Archive | October, 2012

No right to “HAMP” as third party bene try Negligence with a side of “HAMP”

26 Oct

For all those who have found out the hard way that judges do not like a breach of HAMP contract cause of action, here is a way around it: sue for negligent handling of the HAMP application and use this citation in your opposition to demurrer:

“It is well established that a person may become liable in tort for negligently failing to perform a voluntarily assumed undertaking even in the absence of a contract so to do. A person may not be required to perform a service for another but he may undertake to do so — called a voluntary undertaking. In such a case the person undertaking to perform the service is under a duty to exercise due care in performing the voluntarily assumed duty, and a failure to exercise due care is negligence. [emphasis added]” Valdez v. Taylor Auto. Co. (1954) 129 Cal.App.2d 810, 817; Aim Ins. Co. v. Culcasi (1991) 229 Cal. App. 3d 209, 217-218.

Tender rule “ouch” Donna Fields Goldstein.

26 Oct

I was reading tentatives while waiting for courtcall this morning, and saw the following, which may be helpful to y’all.  This is in Burbank, judge Donna Fields Goldstein.

How could a lady with a nice name like Donna be such a wench when it comes to this:

Case Number: EC056981    Hearing Date: May 25, 2012    Dept: B

Demurrer and Motion to Strike

Case Management Conference

The Complaint alleges that the Plaintiffs obtained a loan under a promissory note secured by a deed of trust that was recorded on their real property. The Plaintiffs sought a permanent modification of their loan. When the Plaintiffs could not get an answer from the Defendants regarding the status of a permanent modification, the Plaintiffs stopped making payments. The Defendant then issued a notice of default. The Plaintiffs again sought a modification, but the Defendant advised them that the Plaintiffs were not eligible. A notice of trustee’s sale was issued on August 29, 2011. The Plaintiffs’ home was sold on November 23, 2011. A notice to quit was served on the Plaintiffs on December 12, 2011. Plaintiff alleges the following causes of action in his Complaint:

1) Breach of Written Contract; 2) Breach of Covenant of Good Faith and Fair Dealing; 3) Estoppel; 4) Negligent Misrepresentation; 5) Negligence; 6) Violation of Business and Professions code section 17200; 7) Violation of Civil Code section 2923.6
8) Declaratory Relief; 9) Accounting

The Plaintiffs’ First Amended Complaint includes the following facts in the pleadings and in the exhibits attached to the pleadings:

1) the Plaintiff borrowed $410,000 under a promissory note secured by a deed of trust on their property;
2) a notice of default was recorded on August 17, 2010 on the Plaintiffs’ property that indicated that $13,253.55 was due as of August 16, 2010;
3) a notice of trustee’s sale was recorded on August 29, 2011; and
5) the property was sold on November 23, 2011 at a trustee’s sale to Aurora Loan Services, LLC.

This hearing concerns the demurrer of the Defendants, Aurora Loan Services, LLC and Aurora Bank FSB, to the First Amended Complaint. The Defendants argue that the Plaintiffs cannot maintain any of their claims because the Plaintiffs do not allege that they tendered the amount due. To plead any cause of action for irregularity in the sale procedure, there must be allegations showing that the plaintiff tendered the amount of the secured indebtedness to the defendant. Abdallah v. United Sav. Bank (1996) 43 Cal. App. 4th 1101, 1109 (affirming an order sustaining a demurrer without leave to amend in a case claiming that the foreclosure and sale of a home was improper). A valid tender must be nothing short of the full amount due the creditor. Gaffney v. Downey Sav. & Loan Ass’n (1988) 200 Cal. App. 3d 1154, 1165. The Court of Appeal found that the following summary of the tender rule describes this requirement:

The rules which govern tenders are strict and are strictly applied, and where the rules are prescribed by statute or rules of court, the tender must be in such form as to comply therewith. The tenderer must do and offer everything that is necessary on his part to complete the transaction, and must fairly make known his purpose without ambiguity, and the act of tender must be such that it needs only acceptance by the one to whom it is made to complete the transaction.
Id.

The underlying principle for the tender rule is that “equity will not interpose its remedial power in the accomplishment of what seemingly would be nothing but an idle and expensively futile act, nor will it purposely speculate in a field where there has been no proof as to what beneficial purpose may be subserved through its intervention.” Karlsen v. American Sav. & Loan Assn. (1971) 15 Cal. App. 3d 112, 118.

Further, this applies to any cause of action implicitly integrated with the voidable sale. Id. at 121. In Karlsen, the Court found that causes of action for breach of an oral agreement to delay the sale, for an accounting, and for a constructive trust failed because the plaintiff had not made a valid tender. In Arnolds Management Corp. v. Eischen (1984) 158 Cal. App. 3d 575, the Court found that causes of action for fraud and negligent misrepresentation based on the claim that the defendant had misrepresented the sale date failed because the plaintiff had not made a valid tender. The Court in Karlsen reasoned that absent an effective and valid tender, the foreclosure sale would become valid and proper. Karlsen, 15 Cal.App.3d at 121.

A review of the Plaintiffs’ First Amended Complaint reveals that each cause of action is implicitly integrated with the foreclosure proceeding:

1) The first cause of action for breach of contract claims that the foreclosure sale was caused because the Defendants breached an agreement to modify the loan;
2) The second cause of action for breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing claims that the foreclosure sale was caused because the Defendants breached an implied covenant in the agreement to modify the loan;
3) the third cause of action for estoppel claims that the foreclose sale was caused because the Defendants did not keep a promise to modify the loan;
4) the fourth cause of action for negligent misrepresentation claims that the foreclosure sale was caused because Defendants negligently misrepresented that the Plaintiffs would receive a permanent loan modification;
5) the fifth cause of action for negligence claims that the foreclosure sale was caused by the Defendants’ breach of a duty of care when they did not provide a permanent loan modification to the Plaintiffs;
6) the sixth cause of action for violation of Business and Professions code section 17200 claims that foreclosure sale was caused by the Defendants unfair business practice of depriving the Plaintiffs of their home and of monthly mortgage payments even though the Plaintiffs expected to obtain a permanent loan modification;
7) the seventh cause of action for violation of Civil Code section 2923.6 claims that the foreclosure sale violated Civil Code section 2923.6 because the Defendants did not provide a loan modification;
8) the eighth cause of action for declaratory relief claims that there is an actual dispute as to the ownership of the property because the foreclosure was wrongful; and
9) the ninth cause of action for an accounting seeks an accounting of the moneys paid and owing on the loan that was subject to the foreclosure proceedings.

Each of these causes of action is implicitly integrated with the foreclosure sale because each of them is based on allegations that the sale of the Plaintiffs’ property was improper. Accordingly, an essential element of each of the causes of action is an allegation that the Plaintiffs satisfied the tender rule.

A review of the Plaintiffs’ First Amended Complaint reveals that they did not plead that they tendered the amount due.

In their opposition, the Plaintiffs argue that they need not plead that they satisfied the tender rule because the tender rule is an equitable rule and their complaint includes legal claims. However, as noted above, to plead any cause of action for irregularity in the sale procedure, there must be allegations showing that the plaintiff tendered the amount of the secured indebtedness to the defendant. Abdallah v. United Sav. Bank (1996) 43 Cal. App. 4th 1101, 1109. There is no distinction between legal and equitable causes of action.

The Plaintiffs also argue that requiring the tender would be inequitable because the Defendants’ breach of contract and negligence caused the Plaintiffs to lose their home. Under California law, the tender rule does not apply when it would be inequitable, such as when the instrument is void. Fleming v. Kagan (1961) 189 Cal. App. 2d 791, 797. If the plaintiffs’ action attacks the validity of the underlying debt, a tender is not required since it would constitute an affirmation of the debt. Onofrio v. Rice (1997) 55 Cal.App.4th 413, 424. However, when the plaintiffs’ action claims that there was fraudulent conduct in the foreclosure procedure, then tender is required. See Arnolds Management Corp. v. Eischen (1984) 158 Cal. App. 3d 575 (holding that causes of action for fraud and negligent misrepresentation based on the claim that the defendant had misrepresented the sale date failed because the plaintiff had not made a valid tender).

