Archive | January, 2010

An individual Chapter 11 bankruptcy may be better for you than Chapter 13

28 Jan

by Chip Parker, Jacksonville Bankruptcy Attorney on October 25, 2009 · Posted in Chapter 11 Bankruptcy

In my 17 years of practicing bankruptcy law, I have never been as excited by anything as the development of the individual Chapter 11 case.

Traditionally, Chapter 13 has been used for personal reorganizations while Chapter 11 has been reserved for more complex corporate reorganizations.� However, a small handful of sophisticated bankruptcy lawyers, like Brett Mearkle of Jacksonville, Florida and BLN contributors Brett Weiss and Kurt O�Keefe, are taking advantage of the debtor-friendly rules of Chapter 11, to provide more meaningful debt restructuring for individual consumers.

Before 2005, individual Chapter 11 cases were virtually non-existent. However, the Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act of 2005, which has generally been horrible for individual debtors, changed a critical rule in Chapter 11 that has made it the choice for bankruptcy lawyers seeking the best restructuring options for many middle-class Americans.� That rule, known as the Absolute Priority Rule, no longer applies to individuals filing under Chapter 11.� The result is that, unlike corporate debtors, an individual (or married couple) filing under Chapter 11 does not have to repay 100% of his unsecured debts.� Rather, the individual need only pay his �disposable income� over a 5 year period, just like in Chapter 13 cases.

The challenge for bankruptcy lawyers is streamlining the Chapter 11 case for consumers to bring the overall cost of filing down.� Currently, my firm has managed to bring down the cost of a typical Chapter 11, but even so, the individual Chapter 11 case costs $10,000 to $30,000, depending on the facts.� However, in as many as half of all consumer reorganizations, these increased fees and costs are far outweighed by the savings and convenience of Chapter 11.

These savings, like �cram down� of automobiles and elimination of the trustee�s administrative fee, will be discussed in more detail in my upcoming articles.

The change to the Absolute Priority Rule has gone widely unnoticed by consumer bankruptcy lawyers, largely because so few understand Chapter 11.� However, we are starting to realize the power of Chapter 11 for consumers, and a concerted effort is being made by many to understand this complicated area of bankruptcy law.� I’ll be in Tucson next week, attending a three day seminar conducted by The National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys to learn how to identify which consumers will benefit from Chapter 11 and how to file these types of bankruptcies.� Of course a three-day seminar is really the beginning of an education in Chapter 11, and I predict there will be more advanced seminars to follow.

Be on the lookout for more articles and videos by me and other BLNers on the advantages and nuances of the individual Chapter 11.

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Fixing the Administration’s Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP)

28 Jan

Posted: December 28, 2009.

By Professor Jean Braucher

Jean Braucher is the Roger C. Henderson Professor of Law at the University of Arizona James E. Rogers College of Law. This article is based on a longer paper, available for free at http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1518098).

The Obama Administration originally envisioned bankruptcy modification as a companion to HAMP. The House passed a bill to achieve that goal, only to see it stall in the Senate. An attempt to get the legislation moving again in the House failed on December 11, but the more problems with HAMP become apparent, the greater the chances that bankruptcy modification might ultimately be enacted.

Low quantity. Only 31,382 modifications were made permanent in the first eight months of HAMP, which became operational last April and committed $75 billion to help three to four million borrowers avoid foreclosure. In response to these poor results, Treasury launched a “Conversion Campaign” to get as many as possible of another 697,026 pending trial plans converted into permanent ones.

Comparing the permanent modifications at the end of November to the 386,865 trial plans at the end of August (giving them three months to become final), the conversion rate has been about eight percent, equivalent to chances of a college applicant getting into Harvard or Yale.

A Treasury official used police and military rhetoric to describe its campaign: “SWAT teams” of Treasury staff are now “imbedded” at servicers in an “escalation process.” So if you have clients who could benefit from HAMP modifications, now is a good time to contact the program’s “Hope Hotline”: 1-888-995-HOPE (4673).

Treasury also acknowledged persistent accounts of servicers “losing” documents and asks borrowers and their counselors to report program violations. That’s another action item for you if you have clients who have been given the runaround. Other servicer violations should also be reported, such as conducting foreclosure sales while reviews or trial plans are in progress, charging for evaluation, or offering noncomplying plans that are more expensive than HAMP calls for. Gross monthly mortgage payments are supposed to be reduced to 31 percent of gross monthly income. Any of these practices could make a good basis for state Unfair and Deceptive Practices (UDAP) actions, typically carrying statutory damages and attorneys’ fees.

