CASE INTERPRETATION BY ATTORNEY NEIL GARFIELD of livinglies:
“The real party in interest in relief from stay is whoever is entitled to enforce the obligation
sought to be enforced. Even if a servicer or agent has authority to bring the motion on
behalf of the holder, it is the holder, rather than the servicer, who must be the moving
party, and so identified in the papers and in the electronic docketing done by the moving
For 2 years I have been saying “stick with the basics.” Black Letter Law will set you free. But
time and again attorneys, pro se litigants and judges go astray and find themselves in never-never
land. Most attorneys and Judges take preliminary motions with a grain of salt. Virtually all
foreclosures would be eliminated if lawyers and judges paid attention to the very beginning of
the case. Gator Bradshaw in Florida delivers a nice piece at our seminar on motion practice.
Your job is to immediately focus the Judge’s attention on the fatal defects presented by the
actions of the intermediaries in the securitization process and more specifically, whoever is
attempting to foreclose. By failing to challenge this at the outset you have effectively waived the
issue and now face an uphill battle. This case reported below shows that a mere objection from
the Trustee in BK Court caused the entire claim of the forecloser to completely collapse.
Seven (7) months ago, before any of the landmark decisions reported on these pages, Federal
Bankruptcy Judge Myers in Idaho was presented with an objection from the Trustee to Motion
for Relief From Stay.
The fact that the Trustee took up the cause is reason enough to note this case. What the Court did
with it, in an articulate, well-reasoned memorandum of decision, is nothing short of startling in
One by one, this Judge takes down the arguments and tactics of the intermediaries in the
securitization chain and basically says that none of them has a right to make a claim.
In short, just as in these pages, the Judge doesn’t say who CAN assert and enforce the claim; he
just says that none of these nominees, intermediaries, conduits, bookkeepers, servicers, MERS,
or pretender lenders has any pecuniary interest in the outcome and therefore they lack standing to
be in court. On jurisdictional grounds, therefore, the case is closed and these interlopers are
thrown out of court. Will the REAL Lender please stand up? Maybe, maybe not.
The Judge points out that “The Motion further alleges that Debtors were indebted at filing “to
Movant” and that the debt arose out of a promissory note and a deed of trust dated September 20,
2006 “naming Movant as beneficiary.”
Judge Myers calmly and correctly points out that this was a total lie. When pressed, the
attorney acknowledged that the movant was not owed any money and that MERS was
merely an agent for an undisclosed principal for an undisclosed purpose acting
purportedly for the real party in interest. But the Judge says quite clearly and correctly
that the rules require the real party in interest to be the movant.
This Judge also addresses the issue of burden of proof, a sticking point for many readers of this
blog. He states that the burden is on the movant to prove standing, not on the homeowner or
petitioner to prove lack of standing. In fact, pointing to the rules again, he says that the pleading
must “[p]rovide the details of the underlying obligation or liability upon which the motion
In a stroke of his pen, this Judge ends the issue over who has the burden of proof and even
provides grounds BEFORE DISCOVERY for dumping fraudsters out of court. They must plead
the allegations, and they must attach documentation that shows their pleadings are true and
This Judge is telling fraudsters to stop coming to court with attorney affidavits that are not
evidence (see his memorandum) and to stop submitting affidavits, notes, revisions to notes, late
indorsements, assignments that don’t match up with the pleadings or the requirements of
Edited by MSFraud.org
1 All chapter and section references are to the Bankruptcy Code, 11 U.S.C. §§ 101-1532,
unless otherwise indicated.
2 In 2008, this Court saw over 2,300 stay relief motions in the 5,224 cases filed.
3 See Local Bankruptcy Rule 4001.2 (addressing substantive and procedural
requirements for stay relief motions, and providing for entry of orders upon absence of objection
MEMORANDUM OF DECISION – 1
UNITED STATES BANKRUPTCY COURT
DISTRICT OF IDAHO
IN RE )
) Case No. 08-20381-TLM
DARRELL ROYCE SHERIDAN, )
SHERRY ANN SHERIDAN, )
) Chapter 7
MEMORANDUM OF DECISION
In this Chapter 7 case, the trustee, Ford Elsaesser (“Trustee”), objects to a
motion under § 362(d) for relief from the § 362(a) automatic stay.1 Motions under
§ 362(d) are common in bankruptcy cases.2 Most stay relief requests proceed
promptly to entry of an order, after proper notice, without any objection.3
However, changes in mortgage practices over the past several years have
created a number of new issues. The one highlighted in this case is the standing of
4 There was no objection, and the exemption was therefore allowed. Taylor v. Freeland
& Kronz, 503 U.S. 638, 643-44 (1992); Rainsdon v. Farson (In re Farson), 387 B.R. 784, 797
(Bankr. D. Idaho 2008). Debtors indicated in their § 521 statement of intention that they would
MEMORANDUM OF DECISION – 2
the moving creditor. Serial assignments of the mortgagee’s interest(s) and the
securitization of mortgages have complicated what was previously a generally
straight-forward standing analysis. Though many creditors provide in their
motions adequate explanation and documentation of their standing to seek relief
on real estate secured debts, Trustee challenges the adequacy of the subject motion
in this case.
Following hearing and consideration of the arguments of the parties, the
Court determines that Trustee’s objection is well taken and the same will be
sustained. The motion for stay relief will be denied.
BACKGROUND AND FACTS
On June 24, 2008, Darrell and Sherry Ann Sheridan (“Debtors”) filed their
joint chapter 7 bankruptcy petition, schedules and statements. They scheduled a
fee ownership interest in a residence located in Post Falls, Idaho. See Doc. No. 1
at sched. A (the “Property”). Debtors asserted the Property’s value was
$225,000.00. Id. They indicated secured claims existed in favor of “Litton Loan
Servicing” ($197,000.00) and “Citimortgage” ($34,000.00). Id. at sched. D.
While this left no apparent equity in the Property, Debtors nevertheless claimed
the benefit of an Idaho homestead exemption. Id. at sched. C.4
reaffirm the secured debts on the Property.
5 Closing of the case as a no asset chapter 7 would constitute an abandonment of the
Property as a scheduled but not administered asset, see § 554(c), and the automatic stay would
terminate, see § 362(c)(1).
6 Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems, Inc. refers to itself, and is generally referred
to by others and in the case law, as “MERS.”
MEMORANDUM OF DECISION – 3
The § 341(a) meeting of creditors occurred on July 31, 2008. Debtors
received a discharge on October 3, 2008. While the case was noticed to creditors
as a “no asset” chapter 7, and though Trustee concedes there will be no anticipated
distribution to creditors, Trustee has not yet filed his final report of no distribution
which would allow the case to close.5
On October 16, 2008, the subject motion for relief from stay was filed. See
Doc. No. 21 (the “Motion”). It was filed by “Mortgage Electronic Registration
Systems, Inc. as nominee HSBC Bank USA, National Association, as Indenture
Trustee of the Fieldstone Mortgage Investment Trust Series 2006-3.” Id. at 1 (the
“Movant”).6 The Movant characterized itself as a “secured creditor and
Claimant.” Id. The Motion further alleges that Debtors were indebted at filing “to
Movant” and that the debt arose out of a promissory note and a deed of trust dated
September 20, 2006 “naming Movant as beneficiary.” Id.
Attached to the Motion is a promissory note (the “Note”) executed by
Debtors. It is payable to “Fieldstone Mortgage Company” as the “Lender.” See
7 The documents attached to the Motion were admitted into evidence at the final hearing,
by stipulation of the parties, as “Exhibit 1.”
8 A “final hearing” is contemplated under § 362(d) and (e). That it would be an
evidentiary hearing is a result of the presence of material, disputed facts, which under Fed. R.
Bankr. P. 9014(d) requires testimony in the same manner as in an adversary proceeding.
MEMORANDUM OF DECISION – 4
Ex. 1.7 A portion of the Note states: “I understand Lender may transfer this Note.
Lender or anyone who takes this Note by transfer and who is entitled to receive
payments . . . is called the Note Holder.”
The Note is secured by a deed of trust dated September 20, 2006 and
recorded in the real property records of Kootenai County, Idaho, on September 22,
2006 (the “Deed of Trust”). The Deed of Trust at paragraph (C) identifies and
defines the “Lender” as “Fieldstone Mortgage Company, a Maryland corporation.”
Paragraph (E) of the Deed of Trust recites:
MERS is a separate corporation that is acting solely as nominee for
Lender and Lender’s successors and assigns. MERS is the beneficiary
under this Security Instrument.
Trustee objected to the Motion, contending that the Movant failed to
establish its interest in the Property or its standing to seek stay relief. Doc. No. 23.
At a preliminary hearing on November 4, 2008, the parties requested a final
hearing because the question of standing remained unresolved.8 A final hearing
was held on December 16, 2008, at which Trustee and counsel for Movant made
argument, but no evidence was presented other than the documents that, as noted
9 The Code establishes time frames for preliminary hearing, final hearing and ruling.
See § 362(e)(1), (2). In this case, the Motion was originally filed October 16, 2008. Under
§ 362(e)(2), the stay generally “shall terminate on the date that is 60 days after a request is made
by a party in interest” if the case is one under chapters 7, 11 or 13 and the debtor is an individual.
However, that period may be extended by either agreement of the parties or by the Court for good
cause. See § 362(e)(2)(B). Here, the scheduling of the hearings resulted in a final hearing on
December 16, 2008, about the 60th day after the request. This delay was by or with concurrence
of the parties. The Court concludes that additional delay to the date of this Decision was required
to address the contentions of the parties.
10 Another ground for stay relief with respect to acts against property is an absence of
equity in such property coupled with a lack of necessity of such property for an effective
reorganization. See § 362(d)(2). The Motion indicated a lack of equity in the Property and, in
light of the fact that this is a chapter 7 liquidation, the Property is not required for reorganization.
MEMORANDUM OF DECISION – 5
above, were admitted by agreement.9
DISCUSSION AND DISPOSITION
A. Stay relief requires a motion by a party in interest with standing
The Bankruptcy Code, Bankruptcy Rules and this District’s local rules
govern stay relief requests.
Under the Code, relief from the § 362(a) stay is authorized “[o]n request of
a party in interest and after notice and a hearing, . . . .” See § 362(d) (emphasis
added). See also § 362(e)(1) and (2), § 362(f), § 362(j) (all referring to requests
made by a “party in interest.”) One ground for stay relief is “cause, including the
lack of adequate protection of an interest in propertyof such party in interest[.]”
§ 362(d)(1) (emphasis added). The Motion here alleged “cause” based on
delinquent payments, see Doc. No. 21 at 2, thus implicating § 362(d)(1) even
though no specific citations to § 362(d)(1) are made.10
MEMORANDUM OF DECISION – 6
The Rules require that a stay relief request be made by a motion. See Fed.
R. Bankr. P. 9013 (“A request for an order, except when an application is
authorized by these rules, shall be by written motion, unless made during a
hearing.”) (emphasis added); Fed. R. Bankr. P. 4001(a)(1) (“A motion for relief
from an automatic stay provided by the Code . . . shall be made in accordance with
Rule 9014[.]”) (emphasis added).
In addition to the Bankruptcy Rules, this District’s local rules require, inter
– the request shall be made by a “party in interest” and by “motion;”
– the motion shall “[p]rovide the details of the underlying obligation or
liability upon which the motion is based;” and
– the motion shall have attached “accurate and legible copies of all
documents evidencing the obligation and the basis of perfection of
any lien or security interest[.]”
LBR 4001.2(a), (b)(2), and (b)(5).
1. Party in interest, and standing
While the term “party in interest” is not defined by the Code, this Court has
held that such a party must have a “pecuniary interest” in the outcome of the
dispute before the Court. See In re Simplot, 2007 WL 2479664 at *9 n.45 (Bankr.
D. Idaho Aug. 28, 2007) (citing In re Elias, 05.2 I.B.C.R. 41, 42, 2005 WL
4705220 (Bankr. D. Idaho 2005), and In re Stone, 03.2 I.B.C.R. 134, 135 (Bankr.
MEMORANDUM OF DECISION – 7
D. Idaho 2003)). See also Brown v. Sobczak (In re Sobczak), 369 B.R. 512, 517-
18 (9th Cir. BAP 2007) (noting that a “party in interest” may be one who has an
actual pecuniary interest in the case, one who has a practical stake in the outcome
of the case, or one who will be impacted in any significant way in the case).
Simplot not only defined party in interest, it addressed “standing” issues.
The question there was whether the J. R. Simplot Company, which was not a
creditor with a claim against the debtor or estate, “had sufficient party in interest
standing to be heard[.]” 2007 WL 2479664 at *9. This Court stated:
Hasso v. Mozsgai (In re La Sierra Fin. Servs.), 290 B.R. 718 (9th Cir.
