How to Use National Settlements as Part of Foreclosure Defense

Bill Paatalo brought this provision to me attention again. It gives a virtual checklist for discovery:

  1. All DOCUMENTS regarding the National Consent Judgement’s (CONSENT

ORDER) “Settlement Term Sheet (I)(A)(4) which reads as follows:

  1. Servicer shall have standards for qualifications, training and supervision of employees. Servicer shall train and supervise employees who regularly prepare or execute affidavits, sworn statements or Declarations. Each such employee shall sign a certification that he or she has received the training. Servicer shall oversee the training completion to ensure each required employee properly and timely completes such training. Servicer shall maintain written records confirming that each such employee has completed the training and the subjects covered by the training.

Let us help you plan your foreclosure defense strategy, discovery requests and defense narrative: 202-838-6345. Ask for a Consult.

Purchase now Neil Garfield’s Mastering Discovery and Evidence in Foreclosure Defense webinar including 3.5 hours of lecture, questions and answers, plus course materials that include PowerPoint Presentations. Presenters: Attorney and Expert Neil Garfield, Forensic Auditor Dan Edstrom, Attorney Charles Marshall and and Private Investigator Bill Paatalo. The webinar and materials are all downloadable.

Get a Consult and TEAR (Title & Encumbrances Analysis and & Report) 202-838-6345. The TEAR replaces and greatly enhances the former COTA (Chain of Title Analysis, including a one page summary of Title History and Gaps).

https://www.vcita.com/v/lendinglies to schedule CONSULT, leave message or make payments. It’s better than calling!

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

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So if a homeowner is confronted with an entity that was part of the settlement, they should ask for the following:

  • standards for qualifications,
  • standards for training
  • standards for supervision
  • identification, time and dates of training of any persons who had worked on the subject loan, to wit: preparing affidavits, sworn statements or declarations
  • certification signed by employee that employee received the training
  • how did servicer oversee training completion
  • written records confirming that each such employee has completed the training and the subjects covered by the training.

NY Monroe Case: Default entered against homeowner — CASE DISMISSED on Standing — US Bank Never refiled.

multiple choice robo-pleading

NO PLEADING: HOMEOWNER WON ANYWAY

I have held off on discussing this case until some time passed. As far as I now know US Bank, like several cases I won, has not refiled for foreclosure. There is a good reason for that. US Bank is not the Plaintiff. The Plaintiff is named as a REMIC Trust, for which the attorneys claim that US Bank is the Trustee.

As such the Plaintiff does not own nor have any interest in the loan either as owner or servicer. Hence the named trustee (U.S. Bank) is named but it has nothing to do since the trust is nonexistent and in all events no attempt has ever been made to entrust the subject mortgage into the fiduciary hands of U.S Bank.

And THAT is because the only party with an equitable interest in the debt is a group of investors whose money was used to fund the origination or acquisition of the loan. The investors meanwhile think that their money was placed in trust and then used to purchase, not originate, loans.

Every once in a while a wily judge catches on from the face of the documentation. This judge ruled against US Bank as Trustee for a named REMIC Trust because he didn’t believe US Bank or the Trust was actually related to the subject loan. He gave them a chance to correct their pleading, but apparently out of fear of perjury, the lawyers for the nonexistent trust backed off, apparently permanently.

Let us help you plan your foreclosure defense strategy, discovery requests and defense narrative: 202-838-6345. Ask for a Consult.

Purchase now Neil Garfield’s Mastering Discovery and Evidence in Foreclosure Defense webinar including 3.5 hours of lecture, questions and answers, plus course materials that include PowerPoint Presentations. Presenters: Attorney and Expert Neil Garfield, Forensic Auditor Dan Edstrom, Attorney Charles Marshall and and Private Investigator Bill Paatalo. The webinar and materials are all downloadable.

Get a Consult and TEAR (Title & Encumbrances Analysis and & Report) 202-838-6345. The TEAR replaces and greatly enhances the former COTA (Chain of Title Analysis, including a one page summary of Title History and Gaps).

https://www.vcita.com/v/lendinglies to schedule CONSULT, leave message or make payments. It’s better than calling!