Low quality. Principal reduction is not required under HAMP and is rarely given. Three-quarters of borrowers are left underwater, often seriously so, with the principal obligation on average at 137 percent of the home’s current value, according to the Congressional Oversight Panel report last October. Borrowers who later lose income are stuck, unable to sell and pay off the loan or refinance. Temporary interest rate breaks are the way affordability is achieved, without principal reduction, and that creates high risk of redefault, especially given high unemployment.

The Obama Administration originally envisioned bankruptcy modification as a companion to HAMP. The House twice passed bills to achieve that goal, only to see them stall in the Senate. An attempt to get the legislation moving again in the House failed on December 11, but the more problems with HAMP become apparent, the greater the chances that bankruptcy modification might ultimately be enacted.

Alternatively, HAMP’s guidelines could include principal reduction as a standard tool when needed to keep borrowers in their homes, something Treasury could implement itself. As is, many HAMP modifications are not going to be sustainable.

Wrongful Foreclosure Class Action

15 Jan

Attached hereto is a class action pending in Massachusetts the same action could be filed here in California in that our foreclosure laws are not being followed Civil Code 2924 and 2923.5 and 2923.6 and we have the unfair business practices act under b and p 17200 MAClassActionforeclosure

2009-2010 livinglies recap

2 Jan

1. No governmental relief is in sight for homeowners except in isolated instances of community action together with publicity from the media.
2. State and federal governments continue to sink deeper into debt, cutting social and necessary services while avoiding the elephant in the living room: the trillions of dollars owed and collectible in taxes, recording fees, filing fees, late fees, penalties, financial damages, punitive damages and interest due from the intermediary players on Wall Street who created trading “instruments” based upon conveyance of interests in real property located within state borders. The death grip of the lobby for the financial service industry is likely to continue thus making it impossible to resolve the housing crisis, the state budget crisis or the federal budget deficit.
3. Using taxpayer funds borrowed from foreign governments or created through quantitative easing, trillions of dollars have been paid, or provided in “credit lines” to intermediaries on the false premise that they own or control the mortgage backed securities that have defaulted. Foreclosures continue to hit new highs. Total money injected into the system exceeds 8 trillion dollars. Record profits announced by the financial services industry in which power is now more concentrated than before, making them the strongest influence in Federal and State capitals around the world.
4. Toxic Titles reveal unmarketable properties in and out of foreclosures with no relief in sight because nearly everyone is ignoring this basic problem that is a deal-breaker on every transfer of an interest in real property.
5. Evictions continue to hit new highs as Judges continue to be bombarded with ill-conceived motions that do not address the jurisdiction or authority of the court. The illegal evictions are based upon fraudulent conveyances procured through abuse of the foreclosure process and direct misrepresentations and fraud upon the court and recording system in each county as to the documents fabricated for purposes of foreclosure — creating the illusion of a proper paper trail.
6. 1.7 million new foreclosed properties are due to hit the market according to published statistics. Livinglies estimate the number to be at least 4 million.
7. Downward pressure on both price and marketability continues with no end in sight.
8. Unemployment continues to rise, albeit far more slowly than at the beginning of 2009. Unemployment, underemployment, employment drop-outs, absence of entry-level jobs, low statistics on new business starts, and former members of workforce (particularly men) are harbingers for continued decline in median income combined with higher expenses for key components, particularly health care. The ability to pay anything other than rent is continuing its decline.
9. Concurrent with the increase in foreclosures and the decrease in housing prices, official figures put the number of homes underwater at 25%. Livinglies estimates that when you look at three components not included in official statistics, the figure rises to more than 45%. The components are selling discounts, selling expenses, and continued delusional asking prices that will soon crash when sellers realize that past high prices were an illusion, not a market fluctuation.
10. The number of people walking from their homes is increasing daily, including people who are not behind in their mortgages. This is increasing the inventory of homes that are not officially included in the pipeline because they are not sufficiently advanced in the delinquency or foreclosure process. This is a hidden second wave of pressure on housing prices and marketability.
11. With the entire economy on government life-support that is not completely effective in preventing rises in homelessness and people requiring public assistance, the likelihood of severe social unrest and political upheaval increases month by month. Increasing risks of unrest prompted at least one Wall Street Bank to order enough firearms and ammunition to start an armory.
12. Modification of mortgages has been largely a sham.
13. Short-sales have been largely a sham.
