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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dean Mostofi

National Loan Audits

301-867-3887

Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 1 so far )

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

Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 2 so far )

MERS v. Southwest Homes of Arkansas

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

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

No. 08-1299

SUPREME COURT OF ARKANSAS

2009 Ark. LEXIS 121

March 19, 2009, Opinion Delivered

NOTICE:

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

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

PRIOR HISTORY: [*1]

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

DISPOSITION: AFFIRMED.

COUNSEL: George Nicholas Arnold – Counsel for the Appellant.

Howard Keith Morrison – Counsel for the Appellant.

Thomas D. Stockland – Counsel for the Appellee.

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

OPINION BY: JIM HANNAH

OPINION

JIM HANNAH, Chief Justice

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Affirmed.

IMBER, DANIELSON and WILLS, JJ., concur.

CONCUR BY: PAUL E. DANIELSON

CONCUR

CONCURRING [*12] OPINION.

PAUL E. DANIELSON, Associate Justice

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Agreeing with MERS that a foreclosure judgment could be set aside for failure to join a “contingently necessary party,” the Kansas court observed that a party was “contingently necessary” under K.S.A. 60-219 if “the party claims an interest in the property at issue and the party is so situated that resolution of the lawsuit without that party may ‘as a practical matter substantially impair or impede [its] ability to protect that interest.’” Id. at 328, 192 P.3d at 180 (quoting K.S.A. 60-219). Notably, the language of K.S.A. 60-219 quoted by the Kansas court is practically identical to the language of Ark. R. Civ. P. 19(a).

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

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

IMBER and WILLS, JJ., join.

Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )

Homeowners should be suing lenders!

Posted on June 26, 2009. Filed under: Foreclosure Defense, Fraud, Loan Modification, Mortgage Audit, Mortgage Law, Predatory Lending, right to rescind, Truth in Lending Act | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Homeowners, welcome to Paradise Lost, the fate of millions of financially strapped boomers. A simultaneous loss of life savings, job income and foreclosure has many of them wondering, “Whose America is this, anyway? The bankers got bonuses to defraud us, and our industries and economy are in the pits. We worked for decades to live the American dream, and now we are out of work, saddled with debt and thrown out on the streets! What retirement? When I’m too old to enjoy it? More like I’m living a nightmare.”

You might be quite inclined to agree. However, there is light at the end of the tunnel, even for those that have already been foreclosed and evicted from their precious homes.

Although lately, while it feels like we are in the same boat as a third world country, we still have a little document on our side called The United States Constitution, which states, among other things that, “Citizens of the United States shall not be deprived of life, liberty or prosperity without due process of law.”

Now, there’s a mouthful. So don’t despair! And don’t get left out in the cold! Baby, it’s warm inside!

Homeowners, listen up! It is time to begin a reversal of your misfortune by gearing up and waging your mortgage war. Even if you have wearily given up your keys and angrily moved out, there are legal remedies that can make you whole. Your lender has broken so many laws that you may end up with more money than you had in cash and equity in your home!

And, no, this is not a pipe dream. But it is the repossession of your American dream. And the statute of limitation is greater than three years if your lender committed fraud.

How to tell if you are a victim of illegal foreclosure and unlawful eviction? Read on. Hint: you are in good company. Your platoon is millions strong.

If you have an adjustable rate mortgage and your loan has been securitized, there is a high probability that the securitization was done illegally. Further, if you have been defrauded by a predatory lender or broker, it’s time to fight back and go to court.

I recently asked Ohio attorney Dan McCookey, an expert in foreclosure defense and offense, what traumatized and victimized homeowners can do even after they have lost their homes, and find themselves figuratively and literally, out on the street. He provided some strategic counsel and laid out two hopeful options for now homeless homeowners:

Option #1: the “void judgment defense.” Your attorney files a motion to set aside the judgment, as the court never had proper jurisdiction to begin with.

What does this mean to you? If your loan was securitized, your lender sold your note and quite profitably, retained the mortgage servicing rights. When your note was sold, your lender gave up its legal ownership of your note and was paid in full for your loan, and then some. Therefore, your lender had no legal standing to foreclose! And no matter how many times your servicer was acquired, it has no right to foreclose!

In fact, your lender is not considered by the Court, a “true party of interest” or a “holder in due course.” Since the Court’s jurisdiction was never evoked, any and all proceedings found by the Court are void. That right is given to the current holder of the note. If only your lender could remotely identify whom that is.

