Tag Archives: bankruptcy

Recognizing Bankruptcy Fraud and Using Experts to Deal With It

29 Mar

By Griffin Dunham

In a perfect world, a debtor’s bankruptcy would involve timely reporting, good faith filings, and full disclosures. Unfortunately, some debtors either enter the process under a cloud of suspicion or make decisions during the process that suggest the estate has been compromised by fraudulent activity. Whether the alleged fraud is a complex bust-out scheme or a simple unreported asset transfer, the debtor may face a serious investigation. Depending on the extent of the allegations, the investigation could be referred as a criminal matter to federal prosecutors. As the severity of the consequences increases, so does the need to have mindful counsel, and possibly an expert witness.
This article attempts to help the reader identify and react to suspicious activity. It will discuss the basic types of fraudulent activity that can derail a bankruptcy proceeding or result in a criminal indictment. By the time this activity is discovered, all interested parties will be racing for leverage.
Lorenzo VelezI. Bankruptcy Fraud – The Basics
Although bankruptcy fraud schemes can simultaneously violate, or even be just a subset of, many other fraudulent schemes (e.g., tax fraud, wire fraud, mail fraud, credit card fraud, etc.) that violate federal law, this article is limited to the most commonly recognized forms seen in a bankruptcy context: concealment of assets, false filings, and statutory fraud.
A. 18 U.S.C. § 152. Concealment of assets; false oaths and claims; bribery.
This statute consists of nine crimes, all of which require proof of “knowingly and fraudulently” doing something in a bankruptcy context, namely: (1) concealing property of the debtor’s estate from the court; (2) making a false oath; (3) committing perjury; (4) presenting a false proof of claim against a debtor’s estate; (5) receiving property from the debtor’s estate with the intent to circumvent bankruptcy proceedings; (6) taking a kickback for forbearing on a claim against the debtor; (7) while acting as an agent, transferring or concealing property of an individual debtor or corporation; (8) “cooking the books” to hide a debtor’s financial affairs; and (9) withholding property or financial affairs from the United States Trustee or court.
B. 18 U.S.C. § 157. Bankruptcy fraud.
This statute is a product of the Bankruptcy Reform Act of 1994 and was designed to cut down on the amount of “gamers” that were using, or attempting to use, the bankruptcy process as a way to further a fraud scheme. This fraud can come in several forms, such as schemes involving insider depletion of assets over a period of time and the use of the automatic stay to conceal fraudulent activity. The elements of this offense are:
1. The defendant has devised or has intended to devise a scheme or artifice to defraud another; and
2. The defendant, for the purpose of executing or concealing the scheme or artifice or attempting to do so,
(a) files a petition under title 11; or
(b) files a document in a proceeding under title 11; or
(c) makes a false or fraudulent statement in connection with a proceeding under title 11 or a proceeding the defendant falsely asserts is pending under title 11.
II. Will You Know It When You See It?
There are times when bankruptcy fraud allegations are straightforward. For example, whether a debtor or debtor’s agent shredded documents to hide the transfer of unreported property that belonged to the debtor’s estate is not complex. Other situations are trickier, such as a debtor perpetrating an investor pyramid fraud (Ponzi scheme) or a debtor concealing or grossly undervaluing an estate asset. Sometimes fraudulent planning, cover-ups, insider transfers, and long-term asset structuring has been in process for months or years prior to the bankruptcy. Regardless of the complexity of the scheme, counsel must be mindful that suspicious activity is best learned up front, and accordingly handled through the discovery process by way of written documents, depositions, Rule 2004 examinations, and expert consultation. These more “designer” fraud cases include (1) bust-outs, (2) bleed-outs, and (3) looting.
A. Bust-outs.
In a bust-out scheme, a company is set up and builds a decent credit line while holding themselves out to be a reputable business. At first, transactions are small, but by design demonstrate the company can cash flow and reliably service its debts. Once the company’s owners are satisfied that enough reputation and credit building has occurred, vendors are then blitzed with orders for goods, along with a promise of repayment within, for example, 90 days. Once the goods are received, the company sells them and does not appropriate the proceeds to its creditors. The company stalls its creditors for as long as possible, then finally files its bankruptcy petition. The bankruptcy schedules reveal the company to be a low-asset, high-liability operation. This type of scheme is common in connection with distributing consumer products.
B. Bleed-outs.
A bleed-out is most often an inside job, where corporate managers, directors, or officers emaciate a company’s value through insider asset transfers. The company is not necessarily established for the purpose of carrying out a bleed-out, and may not even be in financial distress. However, like any company, its vulnerability is exposed when collusive insiders have control and subordinate the company’s success to their personal gain. Commonly, an insider, or group of insiders, enter into transactions on behalf of the company with the purpose of redirecting a business asset in favor of the insider and to the prejudice of the company. For example, money could be thrown at a fledgling subsidiary that happens to be controlled by an officer who also serves as an officer for the company being depleted. Often these transactions are document-intensive, well-planned, and hidden to reduce the risk of exposure. In other words, simply looking at the statements and schedules will not typically reveal a bleed-out scheme.
C. Looting.
Looting can be one of the most brazen types of bankruptcy fraud. A bankruptcy looting scheme typically involves a debtor’s failing company selling its assets pre-petition to a non-failing company without disclosing to the court the debtor’s involvement in the transaction. The debtor often carries out the fraud by representing that a disinterested buyer has been located, when in fact the buyer is a mere extension, “shell”, or agent of the debtor. By design, the terms of the sale appear legitimate, not unreasonably beneficial to the debtor, and are met with satisfaction by the creditors. The company then either closes its doors or files a Chapter 7 bankruptcy to liquidate and administer any remaining estate. Although looting could theoretically occur during a sale process within a bankruptcy case, Section 363 of the Bankruptcy Code affords a process that should enable creditors to determine whether any sale is reasonable, in good-faith, and proposed at arms’ length.
III. Now That You Have Spotted Fraud (Or Think You Have), Is It Time To Retain An Expert?
Counsel is charged with knowing the law and being able to spot facts that implicate the application of the law. If the facts suggest there would be merit to a fraud investigation, forensics can become the secret weapon to determine whether fraud or criminal activity has occurred. An expert can be an invaluable resource that uncovers previously hidden facts, challenges the proof of the counterparty, and provides an evidentiary roadmap that counsel can use to represent the client. Once the decision is made to reach out to an expert, there are several considerations to process before making the call: (1) who is the right consultant; (2) what will the expert do for the team; (3) how much will the expert cost; and (4) what is the role of counsel once an expert is engaged. Before discussing these considerations in more detail, the absolutely fundamental realization must be that once the facts show an expert is needed, counsel cannot delay in retaining the expert. It is crucial that the expert be on board early and given the time and opportunity to succeed.
A. Who is the right consultant?
There are countless experts that label themselves as “bankruptcy fraud experts.” Some are former law enforcement officers, others specialize within fraud subsets (e.g., real estate equity skimming, theft of employee contributions for health insurance, etc.), and others are credentialed certified fraud examiners. Although not required in every situation, forensic experts are trained to analyze a set of facts with the thought that their actions will be scrutinized in court. When determining who (or which firm) is best for a given situation, it is imperative to find out (a) if the expert has ever handled this type of case before; (b) the resources that will be available to the expert; (c) the expert’s workload and reputation within the community; and (d) if the expert could effectively explain the case in a courtroom and be subject to cross-examination.
B. What will the expert do for the team?
The scope of the services an expert provides entirely depends on the facts of a given case. Although experts are trained to think outside the box and do not strictly adhere to a checklist, there are patterns of behavior or sources of information that have historically yielded results.
Experts have an arsenal of tactics at their disposal, but their ability to deploy them depends on several factors. First, the client’s financial situation may be restrictive. In these situations, it is important to make the expert aware of a cost ceiling and find out how much “bang for the buck” the client will receive. Some experts are willing to provide a role assessment and cost analysis without the client incurring an obligation or fees. In addition to financial limitations, experts cannot use the full range of their skills unless they have a sufficient amount of time to operate. Investigations and requests for information can be time-consuming, so engaging an expert as early in the process as possible can help ensure that the client is given the full benefit of the expert’s abilities.
C. What is the expert’s workload and reputation?
The expert must be able to make the client’s case a top priority. When inquiring about the expert’s workload, this is a great time to discuss communications, frequency of updates, and availability to conduct the investigation in advance of known deadlines in the case. As for reputation, a reliable indicator is always the expert’s former clients and counsel. Any proficient expert will be happy to provide this information. It is often helpful to go one step further and contact the counsel that opposed the expert’s position. This counsel, usually assisted by the opinion of another expert, will have a firm grasp of the expert’s abilities.
D. Can the expert effectively convey the client’s position?
After meeting with the expert, ask yourself if this person is someone that will help the presentation of your case. Not necessarily just with the court, but also in leveraging a settlement by presenting a reasonably acceptable position to the counterparty. The level of education, amount of training, number of cases worked, experience testifying, and mannerisms are all going to be known or visualized by the fact-finder. If these factors will present a problem from a credibility perspective or during cross-examination, continuing the search may be in the client’s best interests.
The decision to hire an expert can be difficult, but if such a decision is made the focus should shift to finding the right person for the client’s needs. There often exists a correlation between the client’s success and the proficiency of the expert. It is therefore incumbent upon counsel to ask questions and spend time researching and performing due diligence to place the facts of the case into the hands of a well-qualified expert.
IV. Conclusion
Bankruptcy fraud is a billion dollar industry. The number of ways debtors defraud creditors and the courts is seemingly countless and growing each year. Although some types of fraud are more complex than others, effective bankruptcy counsel must be able to recognize and react to situations involving fraud. Depending upon the complexity of the situation, recruiting an expert may be a vitally important component to the success of a case.