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

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see Memorandum and Order – USBank Trust NA as Trustee for LSF9 MPT v Monroe

Quoting from the complaint field by lawyers for their supposed client, a nonexistent trust with a completely denuded trustee, the court includes their own allegation in its ruling:

2 (“Plaintiff is the owner and holder of the subject Note and Mortgage or has been delegated authority to institute this Mortgage foreclosure action by the owner and holder of the subject Note and Mortgage.”);

What does that even mean? This is a perfect example of multiple choice robo-pleading. Either the Plaintiff is the owner and holder of the subject note or mortgage or they are not. If they own the debt,  they don’t say as much and certainly didn’t offer any proof at their uncontested hearing on damages. It’s pretty hard to lose an uncontested hearing but US Bank has done it multiple times, as reported in this case.

If they have been delegated authority by the owner and holder of the subject note and mortgage, they fail to say who delegated that authority and how the delegation occurred. Since the express purpose of the trust was to own the debt, note and mortgage and make payments to investors based upon the trust’s ownership of the debt, note and mortgage, Demoting the trust to the status of a conduit or agent would be completely adverse to the express wording and authority granted in the trust.

Actually that kind of wording is exactly what enables the players to claim interest in notes and mortgages adverse to the interests of the parties whose money was directly used to fund the origination and acquisition of loans.

 

Here are some revealing quotes from the District Judge:

The Complaint does not contain any details concerning U.S. Bank’s role as trustee or the powers it has over the trust property (including the mortgage here). (e.s.)

The party asserting subject matter jurisdiction carries the burden of proving its existence by a preponderance of the evidence. E.g., Makarova, 201 F.3d at 113; Augienello v. FDIC, 310 F. Supp. 2d 582, 587–88 (S.D.N.Y. 2004). This is true even on a motion for default judgment, since the principle that a default deems the well-pleaded allegations of the complaint to be admitted is inapplicable when a court doubts the existence of subject matter jurisdiction. Transatlantic Marine, 109 F.3d at 108.

2 While some of these issues were discussed elsewhere by U.S. Bank’s counsel, e.g., Dkt. No. 7, they were not included in the affidavit filed in support of default judgment.

“When a default is entered, the defendant is deemed to have admitted all of the well- pleaded factual allegations in the complaint pertaining to liability.” Bravado Int’l Grp. Merch. Servs., Inc. v. Ninna, Inc., 655 F. Supp. 2d 177, 188 (E.D.N.Y. 2009) (citing Greyhound Exhibitgroup, Inc. v. E.L.U.L. Realty Corp., 973 F.2d 155, 158 (2d Cir. 1992)). “While a default judgment constitutes an admission of liability, the quantum of damages remains to be established by proof unless the amount is liquidated or susceptible of mathematical computation.” Flaks v. Koegel, 504 F.2d 702, 707 (2d Cir. 1974); accord, e.g., Bravado Int’l, 655 F. Supp. 2d at 190. “[E]ven upon default, a court may not rubber-stamp the non-defaulting party’s damages calculation, but rather must ensure that there is a basis for the damages that are sought.” United States v. Hill, No. 12-CV-1413, 2013 WL 474535, at *1 (N.D.N.Y. Feb. 7, 2013)

In the past year, U.S. Bank’s attorneys—Gross Polowy—have repeatedly failed to secure default judgments in similar foreclosure cases before this Court. E.g., U.S. Bank Tr., N.A. v. Dupre, No. 15-CV-558, 2016 WL 5107123 (N.D.N.Y. Sept. 20, 2016) (Kahn, J.); Nationstar Mortg. LLC v. Moody, No. 16-CV-279, 2016 WL 4203514 (N.D.N.Y. Aug. 9, 2016) (Kahn, J.); Nationstar Mortg. LLC v. Pignataro, No. 15-CV-1041, 2016 WL 3647876 (N.D.N.Y. July 1, 2016) (Kahn, J.); cf. Ditech Fin. LLC v. Sterly, No. 15-CV-1455, 2016 WL 7429439, at *4 (N.D.N.Y. Dec. 23, 2016) (denying a motion for default judgment due to a defective notice of pendency); OneWest Bank, N.A. v. Conklin, No. 14-CV-1249, 2015 WL 3646231, at *4 (N.D.N.Y. June 10, 2015) (same). In each case, Gross Polowy’s motion was denied for one of two reasons: either the complaint failed to sufficiently allege subject matter jurisdiction, e.g., Dupre, 2016 WL 5107123, at *2–5, or the motion for default judgment failed to meet the requirements of the Court’s Local Rules, e.g., Moody, 2016 WL 4203514, at *2. Here, both of these failures are present.