BAP 2002), explained that the doctrine of standing encompasses both
constitutional limitations on federal court jurisdiction (i.e., the case or
controversy requirements of Article III), and prudential limitations on
the court’s exercise of that jurisdiction. Constitutional standing
requires an injury in fact, viz. an invasion of a judicially cognizable
interest. 290 B.R. at 726-27. Prudential standing requires that the
party’s assertions fall within the zone of interests protected by the
statute and, further, requires that the litigant assert only its own rights
and not those of another party. Id. at 727 (citing Bennett v. Spear, 520
U.S. 154, 162, 167-68 (1997). The party asserting standing exists has
the burden of proving it. Id. at 726. Though sometimes articulated in
the cases as principles applicable to standing on appeal, the same
propositions apply to a party at the bankruptcy court level.
Id. (footnote citations omitted). In Simplot, the Court concluded that “parties may
not assert . . . objections that relate solely to others, or that go to issues that do not
directly and adversely affect them pecuniarily.” Id. at *10 (footnote citations
omitted). These same standing requirements were recently highlighted in a stay
relief context by the court in In re Jacobson, ___ B.R. ___, 2009 WL 567188 at
MEMORANDUM OF DECISION – 8
*5-6 (Bankr. W.D. Wash. Mar. 6, 2009).
2. Real party in interest
Under Rule 9014, which by virtue of Rule 4001(a)(1) governs stay relief
requests, certain “Part VII” rules are applicable. See Rule 9014(c). Among those
incorporated rules is Rule 7017, which in turn incorporates Fed. R. Civ. P. 17, and
Rule 17(a)(1) provides that “An action must be prosecuted in the name of the real
party in interest.”
Jacobson notes that its moving party, who claimed to be a servicer for the
holder of the note, “neither asserts beneficial interest in the note, nor that it could
enforce the note in its own right.” 2009 WL 567188 at *4. It concluded that Fed.
R. Civ. P. 17 applied, requiring the stay relief motion to be brought in the name of
the real party in interest. Id. (citing In re Hwang, 396 B.R. 757, 767 (Bankr. C.D.
Cal. 2008)); see also In re Vargas, 396 B.R. 511, 521 (Bankr. C.D. Cal. 2008). As
The real party in interest in relief from stay is whoever is entitled to
enforce the obligation sought to be enforced. Even if a servicer or
agent has authority to bring the motion on behalf of the holder, it is the
holder, rather than the servicer, which must be the moving party, and
so identified in the papers and in the electronic docketing done by the
moving party’s counsel.
The upshot of these several provisions of the Code, Rules, local rules and
case law is this: to obtain stay relief, a motion must be brought by a party in
interest, with standing. This means the motion must be brought by one who has a
11 The Ninth Circuit’s recent decision in Reusser v. Wachovia Bank, 525 F.3d 855 (9th
Cir. 2008) does not require a different conclusion. Reusser held that a lender, Wachovia Bank,
did not violate the automatic stay by seeking to foreclose on the debtors’ property after the
bankruptcy court granted the loan servicer’s (Washington Mutual) § 362(d) motion. Id. at 861-
62. Although Wachovia did not join in the motion or separately seek stay relief, the court held
that the order entered “as to Washington Mutual” was effective as to Wachovia. Id. at 857, 861.
Notably, however, the Reussers never challenged Washington Mutual’s standing in bankruptcy
court; instead, they launched that attack in a subsequently filed district court action. Id. at 861-
62. The Ninth Circuit held that “a final order lifting an automatic stay is binding as to the
property or interest in question—the res—and its scope is not limited to the particular parties
before the court.” Id. at 861. The difference here is that Trustee has timely objected to Movant’s
standing and, of course, no final order has been entered.
MEMORANDUM OF DECISION – 9
pecuniary interest in the case and, in connection with secured debts, by the entity
that is entitled to payment from the debtor and to enforce security for such
payment. That entity is the real party in interest. It must bring the motion or, if
the motion is filed by a servicer or nominee or other agent with claimed authority
to bring the motion, the motion must identify and be prosecuted in the name of the
real party in interest.11
B. The present Motion
Under the documents attached to the Motion and later admitted at hearing
as Ex. 1, Fieldstone Mortgage Company, a Maryland corporation, would certainly
appear to be a party in interest and have standing. It has an economic interest
according to the Note attached to the Motion and an interest in Debtors’ Property
according to the Deed of Trust that is also attached.
However, the Motion was not brought by Fieldstone Mortgage Company.
12 Idaho Code § 45-1502(1) defines beneficiary for purposes of the trust deed statute as
“the person named or otherwise designated in a trust deed as the person for whose benefit a trust
deed is given, or his successor in interest, and who shall not be the trustee.” Idaho Code § 45-
1502(3) defines trust deed as “a deed executed in conformity with this act and conveying real
property to a trustee in trust to secure the performance of an obligation of the grantor or other
person named in the deed to a beneficiary.” Id. (emphasis added).
MEMORANDUM OF DECISION – 10
1. MERS as “nominee” or “beneficiary”
Counsel for Movant argues that MERS, given its titular designation of
“beneficiary” under the Deed of Trust, is or should be able to prosecute the
Motion under the Code, Rules and Local Rules. Counsel conceded, however, that
MERS is not an economic “beneficiary” under the Deed of Trust. It is owed and
will collect no money from Debtors under the Note, nor will it realize the value of
the Property through foreclosure of the Deed of Trust in the event the Note is not
Further, the Deed of Trust’s designation of MERS as “beneficiary” is
coupled with an explanation that “MERS is . . . acting solely as nominee for
Lender and Lender’s successors and assigns.” Ex. 1 (emphasis added). Movant’s
briefing suggests that a “nominee” is synonymous with an “agent.” See Doc. No.
26 at 2.
The Motion was filed by MERS “as nominee [for] HSBC Bank USA,
National Association, as Indenture Trustee of the Fieldstone Mortgage Investment
Trust Series 2006-3.” Even assuming that MERS as a “nominee” had sufficient
rights and ability as an agent to advance its principal’s stay relief request, there
13 The Motion uses several terms (Movant, Claimant, Petitioner) without definition or
evident consistency. The Motion commenced as follows:
“COMES NOW Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems, Inc. as nominee
HSBC Bank USA, National Association, as Indenture Trustee of the Fieldstone
Mortgage Investment Trust Series 2006-3, a secured creditor and Claimant
herein, and moves the Court for its Order granting relief from the automatic
Thus, the “Claimant” and evidently the “Movant” (i.e., the party who “COMES NOW . . . and
moves”) are one and the same, and this entity also purports to be a “secured creditor.” Since
MERS is acting as nominee, the Claimant/Movant and secured creditor appears by these
allegations to be HSBC Bank USA (in its role as indenture trustee for others). The Motion
continues by asserting that “Debtor was on the date of filing the petition herein, indebted to
Claimant arising out of [the Note] and a Deed of Trust dated September 20, 2006, naming
Movant as beneficiary.” Contrary to these assertions, the Deed of Trust does not name HSBC
Bank USA or the Fieldstone Mortgage Investment Trust as its beneficiary. Nor is there
explanation of how Debtors came to owe HSBC Bank USA.
14 This language appears in the Deed of Trust only. There is no mention of MERS in the
MEMORANDUM OF DECISION – 11
remains an insuperable problem. The Motion provides no explanation, much less
documentation or other evidence, to show that the Fieldstone Mortgage
Investment Trust Series 2006-3 (as an entity) or HSBC Bank USA (as that entity’s
“indenture trustee”) has any interest in the subject Note or the subject Deed of
In light of Trustee’s objection on this score, Movant argues that MERS’
role as “nominee for Lender [i.e., Fieldstone Mortgage Company] and Lender’s
successors and assigns” gives it ample authority to assert the stay relief request
under the Deed of Trust for whatever successor in interest or assignee might have
the beneficial interest.14 Even if the proposition is accepted that the Deed of Trust
15 Some courts have indicated that the stay relief request should explain the serial
assignments resulting in the movant becoming the holder of the note. See, e.g., In re Hayes, 393
B.R. 259, 269 (Bankr. D. Mass. 2008) (“The Court and the Debtor are entitled to insist that the
moving party establish its standing in a motion for relief from stay through the submission of an
accurate history of the chain of ownership of the mortgage.”); In re Maisel, 378 B.R. 19, 22
(Bankr. D. Mass. 2007) (“‘If the claimant acquired the note and mortgage from the original lender
or from another party who acquired it from the original lender, the claimant can meet its burden
through evidence that traces the loan from the original lender to the claimant.’”) (quoting In re
MEMORANDUM OF DECISION – 12
provisions give MERS the ability to act as an agent (“nominee”) for another, it
acts not on its own account. Its capacity is representative.
This District’s Local Bankruptcy Rule 4001.2 requires copies of “all
documents evidencing the obligation and the basis of perfection of any lien or
security interest.” The sole documentation provided with the Motion here
evidences the interests in the Note and Deed of Trust held by Fieldstone Mortgage
Company, a Maryland corporation. This submission does not answer the key
question — Who was the holder of the Note at the time of the Motion?
Several movants for stay relief have argued that the holder of a note secured
by a deed of trust obtains the benefit of the deed of trust even in the absence of an
assignment of the deed of trust, on the theory that the security for the debt follows
the debt. Under this theory, it would appear that when bankruptcy intervenes, and
somewhat like a game of Musical Chairs, the then-current holder of the note is the
only creditor with a pecuniary interest and standing sufficient to pursue payment
and relief from stay.15
Parrish, 326 B.R. 708, 720 (Bankr. N.D. Ohio 2005)). The court in Jacobson decided that it
“need not here go so far” as to require such tracing, because of the paucity of proof presented in
that case. 2009 WL 567188 at *6. The same is true here. Movant’s proof does not even show
who presently holds the Note. That alone provides sufficient basis to deny the Motion.
MEMORANDUM OF DECISION – 13
The Motion here certainly suggests that the Fieldstone Mortgage
Investment Trust Series 2006-3 (or perhaps HSBC Bank USA in its capacity as
indenture trustee for that trust) was the holder of the note on the June 24, 2008,
petition date. But at the time of the final § 362(e) evidentiary hearing herein, the
parties discussed and Movant ultimately conceded that (I) the Note contained
nothing indicating its transfer by Fieldstone Mortgage Company, (ii) the Motion
was devoid of allegations regarding the details of any such transfer, and (iii) the
record lacked any other documents related to the issue.
3. The supplemental affidavit
Subsequent to the closing of the hearing and after the Court took the
dispute under advisement, Movant filed a “supplemental affidavit” of its counsel.
See Doc. No. 28 (filed January 2, 2009). This affidavit alleges that Movant’s
counsel obtained on such date the “original” Note and that the same contains an
indorsement. Counsel states that his “affidavit is presented to supplement the
record herein and for the Court’s consideration in the pending motion[.]” Id. at 2.
The filing and consideration of this supplemental affidavit are improper for
16 Accord Jacobson, 2009 WL 567188 at *6-8 (discussing inadequacies of evidentiary
MEMORANDUM OF DECISION – 14
First, the record was closed, and the Court did not authorize the reopening
of that record, nor did it indicate any post-hearing submissions would be accepted.
Second, Trustee did not have the opportunity to address this “newly
obtained” document at hearing, and nothing shows his consent to the post hoc
supplementation of the evidentiary record.
Third, disputed factual issues in contested matters may not be resolved
through testimony in “affidavits” but rather require testimony in open court. See
Fed. R. Bankr. P. 9014(d). Under the circumstances, the identity of the holder of
the Note certainly appears to be a fact in dispute falling within the ambit of this
Fourth, the affidavit is insufficient to establish that counsel, as affiant, has
the ability to testify regarding or lay the foundation required to admit the
document. See Esposito v. Noyes (In re Lake Country Invs., LLC), 255 B.R. 588,
594-95 (Bankr. D. Idaho 2000).16 The assertion that the newly possessed note is
the “original” appears to be based not on the affiant’s (counsel’s) personal
knowledge but on the assertions of someone else.
Fifth, the proffer of this “new” note as the “original” note directly
contradicts Movant’s prior representations that the Note attached to the Motion
17 See generally Idaho Code § 28-3-205(2) (“When indorsed in blank, an instrument is
payable to the bearer and may be negotiated by transfer of possession alone until specially
indorsed.”); § 28-3-301 (providing that the holder of the instrument may enforce it). These
provisions make identification of the current holder significant.
MEMORANDUM OF DECISION – 15
was “true and correct” and the operative document in this matter. See Doc. No. 21
Sixth, even were it considered, the “new” Note’s asserted indorsement
states: “Pay To The Order Of [blank] Without Recourse” and then purports to be
signed by Fieldstone Mortgage Company through a named assistant vice
president. There is no date nor indication of who was or is the transferee.
Fieldstone Mortgage Company may have indorsed the Note in blank, but this
document does not alone establish that either HSBC Bank USA or Fieldstone
Mortgage Investment Trust is the Note’s holder.17
Thus, even if a “nominee” such as MERS could properly bring a motion for
stay relief in the name of and on behalf of the real party in interest – the entity that
has rights in and pecuniary interest under the Note secured by the Deed of Trust –
nothing of record adequately establishes who that entity actually is. Under the
evidence submitted at the § 362(e) final hearing, which consists solely of Exhibit
1, the only entity that MERS could conceivably represent as an agent/nominee
would be Fieldstone Mortgage Company. But MERS does not represent that party
according to the Motion and, in fact, its contentions are to the effect that
18 For this reason, Movant’s reliance on In re Huggins, 357 B.R. 180 (Bankr. D. Mass.
2006) is misplaced. Huggins held that MERS, which was named in a mortgage as the lender’s
nominee, had standing to seek stay relief. Id. at 184-85. But in Huggins, the original lender
continued to hold the note, and the mortgage had not been transferred. Id. at 182, 184.
