Tag Archives: stop foreclosure

Denial of Loan Modification mortgage redlining as a constitutional right

8 Sep

Punitive Damages for Civil Rights – Convincing the Jury and Judge By Jeffrey Needleboa-billboard1“Let this case serve as a lesson for all employers who would ignore the existence of racial harassment in the workplace.” With those introductory words, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed a jury’s verdict for $1 million in punitive damages and $35,612 in compensatory damages. In the process, not only was justice served for the Plaintiff, Troy Swinton, but strong precedent was created for future civil rights claimants. Swinton v. Potomac Corporation, 270 F.3d 794 (9th Cir. Oct. 24, 2001). Although the Defendant portrayed the racial harassment suffered by Mr. Swinton as “jokes”, the Ninth Circuit correctly understood that neither the verdict nor the discrimination was a laughing matter. Id. at 799. Not only did the Plaintiff get what he deserved, but the Defendant, Potomac Corporation, got what it deserved as well.

On the issue of liability, the Court in Swinton analyzed at considerable length the various of theories of holding an employer liable and a variety of evidentiary issues relevant to liability and punitive damages. The Court also considered the legal issues which define the availability of a punitive damages award and the legal standard for keeping the punitive damages once awarded. The Court determined that a ratio of punitive to compensatory damages of 28:1 was not excessive. Satisfying the legal standard concerning an award of punitive damages, however, is only half the battle. Convincing the jury that an award of punitive damages is appropriate can often be the more difficult task.

 

Convincing the Jury

It is uniquely the function of punitive damages to punish the defendant, and to deter future misconduct by the defendant and others similarly situated. Especially for large corporations, relatively insubstantial compensatory damages don’t begin to measure the enormity of the defendant’s wrongful behavior, and have no deterrent effect. It is for that reason that punitive damages are an essential ingredient in all civil rights litigation.

The availability of punitive damages in civil rights cases affords juries the opportunity to enhance the quality of equal opportunity and\or constitutional freedoms, not just for the litigants before the court, but in the community at large. They create an opportunity to give contemporary meaning and vitality to the universal ideals which distinguish this country as a free society. Punitive damages in civil rights cases promotes this highest public purpose.

The challenge to trial lawyers is to communicate to juries the broad and compelling social justification for a punitive damages award. This requires a special focus on social issues which transcend a monetary award from a particular defendant to a particular plaintiff. In order to achieve the intended purpose, it must be clearly explained to the jury that an award of punitive damages doesn’t represent what the plaintiff deserves, but what the defendant deserves for its reckless disregard of fundamental constitutional or civil rights.

exclusionAlmost all Americans are extremely passionate about the Bill of Rights and the right to equal opportunity. The eloquence to convince them that these are ideals which need to be perpetuated can be legitimately borrowed from Thomas Jefferson or James Madison in the case of constitutional rights, or legendary civil rights leaders, such as Martin Luther King, Jr. or Thurgood Marshall for the cases involving equal opportunity. For example, liberal use of quotations from King’s “I have a Dream” speech have almost irresistible appeal. References to Jackie Robinson, the first African American major league baseball player for the Brooklyn Dodgers, or Rosa Parks, who refused to sit on the back of the bus, always resonate with jurors.

A brief historical review of the struggle for equal opportunity is appropriate to communicate to the jury their role in a continuing effort. The Civil Rights Act of 1866, 42 U.S.C. Section 1981, is often utilized in cases involving race harassment or discrimination. This statute was originally enacted to guarantee the civil rights of newly emancipated slaves, and to eliminate the vestiges of slavery which existed immediately after the Civil War. But initially, the statute didn’t fulfill its intended purpose. In the years immediately after the Civil War, newly emancipated slaves were denied the most basic civil rights; they were denied the right to own property, to vote, to enter places of public accommodation and hold employment. African Americans were second class citizens in this county in virtually every sense of the word.

Comparisons to the system of apartheid in South Africa serve to illustrate that the principles the jury is being asked to vindicate are the ideals that distinguish our country as a free society. In our country the repressive system of segregation wasn’t called apartheid, it was called Jim Crow. But the concept was essentially the same. For almost 90 years after the Civil War, Jim Crow was the rule of law. In May of 1954, the Supreme Court rejected the concept and required integration in the public schools. Important civil rights statutes followed. Substantial progress has been made. But the vestiges of slavery still exist in the country. The proof is nowhere more powerfully demonstrated than in the facts presented in this case, Swinton v. Potomac. Mr. Swinton was the only African-American of approximately 140 employees. Swinton, 270 F.3d at 799. At the workplace there were jokes about a wide variety of ethnic groups, including whites, Asians, Polish people, gays, Jews, and Hispanics. A co-worker testified that the majority of the people at U.S. Mat had actually witnessed the use of racially offensive language, and another employee testified that “just about everybody” at U.S. Mat had heard “racial slurs and comments.” Id. at 800. During the short time he was at U.S. Mat, Swinton heard the term “nigger” more than fifty times. Id. Swinton’s immediate superior as supervisor of the shipping department, witnessed the telling of racial jokes and laughed along. The supervisor also acknowledged making “racial jokes or a slur” two or three iStock_000015861187Mediumtimes. The supervisor also overheard one of the two plant managers make racial jokes on several occasions. The supervisor further admitted that although he had an obligation under company policy to report the racial harassment, he never made any such report and never told anyone to stop making such jokes. Id. at 799-800. Some of the racial “jokes” included: “What do you call a transparent man in a ditch? A nigger with the shit kicked out of him. Why don’t black people like aspirin? Because they’re white, and they work. Did you ever see a black man on ‘The Jetsons’? Isn’t it beautiful what the future looks like? Reference to ‘Pontiac’ as an acronym for ‘Poor old nigger thinks it’s a Cadillac.’ Id. at 799. “The jokes and comments ranged from numerous references to Swinton as a ‘Zulu Warrior’ to a comment in the food line, ‘They don’t sell watermelons on that truck, you know, how about a 40-ouncer?’ On the subject of Swinton’s broken-down car, it was suggested why don’t you get behind it and push it and call it black power and why don’t you just jack a car. You’re all good at that.” Id. at 800. The “jokes” and slurs started the day Swinton began to work for the defendant, and didn’t stop until the day six months later he left in disgust.

The civil justice system provides an opportunity for the jury to dispense social justice for the victim of bigotry and to fulfill the purpose of the Civil Rights Act of 1866; the elimination of the vestiges of slavery. Plaintiff’s counsel can explain to the jury that their verdict will help fulfill the purpose of this 140 year old civil rights statute, and give it contemporary meaning and vitality.

Many civil rights cases involve wrongful discharge from employment. For the purpose of compensatory damages, the appropriate focus is the injury to victim, including the economic hardship created and the emotional distress associated with being unemployed for a prolonged and continuing period. For the purpose of punitive damages, however, it is important to maintain a focus on the broader social issues involved. We need the contribution everyone is capable of making so that we can actualize our potential as a society. We can’t afford to exclude people from the workplace. In employment discrimination cases, the damage is not limited to the injury and social injustice suffered by the employee, it extends to the broader society which is deprived of the contribution the employee is capable of making. The jury must be made aware that punitive damages are intended to prevent future civil rights violations and to redress the injury suffered by the broader society.

6a00d83451b7a769e201676871ac87970b-320wiThe focus of Swinton v. Potomac was racial harassment. But these principles apply with equal force to other protected classifications. President Franklin Roosevelt was disabled! He spent the most productive years of his life in a wheel chair. Its hard to imagine what American society would be like without his contribution. Statistics appearing in the Congressional History of the American with Disabilities Act can be utilized to demonstrate the need for reasonable accommodation, not only so the disabled person can live with dignity, but also so that society can reap the benefits of his or her contribution.

Shirley Chisholm was the first female African American representative in the United States Congress. She experienced both racial and sexual discrimination. Ms. Chisholm can be quoted as saying that sexual discrimination was by far the more destructive of the two. The historical fight for women’s equal rights in many ways parallels the fight for racial equality. Historically, women could not own real property, enter into contracts or vote. African Americans got the legal right to vote before women. Counsel can explain the full meaning of dower rights, and that civil rights statutes were required so that women could work without discrimination and receive equal pay. Susan B. Anthony and other historic champions of women’s rights can be quoted liberally. Comparisons to the Taliban in Afghanistan serve to demonstrate the fundamentality of women’s rights in a free society.

Precious few jurors will deny the great value of these fundamental rights. Punitive damages in a civil rights case is just one vehicle for assessing their monetary worth.

Convincing the Judge In Kolstad v. American Dental Association, 527 U.S. 526, 119 S.Ct. 2118 (1999), the Court ruled that the controlling standard required Plaintiff to prove that the defendant acted with malice or with reckless indifference to the federally protected rights of an aggrieved individual. “Applying this standard in the context of §1981a, an employer must at least discriminate in the face of a perceived risk that its actions will violate federal law to be liable in punitive damages.” Id. at 536. The Court rejected the more onerous egregious conduct standard. Id. at 538-539. The Court declined, however, to allow vicarious liability “for the discriminatory employment decisions of managerial agents where these decisions are contrary to the employer’s good faith efforts to comply with Title VII.” Id at 544.

Morgan-Stanley2-300x199The Court in Kolstad also established a standard for imputing punitive damages liability to a corporate wrongdoer. Without briefing, the Court adopted the Restatement (Second) of Agency and the Restatement (Second) of Torts. “Suffice it to say here that the examples provided in the Restatement of Torts suggest that an employee must be “important,” but perhaps need not be the employer’s “top management, officers, or directors,” to be acting “in a managerial capacity.” Id. at 543. “[D]etermining whether an employee meets this description [managerial capacity] requires a fact-intensive inquiry. . . .” Id. In EEOC v. Wal-Mart , 187 F.3d 1241 (10th Cir. 1999), the Tenth Circuit considered, in light of Kolstad, “the evidentiary showing required to recover punitive damages under a vicarious liability theory against an employer accused of violating the American with Disabilities Act.” Id. at 1243. In determining whether the managers had sufficient authority to impute punitive damages, the Court acknowledged that “authority to ‘hire, fire, discipline or promote, or at least to participate in or recommend such actions,’ is an indicium of supervisory or managerial capacity.” (emphasis added). Id. at 1247. Citing Miller v. Bank of America, 600 F.2d 211, 213 (9th Cir. 1979), the Court found that both the supervisor and the store manager had sufficient authority to bind the corporation for punitive damages. Id.

Applying these standards in Swinton, the Court ruled “that the inaction of even relatively low-level supervisors may be imputed to the employer if the supervisors are made responsible, pursuant to company policy, for receiving and acting on complaints of harassment.” Swinton v. Potomac Corp., 270 F.3d at 810. Citing Deters v. Equifax Credit Information Servs., Inc., 202 F.3d 1262 (10th Cir.2000), the Court in Swinton ruled that the good faith defense could not apply “because the very person the company entrusted to act on complaints of harassment failed to do so, and failed with malice or reckless disregard to the plaintiff’s federally protected rights.” Id. In addition, the existence of employment policies is not sufficient. In order to satisfy the good faith defense, employment policies must be implemented and in Swinton they were not. Id.

Remittitur23458820In BMW of North America, Inc. v. Gore, 517 U.S. 559, 116 S.Ct. 1589 (1996), the Supreme Court established the standard for constitutionally excessive awards of punitive damages. As stated repeatedly by the Supreme Court, there is no mathematical bright line. “Only when an award can fairly be categorized as “grossly excessive” in relation to these interests [punishment and deterrence] does it enter the zone of arbitrariness that violates the Due Process Clause.” BMW, supra at 568. The Court announced three “guideposts” to assist courts in determining whether an award violates this standard: the “degree of reprehensibility” of the tortfeasor’s actions; “the disparity between the harm or potential harm suffered by [the plaintiff] and his punitive damage award”; “and the difference between this remedy and the civil penalties authorized or imposed in comparable cases.” Id . at 575.

In reference to reprehensibility, the Court in Swinton recognized the so called “hierarchy of reprehensibility,” with acts and threats of violence at the top, followed by acts taken in reckless disregard for others’ health and safety, affirmative acts of trickery and deceit, and finally, acts of omission and mere negligence. Id. at 818. Although the Court recognized that racial harassment is not the worst kind of tortious conduct, “in sum, we have no trouble concluding that the highly offensive language directed at Swinton, coupled by the abject failure of Potomac to combat the harassment, constitutes highly reprehensible conduct justifying a significant punitive damages award.” Id.

