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Getting the 50,000 or three times the actual damages after Foreclosure

16 Oct

Getting the 50,000 or three times the actual damages

sanctions-604x270 (b) After a trustee’s deed upon sale has been recorded, a mortgage
servicer, mortgagee, trustee, beneficiary, or authorized agent shall
be liable to a borrower for actual economic damages pursuant to
Section 3281, resulting from a material violation of Section 2923.55,
2923.6, 2923.7, 2924.9, 2924.10, 2924.11, or 2924.17 by that
mortgage servicer, mortgagee, trustee, beneficiary, or authorized
agent where the violation was not corrected and remedied prior to the
recordation of the trustee’s deed upon sale. If the court finds that
the material violation was intentional or reckless, or resulted from
willful misconduct by a mortgage servicer, mortgagee, trustee,
beneficiary, or authorized agent, the court may award the borrower
the greater of treble actual damages or statutory damages of fifty
thousand dollars ($50,000).

2923.55. (a) A mortgage servicer, mortgagee, trustee, beneficiary,
or authorized agent may not record a notice of default pursuant to
Section 2924 until all of the following:
(1) The mortgage servicer has satisfied the requirements of
paragraph (1) of subdivision (b).
(2) Either 30 days after initial contact is made as required by
paragraph (2) of subdivision (b) or 30 days after satisfying the due
diligence requirements as described in subdivision (f).
(3) The mortgage servicer complies with subdivision (c) of Section
2923.6, if the borrower has provided a complete application as
defined in subdivision (h) of Section 2923.6.
(b) (1) As specified in subdivision (a), a mortgage servicer shall
send the following information in writing to the borrower:
(A) A statement that if the borrower is a servicemember or a
dependent of a servicemember, he or she may be entitled to certain
protections under the federal Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (50
U.S.C. Appen. Sec. 501 et seq.) regarding the servicemember’s
interest rate and the risk of foreclosure, and counseling for covered
servicemembers that is available at agencies such as Military
OneSource and Armed Forces Legal Assistance.
(B) A statement that the borrower may request the following:
(i) A copy of the borrower’s promissory note or other evidence of
indebtedness.
(ii) A copy of the borrower’s deed of trust or mortgage.
(iii) A copy of any assignment, if applicable, of the borrower’s
mortgage or deed of trust required to demonstrate the right of the
mortgage servicer to foreclose.
(iv) A copy of the borrower’s payment history since the borrower
was last less than 60 days past due.
(2) A mortgage servicer shall contact the borrower in person or by
telephone in order to assess the borrower’s financial situation and
explore options for the borrower to avoid foreclosure. During the
initial contact, the mortgage servicer shall advise the borrower that
he or she has the right to request a subsequent meeting and, if
requested, the mortgage servicer shall schedule the meeting to occur
within 14 days. The assessment of the borrower’s financial situation
and discussion of options may occur during the first contact, or at
the subsequent meeting scheduled for that purpose. In either case,
the borrower shall be provided the toll-free telephone number made
available by the United States Department of Housing and Urban
Development (HUD) to find a HUD-certified housing counseling agency.
Any meeting may occur telephonically.
(c) A notice of default recorded pursuant to Section 2924 shall
include a declaration that the mortgage servicer has contacted the
borrower, has tried with due diligence to contact the borrower as
required by this section, or that no contact was required because the
individual did not meet the definition of “borrower” pursuant to
subdivision (c) of Section 2920.5.
(d) A mortgage servicer’s loss mitigation personnel may
participate by telephone during any contact required by this section.
(e) A borrower may designate, with consent given in writing, a
HUD-certified housing counseling agency, attorney, or other adviser
to discuss with the mortgage servicer, on the borrower’s behalf, the
borrower’s financial situation and options for the borrower to avoid
foreclosure. That contact made at the direction of the borrower shall
satisfy the contact requirements of paragraph (2) of subdivision
(b). Any foreclosure prevention alternative offered at the meeting by
the mortgage servicer is subject to approval by the borrower.
(f) A notice of default may be recorded pursuant to Section 2924
when a mortgage servicer has not contacted a borrower as required by
paragraph (2) of subdivision (b), provided that the failure to
contact the borrower occurred despite the due diligence of the
mortgage servicer. For purposes of this section, “due diligence”
shall require and mean all of the following:
(1) A mortgage servicer shall first attempt to contact a borrower
by sending a first-class letter that includes the toll-free telephone
number made available by HUD to find a HUD-certified housing
counseling agency.
(2) (A) After the letter has been sent, the mortgage servicer
shall attempt to contact the borrower by telephone at least three
times at different hours and on different days. Telephone calls shall
be made to the primary telephone number on file.
(B) A mortgage servicer may attempt to contact a borrower using an
automated system to dial borrowers, provided that, if the telephone
call is answered, the call is connected to a live representative of
the mortgage servicer.
(C) A mortgage servicer satisfies the telephone contact
requirements of this paragraph if it determines, after attempting
contact pursuant to this paragraph, that the borrower’s primary
telephone number and secondary telephone number or numbers on file,
if any, have been disconnected.
(3) If the borrower does not respond within two weeks after the
telephone call requirements of paragraph (2) have been satisfied, the
mortgage servicer shall then send a certified letter, with return
receipt requested, that includes the toll-free telephone number made
available by HUD to find a HUD-certified housing counseling agency.
(4) The mortgage servicer shall provide a means for the borrower
to contact it in a timely manner, including a toll-free telephone
number that will provide access to a live representative during
business hours.
(5) The mortgage servicer has posted a prominent link on the
homepage of its Internet Web site, if any, to the following
information:
(A) Options that may be available to borrowers who are unable to
afford their mortgage payments and who wish to avoid foreclosure, and
instructions to borrowers advising them on steps to take to explore
those options.
(B) A list of financial documents borrowers should collect and be
prepared to present to the mortgage servicer when discussing options
for avoiding foreclosure.
(C) A toll-free telephone number for borrowers who wish to discuss
options for avoiding foreclosure with their mortgage servicer.
(D) The toll-free telephone number made available by HUD to find a
HUD-certified housing counseling agency.
(g) This section shall not apply to entities described in
subdivision (b) of Section 2924.18.
(h) This section shall apply only to mortgages or deeds of trust
described in Section 2924.15.
(i) This section shall remain in effect only until January 1,
2018, and as of that date is repealed, unless a later enacted
statute, that is enacted before January 1, 2018, deletes or extends
that date.