The Complaint also includes no allegations concerning U.S. Bank’s ability to proceed under its own citizenship, despite bringing this case on behalf of the “LSF9 Master Participation Trust.” Compl.

While U.S. Bank is the nominal plaintiff in this case, it is longstanding federal law that “court[s] must disregard nominal or formal parties and rest jurisdiction only upon the citizenship of real parties to the controversy.” Navarro Sav. Ass’n v. Lee, 446 U.S. 458, 461 (1980). “Where an agent acts on behalf of a principal, the principal, rather than the agent, has been held to be the real and substantial party to the controversy. As a result, it is the citizenship of the principal—not that of the agent—that controls for diversity purposes.” Hilton Hotels Corp. v. Damornay Antiques, Inc., No. 99-CV-4883, 1999 WL 959371, at *2 (S.D.N.Y. Oct. 20, 1999) (citing Airlines Reporting Corp. v. S&N Travel, Inc., 58 F.3d 857, 862 (2d Cir. 1995)). At issue here is the application of this rule in lawsuits brought by a trustee on behalf of a trust. —3 Gross Polowy should be aware of this rule because they were “foreclosure counsel” for the plaintiff-appellee in Melina, 827 F.3d at 216–17, though in fairness it seems they were replaced by Hogan Lovells for both the subject matter jurisdiction issue and the subsequent appeal, id. at 216; OneWest Bank, N.A. v. Melina, No. 14-CV-5290, 2015 WL 5098635 (E.D.N.Y. Aug. 31, 2015), aff’d, 827 F.3d 214.

In Navarro, the Court held that trustees can be the real parties in controversy—regardless of the type of trust—provided that they “are active trustees whose control over the assets held in their names is real and substantial.” 446 U.S. at 465; see also Carden v. Arkoma Assocs., 494 U.S. 185, 191 (1990) (noting that, if the trustees are “active trustees whose control over the assets held in their names is real and substantial,” they are brought “under the rule, ‘more than 150 years’ old, which permits such trustees ‘to sue in their own right, without regard to the citizenship of the trust beneficiaries’” (quoting Navarro, 446 U.S. at 465–66)). The continued validity of this rule was endorsed by the Court in Americold. 136 S. Ct. at 1016.

If U.S. Bank wishes to proceed in federal court, it must, within thirty (30) days, move to amend its Complaint to address the deficiencies identified in this order. This motion to amend must be prepared in accordance with Local Rule 7.1(a)(4), which establishes the form for such a motion and lists the required papers. With that motion, to resolve the Court’s doubts concerning subject matter jurisdiction, U.S. Bank must also provide its articles of association (along with any other documentation required to establish the location of its main office), the trust instrument for the LSF9 Master Participation Trust,4 and any other documentation required to show that U.S. Bank’s control over the trust assets is real and substantial. Failure to comply with this Memorandum-Decision and Order when moving to amend the Complaint may result in the denial of the motion or sanctions. L.R. 1.1(d).

 

4 In the Dupre case discussed above, U.S. Bank also was instructed to file the trust instrument for the LSF8 Master Participation Trust (presumably another securitization vehicle for mortgage debt) in order to establish subject matter jurisdiction. 2016 WL 5107123, at *2. When it did file the trust instrument, “the text . . . was almost entirely redacted,” and the only visible portion seemed to oppose the notion that U.S. Bank was an active trustee with real and substantial control over the trust assets. Id. at *2, *4. This failure should not be repeated here, and filing documents under seal or with redactions requires advance permission of the Court. L.R. 83.13; see also Lugosh v. Pyramid Co. of Onondaga, 435 F.3d 110, 119–20 (2d Cir. 2006) (describing the standard for restricting public access to judicial documents).