There are no allegations that the deed of trust is void. There are no allegations that the underlying debt is void. Instead, the Plaintiffs’ claim is that the foreclosure occurred because the Defendants declined to provide a loan modification. This is not grounds to find that it would be inequitable to require a tender.

Further, the Plaintiffs’ allegations demonstrate that the foreclosure proceedings occurred because they stopped making payments on their loan. In paragraph 17, the Plaintiffs allege the following:

Plaintiffs stopped making payments when they could not get an answer from Defendants regarding the status of a permanent modification following the successful completion of their trial modification.

This demonstrates that the foreclosure proceedings occurred because the Plaintiffs did not make the required payments on the loan.

As noted above, the principle underlying the tender rule is that “equity will not interpose its remedial power in the accomplishment of what seemingly would be nothing but an idle and expensively futile act, nor will it purposely speculate in a field where there has been no proof as to what beneficial purpose may be subserved through its intervention.” Karlsen v. American Sav. & Loan Assn. (1971) 15 Cal. App. 3d 112, 118. If the Plaintiffs cannot tender the amount that they owe on their note, there is no beneficial purpose to intervening because the Defendants would simply begin the foreclosure proceedings again. This would result only in an unjust benefit to the Plaintiffs, who would continue to stay in a property that they agreed to use as security for a loan on which they stopped making payments. Accordingly, it is equitable to require the Plaintiffs to satisfy the tender rule in their pleadings.

Therefore, the Court sustains the Defendants’ demurrer to each cause of action in the First Amended Complaint.

The Court does not grant leave to amend because the copy of the loan modification agreement contradicts the allegations in the complaint. Allegations contradicted by the exhibits to the complaint or by matters of which judicial notice may be taken are not assumed true for the purposes of a demurrer. Vance v. Villa Park Mobilehome Estates (1995) 36 Cal. App. 4th 698, 709. Such facts appearing in exhibits attached to the complaint are given precedence over inconsistent allegations in the complaint. Dodd v. Citizens Bank (1990) 222 Cal.App.3d 1624, 1627.

In the third cause of action for estoppel, the Plaintiffs allege that the Defendant promised to provide a loan modification. The Plaintiff alleges in paragraph 50 that the Defendant made a written promise to provide the Plaintiffs with a permanent modification provided that the Plaintiffs made all of the payments under a trial modification.

However, a review of the loan modification agreement, a copy of which is attached as untabbed exhibit A to the First Amended Complaint, reveals that the Plaintiffs’ allegations are inconsistent with the written promise that was actually made in the agreement. Paragraph 3 on page 2 of the agreement, which is labeled “The Modification”, provides that the Defendant will send a modification agreement if 1) the Plaintiff’s representations in section 1 of the agreement are true, 2) the Plaintiff complies with the requirements in section 2 of the agreement, 3) the Plaintiff provides all required information and documents, and 4) the lender determinates that the Plaintiff qualifies. This demonstrates that the Defendant agreed to provide a modification if four conditions were satisfied. This is inconsistent with the Plaintiffs’ allegation that the Defendant promised to provide a modification if the Plaintiffs made all their payments under the trial modification.
Further, the cause of action for promissory estoppel must plead the following elements:

1) the defendant made a promise;
2) the defendant should have reasonably expected that the promise will induce action or forbearance of a definite and substantial character on the part of the plaintiff;
3) the plaintiff was induced into an action or forbearance; and
4) injustice can be avoided only by enforcement of the promise.
C & K Engineering Contractors v. Amber Steel Co. (1978) 23 Cal. 3d 1, 7-8.

Promissory estoppel is a doctrine that uses equitable principles to replace the requirement that both parties provide consideration to make an agreement legally enforceable. Id. For example, in C&K Engineering, the plaintiff solicited bids from defendant and other subcontractors for the installation of reinforcing steel in the construction of a waste water treatment plant. The plaintiff included defendant’s bid in its master bid to the public sanitation district, which accepted the bid. The defendant then refused to perform in accordance with its bid because it claimed that it had miscalculated its bid. The defendant argued that its bid did not create an enforceable contract because the plaintiff has not paid any money to the defendant.
The plaintiff brought an action to recover damages for the defendant’s refusal to perform in accordance with its bid. The Court of Appeal found that the doctrine of promissory estoppel applied to make the defendant’s bid enforceable. Promissory estoppel was shown in the circumstances because the defendant had made the bid, the defendant could reasonable expect that its bid would induce the plaintiff to act, the plaintiff was induced to act by including the bid in its master bid for the project, and injustice could be avoided only by enforcing the defendant’s bid. The doctrine of promissory estoppel was necessary to make the bid enforceable because neither party had provided consideration.

As mentioned above, the purpose of promissory estoppel is to make a promise binding, under certain circumstances, without consideration in the usual sense of something bargained for and given in exchange. Youngman v. Nevada Irrigation Dist. (1969) 70 Cal. 2d 240, 249. The doctrine is inapplicable, therefore, if the promisee’s performance was requested at the time the promisor made his promise and that performance was bargained for. Id.

In Youngman, the Supreme Court found that no promissory estoppel claim was pleaded because the allegations showed that the plaintiff had provided consideration to the defendant. The plaintiff alleged that the defendant promised him that he would be granted a merit step increase in his pay each year and that plaintiff relied upon this promise in accepting employment with the defendant, continuing in its employ, and refraining from accepting a job elsewhere. Under these allegations that the defendant’s promise that the plaintiff would receive an annual raise was part of the bargain under which the plaintiff entered the defendant’s employ. The plaintiff provided consideration when he remained in his position and rendered satisfactory service to the defendant under the employment contract. The Court found that there was no need to rely upon the doctrine of promissory estoppel in these circumstances.

The same defect exists in the pending case. The modification agreement requested the Plaintiff to make payments under the trial modification agreement and to provide information and documents. The Plaintiff’s performance was bargained for because it was required in order to satisfy the requirements needed to obtain the final modification of the loan. This demonstrates that the Plaintiff’s performance was requested at the time the Defendant made the promise to make the modification and that the Plaintiff’s performance was bargained for. Accordingly, the doctrine of promissory estoppel is inapplicable in this case and the Court does not grant leave to amend the third cause of action.

Under California law, the Plaintiffs must show in what manner they can amend their complaint and how that amendment will change the legal effect of their pleading. Goodman v. Kennedy (1976) 18 Cal.3d 335, 349. The Plaintiffs cite this legal authority on page 10 of their opposition papers. However, they do not then follow this legal authority by presenting the means by which they can amend their pleading in order to satisfy the tender rule. At the hearing, if the Plaintiffs cannot demonstrate that they can tender the amount owed, then they cannot plead an essential element of their causes of action and the Court will not grant leave to amend.

Further, the Court does not grant leave to amend the seventh cause of action for violation of Civil Code section 2923.6 because section 2923.6 does not impose an affirmative duty on the Defendant to modify any loan. See Mabry v. Superior Court (2010) 185 Cal. App. 4th 208, 222 (finding that section 2923.6 “merely expresses the hope that lenders will offer loan modifications on certain terms). Accordingly, the Plaintiffs cannot plead a claim for violation of section 2923.6 because the Defendant’s alleged failure to provide a loan modification cannot violate the statute.

In addition, the Court does not grant leave to amend the ninth cause of action for an accounting because the Plaintiffs do not identify a balance due from the Defendants to the Plaintiffs. In order to plead a claim for an accounting, the Plaintiffs must that the Defendants caused losses and are liable to the Plaintiffs and that the true amounts of losses owed to the Plaintiffs cannot be ascertained without an accounting. Kritzer v. Lancaster (1950) 96 Cal. App. 2d 1, 6 to 7. Here, there are no allegations that the Defendants owe money to the Plaintiffs. Instead, this case arises because the Plaintiffs owe money to the Defendants and their house was sold because they did not make the required payments. Accordingly, no cause of action for accounting can be pleaded against the Defendants because they do not owe money to the Plaintiffs.

Finally, in light of the recommended ruling, the Court takes the motion to strike off calendar.