 

Watchdog Report: Foreclosure Review Scrapped On Eve Of Critical, Congressman Says

6 Jan

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Posted: 12/31/2012 3:53 pm EST  |  Updated: 12/31/2012 4:08 pm EST

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The surprising decision by regulators to scrap a massive and expensive foreclosure review program in favor of a $10 billion settlement with 14 banks — reported by The New York Times Sunday night — came after a year of mounting concerns about the independence and effectiveness of the controversial program.

The program, known as the Independent Foreclosure Review, was supposed to give homeowners who believe that their bank made a mistake in handling their foreclosure an opportunity for a neutral third party to review the claim. It’s not clear what factors led banking regulators to abandon the program in favor of a settlement, but the final straw may have been a pending report by the Government Accountability Office, a nonpartisan investigative arm of Congress, which was investigating the review program.

Rep. Brad Miller, a North Carolina Democrat, told The Huffington Post that the report, which has not been released, was “critical” and that the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, which administers the review, was aware of its findings. Miller said that that one problem the GAO was likely to highlight was an “unacceptably high” error rate of 11 percent in a sampling of bank loan files.

The sample files were chosen at random by the banks from their broader pool of foreclosed homeowners, who had not necessarily applied for relief. The data suggests that of the 4 million families who lost their homes to foreclosure since the housing crash, more than 400,000 had some bank-caused problem in their loan file. It also suggests that many thousands of those who could have applied for relief didn’t — because they weren’t aware of the review, or weren’t aware that their bank had made a mistake. Some of these mistakes pushed homeowners into foreclosure who otherwise could have afforded to keep their homes.

Miller said the news that a settlement to replace the review was in the works caught him by surprise, and stressed that he had no way of knowing whether the impending GAO report had triggered the decision.

It’s not clear what will happen to the 250,000 homeowners who have already applied to the Independent Foreclosure Review for relief. The Times, citing people familiar with the negotiations, said that a deal between the banks and banking regulators, led by the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, could be reached by the end of the week. It wasn’t clear how that money would be distributed or how many current and former homeowners who lost their homes to foreclosure — or who were hit with an unnecessary fee — might qualify.

Bryan Hubbard, a spokesman for the OCC, which administers the program, declined to comment on the Times’ story. Hubbard told HuffPost, “The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency is committed to ensuring the Independent Foreclosure Review proceeds efficiently and to ensuring harmed borrowers are compensated as quickly as possible.”

Since the housing market crashed in 2007, thousands of foreclosed homeowners have complained that their mortgage company made a mistake in the management of their home loan, such as foreclosing on someone making payments on a loan modification plan. The Independent Foreclosure Review emerged from a legal agreement in April 2011 between 14 mortgage companies and bank regulators over these abusive “servicing” practices. It was supposed to give homeowners an opportunity to have an unbiased third party review their foreclosure and determine whether they might qualify for a cash payout of up to $125,000.

The initial response was tepid, at best. Homeowners and advocates complained that the application forms were confusing and that information about what type of compensation they might get was missing. Some told HuffPost that they were so disillusioned by the federal government’s anemic response to widely reported bank errors that they weren’t going to bother to apply.

In one instance, Daniel Casper, an Illinois wedding videographer, applied to the program in January after years of combat with Bank of America over his home loan. As The Huffington Post reported in October, he was initially rejected, because, according to the bank, his mortgage was not in the foreclosure process during the eligible review period. Promontory Financial Group, which Bank of America hired to review his loan, apparently did not double check Bank of America’s analysis against the extensive documentation that Chase submitted. That documentation clearly showed that his loan was eligible for review.

In recent months ProPublica, an investigative nonprofit, has issued a series of damning articles about the Independent Foreclosure Review. The most recent found that supposedly independent third-party reviewers looking over Bank of America loan files were given the “correct” answers in advance by the bank. These reviewers could override the answers, but they weren’t starting from a blank slate.

Banks, if they did not find a “compensable error,” did not have to pay anything, giving them a strong incentive to find no flaws with their own work.

“It was flawed from the start,” Miller said of the review program. “There was an inherent conflict of interest by just about everyone involved.”

Also on HuffPost:

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The NEW Sevicing abuse cases california Jan1, 2013

10 Dec

Abuses by Mortgage Service Companies

Although predatory lending has received far more attention than abusive servicing, a significant percentage of consumer complaints over loans involve servicing, not origination. For example, the director of the Nevada Fair Housing Center testified that of the hundreds of complaints of predatory lending issues her office received in 2002, about 42 percent involved servicing once the loan was transferred

Abusive Mortgage Servicing Defined:

Abusive servicing occurs when a servicer, either through action or inaction, obtains or attempts to obtain unwarranted fees or other costs from borrowers, engages in unfair collection practices, or through its own improper behavior or inaction causes borrowers to be more likely to go into default or have their homes foreclosed. Abusive practices should be distinguished from appropriate actions that may harm borrowers, such as a servicer merely collecting appropriate late fees or foreclosing on borrowers who do not make their payments despite proper loss mitigation efforts. Servicing can be abusive either intentionally, when there is intent to obtain unwarranted fees, or negligently, when, for example, a servicer’s records are so disorganized that borrowers are regularly charged late fees even when mortgage payments were made on time.

Abusive servicing often happens to debtors who have filed a Chapter 13 Bankruptcy Plan and are in the process of making payments under the Plan. If you suspect that your mortgage servicer is abusing your relationship by charging unnecessary fees while you are paying off your Chapter 13 Plan, call us. We can help.

There is significant evidence that some Mortgage servicers have engaged in abusive behavior and that borrowers have frequently been the victims. Some servicers have engaged in practices that are not only detrimental to borrowers but also illegal Such abuse has been documented in court opinions and decisions, in the decisions and findings of ratings agencies, in litigation and settlements obtained by government agencies against prominent servicers, in congressional testimony, and in newspaper accounts of borrowers who claim to have been mistreated by servicers. The abusive servicing practices documented in these sources include improper foreclosure or attempted foreclosure, improper fees, improper forced-placed insurance, and improper use or oversight of escrow funds .

Improper foreclosure or attempted foreclosure

Because servicers can exact fees associated with foreclosures, such as attorneys’ fees, some servicers have attempted to foreclose on property even when borrowers are current on their payments or without giving borrowers enough time to repay or otherwise working with them on a repayment plan Furthermore, a speedy foreclosure may save servicers the cost of attempting other techniques that might have prevented the foreclosure.