2923.6. (a) The Legislature finds and declares that any duty that
mortgage servicers may have to maximize net present value under their
pooling and servicing agreements is owed to all parties in a loan
pool, or to all investors under a pooling and servicing agreement,
not to any particular party in the loan pool or investor under a
pooling and servicing agreement, and that a mortgage servicer acts in
the best interests of all parties to the loan pool or investors in
the pooling and servicing agreement if it agrees to or implements a
loan modification or workout plan for which both of the following
apply:
(1) The loan is in payment default, or payment default is
reasonably foreseeable.
(2) Anticipated recovery under the loan modification or workout
plan exceeds the anticipated recovery through foreclosure on a net
present value basis.
(b) It is the intent of the Legislature that the mortgage servicer
offer the borrower a loan modification or workout plan if such a
modification or plan is consistent with its contractual or other
authority.
(c) If a borrower submits a complete application for a first lien
loan modification offered by, or through, the borrower’s mortgage
servicer, a mortgage servicer, mortgagee, trustee, beneficiary, or
authorized agent shall not record a notice of default or notice of
sale, or conduct a trustee’s sale, while the complete first lien loan
modification application is pending. A mortgage servicer, mortgagee,
trustee, beneficiary, or authorized agent shall not record a notice
of default or notice of sale or conduct a trustee’s sale until any of
the following occurs:
(1) The mortgage servicer makes a written determination that the
borrower is not eligible for a first lien loan modification, and any
appeal period pursuant to subdivision (d) has expired.
(2) The borrower does not accept an offered first lien loan
modification within 14 days of the offer.
(3) The borrower accepts a written first lien loan modification,
but defaults on, or otherwise breaches the borrower’s obligations
under, the first lien loan modification.
(d) If the borrower’s application for a first lien loan
modification is denied, the borrower shall have at least 30 days from
the date of the written denial to appeal the denial and to provide
evidence that the mortgage servicer’s determination was in error.
(e) If the borrower’s application for a first lien loan
modification is denied, the mortgage servicer, mortgagee, trustee,
beneficiary, or authorized agent shall not record a notice of default
or, if a notice of default has already been recorded, record a
notice of sale or conduct a trustee’s sale until the later of:
(1) Thirty-one days after the borrower is notified in writing of
the denial.
(2) If the borrower appeals the denial pursuant to subdivision
(d), the later of 15 days after the denial of the appeal or 14 days
after a first lien loan modification is offered after appeal but
declined by the borrower, or, if a first lien loan modification is
offered and accepted after appeal, the date on which the borrower
fails to timely submit the first payment or otherwise breaches the
terms of the offer.
(f) Following the denial of a first lien loan modification
application, the mortgage servicer shall send a written notice to the
borrower identifying the reasons for denial, including the
following:
(1) The amount of time from the date of the denial letter in which
the borrower may request an appeal of the denial of the first lien
loan modification and instructions regarding how to appeal the
denial.
(2) If the denial was based on investor disallowance, the specific
reasons for the investor disallowance.
(3) If the denial is the result of a net present value
calculation, the monthly gross income and property value used to
calculate the net present value and a statement that the borrower may
obtain all of the inputs used in the net present value calculation
upon written request to the mortgage servicer.
(4) If applicable, a finding that the borrower was previously
offered a first lien loan modification and failed to successfully
make payments under the terms of the modified loan.
(5) If applicable, a description of other foreclosure prevention
alternatives for which the borrower may be eligible, and a list of
the steps the borrower must take in order to be considered for those
options. If the mortgage servicer has already approved the borrower
for another foreclosure prevention alternative, information necessary
to complete the foreclosure prevention alternative.
(g) In order to minimize the risk of borrowers submitting multiple
applications for first lien loan modifications for the purpose of
delay, the mortgage servicer shall not be obligated to evaluate
applications from borrowers who have already been evaluated or
afforded a fair opportunity to be evaluated for a first lien loan
modification prior to January 1, 2013, or who have been evaluated or
afforded a fair opportunity to be evaluated consistent with the
requirements of this section, unless there has been a material change
in the borrower’s financial circumstances since the date of the
borrower’s previous application and that change is documented by the
borrower and submitted to the mortgage servicer.
(h) For purposes of this section, an application shall be deemed
“complete” when a borrower has supplied the mortgage servicer with
all documents required by the mortgage servicer within the reasonable
timeframes specified by the mortgage servicer.
(i) Subdivisions (c) to (h), inclusive, shall not apply to
entities described in subdivision (b) of Section 2924.18.
(j) This section shall apply only to mortgages or deeds of trust
described in Section 2924.15.
(k) This section shall remain in effect only until January 1,
2018, and as of that date is repealed, unless a later enacted
statute, that is enacted before January 1, 2018, deletes or extends
that date.

2923.7. (a) Upon request from a borrower who requests a foreclosure
prevention alternative, the mortgage servicer shall promptly
establish a single point of contact and provide to the borrower one
or more direct means of communication with the single point of
contact.
(b) The single point of contact shall be responsible for doing all
of the following:
(1) Communicating the process by which a borrower may apply for an
available foreclosure prevention alternative and the deadline for
any required submissions to be considered for these options.
(2) Coordinating receipt of all documents associated with
available foreclosure prevention alternatives and notifying the
borrower of any missing documents necessary to complete the
application.
(3) Having access to current information and personnel sufficient
to timely, accurately, and adequately inform the borrower of the
current status of the foreclosure prevention alternative.
(4) Ensuring that a borrower is considered for all foreclosure
prevention alternatives offered by, or through, the mortgage
servicer, if any.
(5) Having access to individuals with the ability and authority to
stop foreclosure proceedings when necessary.
(c) The single point of contact shall remain assigned to the
borrower’s account until the mortgage servicer determines that all
loss mitigation options offered by, or through, the mortgage servicer
have been exhausted or the borrower’s account becomes current.
(d) The mortgage servicer shall ensure that a single point of
contact refers and transfers a borrower to an appropriate supervisor
upon request of the borrower, if the single point of contact has a
supervisor.
(e) For purposes of this section, “single point of contact” means
an individual or team of personnel each of whom has the ability and
authority to perform the responsibilities described in subdivisions
(b) to (d), inclusive. The mortgage servicer shall ensure that each
member of the team is knowledgeable about the borrower’s situation
and current status in the alternatives to foreclosure process.
(f) This section shall apply only to mortgages or deeds of trust
described in Section 2924.15.
(g) (1) This section shall not apply to a depository institution
chartered under state or federal law, a person licensed pursuant to
Division 9 (commencing with Section 22000) or Division 20 (commencing
with Section 50000) of the Financial Code, or a person licensed
pursuant to Part 1 (commencing with Section 10000) of Division 4 of
the Business and Professions Code, that, during its immediately
preceding annual reporting period, as established with its primary
regulator, foreclosed on 175 or fewer residential real properties,
containing no more than four dwelling units, that are located in
California.
(2) Within three months after the close of any calendar year or
annual reporting period as established with its primary regulator
during which an entity or person described in paragraph (1) exceeds
the threshold of 175 specified in paragraph (1), that entity shall
notify its primary regulator, in a manner acceptable to its primary
regulator, and any mortgagor or trustor who is delinquent on a
residential mortgage loan serviced by that entity of the date on
which that entity will be subject to this section, which date shall
be the first day of the first month that is six months after the
close of the calendar year or annual reporting period during which
that entity exceeded the threshold.

2924.9. (a) Unless a borrower has previously exhausted the first
lien loan modification process offered by, or through, his or her
mortgage servicer described in Section 2923.6, within five business
days after recording a notice of default pursuant to Section 2924, a
mortgage servicer that offers one or more foreclosure prevention
alternatives shall send a written communication to the borrower that
includes all of the following information:
(1) That the borrower may be evaluated for a foreclosure
prevention alternative or, if applicable, foreclosure prevention
alternatives.
(2) Whether an application is required to be submitted by the
borrower in order to be considered for a foreclosure prevention
alternative.
(3) The means and process by which a borrower may obtain an
application for a foreclosure prevention alternative.
(b) This section shall not apply to entities described in
subdivision (b) of Section 2924.18.
(c) This section shall apply only to mortgages or deeds of trust
described in Section 2924.15.
(d) This section shall remain in effect only until January 1,
2018, and as of that date is repealed, unless a later enacted
statute, that is enacted before January 1, 2018, deletes or extends
that date.