17200 recent ruling unfair business practice foreclosure

26 Oct

17200

 

Elements

*9 Plaintiff also fails to plead sufficient facts to support a UCL claim for “unlawful, unfair, or fraudulent business act or practice.” Cal. Bus. & Prof.Code § 17200. Because the framers of the UCL expressed the three categories of unfair competition in the disjunctive, “each prong of the UCL is a separate and distinct theory of liability,” each offering “an independent basis for relief.” Kearns v. Ford Motor Co., 567 F.3d 1120, 1127 (9th Cir.2009). Furthermore, a claim under Section 17200 is “derivative of some other illegal conduct or fraud committed by a defendant, and [a] plaintiff must state with reasonable particularity the facts supporting the statutory elements of the violation.” See Benham v. Aurora Loan Servs., No. 09–2059, 2009 WL 2880232, at *4 (N.D.Cal. Sept.1, 2009). “A complaint based on an unfair business practice may be predicated on a single act; the statute does not require a pattern of unlawful conduct.” Brewer v. Indymac Bank, 609 F.Supp.2d 1104, 1122 (E.D.Cal.2009).

There is little question that the execution of documents in connection with a Deed of Trust constitutes a “business act or practice.” As for the nature of the conduct alleged, while the Complaint alludes to all three prongs of this statute generally, Plaintiff does not specify the theory on which she bases her claim, nor does she address the elements of any one of these theories. Compl. ¶ 41 (“[T]he instances mentioned in paragraphs 32–26[sic] above are unfair, deceptive, untrue acts, which are prohibited by California Business And Professions Code § 17200.”). Other courts have dismissed UCL claims on these grounds. See, e.g., Jensen, 702 F.Supp.2d at 1200 (dismissing plaintiff’s UCL claim because his UCL allegations “do not specify the basis for his claim, i.e., whether it is based on unlawful, unfair, or fraudulent practice”). However, in an effort to construe the factual allegations in a light most favorable to Plaintiff, this Court will consider the adequacy of the Complaint under each prong separately.

a. “Unlawful” Prong

The “unlawful” prong of the UCL requires a plaintiff to demonstrate that the defendant’s conduct violated some other law. Chabner v. United of Omaha Life Ins. Co., 225 F.3d 1042, 1048 (9th Cir.2000). In effect, Section 17200 “borrows” violations of federal, state, or local law and makes them independently actionable. Id. To state a claim for relief under this theory, a plaintiff must “state, with reasonable particularity, the facts supporting the statutory elements of the violation.” Jensen, 702 F.Supp.2d at 1189.

Aside from the cause of action for breach of contract, Plaintiff alleges no violation of federal, state, or local law in her Complaint that could be actionable under Section 17200. Courts consistently conclude that a breach of contract is not itself an unlawful act for the purposes of the UCL. Puentes v. Wells Fargo Home Mortgage, Inc., 160 Cal.App.4th 638, 645, 72 Cal.Rptr.3d 903 (2008); Gibson v. World Sav. & Loan Ass’n, 103 Cal.App.4th 1291, 1302, 128 Cal.Rptr.2d 19 (2002) (“Contractual duties are voluntarily undertaken by the parties to the contract, not imposed by state or federal law.”). Only when the act constituting breach is unfair, unlawful, or fraudulent for some additional reason may that act also violate the UCL. Smith v. Wells Fargo Home Mortgage, Inc., 135 Cal.App.4th 1463, 1483, 38 Cal.Rptr.3d 653 (2005). Here, Plaintiff fails to demonstrate how the facts alleged to support breach are, apart from the breach, wrongful.

*10 Contractual considerations aside, to the extent that Plaintiff bases a theory of “unlawful” conduct on defendant Aurora’s lack of authority to substitute a trustee or CalWestern’s lack of authority to initiate foreclosure proceedings, her cause of action fails. California Civil Code Sections 2924 through 2924k, “[t]he comprehensive statutory framework established to govern nonjudicial foreclosure sales” are intended to be “exhaustive.” Moeller v. Lien, 25 Cal.App.4th 822, 834, 30 Cal.Rptr.2d 777 (1994). Section 2924(a)(1) provides that a “trustee, mortgagee, or beneficiary, or any of their authorized agents may initiate the foreclosure process.” Gomes v. Countrywide Home Loans, Inc., 192 Cal.App.4th 1149, 1155, 121 Cal.Rptr.3d 819 (2011). Thus, even a breach of contract theory invalidating Cal–Western’s appointment as trustee does not also bar Cal–Western from initiating foreclosure as an agent of the trustee. Only the alleged breach, and not a violation of California law, could potentially render the Defendants’ conduct illegal.

Furthermore, California Civil Code Section 2934a(a)(1)(A) provides that “a trustee under a trust deed … may be substituted by … all of the beneficiaries under the trust deed, or their successors in interest.” Again, while Aurora’s attempt to appoint Cal–Western as the new trustee may have breached the terms of the Deed of Trust, it did comply with California law.7

Thus, to the extent Plaintiff predicates her UCL claim on a violation of another law, this cause of action fails.

b. “Unfair” Prong

The California Supreme Court has yet to establish a definitive test that may be used in consumer cases to determine whether a particular business act or practice is “unfair” for the purposes of the UCL. Drum v. San Fernando Valley Bar Ass’n, 182 Cal.App.4th 247, 253–54, 106 Cal.Rptr.3d 46 (2010) (citing Cel–Tech Commc’ns, Inc. v. Los Angeles Cellular Tel. Co., 20 Cal.4th 163, 187 n. 12, 83 Cal.Rptr.2d 548, 973 P.2d 527 (1999)). As a result, three tests have developed among state and federal courts. See Vogan v. Wells Fargo Bank, N.A., No. 11–02098, 2011 WL 5826016, at *6 (E.D.Cal. Nov. 17, 2011); Davis v. Ford Motor Credit Co., 179 Cal.App.4th 581, 593–97, 101 Cal.Rptr.3d 697 (2009) (detailing the split in authority in handling consumer UCL cases).

One test, which has garnered the most attention from the Ninth Circuit, limits unfair conduct to that which “offends an established public policy” and is “tethered to specific constitutional, statutory, or regulatory provisions.” Davis, 179 Cal.App.4th at 595, 101 Cal.Rptr.3d 697; Lozano v. AT & T Wireless Servs., 504 F.3d 718, 736 (9th Cir.2007) (holding that unfairness must be tied to a “legislatively declared” policy). The second test contemplates whether the alleged business practice is “immoral, unethical, oppressive, unscrupulous or substantially injurious to consumers,” and requires the court to “weigh the utility of the defendant’s conduct against the gravity of the harm to the alleged victim.” Davis, 179 Cal.App.4th at 594–95, 101 Cal.Rptr.3d 697; McDonald, 543 F.3d at 506; Progressive West Ins. Co. v. Yolo County Sup.Ct., 135 Cal.App.4th 263, 285–87, 37 Cal.Rptr.3d 434 (2005). The third test, which borrows the definition of “unfair” from the Federal Trade Commission Act, requires that “(1) the consumer injury must be substantial; (2) the injury must not be outweighed by any countervailing benefits to consumers or competition; and (3) it must be an injury that consumers themselves could not reasonably have avoided.” Davis, 179 Cal.App.4th at 597, 101 Cal.Rptr.3d 697.

*11 Plaintiff’s complaint does not, in any meaningful way, address the considerations presented by these tests. She fails to link her claim to a “legislatively declared” policy as required under the first test. Under the second and third tests, the Complaint fails because Plaintiff does not allege that Defendants’ conduct caused any injury, to the Plaintiff or others. Even under the second test, which a California Court of Appeal admits is “fact intensive and not conducive to resolution at the demurrer stage,” Plaintiff’s claim under this theory cannot proceed without allegations of its fundamental requirements. Progressive West, 135 Cal.App.4th at 287, 37 Cal.Rptr.3d 434.

Thus, to the extent that Plaintiff attempts to state a claim under the “unfair” prong of the UCL, this cause of action fails.

c. “Fraudulent” Prong

“Fraudulent acts are ones where members of the public are likely to be deceived.” Sybersound Records, Inc. v. UAV Corp., 517 F.3d 1137, 1151–52 (9th Cir.2008). In response to the new eligibility requirements for private actions under Section 17200 enacted through Proposition 64, a UCL claim under the “fraudulent prong” requires a plaintiff to have “actually relied” on the alleged misrepresentation to his detriment. In re Tobacco II Cases, 46 Cal.4th at 326, 93 Cal.Rptr.3d 559, 207 P.3d 20 (2009).

