December 9, 2013

National Mortgage Settlement Update

By David Reiss

Joseph A. Smith, Jr., the Monitor of the National Mortgage Settlement (NMS), has issued his Second Compliance Report (I blogged about an earlier report here) which has been filed in the District Court for the District of Columbia. According to the Monitor, Ally Financial and Wells Fargo were not in violation of the settlement at all during 2013 and BoA’s and Chase’s deficiencies were not widespread. Citi had a widespread deficiency.

The Monitor’s conclusion echoes his earlier report although his tone is more optimistic than last time:

It is clear to me that the servicers have additional work to do both in their efforts to fully comply with the NMS and to regain their customers’ trust. The Monitor Reports that I have just filed with the Court show, however, that the Settlement is addressing shortcomings in the treatment of distressed borrowers.

CAPs [corrective action plans], including remediation efforts when required, have been implemented or are in process. If the CAPs are not successful, the Monitoring Committee and I will take additional action, as dictated by the Settlement. In addition, we have applied what we have learned to enhance our oversight of the servicers by creating four new metrics to address persistent issues in the marketplace. (16)

The big five banks appear to be improving their compliance with the settlement, which is obviously a good thing. But there is still work to be done to improve loan servicing. The monitor notes the top ten complaints about servicers that were submitted by elected officials on behalf of their constituents:

1 Single point of contact was not provided, was difficult to deal with or was difficult to reach.

2 Single point of contact was non-responsive.

3 Servicer did not take appropriate action to remediate inaccuracies in borrower’s account.

4 Servicer failed to update the borrower’s contact information and/or account balance.

5 Servicer failed to correct errors in the borrower’s account information.

6 The borrower was “dual-tracked.” In other words, the borrower submitted an application for loss mitigation, and although it was in process or pending, the borrower was foreclosed upon.

7 Servicer did not accept payments or incorrectly applied them.

8 Servicer did not follow appropriate loss mitigation procedures.

9 The borrower received requests for financial statements they already provided.

10 The completed first lien modification request was not responded to within 30 days.

Total Executive Office complaints for all servicers: 44,570 (n.p.)

Obviously not every complaint is valid, but these numbers suggest that the settlement is not being fully complied with.

December 9, 2013 | Permalink | No Comments

December 6, 2013

(Non-)Enforcement of Securitized Mortgage Loans

By David Reiss

Professors Neil Cohen and Dale Whitman, two important scholars who know their way around the UCC and mortgage law, will take on a highly contested topic in an upcoming ABA Professors’ Corner webinar: “Ownership, Transfer, and Enforcement of Securitized Mortgage Loans.” I blogged a bit about this topic a couple of days ago, in relation to Adam Levitin’s new article. There is a lot of misinformation floating around the blogosphere relating to this topic, so I encourage readers to register.

The full information on this program is as follows:

Professors’ Corner is a FREE monthly webinar, sponsored by the ABA Real Property, Trust and Estate Law Section’s Legal Education and Uniform Law Group.  On the second Wednesday of each month, a panel of law professors discusses recent cases or issues of interest to real estate practitioners and scholars.

December 2013 Professors’ Corner
“Ownership, Transfer, and Enforcement of Securitized Mortgage Loans”
Profs. Neil Cohen and Dale Whitman
Wednesday, December 11, 2013
12:30pm Eastern/11:30am Cental/9:30am Pacific
Register for this FREE program at http://ambar.org/ProfessorsCorner

Our nation’s courts have been swamped with litigation involving the foreclosure of securitized mortgage loans.  Much of this litigation involves the appropriate interaction of the Uniform Commercial Code and state foreclosure law. Because few foreclosure lawyers and judges are UCC experts, the outcomes of the reported cases have reflected a significant degree of uncertainty or confusion.

In addition, much litigation has been triggered by poor practices in the securitization of mortgage loans, such as robo-signing and the failure to transfer loans into a securitized trust within the time period required by the IRS REMIC rules.  This litigation has likewise produced conflicting case outcomes.  In particular, recent decisions have reflected some disagreement regarding whether a mortgagor — who is not a party to the Pooling and Servicing Agreement that governs the securitized trust that holds the mortgage — can successfully defend a foreclosure by challenging the validity of the assignment of the mortgage to a securitized trust.

