Tag Archives: Recoupment

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

6 Jan

Image

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

Foreclosure Review
242
5
103
211
Get Business Alerts:

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:

Related News On Huffington Post:

Bank Of America Supplied Answers For ‘Independent’ Foreclosure Reviewers

ProPublica: The Independent Foreclosure Review is the government’s main effort to compensate homeowners for harm they suffered at the hands of banks — and, as…

Central Valley Foreclosures: Few Homeowners Taking Advantage Of Reviews

MODESTO — Nearly 50,000 Northern San Joaquin Valley homeowners potentially may be owed compensation for financial losses they incurred because of errors made during foreclosure…

Foreclosure-Prevention Roadshow Still Drawing Crowds Indicating Not All Is Well In The Housing Market

* NACA has hosted more than 100 events to assist homeowners * Group plays middleman between borrowers and banks * Foreclosures down from last year,…

Rebecca Mairone, BofA Exec Who Allegedly Enabled Fraud, Now Head Of JPMorgan Chase Foreclosure Review

by Paul Kiel ProPublica, Nov. 9, 2012, 1:18 p.m. An executive who the Justice Department says facilitated a scheme to defraud Fannie Mae and…
Advertisements

How to chase Chase – People sometimes ask me why do you publish all this stuff. My slogan IF YOUR ENEMY IS MY ENEMY THAN WE ARE FRIENDS !!!!

19 Nov

People sometimes ask me why do you publish all this stuff. My slogan IF YOUR ENEMY IS MY ENEMY THAN WE ARE FRIENDS

ChaseSucks.org

2. RESOURCES — Pleadings, Orders, and Exhibits

On this page you will find descriptions and links to various pleadings, orders, and exhibits filed by attorneys as well as individuals representing themselves. Where the outcome is known, that information is included. These documents are public records and are made available for your information, but their accuracy, competency, and effectiveness have not been verified. Only a judge can rule on a pleading and only an appellate court opinion that is certified for publication can be cited as precedent. That said, it can be both educational and entertaining to see how the great race is unfolding in the historic controversy of People v. Banks. For an entertaining public outing of history’s all-time greatest pickpockets, go see the documentary “Inside Job.”

Federal District Court

Carswell v. JPMorgan Chase, Case No. CV10-5152 GW

George Wu, Judge, U.S. District Court, Central District of California, Los Angeles
Douglas Gillies, attorney for Margaret Carswell

Plaintiff sued to halt a foreclosure initiated by JPMorgan Chase and California Reconveyance Co. on the grounds of failure to contract, wrongful foreclosure, unjust enrichment, RESPA and TILA violations, and fraud. She asked for quiet title and declaratory relief. Chase responded with a Motion to Dismiss. At a hearing on September 30, 2010, Judge Wu granted defendants’ motion to dismiss with leave to amend. Plaintiff’s First Amended Complaint was filed on October 18. It begins:

It was the biggest financial bubble in history. During the first decade of this century, banks abandoned underwriting practices and caused a frenzy of real estate speculation by issuing predatory loans that ultimately lowered property values in the United States by 30-50%. Banks reaped the harvest. Kerry Killinger, CEO of Washington Mutual, took home more than $100 million during the seven years that he steered WaMu into the ground. Banks issued millions of predatory loans knowing that the borrowers would default and lose their homes. As a direct, foreseeable, proximate result, 15 million families are now in danger of foreclosure. If the legions of dispossessed homeowners cannot present their grievances in the courts of this great nation, their only recourse will be the streets.

Chase responded with yet another Motion to Dismiss, Carswell filed her Opposition to the motion, and a hearing is scheduled for January 6, 2011, 8:30 AM in Courtroom 10, US District Court, 312 N. Spring Street, Los Angeles, CA.

 

Khast v. Washington Mutual, JPMorgan Chase, and CRC, Case No. CV10-2168 IEG

Irma E. Gonzalez, Chief Judge, U.S. District Court, Southern District of California
Kaveh Khast in pro se

A loan mod nightmare where Khast did everything right except laugh out loud when WaMu told him that he must stop making his mortgage payments for 90 days in order to qualify for a loan modification. As Khast leaped through the constantly shifting hoops tossed in the air, first by WaMu, then by Chase, filing no less than four applications, Chase issued a Notice of Trustee’s Sale.