2924.10. (a) When a borrower submits a complete first lien
modification application or any document in connection with a first
lien modification application, the mortgage servicer shall provide
written acknowledgment of the receipt of the documentation within
five business days of receipt. In its initial acknowledgment of
receipt of the loan modification application, the mortgage servicer
shall include the following information:
(1) A description of the loan modification process, including an
estimate of when a decision on the loan modification will be made
after a complete application has been submitted by the borrower and
the length of time the borrower will have to consider an offer of a
loan modification or other foreclosure prevention alternative.
(2) Any deadlines, including deadlines to submit missing
documentation, that would affect the processing of a first lien loan
modification application.
(3) Any expiration dates for submitted documents.
(4) Any deficiency in the borrower’s first lien loan modification
application.
(b) For purposes of this section, a borrower’s first lien loan
modification application shall be deemed to be “complete” when a
borrower has supplied the mortgage servicer with all documents
required by the mortgage servicer within the reasonable timeframes
specified by the mortgage servicer.
(c) This section shall not apply to entities described in
subdivision (b) of Section 2924.18.
(d) This section shall apply only to mortgages or deeds of trust
described in Section 2924.15.
(e) This section shall remain in effect only until January 1,
2018, and as of that date is repealed, unless a later enacted
statute, that is enacted before January 1, 2018, deletes or extends
that date.

2924.11. (a) If a foreclosure prevention alternative is approved in
writing prior to the recordation of a notice of default, a mortgage
servicer, mortgagee, trustee, beneficiary, or authorized agent shall
not record a notice of default under either of the following
circumstances:
(1) The borrower is in compliance with the terms of a written
trial or permanent loan modification, forbearance, or repayment plan.
(2) A foreclosure prevention alternative has been approved in
writing by all parties, including, for example, the first lien
investor, junior lienholder, and mortgage insurer, as applicable, and
proof of funds or financing has been provided to the servicer.
(b) If a foreclosure prevention alternative is approved in writing
after the recordation of a notice of default, a mortgage servicer,
mortgagee, trustee, beneficiary, or authorized agent shall not record
a notice of sale or conduct a trustee’s sale under either of the
following circumstances:
(1) The borrower is in compliance with the terms of a written
trial or permanent loan modification, forbearance, or repayment plan.
(2) A foreclosure prevention alternative has been approved in
writing by all parties, including, for example, the first lien
investor, junior lienholder, and mortgage insurer, as applicable, and
proof of funds or financing has been provided to the servicer.
(c) When a borrower accepts an offered first lien loan
modification or other foreclosure prevention alternative, the
mortgage servicer shall provide the borrower with a copy of the fully
executed loan modification agreement or agreement evidencing the
foreclosure prevention alternative following receipt of the executed
copy from the borrower.
(d) A mortgagee, beneficiary, or authorized agent shall record a
rescission of a notice of default or cancel a pending trustee’s sale,
if applicable, upon the borrower executing a permanent foreclosure
prevention alternative. In the case of a short sale, the rescission
or cancellation of the pending trustee’s sale shall occur when the
short sale has been approved by all parties and proof of funds or
financing has been provided to the mortgagee, beneficiary, or
authorized agent.
(e) The mortgage servicer shall not charge any application,
processing, or other fee for a first lien loan modification or other
foreclosure prevention alternative.
(f) The mortgage servicer shall not collect any late fees for
periods during which a complete first lien loan modification
application is under consideration or a denial is being appealed, the
borrower is making timely modification payments, or a foreclosure
prevention alternative is being evaluated or exercised.
(g) If a borrower has been approved in writing for a first lien
loan modification or other foreclosure prevention alternative, and
the servicing of that borrower’s loan is transferred or sold to
another mortgage servicer, the subsequent mortgage servicer shall
continue to honor any previously approved first lien loan
modification or other foreclosure prevention alternative, in
accordance with the provisions of the act that added this section.
(h) This section shall apply only to mortgages or deeds of trust
described in Section 2924.15.
(i) This section shall not apply to entities described in
subdivision (b) of Section 2924.18.
(j) This section shall remain in effect only until January 1,
2018, and as of that date is repealed, unless a later enacted
statute, that is enacted before January 1, 2018, deletes or extends
that date.

2924.17. (a) A declaration recorded pursuant to Section 2923.5 or,
until January 1, 2018, pursuant to Section 2923.55, a notice of
default, notice of sale, assignment of a deed of trust, or
substitution of trustee recorded by or on behalf of a mortgage
servicer in connection with a foreclosure subject to the requirements
of Section 2924, or a declaration or affidavit filed in any court
relative to a foreclosure proceeding shall be accurate and complete
and supported by competent and reliable evidence.
(b) Before recording or filing any of the documents described in
subdivision (a), a mortgage servicer shall ensure that it has
reviewed competent and reliable evidence to substantiate the borrower’
s default and the right to foreclose, including the borrower’s loan
status and loan information.
(c) Until January 1, 2018, any mortgage servicer that engages in
multiple and repeated uncorrected violations of subdivision (b) in
recording documents or filing documents in any court relative to a
foreclosure proceeding shall be liable for a civil penalty of up to
seven thousand five hundred dollars ($7,500) per mortgage or deed of
trust in an action brought by a government entity identified in
Section 17204 of the Business and Professions Code, or in an
administrative proceeding brought by the Department of Business
Oversight or the Bureau of Real Estate against a respective licensee,
in addition to any other remedies available to these entities. This
subdivision shall be inoperative on January 1, 2018.

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

6 Jan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Also on HuffPost:

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California’s antideficiency rules latest holding

29 Jun

 

Bank of America v Mitchell (2012)

The Editor’s Take: Watching our courts attempt to steer California’s antideficiency rules through the treacherous currents of multiple security contexts is always somewhat painful. Code of Civil Procedure §580d, enacted in 1939, prohibits recovery of a deficiency judgment after a nonjudicial sale, which seems straightforward enough at the start. But 24 years later, the California Supreme Court held that this prohibition did not apply to a creditor suing on its junior note after having been sold out in a senior foreclosure sale (the “sold-out junior exception”). Roseleaf Corp. v Chierighino (1963) 59 C2d 35, 41, 27 CR 873. But then, 30 years after that, a court of appeal held that this sold-out junior exception did not apply to a creditor who held both the senior and junior notes. Simon v Superior Court (1992) 4 CA4th 63, 71, 5 CR2d 428. So from then on, we had a “being your own junior” exception to the “sold-out junior” exception.

A decade after that came two more exceptions to the exception to the exception: The court in Ostayan v Serrano Reconveyance Co. (2000) 77 CA4th 1411, 1422, 92 CR2d 577, , allowed a two-note-holding creditor to foreclose on its junior deed of trust and sell the property subject to its own senior encumbrance (although that is not a §580d issue). More importantly, National Enters., Inc. v Woods (2001) 94 CA4th 1217, 115 CR2d 37, allowed the holder of two notes to judicially foreclose on the first one and to sell the second note to a third party, who then was held able to sue on it as a sold-out junior. This was technically not a §580d issue, since the senior foreclosure was not by power of sale, but the reasoning made it look like we were going to have a “third party transferee” or “unbundling the package” exception to the “being your own junior” exception of Simon. It began to look like Simon would be eaten away with exceptions, especially when the original lender made a timely divestment of one of its notes.

