduct of the party to be charged is either willful, wanton or reckless, the Court may invoke the principles of equity so as to make an award of exemplary damages.

Here, the Court is constrained to find that the conduct of Plaintiff in this matter was both willful and wanton, as evidenced by not one but two unauthorized entries into Defendant’s dwelling, occurring in complete derogation of Defendant’s right of possession. This conduct becomes even more glaring when consideration is given to the fact that Defendant affirmatively notified Plaintiff that he had secured the property and that it was not abandoned and still contained his personal property. Even so, Plaintiff maintains that it has entered the property under a color of right, which turns out to be illusory under the circumstances. In spite of these declarations, Plaintiff willfully took it upon itself to enter the property on more than one occasion, doing so unreasonably and without notice, in direct contravention of the terms of its mortgage promulgated to Defendant by its assignor. This is even more distressing when it is considered that Plaintiff breaches its obligations to Defendant under the mortgage, running roughshod over Defendant’s rights with a specious claim that it is acting to protect its rights and the property. In short, the conduct of Plaintiff was nothing short of oppressive and would best be described as heavy handed and egregious, to say the very least. Certainly, the trespass was willful and calculated and was not accidental in any way and the Court finds that Plaintiff did not act in good faith. Under these circumstances, an award of both actual and exemplary damages is necessary and appropriate in order to properly compensate Defendant for the losses he has sustained by way of Plaintiff’s shockingly wrongful conduct as well as to serve as an appropriate deterrent to any future outrageous, improper and unlawful deeds.

The Court finds the appropriate measure of damages for the trespass to Defendant’s possessory interest in the property to be in the amount of $ 200.00. The Court further finds that Defendant is entitled to recover $ 4,892.00 representing the value of the personalty lost as a direct result of Plaintiff’s actions in trespass. Finally, the Court finds that Defendant is entitled to  recover exemplary damages from Plaintiff in the amount of $ 150,000.00.

For all of the foregoing reasons, it is, therefore

ORDERED, ADJUDGED and DECREED that the Defendant STEVEN E. TYSON residing at 3 Danville Court, Greenlawn, New York 11740 recover judgment against the Plaintiff WELLS FARGO BANK N.A. with an office located at 3476 Stateview Boulevard, Fort Mill, South Carolina 29715 the sum of $ 200.00 for damages resulting from trespass, together with the sum of $ 4,892.00 for actual loss, together with the sum of $ 150,000.00 for exemplary damages, for a total recovery of $ 155,092.00 and that the Defendant have execution therefor. The Clerk of Suffolk County is directed to enter judgment accordingly.

This shall constitute the Decision, Judgment and Order of this Court.

Dated: March 5, 2010

Riverhead, New York

ENTER:

JEFFREY ARLEN SPINNER, J.S.C.

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Lenders Increasingly Facing Forensic Loan Audits

Posted on February 4, 2010. Filed under: Foreclosure Defense, Loan Modification, Mortgage Audit, Mortgage Fraud, Mortgage Law, Predatory Lending, Refinance, RESPA, right to rescind, Truth in Lending Act | Tags: , , , , , , , , , |

For the past couple of years, it has become a fairly common practice for lenders and servicers to employ forensic loan audits on pools of mortgages, with the goal of uncovering patterns of noncompliance with federal and local regulations, the presence of fraud and/or the testing of high fee violations. Unfortunately, for these same lenders, the practice of forensic loan auditing has slipped over to the consumer side of the market and is now being used against the lenders themselves.

Homeowners, many of whom are facing foreclosures, have begun hiring forensic loan auditors to review their loan documents, and if violations are found, they are hiring attorneys to bring their case against the lenders. What do they hope to gain? At the very least, the homeowners are trying to forestall a foreclosure, push for a loan modification or, at the end of continuum, try to get the loan rescinded.

“The forensic loan review as we know it today came about two years ago, when the mortgage market started to melt down,” explains Jeffrey Taylor, co-founder and managing director for Orlando-based Digital Risk LLC. “The idea of the forensic review was to look for a breach of representations and warranties so the investor or servicer could put the loan back to the originator. This is when you had all the big banks reviewing nonperforming assets to see if there was any fraud material or breaches so as to put them back to the entity that sold the loan.”

Originally, and still today, most forensic loan reviews are done by institutions on nonconforming assets. Starting in about 2008, the concept morphed into a kind of consumer protection program. Forensic loan auditing companies have since sprouted up like weeds, and many advisors are now advocating the program as a best practice and the first step before bringing a lawsuit against the lender to get a “bad” mortgage rescinded or force a loan modification.

“Every constituent along the way is looking for their own get-out-of-jail-free card,” observes Frank Pallotta, a principal with Loan Value Group LLC of Rumson, N.J. “I’ve been seeing this for the last two years. It started with banks that bought loans from small correspondents, and when those loans were going down, they would look for anything in the loan documentss to put it back to the person they bought the loan from. Fannie and Freddie are doing it, too. Now you have borrowers going to the banks to see if they have all their documents in place; they want their own get-out-of-jail-free card.”

Litigation-a-go-go

In some regards, lenders should be worried, as a swarm of potential lawsuits could fly in their direction. These might not always be hefty lawsuits, considering they mostly represent individual loan amounts, but they are annoying and the fees to defend the institution from these efforts can mount up very quickly. In addition, if homeowners are successful in the bids to rescind a loan, the lender has to pay back all closing costs and finance charges.
The industry should also be concerned because experts in mortgage loan rescissions say it is very hard for a bank to mount an effective defense against people who can prove that their loan contained violations.

“It is extremely difficult for lenders to defend against a lawsuit when they face a bona fide rescission claim,” says Seth Leventhal, an attorney with Fafinski Mark & Johnson PA in Eden Prairie, Minn., who often works with banks.

Additionally, in this age of securitization, many banks don’t own the loans they originated, but, says Leventhal, this is not a defense. “If they don’t own the loan anymore, they are going to have to get in touch with the servicer who does,” he says.

On the other hand, the homeowner’s cost to arrange a loan audit and hire an attorney can be prohibitive, so there is some balance.
Jon Maddux, principal and founder of Carlsbad, Calif.-based You Walk Away LLC, started one of the first companies offering forensic home loan audits for homeowners back in January 2008.

“We found that about 80% of the loans we audited had some type of violation,” he says. “And we thought it was going to be a great new tactic to help the distressed homeowner.”

However, it wasn’t. Homeowners would take the audit findings to their lender or servicer, only to find themselves pretty much as ignored as they were before they made the investment in the audit.

“We found lenders weren’t really reacting to an audit,” says Maddux, adding that lenders and servicers would only react to lawsuits based on audit information.

An audit by itself is not some magical way to make everything go away; it’s just the beginning, adds Dean Mostofi, the founder of National Loan Audits in Rockville, Md.

“Borrowers who contact lenders with an audit don’t get too far,” he says. “It’s in their best interest to go in with an attorney.”

The problem is, Mostofi states, that the first point of contact is the loss mitigation department, and “those people typically have no idea what you are talking about. To get past them sometimes requires lawsuits.”

Paper chase

The forensic loan audit lets the homeowner know if the closing documents contain any violations of the Truth In Lending Act (TILA) and Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (RESPA), or if there was any kind of fraud or misrepresentation.

“We go through the important documents – in particular, the applications – TILA disclosure, Department of Housing and Urban Development forms, the note, etc., making sure that everything was disclosed properly to the borrower and that borrowers knew what they were getting into,” says Mostofi. “We also look at the borrower’s income to see if everything was properly disclosed. If the lender didn’t care about the borrower’s income, then we look further for other signs that it might be a predatory loan.”

According to August Blass, CEO and president of Walnut Creek, Calif.-based National Loan Auditors, a forensic loan audit is a thorough risk assessment audit performed by professionals who have industry and legal qualifications to review loan documents and portfolios for potential compliance or underwriting violations, and provide an informative, accurate loan auditing report detailing errors or misrepresentations.

Some elements of a forensic loan audit, says Blass, should include: a compliance analysis report based on data from the actual file; post-closing underwriting review and analysis; and summary of applicable statutes, prevailing case law and action steps that the attorney or loss mitigation group may chose to act upon.

TILA’s statute of limitations extends back three years, so most people who end up on their lender’s doorsteps are people who financed or refinanced during the boom period of 2005 through early 2007. If serious violations are discovered, the borrower can move to have the mortgage rescinded.

Not everyone appreciates the efforts of the forensic loan auditors working the homeowner side of the business.

“It began with a bunch of entrepreneurial, ex-mortgage brokers who learned how to game the system the first time, then started offering services to consumers to teach them the game,” Digital Risk’s Taylor says.

A year ago, most people didn’t know what a forensic audit was, but “now almost everyone knows,” says Mostofi. “The problem that we are having is that the banks are coming back and telling borrowers that everyone who is offering some kind of service to help them is a crook because they are charging a fee.”

Indeed, fees for a forensic audit often fall into the $2,000 to $5,000 range – but a hefty sum for someone facing foreclosure.
This could all be a desperate attempt to get a loan rescinded, but in regard to loan rescissions, there’s bad news and good news.

“Yes, it’s tough for lenders to defend themselves,” says James Thompson, an attorney in the Chicago office of Jenner & Block LLP who represents banks and finance companies. But, he adds, there is an exception: the plaintiff in this kind of lawsuit has to essentially buy back the loan, which means the plaintive (borrower) has to get new financing.

“The borrower has to be able to repay the amount he borrowed,” explains Thompson. “If the property is underwater, as many of these are, the borrower can’t go out and get a replacement mortgage that would give him the entire amount he would need to repay the lender.”

In some court cases, as part of the initial lawsuit, the plaintiff needs to prove that he or she is capable of getting a refinancing. What happens if the court grants a rescission but the consumer can’t find financing? Oddly, no one knows, because court cases haven’t gotten that far.

“Every one of these cases gets resolved,” says Thompson. “The borrowers are struggling to get the attention of the overworked loan servicers, who are scrambling with as many loan modifications and workouts they can come up with. You can get to the head of the line sometimes if you show up with an attorney and forensic loan examination, saying, ‘Here is a TILA violation; we want to rescind.'”

“I don’t see very many of these litigating,” National Loan Auditors’ Blass concurs. “It brings the settlement offer to the table a little faster. It’s not as if the lender would not have brought an offer to the table without the audit. It just seems to fast-track the process a little bit more.”

Forensic loan audits expose mistakes and unscrupulous lending practices that will assist the borrower in negotiation efforts, Blass adds. “Federal-, state- or county-specific lending violations and the legal guidelines for remedy, can pave the way to successful and expedient modification.”

Perhaps, the bigger nightmare of all is not the lawsuits brought by individual homeowners, but the big law firms finding all these individuals and bringing them together for a class action suit.

“The plaintiff bar is as active as ever. They have these big dragnets, trying to capture all the misdeeds of mortgage bankers, going after them with class-action lawsuits,” says David Lykken, president of Mortgage Banking Solutions in Austin, Texas.