Khast filed a pro se complaint in federal court. The District Court granted a Temporary Restraining Order to stop the sale. Hearing on a Preliminary Injunction is now scheduled for December 3. The court wrote that the conduct by WAMU appears to be “immoral, unethical, oppressive, unscrupulous or substantially injurious to consumers,” and thus satisfies the “unfair” prong of California’s Unfair Competition Law, Cal. Bus.&Prof.Code §17200. Plaintiff has stated that he possesses documents which support his contention that Defendant WAMU instructed Plaintiff to purposefully enter into default and assured Plaintiff that, if he did so, WAMU would restructure his loan. Accordingly, Plaintiff has demonstrated that he is likely to succeed on the merits of his claim.

The court also relied upon the doctrine of promissory estoppel. Under this doctrine a promisor is bound when he should reasonably expect a substantial change of position, either by act or forbearance, in reliance on his promise. He who by his language or conduct leads another to do what he would not otherwise have done shall not subject such person to loss or injury by disappointing the expectations upon which he acted.

 

Saxon Mortgage v. Hillery, Case No. C-08-4357

Edward M. Chen, U.S. Magistrate, Northern District of California
Thomas Spielbauer, attorney for Ruthie Hillery

Hillery obtained a home loan from New Century secured by a Deed of Trust, which named MERS as nominee for New Century and its successors. MERS later attempted to assign the Deed of Trust and the promissory note to Consumer. Consumer and the loan servicer then sued Hillery. The court ruled that Consumer must demonstrate that it is the holder of the deed of trust and the promissory note. In re Foreclosure Cases, 521 F. Supp. 2d 650, 653 (S.D. Oh. 2007) held that to show standing in a foreclosure action, the plaintiff must show that it is the holder of the note and the mortgage at the time the complaint was filed. For there to be a valid assignment, there must be more than just assignment of the deed alone; the note must also be assigned. “The note and mortgage are inseparable; the former as essential, the latter as an incident…an assignment of the note carries the mortgage with it, while an assignment of the latter alone is a nullity.” Carpenter v. Longan, 83 U.S. 271, 274 (1872).

There was no evidence that MERS held the promissory note or was given the authority by New Century to assign the note to Consumer. Without the note, Consumer lacked standing. If Consumer did not have standing, then the loan servicer also lacked standing. A loan servicer cannot bring an action without the holder of the note. In re Hwang, 393 B.R. 701, 712 (2008).

 

Serrano v. GMAC Mortgage, Case No. 8:09-CV-00861-DOC

David O. Carter, Judge, U.S. District Court, Central District of California, Los Angeles
Moses S. Hall, attorney for Ignacio Serrano

Plaintiff alleged in state court that GMAC initiated a non-judicial foreclosure sale and sold his residence without complying with the notice requirements of Cal. Civil Code Sec. 2923.5 and 2924, and without attaching a declaration to the 2923.5 notice under penalty of perjury stating that defendants tried with due diligence to contact the borrower. Defendants removed the case to federal court on the basis of diversity jurisdiction. The District Court granted defendants’ motion to dismiss without prejudice, and described in detail the defects in the Complaint with directions how to correct the defects. Plaintiff filed his Second Amended Complaint on 4/01/2010.

 

Sharma v. Provident Funding Associates, Case No. 3:2009-cv-05968

Vaughn R Walker, Judge, U.S. District Court, Northern District of California
Marc A. Fisher, attorney for Anilech and Parma Sharma

Defendants attempted to foreclose and plaintiffs sued in federal court, alleging that defendants did not contact them as required by Cal Civ Code § 2923.5. In considering plaintiffs’ request for an injunction to stop the foreclosure, the court found that plaintiffs had raised “serious questions going to the merits” and would suffer irreparable injury if the sale were to proceed. Property is considered unique. If defendants foreclosed, plaintiffs’ injury would be irreparable because they might be unable to reacquire it. Plaintiffs’ remedy at law, damages, would be inadequate. On the other hand, defendants would not suffer a high degree of harm if a preliminary injunction were ordered. While they would not be able to sell the property immediately and would incur litigation costs, when balanced against plaintiffs’ potential loss, defendants’ harm was outweighed.

