Archive | January, 2012

My Dear Fellow Attorneys from Matt Weidner

24 Jan

From: Charles Cox [mailto:charles@bayliving.com]
Sent: Friday, January 20, 2012 8:25 AM
To: Charles Cox
Subject: My Dear Fellow Attorneys from Matt Weidner

My Dear Fellow Attorneys:

January 20th, 2012 | Author: Matthew D. Weidner, Esq.

I have spent this week, the week we celebrate Martin Luther King Jr and his accomplishments during the civil rights movement, thinking about the very real parallels between that tumultuous time and where we are today in this country. Especially today, when I am in a jail of sorts, I have been considering how King and his followers were constantly attacked. The attacks King and his followers suffered are not unlike the attacks that are visited upon those few who are standing up to defend consumers, fight for basic rights and the Rule of Law. It is rumored that the banks will announce a deal soon with the attorney generals from all across the country that have been investigating them. If any deal is indeed inked it will be a most dark day in this nation’s history. A deal between the banks and the attorney generals will indeed be the last nail in the coffin of the fiction that we are still a nation ruled by laws. So as you think about that, close your eyes for a moment and picture Martin Luther King sitting in a Birmingham jail and responding to a letter of complaint that he had recently received:

My Dear Fellow Attorneys:

While confined here in a foreclosure courtroom, I came across your recent statement calling my present activities “unwise and untimely.” Seldom do I pause to answer criticism of myself and the other foreclosure and consumer defense attorneys by those who do not understand that the work of defending the helpless is the highest calling of the legal profession. If I sought to answer all the criticisms that cross my desk, my secretaries would have little time for anything other than such correspondence in the course of the day, and I would have no time for constructive work. But since I feel that you are men of genuine good will and that your criticisms are sincerely set forth, I want to try to answer your statement in what I hope will be patient and reasonable terms.

I think I should indicate why I am here in foreclosure courtrooms, since you have been influenced by the view which argues against defending consumers in court, fearful that all these defendants want is a “Free House”. I have the honor of serving and defending families and good people who find themselves down on their luck and facing foreclosure. Despite some of the unfair, unfortunate and misinformed characterizations of my clients perpetuated by some small segment of the population, my clients are not in foreclosure because they want to be in foreclosure. They are not unemployed because they do not want to work. They are not down on their luck because they sought out a tortured existence in this world. They are in foreclosure because they have no money. They have no money because there are no jobs. There are no jobs because their government has failed them. The industries and institutions that should be providing jobs and providing the money that would permit them to pay their bills and fulfill their obligations have closed down here at home and sent all the jobs offshore. For many of my clients, foreclosure courtroom is their last stop before they disappear into oblivion. They stand in courtrooms gripping onto their homes with white, bleeding knuckles, hoping against all hope that what they have heard about justice and fairness and equity and our nation’s court system really is true.

But more basically, I defend homeowners in court because injustice is here. Just as the prophets of the eighth century B.C. left their villages and carried their “thus saith the Lord” far beyond the boundaries of their home towns, and just as the Apostle Paul left his village of Tarsus and carried the gospel of Jesus Christ to the far corners of the Greco Roman world, so am I compelled to carry the fight for the Rule of Law beyond my own cases and clients. Like Paul, I must constantly respond to the Macedonian call for aid. Moreover, I am cognizant of the interrelatedness of all communities and states. I cannot sit idly by in Saint Petersburg and not be concerned about what happens in Birmingham. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. Never again can we afford to live with the narrow, provincial “outside agitator” idea. Anyone who lives inside the United States can never be considered an outsider anywhere within its bounds.

You deplore the defense of foreclosure cases and the Occupy protests that are taking place all across this country. But your statements, I am sorry to say, fail to express a similar concern for the conditions that brought about the demonstrations and the defense. I am sure that none of you would want to rest content with the superficial kind of social and legal analysis that deals merely with effects and does not grapple with underlying causes. It is unfortunate that demonstrations are taking place all across this country, but it is even more unfortunate that this nation’s power structure left the 99% with no alternative. It is terribly unfortunate that attorneys general from states all across this nation are meeting in secret with the banks and their henchmen and that they appear to close to finalizing some sort of deal. If the attorneys general that are supposed to be representing the interests of The People do indeed finalize a deal, it will truly be a deal with the devil. Such a deal will hasten our nation’s descent into a dark pit of white collar criminal lawlessness from which we will never recover.

In any nonviolent campaign there are four basic steps: collection of the facts to determine whether injustices exist; negotiation; self purification; and direct action. We have gone through all these steps in foreclosure courtrooms. There can be no gainsaying the fact that injustice engulfs our entire nation. Foreclosure courtrooms are probably the most clear expression of this injustice in the United States. The ugly record of injustice in foreclosure is widely known. Defendants in foreclosure have experienced grossly unjust treatment in the courts. There have been more violations of the fundamental principles of justice and equity in foreclosures than in any other aspect of our national existence. These are the hard, brutal facts of the case. On the basis of these conditions, homeowners and activists have sought to negotiate with the banks and institutions.

But the latter consistently refused to engage in good faith negotiation. Then, last September, came the opportunity to talk with leaders of banking community. In the course of the negotiations, certain promises were made by them–for example, they would review homeowners for loan modifications. On the basis of these promises, homeowners, attorneys and courts agreed to suspend most pending foreclosure cases. As the weeks and months went by however, we realized that we were the victims of a broken promise. A few temporary modifications were offered then just as quickly removed. As in so many past experiences, our hopes had been blasted, and the shadow of deep disappointment settled upon us. We had no alternative except to prepare for direct action like foreclosure trials, whereby we would continue the defense of homeowners and speaking out against the banks and the corporate elite as a means of laying our case before the conscience of the local and the national community.

You may well ask: “Why direct action? Why motions and discovery, foreclosure trials and so forth? Isn’t mediation a better path? You are quite right in calling for mediation. Indeed, this is the very purpose of direct action. Nonviolent direct action seeks to create such a crisis and foster such a tension that an industry which has constantly refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issues. It seeks so to dramatize the issue that it can no longer be ignored. My citing the creation of tension as part of the work of the nonviolent resister may sound rather shocking. But I must confess that I am not afraid of the word “tension.” I have earnestly opposed violent tension, but there is a type of constructive, nonviolent tension which is necessary for growth. Just as Socrates felt that it was necessary to create a tension in the mind so that individuals could rise from the bondage of myths and half truths to the unfettered realm of creative analysis and objective appraisal, so must we see the need for nonviolent gadflies to create the kind of tension in society that will help men rise from the dark depths of prejudice and racism to the majestic heights of understanding and brotherhood.

The purpose of our direct action program is to create a situation so crisis packed that it will inevitably open the door to successful mediations. I therefore concur with you in your call for mediations. Too long has our beloved court system been bogged down in a tragic effort to live in monologue rather than dialogue. One of the basic points in your statement is that the action that I and my associates have taken in foreclosure courtrooms is untimely. Some have asked: “Why didn’t you give the new mediation programs time to act?” The only answer that I can give to this query is that the programs and the plaintiffs must be prodded about as much as before. We are all sadly mistaken if we feel that these new mediation programs will bring any real changes without pressure on the banks to deal fairly and in good faith. While the new banks and servicers may be different, they are both corporate creatures, dedicated to maintenance of the status quo. I have hope that the banks will be reasonable enough to see the futility of massive resistance to mortgage modifications and solutions. But they will not see this without pressure from devotees of consumer rights.

My friends, I must say to you that we have not made a single gain in consumer rights without determined legal and nonviolent pressure. Lamentably, it is an historical fact that privileged groups seldom give up their privileges voluntarily. Individuals may see the moral light and voluntarily give up their unjust posture; but, as Reinhold Niebuhr has reminded us, groups tend to be more immoral than individuals. We know through painful experience that fair dealings are never voluntarily given by the banks; it must be demanded by the consumers that bailed them out. Some say, “Be patient, pushing these issues is not well-timed.”

Frankly, I have yet to engage in a direct action campaign that was “well timed” in the view of those who have suffered unduly from the tortures of this obscene and unfair economy and its parasitic legal and political system. For years now I have heard the words, “Wait, a solution is coming!” It rings in the ear of every American citizen with piercing familiarity. This “Wait” has almost always meant “Never.” We must come to see, with one of our distinguished jurists, that “justice too long delayed is justice denied.” We have waited for since 2008 for the banks and Wall Street to start treating Americans fairly. The banks and Wall Street are moving with jetlike speed toward gaining extraordinary profitablity, but we still creep at horse and buggy pace toward gaining principle reductions or short sale approvals.

Perhaps it is easy for those who have never felt the stinging darts foreclosure to say, “Wait.” But when you have seen good families thrown into the street, when you have seen the banks kick down doors and change the locks with no court order, when you have seen law enforcement standing idly by and saying, “it is a civil matter”, when you have seen court rulings that are repugnant to fundamental laws, when you have seen the bank and corporate executives reap unconscionable profits, when you have seen clients become sick and die due to the stress and pain of foreclosure and their economic situation, when you have seen single women who live in mortal fear that her front door may be kicked down for the third time, when you see children who have only known their parents suffering–then you will understand why we find it difficult to wait.There comes a time when the cup of endurance runs over, and men are no longer willing to be plunged into the abyss of despair. I hope, sirs, you can understand our legitimate and unavoidable impatience.

You express a great deal of anxiety over our willingness to aggressively pursue foreclosure cases, to stand up for basic laws and argue that certain foreclosure case law should not be followed. You express concern that we some of the recent case law should not be followed. This is certainly a legitimate concern. Since we so diligently urge people to obey the laws. One may well ask: “How can you advocate breaking some laws and obeying others?” The answer lies in the fact that there are two types of laws: just and unjust. I would be the first to advocate obeying just laws. One has not only a legal but a moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws. I would agree with St. Augustine that “an unjust law is no law at all.” Now, what is the difference between the two? How does one determine whether a law is just or unjust? A just law is a man made code that squares with the moral law or the law of God. An unjust law or appellate case is a code that is out of harmony with the moral law and economic reality. A just law and a just outcome in foreclosure recognizes that the homeowners that the banks are using the court process to throw into the street have already paid the banks and institutions through trillions of dollars in tax benefits and direct profits. To put it in the terms of St. Thomas Aquinas: An unjust law is a human law that is not rooted in eternal law and natural law. Any law that uplifts human personality is just. Any law that degrades human personality is unjust.

All homestead foreclosures, when the case is defended because the homeowner has already paid the bank his fair share through bailouts, handouts and direct political corruption. Let us consider a more concrete example of just and unjust laws. An unjust law is a code that a numerical or power majority group compels a minority group to obey but does not make binding on itself. This is difference made legal. By the same token, a just law is a code that a majority compels a minority to follow and that it is willing to follow itself. This is sameness made legal. Let me give another explanation. A law is unjust if it is inflicted on a minority that, as a result of being denied the right to vote, had no part in enacting or devising the law. Who can say that the banks, which have obscenely unequal bargaining power have passed laws that benefit themselves while forcing trauma and the expenses of their ill-conceived laws on the unrepresented taxpayer and consumer who is victimized by their laws?

Throughout this nation all sorts of devious methods are used to prevent the voice of The People from being heard and to silencing advocates and critics. Can any law enacted under such circumstances be considered democratically structured? Sometimes a law is just on its face and unjust in its application. For instance, I have been charged with abusing my First Amendment rights. Now, there is nothing wrong in having an ordinance which restricts speech. But such an ordinance becomes unjust when it is used to punish well-intentioned criticism of our court system and to deny citizens the First-Amendment privilege of peaceful assembly and protest. I hope you are able to see the distinction I am trying to point out. In no sense do I advocate “free homes” as some do. That would lead to anarchy. One who seeks to defend a homeowner must be willing to counsel that homeowner to begin making what payments he can. I submit that an individual who correctly and aggressively defends the correct foreclosure case is in reality expressing the highest respect for law. Of course, there is nothing new about this kind of civil disobedience.

It was evidenced sublimely in the refusal of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego to obey the laws of Nebuchadnezzar, on the ground that a higher moral law was at stake. It was practiced superbly by the early Christians, who were willing to face hungry lions and the excruciating pain of chopping blocks rather than submit to certain unjust laws of the Roman Empire. To a degree, academic freedom is a reality today because Socrates practiced civil disobedience. In our own nation, the Boston Tea Party represented a massive act of civil disobedience.

We should never forget that everything Adolf Hitler did in Germany was “legal” and everything the Hungarian freedom fighters did in Hungary was “illegal.” It was “illegal” to aid and comfort a Jew in Hitler’s Germany. Even so, I am sure that, had I lived in Germany at the time, I would have aided and comforted my Jewish brothers. If today I lived in a Communist country where certain principles dear to the Christian faith are suppressed, I would openly advocate disobeying that country’s antireligious laws. I must make two honest confessions to you, my fellow attorneys.

First, I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with other attorneys. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the consumer’s great stumbling block in his stride toward fairness is not the banks or the servicers, but the attorneys who are more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefer a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action”; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for demanding economic justice and the return to the Rule of Law in courtrooms; who live by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises those who are suffering to wait for a “more convenient season.”

Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection. I had hoped that the other attorneys would understand that law and order exist for the purpose of establishing justice and that when they fail in this purpose they become the dangerously structured dams that block the flow of social and economic progress. I had hoped that the other attorneys would understand that the present tension in the our courts is a necessary phase of the transition from an obnoxious negative peace, in which the consumer accepted his unjust plight, to a substantive and positive peace, in which all consumers wake up and start fighting back.

Actually, we who engage in the defense of consumers are not the creators of tension. We merely bring to the surface the hidden tension that is already alive. We bring it out in the open, where it can be seen and dealt with. Like a boil that can never be cured so long as it is covered up but must be opened with all its ugliness to the natural medicines of air and light, injustice must be exposed, with all the tension its exposure creates, to the light of human conscience and the air of national opinion before it can be cured. In your attacks on consumer attorneys and activists you assert that our actions, even though professionally and ethically appropriate, must be condemned because they slow down the court process.