19 See Fed. R. Bankr. P. 9011(b) (providing inter alia that a motion’s filing or other
presentation constitutes a certification that there has been an “inquiry reasonable under the
circumstances” and that factual allegations made “have evidentiary support or, if specifically so
identified, are likely to have evidentiary support after a reasonable opportunity for further
investigation or discovery”). Trustee here was clear, though, that he asserted no Rule 9011
claims against Movant or its counsel.
MEMORANDUM OF DECISION – 16
Fieldstone Mortgage Company is no longer a party in interest.18
At the time of that final hearing, counsel for Movant conceded that he had
no documentation provided to him by his “client” which indicated the interests
under the Note or Deed of Trust were held by either HSBC Bank USA or the
Fieldstone Mortgage Investment Trust. Counsel filed the Motion and
characterized the Movant’s identity therein based solely on undocumented
representations made to him. This would appear to be a problematic approach
generally.19 And, in this particular case, Trustee’s objection to the Motion put the
matter at issue and Movant to its proof.
When Trustee challenged the Motion’s bare assertions, Movant failed to
provide an adequate record showing it was a party in interest with standing
entitled to seek such relief. On the record presented, the Court finds and
concludes Trustee’s objection is well taken. That objection will be sustained. The
Motion will be denied. The Trustee will provide a form of order for the Court’s
MEMORANDUM OF DECISION – 17
review and entry.
DATED: March 12, 2009
TERRY L. MYERS
CHIEF U. S. BANKRUPTCY JUDGE
CASE INTERPRETATION BY ATTORNEY NEIL GARFIELD of livinglies:
The issue before the court boils down to whether MERS qualifies for certain exemptions from corporate tax registration required under section 23305 of the California Revenue and Tax Code. If it does not qualify for exemption, then MERS’ contracts are voidable under White Dragon Productions, Inc. vs. Performance Guarantees, Inc. (1987)
196 Cal.App.3d 163, and MERS may not appear to defend itself in this matter. (While Defendant presents a contrary 9th circuit decision on the issue of voidability of contract, the doctrine of stare decisis prevents the court from choosing to elect to follow that advisory opinion over California’s own precedent. Auto Equity Sales, Inc. v. Superior Court, 57 Cal. 2d 450 (1962). In Auto Equity Sales, the Court explained:
Under the doctrine of stare decisis, all tribunals exercising inferior jurisdiction are required to follow decisions of courts exercising superior jurisdiction. Otherwise, the doctrine of stare decisis makes no sense. The decisions of this court are binding upon and must be followed by all the state courts of California. Decisions of every division of the District Courts of Appeal are binding upon all the justice and municipal courts and upon all the superior courts of this state, and this is so whether or not the superior court is acting as a trial or appellate court. Courts exercising inferior jurisdiction must accept the law declared by courts of superior jurisdiction. It is not their function to attempt to overrule decisions of a higher court.” Therefore, White Dragon controls.)
With regard to the matter instantly before the court, MERS’ claimed exemptions are laid out at Corporations Code sections 191(c)(7) and 191(d)(3). Each of these statutory provisions provides narrow grounds for a foreign corporation to gain exemption from registration with our Secretary of State and payment of taxes so long as that corporation meets certain requirements and only conducts certain limited activities.
To rule on the question of MERS’ exemption under Corp. Code section 191(c)(7), the court must make three determinations: first, the court must make a legal determination as to the meaning of the language “creating evidences” in the statute; second and third, the court must make factual determinations to what activities MERS has been alleged in the FAC to have been conducting, and whether those activities are “creating evidences” and thereby exempted.
To answer the question of MERS’ exemption under Corp. Code section 191(d)(3), the court need make only two factual determinations, which are: is MERS a foreign lending institution, and if so, does it own the instant note, or any note in any of the thousands of MERS foreclosures in this state?
Finally, the court must decide whether, under either section, the operation of a database, selling memberships, and providing access to a database constitute exempted activities, and whether the acting as an agent of an exempt institution extends the exemption to MERS?
A. MERS DOES NOT QUALIFY FOR EXEMPTION UNDER CORPORATIONS
CODE SECTION 191(c)(7) BECAUSE 1) THE RULES OF STATUTORY
INTERPRETATION FORBID RENDERING SUBSECTION (d)(3) TO BE DEAD
LETTER; 2) ALL OF MERS’ ACTIVITIES GO BEYOND THE PLAIN MEANING
OF THE TERM, AND 3) NONE OF MERS’ ACTIVITIES COMPRISE THE PLAIN
MEANING OF THE TERM.
1. A Finding That MERS’ Foreclosure Activities Constitute Merely “Creating Evidences” Of Mortgages Would Render Subsection (d)(3) Dead Letter.
California Corporations Code section 191 (c)(7) provides an exemption to tax registration for foreign corporations engaged in “[c]reating evidences of debt or mortgages, liens or security interests on real or personal property.” Id. The statute does not expressly define “creating evidences,” and so the court is called upon to apply the rules of statutory construction to interpret the code prior to applying it. This is a matter of first impression, as there is no California precedent on this issue. (However, both parties have submitted federal court opinions on both sides of the issue).
California courts do not favor constructions of statutes that render them advisory only, or a dead letter. Petropoulos v. Department of Real Estate (2006) 142 Cal.App.4th 554, 567; People v. Stringham (1988) 206 Cal.App.3d 184, 197. Because Corp Code section 191(d)(7) expressly reserves the activities of assigning mortgages, conducting foreclosures, and substituting trustees for foreign lending institutions, these activities must, by definition, go beyond what is intended by “creating evidences” of transactions, or else, the gateway consideration of being a foreign lending institution required at section 191(d) would be dead letter, because such activities would already apply to ALL foreign corporations, who are exempted at (c)(7) for “creating evidences.” If the legislature included these foreclosurerelated activities in a new subsection expressly reserved for a certain type of foreign entity, then it clearly did not intend for them to be included by the term “creating evidences” which is provided to all foreign corporations.
2. All of MERS’ Activities Go Beyond The Plain Meaning Of The Term “Creating Evidences.”
Because there is no express definition of “creating evidences” provided in the Corporations Code, this phrase should be given its common meaning. “Creation” is defined by Mirriam Webster’s Dictionary as “the act of making, inventing or producing.”
“Evidence” is defined by the California Code of Evidence as “testimony, writings, material objects, or other things presented to the senses that are offered to prove the existence or nonexistence of a fact.” Evidence Code 140.
The evidences referred to in Corp. Code section 191(c)(7) are “of debt or mortgages, liens or security interest on real or personal property.”
Hence, when the words are taken together, the statute exempts: “making, inventing, or producing testimony, writings, material objects, or other things presented to the senses that are offered to prove the existence or nonexistence of debt or mortgages, liens or security interest on real or personal property.”
MERS’s California activities go far beyond these activities. In contrast to MERS, a foreign corporation who might qualify for exemption for “making, inventing, or producing testimony, writings, material objects, or other things presented to the senses that are offered to prove the existence or nonexistence of debt, mortgages, liens or security interest on real or personal property” is Socrates Legal Media, LLC, 227 West Monroe Suite 500 Chicago, IL 60606.
The business of Socrates Legal Media includes selling pre-packaged contract forms at Office Depot for people who conduct routine real estate transactions, such as taking liens on real property to secure debts. If a dispute arose between two parties to such an agreement within our state, and Socrates was brought in by the Plaintiff and alleged as being an unregistered foreign corporation who does not to have capacity to defend, Socrates could point out that it merely CREATES EVIDENCES of transactions, and seek exemption from the registration requirement to defend itself in the case. MERS, on the other hand, does not merely provide forms for agreements, or “create evidences” of them; MERS participates in California transactions.
Therefore, MERS’ activities go beyond what “creating evidences” could possibly mean. However, the trouble with MERS’s argument does not end with that.
3. None of MERS’ Activities Meet The Definition of “Creating Evidences.”
The real trouble with MERS’ argument is that it clearly did not even create these evidences to begin with, nor does it claim to. To wit, the evidences of debt, liens on property, or mortgages at issue in this case – the Note and the Deed of Trust – are “made, invented, and produced” respectively by the Lender and by federal government bodies known as “Fannie Mae” (short for the Federal National Mortgage Agency) and “Freddie Mac” (short for the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation).
The court may take judicial notice of the fact that these uniform instruments, used more commonly than any other to evidence the fact of a real estate mortgage transaction in our state, may be downloaded at http://www.freddiemac.com/uniform/. The mortgages at issue in this and every other MERS related case are not MERS’ forms. MERS did not “create” these “evidences.”
Rather, MERS’ involvement in the transaction was wholly participatory. MERS was named beneficiary on the deeds of trust. MERS participated in the foreclosure activities, though it was never entitled to collect a single penny under the notes. Characteristically, MERS only participated in the transaction for the sole purpose of avoiding paying California taxes. See: MERS’ admission in MERS v. Nebraska, that its purpose for being a phantom beneficiary on these deeds of trust is to avoid state real property transfer taxes at Plaintiff’s RJN in Support of Supplemental Briefing Exh. A (For the Nebraska Supreme Court’s finding that ” Mortgage lenders hire MERS to act as their nominee for mortgages, which allows the lenders to trade the mortgage note and servicing rights on the market without recording subsequent trades with the various register of deeds throughout Nebraska.”). See also: the admission of Bill Hultman at Plaintiffs RJN in Support of Supplemental Briefing Exh. B at Paragraph 8 (for MERS’ admission that “MERS is not a party to or obligee under the terms of the Promissory Note, and MERS does not appear on the Promissory Note.”).
Nor was the execution of the documents at closing MERS’ doing; that was conducted at a title company or by mobile notary. MERS does not claim that any person from MERS was present at a single mortgage closing in this state. Nor does MERS claim that any agent or representative of MERS even so much as signed the Fannie/Freddie uniform instruments.
The record in this case clearly establishes that only the Plaintiffs signed the Deed of Trust. Therefore, MERS’ activities do not render it exempt from tax registration under Corp Code 191(c)(7) because its activities go beyond “creating evidences” and do not include “creating evidences” in the first instance.
B. MERS DOES NOT QUALIFY UNDER SECTION 191(d)(3) BECAUSE IT IS NOT
A FOREIGN LENDING INSTITUTION AND BECAUSE IT DOES NOT OWN THE
1. As a Gateway Consideration, The Court Must Find That MERS Is A Foreign Lending Institution (Or Wholly Owned By One) to Qualify for ANY of the Exemptions at Corp. Code Section 191(d).
Under Corporations Code Section 191(d)(3), MERS must both 1) be the right type of entity (the gateway consideration to the exemptions), and 2) own the note to qualify for exemption.
Corporations Code Section 191(d) provides exemption solely for any:
“…foreign lending institution, including, but not limited to: any foreign banking corporation, any foreign corporation all of the capital stock of which is owned by one or more foreign banking corporations, any foreign savings and loan association, any foreign insurance company or any foreign corporation or association authorized by its charter to invest in loans secured by real and personal property, whether organized under the laws of the United States or of any other state, district or territory of the United States, shall not be considered to be doing, transacting or engaging in business in this state solely by reason of engaging in any or all of the following activities either on its own behalf or as a trustee of a pension plan, employee profit sharing or retirement plan, testamentary or inter vivos trust, or in any other fiduciary capacity…”
Firstly, MERS does not argue that it is a foreign lending institution in this case. In its Demurrer, Reply, oral argument, or anywhere on this record, there is NO factual averment that MERS is a foreign lending institution or wholly owned by one, or is an investor in mortgage notes.
Secondly, MERS has not submitted any evidence which would support such a finding.
Thirdly, in MERS v. Nebraska, MERS judicially admitted to the Supreme Court of Nebraska that it has never lent a dollar in any state, and is also not the holder of the note on any of its Deeds of Trust. Plaintiff’s Supplemental RJN Exh. A. In that case, MERS appealed a finding of the trial court that MERS was a foreign banking institution and therefore had to register as one in Nebraska. While the legal issue in the instant case is distinguishable, the factual problem before the court is identical to that case: is MERS a bank?.
Whereas there, MERS did everything it could to prove it was NOT a foreign lending institution, here MERS attempts the opposite. Where in Nebraska, MERS sought to avoid registration as a financial institution by swearing to God that it does not ever own the note, here MERS seeks to avail itself of an exemption reserved for foreign lending institutions, asserting the bald-faced conclusion that it should not have to register as a foreign corporation and pay California state taxes under a statute which clearly requires both status as a financial institution, AND ownership of the note, which it also disclaims.
B. MERS DOES NOT OWN THE NOTES AS REQUIRED BY 191(d)(3).
At Corporations Code Section 191(d)(3) the legislature expressly states MERS’claimed exemption:
“The ownership of any loans and the enforcement of any loans by trustee’s sale, judicial process or deed in lieu of foreclosure or otherwise.” Id. [Emphasis Added].