Some servicers have been so brazen that they have regularly claimed to the courts that borrowers were in default so as to justify foreclosure, even though the borrowers were current on their payments. Other courts have also decried the frequent use of false statements to obtain relief from stay in order to foreclose on borrowers’ homes. For example, in Hart v. GMAC Mortgage Corporation, et al., 246 B.R. 709 (2000), even though the borrower had made the payments required of him by a forbearance agreement he had entered into with the servicer (GMAC Mortgage Corporation), it created a “negative suspense account” for moneys it had paid out, improperly charged the borrower an additional monthly sum to repay the negative suspense account, charged him late fees for failing to make the entire payment demanded, and began foreclosure proceedings.

Improper fees

Claiming that borrowers are in default when they are actually current allows servicers to charge unwarranted fees, either late fees or fees related to default and foreclosure. Servicers receive as a conventional fee a percentage of the total value of the loans they service, typically 25 basis points for prime loans and 50 basis points for subprime loans In addition, contracts typically provide that the servicer, not the trustee or investors, has the right to keep any and all late fees or fees associated with defaults. Servicers charge late fees not only because they act as a prod to coax borrowers into making payments on time, but also because borrowers who fail to make payments impose additional costs on servicers, which must then engage in loss mitigation to induce payment.

Such fees are a crucial part of servicers’ income. For example, one servicer’s CEO reportedly stated that extra fees, such as late fees, appeared to be paying for all of the operating costs of the company’s entire servicing department, leaving the conventional servicing fee almost completely profit The pressure to collect such fees appears to be higher on subprime servicers than on prime servicers:

Because borrowers typically cannot prove the exact date a payment was received, servicers can charge late fees even when they receive the payment on time Improper late fees may also be based on the loss of borrowers’ payments by servicers, their inability to track those payments accurately, or their failure to post payments in a timely fashion. In Ronemus v. FTB Mortgage Services, 201 B.R. 458 (1996), under a Chapter 13 bankruptcy plan, the borrowers had made all of their payments on time except for two; they received permission to pay these two late and paid late fees for the privilege. However, the servicer, FTB Mortgage Services, misapplied their payments, then began placing their payments into a suspense account and collecting unauthorized late fees. The servicer ignored several letters from the borrowers’ attorney attempting to clear up the matter, sent regular demands for late fees, and began harassing the borrowers with collection efforts. When the borrowers sued, the servicer submitted to the court an artificially inflated accounting of how much the borrowers owed.

Some servicers have sent out late notices even when they have received timely payments and even before the end of a borrower’s grace period Worse yet, a servicer might pocket the payment, such as an extra payment of principal, and never credit it to the borrower Late fees on timely payments are a common problem when borrowers are making mortgage payments through a bankruptcy plan

Moreover, some servicers have also added false fees and charges not authorized by law or contract to their monthly payment demands, relying on borrowers’ ignorance of the exact amount owed. They can collect such fees or other unwarranted claims by submitting inaccurate payoff demands when a borrower refinances or sells the house). Or they can place the borrowers’ monthly payments in a suspense account and then charge late fees even though they received the payment Worse yet, some servicers pyramid their late fees, applying a portion of the current payment to a previous late fee and then charging an additional late fee even though the borrower has made a timely and full payment for the new month Pyramiding late fees allows servicers to charge late fees month after month even though the borrower made only one late payment

Servicers can turn their fees into a profit center by sending inaccurate monthly payment demands, demanding unearned fees or charges not owed, or imposing fees higher than the expenses for a panoply of actions For example, some servicers take advantage of borrowers’ ignorance by charging fees, such as prepayment penalties, where the note does not provide for them Servicers have sometimes imposed a uniform set of fees over an entire pool of loans, disregarding the fact that some of the loan documents did not provide for those particular fees. Or they charge more for attorneys’, property inspection, or appraisal fees than were actually incurred. Some servicers may add a fee by conducting unnecessary property inspections, having an agent drive by even when the borrower is not in default, or conducting multiple inspections during a single period of default to charge the resulting multiple fees

The complexity of the terms of many loans makes it difficult for borrowers to discover whether they are being overcharged Moreover, servicers can frustrate any attempts to sort out which fees are genuine.

Improperly forced-placed insurance

Mortgage holders are entitled under the terms of the loan to require borrowers to carry homeowners’ insurance naming the holder as the payee in case of loss and to force-place insurance by buying policies for borrowers who fail to do so and charging them for the premiums However, some servicers have force-placed insurance even in cases where the borrower already had it and even provided evidence of it to the servicer Worse yet, servicers have charged for force-placed insurance without even purchasing it. Premiums for force-placed insurance are often inflated in that they provide protection in excess of what the loan.

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Escrow Account Mismanagement

One of the benefits of servicing mortgages is controlling escrow accounts to pay for insurance, taxes, and the like and, in most states, keeping any interest earned on these accounts Borrowers have complained that servicers have failed to make tax or insurance payments when they were due or at all. The treasurer of the country’s second largest county estimated that this failure to make timely payments cost borrowers late fees of at least $2 million in that county over a two-year span, causing some to lose their homes. If servicers fail to make insurance payments and a policy lapses, borrowers may face much higher insurance costs even if they purchase their own, non-force-placed policy. Worse yet, borrowers may find themselves unable to buy insurance at all if they cannot find a new insurer willing to write them a policy

You can make a claim for mortgage service abuse, and often the court will award actual and punitive damages. If you think you have been a victim of mortgage service abuse, contact us. We can help you make a claim.

How to chase Chase – People sometimes ask me why do you publish all this stuff. My slogan IF YOUR ENEMY IS MY ENEMY THAN WE ARE FRIENDS !!!!

19 Nov

People sometimes ask me why do you publish all this stuff. My slogan IF YOUR ENEMY IS MY ENEMY THAN WE ARE FRIENDS

Chase-Sucks.org

2. RESOURCES — Pleadings, Orders, and Exhibits

On this page you will find descriptions and links to various pleadings, orders, and exhibits filed by attorneys as well as individuals representing themselves. Where the outcome is known, that information is included. These documents are public records and are made available for your information, but their accuracy, competency, and effectiveness have not been verified. Only a judge can rule on a pleading and only an appellate court opinion that is certified for publication can be cited as precedent. That said, it can be both educational and entertaining to see how the great race is unfolding in the historic controversy of People v. Banks. For an entertaining public outing of history’s all-time greatest pickpockets, go see the documentary “Inside Job.”

Federal District Court

Carswell v. JPMorgan Chase, Case No. CV10-5152 GW

George Wu, Judge, U.S. District Court, Central District of California, Los Angeles
Douglas Gillies, attorney for Margaret Carswell

Plaintiff sued to halt a foreclosure initiated by JPMorgan Chase and California Reconveyance Co. on the grounds of failure to contract, wrongful foreclosure, unjust enrichment, RESPA and TILA violations, and fraud. She asked for quiet title and declaratory relief. Chase responded with a Motion to Dismiss. At a hearing on September 30, 2010, Judge Wu granted defendants’ motion to dismiss with leave to amend. Plaintiff’s First Amended Complaint was filed on October 18. It begins:

It was the biggest financial bubble in history. During the first decade of this century, banks abandoned underwriting practices and caused a frenzy of real estate speculation by issuing predatory loans that ultimately lowered property values in the United States by 30-50%. Banks reaped the harvest. Kerry Killinger, CEO of Washington Mutual, took home more than $100 million during the seven years that he steered WaMu into the ground. Banks issued millions of predatory loans knowing that the borrowers would default and lose their homes. As a direct, foreseeable, proximate result, 15 million families are now in danger of foreclosure. If the legions of dispossessed homeowners cannot present their grievances in the courts of this great nation, their only recourse will be the streets.

Chase responded with yet another Motion to Dismiss, Carswell filed her Opposition to the motion, and a hearing is scheduled for January 6, 2011, 8:30 AM in Courtroom 10, US District Court, 312 N. Spring Street, Los Angeles, CA.