Your lender has no idea where your original note currently is, as it traveled the globe, during its metamorphosis from a secured interest in your property to a mere shadow of its former self. The poor thing was sliced and diced multiple times by the depositor and a series of trustees, each earning profits and fees along the way.

More….

Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 4 so far )

Obama’s Campaign Against Mortgage Modifications

Posted on April 13, 2009. Filed under: Bailout, Banking, Foreclosure Defense, Loan Modification, Mortgage Audit, Mortgage Law, Politics | Tags: , , , , , , , , , |

President Obama has apparently embarked upon a campaign to put all private sector loan modification firms out of business because some are apparently scams. It’s a curious approach when you consider that there have been and continue to be countless stock market related scams in this country, but I can’t remember a president telling me not to pay my financial advisor as a result.

Speaking on the subject of his housing rescue plan, which will, once it’s available, offer to modify certain mortgages, the president has said on several occasions: “If you have to pay, walk away.” So, the fact that they charge a fee makes them a scam? And here I always thought that it was charging a fee and not delivering a service that was a problem. Just the fact that a firm charges a fee… well, not so much, right?

If the president is right about the whole charging a fee issue, then why does the California Department of Real Estate tell homeowners that they should be sure to use a loan modification firm that uses its “Advance Fee Agreement”? I’m confused.

President Obama has also said that people don’t need to pay a fee to have their loan modified because they can simply call their banks directly. I was curious about this, so I went to IndyMac Federal’s Website that advertises their new streamlined loan modification service. Here’s what it says in the first three paragraphs:

“The goal of this streamlined loan modification program is to achieve improved value for IndyMac Federal. IndyMac Federal will only make modification offers to borrowers where doing so will achieve an improved value for IndyMac Federal.”

Unusually forthcoming, if you ask me. The bank is telling you right up front that they’re happy to negotiate a modification of your mortgage in their best interests, certainly not yours. And that’s what they should be doing, I suppose. But as a homeowner, don’t I want someone who knows mortgage modifications to be negotiating on my behalf?

Telling me I don’t need to pay an expert to represent me with my bank seems like the police telling me that I don’t need an attorney after I’ve been arrested because I can just ask the District Attorney any legal questions I might have. Gee, thanks for the advice, but I think I’ll go ahead and call my own lawyer anyway, okay?

via Obama’s Campaign Against Mortgage Modifications » Mandelman Matters.

Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 2 so far )

Lenders Rally Behind Loan Modification Plan

Posted on March 6, 2009. Filed under: Banking, Finance, Foreclosure Defense, Housing, Legislation, Loan Modification, Mortgage Audit, Mortgage Law | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , |

The U.S. Treasury Department on Wednesday launched the Making Home Affordable program, which was announced recently by President Barack Obama. The program’s two branches — refinance and modification — are estimated to apply to some 9 million homeowners either behind on payments or at risk of falling behind due to dropping home values, job loss, or other hardship.

The modification program will be effective only or mortgages originated on or before Jan. 1, 2009 on owner-occupied, single-family one- to four-unit properties that serve as a primary residence, the Treasury said. Borrowers in bankruptcy are not eligible, but those facing foreclosure will see foreclosure action suspended during a trial period or while borrowers are considered for preventative options. Within hours of the announcement, the government-sponsored entities (GSEs) and a variety of the largest U.S. lenders and servicers began rallying in support for the program.

Freddie Mac (FRE: 0.37 -9.76%) quickly announced the launch of two initiatives to compliment the administration’s housing plan. Freddie’s new relief refinance mortgage product, which can be as high as 105 percent of the property’s value, is designed to reduce interest rates or amortization terms for borrowers “to improve their position for long-term homeownership success….” Freddie also rolled out a modification initiative to begin April 1; borrowers with Freddie-owned or -guaranteed mortgages originated on or before Jan. 1 will be eligible to receive a workout “in some cases…before they fall behind on their mortgage payments,” Freddie said in a media statement.

http://www.housingwire.com/2009/03/05/lenders-gses-rally-modification-plan-support/

Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 1 so far )

WHERE’S THE NOTE, WHO’S THE HOLDER

Posted on March 1, 2009. Filed under: bankruptcy, Case Law, Foreclosure Defense, Mortgage Law | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

