Now that you have won your “free “house, what happens next?

For further information please call 954-495-9867 or 520-405-1688. We provide litigation support in all 50 states.

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On an upbeat note, we are getting more and more communication from homeowners who have won their cases outright and not subject to confidentiality agreements. Fortunately these happy homeowners have realized that the fight is not yet over but that they are obviously in control of the narrative. A word of caution about the case cited in yesterday’s article where the Judge granted a “free house” to a homeowner. The New Jersey bankruptcy case is potentially persuasive but legal authority that the Judge in your case must obey.

Banks have gone to great lengths in framing the narrative on these mortgages and these foreclosures. Almost everywhere you hear the phrase “free house.” Of course nobody really knows what anyone means by that phrase. “free houses” are a myth, just like the trusts, the assignments and the “holders” of the note and mortgage. Preventing the mortgagee from enforcement does NOT give a free house to anyone, regardless of the circumstances. It is a rare circumstance that the buyer of the new house does not expend thousands of dollars or tens of thousands of dollars or even hundreds of thousands of dollars on the house that they think they now own.

I know thousands perhaps millions put a down payment into a house thinking that their payment was equity they would retrieve when the house was sold or refinanced. A typical case I have witnessed is a home purchased for $500,000 with $100,000 down payment —- 20% of the purchase price based upon appraisals that wildly speculative and untrue.

Then the house gets sold in a short sale for $300,000. If that homeowner had fought the bank and the bank was found not to be the owner of the mortgage or note or debt and the mortgage was found to be unenforceable or even void, did that homeowner get the house for free. $100k down, plus $50k in improvements, furnishings etc. The homeowner is out $150,000 no matter what happens and that is not free. There is no such thing as a free house and there never was. But mortgages and notes are sometimes ab initio (from the start), unenforceable or void and in today’s market most of them fall somewhere in that category.

And there is an area of confusion between property law, bankruptcy law and contract law. Which brings us to the case decided in New Jersey by a bankruptcy court judge. It is the case of Washington versus specialized loan servicing and the Bank of New York Mellon as trustee for the certificate holders of an allegedly asset-backed trust.

This case is far from a cure all that will fix all other foreclosures. I doubt the Judge had jurisdiction to declare the mortgage void. And therein lies a potential problem for the homeowner that won here. The homeowner might lose on appeal or still have a problem even if the bank’s appeal is turned down.

I will point out again that Bank of New York Mellon represents itself as trustee for the certificate holders and old minutes any representation for the trust itself. One might conclude that the trust does not exist and that the certificate holders who obviously are the investors are the real parties in interest as I have repeatedly stated for more than seven years.
And by the way, NJ does not have a homestead exemption, so the debt, which is real and if it can be computed after giving credit for all payments to the creditors from all sources, is still owed and the homestead can still be foreclosed based upon a money judgment. So a free house is just not the right term to describe any of this.

I don’t think the judge realized that the investors were being directly represented by Bank of New York Mellon and that the reference to the bank as a trustee was merely a self-serving statement by the bank in order to block any inquiry into the identity of the certificate holders who were the obvious real parties in interest. In the months and years to come the distinction which I am drawing here will become increasingly important in court rooms across the country.

The bankruptcy judge carefully analyzed the statute of limitations and concluded that there was no way that the loan could be enforced and that therefore the claim in bankruptcy was void. The judge that he didn’t like to give anyone a free house but that was what he had to do in this case in New Jersey.

The foreclosure case in the state court was dismissed for lack of prosecution without prejudice. The effect of that dismissal was one of the things that was in dispute that the bankruptcy judge decided. The bad news is that I am not so sure this decision will be upheld if it is appealed. But even if it is upheld I’m not so sure that the homeowner actually received the free house that the judge expressly said was being given to him by the judges decision. Bankruptcy Judges are known to have an inflated view of their jurisdictional authority. The District Court Judge above him in the same courthouse might have been able to declare the mortgage void, but I doubt if a bankruptcy judge has that authority. But the decision to prevent enforcement of the mortgage in the bankruptcy proceeding and the decision to cause the alleged creditor to be unsecured instead of secured (which is what I have been advocating for 7 years) is probably valid.

The judge decided that both the note and mortgage were unenforceable. He also decided that because they were unenforceable that Bank of New York Mellon did not have a secured claim for purposes of the bankruptcy proceeding. The judge went further than that by stating that the underlying lien is deemed void pursuant to 11 USC 506(a)(1) and (d). So for purposes of that bankruptcy proceeding court made a determination that Bank of New York Mellon did not have secured status. The Court also seemed to accept the agreement of both size that Bank of New York Mellon or a specialized loan servicing had the original note and mortgage.

The Question I have is the same question that Is being asked in many circles today. When all is said and done the mortgage still is present in the county records — it was recorded so it still exists in the county records of the County recorder in the jurisdiction in which the property is located. My question is whether in the absence of a court order stating that the mortgage is void or nullified, and in the absence of the recording of such an order at the county recorders office, will this homeowner be legally correct in assuming that the mortgage will not affect his title and that no payment will be required at the time the homeowner seeks to sell or refinance the property.

