By William Hudson
Last week the California Supreme Court ruled in Yvanova v. New Century Mortgage Corporation (Case No. S218973, Cal. Sup. Ct. February 18, 2016) that homeowners have standing to challenge a note assignment in an action for wrongful foreclosure on the grounds that the assignment is void. Obviously if the court had ruled differently, the banks would have had absolute carte blanche to forge mortgage assignments with wild abandon. In fact, without a system of endorsements and assignments it would be almost impossible to determine what party has a legitimate interest in a property and chaos would have ensued (sound familiar?).
The Yvanova ruling puts to rest the prior assumption by most California courts that a homeowner lacks standing to challenge a void assignment. This decision has the potential to open the litigation floodgates by borrowers who were improperly foreclosed on due to fraudulent or improper assignments. In fact, you can bet that homeowners who lost their homes due to the court’s resistance to follow established law will be filing suit.
In Yvanova, she complained that the bank had resorted to the use of fraudulent documents in order to foreclose. First she identified that a bankrupt entity called New Century assigned a deed of trust years after the company ceased to exist. The mortgage assignments demonstrated that even though New Century was dissolved in 2008, New Century allegedly assigned Yvanova’s deed of trust to Deutsche bank in 2011. It was also discovered that Yvanova’s note could not have been delivered to the Morgan Stanley trust pool because the trust had a cutoff date of January 2007. Deutsche Bank, the servicer, claims to have transferred the deed of trust to that pool in December 2011. Thus, 3 years and 11 months after the trust had closed.
By law, and to ensure tax-free pass-through status by the REMIC (Real Estate Mortgage Investment Conduit) notes placed in trusts must be placed into the pool by a certain date. The Morgan Stanley trust had a cutoff date of January 2007 but Deutsche Bank claims the note they received by a zombie assignment was placed in the pool in 2011. Thus, a nonexistent company called New Century transferred a note to a closed trust.
Up until Yvanova was settled, the California courts rejected hundreds of similar claims over the years stating that borrowers were not a party to or holder of the debt (see Jenkins f. JP Morgan Chase). The California courts essentially ruled that homeowners may now challenge wrongful foreclosures on the grounds that the assignment of the note was invalid or the chain of assignment was faulty. In securitized trusts, it is fairly common for the endorsements and assignments to be either inaccurate or downright fraudulent (photoshopped, robosigned, etc.). The big securitizing banks like Ocwen, Deutsche, Morgan Stanley and Wells Fargo better prepare for a tsunami of wrongful foreclosure suits in California.
The California Supreme Court, by ruling in favor of Yvanova, effectively confirmed the 2013 California Appellate ruling Glaski v. Bank of America, which held that a homeowner facing a non-judicial foreclosure has standing to challenge violations of the pooling and servicing agreement. One of the most insightful quotes in Yvanova states, “The borrower owes money not to the world at large but to a particular person or institution, and only the person or institution entitled to payment may enforce the debt by foreclosing on the security.”
The California Supreme Court got it right when they elaborated that, “A homeowner who has been foreclosed on by one with no right to do so has suffered an injurious invasion of his or her legal rights at the foreclosing entity’s hands. No more is required for standing to sue.” Could it be that the California courts are tired of the 9 years of fraudulent banking games that have clogged the court system with no end in sight?
It wasn’t the homeowner who got sloppy, greedy and decided to start forging and photoshopping legal documents. It was the banks that engineered this complete fiasco from the top to bottom. Maybe now the banks will clean up their act, or they will be forced to find a more efficient and convincing way to forge and falsify endorsements and assignments. To date, the left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing- and the banks only hope that the homeowner doesn’t discover their deception.
I will reiterate again, if a bank claims to own a debt then why not simply show the documentation and prove it? This entire mess could be cleaned up very quickly if the banks would simply show the court evidence of ownership- but the courts know the banks don’t have it. By now we know that this entire debacle was engineered under the premise of plausible deniability and the screws are coming loose.
It is evident that the courts have had enough. The Supreme Court in Yvanova stated that:
“… California borrowers whose loans are secured by a deed of trust with a power of sale may suffer foreclosure without judicial process and thus ―would be deprived of a means to assert [their] legal protections if not permitted to challenge the foreclosing entity‘s authority through an action for wrongful foreclosure. (Culhane, supra, 708 F.3d at p. 290.)
A borrower therefore ―has standing to challenge the assignment of a mortgage on her home to the extent that such a challenge is necessary to contest a foreclosing entity‘s status qua mortgagee‖ (id. at p. 291)— that is, as the current holder of the beneficial interest under the deed of trust.”