I have even heard many good judges cry aloud, “The Supreme Court and Legislature demand we conclude foreclosure trials in 18 months!” But is this a logical assertion? What if the legislature demanded that all criminal cases be concluded in some arbitrary period, but the prosecutors did not want to proceed with false evidence? What if family courts were underfunded yet the legislature demanded swift closure…and yet the couple that stands before you did not yet want their divorce….would you still demand they conclude their divorce…or else? You speak of foreclosure defense as extreme. At first I was rather disappointed that fellow attorneys would see my efforts as those of an extremist.

I began thinking about the fact that I stand in the middle of two opposing forces in the economically depressed community. One is a force of complacency, made up in part of those who, as a result of long years of oppression, are so drained of self respect and a sense of “somebodiness” that they have adjusted to their condition; and in part of a few middle-class Americans who, because of a degree of academic and economic security and because in some ways they profit by segregation, have become insensitive to the problems of the masses. The other force is one of bitterness and hatred, and it comes perilously close to advocating violence.

It is expressed in the various Occupy groups that are springing up across the nation, the largest and best known being Occupy Wall Street. Nourished by the frustration over the continued existence of economic and social discrimination, this movement is made up of people who have lost faith in America, who have absolutely repudiated our corrupt form of government, and who have concluded that corporations are an incorrigible “devil.” Oppressed people cannot remain oppressed forever. The yearning for freedom and fairness eventually manifests itself, and that is what has happened to the American people. Something within has reminded him of his birthright of freedom and economic equality and something without has reminded him that it can be gained. I had hoped that the banks and institutions would see this need. Perhaps I was too optimistic; perhaps I expected too much. I suppose I should have realized that few members of the oppressor class can understand the deep groans and passionate yearnings of the oppressed people, and still fewer have the vision to see that injustice must be rooted out by strong, persistent and determined action.

But despite notable exceptions, I must honestly reiterate that I have been disappointed with the church. I do not say this as one of those negative critics who can always find something wrong with the church. I say this as a minister of the gospel, who loves the church; who was nurtured in its bosom; who has been sustained by its spiritual blessings and who will remain true to it as long as the cord of life shall lengthen. When myself and others started defending homeowners in foreclosure a few years ago, I felt we would be supported by other attorneys. Instead, some have been outright opponents, refusing to understand the foreclosure defense movement and misrepresenting its leaders; all too many others have been more cautious than courageous and have remained silent behind the anesthetizing security of their own offices.

In spite of my shattered dreams, I come to court everyday with the hope that other attorneys would see the justice of our cause and, with deep moral concern, would serve as the channel through which our just grievances could reach the power structure. I had hoped that each of you would understand. But again I have been disappointed. Yes, these questions are still in my mind. In deep disappointment I have wept over the laxity of the attorney class. But be assured that my tears have been tears of love. There can be no deep disappointment where there is not deep love. Yes, I love the attorney class. How could I do otherwise? There was a time when the attorney class was very powerful. In those days the attorney class was not merely a thermometer that recorded the ideas and principles of popular opinion; it was a thermostat that transformed the mores of society.

Whenever the good attorneys entered a town, the people in power became disturbed and immediately sought to convict them for being “disturbers of the peace” and “outside agitators.”‘ But the attorneys pressed on, in the conviction that they were “a colony of heaven,” called to obey the Rule of Law rather than man. Small in number, they were big in commitment. Things are different now. So often the attorney class is a weak, ineffectual voice with an uncertain sound. So often it is an archdefender of the status quo. Far from being disturbed by the presence of attorneys, the power structure of the average community is consoled by the attorney class’s silent–and often even vocal–sanction of things as they are.

But the judgment of The People is upon our court system as never before. If today’s court system does not recapture the spirit and integrity of the early courts, it will lose its authenticity, forfeit the loyalty of millions, and be dismissed as an institution with no meaning for the twentieth century. Every day I meet young people whose disappointment with the church has turned into outright disgust. Perhaps I have once again been too optimistic. Are attorneys too inextricably bound to the status quo to save our nation and the world? Perhaps I must turn my faith to the highest called among the ranks, the attorneys above the other attorneys, as the true ekklesia and the hope of the world. But again I am thankful to God that some noble souls from the ranks of attorneys have broken loose from the paralyzing chains of conformity and joined us as active partners in the struggle for foreclosure justice and basic rights.

It is true that the courts have exercised a degree of discipline in handling the foreclosure crisis. In this sense they have conducted themselves rather mechanically. But for what purpose? To preserve the system of foreclosure. Over the past few years I have consistently asserted that the vast magnitude of problems in the pending foreclosure files currently filed demands that most be dismissed in order not to soil the entire court system’s integrity. Never before have I written so long a letter. I’m afraid it is much too long to take your precious time. I can assure you that it would have been much shorter if I had been writing from a comfortable desk, but what else can one do when he is sitting here in a foreclosure courtroom, other than write long letters, think long thoughts and pray long prayers?

If I have said anything in this letter that overstates the truth and indicates an unreasonable impatience, I beg you to forgive me. If I have said anything that understates the truth and indicates my having a patience that allows me to settle for anything less than brotherhood, I beg God to forgive me. I hope this letter finds you strong in the faith. I also hope that circumstances will soon make it possible for me to meet each of you, not as an antagonist on one side of this profound economic and social rights battle but as a fellow attorney all on the side of justice and the Rule of Law.

Let us all hope that the dark clouds of injustice will soon pass away and the deep fog of misunderstanding will be lifted from our fear drenched communities, and in some not too distant tomorrow the radiant stars of love and brotherhood will shine over our great nation with all their scintillating beauty.

Yours for the cause of Peace and Brotherhood, Matthew Weidner

And I especially encourage you to read Luther’s Letter From A Birmingham Jail

They will protect thier own

24 Jan

Top Justice officials connected to mortgage banks

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder (R) chats with Assistant Attorney General in the criminal division of the Justice Department Lanny Breuer before their testimony on the second day of the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington January 14, 2010.     REUTERS/Jason Reed

By Scot J. Paltrow

Fri Jan 20, 2012 9:31am EST

(Reuters) – U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and Lanny Breuer, head of the Justice Department’s criminal division, were partners for years at a Washington law firm that represented a Who’s Who of big banks and other companies at the center of alleged foreclosure fraud, a Reuters inquiry shows.

The firm, Covington & Burling, is one of Washington’s biggest white shoe law firms. Law professors and other federal ethics experts said that federal conflict of interest rules required Holder and Breuer to recuse themselves from any Justice Department decisions relating to law firm clients they personally had done work for.

Seal of the United States Department of Justice

Image via Wikipedia

Both the Justice Department and Covington declined to say if either official had personally worked on matters for the big mortgage industry clients. Justice Department spokeswoman Tracy Schmaler said Holder and Breuer had complied fully with conflict of interest regulations, but she declined to say if they had recused themselves from any matters related to the former clients.

Reuters reported in December that under Holder and Breuer, the Justice Department hasn’t brought any criminal cases against big banks or other companies involved in mortgage servicing, even though copious evidence has surfaced of apparent criminal violations in foreclosure cases.

The evidence, including records from federal and state courts and local clerks’ offices around the country, shows widespread forgery, perjury, obstruction of justice, and illegal foreclosures on the homes of thousands of active-duty military personnel.

In recent weeks the Justice Department has come under renewed pressure from members of Congress, state and local officials and homeowners’ lawyers to open a wide-ranging criminal investigation of mortgage servicers, the biggest of which have been Covington clients. So far Justice officials haven’t responded publicly to any of the requests.

While Holder and Breuer were partners at Covington, the firm’s clients included the four largest U.S. banks – Bank of America, Citigroup, JP Morgan Chase and Wells Fargo & Co – as well as at least one other bank that is among the 10 largest mortgage servicers.

DEFENDER OF FREDDIE

Servicers perform routine mortgage maintenance tasks, including filing foreclosures, on behalf of mortgage owners, usually groups of investors who bought mortgage-backed securities.

Covington represented Freddie Mac, one of the nation’s biggest issuers of mortgage backed securities, in enforcement investigations by federal financial regulators.

A particular concern by those pressing for an investigation is Covington’s involvement with Virginia-based MERS Corp, which runs a vast computerized registry of mortgages. Little known before the mortgage crisis hit, MERS, which stands for Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems, has been at the center of complaints about false or erroneous mortgage documents.

Court records show that Covington, in the late 1990s, provided legal opinion letters needed to create MERS on behalf of Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, Bank of America, JP Morgan Chase and several other large banks. It was meant to speed up registration and transfers of mortgages. By 2010, MERS claimed to own about half of all mortgages in the U.S. — roughly 60 million loans.

But evidence in numerous state and federal court cases around the country has shown that MERS authorized thousands of bank employees to sign their names as MERS officials. The banks allegedly drew up fake mortgage assignments, making it appear falsely that they had standing to file foreclosures, and then had their own employees sign the documents as MERS “vice presidents” or “assistant secretaries.”

Covington in 2004 also wrote a crucial opinion letter commissioned by MERS, providing legal justification for its electronic registry. MERS spokeswoman Karmela Lejarde declined to comment on Covington legal work done for MERS.

It isn’t known to what extent if any Covington has continued to represent the banks and other mortgage firms since Holder and Breuer left. Covington declined to respond to questions from Reuters. A Covington spokeswoman said the firm had no comment.

Several lawyers for homeowners have said that even if Holder and Breuer haven’t violated any ethics rules, their ties to Covington create an impression of bias toward the firms’ clients, especially in the absence of any prosecutions by the Justice Department.

O. Max Gardner III, a lawyer who trains other attorneys to represent homeowners in bankruptcy court foreclosure actions, said he attributes the Justice Department’s reluctance to prosecute the banks or their executives to the Obama White House’s view that it might harm the economy.

But he said that the background of Holder and Breuer at Covington — and their failure to act on foreclosure fraud or publicly recuse themselves — “doesn’t pass the smell test.”

Federal ethics regulations generally require new government officials to recuse themselves for one year from involvement in matters involving clients they personally had represented at their former law firms.

President Obama imposed additional restrictions on appointees that essentially extended the ban to two years. For Holder, that ban would have expired in February 2011, and in April for Breuer. Rules also require officials to avoid creating the appearance of a conflict.

Schmaler, the Justice Department spokeswoman, said in an e-mail that “The Attorney General and Assistant Attorney General Breuer have conformed with all financial, legal and ethical obligations under law as well as additional ethical standards set by the Obama Administration.”

She said they “routinely consult” the department’s ethics officials for guidance. Without offering specifics, Schmaler said they “have recused themselves from matters as required by the law.”

Senior government officials often move to big Washington law firms, and lawyers from those firms often move into government posts. But records show that in recent years the traffic between the Justice Department and Covington & Burling has been particularly heavy. In 2010, Holder’s deputy chief of staff, John Garland, returned to Covington, as did Steven Fagell, who was Breuer’s deputy chief of staff in the criminal division.

The firm has on its web site a page listing its attorneys who are former federal government officials. Covington lists 22 from the Justice Department, and 12 from U.S. Attorneys offices, the Justice Department’s local federal prosecutors’ offices around the country.

As Reuters reported in 2011, public records show large numbers of mortgage promissory notes with apparently forged endorsements that were submitted as evidence to courts.

There also is evidence of almost routine manufacturing of false mortgage assignments, documents that transfer ownership of mortgages between banks or to groups of investors. In foreclosure actions in courts mortgage assignments are required to show that a bank has the legal right to foreclose.

In an interview in late 2011, Raymond Brescia, a visiting professor at Yale Law School who has written about foreclosure practices said, “I think it’s difficult to find a fraud of this size on the U.S. court system in U.S. history.”

Holder has resisted calls for a criminal investigation since October 2010, when evidence of widespread “robo-signing” first surfaced. That involved mortgage servicer employees falsely signing and swearing to massive numbers of affidavits and other foreclosure documents that they had never read or checked for accuracy.

Recent calls for a wide-ranging criminal investigation of the mortgage servicing industry have come from members of Congress, including Senator Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., state officials, and county clerks. In recent months clerks from around the country have examined mortgage and foreclosure records filed with them and reported finding high percentages of apparently fraudulent documents.

On Wednesday, John O’Brien Jr., register of deeds in Salem, Mass., announced that he had sent 31,897 allegedly fraudulent foreclosure-related documents to Holder. O’Brien said he asked for a criminal investigation of servicers and their law firms that had filed the documents because they “show a pattern of fraud,” forgery and false notarizations.

(Reporting By Scot J. Paltrow, editing by Blake Morrison)

Bank Amnesty Bending the Rule of Law to Help the Banks: Effort to Draft a National Foreclosure Statue Underway

24 Jan

Bending the Rule of Law to Help the Banks: Effort to Draft a National Foreclosure Statue Underway

They take our payments they take the  investors money  they  take AIG credit default  Swap money  they take  the Private Mortgage Insurance they take the  TARP they take our homes in Foreclosure   THEN THEY  ASK FOR AMNESTY.

Foreclosure auction signs

Image by niallkennedy via Flickr

by Yves Smith SEE FULL ARTICLE ON NAKEDCAPITALISM.COM

There is a slow moving but nevertheless troubling effort underway to change foreclosure laws across the US. The Uniform Law Commission, the same body that created the Uniform Commercial Code, a model set of laws that sought to harmonize commercial laws in all 50 states, has had two full day public but not well publicized meeting of a “study group” on mortgage foreclosure. Note that it took over a decade to draft the first version of the UCC and a protracted period for it to be implemented by states (most states have adopted the updated version of the UCC, although certain articles of the new version have not been implemented in any states).

 

Given its august history, one would think the ULC would be above political influences. That would appear to be a naive assumption these days. The study committee’s public meetings meetings to solicit opinion from “stakeholders” on “problems” with foreclosures. Curiously enough, these “stakeholder” meetings had no representation of investors (Tom Deutsch of the American Securitization Forum would claim he played that role, but everyone in mortgage land knows the ASF is a sell side organization) and effectively no input from homeowners or consumer advocates (none at the first meeting, and only, at the second, in Washington last week).