This just aggravates the situation, adds Lykken. “I have not seen one class-action lawsuit bring about any positive change. Punitive damages just drain the cash-out of already cash-strapped companies.”

Steve Bergsman is a freelance writer based in Mesa, Ariz., and author of “After The Fall: Opportunities & Strategies for Real Estate Investing in the Coming Decade,” published by John Wiley & Sons.

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Lynne Huxtable and Jeffrey Agnew, v. Timothy F. Geithner, et al.,

Posted on December 29, 2009. Filed under: Case Law, Foreclosure Defense, Legislation, Loan Modification, Mortgage Law, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , |

Lender’s refusal to modify loan may have violated borrowers’ Fifth Amendment rights to due process.

____________________________________________________________________________________________

LYNNE HUXTABLE and JEFFREY A. AGNEW, Plaintiffs, v. TIMOTHY F. GEITHNER, et al., Defendants.

Case No. 09cv1846 BTM(NLS)

UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA


December 23, 2009, Decided

December 23, 2009, Filed


CORE TERMS: lender, public function, joint action, mortgage, factual allegations, private entities, modification, state action, state actors, quotations, guaranty, notice, home mortgage, mortgage loan, mere fact, federal program, summary judgment, fully developed, fact-bound, foreclosed, defaulted, federally, veteran’s, nexus, government officials, discovery, recorded

COUNSEL: [*1] For Lynne Huxtable, Jeffrey A Agnew, Plaintiffs: Jeffrey Alan Agnew, LEAD ATTORNEY, Jeffrey A Agnew, Attorney at Law, Ramona, CA.

For Timothy F. Geithner, as United States Secretary of the Treasury, United States Department of the Treasury, Defendants: Thomas C Stahl, LEAD ATTORNEY, U S Attorneys Office Southern District of California, San Diego, CA.

For The Federal Housing Finance Agency, as conservator for the Federal National Mortgage Association and for the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation, doing business as Freddie Mac, doing business as Fannie Mae, Defendant: Christopher S Tarbell, LEAD ATTORNEY, Arnold & Porter LLP, Los Angeles, CA.

For National City Corporation, a Delaware corporation, PNC Financial Services Group, Inc, a Pennsylvania corporation, National City Mortgage, a division of National City Bank, National City Bank, a nationally chartered bank, Defendants: Cathy Lynn Granger, LEAD ATTORNEY, Wolfe & Wyman LLP, Irvine, CA.

For Cal-Western Reconveyance Corporation, a California corporation, Defendant: Thomas N Abbott, LEAD ATTORNEY, Pite Duncan LLP, San Diego, CA.

JUDGES: Honorable Barry Ted Moskowitz, United States District Judge.

OPINION BY: Barry Ted Moskowitz

OPINION

ORDER DENYING MOTION TO DISMISS

On  [*2] September 21, 2009, Defendants National City Bank and PNC Financial Services Group, Inc. (“Moving Defendants”) filed a motion to dismiss the Complaint for failure to state a claim. For the following reasons, the motion is DENIED.

I. BACKGROUND

Plaintiffs’ Complaint arises out of non-judicial foreclosure proceedings related to their home in Ramona, California. The following are factual allegations in the Complaint and are not the Court’s findings.

Plaintiffs defaulted on their home mortgage in November 2007. (Compl. P 26.) In February 2008, a notice of default was recorded and served. (Compl. P 27.) And in December 2008, a notice of sale was recorded and served, setting a date for the public auction of Plaintiffs’ home. (Compl. P 29.) Pursuant to a joint motion, the Court has enjoined the sale of Plaintiffs’ home during the pendency of this action. (September 29, 2009 Order, Doc. 25.)

Plaintiffs allege that they are eligible for a loan modification under the Home Affordable Modification Program (“HAMP”). (Compl. P 95.) HAMP is a federally funded program that allows mortgagors to refinance their mortgages and reduce their monthly payments. (Compl. P 66.) Despite their eligibility for HAMP,  [*3] the loan servicer, Defendant National City Mortgage Company, twice denied their application for a loan modification. (Compl. PP 90, 93.) Plaintiffs did not receive a reason for the denial or an opportunity to appeal. (Compl. P 100.)

Plaintiffs’ Complaint contains two counts. Both are for violation of due process under the Fifth Amendment for failing to create rules implementing HAMP that comport with due process. (Compl. PP 114-27.)

Defendants National City Bank and PNC Financial Services Group, Inc. have moved to dismiss the Complaint on the grounds that Plaintiffs have failed to plead that they are state actors.

II. LEGAL STANDARD

Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2), the plaintiff is required only to set forth a “short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief,” and “give the defendant fair notice of what the . . . claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.” Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555, 127 S. Ct. 1955, 167 L. Ed. 2d 929 (2007). When reviewing a motion to dismiss, the allegations of material fact in plaintiff’s complaint are taken as true and construed in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. See Parks Sch. of Bus., Inc. v. Symington, 51 F.3d 1480, 1484 (9th Cir. 1995).  [*4] But only factual allegations must be accepted as true–not legal conclusions. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949, 173 L. Ed. 2d 868 (2009). “Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice.” Id. Although detailed factual allegations are not required, the factual allegations “must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. Furthermore, “only a complaint that states a plausible claim for relief survives a motion to dismiss.” Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. at 1949.

III. DISCUSSION

Plaintiffs have alleged that Defendants have violated their Fifth Amendment procedural due process rights. The Fifth Amendment, however, only applies to governmental actions, Bingue v. Prunchak, 512 F.3d 1169, 1174 (9th Cir. 2008), and the Moving Defendants are private entities. Therefore, the Moving Defendants argue, the Complaint fails to state a claim against them.

But in some circumstances the Fifth Amendment does apply to private entities. “In order to apply the proscriptions of the Fifth Amendment to private actors, there must exist a sufficiently close nexus between the (government) and the challenged action of the .  [*5] . . (private) entity so that the action of the latter may be fairly treated as that of the (government) itself.” Rank v. Nimmo, 677 F.2d 692, 701 (9th Cir. 1982) (internal quotations omitted). There are four different tests used to determine whether private action can be attributed to the state: “(1) public function; (2) joint action; (3) governmental compulsion or coercion; and (4) governmental nexus. Satisfaction of any one test is sufficient to find state action, so long as no countervailing factor exists.” Kirtley v. Rainey, 326 F.3d 1088, 1092 (9th Cir. 2003). The application of these tests is a “necessarily fact-bound inquiry.” Lugar v. Edmondson Oil Co., Inc., 457 U.S. 922, 939, 102 S. Ct. 2744, 73 L. Ed. 2d 482 (1982).

Plaintiffs argue that two tests apply here: public function and joint action.

1. Public Function

“Under the public function test, when private individuals or groups are endowed by the State with powers or functions governmental in nature, they become agencies or instrumentalities of the State and subject to its constitutional limitations. The public function test is satisfied only on a showing that the function at issue is both traditionally and exclusively governmental.” Kirtley, 326 F.3d at 1093 [*6] (internal quotations and citations omitted). Mortgage loan servicing is neither traditionally nor exclusively governmental, and Plaintiffs cannot show government action under this test.

2. Joint Action

Under the joint action test, the Court considers “whether the state has so far insinuated itself into a position of interdependence with the private entity that it must be recognized as a joint participant in the challenged activity. This occurs when the state knowingly accepts the benefits derived from unconstitutional behavior.” Kirtley, 326 F.3d at 1093 (internal quotations omitted). “A private party is liable under this theory, however, only if its particular actions are ‘inextricably intertwined’ with those of the government.” Brunette v. Humane Soc’y of Ventura County, 294 F.3d 1205, 1211 (9th Cir. 2002). “The mere fact that a business is subject to state regulation does not itself convert its action into that of the State . . . . Nor does the fact that the regulation is extensive and detailed . . . .” Jackson v. Metropolitan Edison Co., 419 U.S. 345, 350, 95 S. Ct. 449, 42 L. Ed. 2d 477 (addressing equivalent provision in Fourteenth Amendment).

The Court does not have sufficient facts before it to determine whether  [*7] state action exists here. As the Supreme Court has stated, this is a “necessarily fact-bound inquiry.” Lugar, 457 U.S. at 939. Although the mere fact that a business is subject to extensive regulation is not sufficient to find joint action, here there may be more than just extensive regulation. Plaintiffs have pled that the HAMP program imposes affirmative duties on lenders, like the Moving Defendants, who participate in the program. If an applicant meets certain federally created criteria, then the lender has no discretion and must grant a loan modification. The federal program is completely administered by the Moving Defendants, and they are essentially acting as the government’s agents in executing HAMP. Making all reasonable inference in Plaintiff’s favor, the Court find that Plaintiff has stated a claim upon which relief can be granted.

Of course, facts developed through discovery may ultimately show that Plaintiff cannot establish state action. But at this stage in the litigation, the Court does not have the answers to several relevant issues, including (1) whether government officials were involved in the decision to deny Plaintiff’s request; (2) whether government officials  [*8] provide guidance to the Moving Defendants regarding the administration of HAMP; (3) the extent of ongoing communication between the government and the Moving Defendants regarding HAMP; (4) and the financial arrangements between the government and the Moving Defendants regarding HAMP. This is not an exhaustive list and the course of discovery may yield other relevant facts not listed here.

Defendant’s best case–which it does not cite–in support of its motion to dismiss is Rank v. Nimmo, 677 F.2d 692 (9th Cir. 1982). In Nimmo, the Ninth Circuit held that a private mortgage lender who foreclosed on a plaintiff’s property was not a state actor. The plaintiff had obtained a mortgage loan through the VA Home Mortgage Guarantee Program, which was a federal program that guaranteed a portion of a qualifying veteran’s mortgage, enabling veterans to obtain mortgage loans without a substantial down payment. 677 F.2d at 693-94. A private commercial lender made a loan to the plaintiff under the program. Id. at 693. When the plaintiff defaulted, the lender foreclosed on the plaintiff’s property. Id. at 695-96. The Plaintiff sued the lender for depriving him of his entitlement to a federal-home-loan  [*9] program without affording him due process under the Fifth Amendment. Id. at 696. The Ninth Circuit held that even though the private lender was subject to extensive federal regulation under the federal home loan guaranty program, the private lender was not a state actor. Id. at 702.

This case is different from Nimmo for at least two reasons. First, and most importantly, the Ninth Circuit decided Nimmo on cross motions for summary judgment and had the benefit of a more fully developed factual record. And second, the guaranty program at issue in Nimmo was very different from HAMP. Under the guaranty program, private lenders applied to the government for participation in the program and the government could deny their participation if the private lender failed to meet certain criteria. 677 F.2d 692, 694. But in this case, Plaintiffs contend that the government required private lenders to participate if they have received federal money, and the private lenders must administer HAMP on the government’s behalf. Whether this is correct or not is not an issue that can be determined on the record before the Court.