Corp. Code section 191(d)(3) is written in the conjunctive: “own and enforce.” MERS’ averments to its ability to participate in trustee sales without registration by way of this statute is therefore patently unfounded.
There is no averment in this case that MERS owns the note. In fact, by judicial admission, there is the opposite: MERS submits in its own joint Request for Judicial Notice in Support of Demurrer, an Assignment of the Deed of Trust to Wells Fargo. Consistent with MERS’ practice of hiding the true noteholder from the borrower to facilitate foreclosure fraud, the transfer to Wells Fargo suggests that it was Wells Fargo who had been the holder of the note entitled to enforce the Deed of Trust all along, never MERS.
C. MERS ACTIVITIES GO BEYOND THE SCOPE OF BOTH STATUTES; EVEN
IF MERS WERE EXEMPT UNDER EITHER STATUTE, ITS ACTIVITIES
INCLUDING OPERATING A MEMBERSHIP DATABASE GO BEYOND THE
SCOPE OF ANY OF THE ACTIVITIES INCLUDED IN EITHER EXEMPTION.
1. MERS’ Foreclosure Agent Activities Are Not Exempt Under Either Statute at Issue.
In reality, MERS operates as more of an agent than as a beneficiary on any given Deed of Trust (using the dubious title “nominee”). In support, MERS claims that Civil Code section 2924 allows “agents” to begin the non-judicial foreclosure process in California, and therefore, its agency activities should enjoy exemption from taxation. This is a non-sequitur.
The statutory exemption provided at Corp. Code section 191(d)(3) does not extend to companies in the business of “acting as foreclosure agents,” nor is any such interpretation of the statute even possible. While the Civil Code does allow agents to perform certain foreclosure functions, such allowance has no impact on the operation of the Tax Code.
MERS’ exemption argument leaps from one unfounded conclusion to the next. Nowhere in either statute does it aver that agents of the true noteholders are subject to the same exemptions simply by reason of agents being allowed to act on behalf of the noteholder.
Finally, and perhaps most telling, if you “follow the money” the distinction is clear: MERS profits by posing as the beneficiary to the deed of trust and generating foreclosure paperwork; a foreign lending institution profits by lending, and, when that doesn’t work out, by selling its security to collect on an unpaid debt. The business activities, or “profit generating activities”, of MERS are quite distinct from those of its principals, and there is no indication in any of the statutes that the legislature intended for the two to be interchangeable.
2. MERS’ Database Maintenance and Subscription Activities Are Not Exempt.
In their FAC, the Plaintiffs allege a set of activities which is neither included nor discussed above or by MERS at all in any of its arguments in favor of exemption: MERS operates a subscription-based information database for profit within the state of California.
MERS sells memberships to the database, provides access to records, and charges its customers accordingly. Similar to Westlaw, LexisNexis, or any other database provider, this activity is no more “creation of” the information contained therein, than is Westlaw the Creator of judicial opinion in any jurisdiction in this state or country.
Thus, regardless of the applicability to either claimed exemption to MERS’ other activities, MERS’ subscription-based activities exceed what the legislature intended a foreign corporation to do in this state without paying taxes to support the courts, schools, infrastructure, and other benefits of which it avails itself.
Therefore, MERS does not qualify for exemption from Revenue and Tax Code 23305 by way of either Corporations Code section 191(c)(7) or section 191(d)(3).
D. PUBLIC POLICY WEIGHS IN FAVOR OF MAKING MERS PAY ITS TAXES.
There is an argument that because MERS has embroiled itself in so many California mortgages, that it would be detrimental to industry to enforce our laws against it. However, because of the fact that the potential detriment to MERS pales in comparison to the impact MERS has had on this state, and will continue to have if allowed to be above our law, it would not be sound judicial policy to disregard the laws of California solely because of the sheer volume in which the defendant has violated them. It should be the opposite.
To enforce compliance with California’s tax code against MERS would not be any detriment to the mortgage industry, because the mortgage industry has already profited far beyond what was legal or fair in the first place due to these unlawful activities, as has MERS. To now disregard that those monies were ill-gotten based on the idea that it was just so much money that we’ll hurt the industry, truly, is to incentivize wholesale violation of California laws, as long as the issue stays under the radar long enough for the wrongful
conduct to become “too big to punish.”
Indeed, the mortgage industry has already received $700 billion in TARP funds, which came from taxpayer dollars, MERS itself as saved hundreds of millions of tax dollars by refusing to register in this state, and MERS’ customers have saved hundreds of millions by abusing the recording system and the unsupervised nonjudicial foreclosure statute.
It should be noted that secondary market mortgage holders have a remedy to all this: judicial foreclosure. The California codes are not set up without some recourse for those who are RIGHTFULLY owed a debt and RIGHTFULLY entitled to collect on it. Indeed, judicial foreclosure is the due process right of every California citizen whose mortgagee is not entitled to foreclose under Civil Code section 2924. (While Civil Code 2924 was not found to be a violation of due process by the California Supreme Court, a judicial seal of approval on abuse of that statute by those without any right title or interest most certainly is.)
On the flip side of this coin is the already felt crushing impact of these activities on the state of California. The courts are closed the third Wednesday of every month, and clerk staff has been cut to the bones. Public schools and universities are cutting both staff and course options as well as increasing tuition. The roads and bridges are in disrepair. Record foreclosures have caused record joblessness and record inflation. And meanwhile, MERS’ participation in the subprime securitized mortgage scheme was essential to the volume of bad loans being made, to the alacrity with which Wall Street was jamming these pools down our throats, and to the vigor with which mortgage brokers working for yield spread premiums were cold calling and loan flipping.
Clearly MERS was and is conducting business in this state, without paying a dollar on its own tax-free profits, and while aiding its customers in the avoidance of essential property transfer taxes. Its activities not only cost the state in the sheer loss of income, but also in the expense that will go into correcting thousands of real property records which have been deranged by MERS’ wholesale disregard for California law.
Entered on the Court docket of the Southern District of Florida, a class action for damages has been filed against MERS, the Stern Law Firm and David Stern individually.The lawsuit alleges racketeering under the RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization Act, 18 U.S.C. Sec. 1962 and 1964) statute, alleging that MERS was created “in order to undermine and eventually eviscerate long-standing principles of real property law…”. It also cites the “lost note” syndrome we are all so familiar with by now.
The lawsuit filed by Kenneth Eric Trent, Esq. in Fort Lauderdale, Florida reads like a mystery novel. He probably has an incorrect chronology of a few details of the actual way securitization played out, but on the whole, the complaint is worth a read and he should get all the help you can give him. He includes actual testimony in the complaint taken from other cases in addition to a very well-written narrative. Here is one quote I liked —
“Unbeknownst to the borrowers and the public, the billions of dollars spent to fund these loans were expended to “prime the pump.” The big institutions and the conspirators were making an investment, but the expected return was NOT the interest they pretended to anticipate receiving as borrowers paid the mortgages. The lenders knew that the new loans were “bad paper;” this was of little concern to them because they intended to realize profits so great as to render such interest, even if it had been received, negligible by comparison. Part of the reason this fraudulent scheme has gone largely unnoticed for such an extended period of time is that its sophistication is beyond the imagination of average persons. Similarly beyond the imagination of most persons is and was the scope of the DISHONESTY of the lenders and those acting in furtherance of the scheme, including the present Defendants.”
Posted on July 25, 2010 by Neil Garfield
It’s no secret that I admire Gretchen Morgenson of the New York Times. Her articles have penetrated deeper and deeper into the realities and logistics of the Great Financial Meltdown. But she continues to drag myth alongside of reality. True, it is difficult to get your mind around the idea that Wall Street managers WANTED bad mortgages, but that simple piece of truth is unavoidable. In the article below she draws ever nearer to this truth, saying that the real question is “what did they know and when did they know it?”
She even spots the extremely important fact that the worse the loan the more money was made by Wall Street. My objection is why not ask the next obvious question, to wit: “If Wall Street’s profits went up as the quality of mortgages went down, isn’t the obvious incentive to create increasingly bad paper?” And in what world has Wall Street ever done anything to diminish profits on moral grounds?
But her spotting is defective. She sees a 5 point spread (Yield Spread Premium) between what was paid for the loans and the price charged to investors. She correctly points out that the most Wall Street usually gets on trades like this is around 2 points. But think about it. Could such a small spread actually account for the ensuing mayhem that resulted?
What she fails to point out is the actual logistics. Investors, and for that matter, even the rating agencies, were never given the actual loans to look at and kick the tires. They were given descriptions of the loans which were incorporated into a narrative that portrayed the loans in a much better light than anything a loan underwriter would agree with. The final description of the loans was so loaded with misrepresentations that even a small amount of due diligence would have revealed major discrepancies that would have stopped this money machine from operating, for good.
Gretchen’s error is reflected in most articles by journalists and government officials. They all miss a major part of the transaction. Do the math. How could a five point spread account for the actual 8-10 point spread that was used to massage the description of the pool? There is a whole other SIV transaction that everyone is ignoring. The size of it will astonish you.
If for the purpose of one extreme example we isolate a single loan transaction, you can see how it works.
John Smith, an unemployed, homeless migrant worker with a gross income of $500 per month is pulled off the street by a “loan adviser.” The salesman gets John to sign a bunch of papers and tells him to go move into a $500,000 house. The interest rate on the loan is 18%, which is $90,000 per year. John doesn’t have to pay anything for the first 3 months and then only $100 per month for the first year, when he must pay a higher amount, still not as much as the monthly interest of $7,500 per month, let alone amortization, taxes, and insurance.
Now go to the investor who has been promised, for this example 9% annual return. The investor gives the investment banker $1,000,000 dollars believing that the investment banker is taking a 2% fee ($20,000). In other words, the investor is expecting $980,000 of his money to be invested. But that is NOT what happened — not ever, in ANY example. The investor, expecting a 9% annual return on his $1 million is therefore expecting $90,000 per year in income.
So in our over-simplified example the investment banker goes to the mortgage aggregator, and says give me the crappiest mortgage you have that says the interest is $90,000 per year. The aggregator (Countrywide, for example) sells the John Smith Mortgage to a structured investment vehicle off-shore for $500,000. The SIV sells the John Smith Mortgage to another entity (Seller) created by the investment bank for $980,000. The Seller sells the John Smith Mortgage to an “investment pool” for $1 million.
Watch Carefully! What just happened is that the John Smith mortgage was created that would never be paid. The interest rate on that mortgage was 18% and the principal was $500,000. So the annual interest to be paid by borrower was $90,000. The investor gave $1 million to the investment banker and thus “bought” the $90,000 in “income” from John Smith.
The surface transaction that Gretchen and others are looking at is that last transaction where the investment banker appears to pick up a few points as a fee. The underlying transaction, the substance of the real deal, is that the investment banker took $1 million from the investor and funded a $500,000 mortgage, thus creating a yield spread premium total of $500,000. In other words, the investment banker, in our oversimplified example, made a profit EQUAL TO THE MORTGAGE PRINCIPAL.
Not all the borrowers were John Smith. They ranged from him to people with the ability to pay anything. But the Mary Jones Mortgage where she had a credit score of 815 and assets of over $10 million was a key ingredient to this fraud. May Jones Mortgage was put in the top level of the “pool.” She was the gold plating covering dog poop underneath.
The identity of Mary Jones and her credit score HAD to be there, HAD to be used without her permission in order to sell the John Smith Mortgage. I think that is called identity theft. I think it was interstate commerce and I think it was a pattern of conduct. I think that is racketeering, breach of the the Truth in Lending Act and Securities Fraud, based upon appraisal (ratings) fraud at both ends (borrower and investor) of the transaction.
And let’s not forget that all these sales and transfers were undocumented. The only thing that moved was the money. And of course there are all those third party insurance and bailout payments that were never credited to the investor or the borrower. The investment banker kept those too.
July 24, 2010
Seeing vs. Doing
By GRETCHEN MORGENSON
“WHAT did they know, and when did they know it?” Those are questions investigators invariably ask when trying to determine who’s responsible for an offense or a misdeed.
But for the Wall Street banks whose financing of the subprime mortgage machine placed them at the center of the credit crisis, it’s becoming clear that a third, equally important question must be asked: “What did they do once they knew what they knew?”
As investigators delve deeper into the mortgage mess, they are finding in too many cases that Wall Street firms did nothing when they learned about problem loans or improprieties in lending. Rather than stopping practices of profligate originators like New Century, Fremont and Ameriquest, Wall Street financiers, which held the purse strings for these companies, apparently decided to simply look the other way.
Recent cases have provided glimpses of this conduct. Last week, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority accused Deutsche Bank Securities, a unit of the huge German bank, of misleading investors about how many delinquent loans went into six mortgage securities worth $2.2 billion that the firm underwrote. Deutsche Bank underreported the delinquency rates among loans when it created the securities in 2006, Finra contends, and then sold them to investors.
Deutsche Bank also understated historical delinquency rates in 16 subprime securities it packaged in 2007, Finra said. Even after it discovered the errors, the authority added, Deutsche Bank continued to report the misstated figures on its Web site, where investors checked the performance of past mortgage pools.
