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The American Ream is Alive and Hell

fire 33

By William Hudson

 

The number of Americans that own a home has fallen to its lowest recorded level ever. The second quarter of 2016, reflected that the non-seasonally adjusted homeownership rate fell to 62.9 percent, the same percentage reflected when the U.S. Census began tracking homeownership rates back in 1965.

 
Since the recession, and through the Obama presidency, the percentage of Americans that own a home has decreased significantly. The American middle class is now a minority- for the first time ever. Homeownership and consumer demand are driven by the middleclass purchaser who holds a middle class job. The United States economy is suffering from income stagnation, flat wages, and inflated consumer and home prices. The average median household income of only $51,939 only goes so far after half of that income goes to some type of tax.

 
An after tax salary of 30k doesn’t buy much, and forget any life quality perks. Food, energy, transportation and medical care can exhaust an income of 30k in no time flat. If this is the federal government’s idea of a recovery- the middle and lower classes are doomed.

 
This isn’t about how homeownership rates are decreasing while rents increase- this is about the fact that home ownership rates are at their lowest levels ever seen. Homeownership is central to pride of ownership, stable neighborhoods, and low turnover rates. As neighborhoods transition from family ownership to landlords with rentals, there is typically a depreciation in house value, an increase in turnover, and less stability. The quality of education then falls, crime rates increase and once well-maintained houses lose their value and typically incur deferred maintenance. Although this is not always true, the statistics support this scenario.

 
Home ownership was once represented that you had attained a certain level of achievement and were a member of the middle class. Homeownership rates rose over the past decade to their highest level ever, and now we are seeing a continuous decrease in home ownership every month. During the gilded housing boom of the mid-2000s, approximately 69.2 percent of Americans owned homes.

 
Homeownership rates are falling because:
• Home prices have inflated while wages have stagnated (for the lower 80%) making entry   level homes too expensive for the majority of lower and middle class Americans.
• Affordable homes in suburban areas require lengthy and expensive commute every day.
• First time buyers have difficulty saving for a down payment since they are burdened by soaring rents and no money left over at month’s end.
• Millennials witnessed the American Dream become the American Nightmare, and have been taught they are tenants in their own homes and their vulnerability when dealing with predatory servicers.
• Low interest rates have created a housing bubble where home prices have inflated beyond their free-market value and monthly payments have soared.
• Higher home prices result in higher taxes, commissions, and insurance.
• Past homeowners who have had a bad experience with a mortgage servicer will likely NEVER purchase a home again from a large lender. Once bitten twice shy.

 

However, there is more to this story. The life quality of the middle class has been eroding for decades. For example:
• Unemployment impacts one of every five families, where no one in the family works.
• 102 million working-age Americans are unemployed.
• The Social Security Administration reports that 51 percent of American workers currently make less than $30,000 a year.
• In 1970, the middle class brought home approximately 62 percent of all income. Today, that number is 43 percent.
• The Federal Reserve says that 47 percent of Americans could not pay an unexpected $400 emergency room bill without borrowing the money from somewhere or selling something.
• A recent survey discovered that 62 percent of all Americans possess less than $1,000 in savings.
• If you have no debt and ten dollars, you have a GREATER net worth than about 25% of all Americans.
• Today one out of five children is on food stamps. In 2007 that number was one in eight children.

The middle class in America is dying while our politicians continue to get wealthier while no changes are made. America was once the most innovative, free and thriving economy in the history of mankind. The economists that are realists believe that the 20+ trillion dollars of debt coupled with 100 million unemployed Americans spells disaster.

 
The 50 million Americans who live in poverty and receive food stamps can’t afford a further decrease in the buying power of the US dollar. Yet, the media and your government officials swear up and down that things are just fine. They report the job market is rebounding, wages are rising and the markets are at peak levels.

 
Nothing could be further than the truth. Obama is the FIRST PRESIDENT EVER to not see a single year of 3% GDP growth.

Jesinoski Update: Homeowner, Bank and Court All Get it Wrong

We get it. Judges don’t like statutory rescission under TILA. They are not required to like TILA rescission but they are required to follow it. This decision openly defies the SCOTUS ruling and refuses to apply it.

Despite clear legislative intent to prevent banks from stonewalling rescission they are succeeding in doing so nonetheless as they play upon the bias of courts against TILA Rescission.

This Federal Judge attempts to grapple with the issue of damages claimed by Jesinoski’s rescission. It is stunning that these are the same people who argued the case before the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS). The plain truth is that nobody in that courtroom seemed to understand rescission or how to apply it. The singular overriding point is that the only substantive part of the rescission statute is that when mailed, rescission is effective and the loan contract is canceled, the mortgage and note are void.  There is no maybe in that statement. Nor is there a sentence that starts with “well, not if….”.

It appears in this case that this Jesinoski proceeding clouded the issues when plaintiff sued for damages under rescission. In so doing they apparently were trying to prove the basis of their rescission which was sent, as per SCOTUS, within the 3 years. Pleading the basis of rescission was a mistake because it raised the very issue that the statute and the SCOTUS decision said was unnecessary. The factual issue for Plaintiff was whether the rescission had been sent. PERIOD. Whether it was proper when sent was an issue the Defendant was required to raise, not the Plaintiff.

The next move within 20 days of receipt of the rescission would be for a creditor to plead a case to vacate the rescission. The danger here is that this decision could be affirmed because it was Jesinoski who raised the issue of whether or not the rescission was properly sent. Jesinoski might have snatched defeat from the jaws of victory. By raising the issue of whether the rescission was proper, Jesinoski might have waived their objection that would be based upon the fact that no creditor had filed any lawsuit at any time, much less within the 20 day window.

But the court probably erred when it ignored the fact that the rescission was effective, plain and simple. It compounded the error by effectively ruling that rescission was only effective if a Court said it was effective and only if the borrower showed the ability to tender the full amount allegedly owed. In short this federal Judge was effectively overruling SCOTUS — a legal impossibility.

The statute and the SCOTUS decision on Jesinoski both clearly state that neither a lawsuit nor tender nor anything else is required of the borrower in the unique statutory scheme of rescission. The court is once again re-introducing common law rescission in direct contravention of the unanimous SCOTUS decision. Justice Scalia made it clear that NOTHING is required from the borrower after sending that notice.

Once the rescission is effective, the Court can only vacate it upon timely proper pleading from a party claiming injury. All the rest of the rescission statute is procedural. The failure of the creditor to actually bring an action to vacate the rescission within 20 days was fatal. Any other reading would require us to overrule SCOTUS and re-write the statute. It would mean that the rescission is NOT effective when mailed despite the clear wording of the statute that says it IS effective when mailed.

We get it. Judges don’t like statutory rescission under TILA. They are not required to like TILA rescission but they are required to follow it. This decision openly defies the SCOTUS ruling and refuses to apply it.

But the Plaintiff seems to have contributed to the problem. The damages sought are not based upon whether the rescission was proper. It was based upon the statute that says only if all three conditions are satisfied may the creditor demand any money. One of those conditions is the payment of all money ever paid to the “lender”. Those are the damages.

The issue is only the factual determination of the amount of those damages — not whether they are due at all. All three parties seem to have missed that point — Plaintiff, Defendant and Judge.

By inserting the tender requirement the Judge was not only ruling opposite to the content of the statute and opposite to the SCOTUS decision; it was expressly opposite the reasoning behind the “no-tender” component of TILA rescission, to wit: that payment could only be requested after the cancellation of the note, the release of the mortgage encumbrance, and the return of all money paid by the borrower since inception.

The clear reasoning behind this was that legislators in Congress expressly did not want to provide any method of stonewalling rescission. By requiring the disgorgement of money and the release of the encumbrance, the borrower was given the means to pay through application of the money received from the bank and the ability to get a new mortgage without damage to his/her/their credit. It was presumed by Congress that virtually no homeowner would have the means to tender without being able to cancel the old mortgage, release the encumbrance and get back their money FIRST.

Judges seem not to like the punitive nature of the statute. It is intended to be punitive, covering a wide array of possible lending violations and failures — instead of establishing a huge Federal agency that would review every mortgage loan.

The idea was to make the consequences of such behavior so gothic that the banks would police themselves. There is no Judge in the country who has the power or authority to re-write this very clear statute to match their own perceptions and belief that this statute is too draconian in its results. Public policy is for the legislative branch to decide. By resisting TILA rescission courts are encouraging more of the same bank behavior that still threatens all of the world’s economies and societies. By refusing to apply TILA rescission the courts are making themselves complicit in the greatest economic crime in human history.