But instead, we now learn from Mitchell that the Simon doctrine will be applied against a third party transferee who took the junior paper from the common lender after that lender had trustee sold the property under its senior deed of trust. Both National Enters. and Mitchell involved a transfer of the junior loan after a sale under the senior security, differing only with regard to whether the senior foreclosure was judicial or nonjudicial, which distinction should perhaps matter more to the selling senior than to the nonselling junior.

So many factors potentially affect the outcomes in these situations that it is really impossible to make any confident predictions. How much does it matter whether the two loans were made at the same or different times? Whether they were for related or entirely different purposes? Whether one of them was transferred (and before or after the other was foreclosed)? Whether the transferred loan was the senior or junior? Whether the one foreclosed was the senior or junior? Whether the foreclosure was judicial or nonjudicial? I can point out these distinctions, but that doesn’t mean I can forecast their effect on the outcome of the next case that comes up. —Roger Bernhardt

 

204 Cal.App.4th 1199 (2012)

139 Cal. Rptr. 3d 562

BANK OF AMERICA, N.A., Plaintiff and Appellant,
v.
MICHAEL MITCHELL, Defendant and Respondent.

No. B233924.

Court of Appeals of California, Second District, Division Four.

April 10, 2012.

1202*1202 The Dreyfuss Firm and Bruce Dannemeyer for Plaintiff and Appellant.

Law Offices of Ulric E. J. Usher, Ulric E. J. Usher and Richard Kavonian for Defendant and Respondent.

OPINION

SUZUKAWA, J.—

Appellant Bank of America’s (Bank) predecessor in interest loaned respondent Michael Mitchell (Mitchell) $315,000 to purchase a home, secured by two notes and first and second deeds of trust. When Mitchell defaulted on the loan, the lender foreclosed and sold the property. The lender then assigned the second deed of trust to the Bank, which initiated the present action to recover the indebtedness evidenced by the note. Mitchell demurred, and the court sustained the demurrer without leave to amend, concluding that the Bank’s action was barred by California’s antideficiency law. The Bank appeals from the judgment of dismissal and from the subsequent award of prevailing party attorney fees to Mitchell. We affirm.

STATEMENT OF THE CASE

The Bank filed the present action on September 16, 2010, and it filed the operative first amended complaint (complaint), asserting causes of action for 1203*1203 breach of contract, open book account, and money lent, on December 2, 2010. The complaint alleges that Mitchell obtained a loan from GreenPoint Mortgage Funding, Inc. (GreenPoint), on or about September 14, 2006. The loan was evidenced by a note secured by a deed of trust recorded against real property located at 45245 Kingtree Avenue, Lancaster, California (the property). The security for the loan was eliminated by a senior foreclosure sale in 2009. Because Mitchell defaulted on payments owing on the loan, the complaint alleged that he breached the terms of the contract, resulting in damage to the Bank in the principal sum of $63,000, plus interest at the note rate of 11.625 percent from March 1, 2010, through the date of judgment.

Mitchell demurred. Concurrently with his demurrer, he sought judicial notice of several documents, including two deeds of trust, a notice of trustee’s sale, and a trustee’s deed upon sale. On the basis of these documents, he contended that on September 14, 2006, GreenPoint made him two loans to purchase the property, with a note and deed of trust for each loan recorded against the property. The first note and deed of trust were for $252,000, and the second note and deed of trust were for $63,000. Both deeds of trust were recorded on September 21, 2006. Mitchell defaulted on the notes sometime in 2008. A notice of default was recorded, and the property was sold at trustee sale for $53,955.01 on November 6, 2009. More than a year later, on November 18, 2010, GreenPoint assigned the second deed of trust to Bank of America, which subsequently filed the present action to recover on the second note and deed of trust. Mitchell contended that the action was barred by California’s antideficiency legislation, which bars a deficiency judgment following nonjudicial foreclosure of real property.

The trial court granted Mitchell’s request for judicial notice and sustained the demurrer without leave to amend on January 27, 2011, concluding that the Bank’s breach of contract and common counts claims seek recovery of the balance owed on the obligation secured by the second deed of trust and, thus, are barred by the antideficiency statutes as a matter of law. On April 7, 2011, the court awarded Mitchell prevailing party attorney fees of $8,400 and costs of $534.72.

Judgment for Mitchell was entered on July 8, 2011. The Bank appealed from the award of attorney fees on June 17, 2011, and from the judgment on August 8, 2011. We ordered the two appeals consolidated on October 13, 2011.

STANDARD OF REVIEW

“A demurrer tests the legal sufficiency of the factual allegations in a complaint. We independently review the sustaining of a demurrer and determine de novo whether the complaint alleges facts sufficient to state a cause of 1204*1204 action or discloses a complete defense. (McCall v. PacifiCare of Cal., Inc. (2001) 25 Cal.4th 412, 415 [106 Cal.Rptr.2d 271, 21 P.3d 1189]Cryolife, Inc. v. Superior Court (2003) 110 Cal.App.4th 1145, 1152 [2 Cal.Rptr.3d 396].) We assume the truth of the properly pleaded factual allegations, facts that reasonably can be inferred from those expressly pleaded, and matters of which judicial notice has been taken. (Schifando v. City of Los Angeles (2003) 31 Cal.4th 1074, 1081 [6 Cal.Rptr.3d 457, 79 P.3d 569].) We construe the pleading in a reasonable manner and read the allegations in context. (Ibid.)” (City of Industry v. City of Fillmore (2011) 198 Cal.App.4th 191, 205 [129 Cal.Rptr.3d 433].)

“If we determine the facts as pleaded do not state a cause of action, we then consider whether the court abused its discretion in denying leave to amend the complaint. (McClain v. Octagon Plaza, LLC [(2008)] 159 Cal.App.4th [784,] 791-792 [71 Cal.Rptr.3d 885].) It is an abuse of discretion for the trial court to sustain a demurrer without leave to amend if the plaintiff demonstrates a reasonable possibility that the defect can be cured by amendment. (Schifando v. City of Los Angeles[,supra,] 31 Cal.4th [at p.] 1081. . . .)” (Estate of Dito (2011) 198 Cal.App.4th 791, 800-801 [130 Cal.Rptr.3d 279].)

Attorney fee awards normally are reviewed for abuse of discretion. In the present case, however, the Bank contends that the trial court lacked the authority as a matter of law to award attorney fees in any amount. Accordingly, our review is de novo. (Connerly v. Sate Personnel Bd. (2006) 37 Cal.4th 1169, 1175 [39 Cal.Rptr.3d 788, 129 P.3d 1].)

DISCUSSION

I. The Trial Court Properly Sustained the Demurrer Without Leave to Amend

A. Code of Civil Procedure Section 580d

(1) “`In California, as in most states, a creditor’s right to enforce a debt secured by a mortgage or deed of trust on real property is restricted by statute. Under California law, “the creditor must rely upon his security before enforcing the debt. (Code Civ. Proc., §§ 580a, 725a, 726.) If the security is insufficient, his right to a judgment against the debtor for the deficiency may be limited or barred . . . .” [Citation.]’ [Citation.]” (In re Marriage of Oropallo (1998) 68 Cal.App.4th 997, 1003 [80 Cal.Rptr.2d 669].)

Code of Civil Procedure section 580d (section 580d) prohibits a creditor from seeking a judgment for a deficiency on all notes “secured by a deed of 1205*1205 trust or mortgage upon real property . . . in any case in which the real property . . . has been sold by the mortgagee or trustee under power of sale contained in the mortgage or deed of trust.”[1] The effect of section 580d is that “`the beneficiary of a deed of trust executed after 1939 cannot hold the debtor for a deficiency unless he uses the remedy of judicial foreclosure. . . .'” (Simon v. Superior Court (1992) 4 Cal.App.4th 63, 71 [5 Cal.Rptr.2d 428] (Simon).)