Deutsche Bank settled without admitting or denying the allegations; it paid $7.5 million. The firm said Friday that it had cooperated and was pleased to have the matter behind it.
James S. Shorris, acting chief of enforcement at Finra, said that this was just the first of such cases and that he oversees a team of more than a dozen people investigating firms involved in mortgage securities.
While the Finra case showed Deutsche Bank failing to report problem loans in its securities, investigators in other matters are learning that some firms used information about lending misconduct to increase their profits from the securitization game — without telling investors, of course.
Here is what investigators have learned, according to two people briefed on the inquiries who spoke anonymously because they were not authorized to discuss them publicly. The large banks that provided money to mortgage originators during the mania hired outside analytics firms to conduct due diligence on the loans that Wall Street bought, bundled into securities and sold to investors.
These analysts looked for loans that failed to meet underwriting standards. Among the flagged loans were those in which appraisals seemed fishy or the mortgages went to borrowers with credit scores far below acceptable levels. Loans on vacation properties erroneously identified as primary residences were also highlighted.
The analysts would take their findings back to the Wall Street firms packaging the securities; the reports were not made available to investors.
In 2006-07, amid the mortgage craze, more loans didn’t meet the criteria. But instead of requiring lenders to replace these funky mortgages with proper loans, Wall Street firms kept funneling the junk into securities and selling them to investors, investigators have found.
Cases brought against Wall Street firms by Martha Coakley, attorney general of Massachusetts, have brought some of these practices to light. “Our focus has been on the borrower,” she said in an interview last week, “but as we’ve peeled back the onion we’ve gotten the picture of the role Wall Street played through the financing of these loans.”
But some on Wall Street went further than simply peddling loans they knew were bad, according to the people briefed on some investigators’ findings. They say the firms used these so-called scratch-and-dent loans to increase their profits in the securitization process.
When due-diligence reports turned up large numbers of defective loans — known as exceptions — the banks used this information to negotiate a lower price on the mortgages they bought from the original lenders.
So, instead of paying 99 cents on the dollar for the problem loans, the firm would force the lender to accept 97 cents or perhaps less. But the firm would still sell the mortgage pool to investors at 102 cents or higher, as was typical on high-quality loan pools.
Wall Street enjoyed the profits these practices generated. And because lenders were financed by the Wall Street firms bundling the mortgages into securities, they were hesitant to reject too many dubious loans because doing so would slow the securitization machine.
FOR their part, Wall Street loan packagers were loath to imperil their relationship with lenders like New Century; as long as Wall Street’s lucrative mortgage factories were humming, it needed loans to stoke them. Forcing New Century to eat its bad loans might prompt it to take its business elsewhere.
The bottom line: the more problematic the loans, the better the bargaining power and the higher the profits for Wall Street.
To be sure, the securities’ offering statements noted, in legalese, that the deals might contain “underwriting exceptions” and those exceptions could be “material.” But as investigators get closer to understanding how Wall Street used these exceptions to jack up its earnings, that disclosure defense may ring hollow.