——————————

Larry D. Jesinoski and Cheryle Jesinoski, individuals, Plaintiffs,
v.
Countrywide Home Loans, Inc., d/b/a America’s Wholesale Lender, subsidiary of Bank of America N.A.; BAC Home Loans Servicing, LP, a subsidiary of Bank of America, N.A., a Texas Limited Partnership f/k/a Countrywide Home Loans Servicing, LP; Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems, Inc., a Delaware Corporation; and John and Jane Does 1-10, Defendants.

Civil No. 11-474 (DWF/FLN).United States District Court, D. Minnesota.

July 21, 2016.Larry D. Jesinoski, Plaintiff, represented by Bryan R. Battina, Trepanier MacGillis Battina, P.A. & Daniel P. H. Reiff, Reiff Law Office, PLLC.

Cheryle Jesinoski, Plaintiff, represented by Bryan R. Battina, Trepanier MacGillis Battina, P.A. & Daniel P. H. Reiff, Reiff Law Office, PLLC.

Countrywide Home Loans, Inc., Defendant, represented by Andre T. Hanson, Fulbright & Jaworski LLP, Joseph Mrkonich, Fulbright & Jaworski LLP, Ronn B. Kreps, Fulbright & Jaworski LLP & Sparrowleaf Dilts McGregor, Norton Rose Fulbright US LLP.

BAC Home Loans Servicing, LP, Defendant, represented by Andre T. Hanson, Fulbright & Jaworski LLP, Joseph Mrkonich, Fulbright & Jaworski LLP, Ronn B. Kreps, Fulbright & Jaworski LLP & Sparrowleaf Dilts McGregor, Norton Rose Fulbright US LLP.

Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems, Inc., Defendant, represented by Andre T. Hanson, Fulbright & Jaworski LLP, Joseph Mrkonich, Fulbright & Jaworski LLP, Ronn B. Kreps, Fulbright & Jaworski LLP & Sparrowleaf Dilts McGregor, Norton Rose Fulbright US LLP.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

DONOVAN W. FRANK, District Judge.

INTRODUCTION

This matter is before the Court on a Motion for Summary Judgment brought by Defendants Countrywide Home Loans, Inc. (“Countrywide”), Bank of America, N.A. (“BANA”) and Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems, Inc. (“MERS”) (together, “Defendants”) (Doc. No. 51).[1] For the reasons set forth below, the Court grants Defendants’ motion.

BACKGROUND

I. Factual Background

This “Factual Background” section reiterates, in large part, the “Background” section included in the Court’s April 19, 2012 Memorandum Opinion and Order. (Doc. No. 23.)

On February 23, 2007, Plaintiffs Larry Jesinoski and Cheryle Jesinoski (collectively, “Plaintiffs”) refinanced their home in Eagan, Minnesota, by borrowing $611,000 from Countrywide, a predecessor-in-interest of BANA. (Doc. No. 7 (“Am. Compl.”) ¶¶ 7, 15, 16, 17; Doc. No. 55 (“Hanson Decl.”) ¶ 5, Ex. D (“L. Jesinoski Dep.”) at 125.) MERS also gained a mortgage interest in the property. (Am. Compl. ¶ 25.) Plaintiffs used the loan to pay off existing loan obligations on the property and other consumer debts. (L. Jesinoski Dep. at 114-15; Hanson Decl. ¶ 6, Ex. E (“C. Jesinoski Dep.”) at 49-50; Am. Compl. ¶ 22.)[2] The refinancing included an interest-only, adjustable-rate note. (L. Jesinoski Dep. at 137.) Plaintiffs wanted these terms because they intended to sell the property. (L. Jesinoski Dep. at 125-26, 137; C. Jesinoski Dep. at 38, 46-7.)

At the closing on February 23, 2007, Plaintiffs received and executed a Truth in Lending Act (“TILA”) Disclosure Statement and the Notice of Right to Cancel. (Doc. No. 56 (Jenkins Decl.) ¶¶ 5, 6, Exs. C & D; L. Jesinoski Dep. at 61, 67, 159; C. Jesinoski Dep. at 30-33; Hanson Decl. ¶¶ 2-3, Exs. A & B.) By signing the Notice of Right to Cancel, each Plaintiff acknowledged the “receipt of two copies of NOTICE of RIGHT TO CANCEL and one copy of the Federal Truth in Lending Disclosure Statement.” (Jenkins Decl. ¶¶ 5, 6, Exs. C & D.) Per the Notice of Right to Cancel, Plaintiffs had until midnight on February 27, 2007, to rescind. (Id.) Plaintiffs did not exercise their right to cancel, and the loan funded.

In February 2010, Plaintiffs paid $3,000 to a company named Modify My Loan USA to help them modify the loan. (L. Jesinoski Dep. at 79-81; C. Jesinoski Dep. at 94-95.) The company turned out to be a scam, and Plaintiffs lost $3,000. (L. Jesinoski Dep. at 79-81.) Plaintiffs then sought modification assistance from Mark Heinzman of Financial Integrity, who originally referred Plaintiffs to Modify My Loan USA. (Id. at 86.) Plaintiffs contend that Heinzman reviewed their loan file and told them that certain disclosure statements were missing from the closing documents, which entitled Plaintiffs to rescind the loan. (Id. at 88-91.)[3] Since then, and in connection with this litigation, Heinzman submitted a declaration stating that he has no documents relating to Plaintiffs and does not recall Plaintiffs’ file. (Hanson Decl. ¶ 4, Ex. C (“Heinzman Decl.”) ¶ 4.)[4]

On February 23, 2010, Plaintiffs purported to rescind the loan by mailing a letter to “all known parties in interest.” (Am. Compl. ¶ 30; L. Jesinoski Dep., Ex. 8.) On March 16, 2010, BANA denied Plaintiffs’ request to rescind because Plaintiffs had been provided the required disclosures, as evidenced by the acknowledgments Plaintiffs signed. (Am. Compl. ¶ 32; L. Jesinoski Dep., Ex. 9.)

II. Procedural Background

On February 24, 2011, Plaintiffs filed the present action. (Doc. No. 1.) By agreement of the parties, Plaintiffs filed their Amended Complaint, in which Plaintiffs assert four causes of action: Count 1—Truth in Lending Act, 15 U.S.C. § 1601, et seq.; Count 2—Rescission of Security Interest; Count 3—Servicing a Mortgage Loan in Violation of Standards of Conduct, Minn. Stat. § 58.13; and Count 4—Plaintiffs’ Cause of Action under Minn. Stat. § 8.31. At the heart of all of Plaintiffs’ claims is their request that the Court declare the mortgage transaction rescinded and order statutory damages related to Defendants’ purported failure to rescind.

Plaintiffs do not dispute that they had an opportunity to review the loan documents before closing. (L. Jesinoski Dep. at 152-58; C. Jesinoski Dep. at 56.) Although Plaintiffs each admit to signing the acknowledgement of receipt of two copies of the Notice of Right to Cancel, they now contend that they did not each receive the correct number of copies as required by TILA’s implementing regulation, Regulation Z. (Am. Compl. ¶ 47 (citing C.F.R. §§ 226.17(b) & (d), 226.23(b)).)

Earlier in this litigation, Defendants moved for judgment on the pleadings based on TILA’s three-year statute of repose. In April 2012, the Court issued an order granting Defendants’ motion, finding that TILA required a plaintiff to file a lawsuit within the 3-year repose period, and that Plaintiffs had filed this lawsuit outside of that period. (Doc. No. 23 at 6.) The Eighth Circuit affirmed. Jesinoski v. Countrywide Home Loans, Inc., 729 F.3d 1092 (8th Cir. 2013). The United States Supreme Court reversed, holding that a borrower exercising a right to TILA rescission need only provide his lender written notice, rather than file suit, within the 3-year period. Jesinoski v. Countrywide Home Loans, Inc., 135 S. Ct. 790, 792 (2015). The Eighth Circuit then reversed and remanded the case for further proceedings. (Doc. No. 38.) After engaging in discovery, Defendants now move for summary judgment.

DISCUSSION

I. Summary Judgment Standard

Summary judgment is appropriate if the “movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a). Courts must view the evidence and all reasonable inferences in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Weitz Co. v. Lloyd’s of London, 574 F.3d 885, 892 (8th Cir. 2009). However, “[s]ummary judgment procedure is properly regarded not as a disfavored procedural shortcut, but rather as an integral part of the Federal Rules as a whole, which are designed `to secure the just, speedy and inexpensive determination of every action.'” Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 327 (1986) (quoting Fed. R. Civ. P. 1).