IV. CONCLUSION

For the foregoing reasons, the Court DENIES the Motion to Dismiss (Doc.  [*10] 21.) The Moving Defendants may raise their argument again on a motion for summary judgment once the record has been more fully developed.

IT IS SO ORDERED.

DATED: December 23, 2009

/s/ Barry Ted Moskowitz

Honorable Barry Ted Moskowitz

United States District Judge

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MARLA LYNN SWANSON, Plaintiff, vs. EMC MORTGAGE CORPORATION, et al.,

Posted on December 12, 2009. Filed under: Case Law, Foreclosure Defense, Mortgage Law, Predatory Lending | Tags: , , , , |

MARLA LYNN SWANSON, Plaintiff, vs. EMC MORTGAGE CORPORATION, et al., Defendants.

CASE NO. CV F 09-1507 LJO DLB

UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE EASTERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA

October 29, 2009, Decided

October 29, 2009, Filed


COUNSEL: For Marla Lynn Swanson, Plaintiff: Sharon L. Lapin, LEAD ATTORNEY, Attorney At Law, San Rafael, CA.

For EMC Mortgage Corporation, Mortgage Electronic Registration System, Inc., Defendants: S. Christopher Yoo, LEAD ATTORNEY, Adorno Yoss Alvarado and Smith, Santa Ana, CA.

For Robert E. Weiss INC, Defendant: Cris A Klingerman, LEAD ATTORNEY, Robert E. Weiss, Inc., Covina, CA.

For Brokerleon Inc. DBA: A-ONE Home Loans, Leon Turner Jr., Shantae Michelle Curran, Defendants: SUSAN L. MOORE, LEAD ATTORNEY, Pascuzzi, Moore & Stoker, Attorneys At Law, Apc, Fresno, CA.

JUDGES: Lawrence J. O’Neill, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

OPINION BY: Lawrence J. O’Neill

OPINION

ORDER ON DEFENDANTS’ F.R.Civ.P. 12 MOTION TO DISMISS

(Doc. 17.)

INTRODUCTION

Defendants EMC Mortgage Corporation (“EMC”) and Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems, Inc. (“MERS”) seek to dismiss as meritless and insufficiently plead plaintiff Marla Lynn Swanson’s (“Ms. Swanson’s”) claims arising from a loan, default and mortgage on Ms. Swanson’s Sanger residence (“property”). Ms. Swanson filed no papers to oppose dismissal of her claims against EMC and MERS. This Court considered EMC and MERS’ F.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss on the record and VACATES the November  [*2] 10, 2009 hearing, pursuant to Local Rule 78-230(h). For the reasons discussed below, this Court DISMISSES this action against EMC and MERS.

BACKGROUND

Ms. Swanson’s Loan And Default

Ms. Swanson obtained a $ 308,000 loan from defendant Community Lending, Inc. (“Community Lending”) and which was secured by a deed of trust (“DOT”) encumbering the property and recorded on July 14, 2006. 1 The DOT identifies Ms. Swanson as borrower, Community Lending as lender, Stewart Title of California as Trustee, and MERS as beneficiary.

1   All documents pertaining to Ms. Swanson’s loan and default were recorded with the Fresno County Recorder.

Defendant Robert E. Weiss, Inc. (“Weiss”) was substituted as DOT trustee by a substitution of trustee recorded on February 24, 2009.

A Notice of Default and Election to Sell under Deed of Trust was recorded on February 24, 2009 and indicates that Ms. Swanson was $ 9,804.68 in arrears on her loan as of February 23, 2009.

A second Notice of Default and Election to Sell under Deed of Trust was recorded on March 5, 2009 and indicates that Ms. Swanson was $ 11,984.68 in arrears on her loan as of March 4, 2009.

Ms. Swanson’s Claims

On August 25, 2009, Ms. Swanson filed her complaint  [*3] (“complaint”) to allege federal and California statutory and common law claims. 2 The complaint appears to challenge EMC and/or MERS’ standing to initiate non-judicial foreclosure of the property. The complaint alleges on information and belief “that no legal transfer of the Mortgage Note, Deed of Trust or any other interest in Plaintiff’s Property was effected that gave any of the Defendants the right to be named a trustee, mortgagee, beneficiary or an authorized agent of trustee, mortgagee or beneficiary of Plaintiff’s Mortgage Note, Deed of Trust or any other interest in Plaintiff’s Property.” The complaint further alleges that “Defendants . . . are not the real parties in interest because they are not the legal trustee, mortgagee or beneficiary, nor are they authorized agents of the trustee, mortgagee or beneficiary, nor are they in possession of the Note, or holders of the Note, or non-holders of the Note entitled to payment . . . . Therefore, Defendants instituted foreclosure proceedings against Plaintiff’s Property without rights under the law.”

2   The complaint pursues claims against Ms. Swanson’s mortgage brokers. Such claims are not subject to EMC and MERS’ motion to dismiss.

The  [*4] complaint alleges six claims against EMS and/or MERS which this Court will address below and seeks an injunction against foreclosure, general, statutory and punitive damages, and attorney fees.

DISCUSSION

F.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) Standards

EMC and MERS attack the claims against them as meritless, barred by law and lacking supporting facts. EMC and MERS characterize the allegations against them as “conclusory and boilerplate.”

“A trial court may dismiss a claim sua sponte under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). . . . Such dismissal may be made without notice where the claimant cannot possibly win relief.” Omar v. Sea-Land Service, Inc., 813 F.2d 986, 991 (9th Cir. 1987); see Wong v. Bell, 642 F.2d 359, 361-362 (9th Cir. 1981). Sua sponte dismissal may be made before process is served on defendants. Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 324, 109 S. Ct. 1827, 104 L. Ed. 2d 338 (1989) (dismissals under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(d) are often made sua sponte); Franklin v. Murphy, 745 F.2d 1221, 1226 (9th Cir. 1984) (court may dismiss frivolous in forma pauperis action sua sponte prior to service of process on defendants).

A F.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss is a challenge to the sufficiency of the pleadings set forth in the complaint. “When a federal  [*5] court reviews the sufficiency of a complaint, before the reception of any evidence either by affidavit or admissions, its task is necessarily a limited one. The issue is not whether a plaintiff will ultimately prevail but whether the claimant is entitled to offer evidence to support the claims.” Scheuer v. Rhodes, 416 U.S. 232, 236, 94 S. Ct. 1683, 40 L. Ed. 2d 90 (1974); Gilligan v. Jamco Development Corp., 108 F.3d 246, 249 (9th Cir. 1997). A F.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) dismissal is proper where there is either a “lack of a cognizable legal theory” or “the absence of sufficient facts alleged under a cognizable legal theory.” Balistreri v. Pacifica Police Dep’t, 901 F.2d 696, 699 (9th Cir. 1990); Graehling v. Village of Lombard, Ill., 58 F.3d 295, 297 (7th Cir. 1995).

In resolving a F.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) motion, the court must: (1) construe the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff; (2) accept all well-pleaded factual allegations as true; and (3) determine whether plaintiff can prove any set of facts to support a claim that would merit relief. Cahill v. Liberty Mut. Ins. Co., 80 F.3d 336, 337-338 (9th Cir. 1996). Nonetheless, a court is “free to ignore legal conclusions, unsupported conclusions,  [*6] unwarranted inferences and sweeping legal conclusions cast in the form of factual allegations.” Farm Credit Services v. American State Bank, 339 F.3d 764, 767 (8th Cir. 2003) (citation omitted). A court need not permit an attempt to amend a complaint if “it determines that the pleading could not possibly be cured by allegation of other facts.” Cook, Perkiss and Liehe, Inc. v. N. Cal. Collection Serv. Inc., 911 F.2d 242, 247 (9th Cir. 1990). “While a complaint attacked by a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss does not need detailed factual allegations, a plaintiff’s obligation to provide the ‘grounds’ of his ‘entitlement to relief’ requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 127 S. Ct. 1955, 1964-65, 167 L. Ed. 2d 929 (2007) (internal citations omitted). Moreover, a court “will dismiss any claim that, even when construed in the light most favorable to plaintiff, fails to plead sufficiently all required elements of a cause of action.” Student Loan Marketing Ass’n v. Hanes, 181 F.R.D. 629, 634 (S.D. Cal. 1998). In practice, “a complaint . . . must contain either direct or inferential allegations  [*7] respecting all the material elements necessary to sustain recovery under some viable legal theory.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 562, 127 S.Ct. at 1969 (quoting Car Carriers, Inc. v. Ford Motor Co., 745 F.2d 1101, 1106 (7th Cir. 1984)).

In Ashcroft v. Iqbal,     U.S.    , 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949, 173 L. Ed. 2d 868 (2009), the U.S. Supreme Court recently explained:

To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to “state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” . . . A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.

. . . Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice. (Citation omitted.)

For a F.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) motion, a court generally cannot consider material outside the complaint. Van Winkle v. Allstate Ins. Co., 290 F.Supp.2d 1158, 1162, n. 2 (C.D. Cal. 2003). Nonetheless, a court may consider exhibits submitted with the complaint. Van Winkle, 290 F.Supp.2d at 1162, n. 2. In addition, a “court may consider evidence on which the complaint ‘necessarily  [*8] relies’ if: (1) the complaint refers to the document; (2) the document is central to the plaintiff’s claim; and (3) no party questions the authenticity of the copy attached to the 12(b)(6) motion.” Marder v. Lopez, 450 F.3d 445, 448 (9th Cir. 2006). A court may treat such a document as “part of the complaint, and thus may assume that its contents are true for purposes of a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6).” United States v. Ritchie, 342 F.3d 903, 908 (9th Cir.2003). Such consideration prevents “plaintiffs from surviving a Rule 12(b)(6) motion by deliberately omitting reference to documents upon which their claims are based.” Parrino v. FHP, Inc., 146 F.3d 699, 706 (9th Cir. 1998). 3 A “court may disregard allegations in the complaint if contradicted by facts established by exhibits attached to the complaint.” Sumner Peck Ranch v. Bureau of Reclamation, 823 F.Supp. 715, 720 (E.D. Cal. 1993) (citing Durning v. First Boston Corp., 815 F.2d 1265, 1267 (9th Cir.1987)). Moreover, “judicial notice may be taken of a fact to show that a complaint does not state a cause of action.” Sears, Roebuck & Co. v. Metropolitan Engravers, Ltd., 245 F.2d 67, 70 (9th Cir. 1956); see Estate of Blue v. County of Los Angeles, 120 F.3d 982, 984 (9th Cir. 1997).  [*9] A court properly may take judicial notice of matters of public record outside the pleadings'” and consider them for purposes of the motion to dismiss. Mir v. Little Co. of Mary Hosp., 844 F.2d 646, 649 (9th Cir. 1988) (citation omitted). As such, this Court may consider plaintiffs’ pertinent loan and foreclosure documents.