Under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 9(b), the “circumstances constituting fraud” or any other claim that “sounds in fraud” must be stated “with particularity.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 9(b); Vess v. Ciba–Geigy Corp. USA, 317 F.3d 1097, 1103–04 (9th Cir.2003). The Ninth Circuit has explained that this standard requires, at a minimum, that the claimant pleads evidentiary facts, such as time, place, persons, statements, and explanations of why the statements are misleading. See In re GlenFed, Inc. Sec. Litig., 42 F.3d 1541, 1547–48 (9th Cir.1994) (en banc).

The Complaint does, with particularity, allege several instances that could plausibly constitute acts of fraud. Specifically, Plaintiff argues that MERS committed fraud under the UCL by causing Stacy Sandoz, who is neither Vice President as stated nor authorized to act on behalf of MERS in this capacity, to execute the Corporate Assignment. Compl. ¶¶ 19, 38, 43; Compl. Ex. 2. The Complaint makes identical allegations against Aurora regarding Vice President Michele Rice, as stated on the Substitution of Trustee. Compl. ¶¶ 26, 45; Compl. Ex. 6. The Plaintiff similarly maintains that First American’s use of the name “Derrick Sue” on the Notice of Default and Election to Sell was fraudulent conduct, owing to the fact that “no such person by that name exists or is employed by First American.” Compl. ¶¶ 22, 40; Compl. Ex. 5. The Complaint also claims that Cal–Western fraudulently represented Megan Cooper as having the authority to execute the Affidavit of Mailing Substitute Trustee, since no such person exists, is employed by Cal–Western, or signed said document. Compl. ¶¶ 27, 46; Compl. Ex. 6. Such detailed accounts may very well satisfy the particularity requirement under 9(b) because they appear to allege the who, what, when, and how of the alleged “deceptive business acts.” Compl. ¶ 36. But see Jensen, 702 F.Supp.2d at 1189 (granting defendant JP Morgan’s motion to dismiss plaintiff borrower’s UCL claim for failure “to specify what particular role JP Morgan played in the fraudulent scheme, when and where the scheme occurred, or details of the specific misrepresentations involved”).8

*12 Defendant argues that Plaintiff fails to state that the alleged fraudulent statements “were disseminated to the public [such that] reasonable consumers are likely to be deceived.” Mot. at 10 (quoting Sybersound, 517 F.3d at 1151–52). This argument, while accurate in pointing out Plaintiff’s failure to address the distinct features of a fraud-based UCL claim, is questionable considering the fact that all challenged documents were publicly recorded and notarized. While Plaintiff does not attempt to demonstrate that Defendants have likely deceived the public under the Sybersound test, recording documents with the county may be sufficient “dissemination to the public.”

More problematic, however, Plaintiff does not and likely cannot plead actual reliance on the Defendants’ alleged fraud. The Complaint does not indicate that Plaintiff ever believed in the alleged misrepresentations or that they caused her to take any action to her detriment. As discussed above with regard to UCL standing, Plaintiff fails to plead loss of money or property, let alone a causal correlation of a loss with the Defendants’ alleged fraud.

To the extent that Plaintiff attempts to state a claim under the “fraudulent” prong of the UCL, the cause of action fails.

For the foregoing reasons, the Court GRANTS Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff’s UCL claim without prejudice to provide an opportunity to establish standing and more clearly articulate the basis for this cause of action.

 

Ford v. Lehman Bros. Bank, FSB, C 12-00842 CRB, 2012 WL 2343898 (N.D. Cal. June 20, 2012)

 

However, Plaintiff’s third UCL theory, Recontrust’s continual advertising of Plaintiff’s foreclosure after this Court’s preliminary injunction went into effect, is flawed because it is unclear what damage such conduct caused Plaintiff. While she alleges emotional damages, she does not allege any loss of money or property—either threatened or realized—as a result of Recontrust’s advertising. See Cal. Bus. & Prof.Code § 17204 (requiring a private litigant to have “suffered injury in fact and [ ] lost money or property as a result of the unfair competition” in order to bring a UCL claim); Cf. Sullivan v. Washington Mut. Bank, FA, C–09–2161 EMC, 2009 WL 3458300, at *4 (N.D.Cal. Oct.23, 2009) (finding standing where “foreclosure proceedings have been initiated which puts her interest in the property in jeopardy”). Accordingly, the Court will dismiss this UCL claim.

Tamburri v. Suntrust Mortg., Inc., C-11-2899 EMC, 2012 WL 2367881 (N.D. Cal. June 21, 2012)

 

 

DEBRUNNER REDUX

 

January 2008, Debrunner and his co-investors filed a notice of default, presumably for Chiu’s inability to remain current on the second-position loan. Debrunner, supra, 204 Cal.App.4th at 436, 138 Cal.Rptr.3d 830. A trustee’s sale of the Los Altos property was scheduled for May 2008, but was delayed after Chiu’s business entity petitioned for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in June 2008. The bankruptcy court granted Debrunner’s and his co-investors’ motion for relief from the bankruptcy stay, allowing them to foreclose upon the property and obtain a trustee’s deed upon sale in March 2009. Id. But back in August 2008, before the sale was completed, Saxon—the servicer on the first-position loan—had also filed a notice of default, which was rescinded because of the bankruptcy proceedings. Deutsche Bank—the assignee of the first deed of trust—moved for relief from the bankruptcy stay in July 2009 in order to file a new notice of default, although its motion was taken off calendar after the bankruptcy case was closed in August 2009. Old Republic Default Management Services (Old Republic), the foreclosure trustee, then recorded a new notice of default on the Los Altos property in September 2009. In the accompanying Fair Debt Collection Practices Act Notice, Old Republic named Deutsche Bank as the creditor and Saxon as its ‘ “attorney-in-fact’ “ and informed the debtor that payment to stop the foreclosure could be made to Saxon. Id. On January 5, 2010, the same day the assignment from FV–1 to Deutsche Bank was recorded, a ‘ “Substitution of Trustee’ “ from Chicago Title Company to Old Republic was recorded. This document had been signed and notarized by Saxon on behalf of Deutsche Bank on September 2, 2008. Id. at 436–37, 138 Cal.Rptr.3d 830.

In November 2009, Debrunner brought an action against Deutsche Bank, Saxon and Old Republic to stop the foreclosure proceedings on the first deed of trust, contending the defendants had no right to foreclose because Deutsche Bank did not have physical possession of or ownership rights to the original promissory note executed by Chiu. Debrunner, supra, 204 Cal.App.4th at 437, 138 Cal.Rptr.3d 830. Deutsche Bank and Saxon demurred to the complaint, contending possession of the original note was not required under California’s non-judicial foreclosure statutes, Cal. Civ.Code §§ 2924 et seq. In opposition, Debrunner contended that “any assignment of the deed of trust was immaterial because a deed of trust ‘cannot be transferred independently’ of the promissory note, which must be ‘properly assigned’ and attached,” and that “ ‘[a] deed of trust standing alone is a nullity,’ and thus cannot provide authority for a lender to foreclose.” Id. The trial court sustained Deutsche Bank’s and Saxon’s demurrer without leave to amend, id. at 438, 138 Cal.Rptr.3d 830, and the Court of Appeal affirmed.