 

I got reports from three people who attended the latest session, in Washington, last week, na all were disheartening. Tom Cox, the Maine attorney who broke the robosigning scandal, provided a memorandum that argues that the commission has effectively assumed that the “problems” require a legislative solution:

 

Before there can be a determination made as to whether there is a need for a new uniform act dealing with foreclosure issues, there must be an clear accounting of (1) what the problems are that cause legislation to be considered, (2) what has caused those problems to occur, and (3) only then, whether the problems lend themselves to a legislative solution that would be offered by a new uniform act. Unfortunately, it appears that the JEBURPA letter of May 30, 2011 and all of the subsequent steps leading to this stakeholders’ meeting have failed to conduct the step 2 analysis. Further, it appears that the assumption has been made that new legislation is the solution to the perceived problems without there having been analysis of whether other non-­‐legislative solutions might be more appropriate.

 

I suggest you read Cox’s memo in full:

Thomas A. Cox Memo for ULC Study Committee

Pulling Back the Curtain Report

23 Jan

From: Charles Cox [mailto:charles@bayliving.com]
Sent: Monday, January 23, 2012 10:56 AM
To: Charles Cox
Subject: Pulling Back the Curtain Report

See the attached.The-Curtain-Report.pdf

Charles
Charles Wayne Cox – Oregon State Director for the National Homeowners Cooperative
Email: mailto:Charles
Websites: http://www.NHCwest.com; www.BayLiving.com; and www.ForensicLoanAnalyst.com
1969 Camellia Ave.
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The-Curtain-Report.pdf

Mandelman sounds the Alert “Calling All Lawyers to 5,000,000 Crime Scenes”

23 Jan

 

It’s time for me to have an adult conversation with the experienced practicing attorneys in this country.  Other grown-ups are welcome to sit in as well, but it’s time for children to be in bed or occupied elsewhere, okay?

If there’s no money to be made solving something… no profit incentive… then for the most part, we don’t quite have a handle on to solving it.  For example, we’re not very good at cleaning up our oceans in general, and if there weren’t money to be made cleaning up oceans after oil spills, my guess would be that we wouldn’t be very good at doing that either.
To-date, however, BP has reportedly spent $21 billion cleaning up the Gulf of Mexico since its last mega-disaster, and guess what?  The Gulf of Mexico is pretty clean again… just two years later!  I remember hearing environmentalists predict that it could take 100 years to clean up the Gulf after the Deepwater Horizon catastrophe.  I guess they were underestimating just how much solution $21 billion can often buy.

Well, today we have a mammoth size foreclosure problem in this country, and it’s being talked about like it’s damn near an unsolvable problem… as if solving it would require determining the chemical origins of life, or figuring out whether black holes really do exist in space.

The foreclosure crisis, thank goodness, is not a black hole-type problem as many would have us believe.  It is a problem that, political constraints notwithstanding, exists at the juncture of economics and the rule of law.  In other words… it’s an oil spill… perhaps the worst oil spill of which the world has ever conceived… the Exxon Valdez meets Deepwater Horizon x 100, if you will… but it’s still just an oil spill.

It’s also important to note that as an economics problem alone, the foreclosure crisis is not a particularly challenging one to solve.  Some would rush to remind me that any proposed solution would be rife with “moral hazard,” and while that may be true, it doesn’t make the problem insoluble, by any means.

The elephant in the room is that what we’re facing in this country today is not just a foreclosure crisis, what we’re dealing with with is much better described as a FRAUDclosure crisis.

A couple of years ago, many would have said that my use of the word “fraud” before “closure,” is just hyperbole.  Today, however, anyone voicing that sort of opinion is selling something.  Even a cursory review of last year’s scathing “consent orders,” that federal regulators issued after months spent investigating mortgage servicers… or a quick perusal of the complaints filed against the servicers by attorneys general in Massachusetts, Nevada, Maryland, or Arizona… or by reading any number of published court decisions favoring homeowners… and one can only conclude that use of the word “fraud” is, if anything, understatement.

Additionally, this past year has been a turning point for the general public as far as FRAUDclosures are concerned.  Television’s most venerable news magazine, “60 Minutes,” along with newspaper-of-record, “The New York Times,” joined a long list of others documenting the many ways that banks and mortgage servicers are routinely breaking numerous laws in order to take advantage of homeowners in foreclosure.  It’s now widely understood to be something that’s occurring all over the country, and even though the banking industry continues to try to dismiss publicized instances as insignificant dalliances or “isolated incidents,” their sheer number has made such attempts laughable.  And the levels of wholesale anger and dissatisfaction with government felt among the populace are both palpable and rising fast.

Today, even forecasts from the likes of Goldman Sachs and Amherst Securities peg the number of foreclosures between 10.4 and 14 million by year-end 2014, and those numbers could easily go higher should home prices continue to fall… which they invariably will.  Add those numbers to the millions of foreclosures already water under the bridge, and were talking about a crisis that results in ONE IN FOUR Americans with mortgages losing their homes to foreclosure in the next handful of years.

What I’m describing will unquestionably devastate any hope for recovery in our broader economy for any number of reasons.  For one thing, as banks are forced to recognize their losses incurred on the mortgage-backed securities and CDOs that capitalize their balance sheets, they will become insolvent… and this time many will be forced to fail.  For another, home prices will continue falling pushing more and more homeowners underwater and consumer spending will continue to decline and that will lead to rising unemployment, which will in turn fuel further foreclosures.  And those hopelessly underwater will begin walking away en masse, which will further exacerbate the decline in prices and become impossible to combat.

All of these factors and more will combine to reduce future demand for residential real estate dramatically… perhaps by half, but in addition, with no secondary mortgage market… no ability to securitize debt… even those wanting to buy homes going forward will find credit to be tight and tighter, destroying any potential for recovery in the housing market.

And I’m no longer in a small group of people writing about this deteriorating situation as was the case three plus years ago.  Every day others are waking up to the fact that what we’ve been told about foreclosures to-date by our government and the financial services and related industries, has proven itself to be at best mistaken… at worst misdirection… or, not to put too fine a point on it, outright folderol.

As conservative columnist, Peggy Noonan, has pointed out recently, it’s simply impossible to imagine this sort of future without also seeing social unrest on a scale not seen in this country since at least the 1930s.  Writing recently about the Occupy Wall Street (“OWS”) movement, Noonan echoes my sentiments on the situation to a tee…

“OWS is an expression of American discontent, and others will follow.  Protests and social unrest are particularly likely if people feel they are unfairly losing their homes to support irresponsible, law-breaking institutions that have successfully disregarded the fundamental rules of capitalism and good citizenship.”

The harsh truth is that whatever is done in the future at state or federal levels to mitigate the damage caused by foreclosures, it’s simply too late to prevent our FRAUDclosure crisis from pretty much wiping out our nation’s middle class economy for more than a generation.  As a practical matter, the only real question we face today is how many are wounded and how many are killed… none of us is getting out unscathed.

There should be no question in anyone’s mind… there are only two paths ahead from which to choose.  Both involve fighting a war… but on one path the battle is fought by lawyers in our courts… on the other, by citizens in our streets.

Make no mistake about it… if we are to mitigate any of the  damage being caused, uphold the rule of law, and protect the rights of millions of homeowners… it should be obvious to anyone that WE NEED TENS OF THOUSANDS OF LAWYERS trained in foreclosure defense, loss mitigation and bankruptcy.  And yet, more than four years into the FRAUDclosure crisis, we don’t have anywhere near the number of trained, ethical attorneys required to meet the demand.

We’re all adults here, so let’s not kid ourselves about why that’s the case.  

We all know why we don’t have the lawyers we need to marshall a more effective defense of homeowners engulfed by the FRAUDclosure crisis… it’s because THERE’S NO MONEY IN IT.  Or, at least that’s what lawyers have been told they are supposed to believe.  Not only that, but the message has been that there  shouldn’t be any money in representing homeowners at risk of FRAUDclosure. It’s as if attorneys profiting from representing homeowners at risk of FRAUDclosure is somehow a bad thing.

AND THAT’S JUST 100% BANKER-INSPIRED B.S.

Don’t you see what’s happened here?  We’ve allowed the banks, and the government that’s been bailing them out, to essentially criminalize the profit potential in representing homeowners at risk of foreclosure… and wonder of wonders, miracles of miracles… here we sit with what appears to be an unsolvable problem.

Consider this… bankers say that they’ve been overwhelmed by the millions of homeowners unexpectedly seeking loan modifications and that’s why applying for a loan modification has been such a nightmare.  But, what about the number of foreclosures occurring in the same time frame?  Haven’t there been an unprecedented and unexpected number of foreclosures too?  So,why is it that the banks have no problems accommodating the millions of unexpected foreclosures, but the millions of unexpected loan modifications represent an unsolvable problem?

It’s simple… because on the foreclosure side of the equation, banks allow lawyers to be profitably compensated for handling foreclosures, and sure enough those law firms have figured out how to handle any number of foreclosures that come down the pike… in fact, the more the merrier, as they say.  On the loan modification side of the house, however, profits are a dirty word… and wouldn’t you know it, the problem is unsolvable.  Why am I not surprised?

Over the TWO YEARS following the Deepwater Horizon disaster, BP spent $21 billion to clean up the Gulf of Mexico.  In the FOUR YEARS since the tsunami of foreclosures began, we’ve spent roughly ten percent of what BP spent cleaning up the Gulf… $2.4 billion… and the vast majority of that amount paid to mortgage servicers… and we’re wondering why the problem can’t be solved?

 A MESSAGE TO OUR NATION’S LAWYERS…

It’s the biggest financial opportunity for the legal profession

SINCE THE REAR END COLLISION. 

The fact is… there is a HUGE OPPORTUNITY today to build a very profitable legal practice based on the ethical and effective representation of homeowners caught in the FRAUDclosure crisis.

From the very beginning of the mortgage meltdown, banks have tried to make sure that homeowners were not represented by attorneys when trying to save their homes from FRAUDclosure.   The reason is now apparent: Banks knew it was a FRAUDclosure crisis before the rest of us did because they’re the ones who put the FRAUD into FRAUDclosure.  From the earliest days of the crisis, the banks and the Obama Administration have been reinforcing TWO LIES:

  1. Homeowners at risk of foreclosure don’t need lawyers… they can just call their bank directly.  That’s like the police telling someone under arrest that he or she doesn’t need a lawyer because any questions can be answered by the District Attorney.  It’s a damn lie… homeowners DO NEED LAWYERS to help them save their homes because it’s not just a foreclosure crisis, it’s a FRAUDclosure crisis.
  2. A lawyer who charges a homeowner at risk of foreclosure up front… is a “SCAMMER.”  That is not only a LIE, but it’s a lie to achieve two key bank objectives.  One – It stopped many homeowners from seeking legal representation, thus allowing the banks to do whatever they wanted as related to foreclosing on their homes.  Two – It stopped countless attorneys from building a profitable practice based on representing homeowners at risk of foreclosure.

The California Example…

In California, the efforts to stop lawyers from representing homeowners have been more extreme than in any other state.  Here the campaign to malign the legal profession has been driven by legislative committees and supported by the California State Bar Association.  In October 2009, California’s SB 94 created a law that has effectively prevented lawyers from offering to represent homeowners who are seeking to avoid foreclosure through modification of their loans.  Under the guise of “charging up front makes you a scammer,” SB 94 has made it illegal for a lawyer to charge a homeowner an upfront retainer for legal fees.

Quite predictably, the law has made it difficult or even impossible for California homeowners to find quality legal representation related to seeking loan modifications, forcing those at risk of foreclosure who want to be represented by an attorney into either litigation or bankruptcy.  Writing for The New York Times in December 2010, David Streitfeld’s article titled, “Homes at Risk, and No Help from Lawyers,” described the situation in California related to SB 94.

In California, where foreclosures are more abundant than in any other state, homeowners trying to win a loan modification have always had a tough time. 

Now they face yet another obstacle: hiring a lawyer.

Sharon Bell, a retiree who lives in Laguna Niguel, southeast of Los Angeles, needs a modification to keep her home. She says she is scared of her bank and its plentiful resources, so much so that she cannot even open its certified letters inquiring where her mortgage payments may be. Yet the half-dozen lawyers she has called have refused to represent her.

“They said they couldn’t help,” said Ms. Bell, 63. “But I’ve got to find help, because I’m dying every day.”

Lawyers throughout California say they have no choice but to reject clients like Ms. Bell because of a new state law that sharply restricts how they can be paid. Under the measure, passed overwhelmingly by the State Legislature and backed by the state bar association, lawyers who work on loan modifications cannot receive any money until the work is complete. The bar association says that under the law, clients cannot put retainers in trust accounts.

To make matters worse, SB 94 has recently become controversial.  In late September 2011, Suzan Anderson, who is the supervising trial council of the state bar’s special team on loan modifications, made an unscheduled appearance at the bar’s annual conference, presenting what she purported to be the bar’s new interpretation of SB 94.  Literally hundreds of attorneys and legal scholars disagree, however, and litigation has recently been filed against the bar seeking declaratory relief, so we’ll soon see the courts decide the issue.

The core issue is about when a lawyer who represents a homeowner trying to get their loan modified can be compensated.  The bar claims the law requires an attorney to wait until the very end of the case, however, the actual language contained in SB 94 doesn’t say that… it says lawyers cannot be paid until completing “any and all services (the lawyer) has contracted to perform…” Up until Ms. Anderson’s presentation at the annual meeting, lawyers were dividing services into separate contractual arrangements and accepting payments from homeowners as discreet sets of services were completed.

Regardless of which side of the debate you’re on, the issue highlights how far the banking lobby will push a state legislature and state bar association in an attempt to prevent homeowners from being represented by legal council when trying to to avoid foreclosure, and it should come as absolutely no surprise that SB 94 was born in the state’s Senate Banking Committee, sponsored by Sen. Ron Calderon, who chairs that committee.