The moving party bears the burden of showing that there is no genuine issue of material fact and that it is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Enter. Bank v. Magna Bank of Mo., 92 F.3d 743, 747 (8th Cir. 1996). A party opposing a properly supported motion for summary judgment “must set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 256 (1986); see also Krenik v. Cty. of Le Sueur, 47 F.3d 953, 957 (8th Cir. 1995).

II. TILA

Defendants move for summary judgment with respect to Plaintiffs’ claims, all of which stem from Defendants’ alleged violation of TILA—namely, failing to give Plaintiffs the required number of disclosures and rescission notices at the closing.

The purpose of TILA is “to assure a meaningful disclosure of credit terms so that the consumer will be able to compare more readily the various credit terms available to him and avoid the uninformed use of credit . . .” 15 U.S.C. § 1601(a). In transactions, like the one here, secured by a principal dwelling, TILA gives borrowers an unconditional three-day right to rescind. 15 U.S.C. § 1635(a); see also id. § 1641(c) (extending rescission to assignees). The three-day rescission period begins upon the consummation of the transaction or the delivery of the required rescission notices and disclosures, whichever occurs later. Id. § 1635(a). Required disclosures must be made to “each consumer whose ownership interest is or will be subject to the security interest” and must include two copies of a notice of the right to rescind. 12 C.F.R. § 226.23(a)-(b)(1). If the creditor fails to make the required disclosures or rescission notices, the borrower’s “right of rescission shall expire three years after the date of consummation of the transaction.” 15 U.S.C. § 1635(f); see 12 C.F.R. § 226.23(a)(3).

If a consumer acknowledges in writing that he or she received a required disclosure or notice, a rebuttable presumption of delivery is created:

Notwithstanding any rule of evidence, written acknowledgment of receipt of any disclosures required under this subchapter by a person to whom information, forms, and a statement is required to be given pursuant to this section does no more than create a rebuttable presumption of delivery thereof.

15 U.S.C. §1635(c).

A. Number of Disclosure Statements

Plaintiffs claim that Defendants violated TILA by failing to provide them with a sufficient number of copies of the right to rescind and the disclosure statement at the closing of the loan. (Am. Compl. ¶ 47.) Defendants assert that Plaintiffs’ claims (both TILA and derivative state-law claims) fail as a matter of law because Plaintiffs signed an express acknowledgement that they received all required disclosures at closing, and they cannot rebut the legally controlling presumption of proper delivery of those disclosures.

It is undisputed that at the closing, each Plaintiff signed an acknowledgement that each received two copies of the Notice of Right to Cancel. Plaintiffs argue, however, that no presumption of proper delivery is created here because Plaintiffs acknowledged the receipt of two copies total, not the required four (two for each of the Plaintiffs). In particular, both Larry Jesinoski and Cheryle Jesinoski assert that they “read the acknowledgment . . . to mean that both” Larry and Cheryle “acknowledge receiving two notices total, not four.” (Doc. No. 60 (“L. Jesinoski Decl.”) ¶ 3; Doc. No. 61 (“C. Jesinoski Decl.”) ¶ 3.) Thus, Plaintiffs argue that they read the word “each” to mean “together,” and therefore that they collectively acknowledged the receipt of only two copies.

The Court finds this argument unavailing. The language in the Notice is unambiguous and clearly states that “[t]he undersigned each acknowledge receipt of two copies of NOTICE of RIGHT TO CANCEL and one copy of the Federal Truth in Lending Disclosure Statement.” (Jenkins Decl. ¶¶ 5, 6, Exs. C & D (italics added).) Plaintiffs’ asserted interpretation is inconsistent with the language of the acknowledgment. The Court instead finds that this acknowledgement gives rise to a rebuttable presumption of proper delivery of two copies of the notice to each Plaintiff. See, e.g., Kieran v. Home Cap., Inc., Civ. No. 10-4418, 2015 WL 5123258, at *1, 3 (D. Minn. Sept. 1, 2015) (finding the creation of a rebuttable presumption of proper delivery where each borrower signed an acknowledgment stating that they each received a copy of the disclosure statement—”each of [t]he undersigned acknowledge receipt of a complete copy of this disclosure”).[5]

The only evidence provided by Plaintiffs to rebut the presumption of receipt is their testimony that they did not receive the correct number of documents. As noted in Kieran, this Court has consistently held that statements merely contradicting a prior signature are insufficient to overcome the presumption. Kieran, 2015 WL 5123258, at *3-4 (citing Gomez v. Market Home Mortg., LLC, Civ. No. 12-153, 2012 WL 1517260, at *3 (D. Minn. April 30, 2012) (agreeing with “the majority of courts that mere testimony to the contrary is insufficient to rebut the statutory presumption of proper delivery”)); see also Lee, 692 F.3d at 451 (explaining that a notice signed by both borrowers stating “[t]he undersigned each acknowledge receipt of two copies of [notice]” creates “a presumption of delivery that cannot be overcome without specific evidence demonstrating that the borrower did not receive the appropriate number of copies”); Golden v. Town & Country Credit, Civ. No. 02-3627, 2004 WL 229078, at *2 (D. Minn. Feb. 3, 2004) (finding deposition testimony insufficient to overcome presumption); Gaona v. Town & Country Credit, Civ. No. 01-44, 2001 WL 1640100, at *3 (D. Minn. Nov. 20, 2001)) (“[A]n allegation that the notices are now not contained in the closing folder is insufficient to rebut the presumption.”), aff’d in part, rev’d in part, 324 F.3d 1050 (8th Cir. 2003).

Plaintiffs, however, contend that their testimony is sufficient to rebut the presumption and create a factual issue for trial. Plaintiffs rely primarily on the Eighth Circuit’s decision in Bank of North America v. Peterson, 746 F.3d 357, 361 (8th Cir. 2014), cert. granted, judgment vacated, 135 S. Ct. 1153 (2015), and opinion vacated in part, reinstated in part, 782 F.3d 1049 (8th Cir. 2015). In Peterson, the plaintiffs acknowledged that they signed the TILA disclosure and rescission notice at their loan closing, but later submitted affidavit testimony that they had not received their TILA disclosure statements at closing. Peterson, 764 F.3d at 361. The Eighth Circuit determined that this testimony was sufficient to overcome the presumption of proper delivery. Id. The facts of this case, however, are distinguishable from those in Peterson. In particular, the plaintiffs in Peterson testified that at the closing, the agent took the documents after they had signed them and did not give them any copies. Id. Here, it is undisputed that Plaintiffs left with copies of their closing documents. (L. Jesinoski Dep. at 94-95.) In addition, Plaintiffs did not testify unequivocally that they did not each receive two copies of the rescission notice. Instead, they have testified that they do not know what they received. (See, e.g., id. at 161.) Moreover, Cheryle Jesinoski testified that she did not look through the closing documents at the time of closing, and therefore cannot attest to whether the required notices were included. (C. Jesinoski Dep. at 85.)[6]

Based on the evidence in the record, the Court determines that the facts of this case are more line with cases that have found that self-serving assertions of non-delivery do not defeat the presumption. Indeed, the Court agrees with the reasoning in Kieran, which granted summary judgment in favor of defendants under similar facts, and which was decided after the Eighth Circuit issued its decision in Peterson. Accordingly, Plaintiffs have not overcome the rebuttable presumption of proper delivery of TILA notices, and Defendants’ motion for summary judgment is granted as to the Plaintiffs’ TILA claims.

B. Ability to Tender

Defendants also argue that Plaintiffs’ claims fails as a matter of law on a second independent basis—Plaintiffs’ admission that they do not have the present ability to tender the amount of the loan proceeds. Rescission under TILA is conditioned on repayment of the amounts advanced by the lender. See Yamamoto v. Bank of N.Y., 329 F.3d 1167, 1170 (9th Cir. 2003). This Court has concluded that it is appropriate to dismiss rescission claims under TILA at the pleading stage based on a plaintiff’s failure to allege an ability to tender loan proceeds. See, e.g., Franz v. BAC Home Loans Servicing, LP, Civ. No. 10-2025, 2011 WL 846835, at *3 (D. Minn. Mar. 8, 2011); Hintz v. JP Morgan Chase Bank, Civ. No. 10-119, 2010 WL 4220486, at *4 (D. Minn. Oct. 20, 2010). In addition, courts have granted summary judgment in favor of defendants where the evidence shows that a TILA plaintiff cannot demonstrate an ability to tender the amount borrowed. See, e.g., Am. Mortg. Network, Inc. v. Shelton, 486 F.3d 815, 822 (4th Cir. 2007) (affirming grant of summary judgment for defendants on TILA rescission claim “given the appellants’ inability to tender payment of the loan amount”); Taylor v. Deutsche Bank Nat’l Trust Co., Civ. No. 10-149, 2010 WL 4103305, at *5 (E.D. Va. Oct. 18, 2010) (granting summary judgment on TILA rescission claim where plaintiff could not show ability to tender funds aside from selling the house “as a last resort”).

