Punitive Damages for Violations of Automatic Stay in Bankruptcy §362

Since 2008 I have called out bankruptcy practitioners for their lack of interest in false claims of securitization. The impact on the bankruptcy estate is usually enormous. But without aggressive education of the presiding judge the case will not only go as planned by the banks, it will also lock in the homeowner to “admissions” in bankruptcy schedules and orders that lead to a false conclusion of fact.

Where a pretender lender ignores the automatic stay Bankruptcy judges are and should be very harsh in their penalty. The stay is the bulwark of consumer protection under bankruptcy proceedings which are specifically enabled by the U.S. Constitution. Hence it is as important as free speech, freedom of assembly, freedom of religion and the right to keep and bear arms.

The attached article shown in the link below gives the practitioner a running start on holding the violator responsible and in giving the homeowner a path to punitive damages, given the corrupt nature of the mortgages and foreclosures that arose during the great mortgage meltdown.

This might be the place where a hearing on evidence is conducted as to the true nature of the forecloser and a place where the petitioner/homeowner will be given far greater latitude in discovery to reveal the emptiness behind the presumptions that the foreclosing “party” exists at all or to show that it never acquired the debt but seeks instead to enforce fabricated paper.

Remember that in cases involving securitization claims or which are based upon apparent securitization patterns the named “Trustee” is not the party in interest. The party is the named “Trust.” If the Trust doesn’t exist it doesn’t matter if the Pope is named as the Trustee, there still is no existing party seeking relief from the Court.

see Eviction Can Lead to Sanctions Including Punitive Damages for Violation of Automatic Stay

The challenge here is that most bankruptcy lawyers are not well equipped for litigation. So it is advised that a litigator be introduced into the case to plead and prove the case for sanctions, if the situation arises in which a violation of stay has occurred or if there is an adversary proceeding seeking to prevent the pretender lender from acting on its false claims.

Most of the litigation in bankruptcy court has simply been directed at motions to lift the automatic stay. In such motions, the petitioner is merely saying we want to litigate this in state court. The burden of proof is as light as a puff of smoke. If the court finds any colorable interest in the alleged loan, it will ordinarily grant the motion to lift stay — as it must under the existing rules. Homeowners in bankruptcy find it a virtually impossible uphill climb to defend because they are required to have evidence only in possession of the opposing party who also might not have the information needed to prove the lack of any colorable interest.

But the lifting of the stay applies to the litigation concerning foreclosure. It does not necessarily extend to the eviction or unlawful detainer that occurs afterwards. And where the stay has not been lifted the pretender lender is out of luck because there is no excuse for ignoring the automatic stay.

So further action by the foreclosing party is probably a violation of the automatic stay. And in certain cases the court might apply punitive damages on top of consequential damages, if any. The inability to prove actual damages is relatively unimportant unless the homeowner has such damages. It is the violation of the automatic stay that is paramount.

The article below starts with a premise that the “creditor” has received notice of the BKR and ignored it — sometimes willfully and arrogantly.

Here are some notable quotes from this well-written article by Carlos J. Cuevas.

The imposition of punitive damages for egregious violations of the automatic stay is vital to the function of the consumer bankruptcy system. Most consumer debtors cannot afford to pay their attorneys to prosecute an automatic stay violation. The enforcement of the automatic stay is predicated upon major financial institutions observing the automatic stay.

If there is a doubt as to the applicability of the automatic stay, then a creditor can obtain a comfort order as to the applicability of the automatic stay, or obtain relief from the automatic stay from the Bankruptcy Court.

“Parties may not make their own private determination of the scope of the automatic stay without consequence.”

What would be sufficient to deter one creditor may not even be sufficient to gain notice from another. Punitive damages must be tailored not only based upon the egregiousness of the violation, but also based upon the particular creditor in violation.

In determining whether to impose punitive damages under Bankruptcy Code Section 362(k), several bankruptcy courts have identified five factors to guide their decision. They are the nature of the creditor’s conduct, the creditor’s ability to pay, the motives of the creditor, any provocation by the debtor, and the creditor’s level of sophistication: In re Jean-Francois, 532 B.R. 449, 459 (Bankr. E.D.N.Y. 2015).