(2) In Roseleaf Corp. v. Chierighino (1963) 59 Cal.2d 35 [27 Cal.Rptr. 873, 378 P.2d 97] (Roseleaf), the California Supreme Court held that where two deeds of trust are held against a single property and the senior creditor nonjudicially forecloses on the property, section 580d does not prohibit the holder of the junior lienor “whose security has been rendered valueless by a senior sale” from recovering a deficiency judgment. (59 Cal.2d at p. 39.) There, defendant Chierighino purchased a hotel from plaintiff Roseleaf Corporation. The consideration for the hotel included three notes, each secured by a second trust deed on parcels owned by Chierighino. After the sale of the hotel, the third parties who held the first trust deeds on the three parcels nonjudicially foreclosed on them, rendering Roseleaf’s second trust deeds valueless. Roseleaf then brought an action to recover the full amount unpaid on the three notes secured by the second trust deeds. (Id. at p. 38.)

The trial court entered judgment for Roseleaf. Chierighino appealed, contending that Roseleaf’s action was barred by section 580d, but the Supreme Court disagreed and affirmed. It explained that the purpose of section 580d was to “put judicial enforcement [of powers of sale] on a parity with private enforcement.” (Roseleaf, supra, 59 Cal.2d at p. 43.) That purpose, the court said, would not be served by applying section 580d against a nonselling junior lienor: “Even without the section the junior has fewer rights after a senior private sale than after a senior judicial sale. He may redeem from a senior judicial sale (Code Civ. Proc., § 701), or he may obtain a deficiency judgment. [Citations.] After a senior private sale, the junior has no right to redeem. This disparity of rights would be aggravated were he also denied a right to a deficiency judgment by section 580d. There is no purpose in denying the junior his single remedy after a senior private sale while leaving 1206*1206 him with two alternative remedies after a senior judicial sale. The junior’s right to recover should not be controlled by the whim of the senior, and there is no reason to extend the language of section 580d to reach that result.” (59 Cal.2d at p. 44.)

In Simon, supra, 4 Cal.App.4th 63, the court held that the rule articulated in Roseleafdid not apply to protect a junior lienor who also held the senior lien. There, Bank of America (Lender) lent the Simons $1,575,000, for which the Simons gave it two separate promissory notes. Each note was secured by a separate deed of trust naming the Bank as beneficiary and describing the same real property (the property). Subsequently, the Simons defaulted on the senior note and the Lender foreclosed. The Lender purchased the property at the nonjudicial foreclosure sale and then filed an action to recover the unpaid balance of the junior note. (Id. at p. 66.)

(3) After detailing the history of the antideficiency legislation and the governing case law, the court held that section 580d barred the Lender’s deficiency causes of action. It noted that in Roseleaf, the Supreme Court explained that the purpose of section 580d was to create parity between judicial and nonjudicial enforcement. Such parity would not be served “if [the Lender] here is permitted to make successive loans secured by a senior and junior deed of trust on the same property; utilize its power of sale to foreclose the senior lien, thereby eliminating the Simons’ right to redeem; and having so terminated that right of redemption, obtain a deficiency judgment against the Simons on the junior obligation whose security [the Lender], thus, made the choice to eliminate.” (Simon, supra, 4 Cal.App.4th at p. 77.) The court continued: “Unlike a true third party sold-out junior, [the Lender’s] right to recover as a junior lienor which is also the purchasing senior lienor is obviously not controlled by the `whim of the senior.’ We will not sanction the creation of multiple trust deeds on the same property, securing loans represented by successive promissory notes from the same debtor, as a means of circumventing the provisions of section 580d. [Fn. omitted.] The elevation of the form of such a contrived procedure over its easily perceived substance would deal a mortal blow to the antideficiency legislation of this state. Assuming, arguendo, legitimate reasons do exist to divide a loan to a debtor into multiple notes thus secured, section 580d must nonetheless be viewed as controlling where, as here, the senior and junior lenders and lienors are identical and those liens are placed on the same real property. Otherwise, creditors would be free to structure their loans to a single debtor, and the security therefor, so as to obtain on default the secured property on a trustee’s sale under a senior deed of trust; thereby eliminate the debtor’s right of redemption thereto; and thereafter effect an excessive recovery by obtaining a deficiency judgment against that debtor on an obligation secured by a junior lien the creditor chose to eliminate.” (Id. at pp. 77-78.)

1207*1207 B. Simon and Roseleaf Bar a Deficiency Judgment in the Present Case

(4) Simon is dispositive of the present case. Here, Mitchell executed two promissory notes, for $252,000 and $63,000, secured by the first and second deeds of trust in the property. As in Simon, the first and second deeds of trust were held by a single lender, GreenPoint. GreenPoint, as beneficiary under the first deed of trust, chose to exercise its power of sale by holding a nonjudicial foreclosure sale. GreenPoint thus was not a “sold-out junior” lienor and would not have been permitted to obtain a deficiency judgment against Mitchell under the rule articulated in Simon. The result is no different because GreenPoint, after the trustee sale, assigned the second deed of trust to the Bank. “An assignment transfers the interest of the assignor to the assignee. Thereafter, `”[t]he assignee `stands in the shoes’ of the assignor, taking his rights and remedies, subject to any defenses which the obligor has against the assignor prior to notice of the assignment.”‘ [Citation.]” (Manson, Iver & York v. Black (2009) 176 Cal.App.4th 36, 49 [97 Cal.Rptr.3d 522].) Accordingly, because GreenPoint could not have obtained a deficiency judgment against Mitchell, the Bank also is precluded from doing so.

The Bank urges that Simon is distinguishable because in that case, the lender ultimately purchased the property for a credit bid at its own foreclosure sale, whereas in this case, the property was sold to a third party. The Bank thus contends that “[u]nder Simon if (a) both loans are held by the same lender and (b) that lender acquires the property at the foreclosure sale, the risk of manipulation by the lender is too great, so no deficiency is allowed. But if either is missing, the risk of manipulation is reduced, and a deficiency should be allowed.” Like the trial court, we reject the contention that the lender must have acquired the property at the foreclosure sale forSimon to apply. Although Simon noted the lender’s purchase at the foreclosure sale, that purchase was not material to its holding. Instead, the court’s focus was on the lender’s dual position as holder of the first and second deeds of trust, and its consequent ability to protect its own interest. (Simon, supra, 4 Cal.App.4th at p. 72 [“[The Lender] was not a third party sold-out junior lienholder as was the case inRoseleaf. As the holder of both the first and second liens, [the Lender] was fully able to protect its secured position. It was not required to protect its junior lien from its own foreclosure of the senior lien by the investment of additional funds. Its position of dual lienholder eliminated any possibility that [the Lender], after foreclosure and sale of the liened property under its first lien, might end up with no interest in the secured property, the principal rationale of the court’s decision in Roseleaf.“].)