Advocates of SB 94 claim that it was needed to stop “scammers” who were preying on homeowners in distress from accepting up-front fees.  As quoted from Streitfeld’s article in The New York Times…

A spokesman for the Mortgage Bankers Association said it simply wanted to protect homeowners from fraud. “Be very careful about anyone who wants you to pay them to help you get a loan modification,” said the spokesman, John Mechem.

The evidence of any sort of army of lawyers-turned-scammers ripping off homeowners has always been thin, and by “thin” I mean nonexistant.  In the two years since the bill became law, the bar has taken some type of disciplinary action related to the representation of homeowners in foreclosure against two dozen lawyers, give or take a few.  In a state with more than 200,000 lawyers and 2 million homeowners in foreclosure, two dozen lawyers disciplined would hardly seem justification for a law that effectively prevents lawyers from helping homeowners get their loans modified.

Last December, Suzan Anderson, who heads up the bar’s task force on loan modifications, told The New York Times…

“I wish the law had worked,” Ms. Anderson said.

It’s also telling that no other state in the country has a law anything like SB 94, in fact, the rest of the states follow the FTC’s Mortgage Assistance Relief Services rule, MARS, which was adopted on January 30, 2011, and it does allow attorneys representing homeowners seeking loan modifications to accept funds in advance into their trust accounts.

The New York Times article also offered the perspective of several California homeowners seeking legal assistance in a post SB 94 world…

Mark Stone, a 56-year-old general contractor in Sierra Madre, feels differently. A few years ago, he got sick with hepatitis C. Unable to work full time, he began to miss mortgage payments. The drugs he was taking left him “a little confused,” he said.

Mr. Stone knew that his condition put him at a disadvantage in negotiations with his bank. So he hired Gregory Royston, a real estate lawyer in Redondo Beach. It took Mr. Royston nearly a year, but he restructured the loan.

 Without the lawyer, Mr. Stone said, “I’d be living under a bridge.
The legal bill, paid in advance, was $3,500. “Worth every penny,” said Mr. Stone, who is now back at work.
“This law,” Mr. Royston said, “took the wrong people out of the game.”

A Bleak Picture in California…

California’s approach to discouraging lawyers from representing homeowners at risk of foreclosure has not served the state or its residents well at all.  California is the “hardest hit” of all 50 states, accounting for one of every five foreclosures in the U.S.  Almost half of California’s homeowners are either underwater or effectively underwater today.  Since 2008, there have been 1.2 million foreclosures statewide, and that number is expected to exceed 2 million by the end of 2012.  And, according to the report published by the California Reinvestment Coalition…

The 2 million foreclosures expected by the end of this year are forecasted to cost the state and its residents $650 billion statewide.

Today, in California alone there are roughly TWO MILLION homeowners in foreclosure.  I don’t know exactly how many we have nationwide, estimates vary, but are in the 5 million range.  I do know that if two million people needed just 10 hours of legal assistance, it would take 20 million man hours.  Assuming a six hour work day and a 260 day work year… that’s just under 13,000 years assuming only one lawyer were involved.  To help two million people, assuming 10 hours each, at best would require more than 10,000 lawyers trained and working efficiently.

How many attorneys do we have  trained and ready to help loans get modified, represent homeowners in foreclosure defense matters and/or in bankruptcy.  Nowhere near 13,000 that’s for sure… in fact, we might not find 1300 either… and many would say the number could be closer to 130, and with the proliferating fraudulent documents… the abuses by servicers… the number of people who are foreclosed on illegally… its become easy to see the disease, and trained ethical lawyers would seem the only cure.