3   “We have extended the ‘incorporation by reference’ doctrine to situations in which the plaintiff’s claim depends on the contents of a document, the defendant attaches the document to its motion to dismiss, and the parties do not dispute the authenticity of the document, even though the plaintiff does not explicitly allege the contents of that document in the complaint.” Knievel v. ESPN, 393 F.3d 1068, 1076 (9th Cir. 2005) (citing Parrino, 146 F.3d at 706).

Rosenthal Fair Debt Collections Practices Act

The complaint’s second claim attempts to allege EMC’s violation of California’s Rosenthal Fair Debtor Collection Practices Act (“RFDCPA”), Cal. Civ. Code, §§ 1788, et seq. The claim alleges that “Defendants are debt collectors within the meaning of the Rosenthal Act in that they regularly, in the course of their business, on behalf of themselves or others, engage in the  [*10] collection of debt.”

EMC and MERS challenge the claim in that the complaint “does not properly allege that EMC is a debt collector within the meaning of the RFDCPA.”

The RFDCPA’s purpose is “to prohibit debt collectors from engaging in unfair or deceptive practices in the collection of consumer debts and to require debtors to act fairly in entering into and honoring such debts.” Cal. Civ. Code, § 1788.1(b). The RFDCPA defines “debt collector” as “any person who, in the ordinary course of business, regularly, on behalf of himself or herself or others, engages in debt collection.” Cal. Civ. Code, § 1788.2(c).

EMC and MERS argue that the RFDCPA does not prevent a creditor to enforce its security interest under a deed of trust because foreclosing on property does not support a claim under the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (“FDCPA”), 15 U.S.C. §§ 1692, et seq. EMC and MERS note that as a loan servicer, EMC is an authorized agent of the DOT beneficiary to enforce the beneficiary’s security interest under the DOT.

EMC and MERS further fault the RFDCPA claim’s failure to allege facts to support EMC’s RFDCPA violation in that the claim conclusively alleges that “Defendants” “threatened  [*11] to take actions not permitted by law, including . . . collecting on a debt not owed to the Defendants, making false reports to credit reporting agencies, foreclosing upon a void security interest, foreclosing upon a Note of which they were not in possession nor otherwise entitled to payment, falsely stating the amount of a debt, increasing the amount of a debt by including amounts that are not permitted by law or contract, and using unfair and unconscionable means in an attempt to collect a debt.”

EMC and MERS cite to no conclusive authority that non-judicial foreclosure is not debt collection under the RFDCPA. However, “foreclosing on the property pursuant to a deed of trust is not the collection of a debt within the meaning of the FDCPA.” Hulse v. Ocwen Federal Bank, FSB, 195 F.Supp.2d 1188, 1204 (D. Or. 2002). As the fellow district court in Hulse, 195 F.Supp.2d at 1204, explained:

Foreclosing on a trust deed is distinct from the collection of the obligation to pay money. The FDCPA is intended to curtail objectionable acts occurring in the process of collecting funds from a debtor. But, foreclosing on a trust deed is an entirely different path. Payment of funds is not the object of  [*12] the foreclosure action. Rather, the lender is foreclosing its interest in the property.

. . . Foreclosure by the trustee is not the enforcement of the obligation because it is not an attempt to collect funds from the debtor.

Logic suggests that non-judicial foreclosure is not a debt collector’s act under California Civil Code section 1788.2(c). Like the FDCPA, the RFDCPA seeks to prohibit debt collection abuses. A foreclosure action does not address payment of funds. The complaint is void of facts that EMC sought to enforce Ms. Swanson’s obligation by collecting funds from her. The RFDCPA claim’s recitation of alleged wrongs fails to substantiate RFDCPA wrongdoing to warrant the claim’s dismissal against EMC and MERS.

Negligence

The complaint’s (third) negligence claim alleges that EMC and MERS “owed a duty to Plaintiff to perform acts in such a manner as to not cause Plaintiff harm.” The claim alleges “Defendants breached their duty of care to the Plaintiff when they failed to maintain the original Mortgage Note, failed to properly create original documents, failed to make the required disclosures to the Plaintiff and instituted foreclosure proceedings wrongfully.” The claim further alleges  [*13] that EMC and MERS “breached their duty of care to the Plaintiff when they took payments to which they were not entitled, charged fees they were not entitled to charge, and made or otherwise authorized negative reporting of Plaintiff’s creditworthiness to various credit bureaus wrongfully.”

EMC and MERS characterize the claim’s duty “theory” as a “common law duty of care.” EMC and MERS fault the claim’s “conclusory allegations” lacking details as to how EMC and MERS breached such a duty. EMC and MERS note their absence of a lender-borrower relationship with Ms. Swanson and an independent duty “to perform acts in such a manner as to not cause Plaintiff harm.”

“The elements of a cause of action for negligence are (1) a legal duty to use reasonable care, (2) breach of that duty, and (3) proximate [or legal] cause between the breach and (4) the plaintiff’s injury.” Mendoza v. City of Los Angeles, 66 Cal.App.4th 1333, 1339, 78 Cal.Rptr.2d 525 (1998) (citation omitted). “The existence of a duty of care owed by a defendant to a plaintiff is a prerequisite to establishing a claim for negligence.” Nymark v. Heart Fed. Savings & Loan Assn., 231 Cal.App.3d 1089, 1095, 283 Cal.Rptr. 53 (1991). “The  [*14] existence of a legal duty to use reasonable care in a particular factual situation is a question of law for the court to decide.” Vasquez v. Residential Investments, Inc., 118 Cal.App.4th 269, 278, 12 Cal.Rptr.3d 846 (2004) (citation omitted).

“The ‘legal duty’ of care may be of two general types: (a) the duty of a person to use ordinary care in activities from which harm might reasonably be anticipated [, or] (b) [a]n affirmative duty where the person occupies a particular relationship to others. . . . In the first situation, he is not liable unless he is actively careless; in the second, he may be liable for failure to act affirmatively to prevent harm.” McGettigan v. Bay Area Rapid Transit Dist., 57 Cal.App.4th 1011, 1016-1017, 67 Cal.Rptr.2d 516 (1997).

EMC and MERS correctly note the absence of an actionable duty between a lender and borrower in that loan transactions are arms-length and do not invoke fiduciary duties. Absent “special circumstances” a loan transaction “is at arms-length and there is no fiduciary relationship between the borrower and lender.” Oaks Management Corp. v. Superior Court, 145 Cal.App.4th 453, 466, 51 Cal.Rptr.3d 561 (2006); see Downey v. Humphreys, 102 Cal. App. 2d 323, 332, 227 P.2d 484 (1951) [*15] (“A debt is not a trust and there is not a fiduciary relation between debtor and creditor as such.”) Moreover, a lender “owes no duty of care to the [borrowers] in approving their loan. 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.'” Wagner v. Benson, 101 Cal.App.3d 27, 35, 161 Cal.Rptr. 516 (1980) (citing several cases). “[A]s a general rule, a financial institution owes no duty of care to a borrower when the institution’s involvement in the loan transaction does not exceed the scope of its conventional role as a mere lender of money.” Nymark, 231 Cal.App.3d at 1096, 283 Cal.Rptr. 53.

Public policy does not impose upon the Bank absolute liability for the hardships which may befall the [borrower] it finances.” Wagner, 101 Cal.App.3d at 34, 161 Cal.Rptr. 516. The success of a borrower’s investment “is not a benefit of the loan agreement which the Bank is under a duty to protect.” Wagner, 101 Cal.App.3d at 34, 161 Cal.Rptr. 516 (lender lacked duty to disclose “any information it may have had”).

The complaint alleges no facts of EMC and MERS’ cognizable duty to Ms. Swanson  [*16] to support a negligence claim. “No such duty exists” for a lender “to determine the borrower’s ability to repay the loan. . . . The lender’s efforts to determine the creditworthiness and ability to repay by a borrower are for the lender’s protection, not the borrower’s.” Renteria v. United States, 452 F. Supp. 2d 910, 922-923 (D. Ariz. 2006) (borrowers “had to rely on their own judgment and risk assessment to determine whether or not to accept the loan”). Ms. Swanson’s purported claims arise from her failure to pay her loan and subsequent initiation of foreclosure of the property. The complaint further lacks facts of special circumstances to impose duties on EMC and MERS in that the complaint depicts an arms-length home loan transaction, nothing more. The complaint fails to substantiate a special lending relationship with EMC and MERS or an actionable breach of duty to warrant dismissal of the negligence claim.

Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act

The complaint alleges that on June 10, 2009, a Qualified Written Request (“QWR”) under the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (“RESPA”), 12 U.S.C. §§ 2601, et seq., was mailed to EMC and included a demand to rescind the loan under the Truth  [*17] in Lending Act (“TILA”), 15 U.S.C. §§ 1601, et seq. The complaint further alleges that “EMC has yet to properly respond to this Request.” The complaint’s fourth claim alleges that “EMC violated RESPA, 12 U.S.C. § 2605(e)(3), 4 by failing and refusing to provide a proper written explanation or response to Plaintiff’s QWR.”

4 12 U.S.C. § 2605(e)(2) addresses response to a QWR and provides:

Not later than 60 days (excluding legal public holidays, Saturdays, and Sundays) after the receipt from any borrower of any qualified written request under paragraph (1) and, if applicable, before taking any action with respect to the inquiry of the borrower, the servicer shall–

(A) make appropriate corrections in the account of the borrower, including the crediting of any late charges or penalties, and transmit to the borrower a written notification of such correction (which shall include the name and telephone number of a representative of the servicer who can provide assistance to the borrower);

(B) after conducting an investigation, provide the borrower with a written explanation or clarification that includes–

(i) to the extent applicable, a statement of the reasons for which the servicer believes  [*18] the account of the borrower is correct as determined by the servicer; and

(ii) the name and telephone number of an individual employed by, or the office or department of, the servicer who can provide assistance to the borrower; or

(C) after conducting an investigation, provide the borrower with a written explanation or clarification that includes–

(i) information requested by the borrower or an explanation of why the information requested is unavailable or cannot be obtained by the servicer; and

(ii) the name and telephone number of an individual employed by, or the office or department of, the servicer who can provide assistance to the borrower.

No Private Right Of Action For Disclosure Violations

EMC and MERS argue that to the extent the RESPA claim seeks to recover for disclosure violations, the claim is a barred in the absence of a private right of action.

RESPA’s purpose is to “curb abusive settlement practices in the real estate industry. Such amorphous goals, however, do not translate into a legislative intent to create a private right of action.” Bloom v. Martin, 865 F.Supp. 1377, 1385 (N.D. Cal. 1994), aff’d, 77 F.3d 318 (1996). “The structure of RESPA’s various statutory provisions  [*19] indicates that Congress did not intend to create a private right of action for disclosure violations under 12 U.S.C. § 2603 . . . Congress did not intend to provide a private remedy . . .” Bloom, 865 F.Supp. at 1384.

EMC and MERS correctly point out the absence of a private right of action for RESPA disclosure violations to doom the RESPA claim to the extent it is based on disclosure violations.