The fact that Church Avenue pursued the eviction more than a week after it learned of the debtor’s bankruptcy suggests that Church Avenue either made its own—incorrect—legal conclusion with respect to whether the eviction would be a stay violation, or decided that moving ahead to empty the building quickly and evict the occupants was worth more to it than the risk associated with defending a future § 362(k) motion.

when a creditor acts in arrogant defiance of the automatic stay it is circumventing the authority of the bankruptcy judge to exercise authority over that particular bankruptcy case. A bankruptcy judge is the only entity vested with the authority to determine whether the automatic stay should be lifted.

Egregious violations of the automatic stay can be deleterious to a consumer bankruptcy debtor. For example, a creditor who refuses to return a repossessed vehicle after the commencement of a bankruptcy case can create a significant hardship for a consumer debtor. A debtor whose vehicle has been repossessed may not be able to rent a substitute vehicle. This can create a significant hardship for a debtor who has to commute to work, who has to transport a child to school, or who is a caregiver for a sick relative.

Questions to Ask About the Trust and the Trustee

In the final analysis you are looking for evidence of absence of any real events currently presumed as facts in any foreclosure case.

The trustee issue is a jurisdictional issue. If the Plaintiff Trust does not exist, then it has no standing to make or pursue any claims. If the named Trustee is not engaged in the active management of active trust affairs on behalf of the beneficiaries of a trust, then it is not a trustee imbued with the powers to administer assets that have not been conveyed and entrusted to the Trustee.
 *
If the named beneficiaries have received a promise from the named “Trust” and the beneficiaries have expressly disclaimed any interest in the “underlying” loans, notes, mortgages or debts, then they are not beneficiaries and the entity is not a trust. (That fact pattern describes individual contracts with each investor who purchased a promise to pay executed by someone allegedly on behalf of an entity self proclaimed as a trust. If the named entity does not exist then the party who executed the isntruments may have liability for the promise).
 *
Since the Trust has not been identified as having been organized and existing under the laws of any jurisdiction, it is entirely appropriate to ask questions about the existence of the trust and its right to do business in the state or the courts. The second jurisdictional issue is subject matter jurisdiction in which the question is whether the trust owns the indebtedness. I frequently deal with these issues in drafting the substance of documents to be filed with the court, subject to opinion of local counsel.
 *
If prior demands for discovery are clear the appropriate strategy is to force the issue through a motion to compel. Filing an “amended” request fro discovery probably starts the clock all over again. By the time you get to a demand for sanctions for contempt the case could be over. If it is denied she should consider an interlocutory appeal on the issue of whether the record contains assertions or evidence of the existence of the trust. The only prejudice that could exist would be that the trust doesn’t exist and that “they” (actually the lawyers) would be “prejudiced” because they couldn’t foreclose using the trust name.
 *
There is no doubt in my mind that one or both narratives are true: (1) the trust doesn’t exist and never did and (2) the loan (i.e., the indebtedness) was never purchased by the trust, acting through tis alleged trustee.
 *
One of the problems here is that it would be wise, although not essential, to notice the named Trustee for deposition duces tecum. That’s often a problem because most homeowners not appear to have anyone competent to conduct the deposition. In a normal deposition, one MUST ask the witness identifying questions like
  1. What’s your name?
  2. Who do you work for?
  3. What is the relationship between your bank and this trust?
  4. Besides the alleged Prospectus and the alleged PSA, what agreements exist wherein the Trustee bank is obligated to do or receive anything from the trust, directly or indirectly. [This one should be broken up into parts].
  5. Under what jurisdiction was the trust organized?
  6. Under what jurisdiction is the trust now existing?
  7. Who is the trust officer for the trust?
  8. In which department(s) are trust matters generally handled in the Trustee Bank?
  9. In which department(s) are trust matters usually handled in the Trustee Bank for this trust?
  10. Has the Trustee bank published any memos or guidelines concerning the administration of securitization trusts?
  11. Assuming that the word “loan” means the indebtedness of the homeowners here in this case, on what date did US Bank as trustee purchase this loan to hold in trust?
  12. Who was the seller of the debt in that transaction?
  13. Was payment for the loan performed through a financial account held in the name of the Trustee for the alleged trust?
  14. How did US Bank as Trustee for the alleged trust perform due diligence to confirm the existence and ownership of the debt?
  15. Who are the beneficiaries of the alleged trust?
  16. Who is the trustor or settlor of the alleged trust?
  17. What is the date and name of the instrument that purports to create the trust?
  18. Describe the current functions of US Bank as trustee of the alleged trust.
  19. Describe the current assets of the alleged trust.
  20. Describe date and content of the last financial report received by US Bank as trustee for the alleged trust.
Most likely opposing counsel will object to the question’s relevancy at the time deposition is taken. But relevancy is not even a question at deposition which is by nature a fishing expedition. Even if opposing counsel was right that the question does not directly relate to proof of a fact asserted at trial, you are still entitled to inquire because it might lead to the discovery of admissible evidence.