Plaintiffs argue that the Supreme Court in Jesinoski eliminated tender as a requirement for rescission under TILA. The Court disagrees. In Jesinoski, the Supreme Court reached the narrow issue of whether Plaintiffs had to file a lawsuit to enforce a rescission under 15 U.S.C. § 1635, or merely deliver a rescission notice, within three years of the loan transaction. Jesinoski, 135 S. Ct. at 792-93. The Supreme Court determined that a borrower need only provide written notice to a lender in order to exercise a right to rescind. Id. The Court discerns nothing in the Supreme Court’s opinion that would override TILA’s tender requirement. Specifically, under 15 U.S.C. § 1635(b), a borrower must at some point tender the loan proceeds to the lender.[7] Plaintiffs testified that they do not presently have the ability to tender back the loan proceeds. (L. Jesinoski Dep. at 54, 202; C. Jesinoski Dep. at 118-119.) Because Plaintiffs have failed to point to evidence creating a genuine issue of fact that they could tender the unpaid balance of the loan in the event the Court granted them rescission, their TILA rescission claim fails as a matter of law on this additional ground.[8]

Plaintiffs argue that if the Court conditions rescission on Plaintiffs’ tender, the amount of tender would be exceeded, and therefore eliminated, by Plaintiffs’ damages. In particular, Plaintiffs claim over $800,000 in damages (namely, attorney fees), and contend that this amount would negate any amount tendered. Plaintiffs, however, have not cited to any legal authority that would allow Plaintiffs to rely on the potential recovery of fees to satisfy their tender obligation. Moreover, Plaintiffs’ argument presumes that they will prevail on their TILA claims, a presumption that this Order forecloses.

C. Damages

Next, Defendants argue that Plaintiffs are not entitled to TILA statutory damages allegedly flowing from Defendants’ decision not to rescind because there was no TILA violation in the first instance. Plaintiffs argue that their damages claim is separate and distinct from their TILA rescission claim.

For the reasons discussed above, Plaintiffs’ TILA claim fails as a matter of law. Without a TILA violation, Plaintiffs cannot recover statutory damages based Defendants refusal to rescind the loan.

D. State-law Claims

Plaintiffs’ state-law claims under Minn. Stat. § 58.13 and Minnesota’s Private Attorney General statute, Minn. Stat. § 8.31, are derivative of Plaintiffs’ TILA rescission claim. Thus, because Plaintiffs’ TILA claim fails as a matter law, so do their state-law claims.

ORDER

Based upon the foregoing, IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that:

1. Defendants’ Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. No. [51]) is GRANTED.

2. Plaintiffs’ Amended Complaint (Doc. No. [7]) is DISMISSED WITH PREJUDICE.

LET JUDGMENT BE ENTERED ACCORDINGLY.

[1] According to Defendants, Countrywide was acquired by BANA in 2008, and became BAC Home Loans Servicing, LP (“BACHLS”), and in July 2011, BACHLS merged with BANA. (Doc. No. 15 at 1 n.1.) Thus, the only two defendants in this case are BANA and MERS.

[2] Larry Jesinoski testified that he had been involved in about a half a dozen mortgage loan closings, at least three of which were refinancing loans, and that he is familiar with the loan closing process. (L. Jesinoski Dep. at 150-51.)

[3] Plaintiffs claim that upon leaving the loan closing they were given a copy of the closing documents, and then brought the documents straight home and placed them in L. Jesinoski’s unlocked file drawer, where they remained until they brought the documents to Heinzman.

[4] At oral argument, counsel for Plaintiffs requested leave to depose Heinzman in the event that the Court views his testimony as determinative. The Court denies the request for two reasons. First, it appears that Plaintiffs had ample opportunity to notice Heinzman’s deposition during the discovery period, but did not do so. Second, Heinzman’s testimony will not affect the outcome of the pending motion, and therefore, the request is moot.

[5] See also, e.g., Lee v. Countrywide Home Loans, Inc., 692 F.3d 442, 451 (6th Cir. 2012) (rebuttable presumption arose where each party signed an acknowledgement of receipt of two copies); Hendricksen v. Countrywide Home Loans, Civ. No. 09-82, 2010 WL 2553589, at *4 (W.D. Va. June 24, 2010) (rebuttable presumption of delivery of two copies of TILA disclosure arose where plaintiffs each signed disclosure stating “[t]he undersigned further acknowledge receipt of a copy of this Disclosure for keeping prior to consummation”).

[6] This case is also distinguishable from Stutzka v. McCarville, 420 F.3d 757, 762 (8th Cir. 2005), a case in which a borrower’s assertion of non-delivery was sufficient to overcome the statutory presumption. In Stutzka, the plaintiffs signed acknowledgements that they received required disclosures but left the closing without any documents. Stutzka, 420 F.3d at 776.

[7] TILA follows a statutorily prescribed sequence of events for rescission that specifically discusses the lender performing before the borrower. See § 1635(b). However, TILA also states that “[t]he procedures prescribed by this subsection shall apply except when otherwise ordered by a court.” Id. Considering the facts of this case, it is entirely appropriate to require Plaintiffs to tender the loan proceeds to Defendants before requiring Defendants to surrender their security interest in the loan.

[8] The Court acknowledges that there is disagreement in the District over whether a borrower asserting a rescission claim must tender, or allege an ability to tender, before seeking rescission. See, e.g. Tacheny v. M&I Marshall & Ilsley Bank, Civ. No. 10-2067, 2011 WL 1657877, at *4 (D. Minn. Apr. 29, 2011) (respectfully disagreeing with courts that have held that, in order to state a claim for rescission under TILA, a borrower must allege a present ability to tender). However, there is no dispute that to effect rescission under § 1635(b), a borrower must tender the loan proceeds. Here, the record demonstrates that Plaintiffs are unable to tender. Therefore, their rescission claim fails on summary judgment.

 

About Those 1099 and Other Tax Filings from Servicers and Banks …

The problem for everyone involved is that in reality the investors made nothing and merely received a portion of their own money as though it had come from the trust. But it didn’t come from the trust because the trust didn’t even have a bank account. If the banks had disclosed the truth of the matter the investors would have known this is a Ponzi scheme. Imagine what would happen if someone claimed sub S treatment when the corporation they had formed did no business, had no bank account and never had any business activity, never had any assets or liabilities and never had any income or expenses.

THE FOLLOWING ARTICLE IS NOT A LEGAL OPINION UPON WHICH YOU CAN RELY IN ANY INDIVIDUAL CASE. HIRE A LAWYER. HIRE AN ACCOUNTANT OR OTHER QUALIFIED TAX ANALYST

—————-
Few people can say they understand the Internal Revenue Code (IRC), and far fewer understand the statute that gave birth to the idea of a REMIC pass through entity (REAL ESTATE MORTGAGE INVESTMENT CONDUIT). The banks lobbied heavily for this section because it left open doors that could be exploited for the benefit of banks selling the “investment products” to the huge detriment of (1) the investors who advanced money into what turned out to be a nonexistent trust, (2) borrowers who were coaxed into signing “closing” documents as though the party named on the documents was lending them money, and (3) the US Government and the taxpayers who ultimately picked up the tab for a “bailout” of banks who had lost nothing from the actual “loans” nor the “mortgage bonds” because the banks were selling them not buying them. The bailouts from the US Treasury and the Federal Reserve in reality only added to the pornographic profits made by the banks by rewarding them with payments on losses incurred by others.

*

Follow the money. Because of tacit agreements with Bush and Obama administrations the IRS has been granting repeated safe harbor extensions to the banks and servicers who have filed documents that  say that a REMIC was formed. Such filings were mostly false.  The problem is that the money and the acquisitions of “loans” MUST be through the trusts in order to get pass-through treatment. Without pass-through treatment, (like a sub S corporation) the cash received by investors is taxable income — even the portion, if any, that is attributable to principal. But the banks have been telling investors that they are getting the interest payment that they signed up for — according to the Prospectus and Pooling and Servicing Agreement. What they are actually getting is their own money back from the investment they  thought they made.