INTRODUCTION

In an era where a very large portion of mortgage obligations have been securitized, by assignment to a trust indenture trustee, with the resulting pool of assets being then sold as mortgage backed securities, foreclosure becomes an interesting exercise, particularly where judicial process is involved.  We are all familiar with the securitization process.  The steps, if not the process, is simple.  A borrower goes to a mortgage lender.  The lender finances the purchase of real estate.  The borrower signs a note and mortgage or deed of trust.  The original lender sells the note and assigns the mortgage to an entity that securitizes the note by combining the note with hundreds or thousands of similar obligation to create a package of mortgage backed securities, which are then sold to investors.

Unfortunately, unless you represent borrowers, the vast flow of notes into the maw of the securitization industry meant that a lot of mistakes were made.  When the borrower defaults, the party seeking to enforce the obligation and foreclose on the underlying collateral sometimes cannot find the note.  A lawyer sophisticated in this area has speculated to one of the authors that perhaps a third of the notes “securitized” have been lost or destroyed.  The cases we are going to look at reflect the stark fact that the unnamed source’s speculation may be well-founded.

UCC SECTION 3-309

 If the issue were as simple as a missing note, UCC §3-309 would provide a simple solution.  A person entitled to enforce an instrument which has been lost, destroyed or stolen may enforce the instrument.  If the court is concerned that some third party may show up and attempt to enforce the instrument against the payee, it may order adequate protection.  But, and however, a person seeking to enforce a missing instrument must be a person entitled to enforce the instrument, and that person must prove the instrument’s terms and that person’s right to enforce the instrument.  §3-309 (a)(1) & (b).

WHO’S THE HOLDER

Enforcement of a note always requires that the person seeking to collect show that it is the holder.  A holder is an entity that has acquired the note either as the original payor or transfer by endorsement of order paper or physical possession of bearer paper.  These requirements are set out in Article 3 of the Uniform Commercial Code, which has been adopted in every state, including Louisiana, and in the District of Columbia.  Even in bankruptcy proceedings, State substantive law controls the rights of note and lien holders, as the Supreme Court pointed out almost forty (40) years ago in United States v. Butner, 440 U.S. 48, 54-55 (1979).  

However, as Judge Bufford has recently illustrated, in one of the cases discussed below, in the bankruptcy and other federal courts, procedure is governed by the Federal Rules of Bankruptcy and Civil Procedure.  And, procedure may just have an impact on the issue of “who,” because, if the holder is unknown, pleading and standing issues arise.

 

BRIEF REVIEW OF UCC PROVISIONS

 

Article 3 governs negotiable instruments – it defines what a negotiable instrument is and defines how ownership of those pieces of paper is transferred.  For the precise definition, see § 3-104(a) (“an unconditional promise or order to pay a fixed amount of money, with or without interest . . . .”)  The instrument may be either payable to order or bearer and payable on demand or at a definite time, with or without interest.  

Ordinary negotiable instruments include notes and drafts (a check is a draft drawn on a bank).  See § 3-104(e).  

Negotiable paper is transferred from the original payor by negotiation.  §3-301.  “Order paper” must be endorsed; bearer paper need only be delivered.  §3-305.  However, in either case, for the note to be enforced, the person who asserts the status of the holder must be in possession of the instrument.  See UCC § 1-201 (20) and comments.  

The original and subsequent transferees are referred to as holders.  Holders who take with no notice of defect or default are called “holders in due course,” and take free of many defenses.  See §§ 3-305(b).  

The UCC says that a payment to a party “entitled to enforce the instrument” is sufficient to extinguish the obligation of the person obligated on the instrument.  Clearly, then, only a holder – a person in possession of a note endorsed to it or a holder of bearer paper – may seek satisfaction or enforce rights in collateral such as real estate.  

NOTE:  Those of us who went through the bank and savings and loan collapse of the 1980’s are familiar with these problems.  The FDIC/FSLIC/RTC sold millions of notes secured and unsecured, in bulk transactions.  Some notes could not be found and enforcement sometimes became a problem.  Of course, sometimes we are forced to repeat history.  For a recent FDIC case, see Liberty Savings Bank v. Redus, 2009 WL 41857 (Ohio App. 8 Dist.), January 8, 2009.