Absence Of Pecuniary Loss

EMC and MERS further fault the RESPA claim’s failure to allege pecuniary loss.

“Whoever fails to comply with this section shall be liable to the borrower . . . [for] any actual damages to the borrower as a result of the failure . . .” 12 U.S.C. § 2605(f)(1)(A). “However, alleging a breach of RESPA duties alone does not state a claim under RESPA. Plaintiffs must, at a minimum, also allege that the breach resulted in actual damages.” Hutchinson v. Delaware Sav. Bank FSB, 410 F.Supp.2d 374, 383 (D. N.J. 2006).

The RESPA claim fails to allege pecuniary loss from EMC’s alleged failure to respond to Ms. Swanson’s QWR. Such omission is fatal to the claim given its mere reliance on a RESPA violation without more.

Fraud

The complaint’s (sixth) fraud claim alleges that “EMC misrepresented  [*20] to Plaintiff that EMC has the right to collect monies from Plaintiff on its behalf or on behalf of others when Defendant EMC had no legal right to collect such monies.” The claim further alleges that “MERS misrepresented to Plaintiff on the Deed of Trust that it is a qualified beneficiary with the ability to assign or transfer the Deed of Trust and/or the Note and/or substitute trustees under the Deed of Trust. Further, Defendant MERS misrepresented that it followed the applicable legal requirements to transfer the Note and Deed of Trust to subsequent beneficiaries.”

Absence Of Particularity

EMC and MERS challenge the fraud claim’s failure to satisfy F.R.Civ.P. 9(b) requirements to allege fraud with particularity.

The elements of a California fraud claim are: (1) misrepresentation (false representation, concealment or nondisclosure); (2) knowledge of the falsity (or “scienter”); (3) intent to defraud, i.e., to induce reliance; (4) justifiable reliance; and (5) resulting damage. Lazar v. Superior Court, 12 Cal.4th 631, 638, 49 Cal.Rptr.2d 377, 909 P.2d 981 (1996). The same elements comprise a cause of action for negligent misrepresentation, except there is no requirement of intent to induce reliance.  [*21] Cadlo v. Owens-Illinois, Inc., 125 Cal. App. 4th 513, 519, 23 Cal. Rptr. 3d 1, 23 Cal.Rtpr.3d 1 (2004).

“[T]o establish a cause of action for fraud a plaintiff must plead and prove in full, factually and specifically, all of the elements of the cause of action. Conrad v. Bank of America, 45 Cal.App.4th 133, 156, 53 Cal.Rptr.2d 336 (1996). There must be a showing “that the defendant thereby intended to induce the plaintiff to act to his detriment in reliance upon the false representation” and “that the plaintiff actually and justifiably relied upon the defendant’s misrepresentation in acting to his detriment.” Conrad, 45 Cal.App.4th at 157, 53 Cal.Rptr.2d 336.

F.R.Civ.P. 9(b) requires a party to “state with particularity the circumstances constituting fraud.” 5 In the Ninth Circuit, “claims for fraud and negligent misrepresentation must meet Rule 9(b)‘s particularity requirements.” Neilson v. Union Bank of California, N.A., 290 F.Supp.2d 1101, 1141 (C.D. Cal. 2003). A court may dismiss a claim grounded in fraud when its allegations fail to satisfy F.R.Civ.P. 9(b)‘s heightened pleading requirements. Vess, 317 F.3d at 1107. A motion to dismiss a claim “grounded in fraud” under F.R.Civ.P. 9(b) for failure to  [*22] plead with particularity is the “functional equivalent” of a F.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim. Vess, 317 F.3d at 1107. As a counter-balance, F.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2) requires from a pleading “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.”

5 F.R.Civ.P. 9(b)‘s particularity requirement applies to state law causes of action: “[W]hile a federal court will examine state law to determine whether the elements of fraud have been pled sufficiently to state a cause of action, the Rule 9(b) requirement that the circumstances of the fraud must be stated with particularity is a federally imposed rule.” Vess v. Ciba-Geigy Corp. USA, 317 F.3d 1097, 1103 (9th Cir. 2003) (quoting Hayduk v. Lanna, 775 F.2d 441, 443 (1st Cir. 1995)(italics in original)).

F.R.Civ.P. 9(b)‘s heightened pleading standard “is not an invitation to disregard Rule 8‘s requirement of simplicity, directness, and clarity” and “has among its purposes the avoidance of unnecessary discovery.” McHenry v. Renne, 84 F.3d 1172, 1178 (9th Cir. 1996). F.R.Civ.P. 9(b) requires “specific” allegations of fraud “to give defendants notice of the particular misconduct which is  [*23] alleged to constitute the fraud charged so that they can defend against the charge and not just deny that they have done anything wrong.” Semegen v. Weidner, 780 F.2d 727, 731 (9th Cir. 1985). “A pleading is sufficient under Rule 9(b) if it identifies the circumstances constituting fraud so that the defendant can prepare an adequate answer from the allegations.” Neubronner v. Milken, 6 F.3d 666, 671-672 (9th Cir. 1993) (internal quotations omitted; citing Gottreich v. San Francisco Investment Corp., 552 F.2d 866, 866 (9th Cir. 1997)). The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has explained:

Rule 9(b) requires particularized allegations of the circumstances constituting fraud. The time, place and content of an alleged misrepresentation may identify the statement or the omission complained of, but these circumstances do not “constitute” fraud. The statement in question must be false to be fraudulent. Accordingly, our cases have consistently required that circumstances indicating falseness be set forth. . . . [W]e [have] observed that plaintiff must include statements regarding the time, place, and nature of the alleged fraudulent activities, and that “mere conclusory allegations of fraud are  [*24] insufficient.” . . . The plaintiff must set forth what is false or misleading about a statement, and why it is false. In other words, the plaintiff must set forth an explanation as to why the statement or omission complained of was false or misleading. . . .

In certain cases, to be sure, the requisite particularity might be supplied with great simplicity.

In Re Glenfed, Inc. Securities Litigation, 42 F.3d 1541, 1547-1548 (9th Cir. 1994) (en banc) (italics in original) superseded by statute on other grounds as stated in Marksman Partners, L.P. v. Chantal Pharm. Corp., 927 F.Supp. 1297 (C.D. Cal. 1996); see Cooper v. Pickett, 137 F.3d 616, 627 (9th Cir. 1997) (fraud allegations must be accompanied by “the who, what, when, where, and how” of the misconduct charged); Neubronner, 6 F.3d at 672 (“The complaint must specify facts as the times, dates, places, benefits received and other details of the alleged fraudulent activity.”)

As to multiple fraud defendants, a plaintiff “must provide each and every defendant with enough information to enable them ‘to know what misrepresentations are attributable to them and what fraudulent conduct they are charged with.'” Pegasus Holdings v. Veterinary Centers of America, Inc., 38 F.Supp.2d 1158, 1163 (C.D. Ca. 1998) [*25] (quoting In re Worlds of Wonder Sec. Litig., 694 F.Supp. 1427, 1433 (N.D. Ca. 1988)). “Rule 9(b) does not allow a complaint to merely lump multiple defendants together but ‘require[s] plaintiffs to differentiate their allegations when suing more than one defendant . . . and inform each defendant separately of the allegations surrounding his alleged participation in the fraud.'” Swartz v. KPMG LLP, 476 F.3d 756, 764-765 (9th Cir. 2007) (quoting Haskin v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., 995 F.Supp. 1437, 1439 (M.D. Fla. 1998)). “In the context of a fraud suit involving multiple defendants, a plaintiff must, at a minimum, ‘identif[y] the role of [each] defendant[] in the alleged fraudulent scheme.” Swartz, 476 F.3d at 765 (quoting Moore v. Kayport Package Express, Inc., 885 F.2d 531, 541 (9th Cir. 1989)).

Moreover, in a fraud action against a corporation, a plaintiff must “allege the names of the persons who made the allegedly fraudulent representations, their authority to speak, to whom they spoke, what they said or wrote, and when it was said or written.” Tarmann v. State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co. 2 Cal.App.4th 153, 157, 2 Cal.Rptr.2d 861 (1991).

The complaint is severely lacking and fails  [*26] to satisfy F.R.Civ.P. 9(b) “who, what, when, where and how” requirements as to EMC, MERS and the other defendants. The complaint makes no effort to allege names of the persons who made the allegedly fraudulent representations, their authority to speak, to whom they spoke, what they said or wrote, and when it was said or written. The complaint fails to substantiate the circumstances alleging falseness attributable to EMC or MERS. The complaint lacks facts to support each fraud element. The fraud claim’s deficiencies are so severe to suggest no potential improvement from an attempt to amend.

MERS California License

The fraud claim disputes that MERS is a qualified DOT beneficiary. Ms. Swanson appears to base such notion on grounds that MERS is not qualified to conduct business in California. The complaint alleges that “MERS was not registered to do business in California.”

MERS contends that “its activities pursuant to the DOT are not considered instrastate business that will require it to be licensed in California.” MERS points to California Corporations Code section 191(c)(7) which provides that a “foreign corporation shall not be considered to be transacting instrastate business” by “[c]reating  [*27] evidences of debt or mortgage, liens or security interests on real or personal property.” California Corporations Code section 191(d)(3) exempts from doing “business in the state” the “enforcement of any loans by trustee’s sale.” Moreover, a foreign corporation does not transact instrastate business by “defending any action or suit.”

MERS demonstrates that it was qualified to conduct California business to defeat a fraud claim to the effect MERS was not.

DOT Beneficiary Authority

The fraud claim disputes that MERS has authority to pursue non-judicial foreclosure. MERS notes that the DOT names MERS as a beneficiary to defeat the complaint’s attempt to allege that MERS lacks a right to foreclose.

“Financing or refinancing of real property is generally accomplished in California through a deed of trust. The borrower (trustor) executes a promissory note and deed of trust, thereby transferring an interest in the property to the lender (beneficiary) as security for repayment of the loan.” Bartold v. Glendale Federal Bank, 81 Cal.App.4th 816, 821, 97 Cal.Rptr.2d 226 (2000). A deed of trust “entitles the lender to reach some asset of the debtor if the note is not paid.” Alliance Mortgage Co. v. Rothwell, 10 Cal.4th 1226, 1235, 44 Cal.Rptr.2d 352, 900 P.2d 601 (1995).  [*28] If a borrower defaults on a loan and the deed of trust contains a power of sale clause, the lender may non-judicially foreclose. See McDonald v. Smoke Creek Live Stock Co., 209 Cal. 231, 236-237, 286 P. 693 (1930).

Under California Civil Code section 2924(a)(1), a “trustee, mortgagee or beneficiary or any of their authorized agents” may conduct the foreclosure process. Under California Civil Code section 2924(b)(4), a “person authorized to record the notice of default or the notice of sale” includes “an agent for the mortgagee or beneficiary, an agent of the named trustee, any person designated in an executed substitution of trustee, or an agent of that substituted trustee.” “Upon default by the trustor, the beneficiary may declare a default and proceed with a nonjudicial foreclosure sale.” Moeller, 25 Cal.App.4th at 830, 30 Cal.Rptr.2d 777.

