Massive Relief for Homeowners and Trouble for Banks

Posted on September 23, 2009. Filed under: Bailout, Banking, Case Law, Foreclosure Defense, Mortgage Audit, Mortgage Law, Predatory Lending | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , |

A landmark ruling in a recent Kansas Supreme Court case may have given millions of distressed homeowners the legal wedge they need to avoid foreclosure. In Landmark National Bank v. Kesler, 2009 Kan. LEXIS 834, the Kansas Supreme Court held that a nominee company called MERS has no right or standing to bring an action for foreclosure. MERS is an acronym for Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems, a private company that registers mortgages electronically and tracks changes in ownership. The significance of the holding is that if MERS has no standing to foreclose, then nobody has standing to foreclose — on 60 million mortgages. That is the number of American mortgages currently reported to be held by MERS. Over half of all new U.S. residential mortgage loans are registered with MERS and recorded in its name. Holdings of the Kansas Supreme Court are not binding on the rest of the country, but they are dicta of which other courts take note; and the reasoning behind the decision is sound.

Eliminating the “Straw Man” Shielding Lenders and Investors from Liability

The development of “electronic” mortgages managed by MERS went hand in hand with the “securitization” of mortgage loans — chopping them into pieces and selling them off to investors. In the heyday of mortgage securitizations, before investors got wise to their risks, lenders would slice up loans, bundle them into “financial products” called “collateralized debt obligations” (CDOs), ostensibly insure them against default by wrapping them in derivatives called “credit default swaps,” and sell them to pension funds, municipal funds, foreign investment funds, and so forth. There were many secured parties, and the pieces kept changing hands; but MERS supposedly kept track of all these changes electronically. MERS would register and record mortgage loans in its name, and it would bring foreclosure actions in its name. MERS not only facilitated the rapid turnover of mortgages and mortgage-backed securities, but it has served as a sort of “corporate shield” that protects investors from claims by borrowers concerning predatory lending practices. California attorney Timothy McCandless describes the problem like this:

via Ellen Brown: Landmark Decision Promises Massive Relief for Homeowners and Trouble for Banks.

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LANDMARK NATIONAL BANK V. KESLER

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

No. 98,489

IN THE COURT OF APPEALS OF THE STATE OF KANSAS

LANDMARK NATIONAL BANK,

Plaintiff/Appellee,

v.

BOYD A. KESLER,

Appellee/Cross-Appellant,

MILLENNIA MORTGAGE CORP.,

Defendant,

MORTGAGE ELECTRONIC REGISTRATION

SYSTEMS, INC. AND SOVEREIGN BANK,

Appellants/Cross-Appellees,

and

DENNIS BRISTOW AND TONY WOYDZIAK,

Intervenors/Appellees.

SYLLABUS BY THE COURT

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

END

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Minnesota Supreme Court Upholds MERS

Posted on August 14, 2009. Filed under: Banking, Case Law, Foreclosure Defense, Housing, Loan Modification, Mortgage Law | Tags: , , , , , , , , , |

St. Paul, Minn. — The Minnesota Supreme Court today ruled against five Hennepin County homeowners who said an electronic mortgage registration system made it virtually impossible to defend themselves against home foreclosures.

The system, called Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems, or MERS, is a registry involved in 40 percent of all foreclosures in the Twin Cities.

MERS was created by the nation’s largest mortgage lenders, such as Chase, Citigroup, and Countrywide, to streamline the foreclosure process after the 1993 savings and loan crisis. MERS essentially privatized part of the mortgage recording system.

But some legal aid lawyers argued the process kept homeowners in the dark about which institutions actually held their mortgages.

The Hennepin County homeowners in the case contended that state law required MERS to identify which institutions held the mortgages, and list them in a published foreclosure notice.

They wanted to know details of the mortgage sales — including who held promissory notes to the property and who held legal title.

Writing for the 6-1 Supreme Court majority, Justice Paul Anderson wrote that Minnesota law requires MERS to record who’s assigned legal title, but not who’s assigned the promissory notes.

He also made a reference to the movie “It’s a Wonderful Life,” writing that it’s not hard to have nostalgia for earlier times, but that in many mortgage transactions, “a George Bailey no longer sits in the corner office of the Building and Loan Association in Bedford Falls.”

Anderson said the mortgage banking industry has changed, and with it certain problems have become evident. But he said to remedy those shortcomings goes beyond the court’s authority.

Legal Aid attorney Amber Hawkins, who brought the case, says the decision is disappointing for homeowners facing foreclosure and makes it harder to avoid the same problems again.

“The public will never know the chain of ownership in these bad loans,” said Hawkins. “We will never be able to go back and figure out who were the players. Who had interest in these loans? Who benefitted from these foreclosures?”

William Hultman, a senior vice president at MERS, would not answer questions but did release a short statement.

“We are pleased with the justices’ decision in this case. Now that the ruling has been issued, we are moving forward and continuing to focus on meeting the needs of the homeowners by lowering the cost of purchasing a home.”

Justice Alan Page was the lone dissenter in the court’s decision. He said the Legislature could not have been more clear in requiring that all assignments of a mortgage be recorded before a mortgage can be foreclosed upon.

He said by allowing the identities of promissory note-holders to remain hidden, the court essentially eliminates a homeowner’s ability to assert a wide range of defenses to foreclosure. And as a result, neither borrowers nor lenders will ever be able to hold anyone accountable in the chain of transfers.

http://minnesota.publicradio.org/display/web/2009/08/13/mers-ruling/

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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