The Bank further contends that the present case is distinguishable from Simonbecause the presence of a third party purchaser at the foreclosure sale 1208*1208prevented the kind of “manipulation” possible in Simon. According to the Bank, “[w]hen the foreclosure sale results in acquisition by a third party, who competed with the foreclosing lender and all other bidders at the public auction, a low-ball bid is impossible. If the foreclosing lender bids below market, it will be outbid; it will not acquire the property. The lender cannot manipulate the price. The presence of third party bids demonstrates the market is at work to achieve a fair price. Third party bids provide the functional equivalent of a right of redemption. By outbidding the lender, the third party prevents the lender from manipulating the process.” We disagree. Whatever the merits of the Bank’s argument as a matter of policy, it has no support in the statute, and the Bank suggests none. Indeed, nothing in the antideficiency legislation suggests that the presence of a third party bidder at a foreclosure sale excepts the sale from the legislation and permits the lender to seek a deficiency judgment.[2]

For all the foregoing reasons, section 580d bars the deficiency judgment the Bank seeks in the present case and, thus, the trial court properly sustained the demurrer. Because the Bank suggests no way in which the legal defects identified could be cured by amendment, the demurrer was properly sustained without leave to amend.

II. The Trial Court Properly Awarded Mitchell Attorney Fees

A. Relevant Facts

Following the trial court’s order sustaining Mitchell’s demurrer without leave to amend, Mitchell filed a motion for attorney fees pursuant to Civil Code section 1717. Two days later, on February 10, 2011, the Bank filed a request for dismissal with prejudice. It then filed opposition to the motion for attorney fees, contending that there could be no prevailing party within the meaning of Civil Code section 1717 because it had voluntarily dismissed its action.[3]

On March 8, 2011, the trial court vacated the dismissal and granted Mitchell’s motion for attorney fees. It explained that because it had sustained a demurrer to the Bank’s complaint without leave to amend, the Bank did not have a right pursuant to Code of Civil Procedure section 581 to voluntarily dismiss the action, and the dismissal had been entered in error. It awarded Mitchell attorney fees of $8,400 and costs of $534.72.

1209*1209 B. Analysis

The Bank contends that the trial court lacked authority to award Mitchell attorney fees. It urges that under Code of Civil Procedure section 581, it had an absolute right to dismiss its case voluntarily, so long as it did so with prejudice. Because it did so, there was no prevailing party pursuant to Civil Code section 1717, subdivision (b)(2), and thus the trial court lacked authority to award Mitchell contractual attorney fees.

(5) The Bank is correct that under Civil Code section 1717, a defendant in a contract action is not deemed a prevailing party where the plaintiff voluntarily dismisses the action. (Id., subd. (b)(2) [“Where an action has been voluntarily dismissed or dismissed pursuant to a settlement of the case, there shall be no prevailing party for purposes of this section.”].) Therefore, if the Bank’s dismissal was valid, the Bank is correct that the trial court erred in awarding attorney fees. The trial court determined, however, that the Bank’s dismissal was not valid, the issue to which we now turn.

(6) Pursuant to Code of Civil Procedure section 581, a plaintiff may voluntarily dismiss an action, “with or without prejudice,” at any time before the “actual commencement of trial.” (§ 581, subds. (b)(1), (c).) Further, a plaintiff may voluntarily dismiss an action with prejudice “at any time before the submission of the cause.” (Estate of Somers (1947) 82 Cal.App.2d 757, 759 [187 P.2d 433].) Upon the proper exercise of the right of voluntary dismissal, a trial court “`would thereafter lack jurisdiction to enter further orders in the dismissed action.’ (Wells v. Marina City Properties, Inc. (1981) 29 Cal.3d 781, 784 [176 Cal.Rptr. 104, 632 P.2d 217].) `Alternatively stated, voluntary dismissal of an entire action deprives the court of both subject matter and personal jurisdiction in that case, except for the limited purpose of awarding costs and . . . attorney fees. [Citations.]’ (Gogri v. Jack in the Box, Inc.(2008) 166 Cal.App.4th 255, 261 [82 Cal.Rptr.3d 629].)” (Lewis C. Nelson & Sons, Inc. v. Lynx Iron Corp. (2009) 174 Cal.App.4th 67, 76 [94 Cal.Rptr.3d 468].)

A plaintiff’s right to voluntarily dismiss an action before commencement of trial is not absolute, however. (Lewis C. Nelson & Sons, Inc. v. Lynx Iron Corp., supra, 174 Cal.App.4th at pp. 76-77Zapanta v. Universal Care, Inc. (2003) 107 Cal.App.4th 1167, 1171 [132 Cal.Rptr.2d 842].) “Code of Civil Procedure section 581 recognizes exceptions to the right; other limitations have evolved through the courts’ construction of the term `commencement of trial.’ These exceptions generally arise where the action has proceeded to a determinative adjudication, or to a decision that is tantamount to an adjudication.” (Harris v. Billings (1993) 16 Cal.App.4th 1396, 1402 [20 Cal.Rptr.2d 718].)

1210*1210 (7) The Supreme Court found such a “determinative adjudication” in Goldtree v. Spreckels (1902) 135 Cal. 666 [67 P. 1091] (Goldtree). There, the defendant’s demurrer to each of the plaintiff’s causes of action was sustained without leave to amend as to the first two. The plaintiff then filed a written request to dismiss the entire case, and the court clerk entered an order of dismissal. The trial court vacated the dismissal, and the plaintiff appealed. (Id. at pp. 667-668.) The Supreme Court affirmed: “In our opinion the subdivision of the section 581 of the Code of Civil Procedure in question cannot be restricted in its meaning to trials of the merits after answer, for there may be such a trial on a general demurrer to the complaint as will effectually dispose of the case where the plaintiff has properly alleged all the facts which constitute his cause of action. If the demurrer is sustained, he stands on his pleading and submits to judgment on the demurrer, and, if not satisfied, has his remedy by appeal. In such a case, we think, there would be a trial within the meaning of the code, and the judgment would cut off the right of dismissal, unless it was first set aside or leave given to amend. [¶] The clerk had no authority, therefore, to enter the dismissal, and being void the court rightly set it aside.” (Id. at pp. 672-673.)

(8) The Supreme Court reached a similar result in Wells v. Marina City Properties, Inc., supra, 29 Cal.3d 781 (Wells). There, the trial court sustained the defendant’s demurrer with leave to amend. The plaintiff failed to amend within the time provided, but instead sought to voluntarily dismiss the action without prejudice. The Supreme Court held that the voluntary dismissal was improperly entered: “[O]nce a general demurrer is sustained with leave to amend and plaintiff does not so amend within the time authorized by the court or otherwise extended by stipulation or appropriate order, he can no longer voluntarily dismiss his action pursuant to section 581, subdivision 1, even if the trial court has yet to enter a judgment of dismissal on the sustained demurrer.” (Id. at p. 789.)

In the present case, the trial court sustained defendant’s demurrer without leave to amend on January 27, 2011. Although the trial court had not yet entered a judgment of dismissal when the Bank filed a request for voluntary dismissal on February 10, 2011, as in Goldtree and Wells, the trial court had already made a determinative adjudication on the legal merits of the Bank’s claim. Accordingly, as in those cases, the Bank no longer had the right to voluntarily dismiss under Code of Civil Procedure section 581.