 

THE RULES

Judge Bufford addressed the rules issue this past year.  See In re Hwang, 396 B.R. 757  (Bankr. C. D. Cal. 2008).  First, there are the pleading problems that arise when the holder of the note is unknown.  Typically, the issue will arise in a motion for relief from stay in a bankruptcy proceeding.

According F.R.Civ. Pro. 17, “[a]n action must be prosecuted in the name of the real party in interest.”  This rule is incorporated into the rules governing bankruptcy procedure in several ways.  As Judge Bufford has pointed out, for example, in a motion for relief from stay, filed under F.R.Bankr.Pro. 4001 is a contested matter, governed by F. R. Bankr. P. 9014, which makes F.R. Bankr. Pro. 7017 applicable to such motions.  F.R. Bankr. P. 7017 is, of course, a restatement of F.R. Civ. P. 17.  In re Hwang, 396 B.R. at 766.  The real party in interest in a federal action to enforce a note, whether in bankruptcy court or federal district court, is the owner of a note.  (In securitization transactions, this would be the trustee for the “certificate holders.”) When the actual holder of the note is unknown, it is impossible – not difficult but impossible – to plead a cause of action in a federal court (unless the movant simply lies about the ownership of the note).  Unless the name of the actual note holder can be stated, the very pleadings are defective.

 

STANDING

Often, the servicing agent for the loan will appear to enforce the note.   Assume that the servicing agent states that it is the authorized agent of the note holder, which is “Trust Number 99.”   The servicing agent is certainly a party in interest, since a party in interest in a bankruptcy court is a very broad term or concept.  See, e.g., Greer v. O’Dell, 305 F.3d 1297, 1302-03 (11th Cir. 2002).  However, the servicing agent may not have standing: “Federal Courts have only the power authorized by Article III of the Constitutions and the statutes enacted by Congress pursuant thereto. … [A] plaintiff must have Constitutional standing in order for a federal court to have jurisdiction.”  In re Foreclosure Cases, 521 F.Supp. 3d 650, 653 (S.D. Ohio, 2007) (citations omitted). 

But, the servicing agent does not have standing, for only a person who is the holder of the note has standing to enforce the note.  See, e.g., In re Hwang, 2008 WL 4899273 at 8.

The servicing agent may have standing if acting as an agent for the holder, assuming that the agent can both show agency status and that the principle is the holder.  See, e.g., In re Vargas, 396 B.R. 511 (Bankr. C.D. Cal. 2008) at 520.

 

A BRIEF ASIDE:  WHO IS MERS?

For those of you who are not familiar with the entity known as MERS, a frequent participant in these foreclosure proceedings:

MERS is the “Mortgage Electronic Registration System, Inc.  “MERS is a mortgage banking ‘utility’ that registers mortgage loans in a book entry system so that … real estate loans can be bought, sold and securitized, just like Wall Street’s book entry utility for stocks and bonds is the Depository Trust and Clearinghouse.” Bastian, “Foreclosure Forms”, State. Bar of Texas 17th Annual Advanced Real Estate Drafting Course, March 9-10, 2007, Dallas, Texas. MERS is enormous.  It originates thousands of loans daily and is the mortgagee of record for at least 40 million mortgages and other security documents. Id.

MERS acts as agent for the owner of the note.  Its authority to act should be shown by an agency agreement.  Of course, if the owner is unknown, MERS cannot show that it is an authorized agent of  the owner.

 

RULES OF EVIDENCE – A PRACTICAL PROBLEM

This structure also possesses practical evidentiary problems where the party asserting a right to foreclose must be able to show a default.  Once again, Judge Bufford has addressed this issue.   At In re Vargas, 396 B.R. at 517-19.  Judge Bufford made a finding that the witness called to testify as to debt and default was incompetent.  All the witness could testify was that he had looked at the MERS computerized records.  The witness was unable to satisfy the requirements of the Federal Rules of Evidence, particularly Rule 803, as applied to computerized records in the Ninth Circuit.  See id. at 517-20.  The low level employee could really only testify that the MERS screen shot he reviewed reflected a default.  That really is not much in the way of evidence, and not nearly enough to get around the hearsay rule.

 

FORECLOSURE OR RELIEF FROM STAY

In a foreclosure proceeding in a judicial foreclosure state, or a request for injunctive relief in a non-judicial foreclosure state, or in a motion for relief proceeding in a bankruptcy court, the courts are dealing with and writing about the problems very frequently.