The court issued a preliminary injunction enjoining defendants from selling the property while the lawsuit was pending.

 

Federal Bankruptcy Court

In re: Hwang, 396 B.R. 757 (2008), Case No. 08-15337 Chapter 7

Samuel L. Burford, U.S. Bankruptcy Judge, Los Angeles
Robert K. Lee, attorney for Kang Jin Hwang

As the servicer on Hwang’s promissory note, IndyMac was entitled to enforce the secured note under California law, but it must also satisfy the procedural requirements of federal law to obtain relief from the automatic stay in a Chapter 7 bankruptcy proceeding. These requirements include joining the owner of the note, because the owner of the note is the real party in interest under Rule 17, and it is also a required party under Rule 19. IndyMac failed to join the owner of the note, so its motion for relief from the automatic stay was denied.

Reversed on July 21, 2010. District Court Judge Philip Gutierrez reversed the Judge Burford’s determination that IndyMac is not the real party in interest under Rule 17 and that Rule 19 requires the owner of the Note to join the Motion.

 

In re: Vargas, Case No. 08-17036 Chapter 7

Samuel L. Burford, U.S. Bankruptcy Judge, Los Angeles
Marcus Gomez, attorney for Raymond Vargas

 

In re: Walker, Case No. 10-21656 Chapter 11

Ronald H. Sargis, Judge, U.S. Bankruptcy Court, Sacramento
Mitchell L. Abdallah, attorney for Rickie Walker

MERS assigned the Deed of Trust for Debtor’s property to Citibank, which filed a secured claim. Debtor objected to the claim. Judge Sargis ruled that the promissory note and the Deed of Trust are inseparable. An assignment of the note carries the mortgage with it, while an assignment of the Deed of Trust alone is a nullity. MERS was not the owner of the note, so it could not transfer the note or the beneficial interest in the Deed of Trust. The bankruptcy court disallowed Citibank’s claim because it could not establish that it was the owner of the promissory note.

 

California State Court

Cabalu v. Mission Bishop Real Estate

Superior Court of California, Alameda County
Brian A. Angelini, attorney for Cecil and Natividad Cabalu

 

Davies v. NDEX West, Case No. INC 090697

Randall White, Judge, Superior Court of California, Riverside County
Brian W. Davies, in pro per

 

Edstrom v. NDEX West, Wells Fargo Bank, et. al., Case No. 20100314

Superior Court of California, Eldorado County
Richard Hall, attorney for Daniel and Teri Anne Edstrom

A 61-page complaint with 29 causes of action to enjoin a trustee’s sale of plaintiffs’ residence, requesting a judicial sale instead of a non-judicial sale, declaratory relief, compensatory damages including emotional and mental distress, punitive damages, attorneys’ fees, and rescission.

 

Mabry v. Superior Court and Aurora Loan Services
185 Cal.App.4th 208, 110 Cal. Rptr. 3d 201 (4th Dist. June 2, 2010)
California Court of Appeal, 4th District, Division 3
California Supreme Court, Petition for Review filed July 13, 2010.

Moses S. Hall, attorney for Terry and Michael Mabry

The Mabrys sued to enjoin a trustee’s sale of their home, alleging that Aurora’s notice of default did not include a declaration required by Cal. Civil Code §2923.5, and that the bank did not explore alternatives to foreclosure with the borrowers. The trial court refused to stop the sale. The Mabrys filed a Petition for a Writ of Mandate and the Court of Appeal granted a stay to enjoin the sale. Oral argument was heard in Santa Ana on May 18, 2010.