The Bank contends that the present case is distinguishable from Goldtree and Wellsbecause here it sought to dismiss with prejudice, while in those cases the attempted dismissal was without prejudice. We do not agree. The 1211*1211 court rejected a similar contention in Vanderkous v. Conley (2010) 188 Cal.App.4th 111 [115 Cal.Rptr.3d 249] (Vanderkous). There, the plaintiff and the defendant formerly had lived together on a multilot parcel owned by the plaintiff. An arbitration award entered after their relationship ended directed the parties to cooperate in a lot line adjustment that would result in the home and a garage on a single lot to be owned by the defendant, with the remainder of the parcel to be owned by the plaintiff. The plaintiff was also to have access and utility easements over the garage area for the benefit of his parcel. The easements were executed by the defendant and recorded, but the garage and surrounding property were never transferred because the plaintiff never recorded either the lot line adjustment or the grant deed to the defendant for the garage and setback area. When the plaintiff subsequently sought to record a subdivision map, the title company that was to record the map refused to do so because the grants of easement by the defendant created a cloud on the plaintiff’s title. The plaintiff thus filed a complaint for declaratory relief and to quiet title. (Id. at pp. 114-115.)

Following a trial, the court filed a statement of decision that ordered the defendant to execute a quitclaim deed in favor of the plaintiff, and ordered the plaintiff to compensate the defendant in an amount equal to the full market value of the garage area. If the parties could not agree on the amount the plaintiff was to pay the defendant, each party was ordered to submit an appraisal for the court’s final determination. The defendant submitted an appraisal that valued the garage area at $410,000, and the plaintiff submitted an appraisal that valued the property at $75,000, but also requested a continuance and an evidentiary hearing on the value of the property. The day before the evidentiary hearing, the plaintiff filed a request for dismissal with prejudice with the clerk. The trial court ruled that the plaintiff’s attempt to dismiss was void ab initio and ordered the plaintiff to pay the defendant $199,246 plus attorney fees and costs. (Vanderkous, supra, 188 Cal.App.4th at p. 116.)

(9) The plaintiff appealed, contending that the trial court lacked jurisdiction to set aside his voluntary dismissal of his action and to award attorney fees. (Vanderkous, supra, 188 Cal.App.4th at p. 117.) The court disagreed and affirmed the judgment. It explained: “Section 581, subdivision (d) provides that a complaint may be dismissed with prejudice when the plaintiff abandons it before the final submission of the case.Here, the court’s statement of decision following the three-day court trial, states `[t]he matter was deemed submitted on March 10, 2008, following receipt of closing briefs from both sides.’ The statement of decision resolved Vanderkous’s quiet title cause of action and his claim for declaratory relief, and ordered him to compensate Conley for the fair market value of property she was required to quitclaim to 1212*1212 him. [¶] … [¶] Because Vanderkous has not convinced us that he had an absolute right to dismiss his complaint, we also reject his argument that the trial court lacked jurisdiction to set aside his attempted dismissal. [Citations.] A contrary rule would enable Vanderkous to avoid compliance with the court’s decision and would undermine the trial court’s authority to provide for the orderly conduct of proceedings before it and compel obedience to its judgments, orders, and process. (See § 128, subd. (a).)” (Vanderkous, supra, at pp. 117-118; see also Weil & Brown, Cal. Practice Guide: Civil Procedure Before Trial (The Rutter Group 2011) ¶ 11:28, p. 11-16 (rev. # 1, 2011) [“[O]nce the case is finally submitted for decision, there is no further right to dismiss with prejudice. At that point, plaintiffs cannot avoid an adverse ruling by abandoning the case.”].)

The present case is analogous. As in Vanderkous, the Bank sought to dismiss afterthe court made a dispositive ruling against it, not before. To allow the Bank to dismiss at that late stage would permit procedural gamesmanship inconsistent with the trial court’s authority to provide for the orderly conduct of proceedings before it.

We do not agree with the Bank that its right to dismiss is supported by this division’s decision in Marina Glencoe, L.P. v. Neue Sentimental Film AG (2008) 168 Cal.App.4th 874 [85 Cal.Rptr.3d 800] (Marina Glencoe). There, after the plaintiff presented its evidence on the single bifurcated issue of alter ego liability, the defendant moved for judgment. The court heard argument on the motion but did not rule; the following day, before a ruling on the pending motion, the plaintiff voluntarily dismissed the action with prejudice. The defendant moved for prevailing party attorney fees, and the court denied the motion, concluding that the defendant was not entitled to such fees under Civil Code section 1717. The defendant appealed. We affirmed, noting that because the plaintiff voluntarily dismissed with prejudice, “[i]ts intent was to end the litigation, not to manipulate the judicial process to avoid its inevitable end. This was entirely proper.” (168 Cal.App.4th at p. 878.)

The present case is distinguishable from Marina Glencoe. In Marina Glencoe, the plaintiff dismissed its action before the trial court ruled on a dispositive motion, and thus judgment in the defendant’s favor was not inevitable. In the present case, in contrast, the trial court had already sustained Mitchell’s demurrer without leave to amend, and thus judgment against the Bank had already “ripened to the point of inevitability.” (Marina Glencoe, supra, 168 Cal.App.4th at p. 878.) Accordingly, unlike in Marina Glencoe, the Bank no longer had the right to voluntarily dismiss its action, either with or without prejudice.

1213*1213 DISPOSITION

We affirm the judgment of dismissal and award of attorney fees. Mitchell shall recover his appellate costs.

Willhite, Acting P. J., and Manella, J., concurred.

[1] The full text of section 580d is as follows: “No judgment shall be rendered for any deficiency upon a note secured by a deed of trust or mortgage upon real property or an estate for years therein hereafter executed in any case in which the real property or estate for years therein has been sold by the mortgagee or trustee under power of sale contained in the mortgage or deed of trust.

“This section does not apply to any deed of trust, mortgage or other lien given to secure the payment of bonds or other evidences of indebtedness authorized or permitted to be issued by the Commissioner of Corporations, or which is made by a public utility subject to the Public Utilities Act (Part 1 (commencing with Section 201) of Division 1 of the Public Utilities Code).”

[2] Although not relevant to our analysis, we note that the property’s foreclosure sale purchase price of $53,955.01 does not convincingly demonstrate, as the Bank asserts, that the presence of a third party bidder made a “low-ball bid . . . impossible.”

[3] In its opposition, the Bank represented to the court as follows: “The litigation is over. There will be no appeal.”

 

Mortgage paperwork mess: Next housing shock?

7 May

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“It was. And still is,” she replied.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Yes,” she replied.

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

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

She told Pelley she asked for copies of those documents.

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

Produced by Robert Anderson and Daniel Ruetenik

Now for the pleading

Timothy L. McCandless, Esq. SBN 147715

LAW OFFICES OF TIMOTHY L. MCCANDLESS

1881 Business Center Drive, Ste. 9A

San Bernardino, CA 92392

Tel:  909/890-9192

Fax: 909/382-9956

Attorney for Plaintiffs

 

SUPERIOR COURT OF THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA

 

COUNTY OF ____________

___________________________________,And ROES 1 through 5,000,

Plaintiff,

v.

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

Defendants.

CASE NO:FIRST AMENDED COMPLAINT

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

SLANDER OF TITLE; TORTUOUS

VIOLATION OF STATUTE [Penal

Code § 470(b) – (d); NOTARY FRAUD;

///

///

///

///

Plaintiffs ___________________________ allege herein as follows:

GENERAL ALLEGATIONS

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

Parcel No. 1:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Interested Call our offices now!!!!

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909-890-9192

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The Top Twelve Reasons Why You Should Hate the Mortgage Settlement

9 Feb

As readers may know by now, 49 of 50 states have agreed to join the so-called mortgage settlement, with Oklahoma the lone refusenik. Although the fine points are still being hammered out, various news outlets (New York Times, Financial Times, Wall Street Journal) have details, with Dave Dayen’s overview at Firedoglake the best thus far.