In many if not almost all cases, the party seeking to exercise the rights of the creditor will be a servicing company.  Servicing companies will be asserting the rights of their alleged principal, the note holder, which is, again, often going to be a trustee for a securitization package.  The mortgage holder or beneficiary under the deed of trust will, again, very often be MERS.

 

Even before reaching the practical problem of debt and default, mentioned above, the moving party must show that it holds the note or (1) that it is an agent of the holder and that (2) the holder remains the holder.  In addition, the owner of the note, if different from the holder, must join in the motion.

 

Some states, like Texas, have passed statutes that allow servicing companies to act in foreclosure proceedings as a statutorily recognized agent of the noteholder.  See, e.g., Tex. Prop. Code §51.0001.  However, that statute refers to the servicer as the last entity to whom the debtor has been instructed to make payments.  This status is certainly open to challenge.  The statute certainly provides nothing more than prima facie evidence of the ability of the servicer to act.   If challenged, the servicing agent must show that the last entity to communicate instructions to the debtor is still the holder of the note.  See, e.g., HSBC Bank, N.A. v. Valentin, 2l N.Y.  Misc. 3d 1123(A), 2008 WL 4764816 (Table) (N.Y. Sup.), Nov. 3, 2008.  In addition, such a statute does not control in federal court where Fed. R. Civ. P. 17 and 19 (and Fed. R. Bankr. P. 7017 and 7019) apply.

 

SOME RECENT CASE LAW

 

These cases are arranged by state, for no particular reason.

 

Massachusetts

 

In re Schwartz, 366 B.R.265 (Bankr. D. Mass. 2007)

 

Schwartz concerns a Motion for Relief to pursue an eviction. Movant asserted that the property had been foreclosed upon prior to the date of the bankruptcy petition.  The pro se debtor asserted that the Movant was required to show that it had authority to conduct the sale.  Movant, and “the party which appears to be the current mortgagee…” provided documents for the court to review, but did not ask for an evidentiary hearing.  Judge Rosenthal sifted through the documents and found that the Movant and the current mortgagee had failed to prove that the foreclosure was properly conducted. 

 

Specifically, Judge Rosenthal found that there was no evidence of a proper assignment of the mortgage prior to foreclosure.  However, at footnote 5, Id. at 268, the Court also finds that there is no evidence that the note itself was assigned and no evidence as to who the current holder might be.  

 

Nosek v. Ameriquest Mortgage Company (In re Nosek), 286 Br. 374 (Bankr D Mass. 2008).  

 

Almost a year to the day after Schwartz was signed, Judge Rosenthal issued a second opinion.  This is an opinion on an order to show cause.  Judge Rosenthal specifically found that, although the note and mortgage involved in the case had been transferred from the originator to another party within five days of closing, during the five years in which the chapter 13 proceeding was pending, the note and mortgage and associated claims had been prosecuted by Ameriquest which has represented itself to be the holder of the note and the mortgage.  Not until September of 2007 did Ameriquest notify the Court that it was merely the servicer.  In fact, only after the chapter 13 bankruptcy had been pending for about three years was there even an assignment of the servicing rights.  Id. at 378.  

 

Because these misrepresentations were not simple mistakes:  as the Court has noted on more than one occasion, those parties who do not hold the note of mortgage do not service the mortgage do not have standing to pursue motions for leave or other actions arising form the mortgage obligation.  Id at 380.  

 

As a result, the Court sanctioned the local law firm that had been prosecuting the claim $25,000.  It sanctioned a partner at that firm an additional $25,000.  Then the Court sanctioned the national law firm involved $100,000 and ultimately sanctioned Wells Fargo $250,000.  Id. at 382-386.  

 

In re Hayes, 393 B.R. 259 (Bankr. D. Mass. 2008).  

 

Like Judge Rosenthal, Judge Feeney has attacked the problem of standing and authority head on.  She has also held that standing must be established before either a claim can be allowed or a motion for relief be granted.  

 

Ohio

 

In re Foreclosure Cases, 521 F.Supp. 2d (S.D. Ohio 2007).  

 

Perhaps the District Court’s orders in the foreclosure cases in Ohio have received the most press of any of these opinions.  Relying almost exclusively on standing, the Judge Rose has determined that a foreclosing party must show standing.  “[I]n a foreclosure action, the plaintiff must show that it is the holder of the note and the mortgage at the time that the complaint was filed.”  Id. at 653.  