 

Khast v. Washington Mutual, JPMorgan Chase, and CRC, Case No. CV10-2168 IEG

Irma E. Gonzalez, Chief Judge, U.S. District Court, Southern District of California
Kaveh Khast in pro se

A loan mod nightmare where Khast did everything right except laugh out loud when WaMu told him that he must stop making his mortgage payments for 90 days in order to qualify for a loan modification. As Khast leaped through the constantly shifting hoops tossed in the air, first by WaMu, then by Chase, filing no less than four applications, Chase issued a Notice of Trustee’s Sale.

Khast filed a pro se complaint in federal court. The District Court granted a Temporary Restraining Order to stop the sale. Hearing on a Preliminary Injunction is now scheduled for December 3. The court wrote that the conduct by WAMU appears to be “immoral, unethical, oppressive, unscrupulous or substantially injurious to consumers,” and thus satisfies the “unfair” prong of California’s Unfair Competition Law, Cal. Bus.&Prof.Code §17200. Plaintiff has stated that he possesses documents which support his contention that Defendant WAMU instructed Plaintiff to purposefully enter into default and assured Plaintiff that, if he did so, WAMU would restructure his loan. Accordingly, Plaintiff has demonstrated that he is likely to succeed on the merits of his claim.

The court also relied upon the doctrine of promissory estoppel. Under this doctrine a promisor is bound when he should reasonably expect a substantial change of position, either by act or forbearance, in reliance on his promise. He who by his language or conduct leads another to do what he would not otherwise have done shall not subject such person to loss or injury by disappointing the expectations upon which he acted.

 

Saxon Mortgage v. Hillery, Case No. C-08-4357

Edward M. Chen, U.S. Magistrate, Northern District of California
Thomas Spielbauer, attorney for Ruthie Hillery

Hillery obtained a home loan from New Century secured by a Deed of Trust, which named MERS as nominee for New Century and its successors. MERS later attempted to assign the Deed of Trust and the promissory note to Consumer. Consumer and the loan servicer then sued Hillery. The court ruled that Consumer must demonstrate that it is the holder of the deed of trust and the promissory note. In re Foreclosure Cases, 521 F. Supp. 2d 650, 653 (S.D. Oh. 2007) held that to show standing in a foreclosure action, the plaintiff must show that it is the holder of the note and the mortgage at the time the complaint was filed. For there to be a valid assignment, there must be more than just assignment of the deed alone; the note must also be assigned. “The note and mortgage are inseparable; the former as essential, the latter as an incident…an assignment of the note carries the mortgage with it, while an assignment of the latter alone is a nullity.” Carpenter v. Longan, 83 U.S. 271, 274 (1872).

There was no evidence that MERS held the promissory note or was given the authority by New Century to assign the note to Consumer. Without the note, Consumer lacked standing. If Consumer did not have standing, then the loan servicer also lacked standing. A loan servicer cannot bring an action without the holder of the note. In re Hwang, 393 B.R. 701, 712 (2008).

 

Serrano v. GMAC Mortgage, Case No. 8:09-CV-00861-DOC

David O. Carter, Judge, U.S. District Court, Central District of California, Los Angeles
Moses S. Hall, attorney for Ignacio Serrano

Plaintiff alleged in state court that GMAC initiated a non-judicial foreclosure sale and sold his residence without complying with the notice requirements of Cal. Civil Code Sec. 2923.5 and 2924, and without attaching a declaration to the 2923.5 notice under penalty of perjury stating that defendants tried with due diligence to contact the borrower. Defendants removed the case to federal court on the basis of diversity jurisdiction. The District Court granted defendants’ motion to dismiss without prejudice, and described in detail the defects in the Complaint with directions how to correct the defects. Plaintiff filed his Second Amended Complaint on 4/01/2010.

 

Sharma v. Provident Funding Associates, Case No. 3:2009-cv-05968

Vaughn R Walker, Judge, U.S. District Court, Northern District of California
Marc A. Fisher, attorney for Anilech and Parma Sharma

Defendants attempted to foreclose and plaintiffs sued in federal court, alleging that defendants did not contact them as required by Cal Civ Code § 2923.5. In considering plaintiffs’ request for an injunction to stop the foreclosure, the court found that plaintiffs had raised “serious questions going to the merits” and would suffer irreparable injury if the sale were to proceed. Property is considered unique. If defendants foreclosed, plaintiffs’ injury would be irreparable because they might be unable to reacquire it. Plaintiffs’ remedy at law, damages, would be inadequate. On the other hand, defendants would not suffer a high degree of harm if a preliminary injunction were ordered. While they would not be able to sell the property immediately and would incur litigation costs, when balanced against plaintiffs’ potential loss, defendants’ harm was outweighed.

The court issued a preliminary injunction enjoining defendants from selling the property while the lawsuit was pending.

 

Federal Bankruptcy Court

In re: Hwang, 396 B.R. 757 (2008), Case No. 08-15337 Chapter 7

Samuel L. Burford, U.S. Bankruptcy Judge, Los Angeles
Robert K. Lee, attorney for Kang Jin Hwang

As the servicer on Hwang’s promissory note, IndyMac was entitled to enforce the secured note under California law, but it must also satisfy the procedural requirements of federal law to obtain relief from the automatic stay in a Chapter 7 bankruptcy proceeding. These requirements include joining the owner of the note, because the owner of the note is the real party in interest under Rule 17, and it is also a required party under Rule 19. IndyMac failed to join the owner of the note, so its motion for relief from the automatic stay was denied.

Reversed on July 21, 2010. District Court Judge Philip Gutierrez reversed the Judge Burford’s determination that IndyMac is not the real party in interest under Rule 17 and that Rule 19 requires the owner of the Note to join the Motion.

 

In re: Vargas, Case No. 08-17036 Chapter 7

Samuel L. Burford, U.S. Bankruptcy Judge, Los Angeles
Marcus Gomez, attorney for Raymond Vargas

 

In re: Walker, Case No. 10-21656 Chapter 11

Ronald H. Sargis, Judge, U.S. Bankruptcy Court, Sacramento
Mitchell L. Abdallah, attorney for Rickie Walker

MERS assigned the Deed of Trust for Debtor’s property to Citibank, which filed a secured claim. Debtor objected to the claim. Judge Sargis ruled that the promissory note and the Deed of Trust are inseparable. An assignment of the note carries the mortgage with it, while an assignment of the Deed of Trust alone is a nullity. MERS was not the owner of the note, so it could not transfer the note or the beneficial interest in the Deed of Trust. The bankruptcy court disallowed Citibank’s claim because it could not establish that it was the owner of the promissory note.

 

California State Court

Cabalu v. Mission Bishop Real Estate

Superior Court of California, Alameda County
Brian A. Angelini, attorney for Cecil and Natividad Cabalu

 

Davies v. NDEX West, Case No. INC 090697

Randall White, Judge, Superior Court of California, Riverside County
Brian W. Davies, in pro per

 

Edstrom v. NDEX West, Wells Fargo Bank, et. al., Case No. 20100314

Superior Court of California, Eldorado County
Richard Hall, attorney for Daniel and Teri Anne Edstrom

A 61-page complaint with 29 causes of action to enjoin a trustee’s sale of plaintiffs’ residence, requesting a judicial sale instead of a non-judicial sale, declaratory relief, compensatory damages including emotional and mental distress, punitive damages, attorneys’ fees, and rescission.

 

Mabry v. Superior Court and Aurora Loan Services
185 Cal.App.4th 208, 110 Cal. Rptr. 3d 201 (4th Dist. June 2, 2010)
California Court of Appeal, 4th District, Division 3
California Supreme Court, Petition for Review filed July 13, 2010.

Moses S. Hall, attorney for Terry and Michael Mabry

The Mabrys sued to enjoin a trustee’s sale of their home, alleging that Aurora’s notice of default did not include a declaration required by Cal. Civil Code §2923.5, and that the bank did not explore alternatives to foreclosure with the borrowers. The trial court refused to stop the sale. The Mabrys filed a Petition for a Writ of Mandate and the Court of Appeal granted a stay to enjoin the sale. Oral argument was heard in Santa Ana on May 18, 2010.