On appeal, Debrunner reiterated his argument that an assignment of the deed of trust was ineffective and a legal nullity unless the assignee also physically received the promissory note and endorsed it, and that the beneficiary of the deed of trust must physically possess the note to initiate foreclosure proceedings. Debrunner, supra, 204 Cal.App.4th at 439, 138 Cal.Rptr.3d 830. The court rejected this contention: “As the parties recognized, many federal courts have rejected this position, applying California law. All have noted that the procedures to be followed in a nonjudicial foreclosure are governed by sections 2924 through 2924k, which do not require that the note be in the possession of the party initiating the foreclosure. [Citations.] We likewise see nothing in the applicable statutes that precludes foreclosure when the foreclosing party does not possess the original promissory note. They set forth a ‘comprehensive framework for the regulation of a nonjudicial foreclosure sale pursuant to a power of sale contained in a deed of trust. The purposes of this comprehensive scheme are threefold: (1) to provide the creditor/beneficiary with a quick, inexpensive and efficient remedy against a defaulting debtor/trustor; (2) to protect the debtor/trustor from wrongful loss of the property; and (3) to ensure that a properly conducted sale is final between the parties and conclusive as to a bona fide purchaser.’ [Citation.] Notably, section 2924, subdivision (a)(1), permits a notice of default to be filed by the ‘trustee, mortgagee, or beneficiary, or any of their authorized agents.’ The provision does not mandate physical possession of the underlying promissory note in order for this initiation of foreclosure to be valid.” Debrunner, supra, 204 Cal.App.4th at 440, 138 Cal.Rptr.3d 830.

*5 Plaintiffs further contend the April 29, 2009 notice of default and September 18, 2009 notice of sale recorded by NDEx were invalid because no substitution of trustee was ever recorded naming NDEx as the trustee under the deed of trust. Not so. Pursuant to Plaintiffs’ motion, the Court has consulted the official Fresno County Recorder website (http://www.co.fresno.ca.us) and notes that on June 29, 2009 (two months after the notice of default but three months before the notice of sale), a substitution of trustee naming Deutsche Bank National Trust Company as grantor and NDEx as grantee appeared to have been recorded as document # 2009–00879966–00. To the extent Plaintiffs intend to suggest a preliminary injunction should issue because the notice of default recorded by NDEx was defective in that it listed NDEx as the trustee even though there was no recorded substitution of NDEx as a trustee at the time, the claim likewise fails. An identical argument was raised and rejected in Debrunner. Debrunner had alternatively contended the notice of default in that case was defective because it listed Old Republic as the trustee even though there was no recorded substitution of Old Republic as a trustee at the time the notice of default was recorded. Debrunner, supra, 204 Cal.App.4th at 443, 138 Cal.Rptr.3d 830. The court disagreed, observing that “[California Civil Code] section 2934a provides for the situation in which a substitution of trustee is executed but is not recorded until after the notice of default is recorded.” Id. at 443–44, 138 Cal.Rptr.3d 830 (citing Cal. Civ.Code, § 2934a, subd. (b)).3 Plaintiffs have provided no argument or evidence to suggest a substitution of NDEx as trustee had not been executed at the time NDEx recorded the April 29, 2009 notice of default.

Even if there were a defect in NDEx’s commencement of the foreclosure proceedings, Plaintiffs have failed to allege prejudice. In Debrunner, the court concluded that a failure to show or assert prejudice resulting from an alleged defect in the foreclosure process was fatal to the plaintiff’s claims. Debrunner, supra, 204 Cal.App.4th at 443, 138 Cal.Rptr.3d 830. “ ‘[A] plaintiff in a suit for wrongful foreclosure has generally been required to demonstrate [that] the alleged imperfection in the foreclosure process was prejudicial to the plaintiff’s interests.’ [¶] … [¶] … [T]here was no allegation in the first amended complaint that plaintiff’s ability to contest or avert foreclosure was impaired. Even in his opposition to the demurrer and on appeal he has not identified the harm he suffered from any asserted violation of section 2934a, subdivision (b), again preferring to assume that he is entitled to judgment without any showing of prejudice.” Id. at 444, 138 Cal.Rptr.3d 830 (quoting Fontenot v. Wells Fargo Bank, N.A., 198 Cal.App.4th 256, 271, 129 Cal.Rptr.3d 467 (2011)). In this case, as in Debrunner, Plaintiffs have provided no argument or evidence of harm resulting from the failure to record a substitution of NDEx as trustee before NDEx filed its notice of default. Accordingly, the Court finds no basis for injunctive relief on this ground. A substitution would simply have replaced one trustee with another without modifying Plaintiffs’ obligations under the note or deed of trust. Under these circumstances, Plaintiffs would be hard pressed to show any conceivable prejudice, given Plaintiffs have offered no facts to suggest the substitution of NDEx (or the allegedly improper recording thereof) adversely affected their ability to pay their debt or cure their default.

 

Ghuman v. Wells Fargo Bank, N.A., 1:12-CV-00902-AWI, 2012 WL 2263276 (E.D. Cal. June 15, 2012)

 

 

ADD AGENT TO DESTROY DIVERSITY

 

Like Golden West, Defendant LSI is a citizen of California. The Wells Fargo Bank Defendants contend that LSI’s “citizenship should be ignored for purposes of diversity jurisdiction” on the grounds that LSI did nothing more than facilitate the recording of the Notice of Default on behalf of NDeX. Defs.’s Resp. to OSC at 4. The pleadings are not a model of clarity, and LSI’s precise role in connection with the claims alleged is not entirely clear. However, it appears that Plaintiffs are alleging, inter alia, that LSI, among others, failed to comply with California law in proceeding with the foreclosure in accordance with California Civil Code section 2923.5. See SAC at 2.

*5 Section 2923.5 provides a private right of action to postpone a foreclosure sale. Mabry v. Superior Court, 185 Cal.App.4th 208, 2141, 110 Cal.Rptr.3d 201 (2010). Under section 2923.5, “a mortgagee, trustee, beneficiary, or authorized agent” must follow certain procedures in the context of a foreclosure. Cal. Civ.Code § 2923.5. Plaintiffs allege that LSI acted as an agent for Wells Fargo and was involved in the preparation of forged and fraudulent foreclosure notices, including the Notice of Default, Substitution of Trustee and Notice of Trustee’s Sale. See Notice of Joinder for Inclusion of LSI Title Company, Dkt. 25. These allegations support the conclusion that Plaintiffs may have a potential claim against LSI under section 2923.5, and that LSI is not merely a nominal party as Wells Fargo Defendants now contend. See Cheng v. Wells Fargo Bank, N.A., No. SACV10–1764–JST (FFMx), 2010 WL 4923045, at *1 (C.D.Cal., Dec.2, 2010) (finding that LSI was not fraudulently joined in a mortgage fraud action removed from state court where plaintiffs alleged that LSI was acting as an agent for Wells Fargo in connection with the allegedly fraudulent foreclosure of their home). Thus, even if there was complete diversity at the time of removal, Plaintiffs’ subsequent joinder of LSI destroyed diversity jurisdiction and requires remand. See 28 U.S.C § 1447(e).

 

Boggs v. Wells Fargo Bank NA, C 11-2346 SBA, 2012 WL 2357428 (N.D. Cal. June 14, 2012)

 

NBA IS WEAKER THAN HOLA

 

Defendants cite to only one case holding that the NBA has preemptive effect over certain California laws relating to foreclosure. See Acosta v. Wells Fargo Bank, N.A., C 10–9910JF (PVT), 2010 WL 2077209 (N.D.Cal. May 21, 2010). In Acosta, Judge Fogel analogized the NBA to the Home Owners’ Loan Act (“HOLA”), which some courts have found to preempt state laws relating to federal savings banks. Id. at *8 (finding that the NBA preempted § 2923.5 because “several district courts within the Ninth Circuit have determined that the Home Owners’ Loan Act (“HOLA”), 12 U.S.C. § 1464–which contains the nearly identical language at 12 U.S.C. § 1464(b)(10)-preempts Section 2923.5”).

However, the analogy between the NBA and HOLA is flawed. Unlike the NBA, which contains only a conflict preemption clause, HOLA contains a broad field preemption clause. Specifically, 12 C.F.R. § 560.2(a) provides, in relevant part,

To enhance safety and soundness and to enable federal savings associations to conduct their operations in accordance with best practices (by efficiently delivering low-cost credit to the public free from undue regulatory duplication and burden), [the Office of Thrift Supervision (“OTS”) ] hereby occupies the entire field of lending regulation for federal savings associations. OTS intends to give federal savings associations maximum flexibility to exercise their lending powers in accordance with a uniform federal scheme of regulation. Accordingly, federal savings associations may extend credit as authorized under federal law, including this part, without regard to state laws purporting to regulate or otherwise affect their credit activities, except to the extent provided in paragraph (c) or § 560.102 of this part.