Aurora argued that a borrower cannot sue a lender that fails to contact the borrower to discuss alternatives to foreclosure before filing a notice of default, as required by §2923.5, because §2923.5 does not explicitly give homeowners a “private right of action.” Aurora also argued that a declaration under penalty of perjury is not required because a trustee, who ordinarily files the notice of default, could not have personal knowledge of a bank’s attempts to contact the borrower. Nobody mentioned that the trustee is not authorized by the statute to make the declaration. §2923.5 states that a notice of default “shall include a declaration from the mortgagee, beneficiary, or authorized agent that it has contacted the borrower…”

The Court of Appeal ruled that a borrower has a private right of action under § 2923.5 and is not required to tender the full amount of the mortgage as a prerequisite to filing suit, since that would defeat the purpose of the statute. Under the court’s narrow construction of the statute, §2923.5 merely adds a procedural step in the foreclosure process. Since the statute is not substantive, it is not preempted by federal law. The declaration specified in §2923.5 does not have to be signed under penalty of perjury. The borrower’s remedy is limited to getting a postponement of a foreclosure while the lender files a new notice of default that complies with §2923.5. If the lender ignores the statute and makes no attempt to contact the borrower before selling the property, the violation does not cloud the title acquired by a third party purchaser at the foreclosure sale. Therefore §2923.5 claims must be raised in court before the sale. It is a question of fact for the trial court to determine whether the lender actually attempted to contact the borrower before filing a notice of default. If the lender takes the property at the foreclosure sale, its title is not clouded by its failure to comply with the statute. Finally, the case is not suitable for class action treatment if the lender asserts that it attempted to comply with the statute because each borrower will present “highly-individuated facts.”

In a petition for review to the California Supreme Court, the Mabrys noted that more than 100 federal district court opinions have considered §2923.5 and an overwhelming majority have rejected a private right of action under the statute. The petition for review was denied.

After the case was remanded to the trial court, Mabry’s motion for preliminary injunction was granted. The trial court found that the Notice of Default contained the form language required by the statute, i.e. that the lender contacted the borrower, tried with due diligence to contact the borrower, etc. However, the declaration on the Notice of Default was not made under panalty of perjury, and therefore had no evidentiary value to show whether the defendant satisfied §2923.5

 

Moreno v. Ameriquest

Superior Court of California, Contra Costa County
Thomas Spielbauer, attorney for Gloria and Carlos Moreno

Complaint for declaratory relief and fraud against lender for misrepresenting the terms of the loan, promising fixed rate with one small step after two years both orally and in the Truth In Lending Statement. Loan was actually variable rate with negative amortization. Morenos would have qualified for fixed rate 5% for 30 years, but instead received an exploding 7% ARM. Notary rushed plaintiffs through signing of documents with little explanation. Complaint requests a declaration the note is invalid, unconscionable and unenforceable and the Notice of Trustees Sale is invalid.

 

Other State Courts

JPMorgan Chase Bank v. George, Case No. 10865/06

Arthur M. Schack, Supreme Court Judge, Kings County, New York
Edward Roberts, attorney for Gertrude George

 

Florida Judge tosses foreclosure lawsuit

Homeowners dispute who owns mortgage

by Steve Patterson
St. Augustine Record
June 15, 2010

Changing stories about who owns a mortgage and seemingly fresh evidence from a long-closed bank led a judge to throw out a foreclosure lawsuit. It’s the second time in as many months that Circuit Judge J. Michael Traynor has dismissed with prejudice a foreclosure case where homeowners disputed who owns the mortgage. Lawyers representing New York-based M&T Bank gave three separate accounts of the ownership, with documentation that kept changing.

“The court has been misled by the plaintiff from the beginning,” the judge wrote in his order. He added that documents filed by M&T’s lawyers seemed to contradict each other and “have changed as needed to benefit the plaintiff.”

The latest account was that Wells Fargo owned the note, and M&T was a servicer, a company paid to handle payments and other responsibilities tied to a mortgage. To believe that, the judge wrote, the “plaintiff is asking the court to ignore the documents filed in the first two complaints.” He added that Wells Fargo can still sue on its own, if it has evidence that it owns the mortgage.

More and more foreclosure cases are being argued on shaky evidence, said James Kowalski, a Jacksonville attorney who represented homeowners Lisa and Larry Smith in the fight over their oceanfront home. “I think it’s very representative of what the banks and their lawyers are currently doing in court,” Kowalski said.

He said lawyers bringing the lawsuits are often pressed by their clients to close the cases quickly. But it’s up to lawyers to present solid evidence and arguments. “We are supposed to be better than that,” Kowalski said. “We are supposed to be officers of the court.”