It may seem like splitting hairs and maybe It is. But I think there’s a difference between a lien that is in the county records and therefore encumbers the title answer the question of the enforceability of the lean. When you pull up the title chain by hand or by computer, the mortgage will be there. Would you buy that property without getting rid of that mortgage? Would you lend money on that property? In this case the Bankruptcy judge has decided for purposes of the bankruptcy proceeding that the secured status of Bank of New York Mellon did not exist.

I question whether that decision automatically means that the mortgage was in fact nullified or void unless the County recorder accepts the court order for recording and the recorded order is interpreted as nullification unemployed mortgage document. And THAT basically means you need to file a quiet title action, which bring you back to attacking the initial loan transaction ab initio (from the beginning). Unless you can say that the note and mortgage should never have been released from the closing table, much less recorded, I think there is a potential problem lurking in the shadows. The homeowner might be prevented from selling or refinancing the home without the AMGAR program or something like it.

Otherwise what it comes time to sell or refinance the property, the homeowner may find that he still must deal with either paying off somebody claiming to own the mortgage or the homeowner is required to file a quiet title action to resolve the question. Of course the longer the homeowner waits before taking any action to sell or refinance the property, more likely it is that the homeowner will in fact end up with the property unencumbered by the mortgage. My point is that I don’t think that question has been answered and I don’t think that the answer will be consistent across the country.

It is my opinion that nullification of the mortgage as a void instrument that never should’ve been released much less recorded is first required for the Court can consider of cause of action to quiet title in favor of the homeowner and specifically against the encumbrance filed in the county records as a mortgage. I would also Council caution on applying this bankruptcy case to other cases in the State judicial system even in New Jersey.

But I would also say that the distaste of people sitting on the bench for hey results that benefits the homeowner signals bias for which there is no proper foundation. There is no question that these loans, debts, notes, mortgages, assignments and transfers. collection modification and foreclosures are all clouded in obscure schemes created by the banks and not the borrowers. 50 million borrowers did not wake up one morning and meet in some stadium with the idea of defrauding the banks and the federal government and insurers, guarantors and investors. But a handful of Wall Street titans who had become accustomed to their power, did in fact arrogantly pursue a scheme that did defraud borrowers, investors, insurance companies and the U.S. government.

To say that nobody can file a foreclosure is not to say that the debt cannot be enforced. There are causes of action based solely on common law or the note. If a real creditor could step forward showing a real advance of funds, they would probably prevail in at least establishing that the debt is owed from the homeowner and possibly get a money judgment. In states that have little or no homestead exemption the lien can be recorded, attaches the chain of title for the house and can be foreclosed as a judgment lien. But of course that would require the party seeking to enforce the debt to show that they actually advanced the money as a creditor. And THAT is the problem for the banks. If they had that evidence there would be no argument over the enforceability of the alleged loan documents that I call worthless.

They would have produced it long ago if the notes and mortgages were valid documents. They didn’t, they can’t, and that is why Elizabeth Warren is absolutely right in demanding that the principal balance of the debt be corrected downward. And it is stink and no crime for a Judge to apply the law evenly and allow the chips to fall where they may. If that means nobody gets to enforce the mortgage it doesn’t mean the homeowner received a free house.

The debt is due, after all adjustments, and it could be enforced by other means — unless the truth is that the borrowers ARE off the hook because the original debt, upon which all other debts deals rely as their foundation, has already been paid off. Then the homeowner doesn’t owe the money on the original debt and if somebody wants to make a case against the homeowner for recovery of what they actually lost then let them bring that action. Otherwise too bad. If the original debt is paid off through any third party payment (i.e., if the certificate holders have received payment in full directly or indirectly on their investment), then there should be no possibility of a mortgage foreclosure because that is the only debt that is allegedly secured by a mortgage. Other parties who have been lurking in the shadows would have to come into the limelight and allege and prove their case including the allegation that they are losing money as a result of these complex and obscure transactions.

The banks started this and they should suffer the consequences. There is plenty of blame to go around. To have homeowners pay the full price for the bank’s misbehavior, for the servicer’s fraud, and the Wall Street bank’s greedy method of siphoning the life out of our economy is just plain wrong. Even if we want to treat the loan documents as real, the consequences should be spread around and not on banks who are reporting higher and higher profits from aggressive release of reserves that comes from money they stole from investors —- a fact that is now dawning upon securities analysts as they downgraded Wells Fargo and other banks.

“FREE HOUSE” in NJ Bankruptcy Court

For further information and assistance please call 954-495-9867 and 520-405-1688. We will be covering this decision on the Neil Garfield show tonight.

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Or call in at (347) 850-1260, 6pm Eastern Thursdays

see http://stopforeclosurefraud.com/2014/11/18/in-re-washington-bankr-court-d-new-jersey-morris-county-homeowner-gets-a-free-house/

also see Senator Elizabeth Warren Ramping Up Attack: When Will “Principal reduction” become a reality?