14. Quiet titles in favor of homeowners are increasing at a slow pace as the sophistication of defenses improves on the side of financial services companies seeking free homes through foreclosures.
15. Legislative Intervention has been ineffective and indeed, misleading
16. Executive intervention has been virtually non-existent. The people who perpetrated this fraud not only have evaded prosecution, they maintain close relationships with the Obama administration.
17. Judicial intervention has been spotty and could be much better once people accept the complexity of securitization and the simplicity of STRATEGIES THAT WORK.
18. Legal profession , slow to start went from zero to 15 mph during 2009. Let’s hope they get to 60 mph during 2010.
19. Accounting profession, which has thus far stayed out of the process is expected to jump in on several fronts, including closer scrutiny of the published financial statements of public companies and financial institutions and the cottage industry of examining loan documents for compliance issues and violations of Federal and State lending laws.
20. Prospects for actual economic recovery affecting the average citizen are dim. While there has been considerable improvement from the point of risk we had reached at the end of 2008, the new President and Congress have yet to address essential reforms on joblessness, regulation of financial services (including insurance businesses permitted to write commitments without sufficient assets in reserve to assure the payment of the risk. The economic indicators have been undermined by the intentional fraud perpetrated upon the world economic and financial system. Thus the official figures are further than ever from revealing the truth about about our current status. Without key acceptance of these anomalies it is inconceivable that the economy will, in reality, improve during 2010.
21. Real inflation affecting everyday Americans has already started to rise as credit markets become increasingly remote from the prospective borrowers. Hyperinflation remains a risk although most of us were off on the timing because we underestimated the tenacious grip the dollar had on world commerce. While this assisted us in moving toward a softer landing, the probability that the dollar will continue to fall is still very high, thus making certain non-dollar denominated commodities more valuable. This phenomenon could affect housing prices in an upward direction if the trend continues. However the higher dollar prices will be offset by the fact that the cheaper dollars are required in greater quantities to buy anything. Thus the home prices might rise from $125,000 to $150,000 but the price of a loaf of bread will also be higher by 20%.
22. GDP has been skewed away from including econometrics for actual work performed in the home unless money changes hands. Societal values have thus depreciated the value of child-rearing and stable homes. The results have been catastrophic in education, crime, technological innovation and policy making. While GDP figures are officially announced as moving higher, the country continues to move further into a depression. No actual increase in GDP has occurred for many years, unless the declining areas of the society are excluded from what is counted.
23. The stock market is vastly overvalued again based upon vaporous forward earnings estimates and completely arbitrary price earnings ratios used by analysts. The vapor created by a 1000% increase in money supply caused by deregulation of the private financial institutions together with the illusion of profits created by these institutions trading between themselves has resulted in an increase from 16% to 45% of GDP activity. This figure is impossible to be real. As long as it is accepted as real or even possible, public figures, appointed and elected will base policy decisions on the desires of what is currently seen as the main driver of the U.S. economy. The balance of wealth will continue to move toward the levels of revolutionary France or the American colonies.
24. Perceptible increases in savings and consumer resistance to retail impulse buying bodes well for the long-term prospects of the country. As the savings class becomes more savvy and more wealthy, they will, like their counterparts in the upper echelons of government commence exercising their power in the marketplace and in the voting booth.

90% Forclosures Wrongful

1 Jan

A wrongful foreclosure action typically occurs when the lender starts a non judicial foreclosure action when it simply has no legal cause. This is even more evident now since California passed the Foreclosure prevention act of 2008 SB 1194 codified in Civil code 2923.5 and 2923.6. In 2009 it is this attorneys opinion that 90% of all foreclosures are wrongful in that the lender does not comply (just look at the declaration page on the notice of default). The lenders most notably Indymac, Countrywide, and Wells Fargo have taken a calculated risk. To comply would cost hundreds of millions in staff, paperwork, and workouts that they don’t deem to be in their best interest. The workout is not in there best interest because our tax dollars are guaranteeing the Banks that are To Big to Fail’s debt. If they don’t foreclose and if they work it out the loss is on them. There is no incentive to modify loan for the benefit of the consumer.

Sooooo they proceed to foreclosure without the mandated contacts with the borrower. Oh and yes contact is made by a computer or some outsourcing contact agent based in India. But compliance with 2923.5 is not done. The Borrower is never told that he or she have the right to a meeting within 14 days of the contact. They do not get offers to avoid foreclosure there are typically two offers short sale or a probationary mod that will be declined upon the 90th day.