Aurora argued that a borrower cannot sue a lender that fails to contact the borrower to discuss alternatives to foreclosure before filing a notice of default, as required by §2923.5, because §2923.5 does not explicitly give homeowners a “private right of action.” Aurora also argued that a declaration under penalty of perjury is not required because a trustee, who ordinarily files the notice of default, could not have personal knowledge of a bank’s attempts to contact the borrower. Nobody mentioned that the trustee is not authorized by the statute to make the declaration. §2923.5 states that a notice of default “shall include a declaration from the mortgagee, beneficiary, or authorized agent that it has contacted the borrower…”

The Court of Appeal ruled that a borrower has a private right of action under § 2923.5 and is not required to tender the full amount of the mortgage as a prerequisite to filing suit, since that would defeat the purpose of the statute. Under the court’s narrow construction of the statute, §2923.5 merely adds a procedural step in the foreclosure process. Since the statute is not substantive, it is not preempted by federal law. The declaration specified in §2923.5 does not have to be signed under penalty of perjury. The borrower’s remedy is limited to getting a postponement of a foreclosure while the lender files a new notice of default that complies with §2923.5. If the lender ignores the statute and makes no attempt to contact the borrower before selling the property, the violation does not cloud the title acquired by a third party purchaser at the foreclosure sale. Therefore §2923.5 claims must be raised in court before the sale. It is a question of fact for the trial court to determine whether the lender actually attempted to contact the borrower before filing a notice of default. If the lender takes the property at the foreclosure sale, its title is not clouded by its failure to comply with the statute. Finally, the case is not suitable for class action treatment if the lender asserts that it attempted to comply with the statute because each borrower will present “highly-individuated facts.”

In a petition for review to the California Supreme Court, the Mabrys noted that more than 100 federal district court opinions have considered §2923.5 and an overwhelming majority have rejected a private right of action under the statute. The petition for review was denied.

After the case was remanded to the trial court, Mabry’s motion for preliminary injunction was granted. The trial court found that the Notice of Default contained the form language required by the statute, i.e. that the lender contacted the borrower, tried with due diligence to contact the borrower, etc. However, the declaration on the Notice of Default was not made under panalty of perjury, and therefore had no evidentiary value to show whether the defendant satisfied §2923.5

 

Moreno v. Ameriquest

Superior Court of California, Contra Costa County
Thomas Spielbauer, attorney for Gloria and Carlos Moreno

Complaint for declaratory relief and fraud against lender for misrepresenting the terms of the loan, promising fixed rate with one small step after two years both orally and in the Truth In Lending Statement. Loan was actually variable rate with negative amortization. Morenos would have qualified for fixed rate 5% for 30 years, but instead received an exploding 7% ARM. Notary rushed plaintiffs through signing of documents with little explanation. Complaint requests a declaration the note is invalid, unconscionable and unenforceable and the Notice of Trustees Sale is invalid.

 

Other State Courts

JPMorgan Chase Bank v. George, Case No. 10865/06

Arthur M. Schack, Supreme Court Judge, Kings County, New York
Edward Roberts, attorney for Gertrude George

 

Florida Judge tosses foreclosure lawsuit

Homeowners dispute who owns mortgage

by Steve Patterson
St. Augustine Record
June 15, 2010

Changing stories about who owns a mortgage and seemingly fresh evidence from a long-closed bank led a judge to throw out a foreclosure lawsuit. It’s the second time in as many months that Circuit Judge J. Michael Traynor has dismissed with prejudice a foreclosure case where homeowners disputed who owns the mortgage. Lawyers representing New York-based M&T Bank gave three separate accounts of the ownership, with documentation that kept changing.

“The court has been misled by the plaintiff from the beginning,” the judge wrote in his order. He added that documents filed by M&T’s lawyers seemed to contradict each other and “have changed as needed to benefit the plaintiff.”

The latest account was that Wells Fargo owned the note, and M&T was a servicer, a company paid to handle payments and other responsibilities tied to a mortgage. To believe that, the judge wrote, the “plaintiff is asking the court to ignore the documents filed in the first two complaints.” He added that Wells Fargo can still sue on its own, if it has evidence that it owns the mortgage.

More and more foreclosure cases are being argued on shaky evidence, said James Kowalski, a Jacksonville attorney who represented homeowners Lisa and Larry Smith in the fight over their oceanfront home. “I think it’s very representative of what the banks and their lawyers are currently doing in court,” Kowalski said.

He said lawyers bringing the lawsuits are often pressed by their clients to close the cases quickly. But it’s up to lawyers to present solid evidence and arguments. “We are supposed to be better than that,” Kowalski said. “We are supposed to be officers of the court.”

 

Exhibits

Department of Treasury and FDIC Report on WaMu, 4/16/2010

The Offices of Inspector General for Department of the Treasury and Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation released its evaluation of the regulatory oversight of Washington Mutual on April 16. The table of contents tells the story. WaMu pursued a high-risk lending strategy which included systematic underwriting weaknesses. They didn’t care if borrowers could pay back their loans. WaMu did not have adequate controls in place to manage its reckless “high-risk” strategy. OTS examiners found weaknesses in WaMu’s strategy, operations, and asset portfolio but looked the other way.

 

OCC Advisory Letters

How could the regulators allow this breakdown to happen? Was it really fraud when banks arranged loans for homeowners who would inevitably go into defrault, sold them to Wall Street to be bundled into securities, then purchased insurance so that the bank would collect the unpaid balances when the borrowers lost their homes? Did anybody really know that repealing Glass-Steagall and permitting Wall Street banks to get under the covers with Main Street banks would cause so many borrowers to lose their homes? The Glass-Steagall Act, enacted in 1933, barred any institution from acting as any combination of an investment bank, a commercial bank, and an insurance company. It was repealed in 1999, and the repercussions have been immense.

The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) issued Advisory Letter 2000-7 only months after Glass-Steagall was repealed. It warned regulators to be on the lookout for indications of predatory or abusive lending practices, including Collateral or Equity Stripping – loans made in reliance on the liquidation value of the borrower’s home or other collateral, rather than the borrower’s independent ability to repay, with the possible or intended result of foreclosure or the need to refinance under duress.

Proving fraud is a painstaking process. Getting inside the mind of a crook requires a careful foundation, and admissable evidence is not always easy to obtain. Many courts will take judicial notice of official acts of the legislative, executive, and judicial departments of the United States and of any state of the United States. See Cal Evidence Code Sec. 452(c).

Here is a set of smoking guns in the form of a series of Advisory Letters issued by OCC:

The Washington Mutual logo prior to its acquis...

The Washington Mutual logo prior to its acquisition by JPMorgan Chase. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Bankruptcy Laws, You Have Seen Nothing Yet! Mortgage Chaos?

27 Oct

by Bankruptcy Law Network

There are many bright Real Estate Attorneys out there. Likewise, there are many bright Bankruptcy Attorneys out there. But I don’t think there are that many bright Bankruptcy Real Estate Attorneys out there. And the few that do exist…..well, I don’t think they worked for the Mortgage Companies. Why? Well if they did, the transfer of loans would not have existed the way that it did for the past several years.

Lately, the big news in foreclosures has been the Ohio cases where Judge Boyko dismissed 14 foreclosures on October 31, 2007, and his Colleague, Judge Kathleen O’Malley of the same court, followed suite ordering another 32 dismissals on November 14, 2007.   But that’s only the beginning. It gets worse.

Add a bankruptcy filing to the mix and it’s like adding gas to the fire and recipe for disaster. The reason is a little bankruptcy code section called 11 USC 544. Basically, that section allows a Trustee appointed by the Bankruptcy Court to avoid non-perfected liens.Non-perfected liens are liens that exist, but are not fully noticed to everyone, sort of like secret liens. It’s like if someone loans you $50,000 and takes a lien out on your house, but never records their lien with the county recorder. If that house sells, the lien is not paid since escrow was not aware of it. Had it been recorded by a “deed of trust” or “mortgage,” the Title Company and Escrow Company would not have closed once they saw it, unless it was paid.

