BORROWER APPEARED PRO SE
GAME OVER: EVIDENCE REQUIRED, NOT PRESUMPTIONS
EVEN IF HOLDER, THEY ARE NOT HOLDER IN DUE COURSE; DEFENSES APPLY
This appeal presents significant issues regarding the evidence required (E.S.) to establish the standing of an alleged assignee of a mortgage and negotiable note to maintain a foreclosure action.
Wells Fargo claims that it acquired the status of a holder in due course as a result of this assignment and therefore is not subject to any of the defenses defendant may have been able to assert against Argent.
Wells Fargo asserted that Argent had assigned the mortgage and note to Wells Fargo but that the assignment had not yet been recorded.
Wells Fargo subsequently filed a motion for summary judgment. This motion was supported by a certification of Josh Baxley, who identified himself as “Supervisor of Fidelity National as an attorney in fact for HomEq Servicing Corporation as attorney in fact for [Wells Fargo].”
Baxley’s certification stated: “I have knowledge of the amount due Plaintiff for principal, interest and/or other charges pursuant to the mortgage due upon the mortgage made by Sandra A. Ford dated March 6, 2005, given to Argent Mortgage Company, LLC, to secure the sum of $403,750.00.” Baxley did not indicate the source of this purported knowledge. Baxley’s certification also alleged that Wells Fargo is “the holder and owner of the said Note/Bond and Mortgage”
The documents defendant alleged were forgeries included a purported handwritten note by her stating that she was employed by Bergen Medical Center at a monthly salary of $9500, even though her actual income was only approximately $10,000 per year.
Defendant also alleged that “[t]he estimate for closing fees that was given to me prior to closing was around $13,000.00 and the Good Faith Estimate of Closing Costs was for $13,673.90 but on the closing statement they were $36,259.06.”
On appeal, defendant argues that (1) Wells Fargo failed to establish that it is the holder of the negotiable note she gave to Argent and therefore lacks standing to pursue this foreclosure action; (2) even if Wells Fargo is the holder of the note, it failed to establish that it is a holder in due course and therefore, the trial court erred in concluding that Wells Fargo is not subject to the defenses asserted by defendant based on Argent’s alleged predatory and fraudulent acts in connection with execution of the mortgage and note; and (3) even if Wells Fargo is a holder in due course, it still would be subject to certain defenses and statutory claims defendant asserted in her answer and counterclaim.
We conclude that Wells Fargo failed to establish its standing to pursue this foreclosure action. Therefore, the summary judgment in Wells Fargo’s favor must be reversed and the case remanded to the trial court. This conclusion makes it unnecessary to address defendant’s other arguments.
we note that Wells Fargo argues in its answering brief that “[defendant] is estopped to contest Wells Fargo’s standing”; “defendant’s brief exceeds the scope of this appeal,” and “[defendant’s] arguments are counterintuitive.” These arguments are clearly without merit and do not warrant discussion. R. 2:11-3(e)(1)(E).
“As a general proposition, a party seeking to foreclose a mortgage must own or control the underlying debt.” Bank of N.Y. v. Raftogianis, ___ N.J. Super. ___, ___ (Ch. Div. 2010) (slip op. at 3). In the absence of a showing of such ownership or control, the plaintiff lacks standing to proceed with the foreclosure action and the complaint must be dismissed. See id. at ___ (slip op. at 35-36).1
If a debt is evidenced by a negotiable instrument, such as the note executed by defendant, the answer to this question is governed by Article III of the Uniform Commercial Code (UCC), N.J.S.A. 12A:3-101 to -605, in particular N.J.S.A. 12A:3-301. See generally Raftogianis, supra, ___ N.J. Super. at ___ (slip op. at 3-8). N.J.S.A. 12A:3-301 states in pertinent part:
“Person entitled to enforce” an instrument means  the holder of the instrument,  a nonholder in possession of the instrument who has the rights of the holder, or  a person not in possession of the instrument who is entitled to enforce the instrument pursuant to [N.J.S.A.]12A:3-309 or subsection d. of [N.J.S.A.] 12A:3-418. [EDITOR’S NOTE: A KEY POINT NOT RAISED BY THE HOMEOWNER NOR DISCUSSED BY THE COURT IS THAT ARGENT DID NOT LOAN THE MONEY CONTRARY TO REPRESENTATIONS AT CLOSING. THEREFORE THE DEBT IS NOT EVIDENCED BY A NEGOTIABLE INSTRUMENT. HENCE THE PREMISE OF THIS COURT AND ALL COURTS IS WRONG. THE DEBT IS NOT EVIDENCED BY ANY WRITING BUT IT STILL EXISTS. SINCE THE NOTE DOES NOT DESCRIBE THE DEBT IT DESCRIBES A NON-EXISTENT TRANSACTION. THUS THE MORTGAGE SECURING THE DEBT REFERENCED IN THE NOTE SECURES A FICTITIOUS TRANSACTION AND IS SUBJECT TO QUIET TITLE]
N.J.S.A. 12A:3-201(b) provides in pertinent part that “if an instrument is payable to an identified person, negotiation requires transfer of possession of the instrument and its indorsement by the holder.”