Impact of Serial Asset Sales on Investors and Borrowers

The real parties in interest are trying to make money, not recover it.

The Wilmington Trust case illustrates why borrower defenses and investor claims are closely aligned and raises some interesting questions. The big question is what do you do with an empty box at the bottom of an organizational chart or worse an empty box existing off the organizational chart and off balance sheet?

At the base of this is one simple notion. The creation and execution of articles of incorporation does not create the corporation until they are submitted to a regulatory authority that in turn can vouch for the fact that the corporation has in fact been created. But even then that doesn’t mean that the corporation is anything more than a shell. That is why we call them shell corporations.

The same holds true for trusts which must have beneficiaries, a trustor, a trust instrument, and a trustee that is actively engaged in managing the assets of the trust for the benefit of the beneficiaries. Without the elements being satisfied in real life, the trust does not exist and should not be treated as though it did exist.

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About Neil F Garfield, M.B.A., J.D.

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The banks have been pulling the wool over our eyes for two decades, pretending that the name of a REMIC Trust invokes and creates its existence. They have done the same with named Trustees and asserted “Master Servicers” of the asserted trust. Without a Trustor passing title to money or property to the named Trustee, there is nothing in trust.

Therefore whatever duties, obligations, powers or restrictions that exist under the asserted trust instrument do not apply to assets that have not been entrusted to the trustee to administer for the benefit of named beneficiaries.

The named Trustee or Servicer has nothing to claim if their claim derives from the existence of a trust. And of course a nonexistent trust has no claim against borrowers in which the beneficiaries of the trust, if they exist, have disclaimed any interest in the debt, note or mortgage.

The serial nature of asserted transfers in which servicing rights, claims for recovery of servicer advances, and purported ownership of note and mortgage is well known and leaves most people, including judges and regulators scratching their heads.

An assignment of mortgage without a a transfer of the indebtedness that is claimed to be secured by a mortgage or deed of trust means nothing. It is a statement by one party, lacking in any authority to another party. It says I hereby transfer to you the power to enforce the mortgage or deed of trust. It does not say you can keep the proceeds of enforcement and it does not identify the party to whom the debt will be paid as proceeds of liquidation of the home at or after the foreclosure sale.

As it turns out, many times the liquidation results in surplus funds — i.e., proceeds in excess of the asserted debt. That should be turned over to the borrower, but it isn’t; and that has spawned a whole new cottage industry of services offering to reclaim the surplus proceeds.

In most cases the proceeds are less than the amount demanded. But there are proceeds. Those are frequently swallowed whole by the real party in interest in the foreclosure — the asserted Master Servicer who claims the proceeds as recovery of servicer advances without the slightest evidence that the asserted Master Servicer ever paid anything nor that the asserted Master Servicer would be out of pocket in the event the “recovery” of “servicer advances” failed.

The foreclosure of the property proceeds with full knowledge that whatever the result, there are no creditors who will receive any money or benefit. The real parties are trying to make money, not recover it. And whatever proceeds or benefits might arise from the foreclosure action are grabbed by a party in a self-proclaimed assertion that while the foreclosure was brought in the name of a trust, the proceeds go to a different third party in derogation of the interests of the asserted trusts and the alleged investors in those trusts who are somehow not beneficiaries.

So investors purchase certificates in which the fine print usually says that for their own protection they disclaim any interest in the underlying debt, note or mortgages. Accordingly we have a trust without beneficiaries.

The existence of those debts, notes or mortgages becomes irrelevant to the investors because they have a promise from a trustee who is indemnified on behalf of a trust that owns nothing. The certificates are backed by assets of any kind. Even if they were “backed” by assets, the supposed beneficiaries have disclaimed such interests.