Mandelman out.

~~~

We need a literal army of experienced litigators, and Max Gardner’s Bankruptcy Boot Camp has trained close to 900 attorneys to protect the rights of homeowners in foreclosure.  I’ve attended Max’s Boot Camp… I could never recommend it strongly enough… and often do.  But, there’s more than legal training that’s required here… and if we’re going to attract the number of lawyers we need to fight this war…

The Answer is Money…

What Was Your Question?

Ohio’s former Attorney General Marc Dann is a highly experienced foreclosure defense attorney and a graduate of Max Gardner’s Boot Camp. He’s proven in his own successful practice that lawyers have the opportunity to DO GOOD… and DO WELL at the same time by learning the ins and outs of this, unfortunately, very fast growing and specialized field.  And he’s developed a comprehensive training and ongoing support program that allows experienced foreclosure defense attorneys to immediately access new clients and the right clients, improve operations within their firms, and yes… increase their profitability dramatically.

Marc understands our need for an experienced army of foreclosure defense lawyers, but he also understands the reality that lawyers have to make money in order to operate effectively.  In a phrase, a lawyer that can provide effective representation for homeowners at risk of foreclosure today, should not be worried about losing his or her own home to foreclosure because that benefits no one.

So, Marc has developed and employed best practices in building his own successful foreclosure defense practice, and now he’s teaching other attorneys how to make money in foreclosure defense so that ultimately he will have provided countless thousands of homeowners all over the country with access to highly capable, ethical and experienced attorneys.

Marc Dann’s LAW PROFITS program will take experienced and effective attorneys committed to foreclosure defense and protecting the rights of homeowners, and help transform them into vibrant, profitable firms or individual legal practices.  Some of the innovative solutions Marc will be delivering include:

  • How to cut through the noise created by scammers, reaching out to homeowners in a very honest and compelling way.
  • When and how to sue the bad modification company or bad lawyer.
  • Suing the foreclosure mills for fun and profits.
  • Using Fair Debt Collection Practices and State Consumer Protection.
  • Learn about the new practices available under Dodd Frank.
  • Harnessing TILA and RESPA inside and outside bankruptcy court.
  • Unconventional approaches stay one step ahead of servicer practices.
  • Billing structures, methodologies, and practice accounting.
  • Designing compensation programs that balance the needs of homeowners with the needs of your firm.  
  • Never lose clients – Ongoing communications program that’s turn-key and educates clients so they become fans.
  • Fee agreements – for contingency and hourly clients.
  • Become part of a highly visible network of top foreclosure defense attorneys, and strategic partners.
  • Communications strategies and tactics proven effective and unavailable anywhere else.

Making little or no money in foreclosure defense isn’t doing your clients any favors because you cannot be your best without it.  Marc Dann’s LAW PROFITS is not a pot of gold, or a winning lottery ticket, but it is a proven process and suite of best practices that makes a law practice profitable… essentially immediately.  It’s work, no question about it, but it’s important and gratifying work.

I wholeheartedly support Mar’c Dann’s LAW PROFITS initiative.  And I strongly urge all of the lawyers reading this to take action now by clicking the link below, so you can find out more about what his LAW PROFITS program for foreclosure defense and bankruptcy lawyers can do for you and your firm.  The FRAUDclosure crisis and its ancillary topics, I’m sorry to say, are going to be with us for a long time… a decade plus, if we’re lucky.  Longer if we’re not.  It’s time to settle in and start capitalizing on being one of the best at solving on of the worst case scenarios.

Click below to find out more about…

Marc Dann’s

LAW PROFITS

Aside

Stopforeclosure Now

21 Jan

California Financial Code Section 4970

20 Jan

For purposes of this division:
   (a) "Annual percentage rate" means the annual percentage rate for
the loan calculated according to the provisions of the federal Truth in Lending Act and the regulations adopted thereunder by the Federal
Reserve Board.
   (b) "Covered loan" means a consumer loan in which the original
principal balance of the loan does not exceed the most current
conforming loan limit for a single-family first mortgage loan
established by the Federal National Mortgage Association in the case
of a mortgage or deed of trust, and where one of the following
conditions are met:
   (1) For a mortgage or deed of trust, the annual percentage rate at
consummation of the transaction will exceed by more than eight
percentage points the yield on Treasury securities having comparable
periods of maturity on the 15th day of the month immediately
preceding the month in which the application for the extension of
credit is received by the creditor.
   (2) The total points and fees payable by the consumer at or before
closing for a mortgage or deed of trust will exceed 6 percent of the
total loan amount.
   (c) "Points and fees" shall include the following:
   (1) All items required to be disclosed as finance charges under
Sections 226.4(a) and 226.4(b) of Title 12 of the Code of Federal Regulations, including the Official Staff Commentary, as amended from
time to time, except interest.
   (2) All compensation and fees paid to mortgage brokers in
connection with the loan transaction.
   (3) All items listed in Section 226.4(c)(7) of Title 12 of the
Code of Federal Regulations, only if the person originating the
covered loan receives direct compensation in connection with the
charge.
   (d) "Consumer loan" means a consumer credit transaction that is
secured by real property located in this state used, or intended to
be used or occupied, as the principal dwelling of the consumer that
is improved by a one-to-four residential unit. "Consumer loan" does
not include a reverse mortgage, an open line of credit as defined in
Part 226 of Title 12 of the Code of Federal Regulations (Regulation
Z), or a consumer credit transaction that is secured by rental
property or second homes. "Consumer loan" does not include a bridge
loan. For purposes of this division, a bridge loan is any temporary
loan, having a maturity of one year or less, for the purpose of
acquisition or construction of a dwelling intended to become the
consumer's principal dwelling.
   (e) "Original principal balance" means the total initial amount
the consumer is obligated to repay on the loan.
   (f) "Licensing agency" shall mean the Department of Real Estate
for licensed real estate brokers, the Department of Corporations for
licensed residential mortgage lenders and licensed finance lenders
and brokers, and the Department of Financial Institutions for
commercial and industrial banks and savings associations and credit
unions organized in this state.
   (g) "Licensed person" means a real estate broker licensed under
the Real Estate Law (Part 1 (commencing with Section 10000) of
Division 4 of the Business and Professions Code), a finance lender or
broker licensed under the California Finance Lenders Law (Division 9
(commencing with Section 22000)), a residential mortgage lender
licensed under the California Residential Mortgage Lending Act
(Division 20 (commencing with Section 50000)), a commercial or
industrial bank organized under the Banking Law (Division 1
(commencing with Section 99)), a savings association organized under
the Savings Association Law (Division 2 (commencing with Section
5000)), and a credit union organized under the California Credit
Union Law (Division 5 (commencing with Section 14000)). Nothing in
this division shall be construed to prevent any enforcement by a
governmental entity against any person who originates a loan and who
is exempt or excluded from licensure by all of the licensing
agencies, based on a violation of any provision of this division.
Nothing in this division shall be construed to prevent the Department
of Real Estate from enforcing this division against a licensed
salesperson employed by a licensed real estate broker as if that
salesperson were a licensed person under this division. A licensed
person includes any person engaged in the practice of consumer
lending, as defined in this division, for which a license is required
under any other provision of law, but whose license is invalid,
suspended or revoked, or where no license has been obtained.
   (h) "Originate" means to arrange, negotiate, or make a consumer
loan.
   (i) "Servicer" has the same meaning provided in Section 6 (i)(2)
of the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act of 1974.

WAYS TO AVOID PREDATORY LENDING

20 Jan
ACORN member demonstrating against predatory l...

Image via Wikipedia


In addition to discussing remedial measures for predatory lending, it is important to also discuss ways in which individuals can avoid receiving a predatory loan.

The first way to avoid predatory lending is to comparison shop different lenders to find the best deal. As predatory lenders would have them believe, borrowers with credit problems think that only by paying exorbitant interest rates can they qualify for a loan. However, the truth is that up to 50% of those people who receive predatory loans would actually qualify for a prime loan. The most practical way to remedy this problem is for a borrower to obtain a credit history report and have it analyzed by a disinterested third party. By doing this, the borrower will know when a predatory lender is being untruthful about the type of loan for which he or she will qualify due to credit problems.

Second, when applying for a loan, keep an eye out for common misrepresentations that are indicative of predatory loans. For example, the lender states that the loan has the flexibility of an open line of credit, or the lender requires credit insurance, claiming it is the only way the borrower will qualify for the loan. Next, the consumer should ask to see the lender’s published rates on fees and points.

Finally, the consumer should look for terms and conditions that will trap him or her into the loan. As discussed above, prepayment clauses are indicative of a predatory loan. The reasoning behind prepayment clauses is to keep borrowers from refinancing into a prime loan once they learn the financial reality of their current loan. Furthermore, when a borrower is offered a loan that is “asset based”(10), he or she should demand to be told what affect such a loan could have on the asset’s equity.

CONCLUSION

It is important for attorneys to utilize all available tools at their discretion to curb harm resulting from predatory lending. California Finance Code § 4970 is a powerful new tool for litigators. Equipped with this new tool and California Business & Professions Code 17200, California attorneys should be eager to assist the victims of predatory lending.

In addition, it is important for the consumer to learn ways to spot predatory lending terms and conditions. By seeking the advice of counsel when applying for a loan, one may be able to avoid financial pitfalls down the road.

BASIC PROVISIONS OF FINANCIAL CODE § 4970

20 Jan
Loans

Image by jferzoco via Flickr


California Financial Code § 4970 et seq. became effective on July 1, 2002. This law recognizes the need for more stringent regulations on consumer loans secured by specified real property, defined as “covered loans.” The effect of the bill was best summed up by the Legislative Counsel’s digest, which states:

The law prohibits various acts in making covered loans, including the following:

  • Failing to consider the financial ability of a borrower to repay the loan
  • Financing specified types of credit insurance into a consumer loan transaction
  • Recommending or encouraging a consumer to default on an existing consumer loan in order to solicit or make a covered loan that refinances the consumer loan
  • Making a covered loan without providing the consumer specified disclosure

Moreover, this law expressly defines the relationship between the broker and the borrower as a fiduciary relationship, thereby placing a legal duty on the broker to act in the borrower’s best interest.Furthermore, the newly enacted provisions clearly lay out strong incentives for attorneys to vigorously prosecute predatory lending. Under California Financial Code § 4978, these incentives include mandatory attorney fees, the award of punitive damages, and the greater of either actual damages or statutorily prescribed damages when the violation is “willful and knowing.”

(a) A person who fails to comply with the provisions of this division is civilly liable to the consumer in an amount equal to actual damages suffered by the consumer, plus attorney’s fees and costs. For a willful and knowing violation of this division, the person shall be liable to the consumer in the amount of $15,000.00 or the consumer’s actual damages, whichever is greater, plus attorneys’ fees and costs…..

(b)(2). A court may, in addition to any other remedy, award punitive damages to the consumer upon a finding that such damages are warranted pursuant to Section 3294 of the Civil Code.

Accordingly, if either an express violation of this section or abuse of the fiduciary relationship between broker and borrower is established, private attorneys and their clients are now equipped with statutory power to obtain redress.

Although California Financial Code § 4970 paints with a broad stroke, with its specificity, predatory lenders will undoubtedly find loopholes in the regulations. Fortunately for California consumers, actions for predatory lending can also be brought under the very expansive state consumer protection statutes, such as Business and Professions Code §17200.

PREDATORY LENDING IN CALIFORNIA

20 Jan
U.S. Subprime lending expanded dramatically 20...

Image via Wikipedia


The California Reinvestment Committee (CRC) is currently conducting a study weighing the effect predatory lending has had on Californians. The preliminary findings suggest predatory lending is a very common practice in California:

  • 73% of all borrowers saw key loan terms (e.g. interest rate, fixed versus adjustable mortgage, prepayment penalty) change for the worse at the closing of the loan as compared to what was represented to them;
  • 61% of all borrowers had loans containing prepayment penalty provisions which lock borrowers into bad loans by assessing a fee of several thousand dollars if borrowers pay off their subprime loans early;
  • 64% of borrowers reported refinancing their home loans from two to six times, suggesting widespread “loan flipping” and “equity stripping” by lenders;
  • 39% of borrowers reported that the idea to take out a loan secured by their home came from the marketing of subprime lenders. Aggressive marketing through telephone calls, mailers and broker solicitations, was experienced by most study participants.

Although the study is still in its infancy, the preliminary numbers leave no room for doubt that predatory lending has become a tremendous problem in California and is robbing Californians of millions of dollars. The discrepancies in prime loan interest rates and those offered by the subprime lenders has steadily increased.

Subprime lenders state that they serve a very important function, mainly providing credit to borrowers with imperfect credit histories. However, it is this exact premise, the supposed benevolence of subprime lending, on which predatory lenders rely to justify their practices, thereby blending financially feasible subprime lending into predatory lending. Financial Code § 4970 is California’s remedy to this problem.

What is predatory Lending ( Making a loan to get the Real estate not a loan you can afford)

20 Jan
English: Then Secretary of Housing and Urban D...

Image via Wikipedia

DEFINING PREDATORY LENDING

Predatory lending encompasses a variety of practices. The most prevalent of these practices, however, is predatory lending in connection with home mortgage loans. These loans are targeted at homeowners who may be living on fixed or lower incomes, and those who have checkered credit histories.

Unlike most prime loans, subprime mortgage loans are generally based on the equity in a borrower’s house instead of his or her ability to make the scheduled payments. Therefore, problems meeting scheduled payments frequently arise due to the borrower’s lack of liquidity, a problem obviously foreseeable, yet ignored, by the lender. When this occurs, the predatory lender encourages the borrower to refinance the loan into another unaffordable loan, thus increasing the loan amount owed, primarily due to new finance fees. This “refinancing” severely decreases the borrower’s equity in his or her home and is a common practice referred to as “loan flipping.”

Another practice utilized by predatory lenders is “packing.” This is the practice of surreptitiously placing lender-protective credit insurance or other goods and services into consumer loans. For example, a predatory lender will state a fixed monthly payment to the borrower. Upon closure, however, the loan papers will include numerous single premium payment insurance policies which need to be added to the quoted monthly payment. These insurance policies are not mentioned during the loan negotiations as an additional cost. The lender ultimately hopes the borrower will not notice the added charges at all; if, however, the borrower is lucky enough to recognize the hidden costs, predatory lenders are equipped with numerous tactics to force the loan through despite the borrower’s misgivings. The most prevalent tactic is to threaten the closing of the loan by stating that deletion of the challenged costs will either cause delay, or effect the borrower’s loan eligibility. Given the financial situations of most of these borrowers, the threat of not receiving the loan, or even just a delay in the closing of the loan, can be enough to make the borrower forget about the added charges

Although many borrowers become aware of these hidden charges when they receive their first statement, other hidden terms and penalties are included that become apparent only when the borrower decides to get out of the loan.

One of the most potent tools used by predatory lenders to keep borrowers defenseless is the prepayment penalty. According to Standard & Poor’s, subprime loans contain prepayment penalties 80% of the time, while prime loans only 2% of the time. Since it is lower income individuals who are targeted by predatory lenders, the threat of thousands of dollars in prepayment penalties obviates the lenders fear of the borrower prepaying the balance through a more affordable prime loan. The prepayment penalties trap the individual in a long-term unaffordable loan that can only be refinanced by the lender who misrepresented the loan terms in the first place.

Predatory loans can be financially devastating. A borrower owing up to three times as much as he or she has borrowed is not an uncommon occurrence with a sub-prime predatory home mortgage loan.

Intro to Predatory lending FINANCIAL CODE § 4970

20 Jan

Predatory lending revisited

ACORN member demonstrating against predatory l...

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20 Jan

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A. INTRODUCTION