 

paragraph (c) is intended to be interpreted narrowly. Any doubt should be resolved in favor of preemption.

Parcray v. Shea Mortg. Inc., CV–F09–1942OWW/GSA, 2010 WL 1659369, at *7–8 (E.D.Cal. Apr.23, 2010) (quoting OTS, Final Rule, 61 Fed.Reg. 50951, 50966–50967 (Sept. 30, 1996) (emphasis added)). Thus, the savings clause comes into play only if the law at issue is not listed in the preemption section.

Such broad preemption language is absent from the NBA. In contrast to 12 C.F.R. § 502.2(b) of the OTS/HOLA regulations which broadly declares categories of state law that are preempted per se, 12 C.F.R. § 34.4(b) declares categories that are not preempted if they have an incidental effect on bank’s lending powers. Indeed, the Ninth Circuit has concluded that, while the OTS/HOLA regulations described above permit a court to consider the savings clause of § 560.2(c) only if the law at issue does not fall within the express preemption provisions of § 560.2(b), the OCC/NBA regulations “require[ ] the court to consider both the express preemption and savings clauses together” in the first instance. Aguayo v. U.S. Bank, 653 F.3d 912, 922 (9th Cir.2011) (emphasis added) (internal citations omitted).

As the Ninth Circuit held in Aguayo v. U.S. Bank, “while the OTS [HOLA] and the OCC [NBA] regulations are similar in many ways, the OCC has explicitly avoided full field preemption in its rulemaking and has not been granted full field preemption by Congress.” 653 F.3d at 921–22 (internal citations omitted). “Because of this difference in field preemption, courts have been cautious in applying OTS analysis to OCC regulations.” Id. at 922 (internal citations omitted). HOLA’s strict field preemption analysis therefore bears little relation to the NBA’s more flexible conflict preemption analysis. See also Gerber v. Wells Fargo Bank, N.A., CV 11–01083–PHX–NVW, 2012 WL 413997 (D.Ariz. Feb.9, 2012) (“[T]he [NBA] rule only preempts the types and features of state laws pertaining to making loans and taking deposits that are specifically listed in the regulation.”) (quoting OCC Interpretive Letter No. 1005, 2004 WL 3465750 (June 10, 2004) (emphasis added); citing Martinez v. Wells Fargo Home Mortg., Inc., 598 F.3d 549, 555 (9th Cir.2010) (“The [NBA] (and OCC regulations thereunder) does not ‘preempt the field’ of banking.”)).

The distinction between HOLA’s field preemption, on the one hand, and NBA’s mere conflict preemption, on the other, renders cases construing HOLA preemption inapposite to the question of whether NBA preemption applies. It is likely for this reason that almost no courts have addressed NBA preemption in the context of foreclosure litigation, despite the growing body of foreclosure cases circulating through the state and federal court systems.

*8 Aside from the one case Defendants cite which, in this Court’s view, erroneously applies the HOLA preemption analysis in the context of the NBA, Defendants provide no other authority for the proposition that Plaintiff’s state law claims, including § 2923.5, are preempted by the NBA. The few courts that have examined the NBA’s application to state foreclosure laws have concluded that “state laws regulating foreclosure are [ ] not preempted by NBA.” Gerber v. Wells Fargo Bank, N.A., CV 11–01083–PHX–NVW, 2012 WL 413997, at *8 (D.Ariz. Feb.9, 2012). Gerber reached this conclusion after an extensive analysis of the NBA’s preemption provisions, and concluded that “there has never been a federal presence [ ] sufficient to displace the various types of state statutes governing foreclosure procedures. Indeed, foreclosure practices govern ‘acquisition and transfer of property,’ an area which the Supreme Court has already confirmed lies within states’ presumed powers to regulate.” See id. at *5 (quoting Watters, 550 U.S. at 11) (addressing NBA preemption and concluding that banks remain subject to state laws regarding, e.g., “acquisition and transfer of property”). Gerber also concluded that “foreclosure” was not among the NBA’s expressly preempted state laws in 12 C.F.R. § 34.4(a). Although the regulation listed “servicing,” the court found that “foreclosure” was not sufficiently related to “servicing” because “[t]he OCC went to the trouble of specificity concerning other phases of the loan’s existence (e.g., ‘processing,’ ‘origination’) but did not list ‘foreclosure,’ and it is therefore difficult to assume that it meant to include it within a ‘servicing’ catch-all.” Id. at *8. The court noted that such a reading would create the implausible result of “bring[ing] down … probably every state’s laws regarding foreclosure.” Id. See also Loder v. World Savings Bank, N.A., No. C11–00053 TEH, 2011 WL 1884733, at *7 (N.D.Cal. May 18, 2011) (expressing concern, in the context of a HOLA preemption argument, that “a broad interpretation of what it means to ‘service’ or ‘participate in’ a mortgage could operate to preempt most all California foreclosure statutes where the foreclosing entity is a national lender”).

The Court finds Gerber persuasive and adopts its reasoning with respect to Plaintiff’s state law claims asserted here, including under § 2923.5. As the Supreme Court has explained, the NBA leaves national banks “subject to the laws of the State,” and banks “are governed in their daily course of business far more by the laws of the State than of the nation.” Atherton v. FDIC, 519 U.S. 213, 222, 117 S.Ct. 666, 136 L.Ed.2d 656 (1997) (quoting Nat’l Bank v. Commonwealth, 75 U.S. 353, 362 (1869)). The Supreme Court has also noted the states’ longstanding interest in regulating the foreclosure process, and has imposed a clear statement rule on any statutes that could potentially be construed to impinge on that interest. See BFP v. Resolution Trust Corp., 511 U.S. 531, 541–44, 114 S.Ct. 1757, 128 L.Ed.2d 556 (1994) (describing long history of state regulation of the foreclosure process and declining to read a provision of the Bankruptcy Code as disrupting “the ancient harmony that foreclosure law and fraudulent conveyance law … have heretofore enjoyed”).

*9 The OCC itself has confirmed that state foreclosure laws are not generally within the scope of NBA preemption. See Bank Activities and Operations; Real Estate Lending and Appraisals, 69 Fed.Reg.1904–01, at 1912 & n. 59 (Jan. 23, 2004) (OCC final rule describing state foreclosure laws as generally among laws that “do not attempt to regulate the manner or content of national banks’ real estate lending, but that instead form the legal infrastructure that makes it practicable to exercise a permissible Federal power”).

If there were any doubt as to whether preemption under HOLA was equivalent to preemption under the NBA, the recent Dodd–Frank legislation lays such doubt to rest. The Dodd–Frank Act changed the above-described HOLA preemption analysis and mandates that HOLA preemption would now follow the more lenient NBA conflict preemption standard. See Settle v. World Sav. Bank, F.S.B., ED CV 11–00800 MMM, 2012 WL 1026103, at *13 (C.D.Cal. Jan.11, 2012) (“The Dodd–Frank Act provides that HOLA does not occupy the field in any area of state law and that preemption is governed by the standards applicable to national banks.”) (quoting Davis v. World Savings Bank, FSB, 806 F.Supp.2d 159, 166 n. 5 (D.D.C.2011); citing Pub.L. No. 111–203, 2010 HR 4173 § 1046 (“Any determination by a court or by the Director or any successor officer or agency regarding the relation of State law to a provision of this chapter or any regulation or order prescribed under this chapter shall be made in accordance with the laws and legal standards applicable to national banks regarding the preemption of State law…. Notwithstanding the authorities granted under sections 4 and 5, this Act does not occupy the field in any area of State law.”). Thus, not only is HOLA preemption inapplicable to NBA cases, it is no longer applicable at all to any post-Dodd-Frank transactions.

ii. No Conflict Preemption

Under NBA conflict preemption, Plaintiff’s § 2923.5 claim does not impose any constraints on banks’ lending or servicing powers. Rather, it “only incidentally affect[s] the exercise of national banks’ real estate lending powers” by requiring certain procedural hurdles before a bank may foreclose on real property and transfer said property to a new owner. See 12 C.F.R. § 34.4(b) (exempting from NBA preemption any state laws that incidentally affect banks and concern, inter alia, contracts, torts, rights to collect debts, or acquisition and transfer of real property); Mabry v. Superior Court, 185 Cal.App.4th 208, 231, 110 Cal.Rptr.3d 201 (2010) (finding that § 2923.5 does not create a right to loan modification and that failure to comply with its requirements can only result in a delay in foreclosure).