[NOTE: The part attributable to principal would be taxable because the notes themselves, even if they were valid, are not the source of income to investors as far as the investors know. The source is supposedly the REMIC Trust — an entity that was created on paper but never used. In reality the source was a pool of dark money consisting entirely of investor money. But the banks and servicers are reporting to the investors that the money they are receiving is “income”from interest due from the REMIC Trust that never operated. The banks and services are obviously not reporting the cash as part of a Ponzi scheme. So the investors are paying taxes on the return of their own money. Hence the part of the payment from the “borrower” that has been designated as “principal” is reported as “interest” in reports to the investors. In reality the money from “borrowers” merely dumped into a dark pool along with all the other money received from investors.  The entire “loan closing” and subsequent foreclosures are a charade adding the judgment from a court of law that is treated as giving a stamp of approval for everything that preceded the judgment.]

The problem for everyone involved is that in reality the investors made nothing and merely received a portion of their own money as though it had come from the trust. But it didn’t come from the trust because the trust didn’t even have a bank account. If the banks had disclosed the truth of the matter the investors would have known this is a Ponzi scheme. Imagine what would happen if someone claimed sub S treatment when the corporation they had formed did no business, had no bank account and never had any business activity, never had any assets or liabilities and never had any income or expenses.

*

The forms filed with the IRS are fraudulent. The 1099 issued to borrowers who avoided deficiency judgments are fraudulent because they come from entities that had no loss and never had the authority to collect or enforce. In reality if the true facts were followed there would be no taxable event for getting their own money back from their “investment.” But the way it is reported, the investors are getting “income” on which they owe taxes. The real taxes on real income should come from the banks that stole a large part of the money advanced by investors. It’s like Al Capone — in the end it was income tax that brought him down.

*

Instead the investors are being taxed for interest received and are exposed to more taxes when they get money reported as “principal.” Neither the investors nor the borrowers should be paying taxes on any money or “benefit” they reportedly received (because there was no benefit). So the end result is that the banks made all the money, paid no taxes, and are taking a deduction for payments made to investors and for waivers of deficiency on loans they never owned.

*

I have been telling borrowers for years to send the IRS a latter or notice in which they flatly state that the  form filed with the IRS was wrong, fraudulent and inoperative. The borrower received no benefit from the bank or servicer that filed it. Hence no tax is due. Thus far I have seen no evidence that the IRS is attempting to enforce the payment of income taxes from people who have challenged the the authenticity of the report. The IRS apparently does NOT want to be in the shoes of the banks trying to prove that the bank who filed the form owned the loan when they already know that the transaction was not actually a loan and that the “loan closing” transaction was the the result of the unauthorized and fraudulent use of investor money.

*

Eventually the truth comes out. The problem for the banks is that they stole money and didn’t pay tax on their ill-gotten gains. Every time a “servicer” “recovers” “servicer advances” they are taking more money from investors because every “advance” was taken from a pool of money that consisted solely of investor cash. When they “recover” it they book it as return of capital rather than pure income which is what it really is, even if it is illegally obtained.

*

If they admitted what it was then the banks would be required to pay huge sums in taxes. But they would also be facing angry investors who, upon realizing that every cent they received was their own money and not return on capital “invested” into a trust, would press claims and in many cases DID press claims and settled with the bank that defrauded them. So the banks and servicers are attempting to avoid both jail and huge sums in back taxes that would put a significant dent in the “deficit” of the U.S. government caused by the illegal and fraudulent activity of the banks.

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FDCPA Claims Upheld in 9th Circuit Class Action

The court held that the FDCPA unambiguously requires any debt collector – first or subsequent – to send a section 1692g(a) validation notice within five days of its first communication with a consumer in connection with the collection of any debt.

THE FOLLOWING ARTICLE IS NOT A LEGAL OPINION UPON WHICH YOU CAN RELY IN ANY INDIVIDUAL CASE. HIRE A LAWYER.

—————-
If anyone remembers the Grishom book “The Firm”, also in movies, you know that in the end the crooks were brought down by something they were never thinking about — mail fraud — a federal law that has teeth, even if it sounds dull. Mail fraud might actually apply to the millions of foreclosures that have taken place — even if key documents are sent through private mail delivery services. The end of month statements and other correspondence are definitely sent through US Mail. And as we are seeing, virtually everything they were sending consisted of multiple layers of misrepresentations that led to the detriment of the receiving homeowner. That’s mail fraud.
Like Mail Fraud, claims based on the FDCPA seem boring. But as many lawyers throughout the country are finding out, those claims have teeth. And I have seen multiple cases where FDCPA claims resulted in the settlement of the case on terms very favorable to the homeowner — provided the claim is properly brought and there are some favorable rulings on the initial motions.
Normally the banks settle any claim that looks like it would be upheld. That is why you don’t see many verdicts or judgments announcing fraudulent conduct by banks, servicers and “trustees.”And you don’t see the settlement either because they are all under seal of confidentiality. So for the casual observer, you might see a ruling here and there that favors the borrower, but you don’t see any judgments normally. Here the banks thought they had this one in the bag — because it was a class action and normally class actions are difficult if not impossible to prosecute.
It turns out that FDCPA is both a good cause of action for damages and a great discovery tool — to force the banks, servicers or anyone else that is a debt collector to respond within 5 days giving the basic information about the loan — like who is the actual creditor. Discovery is also much easier in FDCPA actions because it is forthrightly tied to the complaint.
This decision is more important than it might first appear. It removes any benefit of playing musical chairs with servicers, and other debt collectors. This is a core of bank strategy — to layer over all defects. This Federal Court of Appeals holds that it doesn’t matter how many layers you add — all debt collectors in the chain had the duty to respond.
.

Justia Opinion Summary

Hernandez v Williams, Zinman and Parham, PC No 14-15672 (9th Cir, 2016)

Plaintiff filed a putative class action, alleging that WZP violated the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), 15 U.S.C. 1692(g)(a), by sending a debt collection letter that lacked the disclosures required by section 1692(g)(a) of the FDCPA. Applying well-established tools of statutory interpretation and construing the language in section 1692g(a) in light of the context and purpose of the FDCPA, the court held that the phrase “the initial communication” refers to the first communication sent by any debt collector, including collectors that contact the debtor after another collector already did. The court held that the FDCPA unambiguously requires any debt collector – first or subsequent – to send a section 1692g(a) validation notice within five days of its first communication with a consumer in connection with the collection of any debt. In this case, the district court erred in concluding that, because WZP was not the first debt collector to communicate with plaintiff about her debt, it had no obligation to comply with the statutory validation notice requirement. Accordingly, the court reversed and remanded.

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Deutsche Closes 200 Branches in Germany

http://www.express.co.uk/news/world/690675/Germany-economy-Deutsche-Bank-Brexit-Eurozone-finance

German economy on a knife edge: Struggling Deutsche Bank closes nearly 200 branches

GERMANY’S economy could be on the brink of collapse after its largest bank announced it will shut one-quarter of its branches.

PUBLISHED: 17:31, Mon, Jul 18, 2016 | UPDATED: 18:29, Mon, Jul 18, 2016

Deutsche Bank

Germany’s largest lender Deutsche Bank will shut one-quarter of its branches

Deutsche Bank will close 188 branches across Germany in the coming months, with 51 of them in the North Rhine-Westphalia region.

The lender has been forced to implement dramatic austerity measures after share prices plummeted by a staggering 48 per cent, marking an all-time low.

It has also pulled out of 10 foreign markets, including Russia and Australia, and is poised to cut around 3,000 full-time jobs.

Earlier this year Wolfgang Schaeuble, Germany’s Finance Minister, claimed he had “no concerns” about Deutsche Bank’s plunging share prices.

And co-CEO John Cryan insisted: “Deutsche Bank remains absolutely rock-solid, given our strong capital and risk position.”

But financial expert Max Keiser has poured cold water on their claims, saying the bank is “technically insolvent” and runs a “ponzi scheme”.

Deutsche Bank

The bank has pulled out of 10 foreign markets and will cut 3,000 full-time jobs

It’s dead, it’s insolvent, the bank is dead

Max Keiser

Speaking on Russia Today’s Keiser Report, he added: “The bank needs to go out of business, because they are not solvent.

“But politicians, including Schaeuble, allow for financial engineering products to come onto the market that mask insolvency.