Because of all the crazy real estate financing, securitization, and reselling of all the mortgages, sort of the same thing has happened with all the mortgages and trust deeds, but on a much larger scale. Normally, most states require that when a mortgage or real estate loan is sold or transferred to another lender, certain things must happen to maintain perfection, that is, in order to make sure that lien gets paid at a later date. Generally, the purchaser of the Mortgage has it recorded at the County Recorders Office. This is usually done thru a recorded assignment of the underlying note and mortgage or a new Mortgage being recorded and transfer of the Note.  The Note is the most important part of any Mortgage or Deed of Trust. The Mortgage or Deed of Trust is useless without the Note, and usually can not exist without it. It’s a negotiable instrument, just like a check. So when it’s transferred, it needs to be endorsed, just like a check. So essentially, all real estate has documents recorded to evidence the lien, and which are linked to the “checks.”  Well, this is where the problem lies.

In most of the Mortgage Transfers which took place recently, the Mortgage or Deed of Trust was transferred, but not the Note. Whoops! Why? It was just too expensive to track down every note for every mortgage since they were all bundled up together and sold in large trusts, then resold, resold, etc. Imagine trying to find 1 note among thousands, which were sold in different trust pools over time. Pretty hard to do! So shortcuts happened.  Soon enough, shortcuts were accepted and since there were very little foreclosure activity during the last 7 year real estate bubble, no one really noticed in the few foreclosures that took place. Until recently. That’s where the Ohio cases come in. Times have now changed. That little shortcut stopped the foreclosures in Ohio since the most basic element of any lawsuit is that the party bringing the lawsuit is the “real party in interest.” That is, they are the aggrieved party, injured party, relief seeking party.  So in Ohio, the Judge dismissed all the cases since they did not possess the Notes or Assignments on the date of filing, and technically were not the real party in interest to file the suit at the time.But that maybe only a temporary problem until they find the note or assignment. At that point, they will probably just file the foreclosure lawsuit again. So it’s just a delay.

But the bigger problem exists in Bankruptcy.  You see, once a Bankruptcy Case is filed, the Automatic Stay goes into effect. Everything is frozen. Mistakes can no longer be corrected. And if the lender did not have the note or recorded assignment when the bankruptcy case was filed, it was an “unperfected lien” at the time of filing.  Unperfected liens get removed in Bankruptcy.  So finding the note or recording an assignment after filing will no longer fix the problem! Finding the note or or recording an assignment is now simply too late and futile.  That $12 shortcut may now have cost the lender a $500,000 mortgage!The Bankruptcy Trustee now is in charge, puts his 11 USC 544 hat on, and voila, removes the mortgage! Yes, that house that once had no equity worth $450,000 with $500,000 owed on it, is now FREE AND CLEAR! He sells it, and disburses all the proceeds to the creditors.

Mortgage paperwork mess: Next housing shock?

7 May

Scott Pelley reports how problems with mortgage documents are prompting lawsuits and could slow down the weak housing market

  • Play CBS Video Video The next housing shockAs more and more Americans face mortgage foreclosure, banks’ crucial ownership documents for the properties are often unclear and are sometimes even bogus, a condition that’s causing lawsuits and hampering an already weak housing market. Scott Pelley reports.
  • Video Extra: Eviction reprieveFlorida residents AJ and Brenda Boyd spent more than a year trying to renegotiate their mortgage and save their home. At the last moment, questions about who owns their mortgage saved them from eviction.
  • Video Extra: “Save the Dream” eventsBruce Marks, founder and CEO of the nonprofit Neighborhood Assistance Corporation of America talks to Scott Pelley about his “Save the Dream” events and how foreclosures are causing a crisis in America.
(CBS News)If there was a question about whether we’re headed for a second housing shock, that was settled last week with news that home prices have fallen a sixth consecutive month. Values are nearly back to levels of the Great Recession. One thing weighing on the economy is the huge number of foreclosed houses.Many are stuck on the market for a reason you wouldn’t expect: banks can’t find the ownership documents.Who really owns your mortgage?
Scott Pelley explains a bizarre aftershock of the U.S. financial collapse: An epidemic of forged and missing mortgage documents.

It’s bizarre but, it turns out, Wall Street cut corners when it created those mortgage-backed investments that triggered the financial collapse. Now that banks want to evict people, they’re unwinding these exotic investments to find, that often, the legal documents behind the mortgages aren’t there. Caught in a jam of their own making, some companies appear to be resorting to forgery and phony paperwork to throw people – down on their luck – out of their homes.

In the 1930s we had breadlines; venture out before dawn in America today and you’ll find mortgage lines. This past January in Los Angeles, 37,000 homeowners facing foreclosure showed up to an event to beg their bank for lower payments on their mortgage. Some people even slept on the sidewalk to get in line.

So many in the country are desperate now that they have to meet in convention centers coast to coast.

In February in Miami, 12,000 people showed up to a similar event. The line went down the block and doubled back twice.

Video: The next housing shock
Extra: Eviction reprieve
Extra: “Save the Dream” events

Dale DeFreitas lost her job and now fears her home is next. “It’s very emotional because I just think about it. I don’t wanna lose my home. I really don’t,” she told “60 Minutes” correspondent Scott Pelley.

“It’s your American dream,” he remarked.

“It was. And still is,” she replied.

These convention center events are put on by the non-profit Neighborhood Assistance Corporation of America, which helps people figure what they can afford, and then walks them across the hall to bank representatives to ask for lower payments. More than half will get their mortgages adjusted, but the rest discover that they just can’t keep their home.

For many that’s when the real surprise comes in: these same banks have fouled up all of their own paperwork to a historic degree.

“In my mind this is an absolute, intentional fraud,” Lynn Szymoniak, who is fighting foreclosure, told Pelley.

While trying to save her house, she discovered something we did not know: back when Wall Street was using algorithms and computers to engineer those disastrous mortgage-backed securities, it appears they didn’t want old fashioned paperwork slowing down the profits.

“This was back when it was a white hot fevered pitch to move as many of these as possible,” Pelley remarked.

“Exactly. When you could make a whole lotta money through securitization. And every other aspect of it could be done electronically, you know, key strokes. This was the only piece where somebody was supposed to actually go get documents, transfer the documents from one entity to the other. And it looks very much like they just eliminated that stuff all together,” Szymoniak said.

Szymoniak’s mortgage had been bundled with thousands of others into one of those Wall Street securities traded from investor to investor. When the bank took her to court, it first said it had lost her documents, including the critical assignment of mortgage which transfers ownership. But then, there was a courthouse surprise.

“They found all of your paperwork more than a year after they initially said that they had lost it?” Pelley asked.

“Yes,” she replied.

Asked if that seemed suspicious to her, Szymoniak said, “Yes, absolutely. What do you imagine? It fell behind the file cabinet? Where was all of this? ‘We had it, we own it, we lost it.’ And then more recently, everyone is coming in saying, ‘Hey we found it. Isn’t that wonderful?’”

But what the bank may not have known is that Szymoniak is a lawyer and fraud investigator with a specialty in forged documents. She has trained FBI agents.

She told Pelley she asked for copies of those documents.

Asked what she found, Szymoniak told Pelley, “When I looked at the assignment of my mortgage, and this is the assignment: it looked that even the date they put in, which was 10/17/08, was several months after they sued me for foreclosure. So, what they were saying to the court was, ‘We sued her in July of 2008 and we acquired this mortgage in October of 2008.’ It made absolutely no sense.”

Produced by Robert Anderson and Daniel Ruetenik

Now for the pleading

Timothy L. McCandless, Esq. SBN 147715

LAW OFFICES OF TIMOTHY L. MCCANDLESS

1881 Business Center Drive, Ste. 9A

San Bernardino, CA 92392

Tel:  909/890-9192

Fax: 909/382-9956

Attorney for Plaintiffs

 

SUPERIOR COURT OF THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA

 

COUNTY OF ____________

___________________________________,And ROES 1 through 5,000,

Plaintiff,

v.