Predatory lending has become an insidious financial problem in recent years for thousands of Californians. In any real estate loan, the loan terms and consequences must be adequately disclosed and, more importantly, financially feasible for the borrower. Through “flipping” and “packing,” predatory lenders avoid these two requirements, reaping massive benefits while causing financial ruination for the consumer.

Fortunately for consumers, the California Legislature has recognized the growing problem of predatory lending by adding Division 1.6 to the Financial Code, effective July 1, 2002. This law specifies what constitutes predatory lending and expressly prohibits certain acts. In discussing predatory lending practices in California, this article will demonstrate the potential impact of the new law, and what remedies are now available to those affected by these practices. .

Predatory lending revisited FINANCIAL CODE § 4970

20 Jan
Loans

Image by jferzoco via Flickr

A. INTRODUCTION

Predatory lending has become an insidious financial problem in recent years for thousands of Californians. In any real estate loan, the loan terms and consequences must be adequately disclosed and, more importantly, financially feasible for the borrower. Through “flipping” and “packing,” predatory lenders avoid these two requirements, reaping massive benefits while causing financial ruination for the consumer.

Fortunately for consumers, the California Legislature has recognized the growing problem of predatory lending by adding Division 1.6 to the Financial Code, effective July 1, 2002. This law specifies what constitutes predatory lending and expressly prohibits certain acts. In discussing predatory lending practices in California, this article will demonstrate the potential impact of the new law, and what remedies are now available to those affected by these practices. .

B. DEFINING PREDATORY LENDING

Predatory lending encompasses a variety of practices. The most prevalent of these practices, however, is predatory lending in connection with home mortgage loans. These loans are targeted at homeowners who may be living on fixed or lower incomes, and those who have checkered credit histories.

Unlike most prime loans, subprime mortgage loans are generally based on the equity in a borrower’s house instead of his or her ability to make the scheduled payments. Therefore, problems meeting scheduled payments frequently arise due to the borrower’s lack of liquidity, a problem obviously foreseeable, yet ignored, by the lender. When this occurs, the predatory lender encourages the borrower to refinance the loan into another unaffordable loan, thus increasing the loan amount owed, primarily due to new finance fees. This “refinancing” severely decreases the borrower’s equity in his or her home and is a common practice referred to as “loan flipping.”

Another practice utilized by predatory lenders is “packing.” This is the practice of surreptitiously placing lender-protective credit insurance or other goods and services into consumer loans. For example, a predatory lender will state a fixed monthly payment to the borrower. Upon closure, however, the loan papers will include numerous single premium payment insurance policies which need to be added to the quoted monthly payment. These insurance policies are not mentioned during the loan negotiations as an additional cost. The lender ultimately hopes the borrower will not notice the added charges at all; if, however, the borrower is lucky enough to recognize the hidden costs, predatory lenders are equipped with numerous tactics to force the loan through despite the borrower’s misgivings. The most prevalent tactic is to threaten the closing of the loan by stating that deletion of the challenged costs will either cause delay, or effect the borrower’s loan eligibility. Given the financial situations of most of these borrowers, the threat of not receiving the loan, or even just a delay in the closing of the loan, can be enough to make the borrower forget about the added charges

Although many borrowers become aware of these hidden charges when they receive their first statement, other hidden terms and penalties are included that become apparent only when the borrower decides to get out of the loan.

One of the most potent tools used by predatory lenders to keep borrowers defenseless is the prepayment penalty. According to Standard & Poor’s, subprime loans contain prepayment penalties 80% of the time, while prime loans only 2% of the time. Since it is lower income individuals who are targeted by predatory lenders, the threat of thousands of dollars in prepayment penalties obviates the lenders fear of the borrower prepaying the balance through a more affordable prime loan. The prepayment penalties trap the individual in a long-term unaffordable loan that can only be refinanced by the lender who misrepresented the loan terms in the first place.

Predatory loans can be financially devastating. A borrower owing up to three times as much as he or she has borrowed is not an uncommon occurrence with a sub-prime predatory home mortgage loan.

C. PREDATORY LENDING IN CALIFORNIA

The California Reinvestment Committee (CRC) is currently conducting a study weighing the effect predatory lending has had on Californians. The preliminary findings suggest predatory lending is a very common practice in California:

  • 73% of all borrowers saw key loan terms (e.g. interest rate, fixed versus adjustable mortgage, prepayment penalty) change for the worse at the closing of the loan as compared to what was represented to them;
  • 61% of all borrowers had loans containing prepayment penalty provisions which lock borrowers into bad loans by assessing a fee of several thousand dollars if borrowers pay off their subprime loans early;
  • 64% of borrowers reported refinancing their home loans from two to six times, suggesting widespread “loan flipping” and “equity stripping” by lenders;
  • 39% of borrowers reported that the idea to take out a loan secured by their home came from the marketing of subprime lenders. Aggressive marketing through telephone calls, mailers and broker solicitations, was experienced by most study participants.

Although the study is still in its infancy, the preliminary numbers leave no room for doubt that predatory lending has become a tremendous problem in California and is robbing Californians of millions of dollars. The discrepancies in prime loan interest rates and those offered by the subprime lenders has steadily increased.

Subprime lenders state that they serve a very important function, mainly providing credit to borrowers with imperfect credit histories. However, it is this exact premise, the supposed benevolence of subprime lending, on which predatory lenders rely to justify their practices, thereby blending financially feasible subprime lending into predatory lending. Financial Code § 4970 is California’s remedy to this problem.

D. BASIC PROVISIONS OF FINANCIAL CODE § 4970

California Financial Code § 4970 et seq. became effective on July 1, 2002. This law recognizes the need for more stringent regulations on consumer loans secured by specified real property, defined as “covered loans.” The effect of the bill was best summed up by the Legislative Counsel’s digest, which states:

The law prohibits various acts in making covered loans, including the following:

  • Failing to consider the financial ability of a borrower to repay the loan
  • Financing specified types of credit insurance into a consumer loan transaction
  • Recommending or encouraging a consumer to default on an existing consumer loan in order to solicit or make a covered loan that refinances the consumer loan
  • Making a covered loan without providing the consumer specified disclosure

Moreover, this law expressly defines the relationship between the broker and the borrower as a fiduciary relationship, thereby placing a legal duty on the broker to act in the borrower’s best interest.Furthermore, the newly enacted provisions clearly lay out strong incentives for attorneys to vigorously prosecute predatory lending. Under California Financial Code § 4978, these incentives include mandatory attorney fees, the award of punitive damages, and the greater of either actual damages or statutorily prescribed damages when the violation is “willful and knowing.”

(a) A person who fails to comply with the provisions of this division is civilly liable to the consumer in an amount equal to actual damages suffered by the consumer, plus attorney’s fees and costs. For a willful and knowing violation of this division, the person shall be liable to the consumer in the amount of $15,000.00 or the consumer’s actual damages, whichever is greater, plus attorneys’ fees and costs…..

(b)(2). A court may, in addition to any other remedy, award punitive damages to the consumer upon a finding that such damages are warranted pursuant to Section 3294 of the Civil Code.

Accordingly, if either an express violation of this section or abuse of the fiduciary relationship between broker and borrower is established, private attorneys and their clients are now equipped with statutory power to obtain redress.

Although California Financial Code § 4970 paints with a broad stroke, with its specificity, predatory lenders will undoubtedly find loopholes in the regulations. Fortunately for California consumers, actions for predatory lending can also be brought under the very expansive state consumer protection statutes, such as Business and Professions Code §17200.

E. WAYS TO AVOID PREDATORY LENDING

In addition to discussing remedial measures for predatory lending, it is important to also discuss ways in which individuals can avoid receiving a predatory loan.

The first way to avoid predatory lending is to comparison shop different lenders to find the best deal. As predatory lenders would have them believe, borrowers with credit problems think that only by paying exorbitant interest rates can they qualify for a loan. However, the truth is that up to 50% of those people who receive predatory loans would actually qualify for a prime loan. The most practical way to remedy this problem is for a borrower to obtain a credit history report and have it analyzed by a disinterested third party. By doing this, the borrower will know when a predatory lender is being untruthful about the type of loan for which he or she will qualify due to credit problems.

Second, when applying for a loan, keep an eye out for common misrepresentations that are indicative of predatory loans. For example, the lender states that the loan has the flexibility of an open line of credit, or the lender requires credit insurance, claiming it is the only way the borrower will qualify for the loan. Next, the consumer should ask to see the lender’s published rates on fees and points.

Finally, the consumer should look for terms and conditions that will trap him or her into the loan. As discussed above, prepayment clauses are indicative of a predatory loan. The reasoning behind prepayment clauses is to keep borrowers from refinancing into a prime loan once they learn the financial reality of their current loan. Furthermore, when a borrower is offered a loan that is “asset based”(10), he or she should demand to be told what affect such a loan could have on the asset’s equity.

CONCLUSION

It is important for attorneys to utilize all available tools at their discretion to curb harm resulting from predatory lending. California Finance Code § 4970 is a powerful new tool for litigators. Equipped with this new tool and California Business & Professions Code 17200, California attorneys should be eager to assist the victims of predatory lending.

In addition, it is important for the consumer to learn ways to spot predatory lending terms and conditions. By seeking the advice of counsel when applying for a loan, one may be able to avoid financial pitfalls down the road.

J P Morgan class action complaint

17 Jan

JPMorgan-Class-Action

Chase Accused of Brazen Bankruptcy Fraud

17 Jan
English: Category:JPMorgan Chase

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LOS ANGELES (CN) – JPMorgan Chase routinely fabricated documents to deceive bankruptcy judges, going so far as to Photoshop documents to “create the illusion” of standing “in tens of thousands of bankruptcy cases,” according to a federal class action.

Lead plaintiff Ernest Michael Bakenie claims that Chase’s “pattern and practice of playing ‘hide-and-seek’ with debtors, judges and other bankruptcy players” bore rich fruit: that Chase secured motions for relief of stay and proofs of claim in 95 percent of its cases.

“Through the use of fabricated assignments, endorsements and affidavits that purport to transfer deeds of trust, notes and the rights to all monies due under the terms of tens of thousands of non-negotiable promissory notes (the ‘MLNs’); Chase has demonstrated a pattern and practice of playing ‘hide-and-seek’ with debtors, judges and other bankruptcy players,” the complaint states.

“Chase intentionally conceals the identity of the true parties in interest entitled to enforce the tens of tens of thousands of residential non-negotiable promissory notes (the ‘MLNs’) for its own financial benefit, at the expense of the class and to the detriment of the integrity of the bankruptcy system.”

Bakenie says Chase used a network of attorneys to file more than 7,000 motions for relief from automatic stay in bankruptcy cases in the Central District of California, “wherein they falsely claim to be the party entitled to monies due under the terms of MLNs.”

Chase rewards attorneys based on how quickly they can secure the stays, and uses fabricated documents to establish chain of title on loans, according to the complaint.

“Rather than incur the cost of ‘proving up’ its own standing or the standing of its principal Mortgage Backed Security Trust, Chase systemically misrepresents Chase or a designated MBST to be a creditor in tens of thousands of bankruptcy cases by utilizing manufactured documents,” the complaint states.

Bakenie claims: “That said practice is utilized for all mortgage loans originated by Chase, and other loan originators, including insolvent Washington Mutual Bank, whose assets were purchased by Chase.

“That said manufactured documents are fabrications intended to create the illusion of a valid transfers MLNs and support the assertion of standing in tens of thousands of bankruptcy cases. …

“That the aforementioned fabricated evidence is ‘photo-shopped’ and is highly persuasive and authentic in appearance so as to ensure legal victory in the bankruptcy courts.

“That said manufactured evidence is systemically utilized to deceive bankruptcy players and increase the profits of Chase, its agents and its principals through massive cost savings and the imposition of attorney fees upon class borrowers.

“As a direct result of this practice, over 95 percent of Chase’s motions for relief of stay and proofs of claim are granted without objection.

“That the use of the fabricated evidence has a chilling effect on class debtors and their attorneys. Said business practices discourages bankruptcy players from offering objections or from questioning the validity of Chase’s false claims based on standing.”

Bakenie adds: “That said practice allows Chase to dump defaulted loans that were never properly securitized by WAMU and other originators acquired by Chase into private mortgage backed security trusts by creating the illusion of a valid transfer.

“Said practice shifts the liability of defaulted loans not properly securitized by WAMU, from Chase to private mortgage backed security trusts. The practice allows Chase to effectively mitigate the millions of dollars in liability of the WAMU acquisition, where WAMU failed to transfer MLNs of its portfolio before its demise. Said practice shifts losses from WAMU toMBST bond investors.

“That after a non-judicial foreclosure sale, class members remain indebted to the true beneficiary for the unsecured note but without credit for the loss of the collateral to Chase’s designated assignee.

“Most egregiously, the network attorneys utilize the inducing documents to obtain attorney fees awards from by the bankruptcy judges ranging from $600-$1,000 for each successful motion for relief of stay.”

Bakenie concludes that “degradation of the integrity of our bankruptcy court system cannot be justified in the name of Chase’s cost savings and unjust enrichment.”

Bakenie seeks class certification, disgorgement, compensatory, statutory and punitive damages for unfair and deceptive trade, and “an order vacating all bankruptcy orders, claims and awards granted based on Chase’s misrepresentation and deceptive business practices”.

He is represented by Joseph Arthur Roberts of Newport Beach.

The Debtor Does Not Have To Prove Up Injury Seperate And Apart From A Willful Violation Of The Stay

12 Jan

Wests-bankrupcty-reporter In reading bankruptcy court opinions concerning violations of the automatic stay, and from my practice in prosecuting these violations, it would appear the greatest misunderstanding of 11 U.S.C. § 362(k) (and the pre-BAPCPA provision of § 362(h)), is the distinction between damages and injury.

As I have often said, “damages” do not constitute a element that must be established to establish liability under § 362(k). Damages are simply a consequence of the bankruptcy court otherwise finding a willful violation of the stay.

Injury, on the other hand does not have to be individually proved up by a Plaintiff in a stay violation for the simple reason that the proving up of a violation (any violation, willful or otherwise) establishes the violation of a core right, which constitutes an injury. If you prove what you otherwise need to prove under § 362(k), you have established injury.

Yet, well meaning bankruptcy judges, as well as less than well meaning defense counsel, continue to spend much time and effort attempting to (1) confuse actual, out-of-pocket damages with injury, and (2) attempting to refute injury is separately established, contesting whether a defendant is liable under § 362(k). It is an analysis that is simply unnecessary.

As to the issue of damages v. injury the tendency is to treat these a synonomous terms. Defendants, and some judges, continue to believe that if actual, out-of-pocket damages cannot be established at the outset of the case prosecuting a violation, then the plaintiff simply cannot prevail. This would seem, however, to ignore proper legal construction. Words in a statute are not to be read so as to render them superfluous. Hence, the elementary rule of statutory construction is that, wherever possible, effect must be given to every word of a statute. United States v. Nordic Village, Inc., 503 U.S. 30, 112 S.Ct. 1011, 1015 (1992). The terms injury and damages are included in the same sentence and cannot be interchangable terms.

Further, the 5th Circuit (as with all circuit courts) does not establish either injury or damages as any one of the elements necessary for a determination of liability in its reading of § 362(k). In re Chesnut, 422 F.3d 298, 302 (5th Cir. 2005), In re Repine, 536 F.3d 512 (5th Cir. 2008), and Campbell v. Countrywide Home Loans, Inc., Case No. 07-20499, Pg. 9 (5th Cir. October 13, 2008).