Wrongful foreclosure actions are also brought when the service providers accept partial payments after initiation of the wrongful foreclosure process, and then continue on with the foreclosure process. These predatory lending strategies, as well as other forms of misleading homeowners, are illegal.

The borrower is the one that files a wrongful disclosure action with the court against the service provider, the holder of the note and if it is a non-judicial foreclosure, against the trustee complaining that there was an illegal, fraudulent or willfully oppressive sale of property under a power of sale contained in a mortgage or deed or court judicial proceeding. The borrower can also allege emotional distress and ask for punitive damages in a wrongful foreclosure action.

Causes of Action

Wrongful foreclosure actions may allege that the amount stated in the notice of default as due and owing is incorrect because of the following reasons:

* Incorrect interest rate adjustment
* Incorrect tax impound accounts
* Misapplied payments
* Forbearance agreement which was not adhered to by the servicer
* Unnecessary forced place insurance,
* Improper accounting for a confirmed chapter 11 or chapter 13 bankruptcy plan.
* Breach of contract
* Intentional infliction of emotional distress
* Negligent infliction of emotional distress
* Unfair Business Practices
* Quiet title
* Wrongful foreclosure
* Tortuous violation of 2924 2923.5 and 2923.5 and 2932.5
Injunction

Any time prior to the foreclosure sale, a borrower can apply for an injunction with the intent of stopping the foreclosure sale until issues in the lawsuit are resolved. The wrongful foreclosure lawsuit can take anywhere from ten to twenty-four months. Generally, an injunction will only be issued by the court if the court determines that: (1) the borrower is entitled to the injunction; and (2) that if the injunction is not granted, the borrower will be subject to irreparable harm.

Damages Available to Borrower

Damages available to a borrower in a wrongful foreclosure action include: compensation for the detriment caused, which are measured by the value of the property, emotional distress and punitive damages if there is evidence that the servicer or trustee committed fraud, oppression or malice in its wrongful conduct. If the borrower’s allegations are true and correct and the borrower wins the lawsuit, the servicer will have to undue or cancel the foreclosure sale, and pay the borrower’s legal bills.

Why Do Wrongful Foreclosures Occur?

Wrongful foreclosure cases occur usually because of a miscommunication between the lender and the borrower. Most borrower don’t know who the real lender is. Servicing has changed on average three times. And with the advent of MERS Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems the “investor lender” hundreds of times since the origination. And now they then have to contact the borrower. The don’t even know who the lender truly is. The laws that are now in place never contemplated the virtualization of the lending market. The present laws are inadequate to the challenge.

This is even more evident now since California passed the Foreclosure prevention act of 2008 SB 1194 codified in Civil code 2923.5 and 2923.6. In 2009 it is this attorneys opinion that 90% of all foreclosures are wrongful in that the lender does not comply (just look at the declaration page on the notice of default). The lenders most notably Indymac, Countrywide, and Wells Fargo have taken a calculated risk. To comply would cost hundreds of millions in staff, paperwork, and workouts that they don’t deem to be in their best interest. The workout is not in there best interest because our tax dollars are guaranteeing the Banks that are To Big to Fail’s debt. If they don’t foreclose and if they work it out the loss is on them. There is no incentive to modify loan for the benefit of the consumer.This could be as a result of an incorrectly applied payment, an error in interest charges and completely inaccurate information communicated between the lender and borrower. Some borrowers make the situation worse by ignoring their monthly statements and not promptly responding in writing to the lender’s communications. Many borrowers just assume that the lender will correct any inaccuracies or errors. Any one of these actions can quickly turn into a foreclosure action. Once an action is instituted, then the borrower will have to prove that it is wrongful or unwarranted. This is done by the borrower filing a wrongful foreclosure action. Costs are expensive and the action can take time to litigate.
Impact

The wrongful foreclosure will appear on the borrower’s credit report as a foreclosure, thereby ruining the borrower’s credit rating. Inaccurate delinquencies may also accompany the foreclosure on the credit report. After the foreclosure is found to be wrongful, the borrower must then petition to get the delinquencies and foreclosure off the credit report. This can take a long time and is emotionally distressing.

Wrongful foreclosure may also lead to the borrower losing their home and other assets if the borrower does not act quickly. This can have a devastating affect on a family that has been displaced out of their home. However, once the borrower’s wrongful foreclosure action is successful in court, the borrower may be entitled to compensation for their attorney fees, court costs, pain, suffering and emotional distress caused by the action.

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