SAND CANYON CORPORATION f/k/a OPTION ONE MORTGAGE CORPORATION; AMERICAN HOME MORTGAGE SERVICES, INC.; WELLS FARGO BANK, N.A., as Trustee for SOUNDVIEW HOME LOAN TRUST 2007-OPT2; DOCX, LLC; and PREMIER TRUST DEED SERVICES and all persons unknown claiming any legal or  equitable right, title, estate, lien, or interest  in the property described in the complaint adverse to Plaintiff’s title, or any cloud on Plaintiff’s  title thereto, Does 1 through 10, Inclusive,

Defendants.

CASE NO:FIRST AMENDED COMPLAINT

FOR QUIET TITLE, DECLARATORY RELIEF, TEMPORARY RESTRAINING ORDER, PRELIMINARY INJUNTION AND PERMANENT INJUNCTION, CANCELATION OF INSTRUMENT AND FOR DAMAGES ARISING FROM:

SLANDER OF TITLE; TORTUOUS

VIOLATION OF STATUTE [Penal

Code § 470(b) – (d); NOTARY FRAUD;

///

///

///

///

Plaintiffs ___________________________ allege herein as follows:

GENERAL ALLEGATIONS

            1.         Plaintiffs ___________ (hereinafter individually and collectively referred to as “___________”), were and at all times herein mentioned are,  residents of the County of _________, State of California and the lawful owner of a parcel of real property commonly known as: _________________, California _______ and the legal description is:

Parcel No. 1:

A.P.N. No. _________ (hereinafter “Subject Property”).

2.         At all times herein mentioned, SAND CANYON CORPORATION f/k/a OPTION ONE MORTGAGE CORPORATION (hereinafter SAND CANYON”), is and was, a corporation existing by virtue of the laws of the State of California and claims an interest adverse to the right, title and interests of Plaintiff in the Subject Property.

3.         At all times herein mentioned, Defendant AMERICAN HOME MORTGAGE SERVICES, INC. (hereinafter “AMERICAN”), is and was, a corporation existing by virtue of the laws of the State of Delaware, and at all times herein mentioned was conducting ongoing business in the State of California.

4.         At all times herein mentioned, Defendant WELLS FARGO BANK, N.A., as Trustee for SOUNDVIEW HOME LOAN TRUST 2007-OPT2 (hereinafter referred to as “WELLS FARGO”), is and was, a member of the National Banking Association and makes an adverse claim to the Plaintiff MADRIDS’ right, title and interest in the Subject Property.

5.         At all times herein mentioned, Defendant DOCX, L.L.C. (hereinafter “DOCX”), is and was, a limited liability company existing by virtue of the laws of the State of Georgia, and a subsidiary of Lender Processing Services, Inc., a Delaware corporation.

6.         At all times herein mentioned, __________________, was a company existing by virtue of its relationship as a subsidiary of __________________.

7.         Plaintiffs are ignorant of the true names and capacities of Defendants sued herein as DOES I through 10, inclusive, and therefore sues these Defendants by such fictitious names and all persons unknown claiming any legal or equitable right, title, estate, lien, or interest in the property described in the complaint adverse to Plaintiffs’ title, or any cloud on Plaintiffs’ title thereto. Plaintiffs will amend this complaint as required to allege said Doe Defendants’ true names and capacities when such have been fully ascertained. Plaintiffs further allege that Plaintiffs designated as ROES 1 through 5,000, are Plaintiffs who share a commonality with the same Defendants, and as the Plaintiffs listed herein.

8.         Plaintiffs are informed and believe and thereon allege that at all times herein mentioned, Defendants, and each of them, were the agent and employee of each of the remaining Defendants.

9.         Plaintiffs allege that each and every defendants, and each of them, allege herein ratified the conduct of each and every other Defendant.

10.       Plaintiffs allege that at all times said Defendants, and each of them, were acting within the purpose and scope of such agency and employment.

11.       Plaintiffs are informed and believe and thereupon allege that circa July 2004, DOCX was formed with the specific intent of manufacturing fraudulent documents in order create the false impression that various entities obtained valid, recordable interests in real

properties, when in fact they actually maintained no lawful interest in said properties.

12.       Plaintiffs are informed and believe and thereupon allege that as a regular and ongoing part of the business of Defendant DOCX was to have persons sitting around a table signing names as quickly as possible, so that each person executing documents would sign approximately 2,500 documents per day. Although the persons signing the documents claimed to be a vice president of a particular bank of that document, in fact, the party signing the name was not the person named on the document, as such the signature was a forgery, that the name of the person claiming to be a vice president of a particular financial institution was not a “vice president”, did not have any prior training in finance, never worked for the company they allegedly purported to be a vice president of, and were alleged to be a vice president simultaneously with as many as twenty different banks and/or lending institutions.

13.       Plaintiffs are informed and believe and thereupon allege that the actual signatories of the instruments set forth in Paragraph 12 herein, were intended to and were fraudulently notarized by a variety of notaries in the offices of DOCX in Alpharetta, GA.

14.       Plaintiffs are informed and believe and thereupon allege that for all purposes the intent of Defendant DOCX was to intentionally create fraudulent documents, with forged signatures, so that said documents could be recorded in the Offices of County Recorders through the United States of America, knowing that such documents would forgeries, contained false information, and that the recordation of such documents would affect an interest in real property in violation of law.

15.       Plaintiffs allege that on or about, ____________, that they conveyed a first deed of  trust (hereinafter “DEED”) in favor of Option One Mortgage, Inc. with an interest of

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Post Foreclosure and Reversing your CA Foreclosure Sale under new Case Law

7 Apr

Reversing a foreclosure sale:  Avoiding the “Tender Rule”

Firm commentary:

Foreclosure auction signs

Foreclosure auction signs (Photo credit: niallkennedy)

If you are considering suing to reverse a foreclosure sale, consider the LONA case for a better understanding on CA non-judicial sales and exceptions to the requirement that you must offer to pay off the loan to title to your home back in your name.

After a nonjudicial foreclosure sale has been completed, the traditional method by which the sale is challenged is a suit in equity to set aside the trustee’s sale. (Anderson v. Heart Federal Sav. & Loan Assn. (1989) 208 Cal.App.3d 202, 209-210.) Generally, a challenge to the validity of a trustee’s sale is an attempt to have the sale set aside and to have the title restored. (Onofrio v. Rice (1997) 55 Cal.App.4th 413, 424 (Onofrio), citing 4 Miller & Starr, Cal. Real Estate (2d ed. 1989) Deeds of Trusts & Mortgages, § 9.154, pp. 507-508.)

 

The burden of proof is on the former owner:

A nonjudicial foreclosure sale is accompanied by a common law presumption that it ‗was conducted regularly and fairly.  This presumption may only be rebutted by substantial evidence of prejudicial procedural irregularity. The mere inadequacy of price, absent some procedural irregularity that contributed to the inadequacy of price or otherwise injured the trustor, is insufficient to set aside a nonjudicial foreclosure sale.

It is the burden of the party challenging the trustee’s sale to prove such irregularity and thereby overcome the presumption of the sale’s regularity.‖ (Melendrez v. D & I Investment, Inc. (2005) 127 Cal. App.4th 1238, 1258 (Melendrez) In addition, under section 2924,6 there is a conclusive statutory presumption created in favor of a bona fide purchaser who receives a trustee’s deed that contains a recital that the trustee has fulfilled its statutory notice requirements. (Melendrez, supra, 127 Cal App.4th at p. 1250.)