The Wall Street Journal is also reporting that the SEC is about to launch some securities litigation against major banks. Since the statue of limitations has already run out on securities filings more than five years old, this means they’ll clip the banks for some of the very last (and dreckiest) deals they shoved out the door before the subprime market gave up the ghost.

The various news services are touting this pact at the biggest multi-state settlement since the tobacco deal in 1998. While narrowly accurate, this deal is bush league by comparison even though the underlying abuses in both cases have had devastating consequences.

The tobacco agreement was pegged as being worth nearly $250 billion over the first 25 years. Adjust that for inflation, and the disparity is even bigger. That shows you the difference in outcomes between a case where the prosecutors have solid evidence backing their charges, versus one where everyone know a lot of bad stuff happened, but no one has come close to marshaling the evidence.

The mortgage settlement terms have not been released, but more of the details have been leaked:

1. The total for the top five servicers is now touted as $26 billion (annoyingly, the FT is calling it “nearly $40 billion”), but of that, roughly $17 billion is credits for principal modifications, which as we pointed out earlier, can and almost assuredly will come largely from mortgages owned by investors. $3 billion is for refis, and only $5 billion will be in the form of hard cash payments, including $1500 to $2000 per borrower foreclosed on between September 2008 and December 2011.

Banks will be required to modify second liens that sit behind firsts “at least” pari passu, which in practice will mean at most pari passu. So this guarantees banks will also focus on borrowers where they do not have second lien exposure, and this also makes the settlement less helpful to struggling homeowners, since borrowers with both second and first liens default at much higher rates than those without second mortgages. Per the Journal:

“It’s not new money. It’s all soft dollars to the banks,” said Paul Miller, a bank analyst at FBR Capital Markets.

The Times is also subdued:

Despite the billions earmarked in the accord, the aid will help a relatively small portion of the millions of borrowers who are delinquent and facing foreclosure. The success could depend in part on how effectively the program is carried out because earlier efforts by Washington aimed at troubled borrowers helped far fewer than had been expected.

2. Schneiderman’s MERS suit survives, and he can add more banks as defendants. It isn’t clear what became of the Biden and Coakley MERS suits, but Biden sounded pretty adamant in past media presentations on preserving that.

3. Nevada’s and Arizona’s suits against Countrywide for violating its past consent decree on mortgage servicing has, in a new Orwellianism, been “folded into” the settlement.

4. The five big players in the settlement have already set aside reserves sufficient for this deal.

Here are the top twelve reasons why this deal stinks:

1. We’ve now set a price for forgeries and fabricating documents. It’s $2000 per loan. This is a rounding error compared to the chain of title problem these systematic practices were designed to circumvent. The cost is also trivial in comparison to the average loan, which is roughly $180k, so the settlement represents about 1% of loan balances. It is less than the price of the title insurance that banks failed to get when they transferred the loans to the trust. It is a fraction of the cost of the legal expenses when foreclosures are challenged. It’s a great deal for the banks because no one is at any of the servicers going to jail for forgery and the banks have set the upper bound of the cost of riding roughshod over 300 years of real estate law.

2. That $26 billion is actually $5 billion of bank money and the rest is your money. The mortgage principal writedowns are guaranteed to come almost entirely from securitized loans, which means from investors, which in turn means taxpayers via Fannie and Freddie, pension funds, insurers, and 401 (k)s. Refis of performing loans also reduce income to those very same investors.

3. That $5 billion divided among the big banks wouldn’t even represent a significant quarterly hit. Freddie and Fannie putbacks to the major banks have been running at that level each quarter.

4. That $20 billion actually makes bank second liens sounder, so this deal is a stealth bailout that strengthens bank balance sheets at the expense of the broader public.

5. The enforcement is a joke. The first layer of supervision is the banks reporting on themselves. The framework is similar to that of the OCC consent decrees implemented last year, which Adam Levitin and yours truly, among others, decried as regulatory theater.

6. The past history of servicer consent decrees shows the servicers all fail to comply. Why? Servicer records and systems are terrible in the best of times, and their systems and fee structures aren’t set up to handle much in the way of delinquencies. As Tom Adams has pointed out in earlier posts, servicer behavior is predictable when their portfolios are hit with a high level of delinquencies and defaults: they cheat in all sorts of ways to reduce their losses.

7. The cave-in Nevada and Arizona on the Countrywide settlement suit is a special gift for Bank of America, who is by far the worst offender in the chain of title disaster (since, according to sworn testimony of its own employee in Kemp v. Countrywide, Countrywide failed to comply with trust delivery requirements). This move proves that failing to comply with a consent degree has no consequences but will merely be rolled into a new consent degree which will also fail to be enforced. These cases also alleged HAMP violations as consumer fraud violations and could have gotten costly and emboldened other states to file similar suits not just against Countrywide but other servicers, so it was useful to the other banks as well.

8. If the new Federal task force were intended to be serious, this deal would have not have been settled. You never settle before investigating. It’s a bad idea to settle obvious, widespread wrongdoing on the cheap. You use the stuff that is easy to prove to gather information and secure cooperation on the stuff that is harder to prove. In Missouri and Nevada, the robosigning investigation led to criminal charges against agents of the servicers. But even though these companies were acting at the express direction and approval of the services, no individuals or entities higher up the food chain will face any sort of meaningful charges.

9. There is plenty of evidence of widespread abuses that appear not to be on the attorney generals’ or media’s radar, such as servicer driven foreclosures and looting of investors’ funds via impermissible and inflated charges. While no serious probe was undertaken, even the limited or peripheral investigations show massive failures (60% of documents had errors in AGs/Fed’s pathetically small sample). Similarly, the US Trustee’s office found widespread evidence of significant servicer errors in bankruptcy-related filings, such as inflated and bogus fees, and even substantial, completely made up charges. Yet the services and banks will suffer no real consequences for these abuses.

10. A deal on robosiginging serves to cover up the much deeper chain of title problem. And don’t get too excited about the New York, Massachusetts, and Delaware MERS suits. They put pressure on banks to clean up this monstrous mess only if the AGs go through to trial and get tough penalties. The banks will want to settle their way out of that too. And even if these cases do go to trial and produce significant victories for the AGs, they still do not address the problem of failures to transfer notes correctly.

11. Don’t bet on a deus ex machina in terms of the new Federal foreclosure task force to improve this picture much. If you think Schneiderman, as a co-chairman who already has a full time day job in New York, is going to outfox a bunch of DC insiders who are part of the problem, I have a bridge I’d like to sell to you.

12. We’ll now have to listen to banks and their sycophant defenders declaring victory despite being wrong on the law and the facts. They will proceed to marginalize and write off criticisms of the servicing practices that hurt homeowners and investors and are devastating communities. But the problems will fester and the housing market will continue to suffer. Investors in mortgage-backed securities, who know that services have been screwing them for years, will be hung out to dry and will likely never return to a private MBS market, since the problems won’t ever be fixed. This settlement has not only revealed the residential mortgage market to be too big to fail, but puts it on long term, perhaps permanent, government life support.

As we’ve said before, this settlement is yet another raw demonstration of who wields power in America, and it isn’t you and me. It’s bad enough to see these negotiations come to their predictable, sorry outcome. It adds insult to injury to see some try to depict it as a win for long suffering, still abused homeowners.

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

Chase Accused of Brazen Bankruptcy Fraud

17 Jan
English: Category:JPMorgan Chase

Image via Wikipedia


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.

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