“If the trustee’s deed recites that all statutory notice requirements and procedures required by law for the conduct of the foreclosure have been satisfied, a rebuttable presumption arises that the sale has been conducted regularly and properly.” Nguyen v. Calhoun, 105 Cal.App.4th 428, 440, 129 Cal.Rptr.2d 436 (2003). The California Court of Appeal  [*29] has explained non-judicial foreclosure under California Civil Code sections 2924-2924l:

The comprehensive statutory framework established to govern nonjudicial foreclosure sales is intended to be exhaustive. . . . It includes a myriad of rules relating to notice and right to cure. It would be inconsistent with the comprehensive and exhaustive statutory scheme regulating nonjudicial foreclosures to incorporate another unrelated cure provision into statutory nonjudicial foreclosure proceedings.

Moeller v. Lien, 25 Cal.App.4th 822, 834, 30 Cal.Rptr.2d 777 (1994).

MERS correctly notes that as DOT beneficiary, MERS is empowered to commence foreclosure proceedings, including causing the trustee to execute a notice of default to start foreclosure. The DOT contains a power of sale to authorize non-judicial foreclosure. MERS demonstrates that it is a qualified DOT beneficiary to defeat a fraud claim to the effect it is not.

In short, the fraud claim’s severe deficiencies warrant its dismissal without leave to amend.

Unfair Business Practices

The complaint’s seventh claim alleges EMC and MERS’ acts “constitute unlawful, unfair, and/or fraudulent business practices, as defined in California Business and Professions Code § 17200 et seq. [*30] (Unfair Competition Law [‘UCL’]).”

Standing

EMC and MERS contend that Ms. Swanson lacks standing to pursue a UCL claim.

California Business and Professions Code section 17204 limits standing to bring a UCL claim to specified public officials and a private person “who has suffered injury in fact and has lost money or property as a result of the unfair competition.”

Business and Professions Codesection 17203 addresses UCL relief and provides in pertinent part:

Any person who engages, has engaged, or proposes to engage in unfair competition may be enjoined in any court of competent jurisdiction. The court may make such orders or judgments . . . as may be necessary to restore to any person in interest any money or property, real or personal, which may have been acquired by means of such unfair competition. (Bold added.)

EMC and MERS correctly note the complaint’s absence of facts of Ms. Swanson’s money or property allegedly lost due to a UCL violation. The UCL claim offers an insufficient, bare allegation that “Plaintiff has suffered various damages and injuries according to proof at trial.” The complaint lacks sufficient allegations of Ms. Swanson’s standing to warrant dismissal of the UCL  [*31] claim.

Unfair, Fraudulent Or Deceptive Business Practices

EMC and MERS take issue with the complaint’s attempt to allege an illegal business practice under the UCL.

The UCL prohibits “unlawful” practices “forbidden by law, be it civil or criminal, federal, state, or municipal, statutory, regulatory, or court-made.” Saunders v. Superior Court, 27 Cal. App. 4th 832, 838, 33 Cal. Rptr. 2d 438 (1999). According to the California Supreme Court, the UCL “borrows” violations of other laws and treats them as unlawful practices independently actionable under the UCL. Farmers Ins. Exchange v. Superior Court, 2 Cal.4th 377, 383, 6 Cal.Rptr.2d 487, 826 P.2d 730 (1992).

“Unfair” under the UCL “means conduct that threatens an incipient violation of an antitrust law, or violates the policy or spirit of one of those laws because its effects are comparable to or the same as a violation of the law, or otherwise significantly threatens or harms competition.” Cel-Tech Communications, Inc. v. Los Angeles Cellular Telephone Co., 20 Cal. 4th 163, 187, 83 Cal. Rptr. 2d 548, 973 P.2d 527 (1999).

The “fraudulent” prong under the UCL requires a plaintiff to “show deception to some members of the public, or harm to the public interest,” Watson Laboratories, Inc. v. Rhone-Poulenc Rorer, Inc., 178 F.Supp.2d 1099, 1121 (C.D. Ca. 2001),  [*32] or to allege that “members of the public are likely to be deceived.” Medical Instrument, 2005 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 41411, 2005 WL 1926673, at *5.

“The California Supreme Court has held that ‘something more than a single transaction,’ either on-going wrongful business conduct or a pattern of wrongful business conduct, must be alleged in order to state a cause of action under the Unfair Business Practices Act.” Newman v. Checkrite California, 912 F.Supp. 1354, 1375 (E.D. Ca. 1995). “The use of the phrase ‘business practice’ in section 17200 indicates that the statute is directed at ongoing wrongful conduct.” Hewlett v. Squaw Valley Ski Corp., 54 Cal.App.4th 499, 519, 63 Cal.Rptr.2d 118 (1997). “[T]he ‘practice’ requirement envisions something more than a single transaction . . .; it contemplates a ‘pattern of conduct’ [citation], ‘on-going . . . conduct’ [citation], ‘a pattern of behavior’ [citation], or ‘a course of conduct.’ . . .” State of California ex rel. Van de Kamp v. Texaco, Inc., 46 Cal.3d 1147, 1169-1170, 252 Cal.Rptr. 221, 762 P.2d 385 (1988).

“A plaintiff alleging unfair business practices under these statutes [UCL] must state with reasonable particularity the facts supporting the statutory elements of the violation.” Khoury v. Maly’s of California, Inc., 14 Cal.App.4th 612, 619, 17 Cal.Rptr.2d 708 (1993).

EMC  [*33] and MERS are correct that the complaint is “insufficient to establish that Defendants engaged in any ‘unfair’ business practices within the meaning of section 17200.” The complaint lacks reasonable particularity of facts to support an UCL claim. The claim’s bare mention of “unlawful, unfair and/or fraudulent business practices” provides not the slightest inference that Ms. Swanson has a viable UCL claim. The complaint points to no predicate violation of law. Similar to the fraud claim, the UCL claim lacks particularity of fraudulent circumstances, such as a misrepresentation, for a UCL claim. The complaint lacks allegations of ongoing wrongful business conduct or a pattern of such conduct. The UCL claim lacks facts to hint at a wrong subject to the UCL to warrant the claim’s dismissal.

Wrongful Foreclosure

The complaint’s tenth claim appears to fault EMC and MERS for failure “to suspend the foreclosure action to allow the Plaintiff to be considered for alternative foreclosure prevention options.” The wrongful foreclosure claim references absence of “possession of the Note,” failure “to properly record and give proper notice of the Notice of Default,” and “failure to comply with the statutory  [*34] requirements [to deny] Plaintiff the opportunity to exercise her statutory rights.”

EMC and MERS criticize the wrongful foreclosure claim as premature in that the property has not been foreclosed upon. EMC and MERS point to the absence of recording a trustee’s deed upon sale.

EMC and MERS are correct that in the absence of a foreclosure sale, they cannot be liable for “wrongful foreclosure.” Moreover, “a trustee or mortgagee may be liable to the trustor or mortgagor for damages sustained where there has been an illegal, fraudulent or wilfully oppressive sale of property under a power of sale contained in a mortgage or deed of trust.” Munger v. Moore, 11 Cal.App.3d 1, 7, 89 Cal.Rptr. 323 (1970). The complaint lacks facts of EMC and/or MERS’ alleged illegal or fraudulent activity to impose tort liability based on their conduct in connection with foreclosure of the property.

The wrongful foreclosure claim gives rise to no cognizable claim. It fails with Ms. Swanson’ other claims. Ms. Swanson’s attempt to manufacture a claim based on “possession of the Note” fails.

“Under Civil Code section 2924, no party needs to physically possess the promissory note.” Sicairos v. NDEX West, LLC, 2009 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 11223, 2009 WL 385855, *3 (S.D. Cal. 2009) [*35] (citing Cal. Civ. Code, § 2924(a)(1)). Rather, “[t]he foreclosure process is commenced by the recording of a notice of default and election to sell by the trustee.” Moeller, 25 Cal.App.4th at 830, 30 Cal.Rptr.2d 777. An “allegation that the trustee did not have the original note or had not received it is insufficient to render the foreclosure proceeding invalid.” Neal v. Juarez, 2007 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 98068, 2007 WL 2140640, *8 (S.D. Cal. 2007).

The wrongful foreclosure claim is illogical to warrant its dismissal.

Attempt At Amendment And Malice

Ms. Swanson’s claims against EMC and MERS are insufficiently pled and barred as a matter of law. Ms. Swanson is unable to cure her claims by allegation of other facts and thus is not granted an attempt to amend.

Moreover, this Court is concerned that Ms. Swanson has brought this action in absence of good faith and that Ms. Swanson exploits the court system solely for delay or to vex EMC and MERS. The test for maliciousness is a subjective one and requires the court to “determine the . . . good faith of the applicant.” Kinney v. Plymouth Rock Squab Co., 236 U.S. 43, 46, 35 S. Ct. 236, 59 L. Ed. 457 (1915); see Wright v. Newsome, 795 F.2d 964, 968, n. 1 (11th Cir. 1986); cf. Glick v. Gutbrod, 782 F.2d 754, 757 (7th Cir. 1986) [*36] (court has inherent power to dismiss case demonstrating “clear pattern of abuse of judicial process”). A lack of good faith or malice also can be inferred from a complaint containing untrue material allegations of fact or false statements made with intent to deceive the court. See Horsey v. Asher, 741 F.2d 209, 212 (8th Cir. 1984). An attempt to vex or delay provides further grounds to dismiss this action against EMC and MERS.

CONCLUSION AND ORDER

For the reasons discussed above, this Court:

1. DISMISSES with prejudice this action against EMS and MERS; and

2. DIRECTS the clerk to enter judgment against plaintiff Marla Lynn Swanson and in favor of defendants EMC Mortgage Corporation and Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems, Inc. in that there is no just reason to delay to enter such judgment given that Ms. Swanson’s claims against defendants EMC Mortgage Corporation and Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems, Inc. are clear and distinct from claims against the other defendants. See F.R.Civ.P. 54(b).

IT IS SO ORDERED.

Dated: October 29, 2009

/s/ Lawrence J. O’Neill

UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

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Indymac Bank F.S.B. v. Yano-Horoski

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

Mortgage and Note voided, cancelled and nullified by the court because lender had acted in bad faith, refusing to negotiate a reasonable loan modification.

______________________________________________________________________________________________

Indymac Bank F.S.B. v Yano-Horoski
2009 NY Slip Op 52333(U)
Decided on November 19, 2009
Supreme Court, Suffolk County
Spinner, J.
Published by New York State Law Reporting Bureau pursuant to Judiciary Law § 431.
This opinion is uncorrected and will not be published in the printed Official Reports.