The finding of a willful violation of the injunctions of a court, injury is already established. “Injury” is broadly defined as being “a violation of another’s legal right, for which the law provides a remedy.” Black’s Law Dictionary 801 (8th ed. 2004). Since the automatic stay of 11 U.S.C. § 362(a) is a legal right afforded to Mr. and Mrs. Henderson that protects them from continued collection efforts by their Creditors. (H.R. Rep. No. 595, 95th Cong., 1st Sess. 174-75 (1977)) “the mere violation of the automatic stay constitutes an injury to the debtor inasmuch as the creditor’s violation restricts the debtor’s breathing spell and subjects the debtor to continued collection efforts, possibly including harassment and intimidation.” Jackson v. Dan Holiday Furniture, LLC (In re Jackson), 309 B.R. 33, 38 (Bankr. W.D. Mo. 2004). Also see, In re Reed, 102 B.R. 243, 245 (Bankr. E.D. Okl. 1989); Bukowski v. Patel, 266 B.R. 838 (Bankr. E.D. Wis. 2001); and, In re Preston, 333 B.R. 346, 350 (Bankr. M.D. NC 2005). The United States Supreme Court recently confirmed that “injury” constitutes a standing issue, ruling that one of the elements to Article III standing a plaintiff must establish “a ―concrete and particularized‖ invasion of a ―legally protected interest”, as is the case with 11 U.S.C. § 362(a) and other bankruptcy provisions. Sprint Communications Co. v. APCC Services, Inc., 07-552, pg. 4 (U.S. 6-23-2008). The willful violation of 11 U.S.C. § 362(a)(1) and other bankruptcy provisions and rules does constitute the invasion of such a legally protected interest and the undisputed material facts above demonstrate such an invasion.

Max Gardner’s Top 65 Tips for Spotting Fake Documents

10 Jan

From: Charles Cox [mailto:charles@bayliving.com]
Sent: Tuesday, January 10, 2012 8:12 AM
To: Charles Cox
Subject: Max Gardner’s Top 65 Tips for Spotting Fake Documents

I think I sent this out about a month ago but doesn’t hurt to review:

Max Gardner’s Top 65 Tips for Spotting Fake Documents

Posted on January 10, 2012 by Neil Garfield

WHY DO WE CALL THEM BANKS? | Setback for Bank of America in a Lawsuit Filed by MBIA.

10 Jan

From: Charles Cox [mailto:charles@bayliving.com]
Sent: Wednesday, January 04, 2012 12:10 PM
To: Charles Cox
Subject: WHY DO WE CALL THEM BANKS? | Setback for Bank of America in a Lawsuit Filed by MBIA.

WHY DO WE CALL THEM BANKS?

by Neil Garfield

EDITOR’S NOTE: Wiley makes a very good point and one which ought to be considered strategically when referring to these entities in court, in articles, pleadings, memos etc. By conceding that they acted as banks, we grant them credibility they don’t deserve. Many of the entities are not even financial institutions in the true sense of the words. Many of them never did any lending and take no deposits. They were brokers, which is the most favorable way of describing the loan originator that pretender to be the lender at closing. The Banks didn’t lend any money in these securitized deals — they brokered it through conduits and in many cases never even handled the money much less funded the loan.

It would be wise to take Wiley’s advice. He is getting a lot of traction in St Louis.

They’re Not Banks – Introducing the Money Changers

Posted by Dale Wiley

As we think about how to attack the never-ending fraud brought by the financial sector, I realized something that had been brewing in my brain for some time. We sometimes overlook the power of words and their utility in a battle.

The thought came to me when I *had* to get something with one of my kids and we were forced to go to Wal-Mart. As I walked into that fluorescent behemoth blur, here was my thought.

Wal-Mart sells groceries, but it’s not a grocery store. It sells hardware, but it’s not a hardware store. It sells clothes, but it’s not a clothes store. What is it?

It’s a Wal-Mart. It is sui generis. Wal-Mart has traits from other businesses, but it has morphed into its own creation. We grew up knowing and identifying the places we went by what they sold and we still tend to want to think of things in this way. But they’re not that way anymore.

This sounds simple, but think of its applications in our context.

We have allowed Bank of America and Citi and Chase and all the other grotesque Molochs to call themselves banks. THEY’RE NOT.

They are no more banks than Wal-Mart is a grocery store. It may sell groceries, but what we have come to know and love from a grocery store has been surgically removed from Wal-Mart.

Same thing here. Bank of America is not a bank; it is a global financial monster who may happen to provide some banking services.

"Bank" is still a word in the American lexicon that connotes safety and security. It’s money in the bank, we say. Take it to the bank, we say, meaning that something is sure.

And there are still banks, ones who know their customers, hold their own notes and act in "bank-like" ways. Those are entities we generally don’t have much problem with. They may not always act like we want them to, but they are not involved in the whole-sale fraud that our adversaries are.

They didn’t act as banks in these transactions. They bundled the money and sold it, and now they act as bill collectors. That doesn’t make them a bank any more than selling a cup of coffee would make McDonald’s a coffee house.

They’re not banks. We should quit giving them the benefit of this positive connotation. I am fully convinced that part of our problem in explaining this to the American public is that they are used to not questioning bankers and doctors. They need to know that these aren’t bankers.

We need a new term. Financial machine? Financial monster? Money changers? We need something to use to distinguish them from traditional banking, and something that emphasizes their role in this situation.

I’m going to suggest "Money Changers." I’m not calling them banks anymore. They don’t deserve it.

MBIA-v-Country-Wide-Jan-3-2011-Order-on-Misrep-of-Loan-Qual.pdf

2932.5 is dead in 2nd district they can’t read “or other encumbrance”

10 Jan

CERTIFIED FOR PUBLICATION

IN THE COURT OF APPEAL OF THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA

SECOND APPELLATE DISTRICT

DIVISION EIGHT

EUGENIA CALVO,

Plaintiff and Appellant,

v.

HSBC BANK USA, N.A., as Trustee etc.,

Defendant and Respondent.

       B226494

(Los Angeles County

Super. Ct. No. BC415545)

 

APPEAL from the judgment of the Superior Court of Los Angeles County.  Mark V. Mooney, Judge.  Affirmed.

Dennis Moore for Plaintiff and Appellant.

Houser & Allison, Eric D. Houser, Robert W. Norman, Jr., and Carrie N. Heieck for Defendant and Respondent.

_______________________

Plaintiff Eugenia Calvo obtained a loan secured by a deed of trust against her residence.  The original lender assigned the loan and deed of trust to HSBC Bank USA, N.A. (HSBC Bank).  A new trustee was also substituted after the loan was originated.  Plaintiff defaulted in payment of the loan.  The new trustee initiated foreclosure proceedings and executed a foreclosure sale of plaintiff’s residence.  Notice of the assignment of the deed of trust appeared only in the substitution of trustee, which was recorded on the same date as the notice of trustee’s sale.  The second amended complaint seeks to set aside the trustee’s sale for an alleged violation of Civil Code section 2932.5,[1] which requires the assignee of a mortgagee to record an assignment before exercising a power to sell real property.  HSBC Bank and its agent, the nominal beneficiary under the deed of trust, demurred to the second amended complaint, and the trial court sustained the demurrer without leave to amend.

We find defendant HSBC Bank did not violate section 2932.5 because that statute does not apply when the power of sale is conferred in a deed of trust rather than a mortgage.  We affirm the judgment dismissing the complaint.

BACKGROUND

            Plaintiff sued HSBC Bank and Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems, Inc. (MERS), its agent and nominal beneficiary under the deed of trust recorded against her residence.  Plaintiff had borrowed money from CBSK Financial Group, Inc., which is not a defendant in this lawsuit.  Her loan was secured by a deed of trust against her residence that was recorded on September 1, 2006.  The deed of trust identified plaintiff as the trustor, CBSK Financial Group as the lender, MERS as the nominal beneficiary and lender’s agent, and Lawyers Title Company as the trustee.  In the deed of trust, plaintiff granted title to her residence to the trustee, in trust, with the power of sale.  The deed of trust stated:  “MERS (as nominee for Lender and Lender’s successors and assigns) has the right:  to exercise any or all of those interests, including, but not limited to, the right to foreclose and sell the Property; and to take any action required of Lender including, but not limited to, releasing and canceling the Security Instrument.”

Aztec Foreclosure Corporation was substituted as trustee under the deed of trust on or about June 2, 2008.  The substitution of trustee stated that MERS, as nominee for HSBC Bank, “is the present Beneficiary” under the deed of trust, as MERS had been for the original lender.  The substitution of trustee was not recorded until October 14, 2008, the same date on which Aztec Foreclosure Corporation recorded a notice of trustee’s sale.  More than three months before recordation of the substitution of trustee, Aztec Foreclosure Corporation had recorded a notice that plaintiff was in default in payment of her loan and that the beneficiary had elected to initiate foreclosure proceedings.  The notice of default advised plaintiff to contact HSBC Bank to arrange for payment to stop the foreclosure.

HSBC Bank bought plaintiff’s residence in the foreclosure sale, and a trustee’s deed upon sale was recorded on January 9, 2009.  The gist of the complaint is that HSBC Bank initiated foreclosure proceedings under the deed of trust without any recordation of the assignment of the deed of trust to HSBC Bank in violation of section 2932.5.

DISCUSSION

A demurrer tests the legal sufficiency of the complaint.  We review the complaint de novo to determine whether it alleges facts sufficient to state a cause of action.  For purposes of review, we accept as true all material facts alleged in the complaint, but not contentions, deductions or conclusions of fact or law.  We also consider matters that may be judicially noticed.  (Blank v. Kirwan (1985) 39 Cal.3d 311, 318.)  When a demurrer is sustained without leave to amend, “we decide whether there is a reasonable possibility that the defect can be cured by amendment:  if it can be, the trial court has abused its discretion and we reverse; if not, there has been no abuse of discretion and we affirm.”  (Ibid.)  Plaintiff has the burden to show a reasonable possibility the complaint can be amended to state a cause of action.  (Ibid.)

The trial court did not err in sustaining the demurrer without leave to amend.  Plaintiff’s lawsuit rests on her claim that the foreclosure sale was void and should be set aside because HSBC Bank invoked the power of sale without complying with the requirement of section 2932.5 to record the assignment of the deed of trust from the original lender to HSBC Bank.  We find no merit in this contention.

Section 2932.5 provides:  “Where a power to sell real property is given to a mortgagee, or other encumbrancer, in an instrument intended to secure the payment of money, the power is part of the security and vests in any person who by assignment becomes entitled to payment of the money secured by the instrument.  The power of sale may be exercised by the assignee if the assignment is duly acknowledged and recorded.”

It has been established since 1908 that this statutory requirement that an assignment of the beneficial interest in a debt secured by real property must be recorded in order for the assignee to exercise the power of sale applies only to a mortgage and not to a deed of trust.  In Stockwell v. Barnum (1908) 7 Cal.App. 413 (Stockwell), the court affirmed the judgment against a plaintiff who sought to set aside and vacate a sale of real property under a deed of trust.  In Stockwell, a couple borrowed money from two individuals and gave them a promissory note that provided, in case of default in the payment of interest, the holder of the note had the option to demand payment of all the principal and interest.  To secure payment of the note, the borrowers executed and delivered a deed of trust by which they conveyed to the trustee legal title to a parcel of real estate, with the power of sale on demand of the beneficiaries of the promissory note.  The borrowers defaulted.  The original lenders assigned the note to another individual who elected to declare the whole amount of principal and interest due and made demand on the trustee to sell the property.  Before the trustee’s sale was made, but on the same day as the trustee’s sale, the defaulting couple conveyed the real property to plaintiff, who then sued to set aside the trustee’s sale.

One of the bases on which the plaintiff in Stockwell sought to set aside the sale was that no assignment of the beneficial interests under the deed of trust was recorded and therefore the original lender’s assignee had no right to demand a trustee’s sale of the property.  The plaintiff in Stockwell relied on former section 858, the predecessor of section 2932.5, as support for this contention.  (The parties correctly acknowledge that section 2932.5 continued section 858 without substantive change.)  (Law Revision Com. com., Deering’s Ann., § 2932.5 (2005 ed.) p. 454.)  The Stockwell court found the statute did not apply to a trustee’s sale.

The Stockwell court distinguished a trust deed from a mortgage, explaining that a mortgage creates only a lien, with title to the real property remaining in the borrower/mortgagee, whereas a deed of trust passes title to the trustee with the power to transfer marketable title to a purchaser.  The court reasoned that since the lenders had no power of sale, and only the trustee could transfer title, it was immaterial who held the note.  (Stockwell, supra, 7 Cal.App. at p. 416.)  “The transferee of a negotiable promissory note, payment of which is secured by a deed of trust whereby the title to the property and power of sale in case of default is vested in a third party as trustee, is not an encumbrancer to whom power of sale is given, within the meaning of section 858.”  (Id. at p. 417.)

The holding of Stockwell has never been reversed or modified in any reported California decision in the more than 100 years since the case was decided.  The rule that section 2932.5 does not apply to deeds of trust is part of the law of real property in California.  After 1908, only the federal courts have addressed the question whether section 2932.5 applies to deeds of trust, and only very recently.  Every federal district court to consider the question has followed Stockwell.  (See, e.g., Roque v. Suntrust Mortg., Inc. (N.D.Cal. Feb. 10, 2010) 2010 U.S.Dist. Lexis 11546, *8 [“Section 2932.5 applies to mortgages, not deeds of trust.  It applies only to mortgages that give a power of sale to the creditor, not to deeds of trust which grant a power of sale to the trustee.”]; Parcray v. Shea Mortg., Inc. (E.D.Cal. April 23, 2010) 2010 U.S.Dist. Lexis 40377, *31 [“There is no requirement under California law for an assignment to be recorded in order for an assignee beneficiary to foreclose.”]; Caballero v. Bank of Am. (N.D.Cal. Nov. 4, 2010) 2010 U.S.Dist. Lexis 122847, *8 [“§ 2932.5 does not require the recordation of an assignment of a beneficial interest for a deed of trust, as opposed to a mortgage”].)[2]

Plaintiff argues that Stockwell is “[o]utdated” and, that in the “modern era,” there is no difference between a mortgage and a deed of trust.  Plaintiff misconstrues Bank of Italy, supra, 217 Cal. 644 as holding that deeds of trust are the same as mortgages with a power of sale, and therefore, as supporting her argument that section 2932.5 applies to both mortgages and deeds of trust.  First, our Supreme Court in Bank of Italy did not consider or construe section 2932.5 or its predecessor statute.

Second, the court in Bank of Italy did not hold that a mortgage is the same as a deed of trust.  Far from it; the Bank of Italy court recognized that the distinction between a mortgage, which creates only a lien, and a deed of trust, which passes title to the trustee, “has become well settled in our law and cannot now be disturbed.”  (Bank of Italy, supra, 217 Cal. at p. 655.)  Third, the court’s holding was expressly limited to the question (not in issue here) whether in California it is permissible to sue on a promissory note secured by a deed of trust without first exhausting the security or showing that it is valueless.  The trial court had found “that no action may be brought on a note secured by a deed of trust unless and until the security is exhausted.  The correctness of this conclusion is the sole point involved on this appeal.”  (Id. at pp. 647, 648, 650.)

The plaintiff in Bank of Italy had argued the only statute requiring that security be exhausted before suing on the note was limited to mortgages and did not include the distinctly different deeds of trust.  (Bank of Italy, supra, 217 Cal. at p. 653.)  The Bank of Italy court therefore considered whether the differences between a mortgage and a deed of trust under California law should permit the holder of a note secured by a deed of trust to sue on the note without exhausting the security by a sale of the property.  The court recognized there were an increasing number of cases that applied the same rules to deeds of trust that are applied to mortgages and concluded that “merely because ‘title’ passes by a deed of trust while only a ‘lien’ is created by a mortgage,” in both situations the security must be exhausted before suit on the personal obligation.  (Bank of Italy, supra, 217 Cal. at pp. 657-658.) Nothing in the holding or analysis of the Bank of Italy opinion supports plaintiff’s position here that we should find section 2932.5 applies to a deed of trust.

Plaintiff also is mistaken in contending that Strike v. Trans-West Discount Corp. (1979) 92 Cal.App.3d 735 (Strike) supports her position.  In Strike, a homeowner had a judgment entered against him on a business debt he had guaranteed.  The homeowner later defaulted in payments on a bank loan that was secured by a deed of trust against his home, and he asked the judgment creditor to help him out.  The judgment creditor agreed to buy an assignment of the home loan and deed of trust from the bank, consolidate the indebtedness on the home loan with the amount owed to satisfy the judgment, and extend the maturity date of these obligations.

The homeowner defaulted again, and the judgment creditor initiated nonjudicial foreclosure proceedings.  The homeowner sued in an attempt to avoid foreclosure and eviction but did not prevail at trial.  The court of appeal affirmed.  Among the homeowner’s arguments that were rejected on appeal was the contention that the judgment creditor’s interest in his home was an equitable lien that could only be foreclosed by judicial process.  The court of appeal found the creditor had the right to pursue nonjudicial foreclosure, distinguishing an equitable subrogee from an assignee of a deed of trust with the power of sale.  The court stated:  “A recorded assignment of note and deed of trust vests in the assignee all of the rights, interests of the beneficiary [citation] including authority to exercise any power of sale given the beneficiary ([§ 858]).”  (Strike, supra, 92 Cal.App.3d at p. 744).

Plaintiff contends the sentence quoted above establishes that section 2932.5 (formerly codified at section 858) applies to deeds of trust.  But the Strike court was not asked to consider or construe the predecessor of section 2932.5.  The Strike court briefly referred to the predecessor of section 2932.5 by way of illustrating the difference between an equitable subrogee and an assignee under a deed of trust with a power of sale.  (Strike, supra, 92 Cal.App.3d at p. 744.)  “ ‘It is axiomatic, of course, that a decision does not stand for a proposition not considered by the court.’ ”  (Agnew v. State Bd. of Equalization (1999) 21 Cal.4th 310, 332.)