Other cases are in accord and confirm that Plaintiff’s state common law claims are similarly outside the scope of NBA preemption. See, e.g., Lucia v. Wells Fargo Bank, N.A., 798 F.Supp.2d 1059, 1065–66 (N.D.Cal.2011) (White, J.) (finding that UCL, state contract, and Rosenthal Act claims arising out of failed modifications of home mortgage loans under HAMP were not preempted because the “theories upon which the claims are based do not necessarily impinge upon the bank’s obligations under the NBA” because they are “state laws of general application”); Sutclife v. Wells Fargo Bank, N.A., C–11–06595 JCS, 2012 WL 1622665, at *23 (N.D.Cal. May 9, 2012) (same); see also Gutierrez v. Wells Fargo & Co., C07–05923 WHA, 2010 WL 1233885 (N.D.Cal. Mar.26, 2010) (finding that UCL claims based on banks’ alleged deceptive business practices related to fees and other servicing conduct are not preempted when they do not challenge “a bank’s right to establish a fee,” but rather challenge, e.g., “a bank’s right to deceive or unfairly induce customers into paying them”) (citing Martinez v. Wells Fargo Home Mortg., Inc., 598 F.3d 549, 555 (9th Cir.2010) (“State laws of general application, which merely require all businesses (including national banks) to refrain from fraudulent, unfair, or illegal behavior, do not necessarily impair a bank’s ability to exercise its [federally-authorized] powers.”)).3

*10 Indeed, as noted above, if the Court accepted Defendant’s arguments, it would be questionable whether any of California’s (or other states’) foreclosure laws could avoid preemption. Yet federal law provides no legal framework for foreclosure. Mabry, 185 Cal.App.4th at 231, 110 Cal.Rptr.3d 201. Thus, Defendant essentially asks the Court to eviscerate decades of state foreclosure regulation. The Court finds no authority to do so.

 

 

Tamburri v. Suntrust Mortg., Inc., C-11-2899 EMC, 2012 WL 2367881 (N.D. Cal. June 21, 2012)

 

INTERESTING ATTORNEY FRAUD ALLEGATION IN 5.1M TIBURON SHORT SALE AFTER F/C  SUIT IN MARIN

 

Plaintiffs allege that on January 12, 2012, the day the short sale was to close, Michael Zhao, Buyer Defendants’ real estate agent, informed SPS that defendants were attempting to defraud plaintiffs. Id. at ¶ 34. The FAC alleges that Zhao told SPS that defendants prepared two sets of purported short sale documents. Id. One set, which was given to SPS for its review, provided that no proceeds from the sale would be directed to the Attorney Defendants or would be used to satisfy any junior liens on the property. Id. at ¶ 35. The second set of documents, which reflected a higher purchase price than the documents presented to SPS, provided that some proceeds would go to the Attorney Defendants as well as other junior lien holders. Id. Plaintiffs allege that defendants intended the second set of documents to be recorded as the actual transaction. Id.

Select Portfolio Servicing v. Valentino, C 12-0334 SI, 2012 WL 2343754 (N.D. Cal. June 20, 2012)

Doubts About Independent Foreclosure Review Spread

25 Oct

(File, Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

by Paul Kiel
ProPublica, Oct. 19, 2012, 9 a.m.

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The idea behind the Independent Foreclosure Review seems simple. During the peak of the foreclosure crisis, the banks broke laws and made errors that hurt homeowners. In response, the government mandated they compensate the victims.

But there is growing evidence some banks are playing a major role in identifying the victims of their own abuses, raising the question of whether the review is compromised by conflicts of interest.
Our FAQ on the Foreclosure Reviews

Answers to homeowners’ questions about the Independent Foreclosure Review.
Do You Work in Mortgage Servicing or as a Foreclosure File Reviewer?

If you’ve worked for a servicer or on the Independent Foreclosure Review, contact our lead reporter.
ProPublica’s Foreclosure & Loan Mod Facebook Page

Ask questions, share your experiences, and connect with fellow homeowners on ProPublica’s new foreclosure Facebook page.
Resources

The State of HAMP
See the performance of all the mortgage servicers.
Making Home Affordable.gov
The administration’s web site for the foreclosure prevention program. Provides an FAQ, homeowner examples, and other tools to see whether you might qualify for the program.
Foreclosure Avoidance Counselors
A list of HUD-approved housing counseling agencies nationwide.
FTC Tips for Mortgage Servicing Consumers
Tips for homeowners from the Federal Trade Commission.
Program Guidelines for Mortgage Servicers
These rules lay out how mortgage servicers are supposed to conduct the program.
Calculated Risk
A finance and economics blog that provides news and metrics on the state of the housing market.

Did Your Bank Wrongfully Seek to Foreclose on You?

We’d like to hear from current and former homeowners who wrongfully faced foreclosure in the last couple of years.
Do You Work in Mortgage Servicing or as a Foreclosure File Reviewer?

If you’ve worked for a servicer or on the Independent Foreclosure Review, contact our lead reporter.

Last week we reported that Bank of America, according to bank employees and internal memos and emails, is performing much of the work itself. Now, a ProPublica examination of contracts that outline what work the banks would do on the review shows that America’s four largest banks all planned to participate heavily in evaluating whether homeowners were harmed. Three of the four banks would even help set how much compensation victimized homeowners would receive.

The four banks — Wells Fargo, Citibank, JPMorgan Chase, and Bank of America — together account for about three quarters of the 4.4 million homeowners eligible for the program.

The review was designed to work like this: Each bank or mortgage servicer would hire an “independent consultant” to evaluate that bank’s foreclosure cases, identify who was harmed and determine how much compensation each victim deserved. The maximum cash compensation a homeowner can receive through the review is $125,000. No money has been awarded yet.

However, the secrecy of the program makes it impossible to know for sure how it’s actually being conducted. After being pushed by Congress and borrower advocates, bank regulators publicly posted the contracts between each bank and the consultant each hired last year to provide the “independent” review of foreclosure cases. It’s these contracts that show that the banks planned to perform much of the work themselves.

Yet the main regulator for the biggest banks, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC), said the contracts don’t accurately describe how the reviews work now. “Much has changed,” OCC spokesman Bryan Hubbard told ProPublica.

The OCC did confirm that some banks’ mortgage servicing divisions are coming up with “self-identified findings of harm/no harm” and presenting them to the independent consultants. But the OCC would not specify which banks are doing this.

Moreover, said Hubbard, any such finding by the banks “does not influence the consultant.”

Advocates disagree. “It’s hard to imagine that it doesn’t influence the outcome,” said Alys Cohen of the National Consumer Law Center. “The consultant is supposed to act like an arbiter between the mortgage servicer and the homeowner — except the consultant is not only paid by the servicer, the servicer can put their finger on the scale. Meanwhile, the homeowner is totally in the dark once they send in their application.”

What the Contracts Say

Like Bank of America, the other three big banks hired their “independent consultants” last year. Their contracts all describe a similar process for handling homeowner claims: After a homeowner submits a form detailing the bank’s ostensible errors or abuses, the bank itself would perform a review of the case to determine if the homeowner was victimized by the bank’s own practices. The bank would then pass on its findings to the consultant, which would make the final decision of how much compensation, if any, the homeowner would receive. The program launched in November of 2011, a couple of months after the contracts were signed.

Two companies — Promontory Financial Group and PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) — won half of the contracts awarded so far: Promontory is handling the reviews for three banks, PwC for four.

Wells Fargo’s contract with Promontory states that the bank would “process the complaint, prepare a recommended disposition, and provide the complaint, the recommendation, and supporting documentation to Promontory for independent review and decisioning [sic].”

Promontory, which is also serving as the consultant for Bank of America’s foreclosure review, referred ProPublica back to the same comment it made in response to our previous story and declined to comment further. In response to Bank of America internal documents that indicated Promontory would be relying on Bank of America’s analysis for its determinations, a Promontory spokeswoman called the bank’s work merely “clerical” and said Promontory employees analyze the material assembled by Bank of America “independently with no involvement from the servicer.”