Our speakers for the December program will bring some much-needed clarity to these issues.  Our speakers are Prof. Neil B. Cohen, the Jeffrey D. Forchelli Professor of Law at Brooklyn Law School, and Prof. Dale A. Whitman, the James E Campbell Missouri Endowed Professor Emeritus of Law at the University of Missouri School of Law.  Prof. Cohen is the Research Director of the Permanent Editorial Board for the Uniform Commercial Code, and a principal contributor to the November 2011 PEB Report, “Application of the Uniform Commercial Code to Selected Issues Relating to Mortgage Notes.” Prof. Whitman is the co-Reporter for the Restatement (Third) of Property — Mortgages, and the co-author of the pre-eminent treatise on Real Estate Finance Law.

Please join us for this program.  You may register at http://ambar.org/ProfessorsCorner.

December 6, 2013 | Permalink | No Comments

December 5, 2013

GSEs Are Giants of Multifamily Sector Too

By David Reiss

In discussions about the future of Fannie and Freddie, we tend to emphasize their outsized role in the single-family sector.  We often forget that they have an even bigger footprint in multifamily.  A recent Kroll BondRatings report, FHFA Slowdown May Spur Multifamily Resurgence in Conduit CMBS, shows just how big it is. Chart 1 shows Multifamily Loans as a Percentage of the New Issuance Market by Year. Fannie, Freddie and Ginnie had a 15 to 47 percent market share at points during the eight years from 2000 through 2007.  It jumped to 85 to as high as 100% (!!!) at points during the following five years.Kroll notes that the private sector (CMBS Conduits) has begun to increase market share dramatically, although this is measured from a very small base.

Kroll concludes that

it is evident that private lending sources will experience continued growth in multifamily lending as the GSEs reduce their commitment to the space. Conduits are well positioned to participate in this growth, provided the spread environment doesn’t impede conduit lenders’ ability to offer attractive financing rates. Multifamily fundamentals will also inevitably play a role in overall financing volumes, and while it isn’t clear the sector’s outsized performance will continue, housing and demographic trends suggest the sector will remain relatively strong over the next couple of years. While the question of whether and when conduits will surpass GSE originations remains to be seen, we anticipate that the percentage of multifamily product in CMBS will trend upward throughout next year. When 2015 rolls around we may even see the proportion of multifamily in CMBS approach or exceed levels last seen in the mid 2000’s, when it represented, on average, 18% of the CMBS universe, with some recent deals in the conduit universe starting to trend closer to 20%. (4)

What is clear to me is that we should not forget about the relatively small multifamily housing finance sector as we think about the appropriate role for Fannie and Freddie in the single-family sector. They are completely different sectors. The one is akin to a wholesale business and the other is akin to a retail business, each with very different underwriting.

We should be open to very different policy outcomes for the two sectors. The policy reasons that might support a large government role in the single-family sector do not necessarily carry over to the multifamily sector. As I have noted elsewhere (and here) in the context of the multifamily sector, a market failure or liquidity crisis is the typical rationale that justifies government intervention in a particular market. It is incumbent on those who argue for a very active role for the government in the multifamily sector to clearly explain the market failure that government policy intends to address.

December 5, 2013 | Permalink | No Comments

December 4, 2013

Michigan Court Finds All Six of Plaintiff’s Claims Without Merit

By Ebube Okoli

The court in deciding McGlade v. Bank of Am., N.A., 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 152610 (E.D. Mich. Oct. 24, 2013) granted defendant Bank of America, N.A.’s motion to dismiss.

Plaintiff, McGlade brought six causes of action: Count I-Fraudulent Misrepresentation; Count II-Estoppel; Count III-Negligence; Count IV-Violation of the state Regulation of Collection Practices Act; Count V-Violation of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act; and Count VI-violation of the Michigan Consumer Protection Act.

The court in granting defendant summary judgment noted that the plaintiff’s factual basis for the fraudulent misrepresentation claim that defendant “knew or should have known that she would not qualify for a loan modification when she inquired about one” was insufficient.

Ultimately, the court found that the misconduct alleged by McGlade did not relate to the foreclosure procedure itself, and therefore she had failed to state a claim for which relief can be granted.

December 4, 2013 | Permalink | No Comments

Levitin on the Uncertainty of Mortgage Title

By David Reiss

Adam Levitin has posted The Paper Chase: Securitization, Foreclosure, and the Uncertainty of Mortgage Title to SSRN.  This paper adds to a small (here and here, for instance), but important body of literature that seeks to harmonize the application of foreclosure laws with the Uniform Commercial Code. Levitin’s abstract reads

The mortgage foreclosure crisis raises legal questions as important as its economic impact. Questions that were straightforward and uncontroversial a generation ago today threaten the stability of a $13 trillion mortgage market: Who has standing to foreclose? If a foreclosure was done improperly, what is the effect? And what is the proper legal method for transferring mortgages? These questions implicate the clarity of title for property nationwide and pose a too- big-to-fail problem for the courts.

The legal confusion stems from the existence of competing systems for establishing title to mortgages and transferring those rights. Historically, mortgage title was established and transferred through the “public demonstration” regimes of UCC Article 3 and land recordation systems. This arrangement worked satisfactorily when mortgages were rarely transferred. Mortgage finance, however, shifted to securitization, which involves repeated bulk transfers of mortgages.

To facilitate securitization, deal architects developed alternative “contracting” regimes for mortgage title: UCC Article 9 and MERS, a private mortgage registry. These new regimes reduced the cost of securitization by dispensing with demonstrative formalities, but at the expense of reduced clarity of title, which raised the costs of mortgage enforcement. This trade-off benefitted the securitization industry at the expense of securitization investors because it became apparent only subsequently with the rise in mortgage foreclosures. The harm, however, has not been limited to securitization investors. Clouded mortgage title has significant negative externalities on the economy as a whole.

This Article proposes reconciling the competing title systems through an integrated system of note registration and mortgage recordation, with compliance as a prerequisite to foreclosure. Such a system would resolve questions about standing, remove the potential cloud to real-estate title, and facilitate mortgage financing by clarifying property rights.

I had to agree with one of his conclusions:  “Reduction of transaction costs is ultimately a second-order move for commercial law. The first-order move, so elemental it is easy to forget, is clarification of the property being transferred.” (723-24) The others are pretty compelling too.

December 4, 2013 | Permalink | No Comments

Tennessee Court Grants Defendant’s Motion for Summary Judgment as Wells Fargo Had Ownership Interest in the Note & Deed

By Ebube Okoli

The court in deciding McKee v. Am. Brokers Conduit, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 152657 (W.D. Tenn. 2013) granted Wells Fargo’s motion for summary judgment.

Plaintiffs claimed that (1) Wells Fargo didn’t have lawful ownership or a security interest in the property because the note and deed of trust were unlawfully sold; (2) Leak was not authorized to execute the assignment from MERS to Wells Fargo; (3) Wells Fargo could not show possession or ownership of the original note or deed and therefore had an imperfect security interest; and (4) ABC had no authority to execute the assignment because it was in bankruptcy proceedings at the time of the assignment.

The court found the plaintiff’s line of reasoning factually incorrect. The court noted that the note was made payable to Wells Fargo and the deed was assigned to Wells Fargo. Both the endorsed note and the assignment agreement were recorded. Furthermore, counsel for Wells Fargo had the original note in his possession. Finally, both the note and the deed allowed for such an assignment. Plaintiffs had presented the court with no evidence to rebut these facts. As such, the plaintiffs had not offered enough to challenge Wells Fargo’s enforcement of the note and the court granted summary judgment.

December 4, 2013 | Permalink | No Comments

Michigan Court Finds Plaintiff’s Claim that Foreclosure Proceedings Violated Mich. Comp. Laws §§ 600.3204(1) and (3) Unpersuasive

By Ebube Okoli

The court in deciding Anderson v. Bank of Am., N.A., 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 152765 (E.D. Mich. Oct. 24, 2013) dismissed plaintiff’s claims that foreclosure violated Michigan state law.

Plaintiff sought a declaratory judgment that foreclosure proceedings violated Mich. Comp. Laws §§ 600.3204(1) and (3). The basis of plaintiff’s claim was a challenge to the assignment of the mortgage from MERS to defendant. Plaintiff alleged that this assignment was invalid. Ultimately, the court found this argument has no merit.

Plaintiff contended that defendant did not have standing to foreclose on the property because the assignment of the mortgage from MERS to defendant was invalid. Plaintiff argued that TBW was no longer in business at the time MERS assigned the mortgage to the defendant. Therefore, as the plaintiff reasoned, the assignment was invalid. Additionally, plaintiff complained that the assignment was “robo-signed” and that it was insufficient to create a record chain of title.

The court concluded that the plaintiff was wrong. The court noted that the Michigan Supreme Court had made clear that, under Michigan law, a mortgage granted to MERS as nominee for lender and lender’s successors and assigns was a valid and assignable mortgage.

December 4, 2013 | Permalink | No Comments