This case is notable for several reasons:

  1. The Judge expresses outright that it is general judicial bias that homeowner should not prevail in foreclosure litigation.
  2. Nevertheless this Judge trashes the the claim of SPS (Specialized Loan Services) and BONY (Bank of New York) Mellon leaving the homeowner with what the Judge calls a free house.
  3. The Judge concludes that the mortgage was unenforceable and that the note was unenforceable after a careful examination of the statute of limitations under New Jersey law.
  4. The Judge concludes that the mortgage is void, not just unenforceable, thus clearing title.

While we can be pleased with the result, some of the reasoning might not withstand an appeal, if the foreclosers take the risk of filing one.

Here are some interesting excerpts:

“No one gets a free house.” This Court and others have uttered that admonition since the early days of the mortgage crisis, where homeowners have sought relief under a myriad of state and federal consumer protection statutes and the Bankruptcy Code. Yet, with a proper measure of disquiet and chagrin, the Court now must retreat from this position, as Gordon A. Washington (“the Debtor”) has presented a convincing argument for entitlement to such relief. So, with figurative hand holding the nose, the Court, for the reasons set forth below, will grant Debtor’s motion for summary judgment.
The Defendants accelerated the maturity date of the loan to the June 1, 2007 default date, as acknowledged in the Assignment (dkt. 7, Exhibit L).[10] Moreover, neither the Debtor nor the Defendants have taken any measures under the note or mortgage, or under the Fair Foreclosure Act, to de-accelerate the debt, and the Defendants have further failed to file a foreclosure complaint within 6 years of the accelerated maturity date as required by N.J.S.A. § 2A:50-56.1(a). Accordingly, the Defendants are now time-barred from filing a foreclosure complaint and from obtaining a final judgment of foreclosure.

11 U.S.C. § 502(b)(1) (emphasis added). 11 U.S.C. § 506 controls the allowance of secured claims and provides that, if the claim underlying the lien is disallowed, then the lien is void:

(a)(1) An allowed claim of a creditor secured by a lien on property in which the estate has an interest, or that is subject to setoff under section 553 of this title, is a secured claim to the extent of the value of such creditor’s interest in the estate’s interest in such property, or to the extent of the amount subject to setoff, as the case may be, and is an unsecured claim to the extent that the value of such creditor’s interest or the amount so subject to setoff is less than the amount of such allowed claim. Such value shall be determined in light of the purpose of the valuation and of the proposed disposition or use of such property, and in conjunction with any hearing on such disposition or use or on a plan affecting such creditor’s interest.

(d) To the extent that a lien secures a claim against the debtor that is not an allowed secured claim, such lien is void, unless [conditions not relevant here exist].
As explained above, by application of N.J.S.A. § 2A:50-56.1(a) and (c), the Defendants are time-barred under New Jersey state law from enforcing either the note or the accelerated mortgage. As a result, Defendants’ proof of claim 7 must be disallowed under 11 U.S.C. § 502(b)(1) as unenforceable against the Debtor or against Debtor’s property under applicable state law. Having determined that Defendants do not have an allowed secured claim, the underlying lien is deemed void pursuant to 11 U.S.C. §§ 506(a)(1) and (d).[11]
In light of Defendants’ acceleration of the maturity date of the underlying debt as of June 1, 2007, and because neither Debtor nor Defendants took any action under either the mortgage instruments, or the Fair Foreclosure Act, to de-accelerate the maturity date, Defendants’ right to file a foreclosure complaint expired 6 years after the June 1, 2007 acceleration date under N.J.S.A. § 2A:50-56.1(a). Given that Defendants’ putative secured claim is unenforceable under 11 U.S.C. § 502(b)(1), by applicable New Jersey statute, their mortgage lien is void under 11 U.S.C. § 506(d), and the Debtor retains the property, free of any claim of the Defendants. Debtor is to submit a form of judgment. The Court will proceed to gargle in an effort to remove the lingering bad taste.
11] In as much as the Court finds that the Defendants are time-barred from enforcing the note or the mortgage, it is not necessary to address Debtor’s arguments that Defendants lack standing to enforce the note and mortgage based on alleged defects in the Assignment or the alleged impact of a Settlement Agreement.

National Honesty Day? America’s Book of Lies

Today is National Honesty Day. While it should be a celebration of how honest we have been the other 364 days of the year, it is rather a day of reflection on how dishonest we have been. Perhaps today could be a day in which we say we will at least be honest today about everything we say or do. But that isn’t likely. Today I focus on the economy and the housing crisis. Yes despite the corruption of financial journalism in which we are told of improvements, our economy — led by the housing markets — is still sputtering. It will continue to do so until we confront the truth about housing, and in particular foreclosures. Tennessee, Virginia and other states continue to lead the way in a downward spiral leading to the lowest rate of home ownership since the 1990′s with no bottom in sight.