 

Judge Rose instructed the parties involved that the willful failure of the movants to comply with the general orders of the Court would in the future result in immediate dismissal of foreclosure actions.  

 

Deutsche Bank Nat’l Trust Co. v. Steele, 2008 WL 111227 (S.D. Ohio) January 8, 2008. 

 

In Steele, Judge Abel followed the lead of Judge Rose and found that Deutsche Bank had filed evidence in support of its motion for default judgment indicating that MERS was the mortgage holder.  There was not sufficient evidence to support the claim that Deutsche Bank was the owner and holder of the note as of that date.  Following In re Foreclosure Cases, 2007 WL 456586, the Court held that summary judgment would be denied “until such time as Deutsche Bank was able to offer evidence showing, by a preponderance of evidence, that it owned the note and mortgage when the complaint was filed.”  2008 WL 111227 at 2.  Deutsche Bank was given twenty-one days to comply.  Id.  

 

Illinois

 

U.S. Bank, N.A. v. Cook, 2009 WL 35286 (N.D. Ill. January 6, 2009).  

 

Not all federal district judges are as concerned with the issues surrounding the transfer of notes and mortgages.  Cook is a very pro lender case and, in an order granting a motion for summary judgment, the Court found that Cook had shown no “countervailing evidence to create a genuine issue of facts.”  Id. at 3.  In fact, a review of the evidence submitted by U.S. Bank showed only that it was the alleged trustee of the securitization pool.  U.S. Bank relied exclusively on the “pooling and serving agreement” to show that it was the holder of the note.  Id.

 

Under UCC Article 3, the evidence presented in Cook was clearly insufficient.  

 

New York

 

HSBC Bank USA, N.A. v. Valentin, 21 Misc. 3D 1124(A), 2008 WL 4764816 (Table) (N.Y. Sup.) November 3, 2008.  In Valentin, the New York court found that, even though given an opportunity to, HSBC did not show the ownership of debt and mortgage.  The complaint was dismissed with prejudice and the “notice of pendency” against the property was cancelled.  

 

Note that the Valentin case does not involve some sort of ambush. The Court gave every HSBC every opportunity to cure the defects the Court perceived in the pleadings.  

 

California 

 

In re Vargas, 396 B.R. 511 (Bankr. C.D. Cal. 2008)

 

and

 

In re Hwang, 396 B.R. 757 (Bankr. C.D. Cal. 2008)

 

These two opinions by Judge Bufford have been discussed above.  Judge Bufford carefully explores the related issues of standing and ownership under both federal and California law.  

 

Texas

 

In re Parsley, 384 B.R. 138 (Bankr. S.D. Tex. 2008)

 

and

 

In re Gilbreath, 395 B.R. 356 (Bankr. S.D. Tex. 2008)

 

These two recent opinions by Judge Jeff Bohm are not really on point, but illustrate another thread of cases running through the issues of motions for relief from stay in bankruptcy court and the sloppiness of loan servicing agencies.  Both of these cases involve motions for relief that were not based upon fact but upon mistakes by servicing agencies.  Both opinions deal with the issue of sanctions and, put simply, both cases illustrate that Judge Bohm (and perhaps other members of the bankruptcy bench in the Southern District of Texas) are going to be very strict about motions for relief in consumer cases.  

 

SUMMARY

 

The cases cited illustrate enormous problems in the loan servicing industry.  These problems arise in the context of securitization and illustrate the difficulty of determining the name of the holder, the assignee of the mortgage, and the parties with both the legal right under Article 3 and the standing under the Constitution to enforce notes, whether in state court or federal court.  

 

Interestingly, with the exception of Judge Bufford and a few other judges, there has been less than adequate focus upon the UCC title issues.  The next round of cases may and should focus upon the title to debt instrument.  The person seeking to enforce the note must show that:

 

(1) It is the holder of this note original by transfer, with all necessary rounds; 

(2) It had possession of the note before it was lost; 

(3) If it can show that title to the note runs to it, but the original is lost or destroyed, the holder must be prepared to post a bond;  

(4) If the person seeking to enforce is an agent, it must show its agency status and that its principal is the holder of the note (and meets the above requirements).  