In California, over the course of the past century, deeds of trust have largely replaced mortgages as the primary real property security device.  (See 4 Miller & Starr, Cal. Real Estate (3d ed. 2000), § 10:2, p. 15.)  Thus, section 2932.5 (and its predecessor, section 858) became practically obsolete and were generally ignored by borrowers, creditors, and the California courts.  On the other hand, other statutes expressly give MERS the right to initiate foreclosure on behalf of HSBC Bank irrespective of the recording of a substitution of trustee.  Section 2924, subdivision (a)(1), states that a “trustee, mortgagee, or beneficiary, or any of their authorized agents,” may initiate the foreclosure process.  MERS was both the nominal beneficiary and agent (nominee) of the original lender and also of HSBC Bank, which held the note at the time of the foreclosure sale of plaintiff’s residence.  Thus, MERS had the statutory right to initiate foreclosure on behalf of HSBC Bank pursuant to section 2924, subdivision (a)(1).

MERS also had the right to initiate foreclosure on behalf of HSBC Bank pursuant to the express language of the deed of trust.  Plaintiff agreed in the deed of trust that MERS had the right to initiate foreclosure and instruct the trustee to exercise the power of sale as nominee (i.e., agent) of the original lender and its successors and assigns.  (Gomes v. Countrywide Home Loans, Inc. (2011) 192 Cal.App.4th 1149, 1157, fn. 9 [construing a deed of trust identical in pertinent part to the trust deed in this case as granting MERS power to initiate foreclosure as the agent of the noteholder, even if not also as beneficiary].)  HSBC Bank was the assignee of the original lender.  Accordingly, HSBC Bank and MERS, its nominal beneficiary and agent, were entitled to invoke the power of sale in the deed of trust, and plaintiff has alleged no legal basis for setting aside the sale in this case.

We affirm the judgment of dismissal.  Respondent is to recover its costs of appeal.

CERTIFIED FOR PUBLICATION

GRIMES, J.

WE CONCUR:

BIGELOW, P. J.

FLIER, J.


[1]          All statutory references are to the Civil Code unless otherwise specified.

[2]          Plaintiff cited only one bankruptcy court decision in support of her argument that section 2932.5 applies to deeds of trust.  (U.S. Bank N.A. v. Skelton (In re Salazar) (Bankr. S.D.Cal. 2011) 448 B.R. 814.)  We find the analysis in that case unpersuasive.  Holdings of the federal courts are not binding or conclusive on California courts, though they may be entitled to respect and careful consideration.  (Bank of Italy etc. Assn. v. Bentley (1933) 217 Cal. 644, 653 (Bank of Italy).)  A federal bankruptcy court decision interpreting California law, however, is not due the same deference.  (See Stern v. Marshall (2011) 131 S.Ct. 2594.)

CA Civil Code § 2932.5, In Re Urdahl, Bank’s Motion For Relief From Stay Denied

by US Bankruptcy Court, Southern District of California
Sunday, October 16th, 2011

 

California Civil Code § 2932.5 provides:
Where a power to sell real property is given to a mortgagee, or other encumbrancer, in an instrument intended to secure the payment of money, the power is part of the security and vests in any person who by assignment becomes entitled to payment of the money secured by the instrument. The power of sale may be exercised by the assignee if the assignment is duly acknowledged and recorded.

The Court is aware of no California case law interpreting this section. However, it appears to indicate that a security interest runs with the obligation – in terms of the case at hand, that is, an assignment of the Note amounts to an assignment of the Deed of Trust.

DISCUSSION

It is undisputed that the subject Property is, as the saying goes, underwater. All parties seem to agree that the claim secured by the Property exceeds the value of the Property. The Debtors are prepared to abandon the Property. The only issue before the Court is whether Deutsche Bank is in a position to seek relief from the stay.

Bankruptcy Code section 362(d) provides for relief from stay on request of a “party in interest.” Party in interest for the purposes of a motion for relief from stay is not defined.  However, the Court agrees with the court in In re Maisel, that “[a] party seeking relief from the automatic stay to exercise rights as to property must demonstrate at least a colorable claim to the property.” 378 B.R. 19, 21 (Bankr.D.Mass. 2007) (citing In re Huggins, 357 B.R. 180, 185 (Bankr.D.Mass. 2006). That is, since Deutsche Bank seeks relief from stay to proceed against the Property, it must establish that it, or more accurately the party it represents, HE1 Trust, has a security interest in such property. As movant, Deutsche Bank has the responsibility to convince the Court that the party seeking relief from the staywith respect to the Property has an interest in the Property. Deutsche Bank has failed to do so.

In support of the motion, Deutsche Bank has provided the copies of the original Note and Deed of Trust. However, both the Note and the Deed of Trust run in favor of WAMU.Though it is undisputed that WAMU held a security interest in the Property by virtue of the Deed of Trust, Deutsche Bank has provided no evidence at all that any interest in the Deed of Trust was ever assigned from WAMU to Deutsche Bank, or to anyone else for that matter. In her supplemental declaration Ms. Brecheen declares that the Deed of Trust was “transferred” to Deutsche Bank.  However, Deutsche Bank has provided no authority (and the Court is aware of none) for the apparent proposition that transfer of the Deed of Trust without assignment, let alone recordation, is sufficient to give Deutsche Bank or HEl Trust a security interest in the Property.  As it stands on the record before the Court, the Deed of Trust remains in the name (and possession) of WAMU. 1Nothing in the Deed of Trust as written or in the way in which it has been handled gives any indication that Deutsche Bank or Hel Trust has a security interest in the Property. Not surprisingly therefor, Deutsche Bank focuses the Court’s attention on the Note.

The Note too runs solely in favor of WAMU. The copy of the Note produced in connection with the Motion gave no indication that anyone but WAMU had an interest therein. In response to theTrustee’s opposition, Deutsche Bank eventually produced a copy of the Note with an additional, unnumbered, undated page attached, which appears to bean endorsement by WAMU. However, the “Pay to the order of” line of the endorsement is blank. There is no indication from the face of the Note as endorsed that it was endorsed to Deutsche Bank and/or HEl Trust.

The sole evidence that Deutsche Bank provides which would indicate to the Court that Deutsche Bank might have any interest at all in the Property, is the supplemental declaration of Ms. Brecheen that the Note had been transferred to Deutsche Bank.  Assuming for the sake of argument that this “transfer” amounts to an “assignment,” such an assignment of the Note appears to be sufficient under California to give Deutsche Bank a security interest in the Property.

California Civil Code § 2932.5 provides:
Where a power to sell real property is given to a mortgagee, or other encumbrancer, in an instrument intended to secure the payment of money, the power is part of the security and vests in any person who by assignment becomes entitled to payment of the money secured by the instrument. The power of sale may be exercised by the assignee if the assignment is duly acknowledged and recorded.

The Court is aware of no California case law interpreting this section. However, it appears to indicate that a security interest runs with the obligation – in terms of the case at hand, that is, an assignment of the Note amounts to an assignment of the Deed of Trust. 2 However, as indicated, Deutsche Bank has provided no convincing evidence that the Note was ever assigned to Deutsche Bank. Furthermore, even if the Note was assigned to Deutsche Bank, Deutsche Bank is not the party asserting a security interest in the Property. Rather, the motion is brought by Deutsche Bank as Trustee for HEI Trust. The record is devoid of any further assignment to HEI Trust.

In summary, the only question before this Court is whether Deutsche Bank and/or HEI Trust has an interest in the Property. The Court holds that Deutsche Bank has failed to provide evidence that it, let alone HEI Trust, has a security interest in the Property. 3 Accordingly, the motion is denied.

http://www.casb.uscourts.gov/pdf/opinions/07_07227.pdf

HSBC bank sign

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Roger Bernhardt on Calvo -D/T assignments need not be recorded pre foreclosure

10 Jan

From: Charles Cox [mailto:charles@bayliving.com]
Sent: Monday, January 09, 2012 6:43 PM
To: Charles Cox
Subject: Roger Bernhardt on Calvo -D/T assignments need not be recorded pre foreclosure

Midcourse Corrections

The Uncertain Requirement for Recording Assignments of Deeds of Trust

Roger Bernhardt

Calvo v HSBC Bank

The decision in Calvo v HSBC Bank (2011) 199 CA4th 118, 130 CR3d 815, will certainly affect foreclosure practice—that is, ifit survives review by the supreme court and if it is followed by other courts,prospects that I find doubtful. (Calvo’s holding that an assignment of a deed of trust is not subject to the preforeclosure recordation requirement of CC §2932.5, on the ground that a deed of trust is not a mortgage, is reported in this issue at p 196.)

The lesson everyone thought they learned in 1933, when the California Supreme Court decided Bank of Italy Nat’l Trust & Sav. Ass’n v Bentley (1933) 217 C 644, 20 P2d 940, was that in mortgage law, form does not control, so that when an instrument functioned like a mortgage it should be treated like a mortgage, regardless of whether it looked like a mortgage (as a deed of trust or sale and leaseback, for example, does not). The court’s later language in Monterey S.P. Partnership v W.L. Bangham, Inc. (1989) 49 C3d 454, 460, 261 CR 587, reported at 12 CEB RPLR 250 (Nov. 1989), dealing with deeds of trust in particular (“In practical effect, if not in legal parlance, a deed of trust is a lien on the property…. [M]ortgagees and trust deed beneficiaries alike hold security interests in property encumbered by mortgages and deeds of trust”), seemed to clinch that matter, and makes it extremely unlikely that that conclusion will change, despite what the Calvo court has said to the contrary.

As far as lower court holdings are concerned, Calvo cited In re Salazar (Bankr SD Cal 2011) 448 BR 814 with disapproval but did not mention two other 2011 federal decisions that reached the same conclusion that CC §2932.5 applies to deeds of trust as well as mortgages—namely, In re Cruz (Bankr SD Cal, Aug. 11, 2011, No. 11–01133-MM13) 2011 Bankr Lexis 3080 and Tamburri v Suntrust Mortgage (ND Cal, July 6, 2011, No. C-11–2899 EMC) 2011 US Dist Lexis 72202—or three state court of appeal decisions doing the same: Diamond Heights Village Ass’n, Inc. v Financial Freedom Sr. Funding Corp. (2011) 196 CA4th 290, 126 CR3d 673, Aviel v Ng (2008) 161 CA4th 809, 74 CR3d 200, and Ung v Koelhler (2005) 135 CA4th 186, 37 CR3d 311. (I commented on some of these cases in prior issues of this Reporter. See Editor’s Take, 34 CEB RPLR 144 (July 2011) (Diamond Heights); Midcourse Corrections: When First Might Be Worst, 31 CEB RPLR 75 (May 2008) (Aviel); Editor’s Take, 29 CEB RPLR 251 (Mar. 2008) (Ung).) Calvo is rather clearly going against the grain of these holdings.

Technically, CC §2932.5 is ambiguous enough to allow a court to go either way on the question of whether deeds of trust fit under it. There are three sections in the Civil Code that deal with assignments, and the other two of them explicitly include deeds of trust as covered instruments. Civil Code §2934 says “Any assignment of a mortgage and any assignment of the beneficial interest under a deed of trust may be recorded, and from the time the same is filed for record operates as constructive notice of the contents thereof to all persons.” (Emphasis added.) Civil Code §2935asserts that

the record of the assignment of the mortgage or of the assignment of the beneficial interest under the deed of trust, is not of itself notice to the debtor, his heirs, or personal representatives, so as to invalidate any payment made by them, or any of them, to the person holding such note, bond, or other instrument. [Emphasis added.]

These sections both stand in contrast to §2932.5, which does not mention deeds of trust but instead provides as follows:

Where a power to sell real property is given to a mortgagee, or other encumbrancer, in an instrument intended to secure the payment of money, the power is part of the security and vests in any person who by assignment becomes entitled to payment of the money secured by the instrument. The power of sale may be exercised by the assignee if the assignment is duly acknowledged and recorded. [Emphasis added.]

It is certainly true that the beneficiary of a deed of trust looks like an “encumbrancer” who could easily fit under §2932.5, but why did the terminology get switched if all three sections were designed to have the same scope? (I have always wondered why the legislature wanted to make recordation appear mandatory, as §2932.5 does in foreclosure situations, if its effect is at the same time made so minimal, as it is in §2935 for payment situations.)

The obviously best way to resolve legislative uncertainties is for the legislature itself to step in, and the real resolution of the question of whether §2932.5 should apply only to mortgages, or to deeds of trust as well, ought to come from a clarifying amendment out of Sacramento. That, however, is unlikely to happen, meaning that the question will have to be settled by courts in lieu, and part of their conclusion might be based on a consideration of what purpose is supposed to be accomplished through such a recording requirement as §2932.5 now contains.

It is evident enough that deeds of trust themselves ought to be recorded, to ensure that subsequent potential purchasers and encumbrancers of the property have notice of them and thereby take their proper place in line when claims against the land need to be ranked: Grantees want to be assured their titles are marketable and lenders to be assured that their liens have priority. A mandatory recording requirement like that contained in CC §1214 had to be imposed for real estate markets to operate sensibly.

But the considerations are not the same when we are considering subsequent transfers of a deed of trust that was itself recorded when it was first executed, by virtue of which the world did receive constructive notice of the fact of its existence. That original recordation does not tell the world much else. It does not give any information, for instance, as to how much is owing on the loan secured by the deed of trust, because that depends on (1) the face amount of the promissory note—which is not recorded—as well as (2) the payments that were thereafter made on that note—facts even less likely to appear anywhere in the records. That essential information is obtained by talking to the right persons, rather than by more diligent record searching.

Nor, more relevantly to the transfer issues being considered here, will the records inform anyone about the identity of the person who is entitled to receive the payments that remain owing on that note. Civil Code §2935, quoted above, says that it protects payments not made to the recorded assignee of a deed of trust only when they were made “to the person holding such note”—which is nowhere in the records. Even when a mortgage or deed of trust is involved, the debtor’s obligation is to pay the holder of the note, not the holder of the security instrument; the rules of commercial paper trump the rules on mortgage instruments and the effect or noneffect of their recordation.

The facts that (1) recorded mortgage instruments do not inform anyone of the amounts due under the promissory notes they secure and (2) in mortgage transfer situations, payment and priority issues are decided according to possession of the secured notes, rather than on the record identity of the secured parties, inevitably makes the recording of assignments of deeds of trust irrelevant to most outcomes. It certainly may be important for a borrower/trustor to know, or at least be able to find out, who holds her loan, for her to pay it off or to dispute it, but that problem would be better resolved through sensible rules about the giving (and contents) of notices of default and notices of sale or notices of servicing changes, rather than through rules mandating the recording of assignments. What bona fide dispute between a trustor and beneficiary or between rival beneficiaries actually turns on whether the assignment of a deed of trust was recorded, rather than on whether the underlying note was actually paid or transferred? Especially in today’s secondary market, where only MERS’s name may appear in the records—despite countless loan transfers—until a final assignment out of the system is made to a lender about to foreclose (see “Challenges to California Foreclosures Based on MERS Transfers” and “More on Mortgage Transfer Mysteries” at RogerBernhardt.com), the value of a requirement that the final transfer be recorded is even more obscure.

The Calvo judges may have had similar misgivings about the impact that the nonrecordation of the deed of trust had on the underlying merits of that case (or instead suspected that that event was being employed opportunistically to trip up an unwary lender more than to provide any meaningful protection to that borrower). If such was the motivation behind the decision, it may constitute more of a better policy than an authoritative precedent, in light of the many contrary decisions holding the other way on the mortgage/deed of trust distinction. For the time being, lawyers for transferees of loans that have gone into default should make sure that their clients have a good chain of recorded assignments before they let the foreclosure sale go forward.

Calvo v HSBC Bank (2011) 199 CA4th 118, 130 CR3d 815

Borrower defaulted on her loan, secured by a deed of trust against her home. The deed of trust granted title to the property and the power to sell on default to the trustee. A new trustee recorded a notice of default and began foreclosure proceedings. There was no notice of an assignment of the deed of trust; only the notice of the substitution of trustee reflected the change, which was recorded on the same day as was the notice of trustee’s sale. Borrower sued the successor lender and the Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems, Inc. (MERS) (the lender’s agent and nominal beneficiary), seeking to set aside the trustee’s sale, alleging a violation of CC §2932.5 (defining mortgagee’s power to sell real property). The trial court dismissed the complaint on demurrer and the court of appeal affirmed.

Under CCP §2924(a), a “trustee, mortgagee, or beneficiary, or any of their authorized agents, may initiate the foreclosure process.” MERS, as both the nominal beneficiary and agent of the original lender and its successor, had the statutory authority to begin foreclosure proceedings. See Gomes v Countrywide Home Loans, Inc. (2011) 192 CA4th 1149, 121 CR3d 819 (reported at 34 CEB RPLR 66 (Mar. 2011)). Here, CC §2932.5 did not apply because foreclosure proceedings were begun under the authority granted in the deed of trust, not under a mortgage (which merely creates a lien, but does not transfer title, as does a deed of trust). Borrower simply “alleged no legal basis for setting aside the sale in this case.”

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