July 10, 2014
The Maine Supreme Judicial Court seems to be on a roll against the mortgage industry, having recently issued an opinion that effectively wiped out a mortgage because of the lenders bad faith negotiations during a foreclosure proceeding.
And now, the Maine Supreme Judicial Court issued an opinion in Bank of America, N.A. v. Greenleaf et al., 2014 ME 89 (July 3, 2014), that casts into doubt whether MERS has any life left in it in Maine. The case’s reasoning is, however, somewhat suspect. The Greenleaf court held that the bank did not have standing to seek foreclosure even though it was the holder of the mortgage note. The court stated that
The interest in the note is only part of the standing analysis, however; to be able to foreclose, a plaintiff must also show the requisite interest in the mortgage. Unlike a note, a mortgage is not a negotiable instrument. See 5 Emily S. Bernheim, Tiffany Real Property § 1455 n.14 (3d ed. Supp. 2000). Thus, whereas a plaintiff who merely holds or possesses—but does not necessarily own—the note satisfies the note portion of the standing analysis, the mortgage portion of the standing analysis requires the plaintiff to establish ownership of the mortgage. (8)
This seems to go against the weight of authority. The influential Report of The Permanent Editorial Board for The Uniform Commercial Code, Application of The Uniform Commercial Code to Selected Issues Relating to Mortgage Notes (November 14, 2011), states that
the UCC is unambiguous: the sale of a mortgage note (or other grant of a security interest in the note) not accompanied by a separate conveyance of the mortgage securing the note does not result in the mortgage being severed from the note. . . . UCC Section 9-308(e) goes on to state that, if the secured party’s security interest in the note is perfected, the secured party’s security interest in the mortgage securing the note is also perfected . . .. (12-13, footnotes omitted)
The Maine Supreme Judicial Court is the ultimate authority on the meaning of Maine’s foreclosure statute, of course, but their reasoning is still open to criticism.
The court in deciding United States Bank Nat’l Ass’n v. McHugh, 2013-Ohio-5473 (Ohio Ct. App., Lucas County, 2013) affirmed the judgment of the Lucas County Court of Common Pleas.
In their sole assignment of error, McHugh argued that US Bank did not have standing to pursue the underlying foreclosure action. US Bank responded by arguing that McHugh’s argument was misplaced in that it failed to address the applicable standard for a motion for relief from judgment under Civ.R. 60(B). Further, US Bank argued that the trial court’s decision was proper in light of McHugh’s failure to meet the standard for Civ.R. 60(B) motions.
Ultimately the court concluded that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in denying their Civ.R. 60(B) motion.
The court in deciding Bank of Am., N.A. v. Samaha, 2013 Conn. Super. (Conn. Super. Ct., 2013) granted the plaintiff’s motion for summary judgment.
In this action, the plaintiff sought to foreclose a mortgage executed by Joseph Samaha and Denise Samaha in favor of the Webster Bank.
The defendant raised several special defenses to this foreclosure action. First, the defendant asserted that the plaintiff did not have standing to bring this litigation. Second, defendant claimed that as a result of the death of one of the makers of the note, Joseph Samaha, that his estate had an indivisible interest in the subject property and was subject to probate court jurisdiction. Third, the defendant challenged the authority of MERS to assign this mortgage to the plaintiff. Fourth, the defendant alleged that she had tendered payment with regard to the note and she alleged accord and satisfaction. Fifth, the defendant challenged whether or not the note in question was a negotiable instrument.
With regard to the first special defense, the court found that the affidavits supplied by the plaintiff established that they had standing for the purposes of doing this litigation.
In regards to the second defense, the court found that there was simply no authority for this assertion. The third special defense challenged the authority of the MERS to assign the note and mortgage. The court found that there were no facts alleged in the special defense and there was no affidavit from the defendant providing any factual foundation for her assertions.
The court found that the fourth defense was a mere assertion, without any evidence to support it, and thereby contest or create a material issue of fact for a motion of summary judgment is insufficient. Finally, the fifth special defense was deemed to be an assertion of a legal conclusion.
July 8, 2014
The Federal Reserve Board issued its Independent Foreclosure Review. By way of background,
Between April 2011 and April 2012, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC), the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (“Federal Reserve”), and the Office of Thrift Supervision (OTS) issued formal enforcement actions against 16 mortgage servicing companies to address a pattern of misconduct and negligence related to deficient practices in residential mortgage loan servicing and foreclosure processing identified by examiners during reviews conducted from November 2010 to January 2011. Beginning in January 2013, 15 of the mortgage servicing companies subject to enforcement actions for deficient practices in mortgage loan servicing and foreclosure processing reached agreements with the OCC and the Federal Reserve (collectively, the “regulators”) to provide approximately $3.9 billion in direct cash payments to borrowers and approximately $6.1 billion in other foreclosure prevention assistance, such as loan modifications and the forgiveness of deficiency judgments. For participating servicers, fulfillment of these agreements satisfies the foreclosure file review requirements of the enforcement actions issued by the OCC, the Federal Reserve, and the OTS in 2011 and 2012. (1)
The government’s actions regarding the Independent Foreclosure Review have been its controversial, with some believing that it was completed too hastily. I am less interested in that debate than in FRB’s sense of the the servicing sector going forward.
The report states that “the initial supervisory review of the servicer and holding company action plans has shown that the banking organizations under Consent Orders have implemented significant corrective actions with regard to their mortgage servicing and foreclosure processes, but that some additional actions need to be taken.” (24) Overall, the report reflects an optimism that endemic servicer problems are a thing of the past.
A drumbeat of reports and cases seems to be at odds with that assessment, although there is obviously a significant lag between the occurrence of problems and the report of them in official sources. As a close observer of the mortgage industry, however, I am not yet convinced that regulators have their hands around the problems in the servicer industry. Careful monitoring remains the order of the day.
July 7, 2014
The FHFA’s Inspector General issued an audit, FHFA Actions to Manage Enterprise Risks from Nonbank Servicers Specializing in Troubled Mortgages. The audit identified two major risks in the current environment:
- Using short-term financing to buy servicing rights for troubled mortgage loans that may only begin to pay out after long-term work to resolve their difficulties. This practice can jeopardize the companies’ operations and also the Enterprises’ timely payment guarantees and reputation for loans they back; and
- Assuming responsibilities for servicing large volumes of mortgage loans that may be beyond what their infrastructures can handle. For example, of the 30 largest mortgage servicers, those that were not banks held a 17% share of the mortgage servicing market at the end of 2013, up from 9% at the end of 2012, and 6% at the end of 2011. This rise in nonbank special servicers has been accompanied by consumer complaints, lawsuits, and other regulatory actions as the servicers’ workload outstrips their processing capacity. (1-2)
The audit notes that “nonbank special servicers do not have a prudential safety and soundness regulator at the federal level for their mortgage servicing operations.” (6)
I think the important story here is more about consumer protection than it is about safety and soundness regulation. That is not to say that the Inspector General’s audit ignored consumer protection. Indeed, it it does spend a significant amount of time addressing that topic, noting that other federal regulators such as the CFPB have also zeroed in on the impact that non-bank servicers have on consumers.