Wells Fargo did not directly respond to ProPublica’s questions about whether its employees were analyzing homeowners’ files. Instead, spokeswoman Vickee Adams said the bank’s role “is focused on providing relevant documents and information to the independent consultants, clarifying or confirming facts or findings and providing all details surrounding the events that occurred related to the foreclosure process.”

Citibank’s contract language with its consultant, PwC, is very similar to Wells Fargo’s. “It is the responsibility of Citibank to prepare the case file and conduct the initial review of the complaint,” it states. “Citibank will then forward the in-scope complaints, a report of Citibank’s findings and its proposed resolution to PwC for independent review.”

A PwC spokesperson declined to comment. Citi spokesman Mark Rodgers said only, “We are compliant with the process we agreed to with the regulators.”

Chase’s contract with Deloitte & Touche (D&T) is a little different. It says that the consultant would do its own review of homeowner complaints, while Chase “will also conduct its own review. D&T may consider the results of [Chase’s] review in preparing its findings.”

Neither Chase nor Deloitte responded directly to ProPublica’s questions about the bank’s role in the reviews. “We continue to work closely with the Independent Consultant, the regulators and the consortium [of banks involved in the program] on the final steps in the Independent Foreclosure Review process,” was the entire response from Chase spokeswoman Amy Bonitatibus.

“We are conducting an independent review of the files and it is that review alone that will drive our recommendations,” said Deloitte spokesman Jonathan Gandal. “Beyond that, we are not at liberty to discuss matters pertaining to our services.”

Smaller Banks

The contracts of many smaller banks are different. The contracts of four banks — Ally Financial/GMAC, MetLife Bank, U.S. Bank, and Sovereign Bank — have clauses that say the banks would gather documents for the consultant’s review, but there is no mention of their employees actually analyzing the files and forwarding recommendations to the independent consultants. One bank, OneWest, had no language at all in its contract about bank employees gathering documents or reviewing files. OneWest declined to comment.

The contract between GMAC Mortgage, the fifth largest servicer, and PwC states that GMAC is “responsible for assembling the documents necessary for the review” and should see which files require “immediate action.” (The parent company for GMAC Mortgage, which declared bankruptcy earlier this year, is Ally Financial.)

GMAC spokeswoman Susan Fitzpatrick said the servicer only reviewed complaints when the homeowner had not yet been foreclosed on. The purpose of those reviews, she said, was to postpone the foreclosure sale before it occurred if it appeared that any errors had taken place. Regulators have said homeowners who submit complaints while still in foreclosure will “receive expedited attention.”

GMAC is not reviewing the files of homeowners who have already lost their homes, said Fitzpatrick, and the servicer “will not propose borrower resolutions,” she said. PwC alone makes the final assessment, she said.

PwC declined to comment.

Regulators Differ

The OCC is the primary regulator for most of the 14 banks conducting the foreclosure reviews, but the Federal Reserve oversees four of them. The Fed says that none of its banks are performing regular analyses of the borrower complaints.

But some of the banks overseen by the Fed do have language in their contracts saying the banks themselves would be reviewing the homeowners’ complaints. SunTrust, for instance, has language in its contract very similar to what’s in Bank of America’s. The Fed is also overseeing the review for a subsidiary of Chase, EMC Mortgage Corporation, which has the same language in its contract that Chase does for its main servicing divisions.

Federal Reserve spokeswoman Barbara Hagenbaugh said that regardless of the contracts, none of the servicers it is overseeing are forwarding analyses of the homeowner files to the consultant. “For a brief period of time early in the process, we understand one servicer forwarded a preliminary analysis of files to its consultant,” she said. “The consultant has assured us these files were not relied on for its assessments and those analyses are no longer forwarded.

“Federal Reserve examiners are monitoring the consultants and servicers closely to ensure the process remains independent.”

By contrast, the OCC described a general procedure followed by the banks it oversees that includes the bank analyzing the homeowners’ files and forwarding that analysis to the consultant.

“[The] servicer generally performs its own review of how it administered the file, and will communicate its rationale and self-identified findings of harm/no harm to the independent consultant,” the OCC’s Hubbard wrote in an email to ProPublica. “The independent consultant may review the servicer’s rationale/findings, but will conduct its own review and draw its own conclusions.”

Another Pennies on the Dollar Settlement

25 Oct

Livinglies's Weblog

Editor’s Note: like the post before this one, it is astonishing how these settlements fall so far short of the actual damage that was created by the banks by their intentional illicit and criminal behavior.

This one “relates to conduct at Greenwich Capital, the R.B.S. unit that bundled mortgages into securities and sold them to investors. Nevada found that R.B.S. worked closely with Countrywide Financial and Option One, two of the most aggressive lenders during the boom.” They were categorized as sub-prime even if the borrower was not sub-prime. That way they loaned less of the investor money at a higher nominal rate, charged the borrower for additional underwriting risk when there was no underwriting at all, and kept the excess interest, the excess funding that should  have gone into standard loans properly underwritten according to industry standards.

The trap was teaser rates that borrowers could never decipher: “From 2004…

View original post 781 more words

Doubts About “Independent Foreclosure Review”

25 Oct

Livinglies's Weblog

It really isn’t much different than the way the foreclosures themselves are done. After a roulette spin on the LPS Desktop program for foreclosures, a “lender” is selected and appoints itself through a series of LPS generated documents. Now we have a new beneficiary or a new mortgagee.

Then we have the new beneficiary designate the trustee who acts as a foreclosure agent instead of a trustee. Despite the fact that the trustor disputes the substitution of trustee and notice of default and notice of sale, the beneficiary has essentially appointed itself as the trustee, contrary to every known law allowing non-judicial foreclosure.

Then comes the requirement for “independent foreclosure review” which is as independent as the above-described foreclosure process. This should be challenged in court for breach of the statutory  duties under the note and mortgage (and add…

View original post 118 more words

TILA does not require a loan servicer to identify who owns a loan, unless the servicer owns the loan by assignment

24 Oct

From: Charles Cox [mailto:charles@bayliving.com]
Sent: Friday, October 19, 2012 7:03 AM
To: Charles Cox
Subject: TILA does not require a loan servicer to identify who owns a loan, unless the servicer owns the loan by assignment

TILA does not require a loan servicer to identify who owns a loan, unless the servicer owns the loan by assignment

· Sheppard Mullin Richter & Hampton LLP

· Alejandro E. Moreno and Shannon Petersen

·

· October 16 2012

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·

In Gale v. First Franklin Loan Services, 686 F.3d 1055 (9th Cir. 2012), the Ninth Circuit held that a borrower has no right under the federal Truth in Lending Act (“TILA”) to require a loan servicer to identify the owner of a loan obligation. TILA requires a servicer to identify the owner of the loan only when the servicer owns the loan, and only when the servicer owns the loan by assignment.

In Gale, the borrower refinanced his home mortgage with First Franklin Loan Services, which both originated the loan and serviced it. After the borrower became delinquent, he demanded First Franklin identify the “true” owner of the obligation. First Franklin ignored the requests and proceeded with foreclosure. The borrower filed suit claiming, in part, a violation of TILA. The trial court dismissed the TILA cause of action as a matter of law, and the Ninth Circuit affirmed.

On appeal, the borrower argued that the plain language of TILA, 15 U.S.C. Section 1641(f)(2), required First Franklin to respond to his inquiries regarding the identity of the owner of the loan. That section states that upon written request, “the servicer shall provide the obligor . . . with the name, address, and telephone number of the owner of the obligation . . .” The Ninth Circuit explained that this provision does not apply to all loan servicers, but only those servicers who are owners of the loan by assignment after loan origination. In this case, First Franklin was both the original lender and the servicer, so this section did not apply.

The Ninth Circuit also noted that, since a 2010 amendment to the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act, all servicers must identify the owner of a real estate loan if requested, under all circumstances. This change, however, does not apply retroactively to claims (like the claim in Gale) that accrued prior to 2010.

Gale v. First Franklin Loan Se.docx

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