 

Then, and only then, do the issues of evidence of debt and default and assignment of mortgage rights become relevant.  

Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 2 so far )

Homeowners’ rallying cry: Produce the note

Posted on February 19, 2009. Filed under: Case Law, Foreclosure Defense, Mortgage Audit, Mortgage Fraud, Mortgage Law, right to rescind | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

ZEPHYRHILLS, Fla. – Kathy Lovelace lost her job and was about to lose her house, too. But then she made a seemingly simple request of the bank: Show me the original mortgage paperwork. And just like that, the foreclosure proceedings came to a standstill.

Lovelace and other homeowners around the country are managing to stave off foreclosure by employing a strategy that goes to the heart of the whole nationwide mess.

During the real estate frenzy of the past decade, mortgages were sold and resold, bundled into securities and peddled to investors. In many cases, the original note signed by the homeowner was lost, stored away in a distant warehouse or destroyed.

Persuading a judge to compel production of hard-to-find or nonexistent documents can, at the very least, delay foreclosure, buying the homeowner some time and turning up the pressure on the lender to renegotiate the mortgage.

“I’m going to hang on for dear life until they can prove to me it belongs to them,” said Lovelace, a 50-year-old divorced mother who owns a $200,000 home in Zephyrhills, near Tampa. “I’ll try everything I can because it’s all I have left.”

In interviews with The Associated Press, lawyers, homeowners and advocates outlined the produce-the-note strategy. Exactly how many homeowners have employed it is unknown. Nor is it clear how successful it has been; some judges are more sympathetic than others.

More than 2.3 million homeowners faced foreclosure proceedings last year and millions more are in danger of losing their homes. On Wednesday, President Obama will unveil a plan to spend at least $50 billion to help homeowners fend off foreclosure.

via Homeowners’ rallying cry: Produce the note|NewsChannel 8.

Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )

Lender Found Liable in Mortgage Fraud Case

Posted on January 10, 2009. Filed under: Case Law, Foreclosure Defense, Mortgage Fraud, Mortgage Law, Predatory Lending, right to rescind, Truth in Lending Act | Tags: , , , , , , , , , |

A Florida federal judge has found a mortgage lender liable to borrowers who say they were fraudulently put into unaffordable subprime mortgages.

U.S. District Judge Federico A. Moreno of the Southern District of Florida entered a default judgment against Bankers Express Mortgage Inc.

The judge said the Calabasas, Calif.-based lender did not respond to a lawsuit Maxo and Georgette Petit-Homme filed Aug. 14 and thus was liable for a to-be-determined sum of damages.

Another defendant, loan servicer Litton Loan Servicing LP, is seeking dismissal of the suit.

The Petit-Hommes, who are in foreclosure, sued Bankers Express and Litton in the District Court seeking to rescind the mortgage on their Miami home.

They claim that when they applied for a mortgage they provided the defendants with documentation about their income and financial assets.

The defendants, however, falsely increased the plaintiffs’ income on the loan application to make them eligible for an expensive $180,000 subprime loan with an interest rate of more than 10 percent, the suit says.

The Petit-Hommes claim that when they took out the loan in December 2006 they were unaware that the defendants had falsified their income.

Read more…

Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )

Mortgage Industry Balks at Loan Modification Plan

Posted on January 9, 2009. Filed under: bankruptcy, Foreclosure Defense, Legislation, Loan Modification, Mortgage Law | Tags: , , , , , , , , , |

If you want a sign the financial world is changing fast, look no farther than Thursday’s announcement that Citigroup would back legislation allowing judges to modify mortgage terms in bankruptcy.

The bill, championed for more than a year by Sen. Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) — and backed by many Democrats, including President-elect Barack Obama and Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) — has been anathema to the financial-services industry for just as long. The industry successfully fought it off several times over the last 18 months, most recently in this fall’s negotiation over the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act. And as recently as December, industry officials were promising an ugly fight, and saying they might still be able to head off the measure entirely.

No longer. Citigroup’s announcement on the new loan modification plan comes even as the same officials acknowledge that a compromise is likely — though perhaps not this compromise. “I think the politics, the substance, the economics, the tax angle all work against the industry on this one,” a financial-services industry official said in an interview Wednesday night, before the Citigroup’s loan modification agreement was public.

Read more…

Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )

« Previous Entries

Liked it here?
Why not try sites on the blogroll...