“It’s dead, it’s insolvent, the bank is dead… This is a dead bank walking.”


NM and Fla Judges Express Doubt Over Whether Loans Ever Made it Into trust

Judges are thinking the unthinkable — that none of the trusts ever acquired anything and that the foreclosures were and are a sham.

THE FOLLOWING ARTICLE IS NOT A LEGAL OPINION UPON WHICH YOU CAN RELY IN ANY INDIVIDUAL CASE. HIRE A LAWYER.

—————-

It isn’t “theory. It is facts, or rather the absence of facts.

As shown in the two articles by Jeff Barnes below, we are obviously reaching the tipping point. First, the presentation of a Trust instrument means nothing if there is no proof the trust was active — and in particular actually purchased the subject loan. And Second, Judges will deny all objections to discovery and will rule for the borrower if the Trust did not acquire the loan.

In ruling this way the two Judges — thousands of miles apart — are obviously recognizing that the long standing bank objection to borrowers’ defenses based upon lack of legal standing absolutely do not apply. It is not a matter of whether the borrower has “standing” to bring up the PSA, it is a matter of whether the trust was party to any real transaction with relation to the subject mortgage. The answer is no. And no amount of extra paper, powers of attorney, assignments, or endorsements can change that.

Judges are thinking the unthinkable — that none of the trusts ever acquired anything and that the foreclosures were and are a sham.

It is probably worth re-publishing this portion from a long article by Adam Levitin written shortly after the Ibanez decision was reached in Massachusetts. Note how he points out that the vast majority of PSAs that are offered as evidence are neither executed nor do they have a mortgage loan schedule that is “reviewable.” The real problem — and the reason why the SEC-filed PSA documents do not have any signatures and why there is no mortgage loan schedule is that there was no transaction in which the Trust acquired the loans. Virtually all assignments are backdated and virtually none of the assignments relate back to any ACTUAL transaction in which the Trust was involved. The banks have been winning on fumes generated by legal inapplicable presumptions. —

It seems to me that any trust with Massachusetts loans that doesn’t have a publicly filed, executed PSA with a reviewable loan schedule should be on a downgrade watch. Very few publicly filed PSAs are executed and even fewer have publicly filed loan schedules. That doesn’t mean they don’t exist, but somewhere off-line, but if I ran a rating agency, I’d want trustees to show me that they’ve got those papers on at least a sample of deals. Of course should and would are quite different–the ratings agencies, like the regulators, are refusing to take the securitization fail issue as seriously as they should (and I understand that it is a complex legal issue), but I think they ignore it at their (and our) peril

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Excerpts from Barnes’ articles:

A Florida Circuit Judge has gone on the record requiring Wells Fargo, as the claimed “trustee” of a securitized mortgage loan trust, to show that the mortgage loan which WF is attempting to enforce actually went into the PSA, and if not, the standing requirement has not been met and the case will fall on summary judgment. The homeowner is represented by Jeff Barnes, Esq.

The Judge specifically stated as follows:

“…but what I want plaintiff’s counsel to understand, that what you submitted to me with regards to the pooling and servicing agreement still does not have the actual mortgages that went into that pooling and servicing agreement…So at some point you’re going to have to show that this mortgage and note certainly went into that pooling and servicing agreement, which is what I have requested before. …  So I’m just asking you that before we get too far out, please make sure that’s there, or its going to be taken out on summary judgment. … In other words, if you’re a trustee for that pooling and servicing agreement, and the mortgage and note are not in that pooling and servicing agreement, you don’t have standing.”

This ruling not only directly confirms the proof requirements for standing in a securitization case, but supports the production of discovery on the issue as well.


DISCOVERY IS KEY.

The borrower thus requested 53 categories of documents from BAC, including securitization documents. BAC filed a Motion for Protective Order which claimed that public information on the SEC website was “confidential”; that the securitization-related discovery was “irrelevant”; and that it was essentially entitled to withhold discovery because it “has the original note” and has moved for summary judgment on the “relevant” issues.

The Court disagreed, denying BAC’s Motion in its entirety and commanding full responses to the borrower’s discovery request (including production of all responsive documents) within 30 days. The Court found BAC’s Motion to be “sparse”; not in compliance with New Mexico court rules as to discovery; and against New Mexico’s case law which provides for liberal discovery in foreclosure actions so that all of the issues are fully developed and a fair trial is had.

 

A New Mexico District Judge yesterday denied BAC Home Loan Servicing’s Motion for Protective Order which it filed in an attempt to avoid producing documentary discovery to a homeowner who BAC has sued for foreclosure. The loan was originated by New Mexico Bank and Trust, was sold to Countrywide, and thereafter allegedly “assigned” first to MERS and then by MERS to BAC.

Jeff Barnes, Esq., www.ForeclosureDefenseNationwide.com

The Adam Levitin Article on Ibanez and Securitization fail:

Ibanez and Securitization Fail

posted by Adam Levitin

The Ibanez foreclosure decision by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court has gotten a lot of attention since it came down on Friday. The case is, not surprisingly being taken to heart by both bulls and bears. While I don’t think Ibanez is a death blow to the securitization industry, at the very least it should make investors question the party line that’s been coming out of the American Securitization Forum. At the very least it shows that the ASF’s claims in its White Paper and Congressional testimony are wrong on some points, as I’ve argued elsewhere, including on this blog. I would argue that at the very least, Ibanez shows that there is previously undisclosed material risk in all private-label MBS.

The Ibanez case itself is actually very simple. The issue before the court was whether the two securitization trusts could prove a chain of title for the mortgages they were attempting to foreclose on.

There’s broad agreement that absent such a chain of title, they don’t have the right to foreclose–they’d have as much standing as I do relative to the homeowners. The trusts claimed three alternative bases for chain of title:

(1) that the mortgages were transferred via the pooling and servicing agreement (PSA)–basically a contract of sale of the mortgages

(2) that the mortgages were transferred via assignments in blank.

(3) that the mortgages follow the note and transferred via the transfers of the notes.

The Supreme Judicial Court (SJC) held that arguments #2 and #3 simply don’t work in Massachusetts. The reasoning here was heavily derived from Massachusetts being a title theory state, but I think a court in a lien theory state could easily reach the same result. It’s hard to predict if other states will adopt the SJC’s reasoning, but it is a unanimous verdict (with an even sharper concurrence) by one of the most highly regarded state courts in the country. The opinion is quite lucid and persuasive, particularly the point that if the wrong plaintiff is named is the foreclosure notice, the homeowner hasn’t received proper notice of the foreclosure.

Regarding #1, the SJC held that a PSA might suffice as a valid assignment of the mortgages, if the PSA is executed and contains a schedule that sufficiently identifies the mortgage in question, and if there is proof that the assignor in the PSA itself held the mortgage. (This last point is nothing more than the old rule of nemo dat–you can’t give what you don’t have. It shows that there has to be a complete chain of title going back to origination.)

On the facts, both mortgages in Ibanez failed these requirements. In one case, the PSA couldn’t even be located(!) and in the other, there was a non-executed copy and the purported loan schedule (not the actual schedule–see Marie McDonnell’s amicus brief to the SJC) didn’t sufficiently identify the loan. Moreover, there was no proof that the mortgage chain of title even got to the depositor (the assignor), without which the PSA is meaningless:

Even if there were an executed trust agreement with the required schedule, US Bank failed to furnish any evidence that the entity assigning the mortgage – Structured Asset Securities Corporation [the depositor] — ever held the mortgage to be assigned. The last assignment of the mortgage on record was from Rose Mortgage to Option One; nothing was submitted to the judge indicating that Option One ever assigned the mortgage to anyone before the foreclosure sale.

So Ibanez means that to foreclosure in Massachusetts, a securitization trust needs to prove:

(1) a complete and unbroken chain of title from origination to securitization trust
(2) an executed PSA
(3) a PSA loan schedule that unambiguously indicates that association of the defaulted mortgage loan with the PSA. Just having the ZIP code or city for the loan won’t suffice. (Lawyers: remember Raffles v. Wichelhaus, the Two Ships Peerless? This is also a Statute of Frauds issue–the banks lost on 1L contract issues!)

I don’t think this is a big victory for the securitization industry–I don’t know of anyone who argues that an executed PSA with sufficiently detailed schedules could not suffice to transfer a mortgage. That’s never been controversial. The real problem is that the schedules often can’t be found or aren’t sufficiently specific. In other words, deal design was fine, deal execution was terrible. Important point to note, however: the SJC did not say that an executed PSA plus valid schedules was sufficient for a transfer; the parties did not raise and the SJC did not address the question of whether there might be additional requirements, like those imposed by the PSA itself.