The decision goes on to state that:
“In seeking a finding that an assignment agreement was void, therefore, a plaintiff in Yvanova‘s position is not asserting the interests of parties to the assignment; she is asserting her own interest in limiting foreclosure on her property to those with legal authority to order a foreclosure sale. This, then, is not a situation in which standing to sue is lacking because its ―sole object . . . is to settle rights of third persons who are not parties. (Golden Gate Bridge etc. Dist. v. Felt (1931) 214 Cal. 308, 316.)”
Apparently the California Supreme Court just grew a pair and the remaining 49 states might want to listen up. With all of the fraud settlements that have occurred over the past seven years, it is evident that what is occurring isn’t simply sloppy paperwork or unintentional oversight but blatant fraud, theft and criminal conspiracy if you want to be honest. It is a sad day in America when a homeowner must go all the way to the Supreme Court in order to obtain a fair and just ruling. If the courts had ruled in favor of the banks (and I am sure the judges in Yvanova knew what was on the line), there is no doubt in my mind that banks would have had a foreclosure feeding frenzy.
The court states the obvious, that there is an investor or entity who may suffer an unauthorized loss of its interest in the note if the foreclosure proceeds, “when an invalid transfer of a note and deed of trust leads to foreclosure by an unauthorized party, the ―victim‖ is not the borrower, whose obligations under the note are unaffected by the transfer, but ―an individual or entity that believes it has a present beneficial interest in the promissory note and may suffer the unauthorized loss of its interest in the note.”
And finally, the court gets to the meat of the matter- the issue of standing. “As it relates to standing, we disagree with defendants’ analysis of prejudice from an illegal foreclosure. A foreclosed-upon borrower clearly meets the general standard for standing to sue by showing an invasion of his or her legally protected interests (Angelucci v. Century Supper Club (2007) 41 Cal.4th 160, 175)—the borrower has lost ownership to the home in an allegedly illegal trustee‘s sale. (See Culhane, supra, 708 F.3d at p. 289 [foreclosed-upon borrower has sufficient personal stake in action against foreclosing entity to meet federal standing requirement].) Moreover, the bank or other entity that ordered the foreclosure would not have done so absent the allegedly void assignment. Thus- [t]he identified harm—the foreclosure—can be traced directly to [the foreclosing entity‘s] exercise of the authority purportedly delegated by the assignment.”
In conclusion, the court clarifies who is allowed to enforce the note without showing overt favoritism to the bank. Please note the eloquence of the last line in this paragraph in the Yvanova decision:
“Nor is it correct that the borrower has no cognizable interest in the identity of the party enforcing his or her debt. Though the borrower is not entitled to object to an assignment of the promissory note, he or she is obligated to pay the debt, or suffer loss of the security, only to a person or entity that has actually been assigned the debt. (See Cockerell v. Title Ins. & Trust Co., supra, 42 Cal.2d at p. 292 [party claiming under an assignment must prove fact of assignment].) The borrower owes money not to the world at large but to a particular person or institution, and only the person or institution entitled to payment may enforce the debt by foreclosing on the security.”
Again, “The borrower owes money NOT TO THE WORLD at large but to a particular person or institution, and ONLY the person or institution entitled to payment may enforce the debt by foreclosing on the security.” The court isn’t magically creating case law- this is exactly what the promissory note entitles the bearer to do- collect on a debt. The note does not say, “If you have a forged document you randomly printed a copy off the internet or photoshopped- you have standing.”
Only the individual or entity with actual STANDING can foreclose on a home. The fact that the homeowner defaulted on an alleged contract (that probably didn’t happen the way the contract reflects the transaction) doesn’t mean any party claiming to be a note holder can foreclose on the home. Like Jerry McGuire said, “SHOW ME THE MONEY.” Until the mortgagee shows up with actual evidence of ownership- no servicer, “lender” or unknown party should be able to randomly foreclose on a home simply by saying they own the note.
Again, this is the beauty of rescission. By precluding the servicer from walking into court with a forged note, mortgage and alleged contract- and forcing this party to demonstrate contractual standing- many fraudulent foreclosures would be prevented. It is tragic that so many people have lost their homes because the courts permitted a pretend lender with no standing to waltz in and take a home simply by showing fraudulent documents and making false claims.
Finally, the Yvanova ruling leaves us with the crowning glory of this decision, “A homeowner who has been foreclosed on by one with no right to do so has suffered an injurious invasion of his or her legal rights at the foreclosing entity‘s hands. No more is required for standing to sue.” Thank you California Supreme Court justices for ruling according to law instead of the banking lobby.