 

Forbes: TBTF Banks have $3.8 Trillion in Reported Loan Portfolios — How much of it is real?

The five largest U.S. banks have a combined loan portfolio of almost $3.8 trillion, which represents 40% of the total loans handed out by all U.S. commercial banks.

See Forbes: $3.8 Trillion in Portfolio Loans

I can spot around $300 billion that isn’t real.

Let us help you plan your foreclosure defense strategy, discovery requests and defense narrative: 202-838-6345. Ask for a Consult.

Purchase now Neil Garfield’s Mastering Discovery and Evidence in Foreclosure Defense webinar including 3.5 hours of lecture, questions and answers, plus course materials that include PowerPoint Presentations. Presenters: Attorney and Expert Neil Garfield, Forensic Auditor Dan Edstrom, Attorney Charles Marshall and and Private Investigator Bill Paatalo. The webinar and materials are all downloadable.

Get a Consult and TEAR (Title & Encumbrances Analysis and & Report) 202-838-6345. The TEAR replaces and greatly enhances the former COTA (Chain of Title Analysis, including a one page summary of Title History and Gaps).

https://www.vcita.com/v/lendinglies to schedule CONSULT, leave message or make payments. It’s better than calling!

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

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When interviewing the FDIC receiver back in 2008 he told me that WAMU had originated around $1 Trillion in loans. He also told me that most of them were subject to claims of securitization (i.e., they had been sold). Then when I asked him how much had been sold, he said that Chase had told him the total was around 2/3. Translation: With zero consideration, Chase was about to use the agreement of October 25, 2008 as an excuse to claim ownership and servicing rights on over $300 billion in loans. Chase was claiming ownership when it suited them. By my count they foreclosed on over $100 billion of those “WAMU” loans and, for the most part, collected the proceeds for itself.

Point One: If there really were $300 Billion in loans left in WAMU inventory, there would have been no receivership nor would there have been any bankruptcy.

Point Two: If there were $300 Billion in loans left in WAMU inventory, or even if there was 1/10th that amount, neither the FDIC receiver nor the US Trustee in WAMU bankruptcy would have allowed the portfolio to be given to Chase without Chase paying more than zero. The receiver and the US Trustee would have been liable for civil and even criminal penalties. But they were not liable because there were no loans to sell.

So it should come as no surprise that a class action lawsuit has been filed against Chase for falsely claiming the payments from performing loans and keeping them, and for falsely claiming the proceeds on foreclosure as if they were the creditor when they were most clearly not. whether the lawyers know it or not, they might just have filed the largest lawsuit in history.

see Young v Chase Class Action – WaMu Loans – EDNY June 2018

This isn’t unique. Chase had its WAMU. BofA had its Countrywide. Wells Fargo had its Wachovia. Citi had lots of alter egos. The you have OneWest with its IndyMac. And there are others. All of them had one thing in common: they were claiming ownership rights over mortgages that were falsely claimed to have been “acquired through merger or acquisition using the FDIC (enter Sheila Bair screaming) as a governmental rubber stamp such that it would appear that they purchased over a trillion dollars in residential mortgage loans when in fact they merely created the illusion of those loans which had been sold long ago.

None of this was lost on the insurers that were defrauded when they issued insurance policies that were procured under false pretenses on supposedly non-securities where the truth is that, like the residential loans themselves, the “securities” and the loans were guaranteed to fail.

Simplistically, if you underwrite a loan to an family whose total income is less than the payments will be when the loan resets to full amortization you can be sure of two things: (1) the loan will fail short-term and (2) the “certificates” will fail along with them. If you know that in advance you can bet strong against the loans and the certificates by purchasing insurance from insurers who were inclined to trust the underwriters (a/k/a “Master Servicer” of nonexistent trust issuing the certificates).

see AMBAC Insurance Case vs U.S. Bank

The bottom line is that inside the smoke and mirrors palace, there is around $1 Trillion in loans that probably were sold (leveraged) dozens of times where the debt is owned by nobody in particular — just the TBTF bank that claims it. Once they get to foreclosure, the presumption arises that everything that preceded the foreclosure sale is valid. And its very hard to convince judges that they just rubber stamped another theft.

Tonight! How to Defend Against a Claim of “Holder” Status to Discredit Standing

“Holder” vs “Agency”

Thursdays LIVE! Click in to the The Neil Garfield Show

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

Tonight I will discuss the central point of of false claims of authority to enforce the note, and inferentially the authority to enforce the mortgage.

In 2008, I called to confront a lawyer about the false claim of being authorized to enforce the note and mortgage, his reply to all my questions was “We’re a holder.”

No matter what I said or asked, that was his answer. He was relying upon a carefully thought out strategy of taking the term “holder” and stretching it to unimaginable lengths. And in that conversation it became clear that he — and the rest of the investment banking industry — were essentially “banking” on a single fact, to wit: that Judges are lawyers who went to law school and for the most part slept through classes on negotiable instruments. He was right.

NJ Court: Possession of note + mortgage assignment is prerequisite to foreclosure

Pretender lenders are going to cite this case as support for the idea that the note and mortgage can be separated and that either one can be the basis of a successful foreclosure. They will rely on the “exception” implied in the court decision wherein the owner of the note has an agency relationship with the servicer who is the foreclosing party.

In this case Freddie Mac clearly possessed the note, although there was no evidence cited that Freddie Mac had actually purchased it. That was presumed in this case. The purchase of the note was not an issue on appeal.

Freddie Mac had made it clear in public announcements that foreclosures should be in the name of servicers. So the possession of one part of the paperwork by the agent and the other by the principal are joined as a single unit.

This decision was correct in ruling against the homeowner, given the issues before it. The homeowner was attempting to make a technical distinction contrary to the facts and contrary to law. The issue brought on appeal was whether Freddie Mac was the only party with standing to foreclose. I would say that shouldn’t have been the issue. Both Freddie Mac and Capital One had standing depending upon who asserted it. Either one could have foreclosed.

Any party may foreclose in its own name or through an agent with authority to do so — if they otherwise plead and prove their status as holder in due course, or holder, or non-holder with rights to enforce. The issue on appeal was a non-starter.

Despite the article, there is no exception here. This New Jersey court simply followed the law.

see Court-says-note-and-mortgage-assignment-both-prerequisites-to-foreclosure-but-makes-an-exception/

see case decision: Peck adv Capital One

The difference between this case and most other cases is that in this case there appears to be a tacit admission that Freddie Mac, as possessor of the note, was a holder or non-holder with rights to enforce because they had purchased the note. It is assumed in this case that Freddie was the actual owner of the debt.

The key differences between this case and most other cases are as follows:

  1. The “principal” in this case has been identified and assumed to be the owner of the debt.
  2. The “agent” in this case, Capital One, is a servicer whose authority to act as agent was not contested.

What is missing is whether Freddie Mac actually purchased the debt or the note and whether Freddie Mac still owned anything at all. Purchase of the note does not mean purchase of the debt if the debt is owned by someone other than the seller of the note. It is well settled law that only the owner of the debt can foreclose. But even if a purchase transaction did in fact take place, the question remains as to whether the interest of Freddie Mac was sold back to some private label REMIC Trust or some other third party such as the seller who may have given warranties as tot he performance of loans.

But if the note was purchased in good faith and without knowledge of the borrower’s defenses, if any, then the purchaser of the note increases their status to holder in due course where there are no defenses even if the preceding origination or transfers had defects.

On the other hand, if the seller of the note did not own the note, then the purchase by Freddie would be nullity. This is also well settled law. A seller of an interest that is nonexistent or in which the seller has no interest, cannot create the interest by selling it. This is the basic problem with “originations” and most “transfers” by endorsement or assignment. In such circumstances the buyer would be a possessor without rights to enforce unless the owner of the debt was in privity with the buyer of the note. The buyer would have a potential claim against the seller, but not the maker of the note.

In such circumstances, the owner of the debt or the true owner of the note would be able to file a claim against the maker and the buyer of the note, explaining how the possession of the note was lost and pleading (and proving) ownership of the debt.

NOTE THAT THERE IS A DEEPER ISSUE PRESENT. But it probably won’t get you any traction despite the clear basis in law and fact. Freddie Mac may or may not have actually made a purchase of the subject loan. If they didn’t then asserting them as the owner of the note might be OK for pleading, but the case ought to fail at trial — if the homeowner denies that they are the owner of the note.  

If it paid in money, then to whom was payment sent? This is different than who claimed ownership of the note and mortgage. More often than not the money trail is NOT the same as the paper trail.

Note that many transactions occurred in which the “Mortgage Loan Schedule” was incomplete or nonexistent at the time of the purported sale. The identity of the seller in such purported transactions is also obscured by clever wording.

If they paid using RMBS certificates, then things get more interesting. Because the RMBS certificates were in all probability worthless. Hence there would a failure of consideration and Freddie Mac could not claim to be a purchaser for value. The vast majority of RMBS were sold under the false pretense that they were “backed” my residential mortgages. The issuer of the certificates is asserted to be a named trust. But if the trust never came into ownership of the alleged mortgage loans, then the RMBS certificates were backed by nothing at all.

Not to draw too fine a point here, it is still possible that Freddie could be considered a purchaser for value even if the RMBS certificates appeared to be worthless. That is because in the  shadow banking marketplace, such certificates and the synthetic derivatives deriving their purported value from the purported value of the certificates nevertheless take on a life of their own. Even if they have no fundamental value they may well have a trading value that far exceeds anything that is fundamental to the certificates (i.e.m, zero).

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.

New Jersey Court Invokes Golden Chicken of Law

Not only did this court get it wrong, it apparently knew it was getting it wrong and so ordered that the case could not be used as precedent.

Steve Mnuchin, now Secretary of our Treasury, was hand picked by the major banks to lead a brand new Federal Savings Bank, called OneWest, which was literally organized over a single weekend to pick up the pieces of IndyMac. By the time of its announced failure in the fall of 2008 IndyMac was a thinly capitalized shell  conduit converted from regular commercial banking to a conduit to support the illusion of securitization.

The important part is that in terms of loans IndyMac literally owned as close to nothing as you could get. OneWest consisted of a group of people who don’t ordinarily invest in banks. But this was irresistible. Over the shrieking objections of FDIC chairwoman who lost her job, OneWest was allowed to claim (a) that it owned the loans that IndyMac and “originated” and (b) to claim 80% of claimed losses which the FDIC paid.

see OneWest “Wins” Again

Thus OneWest claimed losses vastly exceeding the “investment” by certain members of the 1% whom I won’t name here. This enabled them to do 2 things. Claim 80% of the fictitious losses from loans that were not owned by Indymac and the foreclose to collect the entire amount.

Mnuchin was put in charge of “operations.” He ran nothing and basically did as he was told. He knew that the IndyMac residential loan portfolio was at practically zero, he knew that the 80% claim was fictitious, and he knew that neither IndyMac nor OneWest, its supposed successor owned the loans. Nonetheless the “foreclosure king” was entirely happy with foreclosing on homeowners who were caught in a world of spin.

The investors in the OneWest deal split the spoils of war. To be fair they didn’t actually know the truth of the situation. Mnuchin painted a very rosy profit picture that would happen over the short-term and he was right.

As with WAMU, Countrywide et al, the business of IndyMac was largely run through remote vehicles posing as mortgage brokers, originators or just sellers. These entities did exactly what IndyMac told them to do and in so doing IndyMac was doing exactly what it was told to do by the likes of Merrill Lynch, and indirectly Bank of America, Chase, Goldman Sachs, and Citi.

As the descriptive literature on securitization says, all vehicles are remote and special purpose so as to protect everyone else against allegations of wrongdoing. But there was nothing remote about these companies. Yet here in this decision in New Jersey the court predicated its ruling on the proposition that none of the players were liable for any of the unlawful activities of their predecessors.

It’s decisions like this that leave us with the knowledge that we have a long way to go before the courts get curious enough to apply the law as it is — not as the courts and others say it is.

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