Here are a few of the many articles pointing out the reality of our situation contrasted with the absence of articles in financial journalism directed at outright corruption on Wall Street where the players continue to pursue illicit, fraudulent and harmful schemes against our society performing acts that can and do get jail time for anyone else who plays that game.

It isn’t just that they escaping jail time. The jailing of bankers would take a couple of thousand people off the street that would otherwise be doing harm to us.

The main point is that we know they are doing the wrong thing in foreclosing on property they don’t own using “balances” the borrower doesn’t owe; we know they effectively stole the money from the investors who thought they were buying mortgage bonds, we know they effectively stole the title protection and documents that should have been executed in favor of the real source of funds, we know they received multiple payments from third parties and we know they are getting twin benefits from foreclosures that (a) should not be legally allowed and (b) only compound the damages to investors and homeowners.

The bottom line: Until we address wrongful foreclosures, the housing market, which has always led the economy, will continue to sputter, flatline or crash again. Transferring wealth from the middle class to the banks is a recipe for disaster whether it is legal or illegal. In this case it plainly illegal in most cases.

And despite the planted articles paid for by the banks, we still have over 700,000 foreclosures to go in the next year and over 9,000,000 homeowners who are so deep underwater that their situation is a clear and present danger of “strategic default” on claims that are both untrue and unfair.

Here is a sampling of corroborative evidence for my conclusions:

Senator Elizabeth Warren’s Candid Take on the Foreclosure Crisis

There it was: The Treasury foreclosure program was intended to foam the runway to protect against a crash landing by the banks. Millions of people were getting tossed out on the street, but the secretary of the Treasury believed the government’s most important job was to provide a soft landing for the tender fannies of the banks.”

Lynn Symoniak is Thwarted by Government as She Pursues Other Banks for the Same Thing She Proved Before

Government prosecutors who relied on a Florida whistleblower’s evidence to win foreclosure fraud settlements with major banks two years ago are declining to help her pursue identical claims against a second set of large financial institutions.

Lynn Szymoniak first found proof that millions of American foreclosures were based on faulty and falsified documents while fighting her own foreclosure. Her three-year legal fight helped uncover the fact that banks were “robosigning” documents — hiring people to forge signatures and backdate legal paperwork the firms needed in order to foreclose on people’s homes — as a routine practice. Court papers that were unsealed last summer show that the fraudulent practices Szymoniak discovered affect trillions of dollars worth of mortgages.

More than 700,000 Foreclosures Expected Over Next Year

How Bank Watchdogs Killed Our Last Chance At Justice For Foreclosure Victims

The results are in. The award for the sorriest chapter of the great American foreclosure crisis goes to the Independent Foreclosure Review, a billion-dollar sinkhole that produced nothing but heartache for aggrieved homeowners, and a big black eye for regulators.

The foreclosure review was supposed to uncover abuses in how the mortgage industry coped with the epic wave of foreclosures that swept the U.S. in the aftermath of the housing crash. In a deal with the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency and the Federal Reserve, more than a dozen companies, including major banks, agreed to hire independent auditors to comb through loan files, identify errors and award just compensation to people who’d been abused in the foreclosure process.

But in January 2013, amid mounting evidence that the entire process was compromised by bank interference and government mismanagement, regulators abruptly shut the program down. They replaced it with a nearly $10 billion legal settlement that satisfied almost no one. Borrowers received paltry payouts, with sums determined by the very banks they accused of making their lives hell.

Investigation Stalled and Diverted as to Bank Fraud Against Investors and Homeowners

The Government Accountability Office released the results of its study of the Independent Foreclosure Review, conducted by the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency and the Federal Reserve in 2011 and 2012, and the results show that the foreclosure process is lacking in oversight and transparency.

According to the GAO review, which can be read in full here, the OCC and Fed signed consent orders with 16 mortgage servicers in 2011 and 2012 that required the servicers to hire consultants to review foreclosure files for efforts and remediate harm to borrowers.

In 2013, regulators amended the consent orders for all but one servicer, ending the file reviews and requiring servicers to provide $3.9 billion in cash payments to about 4.4 million borrowers and $6 billion in foreclosure prevention actions, such as loan modifications. The list of impacted mortgage servicers can be found here, as well as any updates. It should be noted that the entire process faced controversy before, as critics called the IFR cumbersome and costly.

Banks Profit from Suicides of Their Officers and Employees

After a recent rash of mysterious apparent suicides shook the financial world, researchers are scrambling to find answers about what really is the reason behind these multiple deaths. Some observers have now come to a rather shocking conclusion.

Wall Street on Parade bloggers Pam and Russ Martens wrote this week that something seems awry regarding the bank-owned life insurance (BOLI) policies held by JPMorgan Chase.

Four of the biggest banks on Wall Street combined hold over $680 billion in BOLI policies, the bloggers reported, but JPMorgan held around $17.9 billion in BOLI assets at the end of last year to Citigroup’s comparably meager $8.8 billion.

Government Cover-Up to Protect the Banks and Screw Homeowners and Investors

A new government report suggests that errors made by banks and their agents during foreclosures might have been significantly higher than was previously believed when regulators halted a national review of the banks’ mortgage servicing operations.

When banking regulators decided to end the independent foreclosure review last year, most banks had not completed the examinations of their mortgage modification and foreclosure practices.

At the time, the regulators — the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency and the Federal Reserve — found that lengthy reviews by bank-hired consultants were delaying compensation getting to borrowers who had suffered through improper modifications and other problems.

But the decision to cut short the review left regulators with limited information about actual harm to borrowers when they negotiated a $10 billion settlement as part of agreements with 15 banks, according to a draft of a report by the Government Accountability Office reviewed by The New York Times.

The report shows, for example, that an unidentified bank had an error rate of about 24 percent. This bank had completed far more reviews of borrowers’ files than a group of 11 banks involved the deal, suggesting that if other banks had looked over more of their records, additional errors might have been discovered.

Wrongful Foreclosure Rate at least 24%: Wrongful or Fraudulent?

The report shows, for example, that an unidentified bank had an error rate of about 24 percent. This bank had completed far more reviews of borrowers’ files than a group of 11 banks involved the deal, suggesting that if other banks had looked over more of their records, additional errors might have been discovered.

http://www.marketpulse.com/20140430/u-s-housing-recovery-struggles/

http://www.csmonitor.com/Business/Latest-News-Wires/2014/0429/Home-buying-loses-allure-ownership-rate-lowest-since-1995

http://www.opednews.com/articles/It-s-Good–no–Great-to-by-William-K-Black–Bank-Failure_Bank-Failures_Bankers_Banking-140430-322.html

[DISHONEST EUPHEMISMS: The context of this WSJ story is the broader series of betrayals of homeowners by the regulators and prosecutors led initially by Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and his infamous “foam the runways” comment in which he admitted and urged that programs “sold” as benefitting distressed homeowners be used instead to aid the banks (more precisely, the bank CEOs) whose frauds caused the crisis.  The WSJ article deals with one of the several settlements with the banks that “service” home mortgages and foreclose on them.  Private attorneys first obtained the evidence that the servicers were engaged in massive foreclosure fraud involving knowingly filing hundreds of thousands of false affidavits under (non) penalty of perjury.  As a senior former AUSA said publicly at the INET conference a few weeks ago about these cases — they were slam dunk prosecutions.  But you know what happened; no senior banker or bank was prosecuted.  No banker was sued civilly by the government.  No banker had to pay back his bonus that he “earned” through fraud.

 

 

Don’t Admit the Default

Kudos again to Jim Macklin for sitting in for me last night. Excellent job — but don’t get too comfortable in my chair :). Lots of stuff in another mini-seminar packed into 28 minutes of talk.

A big point made by the attorney guest Charles Marshall, with which I obviously agree, is don’t admit the default in a foreclosure unless that is really what you mean to do. I have been saying for 8 years that lawyers and pro se litigants and Petitioners in bankruptcy proceedings have been cutting their own throats by stating outright or implying that the default exists. It probably doesn’t exist, even though it SEEMS like it MUST exist since the borrower stopped paying.

There is not a default just because a borrower stops paying. The default occurs when the CREDITOR DOESN’T GET PAID. Until the false game of “securitization started” there was no difference between the two — i.e., when the borrower stopped paying the creditor didn’t get paid. But that is not the case in 96% of all residential loan transactions between 2001 and the present. Today there are multiple ways for the creditor to get paid besides the servicer receiving the borrower’s payment. the Courts are applying yesterday’s law without realizing that today’s facts are different.

Whether the creditor got paid and is still being paid is a question of fact that must be determined in a hearing where evidence is presented. All indications from the Pooling and Servicing Agreements, Distribution Reports, existing lawsuits from investors, insurers, counterparties in other hedge contracts like credit default swaps — they all indicate that there were multiple channels for payment that had little if anything to do with an individual borrower making payments to the servicer. Most Trust beneficiaries get paid regardless of whether the borrower makes payment, under provisions of the PSA for servicer advances, Trustee advances or some combination of those two plus the other co-obligors mentioned above.

Why would you admit a default on the part of the creditor’s account when you don’t have access to the money trail to identify the creditor? Why would you implicitly admit that the creditor has even been identified? Why would you admit a payment was due under a note and mortgage (or deed of trust) that were void front the start?

The banks have done a good job of getting courts to infer that the payment was due, to infer that the creditor is identified, to infer that the payment to the creditor wasn’t received by the creditor, and to infer that the balance shown by the servicer and the history of the creditor’s account can be shown by reference only to the servicer’s account. But that isn’t true. So why would you admit to something that isn’t true and why would you admit to something you know nothing about.

You don’t know because only the closing agent, originator and all the other “securitization” parties have any idea about the trail of money — the real transactions — and how the money was handled. And they are all suing the broker dealers and each other stating that fraud was committed and mismanagement of the multiple channels of payments received for, or on behalf of the trust or trust beneficiaries.

In the end it is exactly that point that will reach critical mass in the courts, when judges realize that the creditor has no default in its business records because it got paid — and the foreclosure by intermediaries in the false securitization scheme is a sham.

In California the issue they discussed last night about choice of remedies is also what I have been discussing for the last 8 years, but I must admit they said it better than I ever did. Either go for the money or go for the property — you can’t do both. And if you  elected a remedy or assumed a risk, you can’t back out of it later — which is why the point was made last night that the borrower was a third party beneficiary of the transaction with investors which is why it is a single transaction — if there is no borrower, there wold be no investment. If there was no investment, there would have been no borrower. The transaction could not exist without both the investor and the borrower.

Bravo to Jim Macklin, Dan Edstrom and Charles Marshall, Esq. And remember don’t act on these insights without consulting with a licensed attorney who knows about this area of the law.

Bankruptcy Lawyers: it starts in the schedules — admission of secured debt is deadly

I was traveling and re listening to an older lecture given by 2 Bankruptcy judges generally held in high esteem. The largest point was that naming a party as the creditor and checking the right boxes showing they are secured basically ends the discussion on the motion to lift stay and restricts your options to either filing an adversary lawsuit attached to the administrative bankruptcy petition or filing an action in state court which is where you will be if you don’t follow this same simple direction. If you file schedules attached to your petition for bankruptcy relief, as you are required to do, these are basically the same as sworn affidavits. They will be used against you in any contested hearing.

So the judge lifts the stay and then often mistakenly enters additional language in the order ending the issue of whom is the real lender. After all, that is who you were making the payments to, right, so they must be a creditor. And this is all about a mortgage foreclosure so they must, in addition to being a creditor, they must be a secured creditor. And if the collateral is worth less than the claim, there is not much else to talk about it is simple to these Judges because nobody has shown them differently and one of the Judges is retired now. By definition when the Bankruptcy Judge says in the order who is the creditor, he or she has gone beyond their jurisdiction and due process because there was no evidentiary hearing.

This all results from a combination of technology (garbage in, garbage out), inexperience with securitized mortgages, laziness and failure to do the research to determine what is the truth and what is not. If you are a bankruptcy practitioner who uses one of the desktop bankruptcy programs, then the questions, boxes, and fill-ins are intuitively placed in the schedule that your client swears to. No problem unless the schedules are wrong. And they are wrong where the debt runs from the Petitioner to the REMIC trust beneficiaries and is unsecured by any mortgage that the homeowner borrower petitioner ever signed or meant to sign.

The first point is that the amount if the debt is unknown and we now this for a fact because there are multiple offsets for Third party payment (like Servicer advances) that must be examined one by one. It could be zero, it could be there is money due to the borrower, it could be more or less what is being demanded by the Servicer or trustee. Another thing we know is that neither the Servicer or trustee is likely to know the amount of their claim. So send out a QWR to all addresses for the Servicer and the REMIC trustee.

If you get several different payment histories it is a fair bet they came off of different records, different systems and require the records custodian to authenticate each Servicer’ rendition, of beginning balance, ending balance and every transaction in between. The creditor who filed a proof of claim has the burden of showing a color able right to enforce the mortgage. That can only come from the pooling and servicing agreement. The parties to the PSA are the REMIC Trust, the REMIC Trust beneficiaries and the broker dealer who sold the bonds issued by the REMIC trust.

But if there is no trust or the REMIC trust never actually acquired the subject loan, then the appointed Servicer in the PSA draws no power from a PSA for a nonexistent or empty trust (at least empty of the subject loan.) it is not the Servicer by right, it has become the Servicer by its intervention into the contractual right between the borrower homeowner and the lender (the REMIC trust beneficiaries). The “apparent authority” of the Servicer will only take it so far.

And every transactions means that as a Servicer they were paying or passing on the borrower’s payments . Where are those records — missing. Does the corporate representative know about those payments? Who was the creditor paid. When did the payments from Servicer start and when did they stop — or are they still on-going right up to and including trial, foreclosure sale auction and final disposition of proceeds from an REO sale.

So from the perspective of the Petitioner he might have made payments to an entity that claimed to be the Servicer and those payments are due back not the bankruptcy estate. OOPS but that is what happens when a company arrogated unto itself the powers of a Servicer for loans that are claimed to be in a trust — where the trust doesn’t own the loan, note or mortgage (deed of trust). Thus the Servicer would be owed zero but you would show them in the unsecured column, unliquidated and disputed. This could have a substantial income on the amount of the claim, whether part or all of it is secured.

But no matter, if you fail to take a history from the client, get the closing documents, title and securitization report together with loan level analysis, you are going to do a disservice to your client. We provide litigation support and analysis to give you the data to make an informed decision, fight the POC, MLS, turnover of rents, etc. Then you might avoid the dreaded call of calling your insurance carrier who will probably tell you neither paid for nor received a tail on your claims made policy.

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What to Do When the “Original” Note is Proferred

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The selection of an attorney is an important decision  and should only be made after you have interviewed licensed attorneys familiar with investment banking, securities, property law, consumer law, mortgages, foreclosures, and collection procedures. This site is dedicated to providing those services directly or indirectly through attorneys seeking guidance or assistance in representing consumers and homeowners. We are available to any lawyer seeking assistance anywhere in the country, U.S. possessions and territories. Neil Garfield is a licensed member of the Florida Bar and is qualified to appear as an expert witness or litigator in in several states including the district of Columbia. The information on this blog is general information and should NEVER be considered to be advice on one specific case. Consultation with a licensed attorney is required in this highly complex field.
There are two issues when the other side presents original documents. First is that they say these are originals and they do not accompany it with an affidavit from someone with actual personal knowledge of the transactions or the high bar for business records exceptions to hearsay. My experience is that 50-50, the documents are original or fabricated by use of Photoshop and a laser printer or dot matrix printer. So what you need to do is to go down to the clerk’s office and see what they filed. It would not be unusual for them to file a copy saying it was the original. Second, on that same point, the original can be examined. When the signatures are heavy there should be indentations on the back. Also a notary stamp tends to bleed through the paper to the back.

The second major point is the issue of holder v owner. The owner of the debt is entitled to the ultimate relief, not the note-holder unless the other side fails to object. So along with the proffering of the “originals” they must tell the story, using competent foundation testimony, how they came into possession of the note. In discovery this is done by asking to see proof of payment and proof of loss. Which is to say that you want to see the canceled check or wire transfer receipt that paid for the “transaction” in which the possessor of the note became a holder under UCC and is entitled to a rebuttable presumption that they are the owner. If there is no transaction for value, then the note was not negotiated under the terms of the UCC.

Since they possess the note there is a hairline allowance that they may sue for the collection on a note in which they have no financial sake but there is no ability to win if the borrower denies they received the money or that the possessor of the note obtained the note for purposes of litigation and is not the creditor — i.e., the party who could properly submit a credit bid at auction by a creditor as defined by Florida statutes, nor are they able to execute a satisfaction of mortgage because even upon the receipt of the money they have no loss, and under the terms of the note itself the overpayment is due back to the borrower.

And just as importantly, they cannot modify the mortgage so any submission to them for modification is futile without them showing proof of payment, proof of loss and/or authority to speak for and represent the interests of an identified creditor.

An identified creditor is not merely a name but is a report of the name of the owner of the debt, the contact person and their contact information. Then you can contact the owner and ask for the balance and how it was computed. So the failure to identify the actual owner is interference with the borrower’s right to seek HAMP or HARP modifications — potentially a cause of action for intentional interference in the contractual relations of another (asserting that the note and mortgage incorporated existing law) or violation of statutory duties since the Dodd-Frank act includes all participants in the securitization scheme as servicers.

The key is the money trail because that is the actual transaction where money exchanged hands and it must be shown that the money trail leads from A to B to C etc. The documents would then be examined to see if they are in fact relating to the transaction or a particular leg of the chain.

If the documents don’t conform to the actual monetary transaction, then the documents are refuted as evidence of the debt or any right to enforce the debt. What we know is that in nearly all cases the documents at origination do NOT reflect the actual monetary transaction which means they (a) do not show the actual owner of the debt but rather a straw-man nominee for an undisclosed lender contrary to several provisions of the Truth in Lending Act. The same holds true for the false securitization” chain in which documents are fabricated to refer to transactions that never occurred — where there was a transfer of the debt on paper that was worthless because no transaction took place.

One last thing on this is the issue of blank endorsements. There is widespread confusion between the requirements of the UCC and the requirements of the Pooling and Servicing Agreement. It is absolutely true that a blank endorsement on a negotiable instrument is valid and that the holder possesses all rights of a holder including the presumption (rebuttable) of ownership.

But hundreds of Judges have erred in stopping their inquiry there. Because the UCC says that the agreement of the parties is paramount to any provision of the act. So if the PSA says the endorsement and assignment must be in a particular form (recordable) made out to the trust and that no blank endorsements will be accepted, then the indorsement is an offer which cannot be accepted by the asset pool or the trustee for the asset pool because it would violate an express prohibition in the PSA.

And that leads to the last point which is that a document calling itself an assignment is not irrefutable evidence of an actual transfer of the loan. If the assignee does not agree to take it, then the transaction is void.  None of the assignments I have seen have any joinder and acceptance by the trustee or anyone on behalf of the pool because nobody on the trustee level is willing to risk jail, even though Eric Holder now says he won’t prosecute those crimes. If you take the deposition of the trustee and ask for information concerning the trust account, they will get all squirrelly because there is no trust account on which the trustee is a signatory.