In reference to the ratio of compensatory damages to punitive damages, quoting BMW, the Court acknowledged, “[i]ndeed, low awards of compensatory damages may properly support a higher ratio than high compensatory awards, if, for example, a particularly egregious act has resulted in only a small amount of economic damages. A higher ratio may also be justified in cases in which the injury is hard to detect or the monetary value of non-economic harm might have been difficult to determine.” BMW at 582. Because Swinton made only $8.50 an hour, this was such a case.

For the purpose of evaluating the ratio, the Court also considered Plaintiff’s counsel’s repeated admonition to the jury “not to get carried away,” the financial asserts of the Defendant and “the harm likely to result from the defendant’s conduct as well as the harm that actually has occurred.” Swinton at 819. After comparing similar cases, the Court had no trouble in concluding that a ratio of 28:1 was not excessive. Id . at 819-820.

In reference to analogous civil penalties, the Court refused to impose the cap of $300,000 made applicable to other types of civil rights cases pursuant to the Civil Rights Act of 1991; 42 U.S.C. Section 1981. Id. at 820. There are no caps on punitive damages under 42 U.S.C. Section 1981.

Conclusion Punitive damages in civil rights cases are a meaningful way of promoting important social values.

Ruling Against Bank In Mortgage Modification Suit

15 Dec

Judge Rules Against Bank In Mortgage Modification Suit

Shah Gilani Shah Gilani, Contributor
Half million dollar house in Salinas, Californ...Image via Wikipedia

A recent ruling by a California appeals court clears the way for fraud charges against a lender that promised a loan modification but then foreclosed on the borrower.

The ruling throws into question the legality of hundreds of thousands of foreclosures.

Not only was the ruling a frontal assault on the empty promises made by servicers and banks, the case highlighted some despicable tactics often employed to force foreclosures.

Claudia Aceves, who originally sued U.S. Bank, NA in the Los Angeles County Superior Court, had taken out an $845,000 mortgage with Option One Mortgage Corporation. Option One later assigned the loan over to U.S. Bank.

The interest on Aceves’ adjustable rate note ratcheted up two years after it was entered into. By January 2008 she was falling behind on her payments. Shortly after March 26, 2008 when the loan’s servicer recorded a “Notice of Default and Election to Sell Under Deed of Trust,” Aceves filed for bankruptcy protection under chapter 7 of the Bankruptcy Code.

The bankruptcy filing imposed an automatic stay on the foreclosure proceedings.

After being offered financial help from her husband, Aceves converted her bankruptcy case from a chapter 7 to a chapter 13 case. Chapter 7, entitled “Liquidation,” would allow Aceves to discharge her debt on the home but not allow her to keep it. Chapter 13, entitled “Adjustment of Debts of an Individual with Regular Income,” has protections for homeowners that allows them to reinstate loan payments, pay arrearages, avoid foreclosure and keep their home.

U.S. Bank, upon learning of the original bankruptcy filing, filed a motion to lift the stay in order to execute a nonjudicial foreclosure and take the house back.

What happens next is indicative of the underhandedness of many servicers and banks.

Aceves’ bankruptcy attorney gets a letter from counsel to the loan’s servicer (American Home Mortgage Servicing, Inc.) that asks for permission to talk directly to Aceves to “explore Loss Mitigation possibilities.”  Aceves calls the servicer’s attorney because she wants a loan modification, which they are promising. But they tell her they can’t do anything or talk to her until their motion to lift the bankruptcy stay is granted.

So, Aceves doesn’t oppose the motion to lift the stay and further decides not to file the chapter 13 bankruptcy. All in the hopes that a modification would be negotiated.

On December 4, 2008 the stay is lifted. And, unbeknownst to Aceves, on December 9, 2008 U.S. Bank schedules the home for public auction one month later on January 9, 2009.

On December 10, 2008 Aceves sends in documents to American Home aiming to modify and reinstate the loan. Then on December 23, 2008 the servicer tells Aceves a “negotiator” will contact her on or before January 13, 2009.

Too bad for Aceves January 13, 2009 is going to be four days after her home is sold at auction. Which it is, with none other than U.S. Bank as the buyer.

But just to cover its promise to modify the loan, one day before the home is to be sold at auction the negotiator for American Home presents a unilateral offer to raise the loan balance from the original $845,000 to $965,926.22 and make the new monthly payments $7,200 as opposed to the original monthly payment amount of $4,857.09.

Aceves told them where to go.

She lost her home and sued. She lost when the Superior Court found that the defendants had met their obligations. The three-judge panel Appeals Court disagreed in its January 27, 2010 ruling.

The crux of the ruling, which in part relied on a decision in a previous case (Garcia v. World Savings, FSB) determined that “To be enforceable, a promise need only be ”’definite enough that a court can determine the scope of the duty.”’

Further illuminating its stance the Court said the point is, “simply whether U.S. Bank made and kept a promise to negotiate with Aceves, not whether the bank promised to make a loan, or more precisely, to modify a loan” is what matters.

As far as the servicer’s offer of a modification, the Appeals Court found that the promise to negotiate is “not based on a promise to make a unilateral offer but on a promise to negotiate in an attempt to reach a mutually agreeable loan modification.”

With all the unkept promises by banks and servicers to negotiate loan modifications that were never entertained, new litigation on top of all the foreclosure cases already being pursued is bound to cloud the future of real estate for the foreseeable future.

The NEW Sevicing abuse cases california Jan1, 2013

10 Dec

Abuses by Mortgage Service Companies

Although predatory lending has received far more attention than abusive servicing, a significant percentage of consumer complaints over loans involve servicing, not origination. For example, the director of the Nevada Fair Housing Center testified that of the hundreds of complaints of predatory lending issues her office received in 2002, about 42 percent involved servicing once the loan was transferred

Abusive Mortgage Servicing Defined:

Abusive servicing occurs when a servicer, either through action or inaction, obtains or attempts to obtain unwarranted fees or other costs from borrowers, engages in unfair collection practices, or through its own improper behavior or inaction causes borrowers to be more likely to go into default or have their homes foreclosed. Abusive practices should be distinguished from appropriate actions that may harm borrowers, such as a servicer merely collecting appropriate late fees or foreclosing on borrowers who do not make their payments despite proper loss mitigation efforts. Servicing can be abusive either intentionally, when there is intent to obtain unwarranted fees, or negligently, when, for example, a servicer’s records are so disorganized that borrowers are regularly charged late fees even when mortgage payments were made on time.