Decided on November 19, 2009

Supreme Court, Suffolk County

Indymac Bank F.S.B., Plaintiff

against

Diana Yano-Horoski, Wells Fargo Bank Minnesota National Association as Trustee for Soundview Home Equity Loan Trust 2001-1 and Kimberly Horoski, Defendants.

2005-17926

Steven J. Baum P.C.

Attorney for Plaintiff

P.O. Box 1291

Buffalo, New York 14240

Diana Yano-Horoski

Defendant Pro Se

8 Oakland Street

East Patchogue, New York 11772-5767

Jeffrey Arlen Spinner, J.

This is an action wherein the Plaintiff claims foreclosure of a mortgage dated August 4, 2004 in the original principal amount of $ 292,500.00 recorded with the Clerk of Suffolk County, New York in Liber 20826 of Mortgages at Page 285. The mortgage secures an adjustable rate note of the same amount with an initial interest rate of 10.375%. The mortgage encumbers real property commonly known as 8 Oakland Street, East Patchogue, Town of Brookhaven, New York and described as District 0200 Section 979.50 Block 05.00 Lot 001.000 on the Tax Map of Suffolk County. Plaintiff commenced this action by filing a Summons, Verified Complaint and Notice of Pendency on July 27, 2005. The Notice of Pendency was extended by Order dated April 28, 2008 and a Judgment of Foreclosure & Sale was granted on January 12, 2009.

Thereafter and in accordance with the Laws of 2008, Ch. 472, Sec. 3-a and in view of the fact that the loan at issue was deemed to be “sub-prime” or “high cost” in nature, Defendant seasonably requested that the Court convene a settlement conference. That request was granted and a conference was commenced on February 24, 2009 which was continued five times in a series of unsuccessful attempts by the Court to obtain meaningful cooperation from Plaintiff. In view of Plaintiff’s intransigence in its continuing failure and refusal to cooperate, both with the Court and with Defendant’s multiple and reasonable requests, the Court directed that Plaintiff produce an officer of the bank at the adjourned conference scheduled for September 22, 2009.

At the conference held on September 22, 2009, Karen Dickinson, Regional Manager of [*2]Loss Mitigation for IndyMac Mortgage Services, division of OneWest Bank F.S.B. (“IndyMac”) appeared on behalf of Plaintiff. IndyMac purports to be the servicer of the loan for the benefit of Deutsche Bank who, it is claimed, is the owner and holder of the note and mortgage (though the record holder is IndyMac Bank F.S.B., an entity which no longer is in existence). At that conference, it was celeritously made clear to the Court that Plaintiff had no good faith intention whatsoever of resolving this matter in any manner other than a complete and forcible devolution of title from Defendant. Although IndyMac had prepared a two page document entitled “Mediation Yano-Horoski” which contained what purported to be a financial analysis, Ms. Dickinson’s affirmative statements made it abundantly clear that no form of mediation, resolution or settlement would be acceptable to Plaintiff. IndyMac asserts the total amount due it to be in excess of $ 525,000.00 and freely concedes that the property securing the loan is worth no more than $ 275,000.00. Although Ms. Dickinson insisted that Ms. Yano-Horoski had been offered a “Forbearance Agreement” in the recent past upon which she quickly defaulted, it was only after substantial prodding by the Court that Ms. Dickinson conceded, with great reluctance, that it had not been sent to Defendant until after its stated first payment due date and hence, Defendant could not have consummated it under any circumstances (Defendant, through Plaintiff’s duplicity, found herself to be in the unique and uncomfortable position of being placed in default of the “agreement” even before she had received it). Plaintiff flatly rejected an offer by Plaintiff’s daughter to purchase the house for its fair market value (a so-called “short sale”) with third party financing. Plaintiff refused to consider a loan modification utilizing any more than 25% of the income of Plaintiff’s husband and daughter (both of whom reside in the premises with her), the excuse being that “We can’t control what non-obligors do with their money” (the logical follow up to this statement is how does the bank control what the obligor does with her money?). The Court found IndyMac’s position to be deeply troubling, especially since a plethora of sub-prime loans in this County’s Foreclosure Conference Part have been successfully modified with the lender’s reliance upon the income of non-obligors who reside in the premises under foreclosure. The Plaintiff also summarily rejected an offer by both Plaintiff’s husband and daughter to voluntarily obligate themselves for payment upon the full indebtedness, thus committing their individual incomes expressly to the purpose of a loan modification. It should be noted here that Defendant did not even request any waiver or “forgiveness” of the indebtedness aside from some tinkering with the interest rate, just a modification of terms so as to enable her to repay the same. It was evident from Ms. Dickinson’s opprobrious demeanor and condescending attitude that no proffer by Defendant (short of consent to foreclosure and ejectment of Defendant and her family) would be acceptable to Plaintiff. Even a final and desperate offer of a deed in lieu of foreclosure was met with bland equivocation. In short, each and every proposal by Defendant, no matter how reasonable, was soundly rebuffed by Plaintiff. Viewed objectively, it is apparent that Plaintiff’s conduct in this matter falls within the definitions set forth in 22 NYCRR § 130-1.1( c)(2), which might well warrant the imposition of monetary sanctions.

On the Court’s own motion, a hearing was held on November 18, 2009 in order to explore the issues herein. At the hearing, Ms. Dickinson appeared as well as Mr. Horoski. IndyMac claimed a balance due, as of September 22, 2009 of $ 527,437.73 which included an escrow overdraft of $ 46,627.88 for taxes advanced since the date of default but did not include attorney’s fees and costs.. Plaintiff was unable to tell the Court the amount of the principal [*3]balance owed. Mr. Horoski advised the Court that according to two letters received from Plaintiff, the principal balance was said to be $ 285,381.70 as of February 9, 2009 and $ 283,992.48 as of August 10, 2009. Plaintiff stated was that Defendant must have made payments though it was conceded that in fact no payment had been made.Plaintiff insisted that it had remained in regular contact with Defendant in an effort to reach an amicable resolution, that it had extended two modification offers to Defendant which she did not accept and further, that due to her financial status she was not qualified for any modification, even under the Federal HAMP guidelines. Plaintiff denied that it had “singled out” Defendants, simply stating that her status was such that she fell outside applicable guidelines. All of these assertions were disputed by Defendant.

That having been said, the Court is greatly disturbed by Plaintiff’s assertions of the amount claimed to be due from Defendant. The Referee’s Report dated June 30, 2008, which has its genesis in a sworn affidavit by a representative of Plaintiff (presumably one with knowledge of the account), reflects a total amount due and owing of $ 392,983.42. The principal balance is reported to be $ 290,687.85 with interest computed at the rates of 10.375% from November 1, 2005 through August 31, 2006 ($ 25,118.62), 12.50% from September 1, 2006 to February 28, 2007 ($ 18,018.66), 12.375% from March 1, 2007 to March 31, 2008 ($ 39,126.39) and 11.375% from April 1, 2008 to June 24, 2008 ($ 7,700.24) totalling $ 89,963.91. Plaintiff also claims $ 20.00 in non-sufficient funds charges, $ 295.00 in property inspection fees and $ 12,016.66 for tax and insurance advances. The Judgment of Foreclosure & Sale dated January 12, 2009 was granted in the amount of $ 392,983.42 with interest at the contract rate from June 24, 2008 through January 12, 2009 and at the statutory rate thereafter plus attorney’s fees of $ 2,300.00 and a bill of costs in the amount of $ 1,705.00. Even computing the accrual of pre-judgment interest of $ 18,299.18 (using Plaintiff’s per diem rate in the Referee’s Report) together with post-judgment interest at a statutory 9% through November 19, 2009 (an additional $ 31,740.90), the application of simple addition yields a total amount due of $ 447,028.50. This figure is $ 80,409.23 less than the $ 527,437.73 asserted by Plaintiff to be due and owing from Defendant. The Court is astounded that Plaintiff now claims to be owed an escrow advance amount of $ 46,627.88 when, under oath, its officer swore that as of June 24, 2008 that amount was actually $ 34,611.22 less. Moreover, it now appears that the elusive principal balance is either $ 290,687.85, $ 285,381.70 or $ 283,992.48.

It is the province and indeed the obligation of the trial court to assess and to determine issues regarding credibility, Morgan v. McCaffrey 14 AD3d 670 (2nd Dept. 2005). In the matter before the Court, the pendulum of credibility swings heavily in favor of Defendant. When the conduct of Plaintiff in this proceeding is viewed in its entirety, it compels the Court to invoke the ancient and venerable principle of “Falsus in uno, falsus in omni” (Latin; “false in one, false in all”) upon Defendant which, after review, is wholly appropriate in the context presented, Deering v. Metcalf 74 NY 501 (1878). Regrettably, the Court has been unable to find even so much as a scintilla of good faith on the part of Plaintiff. Plaintiff comes before this Court with unclean hands yet has the insufferable temerity to demand equitable relief against Defendant.

The Court, over the course of some six substantive appearances in seven months, has been afforded more than ample opportunity to assess the demeanor, credibility and general state [*4]of relevant affairs of Defendant and Plaintiff. Although not actually relevant to the disposition of this matter, the Court is constrained to note that Defendant is afflicted with multiple health problems which outwardly manifest in her experiencing great difficulty in ambulation, necessitating the use of mechanical supports. Moreover, Defendant’s husband, Mr. Gregory Horoski, suffers from a myriad of serious medical conditions which greatly impede most aspects of his daily existence. Nonetheless, both of these persons, together with their adult daughter who resides with them and who is substantially and gainfully employed, receive income which they are more than willing to commit, in good faith, toward repayment of the debt to Plaintiff and indeed, despite their physical challenges, they have appeared at each and every scheduled conference before this Court. At each appearance, they have assiduously attempted to resolve this controversy in an amicable fashion, only to be callously and arbitrarily turned away by Plaintiff. This has been so even in spite of the Court’s continuing albeit futile endeavors at brokering a settlement.

As a relevant aside, the scenario presented here raises the specter of a much greater social problem, that of housing those persons whose homes are foreclosed and who are thereafter dispossessed. It is certainly no secret that Suffolk County is in the yawning abyss of a deep mortgage and housing crisis with foreclosure filings at a record high rate and a corresponding paucity of emergency housing. While foreclosure and its attendant eviction are clearly the inevitable (and in some cases, proper) result in a number of these situations, the Court is persuaded that this need not be the case here. In this matter, Defendant is plainly willing to make arrangements for repayment and both her husband and daughter are likewise willing to allocate their respective incomes in order to reach the same end. Were Plaintiff amenable, she would presumably continue to maintain the property’s physical plant, pay taxes thereon and the property would retain or perhaps increase its market value. Plaintiff would receive a regular income stream, albeit with a reduced rate of interest and without sustaining a loss of several hundred thousand dollars. In addition, no neighborhood blight would occur from the boarding of the property after foreclosure which would, in turn, avert problems of litter, dumping, vagrancy and vandalism as well as a corresponding decline in the property values in the immediate area. In short, a loan modification would result in a proverbial “win-win” for all parties involved. To do otherwise would result in virtually certain undomiciled status for two physically unhealthy persons and their daughter, leading to an additional level of problems, both for them and for society.