If you ask them whether they accepted the assignment of a defaulted loan and if so, what was the basis for them doing so they will get even more nervous. And if you ask them specifically if they accepted the assignment which you attach to the interrogatory or which you show them at deposition, they will have to say that they did not execute any document accepting that assignment, and then they will be required to agree, when you point out the PSA provisions that no such assignment or endorsement would be valid.

Prommis Holdings LLC Files for Bankruptcy Protection

I have not followed Prommis Holdings closely but I can recall that some people have sent in reports that Prommis was the named creditor in some foreclosure proceedings. The reason I am posting this is because the bankruptcy filings including the statement of affairs will probably give some important clues to the real money story on those mortgages where Prommis was involved. I’m sure you will not find the loan receivables account that are mysteriously absent from virtually all such filings and FDIC resolutions.

And remember that when the petition for bankruptcy is filed it must include a look-back period during which any assignments or transfers must be disclosed. So there is a very narrow window in which the petitioner could even claim ownership of the loan with or without any fabricated evidence.

US Trustees in bankruptcy are making a mistake when they do not pay attention to alleged assignments executed AFTER the petition was filed and sometimes AFTER the plan is confirmed or the company is liquidated. Such an assignment would indicate that either the petitioner lied about its assets or was committing fraud in executing the assignment — particularly without the US Trustee’s consent and joinder.

The Courts are making the same mistake if they accept such an assignment that does not have US Trustees consent and joinder, besides the usual mistake of not recognizing that the petitioner never had a stake in the loan to begin with. The same logic applies to receivership created by court order, the FDIC or any other “estate” created.

That would indicate, as I have been saying all along, that the origination and transfer paperwork is nothing more than paper and tells the story of fictitious transactions, to wit: that someone “bought” the loan. Upon examination of the money trail and demanding wire transfer receipts or canceled checks it is doubtful that you find any consideration paid for any transfer and in most cases you won’t find any consideration for even the origination of the loan.

Think of it this way: if you were the investor who advanced money to the underwriter (investment bank) who then sent the investor’s funds down to a closing agent to pay for the loan, whose name would you want to be on the note and mortgage? Who is the creditor? YOU! But that isn’t what happened and there is nothing the banks can do and no amount of paperwork can cover up the fact that there was consideration transferred exactly once in the origination and transfer of the loans — when the investors put up the money which the investment bank acting as intermediary sent to the closing agent.

The fact that the closing documents and transfer documents do not show the investors as the creditors is incompatible with the realities of the money trail. Thus the documents were fabricated and any signature procured by the parties from the alleged borrower was procured by fraud and deceit — causing an immediate cloud on title.

At the end of the day, the intermediaries must answer one simple question: why didn’t you put the investors’ name or the trust name on the note and mortgage or a “valid” assignment when the loan was made and within the 90 day window prescribed by the REMIC statutes of the Internal Revenue Code and the Pooling and Servicing Agreement? Nobody would want or allow someone else’s name on the note or mortgage that they funded. So why did it happen? The answer must be that the intermediaries were all breaching every conceivable duty to the investors and the borrowers in their quest for higher profits by claiming the loans to be owned by the intermediaries, most of whom were not even handling the money as a conduit.

By creating the illusion of ownership, these intermediaries diverted insurance mitigation payments from investors and diverted credit default swap mitigation payments from the investors. These intermediaries owe the investors AND the borrowers the money they took as undisclosed compensation that was unjustly diverted, with the risk of loss being left solely on the investors and the borrowers.

That is an account payable to the investor which means that the accounts receivables they have are off-set and should be off-set by actual payment of those fees. If they fail to get that money it is not any fault of the borrower. The off-set to the receivables from the borrowers caused by the receivables from the intermediaries for loss mitigation payments reduces the balance due from the borrower by simple arithmetic. No “forgiveness” is necessary. And THAT is why it is so important to focus almost exclusively on the actual trail of money — who paid what to whom and when and how much.

And all of that means that the notice of default, notice of sale, foreclosure lawsuit, and demand for payments are all wrong. This is not just a technical issue — it runs to the heart of the false securitization scheme that covered over the PONZI scheme cooked up on Wall Street. The consensus on this has been skewed by the failure of the Justice department to act; but Holder explained that saying that it was a conscious decision not to prosecute because of the damaging effects on the economy if the country’s main banks were all found guilty of criminal fraud.

You can’t do anything about the Holder’s decision to prosecute but that doesn’t mean that the facts, strategy and logic presented here cannot be used to gain traction. Just keep your eye on the ball and start with the money trail and show what documents SHOULD have been produced and what they SHOULD have said and then compare it with what WAS produced and you’ll have defeated the foreclosure. This is done through discovery and the presumptions that arise when a party refuses to comply. They are not going to admit anytime soon that what I have said in this article is true. But the Judges are not stupid. If you show a clear path to the Judge that supports your discovery demands, coupled with your denial of all essential elements of the foreclosure, and you persist relentlessly, you are going to get traction.

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