Abusive servicing often happens to debtors who have filed a Chapter 13 Bankruptcy Plan and are in the process of making payments under the Plan. If you suspect that your mortgage servicer is abusing your relationship by charging unnecessary fees while you are paying off your Chapter 13 Plan, call us. We can help.

There is significant evidence that some Mortgage servicers have engaged in abusive behavior and that borrowers have frequently been the victims. Some servicers have engaged in practices that are not only detrimental to borrowers but also illegal Such abuse has been documented in court opinions and decisions, in the decisions and findings of ratings agencies, in litigation and settlements obtained by government agencies against prominent servicers, in congressional testimony, and in newspaper accounts of borrowers who claim to have been mistreated by servicers. The abusive servicing practices documented in these sources include improper foreclosure or attempted foreclosure, improper fees, improper forced-placed insurance, and improper use or oversight of escrow funds .

Improper foreclosure or attempted foreclosure

Because servicers can exact fees associated with foreclosures, such as attorneys’ fees, some servicers have attempted to foreclose on property even when borrowers are current on their payments or without giving borrowers enough time to repay or otherwise working with them on a repayment plan Furthermore, a speedy foreclosure may save servicers the cost of attempting other techniques that might have prevented the foreclosure.

Some servicers have been so brazen that they have regularly claimed to the courts that borrowers were in default so as to justify foreclosure, even though the borrowers were current on their payments. Other courts have also decried the frequent use of false statements to obtain relief from stay in order to foreclose on borrowers’ homes. For example, in Hart v. GMAC Mortgage Corporation, et al., 246 B.R. 709 (2000), even though the borrower had made the payments required of him by a forbearance agreement he had entered into with the servicer (GMAC Mortgage Corporation), it created a “negative suspense account” for moneys it had paid out, improperly charged the borrower an additional monthly sum to repay the negative suspense account, charged him late fees for failing to make the entire payment demanded, and began foreclosure proceedings.

Improper fees

Claiming that borrowers are in default when they are actually current allows servicers to charge unwarranted fees, either late fees or fees related to default and foreclosure. Servicers receive as a conventional fee a percentage of the total value of the loans they service, typically 25 basis points for prime loans and 50 basis points for subprime loans In addition, contracts typically provide that the servicer, not the trustee or investors, has the right to keep any and all late fees or fees associated with defaults. Servicers charge late fees not only because they act as a prod to coax borrowers into making payments on time, but also because borrowers who fail to make payments impose additional costs on servicers, which must then engage in loss mitigation to induce payment.

Such fees are a crucial part of servicers’ income. For example, one servicer’s CEO reportedly stated that extra fees, such as late fees, appeared to be paying for all of the operating costs of the company’s entire servicing department, leaving the conventional servicing fee almost completely profit The pressure to collect such fees appears to be higher on subprime servicers than on prime servicers:

Because borrowers typically cannot prove the exact date a payment was received, servicers can charge late fees even when they receive the payment on time Improper late fees may also be based on the loss of borrowers’ payments by servicers, their inability to track those payments accurately, or their failure to post payments in a timely fashion. In Ronemus v. FTB Mortgage Services, 201 B.R. 458 (1996), under a Chapter 13 bankruptcy plan, the borrowers had made all of their payments on time except for two; they received permission to pay these two late and paid late fees for the privilege. However, the servicer, FTB Mortgage Services, misapplied their payments, then began placing their payments into a suspense account and collecting unauthorized late fees. The servicer ignored several letters from the borrowers’ attorney attempting to clear up the matter, sent regular demands for late fees, and began harassing the borrowers with collection efforts. When the borrowers sued, the servicer submitted to the court an artificially inflated accounting of how much the borrowers owed.

Some servicers have sent out late notices even when they have received timely payments and even before the end of a borrower’s grace period Worse yet, a servicer might pocket the payment, such as an extra payment of principal, and never credit it to the borrower Late fees on timely payments are a common problem when borrowers are making mortgage payments through a bankruptcy plan

Moreover, some servicers have also added false fees and charges not authorized by law or contract to their monthly payment demands, relying on borrowers’ ignorance of the exact amount owed. They can collect such fees or other unwarranted claims by submitting inaccurate payoff demands when a borrower refinances or sells the house). Or they can place the borrowers’ monthly payments in a suspense account and then charge late fees even though they received the payment Worse yet, some servicers pyramid their late fees, applying a portion of the current payment to a previous late fee and then charging an additional late fee even though the borrower has made a timely and full payment for the new month Pyramiding late fees allows servicers to charge late fees month after month even though the borrower made only one late payment

Servicers can turn their fees into a profit center by sending inaccurate monthly payment demands, demanding unearned fees or charges not owed, or imposing fees higher than the expenses for a panoply of actions For example, some servicers take advantage of borrowers’ ignorance by charging fees, such as prepayment penalties, where the note does not provide for them Servicers have sometimes imposed a uniform set of fees over an entire pool of loans, disregarding the fact that some of the loan documents did not provide for those particular fees. Or they charge more for attorneys’, property inspection, or appraisal fees than were actually incurred. Some servicers may add a fee by conducting unnecessary property inspections, having an agent drive by even when the borrower is not in default, or conducting multiple inspections during a single period of default to charge the resulting multiple fees

The complexity of the terms of many loans makes it difficult for borrowers to discover whether they are being overcharged Moreover, servicers can frustrate any attempts to sort out which fees are genuine.

Improperly forced-placed insurance

Mortgage holders are entitled under the terms of the loan to require borrowers to carry homeowners’ insurance naming the holder as the payee in case of loss and to force-place insurance by buying policies for borrowers who fail to do so and charging them for the premiums However, some servicers have force-placed insurance even in cases where the borrower already had it and even provided evidence of it to the servicer Worse yet, servicers have charged for force-placed insurance without even purchasing it. Premiums for force-placed insurance are often inflated in that they provide protection in excess of what the loan.

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Escrow Account Mismanagement

One of the benefits of servicing mortgages is controlling escrow accounts to pay for insurance, taxes, and the like and, in most states, keeping any interest earned on these accounts Borrowers have complained that servicers have failed to make tax or insurance payments when they were due or at all. The treasurer of the country’s second largest county estimated that this failure to make timely payments cost borrowers late fees of at least $2 million in that county over a two-year span, causing some to lose their homes. If servicers fail to make insurance payments and a policy lapses, borrowers may face much higher insurance costs even if they purchase their own, non-force-placed policy. Worse yet, borrowers may find themselves unable to buy insurance at all if they cannot find a new insurer willing to write them a policy

You can make a claim for mortgage service abuse, and often the court will award actual and punitive damages. If you think you have been a victim of mortgage service abuse, contact us. We can help you make a claim.

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 Can Finally Say “Show Me The…..Note!”

26 Oct

Attorneys representing homeowners in all 50 states must undoubtedly feel that their states do not do enough to protect homeowners from preventable foreclosures. In non-judicial states like California, the lack of oversight in the foreclosure process at all levels has led to rampant abuse, fraud and at the very least, negligence. Our courts have done little to diffuse this trend with cases like Chilton v. Federal Nat. Mortg. Ass’n holding: “(n)on-judicial foreclosure under a deed of trust is governed by California Civil Code Section 2924 which relevant section provides that a “trustee, mortgagee or beneficiary or any of their authorized agents” may conduct the foreclosure process.” California courts have held that the Civil Code provisions “cover every aspect” of the foreclosure process, and are “intended to be exhaustive.” There is no requirement that the party initiating foreclosure be in possession of the original note.

Chilton and many other rulings refuse to acknowledge that homeowners have any rights to challenge wrongful foreclosures including Gomes v Countrywide, Fontenot v Wells Fargo, and a long line of tender cases holding that a plaintiff seeking to set aside a foreclosure sale must first allege tender of the amount of the secured indebtedness. Complicating matters further is the conflict between state, federal and bankruptcy cases regarding Civil Code 2932.5 and the requirement of recording an assignment prior to proceeding to foreclosure.
While the specific terms are still evolving, the http://www.nationalmortgagesettlement.com/ information website has released the Servicing Standards Highlights that set forth the basic changes that the banks and servicers have agreed to as part of the settlement. When the AG Settlement is finalized, it will be reduced to a judgment that can be enforced by federal judges, the special independent monitor Joseph Smith, federal agencies and Attorneys General. This judgment can be used by attorneys to define a standard and therefore allow us to fashion a remedy that will improve our chances of obtaining relief for our clients.

Lean Forward

Many have opined about the deficiencies in the AG Settlement, from the lack of investigation to inadequacy of the dollars committed to compensate for wrongful foreclosures, principal reduction or refinancing. The reality is, as tainted as it may be, the AG Settlement leaves us better off than were were for future cases. It does not however, address past wrongs in any meaningful way. The terms make it abundantly clear that this is not the settlement for compensation; if there is any remote possibility of compensation it must be sought in the OCC Independent Foreclosure Review and the homeowner must meet the extreme burden of proving financial harm caused by the wrongful foreclosure. For California, the AG Settlement at best, improves our ability to request crucial documents to challenge wrongful foreclosures which previously were difficult if not impossible to obtain. This will allow us to negotiate better loss mitigation options for clients.

Loan Modification 2008-2011

The homeowner submits an application 10 times, pays on 3 different trial plans, speaks to 24 different representatives who give him various inconsistent versions of status. After two years, and thousands of default fees later, he is advised that the investor won’t approve a modification and foreclosure is imminent. Actually, the truth was that the homeowner was in fact qualified for the modification, the data used for the NPV analysis was incorrect and the investor had in fact approved hundreds of modifications according to guidelines that were known to the servicer from the beginning. How could the AG Settlement not improve on this common scenario?

Foreclosure Rules
14 days prior to initiating foreclosure, the servicer must provide the homeowner with notice which must include:

facts supporting the bank’s right to foreclose
payment history
a copy of the note with endorsements
the identity of the investor
amount of delinquency and terms to bring loan current
summary of loss mitigation efforts
A prompt review of the 14 Day Pre Foreclosure Notice and investigation regarding the securitization aspects of the case can result in the filing of a lawsuit and request for TRO if all terms have not been complied with or the documents provided do not establish the right to foreclose. There will be no issue of tender, prejudice or show me the note that can be raised in opposition by defendants and this is an opportunity that we have not been afforded under current case law. Additionally, a loan level review will reveal improper fees and charges that can be challenged. Deviation from the AG Settlement Servicing Standards should be aggressively pursued through the proper complaint channels.

Loan Modification Guidelines

Notify the homeowner of all loss mitigation options
Servicer shall offer a loan modification if NPV positive
HAMP trial plans shall promptly be converted to permanent modifications
Servicer must review and make determination within 30 days of receipt of complete package
Homeowner must submit package within 120 days of delinquency to receive answer prior to referral to foreclosure (could be problematic since most homeowners are more than 120 days late)
After the loan has been referred to foreclosure, the homeowner must apply for a loan modification within 15 days before sale. Servicer must expedite review.
Servicer must cease all collection efforts while a complete loan modification package is under review or homeowner is making timely trial modification payments
Other significant terms include the requirement that the servicer maintain loan portals where the homeowner can check status which must be updated every ten days, assign a single point of contact to every loan, restriction on default fees and forced placed insurance, modification denials must state reasons and provide document support and the homeowner has 30 days to appeal a negative decision.

Short Sales Will Now Really Be Short

The rules regarding short sales will greatly increase the chances that short sales will be processed in a timely manner and accordingly, will result in more short sales being closed.

Banks/servicers must make short sale requirements public
Banks/servicers must provide a short sale price evaluation upon request by the homeowner prior to listing the property
Receipt of short sale packages must be confirmed and notification of missing documents must be provided within 30 days
Knowledge of all of the new requirements for processing foreclosures, loan modifications and short sales can greatly increase our chances of obtaining successful outcomes for clients. Resolution is the goal, and now, we may have leverage that did not exist before.