Since an action claiming foreclosure of a mortgage is one sounding in equity, Jamaica Savings Bank v. M.S. Investing Co. 274 NY 215 (1937), the very commencement of the action by Plaintiff invokes the Court’s equity jurisdiction. While it must be noted that the formal distinctions between an action at law and a suit in equity have long since been abolished in New York (see CPLR 103, Field Code Of 1848 §§ 2, 3, 4, 69), the Supreme Court nevertheless has equity jurisdiction and distinct rules regarding equity are still extant, Carroll v. Bullock 207 NY 567, 101 NE 438 (1913). Speaking generally and broadly, it is settled law that “Stability of contract obligations must not be undermined by judicial sympathy…” Graf v. Hope Building Corporation 254 NY 1 (1930). However, it is true with equal force and effect that equity must not and cannot slavishly and blindly follow the law, Hedges v. Dixon County 150 US 182, 192 (1893). Moreover, as succinctly decreed by our Court of Appeals in the matter of Noyes v. [*5]Anderson 124 NY 175 (1890) “A party having a legal right shall not be permitted to avail himself of it for the purposes of injustice or oppression…” 124 NY at 179.

In the matter of Eastman Kodak Co. v. Schwartz 133 NYS2d 908 (Sup. Ct., New York County, 1954), Special Term stated that “The maxim of “clean hands” fundamentally was conceived in equity jurisprudence to refuse to lend its aid in any manner to one seeking its active interposition who has been guilty of unlawful, unconscionable or inequitable conduct in the matter with relation to which he seeks relief.” 133 NYS2d at 925, citing First Trust & Savings Bank v. Iowa-Wisconsin Bridge Co. 98 F 2d 416 (8th Cir. 1938), cert. denied 305 US 650, 59 S. Ct. 243, 83 L. Ed. 240 (1938), reh. denied 305 US 676, 59 S Ct. 356 83 L. Ed. 437 (1939); General Excavator Co. v. Keystone Driller Co. 65 F 2d 39 (6th Cir. 1933), cert. granted 289 US 721, 53 S. Ct. 791, 77 L. Ed. 1472 (1933), aff’d 290 US 240, 54 S. Ct. 146, 78 L. Ed. 793 (1934).

In attempting to arrive at a determination as to whether or not equity should properly intervene in this matter so as to permit foreclosure of the mortgage, the Court is required to look at the situattion in toto, giving due and careful consideration as to whether the remedy sought by Plaintiff would be repugnant to the public interest when seen from the point of view of public morality, see, for example, 55 NY Jur. Equity § 113, Molinas v. Podloff 133 NYS2d 743 (Sup. Ct., New York County, 1954). Equitable relief will not lie in favor of one who acts in a manner which is shocking to the conscience, Duggan v. Platz 238 AD 197, 264 NYS 403 (3rd Dept. 1933), mod. on other grounds 263 NY 505, 189 NE 566 (1934), neither will equity be available to one who acts in a manner that is oppressive or unjust or whose conduct is sufficiently egregious so as to prohibit the party from asserting its legal rights against a defaulting adversary, In Re Foreclosure Of Tax Liens 117 NYS2d 725 (Sup. Ct. Kings County, 1952), aff’d on other grounds 286 AD 1027, 145 NYS2d 97 (2nd Dept. 1955), mod. on other grounds on reargument 1 AD2d 95, 148 NYS2d 173 (2nd Dept. 1955), appeal granted 7 AD2d 784, 149 NYS2d 227 (2nd Dept. 1956). The compass by which the questioned conduct must be measured is a moral one and the acts complained of (those that are sufficient so as to prevent equity’s intervention) need not be criminal nor actionable at law but must merely be willful and unconscionable or be of such a nature that honest and fair minded folk would roundly denounce such actions as being morally and ethically wrong, Pecorella v. Greater Buffalo Press Inc. 107 AD2d 1064, 468 NYS2d 562 (4th Dept. 1985). Thus, where a party acts in a manner that is offensive to good conscience and justice, he will be completely without recourse in a court of equity, regardless of what his legal rights may be, Eastman Kodak Co. v. Schwartz 133 NYS2d 908 (Sup. Ct., New York County, 1954), York v. Searles 97 AD 331, 90 NYS 37 (2nd Dept. 1904), aff’d 189 NY 573, 82 NE 1134 (1907).

An objective and painstaking examination of the totality of the facts and circumstances herein leads this Court to the inescapable conclusion that the affirmative conduct exhibited by Plaintiff at least since since February 24, 2009 (and perhaps earlier) has been and is inequitable, unconscionable, vexatious and opprobrious. The Court is constrained, solely as a result of Plaintiff’s affirmative acts, to conclude that Plaintiff’s conduct is wholly unsupportable at law or in equity, greatly egregious and so completely devoid of good faith that equity cannot be permitted to intervene on its behalf. Indeed, Plaintiff’s actions toward Defendant in this matter have been harsh, repugnant, shocking and repulsive to the extent that it must be appropriately [*6]sanctioned so as to deter it from imposing further mortifying abuse against Defendant. The Court cannot be assured that Plaintiff will not repeat this course of conduct if this action is merely dismissed and hence, dismissal standing alone is not a reasonable option. Likewise, the imposition of monetary sanctions under 22 NYCRR § 130-1.1 et. seq. is not likely to have a salubrious or remedial effect on these proceedings and certainly would not inure to Defendant’s benefit. This Court is of the opinion that cancellation of the indebtedness and discharge of the mortgage, when taken together, constitute the appropriate equitable disposition under the unique facts and circumstances presented herein.

After careful consideration, it is the determination of this Court that the indebtedness evidenced by the Adjustable Rate Note dated August 4, 2004 in the original principal amount of $ 292,500.00 made by Diana J. Yano-Horoski in favor of IndyMac Bank F.S.B. should be cancelled, voided and set aside. In addition, the Mortgage which secures the Adjustable Rate Note, given to Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems Inc. As Nominee For IndyMac Bank F.S.B. dated August 4, 2004 and recorded with the Clerk of Suffolk County on August 16, 2004 in Liber 20826 of Mortgages at Page 285, as assigned by Assignment recorded with the Clerk of Suffolk County in Liber 21273 of Mortgages at Page 808 should be cancelled and discharged of record. Further, Plaintiff, its successors and assigns should be forever barred and prohibited from any action to collect upon the Adjustable Rate Note. In addition, the Judgment of Foreclosure & Sale granted on January 12, 2009 and entered on January 23, 2009 should be vacated and set aside and the Notice of Pendency should be cancelled and discharged of record. For this Court to decree anything less than the foregoing would be for the Court to be wholly derelict in the performance of its obligations.

Upon the Court’s own motion, it is

ORDERED that the Adjustable Rate Note in the amount of $ 292,500.00 dated August 4, 2004 made by Diana J. Yano-Horoski in favor of IndyMac Bank F.S.B. shall be and the same is hereby cancelled, voided, avoided, nullified, set aside and is of no further force and effect; and it is further

ORDERED that the Mortgage in the amount of $ 292,500.00 which secures said Adjustable Rate Note given by Diana J. Yano-Horoski to Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems Inc. As Nominee For IndyMac Bank F.S.B. dated August 4, 2004 and recorded with the Clerk of Suffolk County on August 16, 2004 in Liber 20826 of Mortgages as Page 285, as assigned to IndyMac Bank F.S.B. by Assignment recorded with the Clerk of Suffolk County in Liber 21273 of Mortgages at Page 808 shall be and the same is hereby vacated, cancelled, released and discharged of record; and it is further

ORDERED that the Plaintiff, its successors and assigns are hereby barred, prohibited and foreclosed from attempting, in any manner, directly or indirectly, to enforce any provision of the [*7]aforesaid Adjustable Rate Note and Mortgage or any portion thereof as against Defendant, her heirs or successors; and it is further

ORDERED that the Judgment of Foreclosure & Sale granted under this index number on January 12, 2009 and entered in the Office of the Clerk of Suffolk County on January 23, 2009 shall be and the same is hereby vacated and set aside; and it is further

ORDERED that the Notice of Pendency filed with the Clerk of Suffolk County on July 27, 2005 under sequence no. 172456, which was extended by Order dated September 2, 2008 shall be and the same is hereby cancelled, vacated and set aside; and it is further

ORDERED that the Notice of Pendency filed with the Clerk of Suffolk County on August 29, 2008 under sequence no. 199616, shall be and the same is hereby cancelled, vacated and set aside; and it is further

ORDERED that the Clerk of Suffolk County shall cause a copy of this Order & Judgment to be filed in the Land Records so as to effectuate of record each and every one of the provisions hereinabove set forth with respect to cancellation of the instruments and items of record; and it is further

ORDERED that Plaintiff shall pay to the Clerk of Suffolk County, within ten (10) days from the date of entry hereof, any and all fees and costs required to effect cancellation of record of the Mortgage, Notices of Pendency and any other fees so levied; and it is further

ORDERED that within ten (10) days of the date of entry hereof, Plaintiff’s counsel shall serve a copy of this Order upon the Clerk of Suffolk County and the Defendant.

This shall constitute the Decision, Judgment and Order of this Court.

Dated: November 19, 2009

Riverhead, New York

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Mortgage Assignment & Affidavit Fraud

Posted on October 27, 2009. Filed under: Banking, Finance, Foreclosure Defense, Mortgage Audit, Mortgage Fraud, Mortgage Law, Predatory Lending | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

In bankruptcy and government takeovers of financial institutions, missing collateral is a major obstacle for trustees and regulators to overcome. The missing assignment problem is an extension of not carelessness or sloppiness as many have claimed, but of overt acts of fraud.

Skilled attorneys and forensic accounting experts could expose this fraud and as such, the effects and implications are more far reaching than a borrower, simply having their debt extinguished. Debt extinguishment or dismissal of foreclosure actions could be obtained if it can be shown that the entity filing the foreclosure:

• Does not own the note;
• Made false representations to the court in pleadings;
• Does not have proper authority to foreclose;
• Does not have possession of the note; and/or
• All indispensable parties (the actual owners) are not before the
court or represented in the pending foreclosure action.

To circumvent these issues, mortgage servicers and the secondary market have created and maintained a number of practices and procedures. MERS was briefly discussed and will be the sole subject of a major fraud report in the future.

Another common trade practice is to create pre-dated, backdated, and fraudulent assignments of mortgages and endorsements before or after the fact to support the allegations being made by the foreclosing party. Foreclosing parties are most often the servicer or MERS acting on the servicer’s behalf, not the owners of the actual promissory note. Often, they assist in concealing known frauds and abuses by originators, prior servicers, and mortgage brokers from both the borrowers and investors by the utilization of concealing the true chain of ownership of a borrower’s loan.
Ocwen-Anderson-Report-Sue-First-Ask-Questions-Later

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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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