384. Liberty Mortgage Corporation – Wholesale
383. Universal Mortgage Corp.
382. American Mortgage Specialists, Inc.
381. Assurity Financial Services, LLC
380. Premium Capital Funding, LLC dba TopDot Mortgage
379. First Regional Bank, Century City
378. Security Atlantic Mortgage Co.
377. Apex Lending, Inc.
376. Charter Bank, Santa Fe
375. Equitable Trust Mortgage Corp.
374. AmTrust Bank
373. Dynamic Capital Mortgage
372. Lend America / Lending Key
371. New South Federal Savings Bank
370. AME Financial Corp.
369. Envision Lending Group Inc.
368. Warren Bank
367. Stockton Turner & Company
366. The Lending Company Inc. – Wholesale
365. Capmark Financial Group Inc.
364. Northeast Mortgage Corp.
363. Security Mortgage Corporation
362. Windsor Capital Mortgage Corp.
361. First Rate Capital Corp.
360. StoneWater Mortgage Corp.
359. First National Bank of the South – Wholesale
358. Senderra Funding – Wholesale
357. Capstone Realty Advisors
356. Granite Mortgage, Inc.
355. Worldwide Financial Resources Inc.
354. Guaranty Bank – Warehouse
353. Colonial Bank
352. Corus Bank
351. America One Finance
350. Taylor, Bean & Whitaker Mortgage Corp. – Wholesale
349. 1st Reverse Financial Services LLC
348. HCI Mortgage
347. BankersWest Funding Corp.
346. American Partners Bank
345. Senior Lending Network
344. BankUnited, F.S.B.
343. Precision Financial, Inc.
342. Accredited Home Lenders, Lone Star Funds
341. Wells Fargo – Small-Cap Commercial
340. Guaranty Bank – GB Mortgage
339. American Sterling Bank
338. Chase Home Mortgage – Construction Lending
337. First Security Loan Corp
336. South Pacific Financial Corp. – Wholesale
335. Home Loan Consultants, Inc.
334. Central States Mortgage
333. HSBC – HFC & Beneficial
332. JPMorgan Chase – Warehouse
331. Ameritime Mortgage Co. LLC
330. Perfect Mortgage – PerfectFHA
328. Residential Loan Centers of America
327. CU National Mortgage
326. Colonial National Mortgage – Wholesale
325. U.S. Mortgage Corp. – Retail
324. First Interstate Financial – Wholesale
323. Realty Mortgage Corp.
321. USA Home Loans – Wholesale
320. SunTrust Mortgage – FHA Wholesale
319. First Federal – Wholesale
318. 21st Mortgage – Wholesale
317. J.B. Nutter & Co. – Wholesale
316. Homebridge Mortgage Bankers – Refinance.com
315. 1st Republic Mortgage Bankers
314. Superior Mortgage Corp – Wholesale
313. Wall Street Financial Corp – Wholesale
312. Fairfield Financial Mortgage Group
311. Chase Prime – Wholesale
310. Sunshine & Madison Mortgage Corp
309. Liberty One Lending
308. Frontier Investment Co.
307. Solstice Capital Group – HSBC
305. HCL Finance Inc. – Wholesale
304. LIME Financial Svcs. – Wholesale
303. Mortgage Network Inc. – Wholesale
302. Fortes Financial – Wholesale
301. HSBC Mortgage Corp. – Wholesale
300. CBRE Realty Finance
299. Franklin Bank, SSB
298. Mortgage Lion, Inc. – Wholesale
297. HMS Capital, Inc.
296. CTX Mortgage Co. – Retail
295. Equity One Commercial
294. Coldstream Financial Svcs.
293. Banco Popular North America – Wholesale
292. Ace Mortgage Funding, LLC
290. Gateway Bank, F.S.B. – Wholesale
289. First Call Mortgage Co.
288. Downey Savings and Loan – Wholesale
287. Prospect’s Metrocities Mortgage – Wholesale
286. ComCor Mortgage – Wholesale
285. Chevy Chase Bank – Wholesale
284. Washington Mutual – Retail and Warehouse
283. Hometown Commercial Capital
282. Mid Atlantic Capital LLC
281. Kemper Mortgage, Inc.
280. Liberty Mortgage Funding Co.
279. Freddie Mac
278. Fannie Mae
277. Pacific Community Mortgage, Inc. – Gold Reverse, Inc.
276. Homecomings Financial, LLC
275. Thornburg Mortgage
274. CSB Mortgage
273. Carteret Mortgage Corporation
272. Western Residential Mortgage
271. Liberty Home Lending
270. Equipoint Financial Network, Inc.
269. Ideal Mortgage Bankers, Ltd. – Wholesale
268. Silver State Bank – Wholesale
267. Irwin Union Bank & Trust Co. – Wholesale
266. SunTrust Bank Equity Wholesale
265. Wachovia Mortgage, FSB – Wholesale
264. Lehman Brothers SBF
263. IndyMac Bancorp
262. Mortgages Ltd.
261. Wilmington Finance – Wholesale
260. Accredited Home Lenders, Home Funds Direct
259. Assured Lending Corp. – Wholesale
258. Homewide Lending Corporation
257. Vanguard Mortgage & Title, Inc.
256. Chase Home Equity – Wholesale
255. Chase Subprime – Wholesale
254. Evergreen Investment & Carnation Banc
253. Casa Blanca Mortgage/Shearson – Wholesale
252. Guaranty Bank – Correspondent
251. Citi Residential Lending
250. Montgomery Mortgage Capital Company
249. E*Trade Wholesale Lending
248. Shearson Financial Network, Inc.
247. American Bank Mortgage Group – Wholesale
246. AmeriBanc Corp.
245. Washington Mutual – Wholesale
244. Century Bank, F.S.B. – Wholesale
243. Diversified Mortgage, Inc.
242. National Wholesale Funding
241. Centennial Mortgage and Funding, Inc./Award Mortgage
240. Fidelity Home Mortgage Corp.
239. LMI Funding, Inc.
238. Millennium Mortgage – Wholesale
237. Origen Financial, Inc. (Correspondent)
236. CitiMortgage – Home Equity Wholesale
235. Bear Stearns Residential Mortgage
234. East West Mortgage Co. of VA
233. New Vision Residential Lending
232. Washington Savings Bank, F.S.B. – Wholesale
231. Macquarie Mortgages USA Inc.
230. Global Mortgage, Inc.
229. Unique Mortgage Solutions (UMS, LLC)
228. First Franklin – Merrill Lynch
227. First National Mortgage Sources
226. Resource Mortgage (Wholesale)
225. KH Financial
224. Lydian Mortgage
223. OMG Wholesale Lending
222. Saxon Mortgage (Wholesale)
221. Beazer Mortgage Corp.
220. Allpointe Mortgage (Broker Program)
219. Popular Warehouse Lending
218. Allied Lending Corp. (Wholesale)
217. BF Saul Wholesale Lending
216. Community Resource Mortgage
215. Lehman/Aurora Loan Services
214. Residential Mortgage Capital
213. Maverick Residential Mortgage
212. Countrywide Financial Corp.
211. First NLC Financial Services
210. First American Bank (Wholesale)
209. Soma Financial
208. National City Corp. (Wholesale)
207. Heartland Wholesale Funding
206. Homefront Mortgage Inc.
205. PNC Bank H.E.
204. Family First Mortgage Corp.
203. First Fidelity Financial
202. BSM Financial
201. 1st Choice Mortgage
200. Wescom Credit Union
199. Coast Financial Holdings/Coast Bank
198. WaMu (Subprime)
197. First Madison Mortgage
196. Southern Star Mortgage
195. TransLand Financial
194. Secured Bankers Mortgage Company (SBMC)
193. ComUnity Lending
192. Delta Financial Corp
191. BayRock Mortgage
190. Empire Bancorp
189. Option One – H&R Block
188. Citigroup – FCS Warehouse
187. Charter One (Wholesale)
186. Wells Fargo – Home Equity
185. Paul Financial, LLC
184. Webster Bank (Wholesale)
183. Fieldstone Mortgage Company
182. Tribeca Lending Corp. (Wholesale)
181. WAMU Comm. Correspondent
180. Marlin Mortgage Company
179. Countrywide Specialty Lending
178. UBS Home Finance
177. MortgageIT-DB (Retail)
176. Edgewater Lending Group
175. ResMAE Mortgage Corp.
174. Citimortgage Correspondent (2nds)
173. AMC Lending
172. Liberty American Mortgage
171. Exchange Financial (Wholesale)
170. FirstBank Mortgage
169. Bank of America (Wholesale)
168. Diablo Funding Group Inc.
167. Honor State Bank
166. Spectrum Financial Group
165. Priority Funding Mortgage Bankers
164. BrooksAmerica Mortgage Corp.
163. Valley Vista Mortgage
162. New State Mortgage Company
161. Summit Mortgage Company
159. Paragon Home Lending
158. First Mariner Wholesale
157. The Lending Connection
156. Foxtons, Inc.
155. SCME Mortage Bankers
154. Aapex Mortgage (Apex Financial Group)
153. Wells Fargo (various Correspondent and Non-prime divisions)
152. Nationstar Mortgage
151. Decision One (HSBC)
150. Impac Lending Group
149. Long Beach (WaMu Warehouse/Correspondent)
148. Expanded Mortgage Credit Wholesale
147. The Mortgage Store Financial
146. C & G Financial
145. CFIC Home Mortgage
144. All Fund Mortgage
143. LownHome Financial
142. Sea Breeze Financial Services
141. Castle Point Mortgage
140. Premium Funding Corp
139. Group One Lending
138. Allstate Home Loans / Allstate Funding
137. Home Loan Specialists (HLS)
136. Transnational Finance Wholesale
135. CIT Home Lending
134. Capital Six Funding
133. Mortgage Investors Group (MIG) – Wholesale
132. Amstar Mortgage Corp
131. Quality Home Loans
130. BNC Mortgage (Lehman)
129. First National Bank of Arizona
128. Chevy Chase Bank Correspondent
127. GreenPoint Mortgage – Capital One Wholesale
126. NovaStar, Homeview Lending
125. Quick Loan Funding
124. Calusa Investments
123. Mercantile Mortgage
122. First Magnus
121. First Indiana Wholesale
120. GEM Loans / Pacific American Mortgage (PAMCO)
119. Kirkwood Financial Corporation
118. Lexington Lending
117. Express Capital Lending
116. Deutsche Bank Correspondent Lending Group (CLG)
114. Trump Mortgage
113. HomeBanc Mortgage Corporation
112. Mylor Financial
110. Alternative Financing Corp (AFC) Wholesale
109. Winstar Mortgage
108. American Home Mortgage / American Brokers Conduit
107. Optima Funding
106. Equity Funding Group
105. Sunset Mortgage
104. Nations Home Lending
103. Entrust Mortgage
102. Alera Financial (Wholesale)
101. Flick Mortgage/Mortgage Simple
100. Dollar Mortgage Corporation
99. Alliance Bancorp
98. Choice Capital Funding
97. Premier Mortgage Funding
96. Stone Creek Funding
95. FlexPoint Funding (Wholesale & Retail)
94. Starpointe Mortgage
93. Unlimited Loan Resources (ULR)
92. Freestand Financial
91. Steward Financial
90. Bridge Capital Corporation
89. Altivus Financial
88. ACT Mortgage
87. Alliance Mortgage Banking Corp (AMBC)
86. Concord Mortgage Wholesale
85. Heartwell Mortgage
84. Oak Street Mortgage
83. The Mortgage Warehouse
82. First Street Financial
81. Right-Away Mortgage
80. Heritage Plaza Mortgage
79. Horizon Bank Wholesale Lending Group
78. Lancaster Mortgage Bank (LMB)
77. Bryco (Wholesale)
76. No Red Tape Mortgage
75. The Lending Group (TLG)
74. Pro 30 Funding
73. NetBank Funding, Market Street Mortgage
72. Columbia Home Loans, LLC
71. Mortgage Tree Lending
70. Homeland Capital Group
69. Nation One Mortgage
68. Dana Capital Group
67. Millenium Funding Group
65. Home Equity of America
64. Opteum (Wholesale, Conduit)
63. Innovative Mortgage Capital
62. Home Capital, Inc.
61. Home 123 Mortgage
60. Homefield Financial
59. First Horizon Subprime, Equity Lending
58. Platinum Capital Group (Wholesale)
57. First Source Funding Group (FSFG)
56. Alterna Mortgage
55. Solutions Funding
54. People’s Mortgage
52. Zone Funding
51. First Consolidated (Subprime Wholesale)
50. SouthStar Funding
49. Warehouse USA
48. H&R Block Mortgage
47. Madison Equity Loans
46. HSBC Mortgage Services (correspondent div.)
45. Sunset Direct Lending
44. Kellner Mortgage Investments
42. CoreStar Financial Group
41. Ameriquest, ACC Wholesale
40. Investaid Corp.
39. People’s Choice Financial Corp.
38. Master Financial
37. Maribella Mortgage
36. FMF Capital LLC
35. New Century Financial Corp.
34. Wachovia Mortgage (Correspondent div.)
33. Ameritrust Mortgage Company (Subprime Wholesale)
32. Trojan Lending (Wholesale)
31. Fremont General Corporation
30. DomesticBank (Wholesale Lending Division)
29. Ivanhoe Mortgage/Central Pacific Mortgage
28. Eagle First Mortgage
27. Coastal Capital
26. Silver State Mortgage
25. ECC Capital/Encore Credit
24. Lender’s Direct Capital Corporation (wholesale division)
23. Concorde Acceptance
22. DeepGreen Financial
21. American Freedom Mortgage, Inc.
20. Millenium Bankshares (Mortgage Subsidiaries)
19. Summit Mortgage
18. Mandalay Mortgage
17. Rose Mortgage
14. Popular Financial Holdings
13. Clear Choice Financial/Bay Capital
12. Origen Wholesale Lending
10. Preferred Advantage
8. Sovereign Bancorp (Wholesale Ops)
7. Harbourton Mortgage Investment Corporation
6. OwnIt Mortgage
5. Sebring Capital Partners
4. Axis Mortgage & Investments
3. Meritage Mortgage
2. Acoustic Home Loans
1. Merit Financial
The Parties and Their Roles
The first issue in reviewing a structured residential mortgage transaction is to differentiate between a private-label deal and an “Agency” (or “GSE”) deal. An Agency (or GSE) deal is one involving Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, or Ginnie Mae, the three Government Sponsored Enterprises (also known as the GSEs). This paper will review the parties, documents, and laws involved in a typical private-label securitization. We also address frequently-occurring practical considerations for counsel dealing with securitized mortgage loans that are applicable across-the-board to mortgages into both private-label and Agency securitizations.
The parties, in the order of their appearance are:
Originator. The “originator” is the lender that provided the funds to the borrower at the loan closing or close of escrow. Usually the originator is the lender named as “Lender” in the mortgage Note. Many originators securitize loans; many do not. The decision not to securitize loans may be due to lack of access to Wall Street capital markets, or this may simply reflect a business decision not to run the risks associated with future performance that necessarily go with sponsoring a securitization, or the originator obtains better return through another loan disposition strategy such as whole loan sales for cash.
Warehouse Lender. The Originator probably borrowed the funds on a line of credit from a short-term revolving warehouse credit facility (commonly referred to as a “warehouse lender”); nevertheless the money used to close the loan were technically and legally the Originator’s funds. Warehouse lenders are either “wet” funders or “dry” funders. A wet funder will advance the funds to close the loan upon the receipt of an electronic request from the originator. A dry funder, on the other hand, will not advance funds until it actually receives the original loan documents duly executed by the borrower.
Responsible Party. Sometimes you may see another intermediate entity called a “Responsible Party,” often a sister company to the lender. Loans appear to be transferred to this entity, typically named XXX Asset Corporation.
Sponsor. The Sponsor is the lender that securitizes the pool of mortgage loans. This means that it was the final aggregator of the loan pool and then sold the loans directly to the Depositor, which it turn sold them to the securitization Trust. In order to obtain the desired ratings from the ratings agencies such as Moody’s, Fitch and S&P, the Sponsor normally is required to retain some exposure to the future value and performance of the loans in the form of purchase of the most deeply subordinated classes of the securities issued by the Trust, i.e. the classes last in line for distributions and first in line to absorb losses (commonly referred to as the “first loss pieces” of the deal).
Depositor. The Depositor exists for the sole purpose of enabling the transaction to have the key elements that make it a securitization in the first place: a “true sale” of the mortgage loans to a “bankruptcy-remote” and “FDIC-remote” purchaser. The Depositor purchases the loans from the Sponsor, sells the loans to the Trustee of the securitization Trust, and uses the proceeds received from the Trust to pay the Sponsor for the Depositor’s own purchase of the loans. It all happens simultaneously, or as nearly so as theoretically possible. The length of time that the Depositor owns the loans has been described as “one nanosecond.”
The Depositor has no other functions, so it needs no more than a handful of employees and officers. Nevertheless, it is essential for the “true sale” and “bankruptcy-remote”/“FDIC-remote” analysis that the Depositor maintains its own corporate existence separate from the Sponsor and the Trust and observes the formalities of this corporate separateness at all times. The “Elephant in the Room” in all structured financial transactions is the mandatory requirement to create at least two “true sales” of the notes and mortgages between the Originator and the Trustee for the Trust so as to make the assets of the Trust both “bankruptcy” and “FDIC” remote from the originator. And, these “true sales” will be documented by representations and attestations signed by the parties; by attorney opinion letters; by asset purchase and sale agreements; by proof of adequate and reasonably equivalent consideration for each purchase; by “true sale” reports from the three major “ratings agencies” (Standard & Poors, Moody’s, and Fitch) and by transfer and delivery receipts for mortgage notes endorsed in blank.
Trustee. The Trustee is the owner of the loans on behalf of the certificate holders at the end of the securitization transaction. Like any trust, the Trustee’s powers, rights, and duties are defined by the terms of the transactional documents that create the trust, and are subject to the terms of the trust laws of some particular state, as specified by the “Governing Law” provisions of the transaction document that created the trust. The vast majority of the residential mortgage backed securitized trusts are subject to the applicable trust laws of Delaware or New York. The “Pooling and Servicing Agreement” (or, in “Owner Trust” transactions as described below, the “Trust Indenture”) is the legal document that creates these common law trusts and the rights and legal authority granted to the Trustee is no greater than the rights and duties specified in this Agreement. The Trustee is paid based on the terms of each structure. For example, the Trustee may be paid out of interest collections at a specified rate based on the outstanding balance of mortgage loans in the securitized pool; the Master Servicer may pay the Trustee out of funds designated for the Master Servicer; the Trustee may receive some on the interest earned on collections invested each month before the investor remittance date; or the Securities Administrator may pay the Trustee out of their fee with no charges assessed against the Trust earnings. Fee amounts ranger for as low as .0025% to as high as .009%.
Indenture Trustee and Owner Trustee. Most private-label securitizations are structured to meet the Internal Revenue Code requirements for tax treatment as a “Real Estate Mortgage Investment Conduit (“REMIC”). However some securitizations (both private-label and GSE) have a different, non-REMIC structure usually called an “Owner Trust.” In an Owner Trust structure the Trustee roles are divided between an Owner Trustee and an Indenture Trustee. As the names suggest, the Owner Trustee owns the loans; the Indenture Trustee has the responsibility of making sure that all of the funds received by the Trust are properly disbursed to the investors (bond holders) and all other parties who have a financial interest in the securitized structure. These are usually Delaware statutory trusts, in which case the Owner Trustee must be domiciled in Delaware.
Primary Servicer. The Primary Servicer services the loans on behalf of the Trust. Its rights and obligations are defined by a loan servicing contract, usually located in the Pooling and Servicing Agreement in a private-label (non-GSE) deal. The trust may have more than one servicer servicing portions of the total pool, or there may be “Secondary Servicers,” “Default Servicers,” and/or “Sub-Servicers” that service loans in particular categories (e.g., loans in default). Any or all of the Primary, Secondary, or Sub-Servicers may be a division or affiliate of the Sponsor; however under the servicing contract the Servicer is solely responsible to the Trust and the Master Servicer (see next paragraph). The Servicers are the legal entities that do all the day-to-day “heavy lifting” for the Trustee such as sending monthly bills to borrowers, collecting payments, keeping records of payments, liquidating assets for the Trustee, and remitting net payments to the Trustee.
The Servicers are normally paid based on the type of loans in the Trust. For example, a typical annual servicing fee structure may be: .25% annually for a prime mortgage; .375% for an Alt-A or Option ARM; and .5% for a subprime loan. In this example, a subprime loan with an average balance over a given year of $120,000 would generate a servicing fee of $600.00 for that year. The Servicers are normally permitted to retain all “ancillary fees” such as late charges, check by phone fees, and the interest earned from investing all funds on hand in overnight US Treasury certificates (sometimes called “interest earned on the float”).
Master Servicer. The Master Servicer is the Trustee’s representative for assuring that the Servicer(s) abide by the terms of the servicing contracts. For trusts with more than one servicer, the Master Servicer has an important administrative role in consolidating the monthly reports and remittances of funds from the individual servicers into a single data package for the Trustee. If a Servicer fails to perform or goes out of business or suffers a major downgrade in its servicer rating, then the Master Servicer must step in, find a replacement and assure that no interruption of essential servicing functions occurs. Like all servicers, the Master Servicer may be a division or affiliate of the Sponsor but is solely responsible to the Trustee. The Master Servicer receives a fee, small compared to the Primary Servicer’s fee, based on the average balance of all loans in the Trust.
Custodian. The Master Document Custodian takes and maintains physical possession of the original hard-copy Mortgage Notes, Mortgages, Deeds of Trust and certain other “key loan documents” that the parties deem essential for the enforcement of the mortgage loan in the event of default.
• This is done for safekeeping and also to accomplish the transfer and due negotiation of possession of the Notes that is essential under the Uniform Commercial Code for a valid transfer to the Trustee to occur.
• Like the Master Servicer, the Master Document Custodian is responsible by contract solely to the Trustee (e.g., the Master Document Custodial Agreement). However unlike the Master Servicer, the Master Document Custodian is an institution wholly independent from the Servicer and the Sponsor.
• There are exceptions to this rule in the world of Fannie Mae/Freddie Mac (“GSE”) securitizations. The GSE’s may allow selected large originators with great secure storage capabilities (in other words, large banks) to act as their own Master Document Custodians. But even in those cases, contracts make clear that the GSE Trustee, not the originator, is the owner of the Note and the mortgage loan.
• The Master Document Custodian must review all original documents submitted into its custody for strict compliance with the specifications set forth in the Custodial Agreement, and deliver exception reports to the Trustee and/or Master Servicer as to any required documents that are missing or fail to comply with those specifications.
• In so doing the Custodian must in effect confirm that for each loan in the Trust there is a “complete and unbroken chain of transfers and assignments of the Notes and Mortgages.”
• This does not necessarily require the Custodian to find assignments or endorsements naming the Depositor or the Trustee. The wording in the Master Document Custodial Agreement must be read closely. Defined terms such as “Last Endorsee” may technically allow the Custodian to approve files in which the last endorsement is from the Sponsor in blank, and no assignment to either the Depositor or the Trustee has been recorded in the local land records.