Therefore, even if Wells Fargo had presented satisfactory evidence that it was in “possession” of the note executed by defendant (which is discussed later in this opinion), Wells Fargo admittedly presented no evidence of “its indorsement by [Argent].” Therefore, Wells Fargo was not a “holder” of the note within the first category of “person entitled to enforce” an instrument under N.J.S.A. 12A:3-301. See Raftogianis, ___ N.J. Super. at ___ (slip op. at 6).
the question is whether Wells Fargo presented adequate evidence that it fell within the second category of “person entitled to enforce” an instrument under N.J.S.A. 12A:3-A-3627-06T1 301; that is, “a nonholder in possession of the instrument who has the rights of a holder.”
Transfer of an instrument occurs “when it is delivered by a person other than its issuer for the purpose of giving to the person receiving delivery the right to enforce the instrument.”
the documents that Wells Fargo relied upon in support of its motion for summary judgment to establish its status as a holder were not properly authenticated. A certification will support the grant of summary judgment only if the material facts alleged therein are based, as required by Rule 1:6-6, on “personal knowledge.” See Claypotch v. Heller, Inc., 360 N.J. Super. 472, 489 (App. Div. 2003). Baxley’s certification does not allege that he has personal knowledge that Wells Fargo is the holder and owner of the note. In fact, the certification does not give any indication how Baxley obtained this alleged knowledge. The certification also does not indicate the source of Baxley’s alleged knowledge that the attached mortgage and note are “true copies.”
Furthermore, the purported assignment of the mortgage, which an assignee must produce to maintain a foreclosure action, see N.J.S.A. 46:9-9, was not authenticated in any manner; it was simply attached to a reply brief. The trial court should not have considered this document unless it was authenticated by an affidavit or certification based on personal knowledge. See Celino v. Gen. Accident Ins., 211 N.J. Super. 538, 544 (App. Div. 1986).
On the remand, defendant may conduct appropriate discovery, (e.s.) including taking the deposition of Baxley and the person who purported to assign the mortgage and note to Wells Fargo on behalf of Argent.
for the guidance of the trial court in the event Wells Fargo is able to establish its standing on remand, we note that even though Wells Fargo could become a “holder” of the note under N.J.S.A. 12A:3-201(b) if Argent indorsed the note to Wells Fargo even at this late date, see UCC Comment 3 to A-3627-06T1 N.J.S.A. 12A:3-203, Wells Fargo would not thereby become a “holder in due course” that could avoid whatever defenses defendant would have to a claim by Argent because Wells Fargo is now aware of those defenses. See N.J.S.A. 12A:3-203(c); UCC Comment 4 to N.J.S.A. 12A:3-203; see generally 6 William D. Hawkland & Larry Lawrence, Hawkland and Lawrence UCC Series [Rev.] § 3-203:7 (2010); 6B Anderson on the Uniform Commercial Code, supra, § 3-203:14R. Consequently, if Wells Fargo produces an indorsed copy of the note on the remand, the date of that indorsement would be a critical factual issue in determining whether Wells Fargo is a holder in due course.
Filed under: bubble, CDO, CORRUPTION, currency, Eviction, foreclosure, GTC | Honor, Investor, Mortgage, securities fraud | Tagged: ARGENT, Attorney in fact, AUTHENTICATION OF DOCUMENT, CLOSING COSTS, evidence, Fidelity National, FORD, GFE, good faith estimate, HOLDER, HOMEQ SERVICING, JOSH BAXLEY, New Jersey, OWNER OF THE MORTGAGE, OWNER OF THE NOTE, personal knowledge, SOURCE OF KNOWLEDGE, standing, Wells Fargo |