Judge Firmat posted these notes on the law and motion calendar to assist attorneys pleading various theories in wrongful foreclosure cases etc

4 Oct

Orange County (Cali) Superior Court Judge Firmat posted these notes on
the law and motion calendar to assist attorneys pleading various
theories in wrongful foreclosure cases etc.  Some interesting
points….

FOOTNOTES TO DEPT. C-15 LAW AND MOTION CALENDARS

Note 1 – Cause of Action Under CCC § 2923.5, Post Trustee’s Sale –
There is no private right of action under Section 2923.5 once the
trustee’s sale has occurred.  The “only remedy available under the
Section is a postponement of the sale before it happens.”  Mabry v.
Superior  Court, 185 Cal. App. 4th 208, 235 (2010).

Note 2 – Cause of Action Under CCC § 2923.6 – There is no private
right of action under Section 2923.6, and it does not operate
substantively.  Mabry v. Superior Court, 185 Cal. App. 4th 208,
222-223 (2010).  “Section 2923.6 merely expresses the hope that
lenders will offer loan modifications on certain terms.”  Id. at 222.

Note 3 – Cause of Action for Violation of CCC §§ 2923.52 and / or
2923.53 – There is no private right of action.  Vuki v. Superior
Court, 189 Cal. App. 4th 791, 795 (2010).

Note 4 –  Cause of Action for Fraud, Requirement of Specificity – “To
establish a claim for fraudulent misrepresentation, the plaintiff must
prove: (1) the defendant represented to the plaintiff that an
important fact was true; (2) that representation was false; (3) the
defendant knew that the representation was false when the defendant
made it, or the defendant made the representation recklessly and
without regard for its truth; (4) the defendant intended that the
plaintiff rely on the representation; (5) the plaintiff reasonably
relied on the representation; (6) the plaintiff was harmed; and, (7)
the plaintiff’s reliance on the defendant’s representation was a
substantial factor in causing that harm to the plaintiff. Each element
in a cause of action for fraud must be factually and specifically
alleged. In a fraud claim against a corporation, a plaintiff must
allege the names of the persons who made the misrepresentations, their
authority to speak for the corporation, to whom they spoke, what they
said or wrote, and when it was said or written.”  Perlas v. GMAC
Mortg., LLC, 187 Cal. App. 4th 429, 434 (2010) (citations and
quotations omitted).

Note 5 –Fraud – Statute of Limitations- The statute of limitations for
fraud is three years.  CCP § 338(d).  To the extent Plaintiff wishes
to rely on the delayed discovery rule, Plaintiff must plead the
specific facts showing (1) the time and manner of discovery and (2)
the inability to have made earlier discovery despite reasonable
diligence.”  Fox v. Ethicon Endo-Surgery, Inc., 35 Cal. 4th 797, 808
(2005).

Note 6 – Cause of Action for Negligent Misrepresentation – “The
elements of negligent misrepresentation are (1) the misrepresentation
of a past or existing material fact, (2) without reasonable ground for
believing it to be true, (3) with intent to induce another’s reliance
on the fact misrepresented, (4) justifiable reliance on the
misrepresentation, and (5) resulting damage.  While there is some
conflict in the case law discussing the precise degree of
particularity required in the pleading of a claim for negligent
misrepresentation, there is a consensus that the causal elements,
particularly the allegations of reliance, must be specifically
pleaded.”  National Union Fire Ins. Co. of Pittsburgh, PA v. Cambridge
Integrated Services Group, Inc., 171 Cal. App. 4th 35, 50 (2009)
(citations and quotations omitted).

Note 7 – Cause of Action for Breach of Fiduciary Duty by Lender –
“Absent special circumstances a loan transaction is at arm’s length
and there is no fiduciary relationship between the borrower and
lender. A commercial lender pursues its own economic interests in
lending money. A lender owes no duty of care to the borrowers in
approving their loan. A lender is under no duty to determine the
borrower’s ability to repay the loan. The lender’s efforts to
determine the creditworthiness and ability to repay by a borrower are
for the lender’s protection, not the borrower’s.”  Perlas v. GMAC
Mortg., LLC, 187 Cal. App. 4th 429, 436 (2010) (citations and
quotations omitted).

Note 8 – Cause of Action for Constructive Fraud – “A relationship need
not be a fiduciary one in order to give rise to constructive fraud.
Constructive fraud also applies to nonfiduciary “confidential
relationships.” Such a confidential relationship may exist whenever a
person with justification places trust and confidence in the integrity
and fidelity of another. A confidential relation exists between two
persons when one has gained the confidence of the other and purports
to act or advise with the other’s interest in mind. A confidential
relation may exist although there is no fiduciary relation ….”
Tyler v. Children’s  Home Society, 29 Cal. App. 4th 511, 549 (1994)
(citations and quotations omitted).

Note 9 – Cause of Action for an Accounting – Generally, there is no
fiduciary duty between a lender and borrower.  Perlas v. GMAC Mortg.,
LLC, 187 Cal. App. 4th 429, 436 (2010).  Further, Plaintiff (borrower)
has not alleged any facts showing that a balance would be due from the
Defendant lender to Plaintiff.  St. James Church of Christ Holiness v.
Superior Court, 135 Cal. App. 2d 352, 359 (1955).  Any other duty to
provide an accounting only arises when a written request for one is
made prior to the NTS being recorded.  CCC § 2943(c).

Note 10 – Cause of Action for Breach of the Implied Covenant of Good
Faith and Fair Dealing – “[W]ith the exception of bad faith insurance
cases, a breach of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing permits
a recovery solely in contract.  Spinks v. Equity Residential Briarwood
Apartments, 171 Cal. App. 4th 1004, 1054 (2009).  In order to state a
cause of action for Breach of the Implied Covenant of Good Faith and
Fair Dealing, a valid contract between the parties must be alleged.
The implied covenant cannot be extended to create obligations not
contemplated by the contract.  Racine & Laramie v. Department of Parks
and Recreation, 11 Cal. App. 4th 1026, 1031-32 (1992).

Note 11 – Cause of Action for Breach of Contract – “A cause of action
for damages for breach of contract is comprised of the following
elements: (1) the contract, (2) plaintiff’s performance or excuse for
nonperformance, (3) defendant’s breach, and (4) the resulting damages
to plaintiff. It is elementary that one party to a contract cannot
compel another to perform while he himself is in default. While the
performance of an allegation can be satisfied by allegations in
general terms, excuses must be pleaded specifically.”  Durell v. Sharp
Healthcare, 183 Cal. App. 4th 1350, 1367 (2010) (citations and
quotations omitted).