Now, the SJC did note that a “confirmatory assignment” could be valid, but (and this is s a HUGE but), it:

cannot confirm an assignment that was not validly made earlier or backdate an assignment being made for the first time. Where there is no prior valid assignment, a subsequent assignment by the mortgage holder to the note holder is not a confirmatory assignment because there is no earlier written assignment to confirm.”

In other words, a confirmatory assignment doesn’t get you anything unless you can show an original assignment. I’m afraid that the industry’s focus on the confirmatory assignment language just raises the possibility of fraudulent “confirmatory” assignments, much like the backdated assignments that emerged in the robosigning depositions.

So what does this mean? There’s still a valid mortgage and valid note. So in theory someone can enforce the mortgage and note. But no one can figure out who owns them. There were problems farther upstream in the chain of title in Ibanez (3 non-identical “true original copies” of the mortgage!) that the SJC declined to address because it wasn’t necessary for the outcome of the case. But even without those problems, I’m doubtful that these mortgages will ever be enforced. Actually going back and correcting the paperwork would be hard, neither the trustee nor the servicer has any incentive to do so, and it’s not clear that they can do so legally. Ibanez did not address any of the trust law issues revolving around securitization, but there might be problems assigning defaulted mortgages into REMIC trusts that specifically prohibit the acceptance of defaulted mortgages. Probably not worthwhile risking the REMIC status to try and fix bad paperwork (or at least that’s what I’d advise a trustee). I’m very curious to see how the trusts involved in this case account for the mortgages now.

The Street seemed heartened by a Maine Supreme Judicial Court decision that came out on FridayHarp v. JPM Chase. If they read the damn case, they wouldn’t put any stock in it.

In Harp, a pro se defendant took JPM all the way to the state supreme court. That alone should make investors nervous–there’s going to be a lot of delay from litigation. Harp also didn’t involve a securitized loan. But the critical difference between Harp and Ibanez is that Harp did not involve issues about the validity of chain of title. It was about the timing of the chain of title. Ibanez was about chain of title validity. In Harp JPM commenced a foreclosure and was subsequently assigned a loan. It then brought a summary judgment motion and prevailed. The Maine SJC stated that the foreclosure was improperly commenced, but it ruled for JPM on straightforward grounds: JPM had standing at the time it moved (and was granted) summary judgment. Given the procedural posture of the case, standing at the time of summary judgment, rather than at the commencement of the foreclosure was what mattered, and there was no prejudice to the defendant by the assignment occurring after the foreclosure action was brought, because the defendant had an opportunity to litigate against the real party in interest before judgment was rendered. The Maine Supreme Judicial Court also indicated that it might not be so charitable with improperly foreclosing lenders that were not in the future; JPM benefitted from the lack of clear law on the subject. In short, Harp says that if the title defects are cured before the foreclosure is completed, it’s ok. There’s a very limited cure possibility under Harp, which means that the law is basically what it was before: if you can’t show title, you can’t complete the foreclosure.

What about MERS?

The Ibanez mortgages didn’t involve MERS. MERS was created in part to fix the problem of unrecorded assignments gumming up foreclosures in the early 1990s (and also to avoid payment of local real estate recording fees). In theory, MERS should help, as it should provide a chain of title for the mortgages. Leaving aside the unresolved concerns about whether MERS recordings are valid and for what purposes, MERS only helps to the extent it’s accurate. And that’s a problem because MERS has lots of inaccuracies in the system. MERS does not always report the proper name of loan owners (e.g., “Bank of America,” instead of “Bank of America 2006-1 RMBS Trust”), and I’ve seen lots of cases where the info in the MERS system doesn’t remotely match with the name of either the servicer or the trust bringing the foreclosure. That might be because the mortgage was transferred out of the MERS system, but there’s still an outstanding record in the MERS system, which actually clouds the title. I’m guessing that on balance MERS should help on mortgage title issues, but it’s not a cure-all. And it is critical to note that MERS does nothing for chain of title issues involving notes.

Which brings me to a critical point: Ibanez and Harp involve mortgage chain of title issues, not note chain of title issues. There are plenty of problems with mortgage chain of title. But the note chain of title issues, which relate to trust law questions, are just as, if not more serious. We don’t have any legal rulings on the note chain of title issues. But even the rosiest reading of Ibanez cannot provide any comfort on note chain of title concerns.

So who loses here? In theory, these loans should be put-back to the seller. Will that happen? I’m skeptical. If not, that means that investors will be eating the loss. This case also means that foreclosures in MA (and probably elsewhere) will be harder, which means more delay, which again hurts investors because there will be more servicing advances to be repaid off the top. The servicer and the trustee aren’t necessarily getting off scot free, though. They might get hit with Fair Debt Collection Practices Act and Fair Credit Reporting Act suits from the homeowners (plus anything else a creative lawyer can scrape together). And mortgage insurers might start using this case as an excuse for denying coverage. REO purchasers and title insurers should be feeling a little nervous now, although I doubt that anyone who bought REO before Ibanez will get tossed out of their house if they are living in it. Going forward, though, I don’t think there’s a such thing as a good faith purchaser of REO in MA.

You can’t believe everything you read. Some of the materials coming out of the financial services sector are simply wrong. Three examples:

(1) JPMorgan Chase put out an analyst report this morning claiming the Massachusetts has not adopted the UCC. This is sourced to calls with two law firms. I sure hope JPM didn’t pay for that advice and that it didn’t come from anyone I know. It’s flat out wrong. Massachusetts has adopted the uniform version of Revised Article 9 of the UCC and a non-uniform version of Revised Article 1 of the UCC, but it has adopted the relevant language in Revised Article 1. There’s not a material divergence in the UCC here.
(2) One of my favorite MBS analysts (whom I will not name), put out a report this morning that stated that Ibanez said assignments in blank are fine. Wrong. It said that they are not and never have been valid in Massachusetts:

[In the banks’] reply briefs they conceded that the assignments in blank did not constitute a lawful assignment of the mortgages. Their concession is appropriate. We have long held that a conveyance of real property, such as a mortgage, that does not name the assignee conveys nothing and is void; we do not regard an assignment of land in blank as giving legal title in land to the bearer of the assignment.”

A similar line is coming out of ASF. Courtesy of the American Banker:

Perplexingly, the American Securitization Forum issued a press release hailing the court’s ruling as upholding the validity of assignments in blank. A spokesman for the organization could not be reached to explain its interpretation.

ASF’s credibility seems to really be crumbling here. It’s one thing to disagree with the Massachusetts SJC. It’s another thing to persist in blatant misstatements of black letter law.

(3) Wells and US Bank, the trustees in the Ibanez case, immediately put out statements that they had no liability. Really? I’m not so sure. Trustees certainly have very broad exculpation and very narrow duties. But an inability to produce deal documents strikes me as such a critical error that it might not be covered. Do they really want to litigate a case where the facts make them look like such buffoons? Do they really want daylight shed on the details of their operations? Indeed, absent an executed PSA, I don’t think the trustees have any proof of exculpation. They might be acting, unwittingly, as common law trustees and thus general fiduciaries. I think they’ll settle quickly and quietly with any investors who sue.
Finally, what are the ratings agencies going to do?

It seems to me that any trust with Massachusetts loans that doesn’t have a publicly filed, executed PSA with a reviewable loan schedule should be on a downgrade watch. Very few publicly filed PSAs are executed and even fewer have publicly filed loan schedules. That doesn’t mean they don’t exist, but somewhere off-line, but if I ran a rating agency, I’d want trustees to show me that they’ve got those papers on at least a sample of deals. Of course should and would are quite different–the ratings agencies, like the regulators, are refusing to take the securitization fail issue as seriously as they should (and I understand that it is a complex legal issue), but I think they ignore it at their (and our) peril

 

Beware of Predatory Foreclosure “Help”

https://www.publicintegrity.org/2016/07/18/19952/homeowners-say-foreclosure-firm-failed-them

Just five years out of law school, Gennady Litvin ran a bustling legal practice that took in millions of dollars from distressed homeowners who hoped they could avoid foreclosure.

The Litvin Law Firm grossed $5.2 million in 2013, much of it from financially strapped clients who paid $500 a month or more for help negotiating lower mortgage rates or other legal assistance to keep them from losing their homes. That year, Litvin drew a salary of $466,477, according to court filings.