Thus not only does the trust own nothing even the prospect of security has been traded off to other investors who paid money on the expectation of revenue from the notes and mortgages claimed by the asserted trust through its named trustee.

In the end you have a name of a trust that is unregistered and never asserted to be organized and existing under the laws of any jurisdiction, trustee who has no duties and even if such duties were present the asserted trust instrument strips away all trustee functions, no beneficiaries, and no res, and no active business requiring administration nor any business record of such activity.

Yet the trust is the entity that  is chosen as the named Plaintiff in foreclosures. But the way it reads one is bound to believe that assumption that is not and never was true or even asserted: that the case involves the trustee bank for anything more than window dressing.

It is the serial nature of the falsely asserted transfers that obscures the real parties in interest in both securities transactions with investors and loans with borrowers. The unavoidable conclusion is that nothing asserted by the banks (players in  falsely claimed securitization schemes) is real.

How to Choose a Forensic Report

If you stick to an objective statement of facts without presumptions, anyone can report and testify with credibility if they have backup. Once you cross the line into opinions the report is undermined as to bias, credibility and lack of foundation. Even if it is admitted into evidence the report will be given zero weight in deciding the case.

You undermine your defense if you are relying upon presumptions instead of actual facts or the absence of actual facts. Most presumptions used by homeowners are not persuasive.

TO GET OUR FORENSIC REPORT, CLICK THE LINK

FREE RESEARCH: Go to our home page and enter subject in search bar.

Let us help you plan and draft your answers, affirmative defenses, discovery requests and defense narrative: Contact us now at info@lendinglies.com

954-451-1230 or 202-838-6345. Ask for a CONSULT.

REGISTRATION FORM: You will make things a lot easier on us and yourself if you fill out the registration form. It’s free without any obligation. No advertisements, no restrictions.

Purchase an audio seminar now, together with seminar materials

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

About Neil F Garfield, M.B.A., J.D.

=====================

Starting with the tidal wave of foreclosures that hit our shores in 2007-present, a cottage industry emerged to help homeowners contest or negotiate with the pretender lender. Some were better than others. Many were at best a good faith failed attempt at understanding the claimed process of securitization, whose hallmark is complexity and obscurity.  In the words of an executive VP at Deutsch Bank, “it is all very counterintuitive.”

The job of the forensic reporter is to break down the facts so that the defense narrative is understandable and believable. Note that in most cases the defense narrative is going to rely on the absence of facts that should be present if the claims for foreclosure were based in fact. The object should be the production of a report that actually provides traction to the defense and not merely justification for the fee received.

  • RULE #1: If the report sticks to the facts and has an adequate presentation it can serve two purposes, to wit: (a) it provides a checklist of issues for an attorney or pro se litigant to know “what is on the menu” of potential defenses and (b) it might serve as evidence or corroboration of narratives pursued in court in creating and compelling discovery, filing and arguing motions and raising well timed objections at trial. If the preparer did fact checking and investigation, it is permissible to describe inconsistencies in the available evidence that need to be reconciled.
  • RULE #2: Anyone can write a report but few people can satisfy the burden of persuasion in court. Just because something is accepted into evidence or even admitted does not mean that it will be given any weight in the final decision. So if you are going to hire someone to review, investigate and report, that person should have a credible level of knowledge and access to data. Someone who has been through a foreclosure is neither credible nor lacking in credibility, but the other side will no doubt argue that the person had a bias against the banks. Certifications are not a substitute for experience. The greater the credentials the higher the credibility.
  • RULE #3: You are starting with bias against the homeowner. So you must focus on what will persuade the trier of fact (a judge in most cases) to rule in favor of the homeowner. To be persuasive means that the facts are presented without hypotheticals or conclusions that should be made by the judge. The presentation must gradually educate the judge as to how specifically in this case, the foreclosing party should not be allowed to continue. You don’t win by pointing out inconsistencies. You win by showing that the inconsistencies cannot be resolved even with the “help” of the robo-witness at trial.
  • RULE #4: “Everybody knows” is not a defense. If there is information available that might assist in showing that the documents are self-serving, then that might be the the jump-off point for undermining the credibility of the witness and the exhibit, but it needs to be much stronger to exclude the evidence altogether. If the foreclosing party has been the target of investigations, charges and settlement agreements based upon fabrication of documents, forgery and robosigning, that could be the jump-off point to argue that the foreclosing party must present its evidence without benefit of a legal presumption.
  • RULE #5: Wording is critically important. Describing the transaction as a loan or as an assignment basically admits that the description fits. At that point you might just as well pack up and go home. The forensic report should describe documents that have a title, and and then describe the contents and any inconsistencies or disparities. But calling the document an assignment or admitting that the loan was transferred, at least implies that there was a sale of the debt. If you check the documentation you will never see anything that refers to the sale of debt, because there was no sale of the debt.
  • RULE #6: Identify the salient points of the report in a memorandum in support of discovery or motions specifically citing to the page and position of the facts revealed in the report. If the report is for internal use only, attorney work-product etc., the use of bullet points in the report is preferable. Anything that takes less time of the attorney will save time and money. Thus if you want to assert forgery of a document the examiner would state that the signature on Document A appears to be inconsistent with the same person’s signature on Document B. THEN bring in a forensic document examiner who can give an opinion as to whether it is a forgery, back it up with demonstrative exhibits. AND remember, just because there isa  forged document doesn’t mean you win and they lose. You must persuasively argue that the forgery defeats their action.
  • RULE #7: CITATION TO CASE LAW IS LEGAL ARGUMENT — not a forensic report. But the presentation could report that as part of the instructions to the examiner, it has been assumed that X v Y case and Statute § ABC has been used as a reference point.

Here at livinglies and LENDINGLIES we are on our 12th iteration of a forensic report  for homeowners or their counsel. We call it the TERA for Title and Encumbrance Report and Analysis. It is the result of review and research by paralegals who are given instruction by me usually after I get together with the client in a short or long CONSULT.

I have long said that homeowners should stick with people who have or held licenses in professions that might affect the case. And while some people may have a professional license in a relevant field you should not make the mistake, based upon this article, of limiting the scope of work performed by them, just as you should not over-broaden the scope.

After many years of doing unrelenting research and investigation there are many people who have valuable insights that should be shared with the client. So if the forensic examiner says he notices a certain pattern of facts and that this same pattern was used in another case where the homeowner won, you should be listening even though the conclusion might be outside of his report and outside of his/her area of expertise. Note that the same fact pattern is often treated differently by different courts or even the same court.

In the TERA that we currently produce, our mission is to set forth the following elements:

  1. Sufficient information to assist the homeowner (or homeowner’s counsel) in deciding whether to fight, and if so, the toward what end.
  2. Identify the factual discrepancies.
  3. Identify areas for further investigation for discovery.
  4. Identify elements that support demands for discovery.
  5. Answer specifically worded questions posed by existing counsel or me.*
  6. Provide copies of all relevant documents as exhibits to the report.
  7. Identify subject for which a Case Analysis might be of assistance as in developing the specific narrative, strategies or tactics to pursue in the case and what to avoid.

In all cases we defer to local counsel. But with the right support and and guidance most attorneys develop specific knowledge and skills to win these cases. You don’t hear about all the cases won by homeowners because the banks pay for silence in the form of confidentiality agreements.

* EXAMPLE: It is wrong to phrase the question “Does US Bank have standing?” That calls for a legal conclusion that only the court can do. The question is better phrased “What factual evidence has been produced to support the assertion that US Bank has an interest in the subject loan?”

 

 

 

TONIGHT! Aggregation and Assignments on the Neil Garfield Show

Are Assignments Based Upon Aggregated Pools Real?

Thursdays LIVE! Click in to the The Neil Garfield Show

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

East-West: Charles Marshall California Attorney co-hosts the discussion

 

The bottom line is that the courts are not accepting denials of assertions or allegations by the foreclosing party. The courts are requiring the homeowner to file an affirmative defense rather than simply denying everything in the complaint. This forces the burden of proof and burden of persuasion onto the homeowner to come up with facts supporting their denial. These facts are within the sole care, custody and control of the party initiating foreclosure.

Through the magic of writing things down on paper anyone can make anything seem like it might be real. Of course in the legal system it goes further than that. If it is written there are many assumptions and presumptions that arise simply because a piece of paper was produced with some writing on it. But nobody ever intended such writing to be used in lieu of facts that are contrary to the truth.

The first place you see this scheme in operation is in the supposed aggregation of loans. The truth is that the DATA for the loans was aggregated, which only means that information ABOUT the supposed loans was taken from several spreadsheets and combined into one.

This is done all the time when a PROPOSED deal is in the works. The aggregation of the data is known as a pro forma presentation — with all parties knowing that it isn’t real, but here is what it might look like if we really did it.

The banks have elevated pro forma spreadsheets into the illusion of actual deals. The reason nobody has ever come up with a money trail showing that the aggregation took place and was sold to a trust is that no such money trail exists.

The truth is that no actual aggregation took place and there was no sale to the trust. In fact probing the trusts, there is never a time that the trust is actually created by entrusting money or property to the named Trustee. Without that there is no Trust because nothing is held “in trust.”

The money from investors is never held by the Trustee. The loan debt is never owned by the Trustee or the Trust. There is no sale. And that is because the Broker Dealers funded the loans in the first place using the money of investors.

So there was nobody to pay for purchase of the underlying debt except the investors and the banks certainly were not going to pay for the underlying debt by handing the investors a check or wire transfer.

How did they do it? Through the illusion of Assignments and endorsements by entities and people who have no ownership interests or other rights to the underlying debt. Even servicing relies upon authority from a trust that does not exist and which neither owns the paper nor the underlying debt.

Let’s go back to the beginning. For ANY deal to be legally binding you need the following elements:

  1. An offer of terms by A to B.
  2. Acceptance of those exact terms by B.
  3. Now you have an agreement but not a contract (yet).
  4. Memorialization of the contract in writing.
  5. The contract is not enforceable until the parties sign
  6. The Closing: Reciprocal consideration is exchanged.
  7. Now you have an enforceable contract.

The only thing we get with assignments and endorsements on supposed “allonges” is #4 — Memorialization in Writing. There is no evidence or even assertion that any of the other things happened. Hence the foreclosing party is using an unenforceable false memorialization of a transaction (transfer of loan paper and no transfer of the underlying debt) that never occurred in order to create the illusion of a foreclosure by a real party in interest.

This is all basic Black Letter law. Yet the courts have routinely ignored several very specific laws governing loans, notes, mortgages and assignments and endorsements. Judges have routinely assumed and even presumed that the paper memorialization was all they needed. The door to moral decay and hazard was opened wide. And we all experienced the shock of seeing our economy nearly turn on its belly.

Now Congress is in the process of rolling back the safeguards so that the investment banks can return to business as usual — transforming the role of banks from being financial intermediaries into some multi-headed hybrid creature that can steal money and homes. The banks can do this by using ordinary deposits by its customers, or by soliciting new deposits with the false promise that the money is actually going into a Trust where a big name bank like US Bank will watch over it.

How do you stop it? By litigating on the strategy and narrative that there is no meat in the sandwich, no deal that ever occurred in real life and no authorized intermediary whose claim is solely based upon the existence of a nonexistent trust and nonexistent transactions in which the underlying debt was bought and sold.

 

Fla 2d DCA: HELOC Instrument Not Self-Authenticating Article 3 Note

Just because an instrument is not self-authenticating doesn’t mean it can’t be authenticated. Here the Plaintiff could not authenticate the note without the legal presumption of self-authentication and all the legal presumptions that follow.  And that is the point here. They came to court without evidence and in this case the court turned them away.

Florida courts, along with courts around the country, are gradually inching their way to the application of existing law, thus eroding the dominant premise that if the Plaintiff is a bank, they should win, regardless of law.

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GO TO LENDINGLIES to order forms and services. Our forensic report is called “TERA“— “Title and Encumbrance Report and Analysis.” I personally review each of them for edits and comments before they are released.

Let us help you plan and draft your answers, affirmative defenses, discovery requests and defense narrative:

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

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see HELOC Not Negotiable Instrument and Therefore Not Self Authenticating

This decision is neither novel nor complicated. A note can be admitted into evidence as self-authenticating without extrinsic evidence (parol evidence) IF it is a negotiable instrument under the State adoption of the UCC as State Law.

The inquiry as to whether a promissory note is a negotiable instrument is simple:

  • Does the body of the note claim to memorialize an unconditional promise
  • to pay a fixed amount
  • (editor’s addition) to an identified Payee? [This part is assumed since the status of the “lender” depends upon how and why it came into possession of the note.]

A note memorializing a line of credit is. by definition, not a fixed amount. Case closed, the “lender” lost and it was affirmed in this decision. There was no other choice.

The only reason why this became an issue was because counsel for the homeowner timely raised a clearly worded objection to the note as not being a negotiable instrument and therefore not being self-authenticating. And without the note, the mortgage, which is not a negotiable instrument, is meaningless anyway.

This left the foreclosing party with the requirement that they prove their case with real evidence and not be allowed to avoid that burden of proof using legal presumptions arising from the facial validity of  a negotiable instrument.

The typical response from the foreclosing party essentially boils down to this: “Come on Judge we all know the note was signed, we all know the payments stopped, we all know that the loan is in default. Why should we clog up the court system using legal technicalities.”

What is important about this case is the court’s position on that “argument” (to ignore the law and just get on with it). “This distinction is not esoteric legalese. Florida law is clear that a “negotiable instrument” is “an unconditional promise or order to pay a fixed amount of money, with or without interest or other charges described in the promise or order.”§ 673.1041(1), Fla. Stat. (2012) (emphasis added).”

So THAT means that if the trial court is acting properly it will apply the laws of the state and THAT requires the court to rule based upon the UCC and cases involving
negotiable instruments.

But none of that invalidated the note or mortgage, nor should it. THAT is where it gets interesting. By denying the note as a self authenticating instrument the court was merely requiring the foreclosing party to proffer actual evidence regarding the terms of the note, including the manner in which it was acquired and how the foreclosing party is an injured party — a presumption that is no longer present when the note is denied admission into evidence as a self authenticating negotiable instrument.

The foreclosing party was unable to produce any testimony or exhibits demonstrating the prima facie case. Why? Because they are not and never were a creditor nor are they agent or representative of the actual party to whom the subject underlying DEBT was owed.

 

Florida law requires the authentication of a document prior to its admission into evidence. See § 90.901, Fla. Stat. (2012) (“Authentication or identification of evidence is required as a condition precedent to its admissibility.”); Mills v. Baker, 664 So. 2d 1054, 1057 (Fla. 2d DCA 1995); see, e.g., DiSalvo v. SunTrust Mortg., Inc., 115 So. 3d 438, 439-40 (Fla. 2d DCA 2013) (holding that unauthenticated default letters from lender could not be considered in mortgage foreclosure summary judgment). Proffered evidence is authenticated when its proponent introduces sufficient evidence “to support a finding that the matter in question is what its proponent claims.” § 90.901; Coday v. State, 946 So. 2d 988, 1000 (Fla. 2006) (“While section 90.901 requires the authentication or identification of a document prior to its admission into evidence, the requirements of this section are satisfied by evidence sufficient to support a finding that the document in question is what its proponent claims.”).

There are a number of recognized exceptions to the authentication requirement. One, as relevant here, relates to commercial paper under the Uniform Commercial Code, codified in chapters 678 to 680 of the Florida Statutes. “Commercial papers and signatures thereon and documents relating to them [are self-authenticating], to the extent provided in the Uniform Commercial Code.” § 90.902(8); see, e.g., U.S. Bank Nat’l Ass’n for BAFC 2007-4 v. Roseman, 214 So. 3d 728, 733 (Fla 4th DCA 2017) (reversing the trial court’s denial of the admission of the original note in part because the note was self-authenticating); Hidden Ridge Condo. Homeowners Ass’n v. Onewest Bank, N.A., 183 So. 3d 1266, 1269 n.3 (Fla. 5th DCA 2016) (stating that because the endorsed note was self-authenticating as a commercial paper, extrinsic evidence of authenticity was not required as a condition precedent…

We cannot bicker with the proposition that “for over a century . . . the Florida Supreme Court has held [promissory notes secured by a mortgage] are negotiable instruments. And every District Court of Appeal in Florida has affirmed this principle.” HSBC Bank USA, Nat’l Ass’n v. Buset, 43 Fla. L. Weekly D305, 306 (Fla. 3d DCA Feb. 7, 2018) (citation omitted). That is as far as we can travel with Third Federal.

The HELOC note is not a self-authenticating negotiable instrument. By its own terms, the note established a “credit limit” of up to $40,000 from which the Koulouvarises could “request an advance . . . at any time.” Further, the note provided that “[a]ll advances and other obligations . . . will reduce your available credit.” The HELOC note was not an unconditional promise to pay a fixed amount of money. Rather, it established “[t]he maximum amount of borrowing power extended to a borrower by a given lender, to be drawn upon by the borrower as needed.” See Line of Credit, Black’s Law Dictionary, 949 (8th ed. 1999).

This distinction is not esoteric legalese. Florida law is clear that a “negotiable instrument” is “an unconditional promise or order to pay a fixed amount of money, with or without interest or other charges described in the promise or order.”§ 673.1041(1), Fla. Stat. (2012) (emphasis added).

Homeowners Sue SPS in Class Action Over Failure to Mitigate

Thousands of cases like this one have pointed out that SPS and other servicers like Ocwen do not consult with any investor, do not evaluate the case for settlement, modification or mitigation. The answer to questions arising from the unwillingness of those companies to comply with law stems from the fact that the  vast majority of their income comes from undisclosed third parties (the TBTF Banks).

TBTF Banks (BofA, Chase, Wells Fargo, Citi, etc.) do not want settlements or modifications or anything that will make the loan start performing. Subservicers like SPS and Ocwen are used as conduits to other conduits that provides window dressing for claims of compliance or efforts to comply.

Contrary to common sense nobody wants a settlement or modification. The players would rather have the value of the alleged loan reduced to zero or less in the case of foreclosures requiring the bank to maintain the property without any hope of selling it. Common sense says that faced with a value of ZERO versus a value of $200,000, for example, any normal business would select the obvious —- $200,000.

The most extreme cases are where the modification is deemed approved and a new servicer comes in to dishonor it and forecloses, even though the homeowner made the trial payments. Yet Petitions to Enforce the modification agreement are rare; but when they are filed they are usually successful. And in many of those cases the modification is modified for a greater principal reduction than was originally offered.

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Whether or not the class gets certified or settled the suit brings up certain salient points which again give rise to the most common question of all, to wit: “Why is that?”

The answer is hiding in plain sight: None of these parties represent a creditor or owner of the debt . All of them represent undisclosed third parties who are making money hand over fist in the shadow banking market. A completed foreclosure represents the first and only valid legal document in their long train of lies promulgated by piles of fabricated, forged, robo-signed paper. The justice system isn’t always right but it is always final. That is the game the banks are playing.

If SPS or Ocwen actually was set up to help homeowners avoid foreclosure and preserve the value of the loan receivable they would lose virtually all their business. A performing loan would change the makeup of the pools that the players claim to have created. All the re-sales of the same loan would be based upon a loan, even if it existed at one time, that doesn’t exist presently.

So the players NEED that foreclosure not for investors or a trust that doesn’t exist, but for themselves because most of the proceeds of the re-sales of the same loan went the TBTF Banks. They want to preserve their ill-gotten gains rather than do anything that could possibly benefit investors. And the best way they can do that is with an Order or Judgment signed by a duly authorized judge in a court of competent jurisdiction — not with a modification.

Practice Hint: If you see a case that has been ongoing for 8-10 years that is a strong indicator that the investors have received a settlement and no loner have any claim for payment and/or that the “Master Servicer” is continuing to allow payments to investors out of a pool of investor money — i.e., a Ponzi scheme. Those continuing payments have been inappropriately named “servicer advances.” They are not “advances” because it is merely return of investor capital. And since the payments come from an investor pool of cash the payments are not from the servicer since the money came from the same or other investors.

They are called servicer advances because using that name fictitiously allows the “Master Servicer’ (actually the underwriter of the certificates) to claim a “recovery” of “servicer advances.” The recovery is ONLY allowed after sale of the property after a foreclosure where the buyer is a BFP.

So for example if payments to investors attributed to the subject loan are $2,000 per month, 10 years worth of “servicer advances” results in a “recovery claim” of $240,000. Generally that is enough to wipe out any equity. The investors get nothing. The foreclosure was actually for the sole interest and benefit of the banks, not the investors. And the homeowner again finds himself used as a pawn for others to make money over the rotting carcass of what was once his home.

Hence the trial strategy suggested would be drilling down on whether the trust is receiving payment from a “third party,” whether that party has rights of subrogation or is satisfied by some other fee or revenue. If you get anywhere near this issue the bank will fold up like a used tent. They will pay for confidentiality.

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