Note 12 – Cause of Action for Injunctive Relief – Injunctive relief is
a remedy and not a cause of action.  Guessous v. Chrome Hearts, LLC,
179 Cal. App. 4th 1177, 1187 (2009).

Note 13 – Cause of Action for Negligence – “Under the common law,
banks ordinarily have limited duties to borrowers. Absent special
circumstances, a loan does not establish a fiduciary relationship
between a commercial bank and its debtor. Moreover, for purposes of a
negligence claim, as a general rule, a financial institution owes no
duty of care to a borrower when the institution’s involvement in the
loan transaction does not exceed the scope of its conventional role as
a mere lender of money. As explained in Sierra-Bay Fed. Land Bank
Assn. v. Superior Court (1991) 227 Cal.App.3d 318, 334, 277 Cal.Rptr.
753, “[a] commercial lender is not to be regarded as the guarantor of
a borrower’s success and is not liable for the hardships which may
befall a borrower. It is simply not tortious for a commercial lender
to lend money, take collateral, or to foreclose on collateral when a
debt is not paid. And in this state a commercial lender is privileged
to pursue its own economic interests and may properly assert its
contractual rights.”  Das v. Bank of America, N.A., 186 Cal. App. 4th
727, 740-741 (2010) (citations and quotations omitted).

Note 14 – Cause of Action to Quiet Title – To assert a cause of action
to quiet title, the complaint must be verified and meet the other
pleading requirements set forth in CCP § 761.020.

Note 15 – Causes of Action for Slander of Title – The recordation of
the Notice of Default and Notice of Trustee’s Sale are privileged
under CCC § 47, pursuant to CCC § 2924(d)(1), and the recordation of
them cannot support a cause of action for slander of title against the
trustee.  Moreover, “[i]n performing acts required by [the article
governing non-judicial foreclosures], the trustee shall incur no
liability for any good faith error resulting from reliance on
information provided in good faith by the beneficiary regarding the
nature and the amount of the default under the secured obligation,
deed of trust, or mortgage. In performing the acts required by [the
article governing nonjudicial foreclosures], a trustee shall not be
subject to [the Rosenthal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act].”  CCC §
2924(b).

Note 16 – Cause of Action for Violation of Civil Code § 1632 – Section
1632, by its terms, does not apply to loans secured by real property.
CCC § 1632(b).

Note 17 – Possession of the original promissory note – “Under Civil
Code section 2924, no party needs to physically possess the promissory
note.” Sicairos v. NDEX West, LLC, 2009 WL 385855 (S.D. Cal. 2009)
(citing CCC § 2924(a)(1); see also Lomboy v. SCME Mortgage Bankers,
2009 WL 1457738 * 12-13 (N.D. Cal. 2009) (“Under California law, a
trustee need not possess a note in order to initiate foreclosure under
a deed of trust.”).

Note 18 – Statute of Frauds, Modification of Loan Documents – An
agreement to modify a note secured by a deed of trust must be in
writing signed by the party to be charged, or it is barred by the
statute of frauds.  Secrest v. Security Nat. Mortg. Loan Trust 2002-2,
167 Cal. App. 4th 544, 552-553 (2008).

Note 19 – Statute of Frauds, Forebearance Agreement – An agreement to
forebear from foreclosing on real property under a deed of trust must
be in writing and signed by the party to be charged or it is barred by
the statute of frauds.  Secrest v. Security Nat. Mortg. Loan Trust
2002-2, 167 Cal. App. 4th 544, 552-553 (2008).

Note 20 – Tender – A borrower attacking a voidable sale must do equity
by tendering the amount owing under the loan.  The tender rule applies
to all causes of action implicitly integrated with the sale.  Arnolds
Management Corp. v. Eischen, 158 Cal. App. 3d 575, 579 (1984).

Note 21 – Cause of Action for Violation of Bus. & Prof. Code § 17200 –
“The UCL does not proscribe specific activities, but broadly prohibits
any unlawful, unfair or fraudulent business act or practice and
unfair, deceptive, untrue or misleading advertising. The UCL governs
anti-competitive business practices as well as injuries to consumers,
and has as a major purpose the preservation of fair business
competition. By proscribing “any unlawful business practice,” section
17200 “borrows” violations of other laws and treats them as unlawful
practices that the unfair competition law makes independently
actionable.  Because section 17200 is written in the disjunctive, it
establishes three varieties of unfair competition-acts or practices
which are unlawful, or unfair, or fraudulent. In other words, a
practice is prohibited as “unfair” or “deceptive” even if not
“unlawful” and vice versa.”  Puentes v. Wells Fargo Home Mortg., Inc.,
160 Cal. App. 4th 638, 643-644 (2008) (citations and quotations
omitted).

“Unfair” Prong

[A]ny finding of unfairness to competitors under section 17200 [must]
be tethered to some legislatively declared policy or proof of some
actual or threatened impact on competition. We thus adopt the
following test: When a plaintiff who claims to have suffered injury
from a direct competitor’s “unfair” act or practice invokes section
17200, the word “unfair” in that section means conduct that threatens
an incipient violation of an antitrust law, or violates the policy or
spirit of one of those laws because its effects are comparable to or
the same as a violation of the law, or otherwise significantly
threatens or harms competition.

Cel-Tech Communications, Inc. v. Los Angeles Cellular Telephone Co.,
20 Cal. 4th 163, 186-187 (1999).

“Fraudulent” Prong

The term “fraudulent” as used in section 17200 does not refer to the
common law tort of fraud but only requires a showing members of the
public are likely to be deceived. Unless the challenged conduct
targets a particular disadvantaged or vulnerable group, it is judged
by the effect it would have on a reasonable consumer.

Puentes, 160 Cal. App. 4th at 645 (citations and quotations
omitted).

“Unlawful” Prong

By proscribing “any unlawful” business practice, Business and
Professions Code section 17200 “borrows” violations of other laws and
treats them as unlawful practices that the UCL makes independently
actionable. An unlawful business practice under Business and
Professions Code section 17200 is an act or practice, committed
pursuant to business activity, that is at the same time forbidden by
law. Virtually any law -federal, state or local – can serve as a
predicate for an action under Business and Professions Code section
17200.