But the Brooklyn, New York, law firm’s fortunes soured as it faced repeated accusations of fraud and other illegal conduct in complaints filed by state regulators and disgruntled clients, some of whom were low-income and minority homeowners who lost their property after trusting the firm. In March and April 2015, Litvin and the firm both filed for bankruptcy, leaving more than 4,500 potential creditors, mostly former clients.

“There was a ton of money that he made and where that money has gone, we don’t know,” said Cleveland lawyer Geoff McCarell.

McCarell represented Branko Perisic, of Parma, Ohio. Perisic ran a small trucking firm that fell on hard times as fuel prices spiked and demand for his services fell off during the recession. In 2011, he hired the Litvin firm to get him a break on his home mortgage.

Perisic paid a total of $4,760, but got nothing but stall tactics and unmet promises as his finances worsened, according to a lawsuit he filed.

In April 2015, a Cuyahoga County judge awarded Perisic $287,575. Most of the award was to punish Litvin for “fraudulent and/or deceptive conduct, and his willful, reckless and/or grossly negligent breaches of care and/or ethical duties to plaintiff,” according to the court docket.

But because of the bankruptcy case the chance of Perisic getting paid is “slim to none,” according to his attorney.

Litvin, who lists his current practice address as the Law Office of Yuriy Moshes in Brooklyn, would not discuss his legal career.

“Thank you for reaching out seeking comment but I have no comment to make on your article,” Litvin wrote in an email.

Litvin is one of hundreds of lawyers and law firms nationwide that have participated in suspect foreclosure “rescue” schemes in the wake of the housing market crash nearly a decade ago, a Center for Public Integrity investigation found. State and federal authorities contend these plans typically have violated a range of legal ethics codes and consumer-protection laws. But while dozens of lawyers have been stripped of their licenses for running them, many others have paid little in penalties — even when desperate homeowners lost millions of dollars. Litvin is in “good standing” with the Florida Bar Association, which oversees lawyers in the state. He is not eligible to practice there, however, unless he completes 30 hours of continuing legal education required of all lawyers, officials said.

In New York, Litvin has “no record of public discipline,” according to the New York State Unified Court System.

Litvin graduated in 2008 from the University of Miami School of Law and practiced in Florida and in Brooklyn. In a 2013 deposition,  he recalled operating an “open door” practice, as in “anything that walks in through the door.”

Within two years, Litvin had cut a deal with telemarketers operating out of Fort Lauderdale who were pitching expert foreclosure relief plans nationwide for which homeowners paid $595 to $750 a month.

Sales of these foreclosure “rescue” plans took off in the wake of a 2009 federal government program that encouraged lenders to cut rates or balances on home mortgages through a review process known as loan modification.

Federal officials had hoped cutting loan balances would help millions of people behind on their mortgage payments from being foreclosed on. But they quickly were overwhelmed by complaints that scam artists were ripping off desperate homeowners by promising them loan modifications for a fee and not delivering.

Often, telemarketers partnered with a law firm, which gave them a look of legitimacy. The practice also exploited loopholes exempting lawyers from regulations that prohibited advance fees for securing loan modifications.

Litvin early on caught the attention of regulators in several states. In December 2011, Connecticut officials ordered Litvin to “cease and desist” from soliciting its residents because he lacked a license to practice law there. Officials in Georgia, Rhode Island and North Carolina later issued similar orders.

Litvin pushed back, arguing he had built a network of “affiliated” attorneys in 31 states, which he said permitted the firm to operate in those places and accept advance fees.

Some of the Litvin “affiliated” lawyers were hired in response to ads he posted on the online classifieds website Craigslist. The Litvin firm split the fees it received from homeowners with the affiliated attorneys, Litvin testified in a deposition.

One Litvin ad sought lawyers with “experience in the foreclosure defense area” who were “looking to make an extra $5,000 to $10,000 per month per state (and more with time) without having to increase their expenses.” At different times, Litvin listed at least 52 lawyers as  affiliates.

In late 2012, the Federal Trade Commission sued the Florida telemarketers working with Litvin, alleging their customers suffered “significant economic injury,” including “going into foreclosure and even losing their homes.”

The FTC accused the telemarketers, who operated as Prime Legal Plans as well as under several other names, of taking $21 million in fees “from distressed homeowners through deception.” The FTC suit criticized the performance of the Litvin firm, but it did not name him or the firm as a defendant. The FTC would not discuss the matter.

According to the FTC, the marketers falsely promised clients that a “network of top-notch attorneys” would defend them against foreclosure actions and “win concessions from lenders that will result in lower mortgage payments.”

The FTC cited an email telemarketers sent to customers, written in capital letters, that read: “YOU HAVE RIGHTS, AND NOW HAVE AT YOUR DISPOSAL, AN ATTORNEY NETWORK THAT IS ABLE TO KEEP YOU IN YOUR HOME, HALT THE FORECLOSURE PROCESS, AND FIGHT FOR YOUR RIGHTS!”

In 2012, Litvin was enjoying his honeymoon in Hawaii when an associate phoned to tell him federal agents had raided the Fort Lauderdale offices and shuttered the sales operation, according to his deposition.

Despite the raid, Litvin forged ahead with his foreclosure practice. In New York, Litvin relied partly on a website to promote his services.

“Who said that a high quality defense attorney had to cost a fortune?” reads a note on the Litvin Law Firm’s website, which has since been taken off-line.

“Litvin Law firm understands that if you could afford to pay high attorney fees then you probably could afford to pay your mortgage.”

Nattily attired and confident, Litvin starred in several videos posted on YouTube, some replete with gushing testimonials from thankful clients. He also made appearances on New York radio and television, weighing in on a host of debt-relief strategies.

But punching back at regulators and civil lawsuits from upset clients began to take a toll and business dropped off sharply. In 2014, the firm took in $3.5 million, down from $5.2 million the year before. Litvin’s salary in 2014 fell to about $92,000 from $466,477 the previous year, according to bankruptcy court filings.

The Maryland Attorney General’s office filed administrative charges in 2014 questioning whether that money was made honestly, accusing the firm of projecting an “air of trustworthiness” while providing little or no legal services.

At least 129 of 500 Litvin clients in Maryland, who paid more than $1.4 million in fees, were foreclosed on anyway, according to the suit.

Sixty-three clients eventually lost their homes, while 10 others kept them only by resorting to bankruptcy, according to the Maryland attorney general’s research.

In New York, criticism from regulators was blistering. The New York Attorney General’s Office in a lawsuit accused the Litvin firm of “repeated and persistent fraud and illegality.” Potential clients were told they could “get foreclosures dismissed and mortgages deleted,” results the attorney general called “improbable at best,” according to the lawsuit.

Some clients, according to complaints, said the firm advised them to avoid contact with their lenders, leaving them in the dark about how their cases were proceeding, if they even were.

One couple alleged the Litvin firm led them to believe they would be given their Maryland home debt-free. Instead, the house where they had lived for two decades and raised six children was sold out from under them because the firm failed to complete paperwork to forestall foreclosure, according to a lawsuit they filed.

So far, both regulators and former clients — at least eight have sued Litvin for what his bankruptcy petition calls “malpractice and fraud” — have received nothing.

Litvin, in a June 2015 court filing, said the cost of defending lawsuits and a drop-off in clients “took a heavy financial toll” and that “bankruptcy loomed for me and for the firm.”

In that filing, Litvin denied misleading anyone and said he had saved his clients more than $75 million, including reductions in future mortgage payments.

The lawsuits are on hold while the Litvin bankruptcy cases play out. So is a $2.3 million federal court judgment from May 2015 that names an earlier Litvin legal partnership that operated out of Miami.

In court filings, Charles H. Lichtman, a Florida attorney appointed in the FTC case to chase after any possible money on behalf of victims, said he knew “collectability was problematic.” But Lichtman said he sought the judgment because of the firms’ “substantial roles in this massive consumer fraud,” and that he couldn’t “let them simply get away with it without recourse.”

Lichtman said in an interview that he handled hundreds of phone calls from people who lost their homes, or gave some of their “very last money” to the scheme.

“It caused them immense personal distress,” he said. “It was genuinely heartbreaking when you heard the stories.”

The New York Attorney General’s Office has sought more than $24 million from Litvin, half of it restitution and half as a penalty.

But in early May, the office offered to settle, for far less. The deal would require Litvin to pay $15,000 and for five years 15 percent of his annual salary, or $12,000, whichever is greater. The agreement says the minimum overall amount Litvin must pay is $75,000.

 

Continued here…..

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