Case law instructs that the elements of an equitable cause of action to set aside a foreclosure sale are: (1) the trustee or mortgagee caused an illegal, fraudulent, or willfully oppressive sale of real property pursuant to a power of sale in a mortgage or deed of trust;

(2) the party attacking the sale (usually but not always the trustor or mortgagor) was prejudiced or harmed; and

(3) in cases where the trustor or mortgagor challenges the sale, the trustor or mortgagor tendered the amount of the secured indebtedness or was excused from tendering. (Bank of America etc. Assn. v. Reidy, supra, 15 Cal.2d at p. 248; Saterstrom v. Glick Bros. Sash, Door & Mill Co. (1931) 118 Cal.App. 379, 383 (Saterstrom) [trustee's sale set aside where deed of trust was void because it failed to adequately describe property]; Stockton v. Newman (1957) 148 Cal.App.2d 558, 564 (Stockton) [trustor sought rescission of the contract to purchase the property and the promissory note on grounds of fraud]; Sierra-Bay Fed. Land Bank Ass’n v. Superior Court (1991) 227 Cal.App.3d (1991) 227 Cal.App.3d 318, 337 (Sierra-Bay) [to set aside sale, ―debtor must allege such unfairness or irregularity that, when coupled with the inadequacy of price obtained at the sale, it is appropriate to invalidate the sale‖; ―debtor must offer to do equity by making a tender or otherwise offering to pay his debt‖]; Abadallah v. United Savings Bank (1996) 43 Cal.App.4th 1101, 1109 (Abadallah) [tender element]; Munger v. Moore (1970) 11 Cal.App.3d 1, 7 [damages action for wrongful foreclosure]; see also 1 Bernhardt, Mortgages, Deeds of Trust and Foreclosure Litigation (Cont.Ed.Bar 4th ed. 2011 supp.) § 7.67, pp. 580-581 and cases cited therein summarizing grounds for setting aside trustee sale.)

 

The Tender requirement

Because the action is in equity, a defaulted borrower who seeks to set aside a trustee’s sale is required to do equity before the court will exercise its equitable powers. (MCA, Inc. v. Universal Diversified Enterprises Corp. (1972) 27 Cal.App.3d 170, 177 (MCA).)

Consequently, as a condition precedent to an action by the borrower to set aside the trustee’s sale on the ground that the sale is voidable because of irregularities in the sale notice or procedure, the borrower must offer to pay the full amount of the debt for which the property was security. (Abadallah, supra, 43 Cal.App.4th at p. 1109; Onofrio, supra, at p. 424 [the borrower must pay, or offer to pay, the secured debt, or at least all of the delinquencies and costs due for redemption, before commencing the action].)

The rationale behind the rule is that if [the borrower] could not have redeemed the property had the sale procedures been proper, any irregularities in the sale did not result in damages to the [borrower]. (FPCI RE-HAB 01 v. E & G Investments, Ltd. (1989) 207 Cal.App.3d 1018, 1022.)

 

A series of cases have come down in the last few weeks that have some very serious ramifications for lenders.

The most dramatic case is that of Lona v. Citibank, based on a property right here in my back yard. The fact pattern in Lona is that the bank foreclosed and Lona sued the bank to void the sale on the absurd theory that the lender made him an unconscionable loan he couldn’t possibly afford therefore the loan was void. (Apparently, he’s a mushroom farmer in Hollister making $40k/yr)*.

Lona alleged that he agreed to refinance the home, on which he owed $1.24 million at the time, in response to an ad. The monthly payments were more than four times his income, so unsurprisingly, he defaulted within five months and the home was sold at a trustee’s sale in August 2008.

Lona obtained two re-financed loans: the first being $1.125 million, a 30-year term and an interest rate that was fixed at 8.25% for five years and adjustable annually after that, with a cap of 13.255 and the second loan being $375,000, with a term of 15 years, a fixed rate of 12.25%, monthly payments of nearly $4,000, and a balloon payment of $327,000 at the end of the 15 year term.

Lona testified that English was not his first language, he was 50 years old at the time of the loan and he that he did not understand the loan documents. Of course, he also did not read the loan documents.

After Citibank foreclosed, it filed an unlawful detainer action (“UD”) to evict Lona, but the UD was consolidated with Lona’s lawsuit to void and set aside the foreclosure sale. According to Citibank, Lona had been “living for free” in the house and had not posted bond or paid any “impound funds.” (since 2007!!!)

San Benito County Superior Court Judge Harry Tobias said Lona’s “bare allegations” were not enough to persuade him that the bank or the broker had engaged in misconduct and that it was “hard to believe” that the Lonas weren’t “responsible for their own conduct,” especially since they owned other property that had been foreclosed upon.

Despite the craziness of Plaintiff’s theory, the appellate court rendered a 32 page opinion that discussed in major detail that:
1) The borrower did not have to tender offer (which goes against almost a century of a legal precedent); and
2) The borrower’s allegations of the loan being unconscionable were not wholly disproven by the lenders.

The Court decision stated “Lona had received $1.5 million from the lenders and had not made any payments since June 2007. Meanwhile, he and his wife continued to live in the house for free, without paying rent or any impound funds…” and so it was quite aware of the inequities or injustice of the situation. However, the Court still concluded that the Lenders did not meet their burden of proof on summary judgment and so the case may continue at its snail pace until trial. [Lona v. Citibank No. H036140. Court of Appeals of California, Sixth District. (December 21, 2011.)]

The other case that came down a week before Lona (Dec. 21) was the Bardasian (Dec. 15) case, where the borrower sued because the lender’s trustee did not discuss loan mod options with her as required by Civil Code Section 2923.5. The court granted the borrower’s injunction and like Lona, the borrowers did not tender, nor put up an undertaking or surety for the bond. The lower court had ruled at the injunction hearing that the trustee had not complied with the code and that Bardasian must bond in the amount of $20k. When she failed to do so, the lower court dissolved the injunction.

On appeal, the appellate court concluded that since the injunction had been issued after the court had ruled on the merits stating:

“Plaintiff seeks postponement of the foreclosure sale until the defendants comply with Civil Code [section] 2923.5. Plaintiff has established that BAC Home Loan Servicing did not comply with Civil Code section 2923.5 prior to the issuance of the notice of default on September 15, 2010.” “Plaintiff states under penalty of perjury that no contact was ever made at least 30 days before the notice of default was issued…”

that the injunction was not actually “preliminary” at all, but that the plaintiffs had essentially won their argument showing that the defendants had not complied with Section 2923.5 and so no Notice of Default could successfully issue and the trustee’s sale could not take place until Section 2923.5 had been complied with. (Bardasian v. Santa Clara Partners Mortgage C068488. Court of Appeals of California, Third District. (December 15, 2011).

So in one month, two appellate cases came down where the borrower could either pursue voiding a trustee’s sale or enjoin one without tendering!

2012 will prove to be an interesting year as more decisions stemming from the subprime meltdown start coming down the pipeline.

* The decision contained a footnote that Lona’s loan application that apparently stated Lona made $20k/month, or $240k/yr. Clearly, as stated income loans go, that was a whopper!

The Exceptions to the Tender requirement under LONA

First, if the borrower’s action attacks the validity of the underlying debt, a tender is not required since it would constitute an affirmation of the debt. (Stockton, supra, (1957) 148 Cal.App.2d at p. 564) [trustor sought rescission of the contract to purchase the property and the promissory note on grounds of fraud]; Onofrio, supra, 55 Cal.App.4th at p. 424.)

Second, a tender will not be required when the person who seeks to set aside the trustee’s sale has a counter-claim or set-off against the beneficiary. In such cases, it is deemed that the tender and the counter claim offset one another, and if the offset is equal to or greater than the amount due, a tender is not required. (Hauger, supra, (1954) 42 Cal.2d at p. 755.)

 

Third, a tender may not be required where it would be inequitable to impose such a condition on the party challenging the sale. (Humboldt Savings Bank v. McCleverty (1911) 161 Cal. 285, 291 (Humboldt). In Humboldt, the defendant’s deceased husband borrowed $55,300 from the plaintiff bank secured by two pieces of property. The defendant had a $5,000 homestead on one of the properties. (Id. at p. 287.) When the defendant’s husband defaulted on the debt, the bank foreclosed on both properties. In response to the bank’s argument that the defendant had to tender the entire debt as a condition precedent to having the sale set aside, the court held that it would be inequitable to require the defendant to•pay, or offer to pay, a debt of $57,000, for which she is in no way liable to attack the sale of her $5,000 homestead.10 (Id. at p. 291.)

Fourth, no tender will be required when the trustor is not required to rely on equity to attack the deed because the trustee’s deed is void on its face. (Dimock, supra, 81 Cal.App.4th at p. 878 [beneficiary substituted trustees; trustee's sale void where original trustee completed trustee's sale after being replaced by new trustee because original trustee no longer had power to convey property].)

 For a better understanding of how this new case affects your individual situation, contact the Firm and set up an appointment.

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