Hale v. Sharp Healthcare, 183 Cal. App. 4th 1373, 1382-1383 (2010)
(citations and quotations omitted).

“A plaintiff alleging unfair business practices under these statutes
must state with reasonable particularity the facts supporting the
statutory elements of the violation.”  Khoury v. Maly’s of California,
Inc., 14 Cal. App. 4th 612, 619 (1993) (citations and quotations
omitted).

Note 22 – Cause of Action for Intentional Infliction of Emotional
Distress –  Collection of amounts due under a loan or restructuring a
loan in a way that remains difficult for the borrower to repay is not
“outrageous” conduct.  Price v. Wells Fargo Bank, 213 Cal. App. 3d
465, 486 (1989).

Note 23 – Cause of Action for Negligent Infliction of Emotional
Distress – Emotional distress damages are not recoverable where the
emotional distress arises solely from property damage or economic
injury to the plaintiff.  Butler-Rupp v. Lourdeaux, 134 Cal. App. 4th
1220, 1229 (2005).

Note 24 – Cause of Action for Conspiracy – There is no stand-alone
claim for conspiracy.  Applied Equipment Corp. v. Litton Saudi Arabia
Ltd., 7 Cal. 4th 503, 510-511 (1994).

Note 25 – Cause of Action for Declaratory Relief – A claim for
declaratory relief is not “proper” since the dispute has crystallized
into COA under other theories asserted in other causes of actions in
the complaint.  Cardellini v. Casey, 181 Cal. App. 3d 389, 397-398
(1986).

Note 26 – Cause of Action for Violation of the Fair Debt Collection
Practices Acts – Foreclosure activities are not considered “debt
collection” activities.  Gamboa v. Trustee Corps, 2009 WL 656285, at
*4 (N.D. Cal. March 12, 2009).

Note 27 – Duties of the Foreclosure Trustee – The foreclosure
trustee’s rights, powers and duties regarding the notice of default
and sale are strictly defined and limited by the deed of trust and
governing statutes.  The duties cannot be expanded by the Courts and
no other common law duties exist.  Diediker v. Peelle Financial Corp.,
60 Cal. App. 4th 288, 295 (1997).

Note 28 – Unopposed Demurrer – The Demurrer is sustained [w/ or w/o]
leave to amend [and the RJN granted].  Service was timely and good and
no opposition was filed.
Failure to oppose the Demurrer may be construed as having abandoned
the claims.  See, Herzberg v. County of Plumas, 133 Cal. App. 4th 1,
20 (2005) (“Plaintiffs did not oppose the County’s demurrer to this
portion of their seventh cause of action and have submitted no
argument on the issue in their briefs on appeal.  Accordingly, we deem
plaintiffs to have abandoned the issue.”).

Note 29 – Responding on the Merits Waives Any Service Defect – “It is
well settled that the appearance of a party at the hearing of a motion
and his or her opposition to the motion on its merits is a waiver of
any defects or irregularities in the notice of the motion.”  Tate v.
Superior Court, 45 Cal. App. 3d 925, 930 (1975) (citations omitted).

Note 30 – Unargued Points – “Contentions are waived when a party fails
to support them with reasoned argument and citations to authority.”
Moulton Niguel Water Dist. v. Colombo, 111 Cal. App. 4th 1210, 1215
(2003).

Note 31 – Promissory Estoppel – “The doctrine of promissory estoppel
makes a promise binding under certain circumstances, without
consideration in the usual sense of something bargained for and given
in exchange. 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, if injustice can be avoided
only by its enforcement. The vital principle is that 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. In such a case,
although no consideration or benefit accrues to the person making the
promise, he is the author or promoter of the very condition of affairs
which stands in his way; and when this plainly appears, it is most
equitable that the court should say that they shall so stand.”  Garcia
v. World Sav., FSB, 183 Cal. App. 4th 1031, 1039-1041 (2010)
(citations quotations and footnotes omitted).

Note 32 – Res Judicata Effect of Prior UD Action – Issues of title are
very rarely tried in an unlawful detainer action and moving party has
failed to meet the burden of demonstrating that the title issue was
fully and fairly adjudicated in the underlying unlawful detainer.
Vella v. Hudgins, 20 Cal. 3d 251, 257 (1977).  The burden of proving
the elements of res judicata is on the party asserting it.  Id. The
Malkoskie case is distinguishable because, there, the unlimited
jurisdiction judge was convinced that the title issue was somehow
fully resolved by the stipulated judgment entered in the unlawful
detainer court.  Malkoskie v. Option One Mortg. Corp., 188 Cal. App.
4th 968, 972 (2010).

Note 33 – Applicability of US Bank v. Ibanez – The Ibanez case, 458
Mass. 637 (January 7, 2011), does not appear to assist Plaintiff in
this action.  First, the Court notes that this case was decided by the
Massachusetts Supreme Court, such that it is persuasive authority, and
not binding authority.  Second, the procedural posture in this case is
different than that found in a case challenging a non-judicial
foreclosure in California.  In Ibanez, the lender brought suit in the
trial court to quiet title to the property after the foreclosure sale,
with the intent of having its title recognized (essentially validating
the trustee’s sale).  As the plaintiff, the lender was required to
show it had the power and authority to foreclose, which is
established, in part, by showing that it was the holder of the
promissory note.  In this action, where the homeowner is in the role
of the plaintiff challenging the non-judicial foreclosure, the lender
need not establish that it holds the note.

Note 34 – Statutes of Limitations for TILA and RESPA Claims – For TILA
claims, the statute of limitations for actions for damages runs one
year after the loan origination.  15 U.S.C. § 1640(e).  For actions
seeking rescission, the statute of limitations is three years from
loan origination.  15 U.S.C. § 1635(f).  For RESPA, actions brought
for lack of notice of change of loan servicer have a statute of
limitation of three years from the date of the occurrence, and actions
brought for payment of kickbacks for real estate settlement services,
or the conditioning of the sale on selection of certain title services
have a statute of limitations of one year from the date of the
occurrence.  12 U.S.C. § 2614.

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