• In many private-label securitizations a single institution fulfills all of the functions related to document custody for the entire pool of loans. In these cases, the institution might be referred to simply as the “Custodian” and the governing document as the “Custodial Agreement.”
Typical transaction steps and documents (in private-label, non-GSE securitizations)
1. The Originator sells loans (one-by-one or in bundles) to the Securitizer (a/k/a the Sponsor) pursuant to a Mortgage Loan Purchase and Sale Agreement (MLPSA) or similarly-named document. The purpose of the MLPSA is to sell all right, title, claims, legal, equitable and any and all other interest in the loans to the Securitizer-Sponsor. For Notes endorsed in “blank” which are bearer instruments under the UCC, the MLPSA normally requires acceptance and delivery receipts for all such Notes in order to fully document the “true sale.” Frequently a form is prescribed for the acceptance and delivery receipt and attached as an exhibit to the MLPSA.
The MLPSA will contain representations, attestations and warranties as to the enforceability and marketability of each loan, and specify the purchaser’s remedies for a breach of any “rep” or “warrant.” The primary remedy is the purchaser’s right to require the seller to repurchase any loan materially and adversely affected by a breach. Among the defects and events covered by “reps” and “warrants” are “Early Payment Defaults,” commonly referred to as “EPD’s.” An EDP occurs if a loan becomes seriously (usually, 60 or more days) delinquent within a specified period of time after it has been sold to the Trust. The EDP covenants are always limited in time and normally only cover EDPs that occur within 12 to 18 months of the original sale. If an EDP occurs, then the Trust can force the originator to repurchase the EPD note and replace it with a note of similar static qualities (amount, term, type, etc.)
2. The Securitizer-Sponsor sells the loans to the Depositor. This takes place in another MLPSA very similar to the first one and the same documents are created and exchange with the same or similar terms. These are typically included as exhibits to the PSA.
3. Depositor, Trustee, Master Servicer and Servicer enter into a Pooling and Servicing Agreement (“PSA”) in which:
— the Depositor sells all right, title, legal, equitable and any other interest in the mortgage loans to the Trustee, with requirements for acceptance and delivery receipts, often including the prescribed form as an exhibit, in similar fashion to the MLPSA’s;
— the PSA creates the trust, appoints the Trustee, and defines the classes of securities (often called “Certificates”) that the trust will issue to investors and establishes the order of priority between classes of Certificates as to distributions of cash collected and losses realized with respect to the underlying loans (the highest rated Certificates are paid first and the lowest rated Certificates suffer the first losses-thus the basis for the term “structured finance”); and
— the Servicer, Master Servicer and Trustee establish the Servicer’s rights and duties, including limits and extent of a Servicer’s right to deal with default, foreclosure, and Note modifications. Some PSA’s include detailed loss mitigation or modification rules, and others limit any substantive modifications (such as changing the interest rate, reducing the principal debt, waiving default debt, extending the repayment term, etc.)
4. All parties including the Custodian enter into the Custodial Agreement in which:
• the Depositor agrees to cause the Notes and other specified key loan documents (usually including an unrecorded, recordable Assignment “in blank”)(NB that several recent courts have raised serious legal questions about the assignment of a real estate instrument in blank under such theories as the statute of frauds and whether or not an assignment in blank is in fact a “recordable” legal real estate document) to be delivered to the Custodian (with the Securitizer to do the actual physical shipment);
• the Custodian agrees to inspect the Notes and other documents and to certify in designated written documents to the Trustee that the documents meet the required specifications and are in the Custodian’s possession; and
• establishes a (supposedly exclusive) procedure and specified forms whereby the Servicer can obtain possession of any Note, Mortgage, Deed of Trust or other custodial document for foreclosure or payoff purposes.
Finding Documents on the S.E.C.’s website (the EDGAR filing system):
• If you know the name of the Depositor and the name of the Trust (e.g. “Time Bomb Mortgage Trust 2006-2”) that contains the loan in question, then the PSA and Custodial Agreement probably can be found on the SEC’s website (www.sec.gov):
• On the SEC home page look for a link to “Search for Company Filings” and then choose to search by “Company Name,” using the name of the Depositor. (Alternatively, click on the “Contains” button on the search page and then search by the series, i.e. 2006-2 in the above example.)
• Hopefully, this will enable you to find the Trust in question. If so, the PSA and the Custodial Agreement should be available as attachments to one or more of the earliest-filed forms (normally the 8-K) shown on the list of available documents. Sometimes the PSA is listed as a named document but other times you just look for the largest document in terms of megabytes filed with the 8-K form.
• The available documents also should include the Prospectus and/or Prospectus Supplement (Form 424B5) and the Free Writing Prospectus (“FWP”). The latter documents (at least the sections written in English, as opposed to the many tables of financial data) can be very helpful in providing a concise and straightforward description of the parties, documents, and transaction steps and detailed transactional graphs and charts in the particular deal. And because these are SEC documents, the information serves as highly credible evidence on these points, and the Court can take judicial notice of any document filed with the SEC.
• For securitizations created after January 1, 2006, SEC “Regulation AB” requires the parties to file a considerable amount of detailed information about the individual loans included in the Trust. This information may be filed as an Exhibit to the PSA or to a Form 8-K. This loan-level data typically includes loan numbers, interest rates, principal amount of loan, origination date and (sometimes) property addresses and thus can be very useful in proving that a particular loan is in a particular Trust.
Dealing with Notes and Assignments:
There are two basic documents involved in a residential mortgage loan: the promissory note and the mortgage (or deed of trust). For brevity’s sake these are referred to simply as the Note and the Mortgage.
A Note is: a contract to repay borrowed money. It is a negotiable instrument governed by Article 3 of the Uniform Commercial Code (UCC). The Note, by itself, is an unsecured debt. Notes are personal property. Notes are negotiated by endorsement or by transfer and delivery as provided for by the UCC. Notes are separate legal documents from the real estate instruments that secure the loans evidenced by the Notes by liens on real property.
A Mortgage is: a lien on, and an interest in, real estate. It is a security agreement. It creates a lien on the real estate as collateral for a debt, but it does not create the debt itself. The rights created by a Mortgage are classified as real property and these instruments are governed by local real estate law in each jurisdiction. The UCC has nothing to do with the creation, drafting, recording or assignment of these real estate instruments.
A Note can only be transferred by: an “Endorsement” if the Note is payable to a particular party; or by transfer of possession of the Note, if the Note is endorsed “in blank.” Endorsements must be written or stamped on the face of the Note or on a piece of paper physically attached to the Note (the Allonge). See UCC §3-210 through §3-205. The UCC does not recognize an Assignment as a valid means of transferring a Note such that the transferee becomes a “holder”, which is what the owners of securitized mortgage notes universally claim to be.
In most states, an Allonge cannot be used to endorse a note if there is sufficient room at the “foot of the note” for such endorsements. The “foot of the note” refers to the space immediately below the signatures of the borrowers. Also, if an Allonge is properly used, then it must describe the terms of the note and most importantly must be “permanently affixed” to the Note. Most jurisdictions hold that “staples” and “tape” do not constitute a “permanent” attachment. And, the Master Document Custodial Agreement may specify when an Allonge can be used and how it must be attached to the original Note.
Mortgage rights can only be transferred by: an Assignment recorded in the local land records. Mortgage rights are “estates in land” and therefore governed by the state’s real property laws. These vary from state to state but in general Mortgage rights can only be transferred by a recorded instrument (the Assignment) in order to be effective against third parties without notice.
In discussions of exactly what documents are required to transfer a “mortgage loan” confusion often arises between Notes versus Mortgages and the respective documents necessary to accomplish transfers of each. The issue often arises from the standpoint of proof: Has Party A proven that a transfer has occurred to it from Party B? Does Party A need to have an Assignment? The answer often depends on exactly what Party A is trying to prove.
Scenario 1: Party A is trying to prove that the Trustee “owns the loan.” Here the likely questions are, did the transaction steps actually occur as required by the PSA and as represented in the Prospectus Supplement, and are the Trustee’s ownership rights subject to challenge in a bankruptcy case?
The answers lie in the UCC and in documents such as:
• the MLPSA’s;
• conveyancing rules of the PSA (normally Section 2.01);
• transfer and delivery receipts (look for these to be described in the “Conditions to Closing” or similarly named section of MLPSA’s and the PSA);
• funds transfer records (canceled checks, wire transfers, etc);
• compliance and exception reports provided by the Custodian pursuant to the Master Document Custodial Agreement; and
• the “true sale” legal opinions.
Some of these documents may or may not be available on the SEC’s EDGAR system; some may be obtainable only through discovery in litigation. The primary inquiry is whether or not the documents, money and records that were required to have been produced and change hands actually do so as required, and at the times required, by the terms of the transaction documents.
Another question sometimes asked when examining the “validity” of a securitization (or in other words, the rights of a securitization Trustee versus a bankruptcy trustee) is, must the Note be endorsed to the Trustee at the time of the securitization? Here are some points to consider:
• Frequently the only endorsement on the Note is from the Securitizer-Sponsor “in blank” and the only Assignment that exists, pre-foreclosure, is from the Securitizer-Sponsor “in blank” (in other words, the name of the transferee is not inserted in the instrument and this space is blank).
• The concept widely accepted in the securitization world (the issuers and ratings agencies, and the law firms advising them) is that this form of documentation was sufficient for a valid and unbroken chain of transfers of the Notes and assignments of the Mortgages as long as everything was done consistently with the terms of the securitization documents. This article is not intended to validate or defend either this concept or this practice, nor is it intended to represent in any way that the terms of the securitization documents were actually followed to the letter in every real-world case. In fact, and unfortunately for the certificate holders and the securitized mortgage markets, there are many instances in many reported cases where these mandatory rules of the securitization documents have not been followed but in fact, completely ignored.
• Often shortly before foreclosure (or in some cases afterwards) a mortgage assignment is produced from the Originator to the Trustee years after the Trust has closed out for the receipt of all mortgage loans. Such assignments are inconsistent with the mandatory conveyancing rules of the Trust Documents and are also inconsistent with the special tax rules that apply to these special trust structures. Most state law requires the chain of title not to include any mortgage assignments in blank, but assignments from A to B to C to D. Under most state statutes, an assignment in blank would be deemed an “incomplete real estate instrument.” Even more frequent than A to D assignments are MERS to D assignments, which suffer from the same transfer problems noted herein plus what is commonly referred to as the “MERS problem.”
Scenario 2: Party B seeks to prove standing to foreclose or to appear in court with the rights of a secured creditor under the Bankruptcy Code. OK, granted the UCC (§3-301) does provide that a negotiable instrument can be enforced either by “(i) the holder of the instrument, or (ii) a non-holder in possession of the instrument who has the rights of a holder.”
• Servicers and foreclosure counsel have been known to contend that this is the end of the story and that the servicer can therefore do anything that the holder of the Note could do, anywhere, anytime.
• The Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac Guides contain many sections that appear to lend superficial support to this contention and frequently will be cited by Servicers and foreclosure counsel as though the Guides have the force of law, which of course they do not.
• There are many serious problems with this legal position, as recognized by an increasing number of reported court decisions.
Authors’ General Conclusions and Observations:
• Servicers and foreclosure firms are either wrong, or at least not being cautious, if they attempt to foreclose, or appear in court, without having a valid pre-complaint or pre-motion Assignment of the Mortgage. Yet at the same time, Servicers and note holders place themselves at risk of preference and avoidable transfer issues in bankruptcy cases if, for example, endorsements and Assignments that they rely upon to support claims to secured status occur or are recorded after or soon before bankruptcy filing.
• In addition any Servicer, Lender, or Securitization Trustee is either wrong, or at least not being cautious, if it ever: (1) claims in any communications to a consumer or to the Court in a judicial proceeding that it is the Note holder unless they are, at the relevant point in time, actually the holder and owner of the Note as determined under UCC law; or (2) undertakes to enforce rights under a Mortgage without having and recording a valid Assignment.
• The UCC deals only with enforcing the Note. Enforcing the Mortgage on the other hand is governed by the state’s real property and foreclosure laws, which generally contain crucial provisions regarding actions required to be taken by the “note holder” or “beneficiary.” State law may or may not authorize particular actions to be taken by servicers or agents of the holder of the Note.
• For the Servicer to have “the rights of the holder” under the UCC it must be acting in accordance with its contract. For example, if the Servicer claims to have possession of the Note, did it follow the procedures contained in the “Release of Documents” section of the Custodial Agreement in obtaining possession? Does the Servicer really have “constitutional” standing under either Federal or State law to enforce the Note even if it is a “holder” if it does not have any “pecuniary” or economic interest in the Note? In short, the concept of constitutional standing involves some injury in fact and it is hard to see how a mere “place-holder” or “Nominee” could ever over-come such a hurdle unless it actually owned the Note or some real interest in the same.
• The Servicer should have the burden of explaining the legal reasons supporting its standing and authority to act. Sometimes Servicers have difficulty maintaining a consistent story in this regard. Is the Servicer claiming to be the actual holder, or the holder and the owner, or merely an authorized agent of the true holder? If it is claiming some agency, what proof does it have to support such a claim? What proof is required? Sometimes this is just academic legal hair-splitting but many times it involves serious issues of fact. For example, what if the attorney for the Servicer asserts to the court that his or her client actually owns the Note, but the Fannie Mae website reports that Fannie is the owner? What if the MERS website reports that the Plaintiff is just the “Servicer?” What if the pre-complaint correspondence to the borrower names some entirely different party as the holder and indicated that the current plaintiff is only the Servicer?
• Finally, the Servicer always has an obligation to be factually accurate in borrower communications and legal proceedings, and to supervise employees and vendors and attorneys to assure that Note endorsements, Assignments of Mortgage, and affidavits are executed by persons with valid corporate authority, and not falsified nor offered for any improper purpose.
The focus of the default servicing industry must move from “how fast we can get things done” to “how honestly and accurately can we be in presenting the proper documentation to the courts and to the borrowers”. Judicial proceedings are not like NASCAR races where the fastest lawyer always wins. Judicial proceedings are all about finding the truth no matter how long it takes and regardless of the time and difficulties involved.
California Court Rules: MERS Can’t Foreclose, Citibank Can’t Collect
“Any attempt to transfer the beneficial interest of a trust deed without ownership of the underlying note is VOID under California Law.”
If you read that sentence and thought… “MERS,” then you’re already in the club. If you’ve never heard of MERS, and have no idea what is meant by being “in the club,” don’t worry, this is a club that just about every homeowner is invited to join. In fact, you may already be a member and not even know it.
MERS is the acronym used to describe Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems, Inc. Best I can tell, our friends in the mortgage banking industry created MERS to make it easier for banks and servicers to sell and transfer our mortgages at the speed of light during the real estate bubble. According to the company’s Website:
MERS was created by the mortgage banking industry to streamline the mortgage process by using electronic commerce to eliminate paper. Our mission is to register every mortgage loan in the United States on the MERS®System.
MERS acts as nominee in the county land records for the lender and servicer. Any loan registered on the MERS®System is inoculated against future assignments because MERS remains the nominal mortgagee no matter how many times servicing is traded.
I have to tell you… I hate these guys already. Their attitude alone bothers me. I looked at pictures of their three top executives on their Website and thought to myself… “No way I’d be friends with these guys.” Probably not very fair of me, but as far as I’m concerned, when it comes to anything that talks like that and was created by the mortgage banking industry… “fair,” is where you go on Sunday to have popcorn and cotton candy. Just so we’re clear.
MERS, which is a company that I hear doesn’t even have employees, has been about as controversial as you get ever since houses started dropping like flies into foreclosure back in 2007-08. God forbid you find yourself losing your home to foreclosure, you’ll very likely find a representative from MERS looking smug and acting like the owner of your mortgage. But, MERS is not the owner of your mortgage, of course, and now a bankruptcy court judge in the Eastern District of California has officially said that he agrees.
MERS is a relatively new development in the mortgage world, and as the foreclosure crisis began the courts pretty much let them do whatever they wanted to do, as the party in interest in a foreclosure action.
But, that was before the foreclosures became a full fledged tsunami, and homeowners watched the bankers first get bailed out, and then pay out billions in bonuses before treating every single American homeowner/taxpayer who applied for a loan modification like insignificant garbage.
In response, homeowners, having been trained for over 200 years in the fine art of pushing back when shoved, went to their lawyers, and those lawyers started asking questions, as they are prone to do. Many started with questions like: “Who the heck is this MERS guy and why does he think he has any right to be foreclosing on my client’s home?”
For almost two full years, it seemed to me that judges, who frankly weren’t used to foreclosures being challenged, basically yawned and gave the house back to the bank. Then, starting about a year ago, give or take, things started to change. Judges started to listen to the points being raised as related to MERS showing up as the party in interest ready to foreclose, and the more the judges learned, the more they saw problems with what MERS was doing. As time went on the tide seemed to shift a bit and several decisions weren’t falling as MERS would have liked for one reason or another.
According to the company’s Website, MERS “is a proper party that can lawfully foreclose as the mortgagee and note-holder of a mortgage loan.” Here’s what it says on the MERS Website:
(“MERS”) is In mortgage foreclosure cases, the plaintiff has standing as the holder of the note and the mortgage. When MERS forecloses, MERS is the mortgagee and it is the holder of the note because a MERS officer will be in possession of the original note endorsed in blank, which makes MERS a holder of the bearer paper.
But, in this latest decision, the bankruptcy judge in California didn’t agree, writing in his opinion:
“Since no evidence of MERS’ ownership of the underlying note has been offered, and other courts have concluded that MERS does not own the underlying notes, this court is convinced that MERS had no interest it could transfer to Citibank. Since MERS did not own the underlying note, it could not transfer the beneficial interest of the Deed of Trust to another. Any attempt to transfer the beneficial interest of a trust deed without ownership of the underlying note is void under California law.”
Did you get that? Since MERS didn’t own the underlying note, it couldn’t transfer the beneficial interest of the Deed of Trust to Citibank.
According to several attorneys, this opinion should serve as legal basis to challenge a foreclosure in California that has been based on a MERS assignment. It could also be used when seeking to void any MERS assignment of the Deed of Trust, or the note, to a third party for purposes of foreclosure; and should be sufficient for a borrower to obtain a TRO against a Trustee’s Sale, and a Preliminary Injunction preventing any sale, pending litigation filed by the borrower that challenges a foreclosure based on a MERS assignment.
In this decision the court found that MERS was acting “only as a nominee,” under the Deed of Trust, and that there was no evidence of the note being transferred. The judge’s opinion in this case also said that “several courts have acknowledged that MERS is not the owner of the underlying note and therefore could not transfer the note, the beneficial interest in the deed of trust, or foreclose on the property secured by the deed”, citing cases of: In Re Vargas, California Bankruptcy Court; Landmark v. Kesler, Kansas decision as to lack of authority of MERS; LaSalle Bank v. Lamy, a New York case; and In Re Foreclosure Cases, the “Boyko” decision from Ohio Federal Court.
And the court concluded by stating:
“Since the claimant, Citibank, has not established that it is the owner of the promissory note secured by the trust deed, Citibank is unable to assert a claim for payment in this case.”
Oh my… well, that really is something. MERS can’t foreclose and Citibank can’t collect? I believe you would have to say that MERS and Citibank were already in a hard place when the judge inserted a rock. MERS can’t foreclose and Citi can’t collect… I am absolutely loving this, I have to say, but I suppose giddy would be an inappropriate response, so I’ll just say, “how interesting”.
This decision means that if a foreclosing party in California, that is not the original lender, claims that payment is due under the note, and that they have the right to foreclose on the basis of a MERS assignment, they’re wrong… based on this opinion. The bottom line is that MERS has no authority to transfer the note because it never owned it, and that’s a view that even seems to be supported by MERS’ own contract, which says that “MERS agrees not to assert any rights to mortgage loans or properties mortgaged thereby”.
What this may mean to California’s homeowners in bankruptcy court…
· It should serve as a legal basis to challenge any foreclosure in California based on a MERS assignment.
· It should serve as the legal basis for voiding a MERS assignment of the Deed of Trust, or the note, to a third party for purposes of foreclosure.
· It should be an adequate basis for obtaining a TRO against a Trustee’s Sale
· It should be the basis for a Preliminary Injunction barring any sale pending litigation filed by the borrower that challenges a foreclosure based on a MERS assignment.
In addition, some lawyers believe that this ruling is relevant to borrowers across the country as well, because the court cited non-bankruptcy cases related to the lack of authority of MERS, and because this opinion is consistent with prior rulings in Idaho and Nevada Bankruptcy courts on the same issue.
I don’t know about you, but I feel like watching a marching band. 76 trombones, baby, 76 trombones.
“Any attempt to transfer the beneficial interest of a trust deed without ownership of the underlying note is VOID under California Law.”
The Proof of Claim at issue, listed as claim number 5 on the court’s official
claims registry, asserts a $1,320,650.52 secured claim. The Debtor objects to
the Claim on the basis that the claimant, Citibank, N.A., did not provided any
evidence that Citibank has the authority to bring the claim, as required by
Federal Rule of Bankruptcy Procedure 3001(c), rendering the claim facially
The court’s review of the claim shows that the Deed of Trust purports to have
been assigned to Citibank, N.A. by Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems,
Inc. as nominee for Bayrock Mortgage Corporation on March 5, 2010. (Proof of
Claim No. 5 p.36-37, Mar. 19, 2010.) Debtor contends that this does not
establish that Citibank is the owner of the underling promissory note since the
assignor, Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems, Inc. (“MERS”), had no
interest in the note to transfer. Debtors loan was originated by Bayrock
Mortgage Corporation and no evidence of the current owner of the promissory
note is attached to the proof of claim. It is well established law in the
Ninth Circuit that the assignment of a trust deed does not assign the
underlying promissory note and right to be paid, and that the security interest
is incident of the debt. 4 WITKIN SUMMARY OF CALIFORNIA LAW, SECURED TRANSACTIONS IN REAL
PROPERTY §105 (10th ed).
MERS AND CITIBANK ARE NOT THE REAL PARTIES IN INTEREST
Under California law, to perfect the transfer of mortgage paper as collateral
the owner should physically deliver the note to the transferee. Bear v. Golden
Plan of California, Inc., 829 F.2d 705, 709 (9th Cir. 1986). Without physical
transfer, the sale of the note could be invalid as a fraudulent conveyance,
Cal. Civ. Code §3440, or as unperfected, Cal. Com. Code §§9313-9314. See ROGER
BERNHARDT, CALIFORNIA MORTGAGES AND DEEDS OF TRUSTS, AND FORECLOSURE LITIGATION §1.26 (4th
ed. 2009). The note here specifically identified the party to whom it was
payable, Bayrock Mortgage Corporation, and the note therefore cannot be
transferred unless the note is endorsed. See Cal. Com. Code §§3109, 3201, 3203,
3204. The attachments to the claim do not establish that Bayrock Mortgage
Corporation endorsed and sold the note to any other party.
TRANSFER OF AN INTEREST IN THE DEED OF TRUST ALONE IS VOID
MERS acted only as a “nominee” for Bayrock Mortgage under the Deed of Trust.
Since no evidence has been offered that the promissory note has been
transferred, MERS could only transfer what ever interest it had in the Deed of
Trust. However, the promissory note and the Deed of Trust are inseparable.
“The note and the mortgage are inseparable; the former as essential, the later
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); accord Henley v. Hotaling, 41 Cal. 22, 28 (1871); Seidell v.
Tuxedo Land Co., 216 Cal. 165, 170 (1932); Cal. Civ. Code §2936. Therefore,
if on party receives the note an another receives the deed of trust, the holder
of the note prevails regardless of the order in which the interests were
transferred. Adler v. Sargent, 109 Cal. 42, 49-50 (1895).
Further, several courts have acknowledged that MERS is not the owner of the
underlying note and therefore could not transfer the note, the beneficial
interest in the deed of trust, or foreclose upon the property secured by the
deed. See In re Foreclosure Cases, 521 F. Supp. 2d 650, 653 (S.D. Oh. 2007);
In re Vargas, 396 B.R. 511, 520 (Bankr. C.D. Cal. 2008); Landmark Nat’l Bank
v. Kesler, 216 P.3d 158 (Kan. 2009); LaSalle Bank v. Lamy, 824 N.Y.S.2d 769
(N.Y. Sup. Ct. 2006). Since no evidence of MERS’ ownership of the underlying
note has been offered, and other courts have concluded that MERS does not own
the underlying notes, this court is convinced that MERS had no interest it
could transfer to Citibank.
Since MERS did not own the underling note, it could not transfer the beneficial
interest of the Deed of Trust to another. Any attempt to transfer the
beneficial interest of a trust deed with out ownership of the underlying note
is void under California law. Therefore Citibank has not established that it
is entitled to assert a claim in this case.
MULTIPLE CLAIMS TO THE BENEFICIAL INTEREST IN THE DEED OF TRUST AND OWNERSHIP
OF PROMISSORY NOTE SECURED THEREBY
Debtor also points out that four separate entities have claimed beneficial
ownership of the deed of trust. (Obj. to Claim 3-5, Apr. 6, 2010.) The true
owner of the underling promissory note needs to step forward to settle the
cloud that has been created surrounding the relevant parties rights and
interests under the trust deed.
11 U.S.C. §502(a) provides that a claim supported by a Proof of Claim is
allowed unless a party in interest objects. Once an objection has been filed,
the court may determine the amount of the claim after a noticed hearing. 11
U.S.C. §502(b). Since the claimant, Citibank, has not established that it is
the owner of the promissory note secured by the trust deed, Citibank is unable
to assert a claim for payment in this case. The objection is sustained and
Claim Number 5 on the court’s official register is disallowed in its entirety,
with leave for the owner of the promissory note to file a claim in this case
by June 18, 2010.
The court disallowing the proof of claim does not alter or modify the trust
deed or the fact that someone has an interest in the property which can be
subject thereto. The order disallowing the proof of claim shall expressly so
The court shall issue a minute order consistent with this ruling.