 

Exhibits

Department of Treasury and FDIC Report on WaMu, 4/16/2010

The Offices of Inspector General for Department of the Treasury and Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation released its evaluation of the regulatory oversight of Washington Mutual on April 16. The table of contents tells the story. WaMu pursued a high-risk lending strategy which included systematic underwriting weaknesses. They didn’t care if borrowers could pay back their loans. WaMu did not have adequate controls in place to manage its reckless “high-risk” strategy. OTS examiners found weaknesses in WaMu’s strategy, operations, and asset portfolio but looked the other way.

 

OCC Advisory Letters

How could the regulators allow this breakdown to happen? Was it really fraud when banks arranged loans for homeowners who would inevitably go into defrault, sold them to Wall Street to be bundled into securities, then purchased insurance so that the bank would collect the unpaid balances when the borrowers lost their homes? Did anybody really know that repealing Glass-Steagall and permitting Wall Street banks to get under the covers with Main Street banks would cause so many borrowers to lose their homes? The Glass-Steagall Act, enacted in 1933, barred any institution from acting as any combination of an investment bank, a commercial bank, and an insurance company. It was repealed in 1999, and the repercussions have been immense.

The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) issued Advisory Letter 2000-7 only months after Glass-Steagall was repealed. It warned regulators to be on the lookout for indications of predatory or abusive lending practices, including Collateral or Equity Stripping – loans made in reliance on the liquidation value of the borrower’s home or other collateral, rather than the borrower’s independent ability to repay, with the possible or intended result of foreclosure or the need to refinance under duress.

Proving fraud is a painstaking process. Getting inside the mind of a crook requires a careful foundation, and admissable evidence is not always easy to obtain. Many courts will take judicial notice of official acts of the legislative, executive, and judicial departments of the United States and of any state of the United States. See Cal Evidence Code Sec. 452(c).

Here is a set of smoking guns in the form of a series of Advisory Letters issued by OCC:

The Washington Mutual logo prior to its acquis...

The Washington Mutual logo prior to its acquisition by JPMorgan Chase. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Bankruptcy Laws, You Have Seen Nothing Yet! Mortgage Chaos?

27 Oct

by Bankruptcy Law Network

There are many bright Real Estate Attorneys out there. Likewise, there are many bright Bankruptcy Attorneys out there. But I don’t think there are that many bright Bankruptcy Real Estate Attorneys out there. And the few that do exist…..well, I don’t think they worked for the Mortgage Companies. Why? Well if they did, the transfer of loans would not have existed the way that it did for the past several years.

Lately, the big news in foreclosures has been the Ohio cases where Judge Boyko dismissed 14 foreclosures on October 31, 2007, and his Colleague, Judge Kathleen O’Malley of the same court, followed suite ordering another 32 dismissals on November 14, 2007.   But that’s only the beginning. It gets worse.

Add a bankruptcy filing to the mix and it’s like adding gas to the fire and recipe for disaster. The reason is a little bankruptcy code section called 11 USC 544. Basically, that section allows a Trustee appointed by the Bankruptcy Court to avoid non-perfected liens.Non-perfected liens are liens that exist, but are not fully noticed to everyone, sort of like secret liens. It’s like if someone loans you $50,000 and takes a lien out on your house, but never records their lien with the county recorder. If that house sells, the lien is not paid since escrow was not aware of it. Had it been recorded by a “deed of trust” or “mortgage,” the Title Company and Escrow Company would not have closed once they saw it, unless it was paid.

Because of all the crazy real estate financing, securitization, and reselling of all the mortgages, sort of the same thing has happened with all the mortgages and trust deeds, but on a much larger scale. Normally, most states require that when a mortgage or real estate loan is sold or transferred to another lender, certain things must happen to maintain perfection, that is, in order to make sure that lien gets paid at a later date. Generally, the purchaser of the Mortgage has it recorded at the County Recorders Office. This is usually done thru a recorded assignment of the underlying note and mortgage or a new Mortgage being recorded and transfer of the Note.  The Note is the most important part of any Mortgage or Deed of Trust. The Mortgage or Deed of Trust is useless without the Note, and usually can not exist without it. It’s a negotiable instrument, just like a check. So when it’s transferred, it needs to be endorsed, just like a check. So essentially, all real estate has documents recorded to evidence the lien, and which are linked to the “checks.”  Well, this is where the problem lies.

In most of the Mortgage Transfers which took place recently, the Mortgage or Deed of Trust was transferred, but not the Note. Whoops! Why? It was just too expensive to track down every note for every mortgage since they were all bundled up together and sold in large trusts, then resold, resold, etc. Imagine trying to find 1 note among thousands, which were sold in different trust pools over time. Pretty hard to do! So shortcuts happened.  Soon enough, shortcuts were accepted and since there were very little foreclosure activity during the last 7 year real estate bubble, no one really noticed in the few foreclosures that took place. Until recently. That’s where the Ohio cases come in. Times have now changed. That little shortcut stopped the foreclosures in Ohio since the most basic element of any lawsuit is that the party bringing the lawsuit is the “real party in interest.” That is, they are the aggrieved party, injured party, relief seeking party.  So in Ohio, the Judge dismissed all the cases since they did not possess the Notes or Assignments on the date of filing, and technically were not the real party in interest to file the suit at the time.But that maybe only a temporary problem until they find the note or assignment. At that point, they will probably just file the foreclosure lawsuit again. So it’s just a delay.

But the bigger problem exists in Bankruptcy.  You see, once a Bankruptcy Case is filed, the Automatic Stay goes into effect. Everything is frozen. Mistakes can no longer be corrected. And if the lender did not have the note or recorded assignment when the bankruptcy case was filed, it was an “unperfected lien” at the time of filing.  Unperfected liens get removed in Bankruptcy.  So finding the note or recording an assignment after filing will no longer fix the problem! Finding the note or or recording an assignment is now simply too late and futile.  That $12 shortcut may now have cost the lender a $500,000 mortgage!The Bankruptcy Trustee now is in charge, puts his 11 USC 544 hat on, and voila, removes the mortgage! Yes, that house that once had no equity worth $450,000 with $500,000 owed on it, is now FREE AND CLEAR! He sells it, and disburses all the proceeds to the creditors.

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.”

 

THE SAN FRANSICO “SMOKING GUN REPORT”

19 Feb

Audit Uncovers Extensive Flaws in Foreclosures

By
Published: February 15, 2012

An audit by San Francisco county officials of about 400 recent foreclosures there determined that almost all involved either legal violations or suspicious documentation, according to a report released Wednesday.

Annie Tritt for The New York Times

Phil Ting, the San Francisco assessor-recorder, found widespread violations or irregularities in files of properties subject to foreclosure sales.

Readers’ Comments

Readers shared their thoughts on this article.

Anecdotal evidence indicating foreclosure abuse has been plentiful since the mortgage boom turned to bust in 2008. But the detailed and comprehensive nature of the San Francisco findings suggest how pervasive foreclosure irregularities may be across the nation.

The improprieties range from the basic — a failure to warn borrowers that they were in default on their loans as required by law — to the arcane. For example, transfers of many loans in the foreclosure files were made by entities that had no right to assign them and institutions took back properties in auctions even though they had not proved ownership.

Commissioned by Phil Ting, the San Francisco assessor-recorder, the report examined files of properties subject to foreclosure sales in the county from January 2009 to November 2011. About 84 percent of the files contained what appear to be clear violations of law, it said, and fully two-thirds had at least four violations or irregularities.

Kathleen Engel, a professor at Suffolk University Law School in Boston said: “If there were any lingering doubts about whether the problems with loan documents in foreclosures were isolated, this study puts the question to rest.”

The report comes just days after the $26 billion settlement over foreclosure improprieties between five major banks and 49 state attorneys general, including California’s. Among other things, that settlement requires participating banks to reduce mortgage amounts outstanding on a wide array of loans and provide $1.5 billion in reparations for borrowers who were improperly removed from their homes.

But the precise terms of the states’ deal have not yet been disclosed. As the San Francisco analysis points out, “the settlement does not resolve most of the issues this report identifies nor immunizes lenders and servicers from a host of potential liabilities.” For example, it is a felony to knowingly file false documents with any public office in California.

In an interview late Tuesday, Mr. Ting said he would forward his findings and foreclosure files to the attorney general’s office and to local law enforcement officials. Kamala D. Harris, the California attorney general, announced a joint investigation into foreclosure abuses last December with the Nevada attorney general, Catherine Cortez Masto. The joint investigation spans both civil and criminal matters.

The depth of the problem raises questions about whether at least some foreclosures should be considered void, Mr. Ting said. “We’re not saying that every consumer should not have been foreclosed on or every lender is a bad actor, but there are significant and troubling issues,” he said.

California has been among the states hurt the most by the mortgage crisis. Because its laws, like those of 29 other states, do not require a judge to oversee foreclosures, the conduct of banks in the process is rarely scrutinized. Mr. Ting said his report was the first rigorous analysis of foreclosure improprieties in California and that it cast doubt on the validity of almost every foreclosure it examined.

“Clearly, we need to set up a process where lenders are following every part of the law,” Mr. Ting said in the interview. “It is very apparent that the system is broken from many different vantage points.”

The report, which was compiled by Aequitas Compliance Solutions, a mortgage regulatory compliance firm, did not identify specific banks involved in the irregularities. But among the legal violations uncovered in the analysis were cases where the loan servicer did not provide borrowers with a notice of default before beginning the eviction process; 8 percent of the audited foreclosures had that basic defect.

In a significant number of cases — 85 percent — documents recording the transfer of a defaulted property to a new trustee were not filed properly or on time, the report found. And in 45 percent of the foreclosures, properties were sold at auction to entities improperly claiming to be the beneficiary of the deeds of trust. In other words, the report said, “a ‘stranger’ to the deed of trust,” gained ownership of the property; as a result, the sale may be invalid, it said.

In 6 percent of cases, the same deed of trust to a property was assigned to two or more different entities, raising questions about which of them actually had the right to foreclose. Many of the foreclosures that were scrutinized showed gaps in the chain of title, the report said, indicating that written transfers from the original owner to the entity currently claiming to own the deed of trust have disappeared.

Banks involved in buying and selling foreclosed properties appear to be aware of potential problems if gaps in the chain of title cloud a subsequent buyer’s ownership of the home. Lou Pizante, a partner at Aequitas who worked on the audit, pointed to documents that banks now require buyers to sign holding the institution harmless if questions arise about the validity of the foreclosure sale.

The audit also raises serious questions about the accuracy of information recorded in the Mortgage Electronic Registry System, or MERS, which was set up in 1995 by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and major lenders. The report found that 58 percent of loans listed in the MERS database showed different owners than were reflected in other public documents like those filed with the county recorder’s office.

The report contradicted the contentions of many banks that foreclosure improprieties did little harm because the borrowers were behind on their mortgages and should have been evicted anyway. “We can deduce from the public evidence,” the report noted, “that there are indeed legitimate victims in the mortgage crisis. Whether these homeowners are systematically being deprived of legal safeguards and due process rights is an important question.”

A version of this article appeared in print on February 16, 2012, on page A1 of the New York edition with the headline: Audit Uncovers Extensive Flaws in Foreclosures.

Fighting Foreclosure in California

11 Nov

Using the Courts to Fight a California or Other Non-Judicial Foreclosure – 3-Stage Analysis – including a Homeowner Action to “Foreclose” on the Bank’s Mortgage Security Interest – rev.

image003

 

California real property foreclosures are totally different from foreclosures in New York and many other states. The reason is that more than 99% of the California foreclosures take place without a court action, in a proceeding called a “non-judicial foreclosure”. Twenty-one states do not have a non-judicial foreclosure. [These states are CT, DE, FL, IL, IN, KS, KY, LA, ME, MD, MA, NE, NJ, NM, NY, ND, OH, PA, SC, UT, VT. – Source: realtytrac.com] In California, the lending institution can go through a non-judicial foreclosure in about 4 months from the date of the filing and recording of a “Notice of Default”, ending in a sale of the property without any court getting involved. The California homeowner can stop the sale by making full payment of all alleged arrears no later than 5 days prior to the scheduled sale. Unlike a judicial foreclosure, the homeowner will have no right to redeem the property after the sale (“equity of redemption”, usually a one-year period after judicial foreclosure and sale). For a visual presentation of the timeline for California and other state non-judicial foreclosures, go to Visual Timeline for California Non-Judicial Foreclosures.

A 50-state analysis of judicial and non-judicial foreclosure procedures is available at 50-State Analysis of Judicial and Non-Judicial Foreclosure Procedures.]

The problem I am going to analyze and discuss is under what circumstances can a homeowner/mortgagor go into court to obtain some type of judicial relief for wrongful or illegal conduct by the lender or others relating to the property and mortgage. My discussion applies as to all states in which non-judicial foreclosures are permitted.

There are three distinct stages that need to be separately discussed. These stages are the borrower’s current situation. The three stages are:

 

  • Homeowner is not in any mortgage arrears [declaratory judgment action]
  • Homeowner is behind in mortgage payments – at least 5 days before auction [injunction action, which could even be called an action by a homeowner to “foreclose” upon or eliminate the lending institution’s mortgage security interest]
  • Property was sold at auction [wrongful foreclosure action]

 

I. Homeowner Is Not in any Mortgage Arrears [Declaratory Judgment Action]

As long as a homeowner keeps making the mortgage payments, and cures any occasional short-term default, the homeowner is in a position to commence an action in federal or state court for various types of relief relating to the mortgage and the obligations thereunder. One typical claim is a declaratory judgment action to declare that the mortgage and note are invalid or that the terms are not properly set forth. There are various other types of claims, as well. The filing of such an action would not precipitate a non-judicial foreclosure. Compare this to a regular foreclosure, in which the homeowner stops paying on the mortgage, gets sued in a foreclosure action, and then is able in the lawsuit to raise the issues (as “defenses”) which the California homeowner would raise as “claims” or “causes of action” in the lawsuit being discussed for this first stage.

II. Homeowner Is Behind in Mortgage Payments – at Least 5 Days before Auction [Injunction Action seeking TRO and Preliminary Injunction, which you might say is a homeowner’s own “foreclosure proceeding against the bank and its mortgage interest”]

This is the most difficult of the three stages for making use of the courts to oppose foreclosure. The reasons are: foreclosure and sale is apt to take place too quickly; the cost of seeking extraordinary (injunctive) relief is higher because of the litigation papers and hearing that have to be done in a very short period of time to obtain fast TRO and preliminary injunctive relief to stop the threatened sale; the cost of this expensive type of injunctive litigation is probably much higher for many homeowners than just keeping up the mortgage payments; and, finally, you would have to show a greater probability of success on the merits of the action than you would need to file a lawsuit as in Stage 1, so that the homeowner’s chances of prevailing (and getting the requested injunction) are low and the costs and risks are high.

Nevertheless, when the facts are in the homeowner’s favor, the homeowner should consider bringing his plight to the attention of the court, to obtain relief from oppressive lending procedures. The problem with most borrower-homeowners is that they do not have any idea what valid bases they may have to seek this kind of relief. What anyone should do in this case is talk with a competent lawyer as soon as possible, to prevent any further delay from causing you to lose an opportunity to fight back. You need to weigh the cost of commencing a court proceeding (which could be $5,000 more or less to commence) against the loss of the home through non-judicial foreclosure.

 

III. Property Was Sold at Auction [Wrongful Foreclosure Action]

If the property has already been sold, you still have the right to pursue your claims, but in the context of a “wrongful foreclosure” lawsuit, which has various legal underpinnings including tort, breach of contract and statute. This type of suit could not precipitate any foreclosure and sale of the property because the foreclosure and sale have already taken place. Your remedy would probably be monetary damages, which you would have to prove. You should commence the action as soon as possible after the wrongful foreclosure and sale, and particularly within a period of less than one year from the sale. The reason is that some of your claims could be barred by a short, 1-year statute of limitations.

If you would like to talk about any possible claims relating to your mortgage transaction, please give me a call. There are various federal and state statutes and court decisions to consider, with some claims being substantially better than others. I am available to draft a complaint in any of the 3 stages for review by your local attorney, and to be counsel on a California or other-state action “pro hac vice” (i.e., for the one case) when associating with a local lawyer.

%d bloggers like this: