No Surprise: Ocwen & US Bank Hit by $3.8 Million Verdict in Chicago Federal Trial For Violations in Fake Foreclosure

“The jury, after deliberating for approximately 7 hours, determined that Ocwen breached its contract, violated RESPA for failing to adequately respond to Saccameno’s Qualified Written Request, violated the FDCPA and committed both unfair and deceptive acts in violation of the Illinois Consumer Fraud Act.  Monette Saccameno was awarded $500,000.00 in compensatory damages, $70,000.00 in non-economic damages, $12,000.00 in economic damages and $3,000,000.00 in punitive damages. Nicholas Heath Wooten, Esq.Ross Michael Zambon, Esq., and Mohammed Omar Badwan, Esq. led the litigation team on behalf of Saccameno.”

And I ask again: WHY DO OCWEN DOCUMENTS AND “BOARDING PROCESS” GET ANY LEGAL PRESUMPTION ON SCANT TESTIMONY AND EVIDENCE THAT WOULD NOT BE ACCEPTED AS FOUNDATION IN ANY COURT OTHER THAN ONE IN FORECLOSURE PROCEEDINGS? With this verdict and dozens of other verdicts, settlements, lawsuits and whistleblower  news stories has establishing a crystal clear pattern of conduct of fake foreclosures based upon false documentation, false posting of payments and a clear mission to seek foreclosure whether the homeowner is current in payments or not.

The many cases akin to this one against OCwen and US Bank should be served up to judges hearing foreclosure cases with a single message: the foreclosures you are allowing are wrongful. Your decisions are giving rise to many lawsuits for damages.

GO TO LENDINGLIES to order forms and services

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

954-451-1230 or 202-838-6345. Ask for a Consult. 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 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 TERA (Title & Encumbrances Analysis and & Report) 954-451-1230 or 202-838-6345. The TERA replaces and greatly enhances the former COTA (Chain of Title Analysis, including a one page summary of Title History and Gaps).

GO TO WWW.LENDINGLIES.COM OR 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.

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

Hat Tip Greg da’ Goose

Case Number: 1:16-cv-05278
Court: Illinois Northern
Nature of Suit: 423(Bankruptcy Withdrawl)
Companies:
Ocwen Financial Corporation
U.S. Bancorp

see OCWEN BANGED WITH $3.8 MILLION VERDICT

This case shows that juries are still angry about the 2008 meltdown and that the entire burden was shifted to homeowners and taxpayers — who “bailed out” financial institutions that had no losses.

And it also shows that lawyers can get rich by charging contingency fees in wrongful foreclosure actions that most lawyers avoid or rush to settlement. It provides ample encouragement for homeowners to sue and for lawyers to take the cases.

So for those of you who are  contemplating filing a wrongful foreclosure action against Ocwen, or U.S. Bank or any of the other players that are acting in concert with Ocwen, here is a case that no doubt will be settled under “seal of confidentiality” (like thousands of others). I think it is high time for borrowers to pool their complaints in either a class action or mass joinder action.

And here are some of the causes of action that could be filed that a federal jury found were reasons enough to award $500,000 in compensatory damages and $3 Million in punitive damages:

  1. Breach of contract
  2. RESPA violation (failure to respond to QWR)
  3. FDCPA violations
  4. Violation of state law — Illinois Consumer Fraud Act: Unfair and deceptive acts.

There are many other causes of action that could be filed. Each case needs to be evaluated as to which causes of action are most appropriate for the subject “loan”, most of which have resulted in substantial verdicts.

And don’t forget the role of US Bank whose name is used as trustee of a trust that  either doesn’t exist, doesn’t own the debt or both. US Bank is paid a fee to pose as trustee not to BE trustee.

See also

https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/atlas-consumer-law-secures-3-582-000-jury-verdict-obtained-by-monette-saccameno-a-resident-of-cook-county-illinois-and-against-ocwen-loan-servicing-llc-a-national-mortgage-loan-servicer-300628541.html

https://cookcountyrecord.com/stories/511388869-jury-awards-3-5m-to-woman-who-claimed-loan-servicer-mishandled-mortgage-during-after-chapt-13-bankruptcy

Ocwen (OCN) Receives Daily News Sentiment Rating of 0.15
https://www.thelincolnianonline.com/2018/04/13/ocwen-ocn-receives-daily-news-sentiment-rating-of-0-15.html

https://www.leagle.com/decision/infdco20180410901

Saccameno v. Ocwen Loan Servicing, LLC et al, No. 1:2015cv01164 – Document 265 (N.D. Ill. 2018)
DEFENDANTS’ MOTION FOR JUDGMENT AS A MATTER OF LAW Document #: 265 Filed: 04/09/18
https://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/USCOURTS-ilnd-1_15-cv-01164/pdf/USCOURTS-ilnd-1_15-cv-01164-3.pdf

Saccameno v. Ocwen Loan Servicing, LLC et al, No. 1:2015cv01164 – Document 231 (N.D. Ill. 2018)
MEMORANDUM Opinion and Order Signed by the Honorable Joan B. Gottschall on 3/9/2018
https://cases.justia.com/federal/district-courts/illinois/ilndce/1:2015cv01164/306387/231/0.pdf?ts=1520678019

Saccameno v. Ocwen Loan Servicing, LLC et al, No. 1:2015cv01164 – Document 152 (N.D. Ill. 2017)
MEMORANDUM Opinion and Order Signed by the Honorable Joan B. Gottschall on 11/8/2017
https://cases.justia.com/federal/district-courts/illinois/ilndce/1:2015cv01164/306387/152/0.pdf?ts=1517249686

Saccameno v. Ocwen Loan Servicing, LLC et al, No. 1:2015cv01164 – Document 75 (N.D. Ill. 2015)
MEMORANDUM Opinion and Order Signed by the Honorable Joan B. Gottschall on 11/19/2015
https://cases.justia.com/federal/district-courts/illinois/ilndce/1:2015cv01164/306387/75/0.pdf?ts=1448015323

US Government Publishing Office
15-1164 – Saccameno v. Ocwen Loan Servicing, LLC et al
https://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/granule/USCOURTS-ilnd-1_15-cv-01164/USCOURTS-ilnd-1_15-cv-01164-0

Az Federal Judge Strikes at Heart of Nonjudicial Foreclosure, Denies OneWest Motion to Dismiss

For further information or assistance, please call 954-495-9867 or 520-405-1688

————————————–

See OWB CASE Buffington v USBank_MTD Denied incl FDCPA 28USDC AZ

CAUTION: NOT ALL JURISDICTIONS ALLOW THE SAME CAUSES OF ACTION. CHECK WITH ATTORNEY WHO IS LICENSED IN THE JURISDICTION IN WHICH THE PROPERTY IS LOCATED.

A Federal Judge upheld a Complaint against OneWest on all counts except fraud. Actually the Judge was doing the homeowner a favor because the burden of proof on fraud is clear and convincing evidence whereas the burden of proof for the rest of the causes of action is only a preponderance (50% + 1) of the evidence. If it is more likely than not that the homeowner is right on the multi-count complaint that has now survived dismissal, the homeowner wins and the damages goes to the jury to jury to decide how much that should be. TRESPASS might also require a higher burden of proof. During the litigation, the homeowner will be able to inquire and potentially receive the necessary facts to support a fraud claim as well.

This is a dramatic reversal — lawsuits just like this one were previously dismissed in Az Federal Court. One of them was dismissed after 14 months of non-action by the court.

COUNT 1 UPHELD FOR NEGLIGENCE PER SE

COUNT 2 UPHELD FOR NEGLIGENT PERFORMANCE OF AN UNDERTAKING

COUNT 3 UPHELD FOR FALSE DOCUMENTS — Plaintiffs suffered false foreclosure recordings on their real property title record, additional damage to their credit reputation, and false late fees and penalties, as well as attorney fees and costs.

COUNT 4 UPHELD FOR PAYMENT/DISCHARGE/ SATISFACTION — based upon receipt of FDIC loss share payments that were intentionally withheld and therefore causing a misrepresentation to borrower as to the the existence of a default or the actual amount of the balance due to the actual creditor.

COUNT 5 UPHELD FOR BREACH OF CONTRACT

COUNT 6 UPHELD FOR BREACH OF CONTRACT

COUNT 7 DISMISSED — FRAUD

COUNT 8 UPHELD FOR TRESPASS TO REAL PROPERTY

COUNT 9 UPHELD FOR FAIR DEBT COLLECTION PRACTICES ACT

STRATEGY: FORECLOSURE BY PRETENDER LENDER FOLLOWED BY BORROWER’S ACTION FOR DAMAGES

OCC: 13 Questions to Answer Before Foreclosure and Eviction

13 Questions Before You Can Foreclose

foreclosure_standards_42013 — this one works for sure

If you are seeking legal representation or other services call our South Florida customer service number at 954-495-9867 and for the West coast the number remains 520-405-1688. In Northern Florida and the Panhandle call 850-765-1236. Customer service for the livinglies store with workbooks, services and analysis remains the same at 520-405-1688. The people who answer the phone are NOT attorneys and NOT permitted to provide any legal advice, but they can guide you toward some of our products and services.

SEE ALSO: http://WWW.LIVINGLIES-STORE.COM

The selection of an attorney is an important decision  and should only be made after you have interviewed licensed attorneys familiar with investment banking, securities, property law, consumer law, mortgages, foreclosures, and collection procedures. This site is dedicated to providing those services directly or indirectly through attorneys seeking guidance or assistance in representing consumers and homeowners. We are available TO PROVIDE ACTIVE LITIGATION SUPPORT to any lawyer seeking assistance anywhere in the country, U.S. possessions and territories. Neil Garfield is a licensed member of the Florida Bar and is qualified to appear as an expert witness or litigator in in several states including the district of Columbia. The information on this blog is general information and should NEVER be considered to be advice on one specific case. Consultation with a licensed attorney is required in this highly complex field.

EDITOR’S ANALYSIS AND PRACTICE TIPS FOR LAWYERS: One of the things that I noticed about the cases which I have followed or which have been reported to me anecdotally is that the borrower or borrower’s attorney invokes defenses and counterclaims that makes the case far more complex than the judge is willing to hear.

If you really want to win on the trial court level or make a good record for a successful appeal, the legal and factual argument needs to be simplified. I have previously made a big point about how a judge has very little choice but to allow the foreclosure to proceed once the elements of a foreclosure have been admitted by the borrower or borrower’s attorney. All the other issues are really the basis of a lawsuit in which the causes of action seek the remedy of monetary damages.

Foreclosure is an equitable remedy which calls for less judgment on the part of the judge that it does for him or her to perform a ministerial act. The mistake that is being made by most attorneys (and perhaps I added to the confusion unintentionally) is that  they have failed to distinguish between the equitable and legal remedies. This calls for some careful action by the lawyer or else he or she will be open to a later argument of collateral estoppel or res judicata.

In the nonjudicial states the equitable remedy of foreclosure is made even more ministerial and less subject to challenge based upon the merits of the claim of the pretender lender to collect payments from the borrower and to foreclose when the borrower ceases to make payments. The fact that the system was not set up by the legislature to accommodate or regulate wrongful foreclosures by non-creditors is not a basis for asking a judge to rewrite the law.

In Massachusetts this issue was highlighted in the Eaton case. Before that case Massachusetts specifically allowed the equitable remedy of foreclosure merely upon allegation and proof that the foreclosing party possessed the mortgage document under circumstances where there was at least probable cause to believe that the foreclosing party had the right to enforce it and use it.

In the Eaton case the court was careful to state that the ruling applied only prospectively and not retroactively. In that case they attempted to deal with the issue of whether an actual debt existed,  whether a creditor debtor relationship existed between the foreclosing party and the homeowner, whether the note and mortgage were valid, and whether a foreclosure could go forward without any showing that the foreclosing party was a creditor or even had possession of the note. The court decided that ownership of the note was essential to allowing the foreclosure to proceed.

Based upon the huge volume of statistical and anecdotal evidence there can be little doubt that most of the foreclosures and foreclosure sales have been illegally conducted and wrongful. That doesn’t mean they are void. The purpose of the statutes as they are written is to enhance  liquidity and certainty in the marketplace; thus they allow almost every type of foreclosure to proceed through the conclusion of those proceedings as set forth in the statutes, with the added presumption that if malfeasance lay at the core of the foreclosure proceeding, the borrower would have an adequate remedy at law, to wit: a lawsuit for compensatory damages, punitive damages and exemplary damages.

Of course we all know that an action for damages is not an adequate remedy for somebody who has been evicted from their own home. But the problem is that before the securitization scam, the idea that anyone would attempt to foreclose on a mortgage without being a creditor and having no relationship to a creditor and without having a single cent invested in either the origination or acquisition of the loan would have been regarded as pure fantasy. From that standpoint the legislation makes sense. If you feel you are fighting an uphill battle, look at it from the point of view of the legislature and the banks that were making conventional loans and you can easily see why the law facilitated the mortgage foreclosure process.

When I was first interviewing law professors and judges back in 2007 and 2008 the unanimous opinion was that it would be very difficult to stop the foreclosures from proceeding but very easy to win an action after the foreclosure seeking monetary damages. The interesting thing here is that these people instantly understood that the lawsuit would have alternative counts. Either the pretender lender had an actual interest in the loan as evidenced by the note and mortgage or they didn’t.

If they did have an interest in the loan then the causes of action would be based on breach of contract and perhaps unjust enrichment along with statutory violations taken from federal and state law. There could also be an action for wrongful foreclosure that is recognized to exist in the common law and appears to be more of an action in tort than contract.

If they didn’t have an interest in the loan then there would be no action in contract since you would be alleging a lack of privity and defects in the disclosure documents, and closing documents including but not limited to the note and mortgage. It appears to me that this action would be based mostly on intentional interference in the contractual relations of another and both statutory and common law fraud in the inducement and fraud in the execution. Statutory actions brought under the truth in lending act might be sufficient to state a cause of action for treble damages, interest, costs of the action and recovery of attorney’s fees.

The point raised by the law professors and other experts with whom I consulted was that the goalpost would constantly be moved as the borrower attempted to stop the foreclosure and sale from going forward. Once completed, however, the actions of the pretender lender are essentially engraved in stone.

The action for damages should of course be accompanied by a demand for jury trial. The liability portion of the trial should be relatively simple involving simple arithmetic and a logical progression of claimed ownership of the loan. The last defensive strategy of the banks is going to be based on circular logic, to wit: that there is no damage because the foreclosure sale was valid and that the sale must be considered valid because it is already done; and if it is already done the deed issued upon foreclosure sale at the alleged auction is presumptively valid. In other words “what we did was valid because we did it.”

In my opinion there is big money in these lawsuits for damages and lawyers are encouraged to do the research and analysis. My firm is taking these cases on contingency where the right elements are present. So far everyone who has done their own research and analysis has arrived at the same conclusion expressed in this article. But there is a huge trapdoor that litigators must avoid.

Just like a petition for bankruptcy creates an administrative proceeding before a bankruptcy judge which is not the same as a civil litigation proceeding which would be filed in front of the federal district judge, a litigator in a foreclosure action must be careful to narrow the issues such that the foreclosure proceedings do not include allegations and proof directed against the pretender lender for not being the creditor and not having any authority to represent a creditor.

In judicial states this would mean a motion to dismiss or motion to strike any allegation that might lead to a final judgment in which the court finds a debt owed  to the pretender lender from the homeowner.

The point must be made that the preoccupation of the judge with the payments from the borrower should mean that “payments” are at issue. If payments are at issue than the payments made and received by the pretender lender and its predecessors or successors must be given equal time in a court of law — not just payments made and received by the alleged borrower.

Strategically the litigator should point out that the foreclosure process is essentially an administrative process involving ministerial duties by the judge. It should be argued that if the judge wants to allow the foreclosure to proceed and to allow the sale at auction to proceed, that is one issue.

But if the judge wants to enter a judgment based upon a debt, and a note and mortgage which supposedly describe the debt and the repayment terms, and based upon alleged ownership of the debt —  then the party intending to foreclose must allege injury which means that they too are required to produce evidence of payment and evidence of loss. The only acceptable evidence for that would be a canceled check, wire transfer receipt or other actual document generated by a third-party showing the actual movement of money.

Thus the judge should be guided towards a judgment that he or she already wants to enter, to wit: allow the foreclosure to proceed. In the lawsuit filed by the borrower after the foreclosure sale a different judge will probably hear the case. If presented skillfully, the judge may react warmly to the opportunity of getting another case off of their docket.

Critics say Michigan foreclosure bills seek to ‘get people out of their homes quicker’
http://www.mlive.com/politics/index.ssf/2013/05/critics_say_michigan_foreclosu.html

Keeping The ‘Recovery’ Dream Alive; 3 Big Banks Halt Foreclosures In May
http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2013-05-28/keeping-recovery-dream-alive-3-big-banks-halt-foreclosures-may

Banks Snap Up Foreclosure Aid Meant for Borrowers
http://www.hispanicbusiness.com/2013/5/28/banks_snap_up_foreclosure_aid_meant.htm

Activist homeowners take foreclosure fight to the DOJ
http://www.housingwire.com/fastnews/2013/05/28/activist-homeowners-take-foreclosure-fight-doj

Regulators probing banks for faulty debt collection practices
http://www.washingtonpost.com/business/economy/regulators-probing-banks-for-faulty-debt-collection-practices/2013/05/28/9f40bca2-bbd0-11e2-89c9-3be8095fe767_story.html

 

Seminars Corroborate Title Problems and HAMP LItigation

It might seem to many that the industry is blind to title problems caused by false claims of securitization or even real claims based upon securitization. It might also seem that there is nothing about which you can litigate when it comes to HAMP and HARP modifications. The big seminar promoters are offering a gaggle of of short and long seminars on these subjects, indicating that they recognize that litigation and title snarls are getting traction across the country and they admit that the future litigation will include clearing title and litigating over HAMP modifications.

The principal problem that homeowners and their lawyers are missing is that the duty to consider the modification does not require the the acceptance of a homeowner for modification. Some servicers are getting more lenient than others, including, from what I hear, Ocwen. But the litigation that is being filed and which the pretender lenders are losing is on the precise question of whether the actual creditor was given notice of the offer of modification and whether the servicer did anything to apply any formula to the the almost inevitable denial of modification.

What we have started doing at my firm is (a) supplying the required material, return receipt requested, together with (b) a specific offer of modification on which an expert (real estate broker, mortgage broker or other professional in the real estate industry) gives an opinion that is worded something like the auditors do when they complete an audit, to wit:

“Based upon industry standards and conditions, the enclosed offer of modification reflects actual current conditions in the relevant real estate market and provides the creditor with two benefits that are not present in the event of foreclosure. The first is that the question of the perfection of the mortgage lien and enforcement of the lien is completely resolved, thus clearing title and the second, is that the net proceeds from the enclosed proposal for modification results in a far higher benefit to the actual creditor than the proceeds from foreclosure, which is a fraction of the offer. There is no known criteria in the industry under which this proposal would be rejected under normal circumstances unless the parties rejecting the modification had some risk of loss unrelated to the loan itself.”

When the denial comes back, you have a basis for alleging that they are lying to the court, that the modification was never considered, that inappropriate criteria was used to guarantee denial and that the creditor was never notified. The anecdotal reports I am receiving strongly suggests that this strategy is getting a lot of traction and is resulting in very favorable settlements within hours after the Judge enters an order requiring the servicer and pretender lender to show cause why they should not be ordered to provide a evidence of the “consideration” and the reasons why the proposal or request was denied.

The National Business Institute is offering three seminars that will be the subject of the member teleconferences (become a member of this blog now to get into the discussion: Become a member, for discounts, online teleconferences etc.). I strongly recommend that these short seminars be attended and that you even order the recordings as well.

Go to http://www.nbi-sems.com (livinglies is not paid for this endorsement directly or indirectly). I would suggest ordering the following seminars:

  1. HAMP litigation: breach of contract and related claims, June 21, 2013 2 p.m. to 3:30 p.m.

  2. Resolving complex commercial title defects June 11 2013 11:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

  3. Handling short sales and deed in lieu of foreclosure 2 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. July 11 2013

  4. The Role of MERS in Mortgage Origination and Foreclosure June 3 2013 1PM-2:30PM

Quiet Title Claims Explained

see also https://livinglies.wordpress.com/2013/04/29/hawaii-federal-district-court-applies-rules-of-evidence-bonymellon-us-bank-jp-morgan-chase-failed-to-prove-sale-of-note/
If you are seeking legal representation or other services call our Florida customer service number at 954-495-9867 and for the West coast the number remains 520-405-1688. Customer service for the livinglies store with workbooks, services and analysis remains the same at 520-405-1688. The people who answer the phone are NOT attorneys and NOT permitted to provide any legal advice, but they can guide you toward some of our products and services.
The selection of an attorney is an important decision  and should only be made after you have interviewed licensed attorneys familiar with investment banking, securities, property law, consumer law, mortgages, foreclosures, and collection procedures. This site is dedicated to providing those services directly or indirectly through attorneys seeking guidance or assistance in representing consumers and homeowners. We are available to any lawyer seeking assistance anywhere in the country, U.S. possessions and territories. Neil Garfield is a licensed member of the Florida Bar and is qualified to appear as an expert witness or litigator in in several states including the district of Columbia. The information on this blog is general information and should NEVER be considered to be advice on one specific case. Consultation with a licensed attorney is required in this highly complex field.

Editor’s Analysis: If you are thinking that with all the publicity surrounding the obvious fatal defects in the millions of foreclosures already completed, quiet title should be unnecessary, you are probably right. The fact is that the real world is more complicated and as Elizabeth Warren and several dozen bloggers and journalists have pointed out the average of $300 per homeowner being paid to settle the matter is not just inadequate it is stupid. No amount of money will actually cure the current title corruption on record in all 50 states due to practice of allowing complete strangers to the transaction to self-anoint themselves as creditors, foreclose on property and submit a credit bid at auction when they were not owed any money and there was no credit relationship between the homeowner and the bidder.

Quiet Title is an effective tool but it is not a silver bullet. It is about what is contained in the county records. If someone accidentally (or on purpose) records a lien against your property and they refuse to retract it, then you are forced to file an action with the Court that says I own the property and my title is clouded by documents that were recorded as liens against my title.

Those liens are not lawful, and they should be declared null and void or at a minimum the court should issue a declaratory statement based upon facts of the case that sets forth the stakeholders in the property and the nature of their claim.

In order to claim the latter, you would need to state that while the lien is unlawful, the party named on the lien, or the party claiming to hold the right to the lien, refuses to cooperate with clearing title or to explain the nature of their claim. Thus the homeowner is left with a lien which is unlawful and a claimant who insists that it is lawful. The homeowner is in doubt as to his rights and therefore asks the Court to quiet title or declare the rights of the parties.

In filing quiet title claims the mistake most often made is that it is being used defensively instead of offensively. The complaint that fails merely attacks the right of some pretender lender to foreclose. That is not a quiet title action. That is a denial of the debt, note, mortgage, default, notice etc.

And the Courts regularly and correctly dismiss such claims as quiet title claims. You can’t quiet tile because someone does not have a right to foreclose. You can only quiet title if you can assert and prove to the Court that the items on record do not apply to you or  your property and therefore should be removed.

AND you can’t get through a motion to dismiss a declaratory action if you don’t state that you are in doubt and give cogent reasons why you are in doubt. If you state that the other side has no right to do anything and end it there, you are using quiet title defensively rather than offensively in a declaratory action.

Stating that the pretender lender has no right to foreclose is not grounds for a declaratory action either. If you make a short plain statement of FACTS (not conclusions of law) upon which the relief sought could be granted you survive a motion to dismiss. If you only state the conclusions of law, you lose the motion to dismiss.

In such a declaratory action you must state that you have doubts because the pretender lender has taken the position and issued statements, letters or demands indicating they are the owner of the lien but you have evidence from expert analyses from title and securitization experts that they are not the owner of the line and they never were.

Remember in securitized transactions you would need to name the original named payee on the note and the secured party(ies) and state that they never should have recorded the lien because they did not perform as required by the agreement (i.e., they didn’t loan you money) and/or because they received loss mitigation payments in excess of the amount due. If you want to get more elaborate, you can say that they now claim to have nothing to do with the loan and refuse to apply loss mitigation payments to the loan even though they were received.

The problem in Florida is that such claims may be interpreted by the Clerk as claims relating to land and title which requires the ungodly amount of $1900 in filing fees alone, which I personally think is an unconscionable and unconstitutional denial of access to the court to all except people with a lot of money.

So you might want to go with slander of title seeking money damages or failure to refund over-payments received from sale or mitigation payments relating to your loan. That COULD be the basis of a claim in which the property is already sold at auction, short-sale, or resale. If the pretender lender received the payoff or the property illegally and then fraudulently executed a satisfaction of mortgage even though they were never the lender nor the purchaser of the loan, then you, as the owner of the property are probably entitled to that money plus interest and probably attorney fees.

PRACTICE NOTE: Strategically it seems like it is tough going if you attack the title under correct but unpalatable causes of action (i.e. actions that the judicial system already has decided they don’t like the outcome — a free house to the homeowner). So the other way of skinning the cat is to file actions for damages and that I think is the future of mortgage litigation. The basic action is simple breach of contract (the agreement to enter into the loan transaction and/or the note).

Filing suit for damages AFTER the sale gives you playing field without moving goal posts and allows fairly simple straightforward causes of action which many attorneys will soon realize they can take strictly on contingency or mostly on contingency. The net result may well be either the tender of money and/or the tender of the property back to the homeowner or former homeowner in lieu of payment for damages.It also opens the door to the possibility of punitive, treble, or exemplary damages or some combination of those.

At my firm we are looking hard at closings where the pretender lender took the money and ran on a short-sale or resale. It is clear-cut. They either had a right to the money or they didn’t. IF they didn’t have the right to execute the satisfaction of mortgage or if they fraudulently diverted the money to their own benefit in lieu of the creditor from whom they did receive authority, then you still have a right to refund of the money that unjustly enriched the pretender lender.  The money goes to the former owner/seller and to nobody else. If there is a claimant that wishes to step forward to attack the award, then we will deal with it, but based upon my information such claims will not be made.

More News:

Error Claims Cast Doubt on Bank of America Foreclosures in Bay Area
http://www.nbcbayarea.com/investigations/series/mortgage-mess/Error-Claims-Cast-Doubt-on-Bank-of-America-Foreclosures-in-Bay-Area-204764581.html

Number of homes entering foreclosure plunges in California
http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-foreclosure-report-20130424,0,6017958.story

Politics: While Wronged Homeowners Got $300 Apiece in Foreclosure Settlement, Consultants Who Helped Protect Banks Got $2 Billion
http://m.rollingstone.com/?seenSplash=1&redirurl=/politics/blogs/taibblog/while-wronged-homeowners-got-300-apiece-in-foreclosure-settlement-consultants-who-helped-protect-banks-got-2-billion-20130426

Minnesota Supreme Court Affirms That Foreclosing Parties Must Record Mortgage Assignments Prior To Initiating Foreclosure By Advertisement
http://www.jdsupra.com/legalnews/minnesota-supreme-court-affirms-that-for-50369/

Presenting: The Housing Bubble 2.0
http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2013-04-29/presenting-housing-bubble-20

 

FDCPA Strikes Again: West Virginia Slams Wells Fargo

YARNEY v. OCWEN LOAN SERVICING, LLC, Dist. Court, WD Virginia 2013

SARAH C. YARNEY, Plaintiff,

v.

OCWEN LOAN SERVICING, LLC, ET AL., Defendants.

No. 3:12-cv-00014. United States District Court, W.D. Virginia, Charlottesville Division.

March 8, 2013

MEMORANDUM OPINION

NORMAN K. MOON, District Judge.

The Plaintiff Sarah C. Yarney (“Plaintiff”), pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 56, seeks summary judgment as to liability on all claims asserted in her complaint. Plaintiff alleges that Defendants Wells Fargo Bank N.A., as Trustee for SABR 2008-1 Trust (“Wells Fargo”), and its loan servicer, Ocwen Loan Servicing, LCC (“Ocwen”), attempted to collect on her home mortgage loan after she had settled the debt with Wells Fargo.

III. DISCUSSION

A. Plaintiff’s FDCPA Claims as a Matter of Law

In summary, mortgage servicers are considered debt collectors under the FDCPA if they became servicers after the debt they service fell into default. At the time Ocwen became the servicer on Plaintiff’s home loan, the loan was already in default. Therefore, Ocwen is a debt collector seeking to collect an alleged debt for the purposes of FDCPA liability in this case.[4]

1. Defendants’ Liability under 15 U.S.C. § 1692e(2)(A)

Given the contents of the monthly bills and notices sent to Plaintiff directly, along with the continued calls she received from collection agents, I find that the least sophisticated consumer in Plaintiff’s position could believe that she still owed a debt. Thus, Plaintiff is entitled to summary judgment on her count that Ocwen violated § 1692e(2)(A) of the FDCPA.
2. Defendants’ Liability under 15 U.S.C. § 1692c(a)(2)

Because Plaintiff continued to directly receive bills, statements and phone calls from Ocwen representatives seeking to collect on an alleged debt obligation, despite notice that she was represented by counsel, Plaintiff is entitled to summary judgment that Ocwen violated section 1692c(a)(2).

B. Plaintiff’s Breach of Contract Claim as a Matter of Law

Plaintiff contends that Wells Fargo breached its agreement with Plaintiff, through the action of its agent, Ocwen ….
plaintiff contends, Wells Fargo failed to comply with its obligations, due to the actions of Ocwen, its servicer.
By attempting to collect payments from Plaintiff on behalf of Wells Fargo, Ocwen acted as Wells Fargo’s agent with respect to the original mortgage loan.[10] Further, the undisputed facts in this case demonstrate that Ocwen continued to behave in all respects towards Plaintiff as Wells Fargo’s agent after the March 18, 2011 settlement agreement.[11] While a party may delegate the performance of its duties under a contract, it retains the ultimate obligation to perform….
[11] While Defendants argued during the February 25, 2013 motion hearing that Wells Fargo shouldn’t be held liable for Ocwen’s conduct from now until eternity, Ocwen’s actions at the center of this case constituted collection efforts in connection with the same mortgage loan debt for which Ocwen had been assigned to service, and that Plaintiff and Wells Fargo had attempted to resolve under the March 18, 2011 settlement agreement. Thus, given the facts of this case, Ocwen continued to act as Wells Fargo’s agent with respect to Plaintiff following the settlement agreement.
Due to Ocwen’s subsequent attempts to collect mortgage loan payments from Plaintiff, Wells Fargo neither absolved Plaintiff of her possible deficiency nor properly accepted the deed in lieu of foreclosure.
. . .
“… and thus, due to the actions of its servicer, Plaintiff is entitled to summary judgment that Wells Fargo breached the March 18, 2011 contract agreement.
IV. CONCLUSION

For the foregoing reasons, Plaintiff’s motion for partial summary judgment is granted. This case is scheduled for a jury trial on April 9, 2013, at 9:30 a.m. in Charlottesville, VA, at which time Plaintiff will have the opportunity to testify in regards to any damages she may be entitled to in this matter.[12] An appropriate order accompanies this memorandum opinion

 

W VA Court Says Directions to Stop Making Payments and Refusing to Apply Payments is Breach of Contract

BANK OF AMERICA TAKES ANOTHER HIT:
BANKS MISLEAD BORROWERS WHEN THEY INSTRUCT THEM TO STOP MAKING PAYMENTS AND REFUSE PAYMENTS
If you are seeking legal representation or other services call our Florida customer service number at 954-495-9867 and for the West coast the number remains 520-405-1688. Customer service for the livinglies store with workbooks, services and analysis remains the same at 520-405-1688. The people who answer the phone are NOT attorneys and NOT permitted to provide any legal advice, but they can guide you toward some of our products and services.
The selection of an attorney is an important decision  and should only be made after you have interviewed licensed attorneys familiar with investment banking, securities, property law, consumer law, mortgages, foreclosures, and collection procedures. This site is dedicated to providing those services directly or indirectly through attorneys seeking guidance or assistance in representing consumers and homeowners. We are available to any lawyer seeking assistance anywhere in the country, U.S. possessions and territories. Neil Garfield is a licensed member of the Florida Bar and is qualified to appear as an expert witness or litigator in in several states including the district of Columbia. The information on this blog is general information and should NEVER be considered to be advice on one specific case. Consultation with a licensed attorney is required in this highly complex field.

Editor’s Note: We’ve all heard it a million times. “The bank told me to stop making payments in order to get modification or other relief.” It was a blatant lie and it was intended to get the borrower in so deep they couldn’t get out, leading inevitably to foreclosure.

Why would the “bank” want foreclosure? Because they took far more money from investors than they used to fund loans. If the deal fails and dissolves into foreclosure the investors are less likely to probe deeply into the transaction to find out what really happened. The fact is that the banks were all skimming off the top taking as much as 50% f the money from investors and sticking it in their own pockets, using it to gamble and keeping the proceeds of gambling.

If the banks really went the usual route of workouts, deed in lieu, modifications and other relief to borrowers, there would be an accounting night mare for them as eventually the auditing the firms would pick up on the fact that the investment banks were taking far more money than was actually intended to be used for investing in mortgages.

They covered it up by creating the illusion of a mortgage closing in which the named payee on the note and security instrument were neither lenders nor creditors and eventually they assigned the loan to a REMIC trust that had neither received the loan nor paid for it.

In this case the Court takes the bank to task for both lying to the borrower about how much better off they would be if they stopped making payments, thus creating a default or exacerbating it, and the refusal of the bank to accept payments from the borrower. It is a simple breach of contract action and the Court finds that there is merit to the claim, allowing the borrower to prove their case in court.

Another way of looking at this is that if everyone had paid off their mortgages in full, there would still be around $3 trillion owed to the investors representing the tier 2 yield spread premium that the banks skimmed off the top plus the unconscionable fees and costs charged to the accounts.  Where did that money go? See the previous post

This well-reasoned well written opinion discusses the case in depth and represents a treasure trove of potential causes of action and credibility to borrowers’ defenses to foreclosure claims.

 

2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 35320, * MOTION TO DISMISS DENIED

JASON RANSON, Plaintiff, v. BANK OF AMERICA, N.A., Defendant.
CIVIL ACTION NO. 3:12-5616
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF WEST VIRGINIA, HUNTINGTON DIVISION
2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 35320

March 14, 2013, Decided
March 14, 2013, Filed 

CORE TERMS:modification, foreclosure, borrower, citations omitted, mitigation, misrepresentation, servicer, consumer, lender, cause of action, contractual, guaranteed, mortgage, estoppel, contract claim, default, special relationship, reinstatement, collection, quotation, breached, notice, factual allegations, breach of contract, force and effect, indebtedness, thereunder, foreclose, veteran’s, manual

COUNSEL: [*1] For Jason Ranson, Plaintiff: Daniel F. Hedges 1, Jennifer S. Wagner, LEAD ATTORNEYS, MOUNTAIN STATE JUSTICE, INC., Charleston, WV.

For Bank of America, N.A., Defendant: Carrie Goodwin Fenwick, Victoria L. Wilson, LEAD ATTORNEYS, GOODWIN & GOODWIN, Charleston, WV.

JUDGES: ROBERT C. CHAMBERS, CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

OPINION BY: ROBERT C. CHAMBERS

OPINION

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Pending before the Court is a Motion to Dismiss by Defendant Bank of America, N.A. (BANA). ECF No. 4. Plaintiff Jason Ranson opposes the motion. For the following reasons, the Court DENIES, in part, and GRANTS, in part, Defendant’s motion.

I.

FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

On September 19, 2012, Defendant removed this action from the Circuit Court of Putnam County based upon diversity of jurisdiction. See 28 U.S.C. §§ 1332 and 1441. In his Complaint, Plaintiff asserts that he took out a mortgagewith Countrywide Home Loans, Inc. to purchase a house in 2007. The loan was originated pursuant to the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Home Loan Guaranty Program. Plaintiff alleges the loan “contained a contractual guarantee by the . . . (VA), which requires—as incorporated into the contract—that Defendant comply with regulations and [*2] laws governing VA guaranteed loans, including those regulations governing Defendant’s actions in the event of the borrower’s default” as he was, and continues to be, on active duty with the United States Army. Compl. at ¶5, in part. Defendant is the current servicer and holder of the loan.

In 2009, Plaintiff became two months behind on the loan. Plaintiff asserts that Defendant informed him he was eligible for a loan modification and requested he submit certain documentation to have the modification finalized. Plaintiff claims that Defendant also told him to stop making any payments as they would interfere with the finalization process. Plaintiff states he had the means to make the two delinquent payments at that time or he could have sought refinancing or taken other actions to save his house and credit. However, he relied upon Defendant’s statements and stopped making payments, pending its assurance that he was eligible for a modification. In fact, Plaintiff states that Defendant returned his last payment without applying it to his account.

Over the next several months, Plaintiff asserts he repeatedly submitted the documentation requested by Defendant for the modification process. [*3] Plaintiff also contacted Defendant on a weekly basis for updates. Plaintiff claims he was assured by Defendant it would not foreclose, and Defendant discouraged him from calling by stating it would delay finalization of the modification. Approximately eight months after the process began, Plaintiff contends that Defendant informed him the loan would not be modified because VA loans do not qualify for assistance. According to Plaintiff, Defendant nevertheless requested that he submit documentation for another modification. Plaintiff states he complied with the request but, approximately six months later, Defendant again told him the modification was denied because he had a VA loan. Defendant further told him he should vacate the property because it was going to foreclose. Plaintiff asserts he asked Defendant if he could short sell the house, but Defendant said no and stated the only way he could save his house would be by full reinstatement. As fourteen months had passed since he was told to stop making payments, Plaintiff states that he could not afford to pay the full amount owed.

As a result of these alleged activities, Plaintiff filed this action, alleging five counts of action. [*4] Count I is for breach of contract, Count II is for negligence, Count III is for fraud, Count IV is for estoppel, and Count V is for illegal debt collection. Defendant now moves to dismiss each of the counts.

II.

STANDARD OF REVIEW

In Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544 (2007), the United States Supreme Court disavowed the “no set of facts” language found in Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41 (1957), which was long used to evaluate complaints subject to 12(b)(6) motions. 550 U.S. at 563. In its place, courts must now look for “plausibility” in the complaint. This standard requires a plaintiff to set forth the “grounds” for an “entitle[ment] to relief” that is more than mere “labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.” Id. at 555(internal quotation marks and citations omitted). Accepting the factual allegations in the complaint as true (even when doubtful), the allegations “must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level . . . .” Id. (citations omitted). If the allegations in the complaint, assuming their truth, do “not raise a claim of entitlement to relief, this basic deficiency should . . .be exposed [*5] at the point of minimum expenditure of time and money by the parties and the court.” Id. at 558 (internal quotation marks and citations omitted).

In Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662 (2009), the Supreme Court explained the requirements of Rule 8 and the “plausibility standard” in more detail. In Iqbal, the Supreme Court reiterated that Rule 8 does not demand “detailed factual allegations[.]” 556 U.S. at 678(internal quotation marks and citations omitted). However, a mere “unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-

harmed-me accusation” is insufficient. Id. “To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'” Id. (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570). Facial plausibility exists when a claim contains “factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Id. (citation omitted). The Supreme Court continued by explaining that, although factual allegations in a complaint must be accepted as true for purposes of a motion to dismiss, this tenet does not apply to legal conclusions. Id. “Threadbare recitals of the elements [*6] of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice.” Id. (citation omitted). Whether a plausible claim is stated in a complaint requires a court to conduct a context-specific analysis, drawing upon the court’s own judicial experience and common sense. Id. at 679. If the court finds from its analysis that “the well-pleaded facts do not permit the court to infer more than the mere possibility of misconduct, the complaint has alleged-but it has not ‘show[n]’-‘that the pleader is entitled to relief.'” Id. (quoting, in part, Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2)). The Supreme Court further articulated that “a court considering a motion to dismiss can choose to begin by identifying pleadings that, because they are no more than conclusions, are not entitled to the assumption of truth. While legal conclusions can provide the framework of a complaint, they must be supported by factual allegations.” Id.

III.

DISCUSSION

A.

Breach of Contract

In Count I, Plaintiff alleges that the Deed of Trust and the VA Guaranteed Loan and Assumption Policy Rider provide that “Defendant’s rights upon the borrower’s default are limited by Title 38 of the United States Code and any regulations issued thereunder.” [*7] Compl., at ¶22. According to Plaintiff, the contract also provides that Defendant must apply all payments to his account. Plaintiff asserts Defendant breached the contract by (1) discouraging him from making payments, (2) returning his payments, (3) allowing the accumulation of arrears until it was impossible for him to reinstate the loan, (4) initiating foreclosure and failing to grant a modification after assuring him it would be granted, and (5) “failing to comply with VA regulations and guidance requiring, inter alia, that the Defendants [sic] consider Plaintiff for a variety [of] loss mitigation options, and provide notice of such rejection(s) in writing, prior to foreclosure.” Id. at ¶24(d).

To avoid dismissal of a breach of contract claim under Rule 12(b)(6), West Virginia law requires: “the existence of a valid, enforceable contract; that the plaintiff has performed under the contract; that the defendant has breached or violated its duties or obligations under the contract; and that the plaintiff has been injured as a result.” Executive Risk Indem., Inc. v. Charleston Area Med. Ctr., Inc., 681 F. Supp.2d 694, 714 (S.D. W. Va. 2009) (citations omitted). For a claim of breach [*8] of contract to be sufficient, “a plaintiff must allege in his complaint ‘the breach on which the plaintiffs found their action . . . [and] the facts and circumstances which entitle them to damages.'” Id. In this case, Defendant argues Plaintiff has failed to sufficiently allege a breach of contract because he has not specified what specific VA regulations purportedly were violated and, in any event, the regulations only require the foreclosure be conducted in accordance to West Virginia law. As Defendant maintains it complied with the West Virginia law, Defendant asserts it has not breached the contract.

Plaintiff does not dispute that neither the contracts nor West Virginia law require a loan modification. However, Plaintiff argues that the VA has promulgated regulations to limit foreclosures of loans it has guaranteed and Defendant did not comply with those requirements. Plaintiff quotes from the VA Guaranteed Loan and Assumption Policy Rider, which provides, in part:

If the indebtedness secured hereby be guaranteed or insured under Title 38, United States Code, such Title and Regulations issued thereunder and in effect on the date hereof shall govern the rights, duties and liabilities [*9] of Borrower and Lender. Any provisions of the Security Instrument or other instruments executed in connection with said indebtedness which are inconsistent with said Title or Regulations, including, but not limited to, the provision for payment of any sum in connection with prepayment of the secured indebtedness and the provision that the Lender may accelerate payment of the secured indebtedness pursuant to Covenant 18 of the Security Instrument, are hereby amended or negated to the extent necessary to confirm such instruments to said Title or Regulations.

VA Guar. Loan and Assumption Policy Rider, at 2, ECF No. 4-1, at 15. Specifically, Plaintiff cites 38 U.S.C. § 36.4350(f), (g), and (h), which requires, inter alia, Defendant to send Plaintiff a letter outlining his loss mitigation options after he fell behind on his payments and, under certain circumstances, have a face-to-face meeting with Plaintiff. Likewise, 38 C.F.R. § 36.4319 provides incentives to servicers to engage in loss mitigation options in lieu of foreclosure, and 38 C.F.R. § 36.4315expressly allows a loan modification under certain circumstances if it is in veteran’s and the Government’s best interest. Plaintiff also [*10] cites a Servicer Guide for VA guaranteed loans, which contains similar loss mitigation considerations. 1 Plaintiff states that all these requirements are incorporated into the contract, and Defendant violated the contract by stating he could not receive a loan modification because he had a VA loan; by telling him to stop making payments rather than placing him on a repayment plan; by not timely evaluating the loan and considering him for loss mitigation and, instead, placing him in foreclosure; and by refusing to allow Plaintiff to apply for a compromise sale because Defendant had started foreclosure. Moreover, Plaintiff asserts Defendant violated his right to reinstate and failed to exercise its discretion in good faith by refusing his payment; telling him to stop making payments; informing he was qualified for loan modification, and then denying the modification; providing him conflicting, inconsistent, and inaccurate information about his account; refusing to consider a short sale; and never providing him a written explanation of why loss mitigation was denied.

FOOTNOTES

1 U.S. Dept. of Veterans Affairs, VA Servicer Guide 6 (July 2009), available at http:www.benefits.va.gov/homeloans/docs/va_servicer_guide.pdf.

Defendant [*11] responds by asserting that the VA regulations and the handbook are permissive in nature, not mandatory, and the VA Servicer Guide is not binding. See VA Servicer Guide, at 4 (“This manual does not change or supersede any regulation or law affecting the VA Home Loan Program. If there appears to be a discrepancy, please refer to the related regulation or law.”); see also 38 C.F.R. § 36.4315(c)(stating “[t]his section does not create a right of a borrower to have a loan modified, but simply authorizes the loan holder to modify a loan in certain situations without the prior approval of the Secretary” 38 U.S.C. § 36.4315(c)). Thus, Defendant argues they establish no affirmative duty for it to act. In support of its position, Defendant cites several older cases which held certain regulations issued by the VA and other governmental agencies do not have the force and effect of law. 2

FOOTNOTES

2 See First Family Mortg. Corp. of Fl. v. Earnest, 851 F.2d 843, 844-45 (6th Cir. 1988)(finding that mortgagors could not state a cause of action based on VA publications against the VA for allegedly failing to monitor lender servicing of VA-backed loans); Bright v. Nimmo, 756 F.2d 1513, 1516 (11th Cir. 1985) [*12] (rejecting the plaintiff’s argument that he has an implied cause of action against the VA or lender based upon the VA’s manual and guidelines); United States v. Harvey, 659 F.2d 62, 65 (5th Cir. 1981)(finding that the VA manual did not have the force and effect of law by itself and it was not incorporated into the promissory notes or deeds to support a contract claim); Gatter v. Cleland, 512 F. Supp. 207, 212 (E.D. Pa. 1981)(holding “that the decision to implement a formal refunding program is one that squarely falls within the committed to agency discretion exception [of the VA] and is not subject to judicial review” (footnote omitted)); and Pueblo Neighborhood Health Ctrs., Inc. v. U.S. Dep’t of Health and Human Serv., 720 F.2d 622, 625 (10th Cir. 1983)(finding a pamphlet issued by the Department of Health and Human Services, referred to as a Grant Application Manual, was not the product of formal rule-making and did not have the force and effect of law).

However, upon review of those cases, the Court finds that they generally involve situations in which the plaintiffs were attempting to assert a cause of action based upon the regulation itself, rather than as a breach of contract [*13] claim. An action based on a contract involves a much different legal theory than one based solely on enforcement of a regulation apart from a contractual duty. Indeed, Plaintiff cites a number of comparable mortgagecases in which courts permitted homeowners to pursue claims against lenders based upon regulations issued by the Federal Housing Authority (FHA) where it was alleged that the parties contractually agreed to comply with those regulations. As explained by the Court in Mullins v. GMAC Mortg., LLC, No. 1:09-cv-00704, 2011 WL 1298777, **2-3 (S.D. W. Va. Mar. 31, 2011), plaintiffs, who allege a straightforward breach of contact claim, “are not, as defendants would have the court believe, suing to enforce HUD regulations under some vague and likely non-existent cause of action allowing a member of the public to take upon himself the role of regulatory enforcer. These two theories of recovery are distinct and unrelated,” and the Court held the plaintiffs could proceed on their express breach of contract claim. 2011 WL 1298777, *3. 3Upon review, this Court is persuaded that the same reasoning controls here. Therefore, the Court will not dismiss Plaintiff’s contract claim based [*14] upon Defendant’s argument that the regulations and handbook do not have full force and effect of law because Plaintiff has alleged the contract incorporates the limitations set by the regulations. See Compl., at ¶22 (“The contract provides that Defendant’s rights upon the borrower’s default are limited by Title 38 of the United States Code and any regulations issued thereunder.”).

FOOTNOTES

3 See also Kersey v. PHH Mortg. Corp., 682 F. Supp.2d 588, 596-97 (E.D. Va. 2010), vacated on other grounds, 2010 WL 3222262 (E.D. Va. Aug. 13, 2010) (finding, in part, that the plaintiff sufficiently alleged a claim that the defendant breached an FHA regulation which was incorporated in a Deed of Trust); Sinclair v. Donovan, Nos. 1:11-CV-00010, 1:11-CV-00079, 2011 WL 5326093, *8 (S.D. Ohio Nov. 4, 2011) (“find[ing] that the HUD-FHA regulations concerning loss mitigation are enforceable terms of the mortgagecontract between the parties and that Plaintiffs cannot be denied the benefit of these provisions by virtue of the fact of simple default”); and Baker v. Countrywide Home Loans, Inc., 3:08-CV-0916-B, 2009 WL 1810336, **5-6 (N.D. Tex. June 24, 2009) (stating that a “failure to comply with the [HUD] regulations [*15] made part of the parties’ agreement may give rise to liability on a contact theory because the parties incorporated the terms into their contact”).

Defendant further argues, however, that some of the regulations cited by Plaintiff are irrelevant to this case because, for instance, a face-to-face meeting with a borrower is required only under certain circumstances which do not exist in this case. See 38 C.F.R. § 36.4350(g)(iii). In addition, Defendant asserts that, in any event, it did not breach the contract because it had no duty to engage in loss mitigation and it otherwise complied with the contract’s terms. The Court finds, however, that whether or not Defendant violated any of the terms of the contract is a matter best resolved after discovery. Therefore, at this point, the Court finds that Plaintiff has sufficiently alleged a breach of contract claim and, accordingly, DENIES Defendant’s motion to dismiss the claim. 4

FOOTNOTES

4Plaintiff obviously disagrees with Defendant’s argument and filed a “Notice of Additional Authority” disputing Defendant’s position that the VA regulations require holders to evaluate borrowers for loss mitigation. Plaintiff cites the Veterans Benefits Administration, [*16] Revised VA Making Home Affordable Program, Circular 26-10-6 (May 24, 2010), which states, in part: “Before considering HAMP-style modifications, servicers must first evaluate defaulted mortgages for traditional loss mitigation actions cited in Title 38, Code of Federal Regulations, section 36.4819 (38 CFR § 36.4819); i.e., repayment plans, special forbearances, and traditional loan modifications. . . . If none of the traditional home retention loss mitigation options provide an affordable payment, the servicer must evaluate the loan for a HAMP-style modification prior to deciding that the default is insoluble and exploring alternatives to foreclosure.” (Available at http://www.benefits.va.gov/HOMELOANS/circulars/26_10_6.pdf).

B.

Negligence and Fraud

Defendant next argues that Plaintiff’s claim for negligence and fraud in Counts II and III, respectively, are duplicative of his illegal debt collection claim in Count V under the West Virginia Consumer Credit Protection Act (WVCCPA) and cannot survive because Plaintiff fails to allege Defendant owed him a special duty beyond the normal borrower-servicer relationship. Therefore, Defendant asserts Counts II and III should be dismissed.

In Bailey [*17] v. Branch Banking & Trust Co., Civ. Act. No. 3:10-0969, 2011 WL 2517253 (S.D. W. Va. June 23, 2011), this Court held that the West Virginia Supreme Court in Casillas v. Tuscarora Land Co., 412 S.E.2d 792 (W. Va. 1991), made it clear a plaintiff can pursue claims under the WVCCPA and common law at the same time. 2011 WL 2517253, *3. The Court reasoned that “[i]t would be contrary to both the legislative intent of the WVCCPA and the whole crux of Casillas if the Court were to preclude consumers from bringing actions for violations of the WVCCPA and common law merely because the claims are based upon similar facts.” Id. The Court found that “[n]either the WVCCPA nor Casillasmakes a consumer choose between the two options. A consumer clearly can choose to pursue both avenues provided “separate” claims are set forth in a complaint.” Id.

However, under West Virginia law, a plaintiff “cannot maintain an action in tort for an alleged breach of a contractual duty.” Lockhart v. Airco Heating & Cooling, 567 S.E.2d 619, 624 (W. Va. 2002)(footnote omitted). Rather, “[t]ort liability of the parties to a contract arises from the breach of some positive legal duty imposed by law because of the relationship [*18] of the parties, rather than a mere omission to perform a contract obligation.” Id. (emphasis added). Whether a “special relationship” exists between the parties beyond their contractual obligations is “determined largely by the extent to which the particular plaintiff is affected differently from society in general.” Aikens v. Debow, 541 S.E.2d 576, 589 (W. Va. 2000). “In the lender-borrower context, courts consider whether the lender has created such a ‘special relationship’ by performing services not normally provided by lender to a borrower.” Warden v. PHH Mortgage Corp., No. 3:10-cv-00075, 2010 WL 3720128, at *9 (N.D. W. Va. Sept. 16. 2010 (citing Glascock v. City Nat’l Bank of W. Va., 576 S.E.2d 540, 545-56 (W. Va. 2002) (other citation omitted)).

Here, Plaintiff’s negligence claim is quite simple. He alleges that, where “Defendant engaged in significant communications and activities with Plaintiff[] and the loan, Defendant owed a duty to Plaintiff to provide him with accurate information about his loan account and its obligations and rights thereunder.” Compl., at ¶27. Next, Plaintiff asserts “Defendant[] breached that duty by instructing Plaintiff not to make payments, advising [*19] Plaintiff that he would receive a loan modification, and then instead allowing arrears to accrue for months and ultimately denying Plaintiff[] assistance and pursuing foreclosure.” Id. at ¶28. Upon review of these allegations, the Court finds Plaintiff has failed to allege any positive legal duty beyond Defendant’s purported contractual obligations. There is nothing about these allegations that creates a “special relationship” between the parties. Indeed, a duty to provide accurate loan information is a normal service in a lender-borrower relationship.

In support of their claim Plaintiff relies, inter alia, on Glasock v. City National Bank of West Virginia, 576 S.E.540 (W. Va. 2002), where the West Virginia Supreme Court found that a special relationship existed between a lender and the borrowers. In Glascock, the bank maintained oversight and was significantly involved in the construction of the borrowers’ house. The bank possessed information that there were substantial problems with the house, but it failed to reveal those problems to the borrowers. 576 S.E.2d at 545. The West Virginia Supreme Court found that the bank’s significant involvement in the construction created a special [*20] relationship between the parties which carried “with it a duty to disclose any information that would be critical to the integrity of the construction project.” Id. at 546 (footnote omitted).

To the contrary, Plaintiff’s negligence claim in this case rests merely on the fact Defendant had a duty to provide him accurate information about the loan and failed to do so. Plaintiff has failed to sufficiently allege any facts which support a special relationship between the parties as existed in Glascock. Therefore, the Court GRANTS Defendant’s motion to dismiss Plaintiff’s negligence claim in Count II.

Turning next to Plaintiff’s fraud claim, Defendant argues the claim must be dismissed because it fails to meet the heightened pleading standard found in Rule 9(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Rule 9(b)provides that, “[i]n alleging fraud or mistake, a party must state with particularity the circumstances constituting fraud or mistake. Malice, intent, knowledge, and other conditions of a person’s mind may be alleged generally.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 9(b). Under this heightened pleading standard, a plaintiff is required to “at a minimum, describe the time, place, and contents of the false [*21] representations, as well as the identity of the person making the misrepresentation and what he obtained thereby.” U.S. ex rel. Wilson v. Kellogg Brown & Root, Inc., 525 F.3d 370, 379 (4th Cir. 2008) (quoting Harrison v. Westinghouse Savannah River Co., 176 F.3d 776, 784 (4th Cir. 1999))(internal quotation marks omitted). In other words, the plaintiffs must describe the “‘who, what, when, where, and how’ of the alleged fraud.” Id. (quoting U.S. ex rel. Willard v. Humana Health Plan of Texas Inc., 336 F.3d 375, 384 (5th Cir. 2003) (other citation omitted)).

In his Complaint, Plaintiff alleges that he had trouble making his mortgage payments around 2009. Compl, at ¶6. When he was approximately two months behind on his payments, Defendant informed him that he qualified for a loan modification, but he needed to complete the necessary paperwork to have it finalized. Id. at ¶7(a). “At this time,” Defendant also informed Plaintiff not to make any more payments until the modification was finalized. Id. at ¶7(b). About eight months later, Defendant told Plaintiff that he did not qualify for a modification, but Defendant instructed him to submit documentation for another modification. Id. at [*22] ¶13. After approximately six more months passed, Plaintiff was notified again that he was being denied assistance. Id. at ¶14. Plaintiff further alleges that, before May of 2012, Defendant never gave him “a written decision on his loan modification applications or any explanation for why he had denied him for assistance, other than its statements by telephone that he did not qualify for assistance because he had a VA loan.” Id. at ¶18.

In addition to these alleged facts, Plaintiff specifically states in his cause of action for fraud that “[i]n or around 2009,” Defendant told him to stop making payments and it would modify his loan rather than pursue foreclosure. Id. at ¶31. Plaintiff asserts these “representations were false and material,” and they were made knowingly, recklessly, and/or intentionally. Id. at ¶¶32-33. Plaintiff further claims he detrimentally relied upon these misrepresentations by stopping his payments and not attempting reinstatement, after which Defendant sought foreclosure. Id. at ¶¶34-35.

In considering these allegations, the Court is mindful of the fact it should be hesitant “to dismiss a complaint under Rule 9(b) if the court is satisfied (1) that the defendant [*23] has been made aware of the particular circumstances for which she will have to prepare a defense at trial, and (2) that plaintiff has substantial prediscovery evidence of those facts.” Harrison v. Westinghouse Savannah River Co., 176 F.3d 776, 784 (4th Cir. 1999). Here, the Court finds that Plaintiff adequately alerts Defendant as to “the time, place, and contents of the false representation[.]” U.S. ex rel. Wilson, 525 F.3d at 379(internal quotation marks and citation omitted). Plaintiff clearly alleges the fraudulent activity consisted of Defendant instructing him to stop making payments and assuring him he would receive a loan modification instead of foreclosure. He also asserts the representations were made over the telephone and occurred in 2009, when his payments were two months in arrears, and before Defendant returned his payment. In addition, Plaintiff states that he continued to call Defendant approximately once a week and was assured that it would not proceed with foreclosure. Compl., at ¶12(a), (b), and (c). Given this information, Defendant should be able to prepare its defense based upon the allegations made. In addition, the allegations provide enough information that [*24] Defendant also should be able to identify and review its customer service notes, call logs, account records, and any phone recordings it may have during the specified time period. Thus, the Court DENIES Defendant’s motion to dismiss Plaintiff’s claim for fraud.

C.

Estoppel

Defendant further argues that Plaintiff’s claim in Count IV for estoppel must be dismissed. To maintain a claim for estoppel in West Virginia, a plaintiff must show:

[(1)] a false representation or a concealment of material facts; [(2)] it must have been made with knowledge, actual or constructive of the facts; [(3)] the party to whom it was made must have been without knowledge or the means of knowledge of the real facts; [(4)] it must have been made with the intention that it should be acted on; and [(5)] the party to whom it was made must have relied on or acted on it to his prejudice.

Syl. Pt. 3, Folio v. City of Clarksburg, 655 S.E.2d 143 (W. Va. 2007) (quoting Syl. Pt. 6, Stuart v. Lake Washington Realty Corp., 92 S.E.2d 891 (W. Va. 1956)). Defendant asserts Plaintiff had actual knowledge via correspondence it sent to Plaintiff that he was not guaranteed loan assistance and loan assistance would not impact Defendant’s [*25] right to foreclose. Defendant attached the correspondence to its Motion to Dismiss as Exhibit D. In addition, Defendant argues that Plaintiff admits to missing two payments before the alleged misrepresentations occurred so he cannot state he relied upon those alleged misrepresentations in failing to make his payments.

“[W]hen a defendant attaches a document to its motion to dismiss, ‘a court may consider it in determining whether to dismiss the complaint [if] it was integral to and explicitly relied on in the complaint and [if] the plaintiffs do not challenge its authenticity.’ ” Am. Chiropractic Ass’n v. Trigon Healthcare, Inc., 367 F.3d 212, 234 (4th Cir. 2004) (quoting Phillips v. LCI Int’l, Inc., 190 F.3d 609, 618 (4th Cir. 1999)). In this case, Plaintiff asserts that, “at this point there is no evidence that the letter was actually sent to or received by Plaintiff, nor has Plaintiff had the opportunity to present mailings, call logs, or testimony supporting his claim.” Pl.’s Res. in Opp. to Def.’s Mot. to Dis., ECF No. 7, at 16. 5Therefore, the Court will not consider the letter. Likewise, the Court finds no merit to the argument that Plaintiff’s admission that he was two months [*26] behind on his loan extinguishes his estoppel claim. It is clear from the Complaint that Plaintiff’s claim is that he relied upon the alleged misrepresentations after he was two months delinquent. Accordingly, the Court DENIES Defendant’s motion to dismiss the estoppel claim.

FOOTNOTES

5In addition, the Court notes that the letter appears undated and Defendant sometimes refers to it as a 2009 letter and sometimes as a 2010 letter. At the top right-hand side of the letter, there is a statement providing: “Please complete, sign and return all the enclosed documents by December 5, 2009.” Exhibit D, ECF No. 4-4, at 1.

D.

WVCCPA

Finally, Defendant asserts Plaintiff’s claim under the WVCCPA in Count V must be dismissed because it fails to meet the requirements of Rules 8(a)(2) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Rule 8(a)(2)provides that “[a] pleading that states a claim for relief must contain . . . a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief[.]” Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2). Defendant argues that Plaintiff fails to meet this requirement because he merely pled a legal conclusion that Defendant engaged in illegal debt collection and he does not plead sufficient [*27] factual content to support that conclusion. In addition, Defendant states it had a contractual right to return Plaintiff’s partial payment so returning the payment cannot support a WVCCPA claim.

Plaintiff, however, argues that his claims under the WVCCPA are based on three grounds. First, Plaintiff asserts Defendant used fraudulent, deceptive, or misleading representations to collect the debt or get information about him, in violation of West Virginia Code § 46A-2-127. 6 Second, he claims that Defendant used unfair or unconscionable means to collect the debt, in violation of West Virginia Code § 46A-2-128. 7 Third, Plaintiff contends that Defendant’s refusal to apply payments to his account violated West Virginia Code § 46A-2-115. Plaintiff then argues that the first two claims are sufficiently supported in opposition to a motion to dismiss based upon his allegations that (1) Defendant told him he qualified for loan modification and would receive one if he completed the requested financial information; (2) Defendant told him to stop making payments because it would interfere with the modification process, but in reality it increased the likelihood of foreclosure; (3) Defendant assured [*28] Plaintiff it would not foreclose on his home during the time the loan modification application was being processed; (4) Defendant ultimately represented it could not modify the loan because it was a VA loan; and (5) Defendant would not consider a short sale of the house and, instead, proceeded with foreclosure. Plaintiff argues that each of these misrepresentations made by Defendant were intended to collect financial information about him through the modification process or collect the debt via foreclosure. He also states the delay and improper refusal of payments greatly increased the amount he was in arrears, which allowed Defendant to attempt to collect the debt through foreclosure.

FOOTNOTES

6Section 127 provides, in part: “No debt collector shall use any fraudulent, deceptive or misleading representation or means to collect or attempt to collect claims or to obtain information concerning consumers.” W. Va. Code § 46A-2-127, in part.

7Section 128 states, in part: “No debt collector shall use unfair or unconscionable means to collect or attempt to collect any claim.” W. Va. Code §46A-2-128, in part.

Upon consideration of these allegations, the Court finds they are sufficient to state a claim [*29] under the WVCCPA. As stated by the Honorable Thomas E. Johnston stated in Koontz v. Wells Fargo, N.A., Civ. Act. No. 2:10-cv-00864, 2011 WL 1297519 (S.D. W. Va. Mar. 31, 2011), West Virginia “§ 46A-2-127applies to both ‘misrepresentations made in collecting a debt’ and ‘misrepresentations . . . [made] when obtaining information on a customer.'” 2011 WL 1297519, at *6. Therefore, allegations that a financial institution misrepresented to the borrower that it would reconsider a loan modification and, thereby, obtained additional financial information from the borrower, are sufficient to state a claim. Id. Likewise, the Court finds the allegations are sufficient to state a claim that Defendant used “unfair or unconscionable means to collect or attempt to collect any claim” pursuant to West Virginia Code §46A-2-128, in part. Cf. Wilson v. Draper v. Goldberg, P.L.L.C., 443 F.3d 373, 376 (4th Cir. 2006)(stating “Defendants’ actions surrounding the foreclosure proceeding were attempts to collect that debt” under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (citations omitted)). 8

FOOTNOTES

8 Defendant asserts that a debt collection does not give rise to a claim under the WVCCPA. Citing Spoor v. PHH Mortgage [*30] Corp., Civ. Act. No. 5:10CV42, 2011 WL 883666 (N.D. W. Va. Mar. 11, 2011). The Court has reviewed Spoorand finds that it primarily focused only on the plaintiff’s request for a loan modification with respect to her WVCCPA claims. The district court in Spoor stated that the defendant’s consideration of the request is not an attempt to collect a debt. 2011 WL 883666, at *7. In the present case, however, the allegations Plaintiff argues supports his claim extend beyond a mere “request” for a modification. Moreover, the Court finds that, to the extent Spoor is contrary to the reasoning in Wilson and Koontz, the Court declines to apply it to this case.

With respect to Plaintiff’s third claim that Defendant illegally returned his payment pursuant to West Virginia Code § 46A-2-115(c), this provision states:

All amounts paid to a creditor arising out of any consumer credit sale or consumer loan shall be credited upon receipt against payments due: Provided, That amounts received and applied during a cure period will not result in a duty to provide a new notice of right to cure; and provided further that partial amounts received during the reinstatement period set forth in subsection (b) of this [*31] section do not create an automatic duty to reinstate and may be returned by the creditor. Defaultcharges shall be accounted for separately; those set forth in subsection (b) arising during such a reinstatement period may be added to principal.

W. Va. Code § 46A-2-115(c). Plaintiff argues that § 46A-2-115(b)defines the reinstatement period as the time “beginning with the trustee notice of foreclosure and ending prior to foreclosure sale,” and he made clear it clear in his Complaint that Defendant returned his payment prior to the requesting a trustee notice of the foreclosure sale. See Compl., at ¶¶7 & 10. Defendant responds by stating that it was within its contractual right to refuse the payment. However, West Virginia Code § 46A-1-107makes it clear that, “[e]xcept as otherwise provided in this chapter, a consumer may not waive or agree to forego rights or benefits under this chapter or under article two-a, chapter forty-six of this code.” W. Va. Code 46A-1-107. Therefore, upon review, the Court finds that Plaintiff’s claim is sufficient to survive a motion to dismiss. Thus, for the foregoing reasons, the Court DENIES Defendant’s motion to dismiss Count V for alleged violations [*32] of the WVCCPA.

V.

CONCLUSION

Accordingly, for the foregoing reasons, the Court DENIES Defendant’s Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff’s claims for breach of contract, fraud, estoppel, and violations of the WVCCPA. However, the Court GRANTS Defendant’s Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff’s negligence claim.

The Court DIRECTS the Clerk to send a copy of this Memorandum Opinion and Order to all counsel of record and any unrepresented parties.

ENTER: March 14, 2013

/s/ Robert C. Chambers

ROBERT C. CHAMBERS, CHIEF JUDGE

%d bloggers like this: