December 28, 2013

California Court Dismisses Show-Me-the-Note Claim

By Ebube Okoli

The court in deciding Newman v. Bank of N.Y. Mellon, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 147562 (E.D. Cal. 2013) granted the defendant’s motion and dismissed the complaint.

Plaintiff (Newman) argued that he was not challenging the authorization to foreclose, nor was he requiring defendants to “produce the note.” Rather, he was challenging whether the correct entity is initiating foreclosure. He claimed that BONY did not have the right to enforce the mortgage because it did not own the loan, the note, or the mortgage.

Plaintiff alleged claims for declaratory relief, quasi-contract, California Civil Code § 2923.5, the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (15 U.S.C. § 1692 et. seq.) (“FDCPA”),California Business & Professions Code § 17200 (“UCL”), and negligence.

Defendants argue that dismissal is appropriate for several reasons. First, Newman could not bring an action to determine whether the person initiating the foreclosure was authorized to do so. Second, Newman’s allegations that the assignments of the deed of trust involved illegible signatures and “robo-signers” were irrelevant. Third, Newman had no standing to challenge any violations of the Pooling and Servicing Agreement (“PSA”).

After reviewing the arguments the court found that the claims for declaratory relief, quasi-contract, under Cal. Civ. Code § 2923.5, and under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) failed because any claims that were based on violation of the pooling and servicing agreement were not viable, the borrower was estopped from arguing that the assignment violated the automatic stay, and the allegations of fraudulent assignments were insufficient and implausible.

The negligence claim also failed. The claim under Cal. Bus. & Prof. Code § 17200 (UCL) failed because the complaint did not state a claim for violation of the FDCPA, Cal. Penal Code § 532f(a)(4) could not have formed the basis of a UCL claim, and no violation of the Security First Rule was apparent.

December 28, 2013 | Permalink | No Comments

December 27, 2013

Individual Liability for RMBS Misrepresentations

By David Reiss

Judge Cote (SDNY) issued an Opinion and Order in Federal Housing Finance Agency v. HSBC North America Holdings Inc, et al., 11-cv-06201 (Dec. 10, 2013).  The opinion relates to the potential liability of individuals who signed various documents containing alleged misrepresentations that were filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission. These misrepresentations, if true, may violate the Securities Act of 1933. Individuals who signed off on the alleged misrepresentations could be liable as “control persons” or other key individuals under the Act. The alleged misrepresentations were contained in offering materials for RMBS purchased by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

The issue in the case is a pretty technical one: “the motion requires the Court to decide whether the SEC radically altered Section 11 liability for individuals who sign registration statements in the context of the shelf registration process when the SEC promulgated Rule 430B in 2005.” (5) Less technically, the motion requires that the Court decide the scope of potential liability for individuals for misrepresentations made in documents that they DID NOT sign that were supplemental to documents that they DID sign. The Court found that individuals could be held liable for such misrepresentations as had been the case before Rule430B had been promulgated.

I am not a securities law expert, so I assume that Judge Cote is right in stating that the defendants were arguing for a radical change to  the Securities Act of 1933 liability regime. I am also on the record in support of liability for individuals who are responsible for material aspects of the financial crisis. But I have also expressed concern about incredibly broad liability provisions. As a non-expert in this area, I was surprised that individuals could be held liable for misrepresentations that were made after they signed off on the preliminary documentation for securitizations.

December 27, 2013 | Permalink | No Comments

Utah Court Dismisses HAMP, RICO, ECOA, RESPA & FDCPA Claims

By Ebube Okoli

The court in deciding Cornia v. Countrywide Home Loans, Inc., 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 149592 (D. Utah 2013) granted defendant’s motion to dismiss. Plaintiffs’ claims based on securitization, assignment to MERs, or “robo-signing,” were dismissed with prejudice.

Plaintiffs’ complaint sought to quiet title in the property in plaintiffs’ names. As the basis for this relief, plaintiffs claimed that defendant (1) engaged in predatory lending, mail fraud, and wire fraud, (2) violated the Real Estate Settlement  Procedures Act (“RESPA”), the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (“FDCPA”), the Racketeer Influence and Corrupt Organizations Act (“RICO”), Homeowners Affordable Modification Program (“HAMP”), Equal Credit Opportunity Act (“ECOA”), the Utah Fraudulent Transfer Act and other statutes, regulations and unspecified consent orders, (3) fraudulently “robosigned,” the deeds of trust, and (4) securitized the loan.

Defendant moved pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (“FRCP”) and also pursuant to FRCP 8(a) and 9(a)(2) to dismiss all Plaintiffs’ claims. After considering both arguments, the court granted defendant’s motion.

December 27, 2013 | Permalink | No Comments

Texas Court Found That There Was no Gap in Chain of Title

By Ebube Okoli

The court in deciding Acosta v. Fannie Mae, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 148066 (S.D. Tex. 2013) found that Under Section 51.0025 of the Texas Property Code, BOA had standing to foreclose as servicer of the loan.

Plaintiff asserted numerous claims arising from the foreclosure of his property.

The court found that the plaintiff had offered no summary judgment proof of any defect in the foreclosure proceedings. Acosta had also offered no summary judgment proof that BOA made any false or reckless statement to him upon which he relied to his harm; therefore, his claim for fraud or misrepresentation failed.

The court also found that BOA effectively became the “original lender” of Acosta’s loan by virtue of the merger with Countrywide. MERS, in its capacity as nominee, assigned the loan to BOA, as successor of the merger. Hence, there is no cognizable “gap in the chain of title” and BOA, therefore, had standing to foreclose.

The court ultimately granted summary judgment in favor of the defendants.

December 27, 2013 | Permalink | No Comments

December 26, 2013

Battle of the Mortgage Experts

By David Reiss

Judge Saris of the United States District Court (D. Mass.) issued a Memorandum and Order in Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company v. Residential Funding Company, et al., No. 11-30035-PBS (Dec. 9, 2013). The opinion addresses a battle of statistical experts over the proper way to sample some of the hundreds of thousands of mortgages at issue in this litigation.

Mass Mutual, the plaintiff, alleges that the defendants misrepresented material aspects of many of those mortgages. To prove this, Mass Mutual intends to “reunderwrite” about 3.5% of loans by reviewing the “original loan file to determine whether  it was originated in accordance with applicable standards.” (3) . More particularly, Mass Mutual alleged that

the defendants marketed the [RMBS] certificates with representations that the loans backing the securities were underwritten in accordance with prudent underwriting standards and the underlying properties were appraised in accordance with sound appraisal standards, in order to ensure that the borrower could repay the loan and to decrease the risk of default. Plaintiff asserts that the loans underlying each [loan pool] were, in reality, far riskier than represented. Plaintiff also alleges that the defendants knowingly reported false loan-to-value (“LTV”) ratios, and in the case of defendant HSBC, inaccurate owner-occupancy rates for underlying properties. The defendants deny that they made any material misrepresentations in the marketing and sale of the certificates. (4)

The Court stated that while the defendants had identified various methodological errors that would render the report of Mass Mutual’s expert unreliable, similar challenges had failed in four other RMBS litigations. The Court ultimately denied the defendants’ motion to exclude the opinions of the plaintiff’s expert.

A body of law about expert evaluation of misrepresentations in securitization is slowly developing as cases are moving from the motion to dismiss stage to the pretrial discovery phase. This will have broader significance than just securitization litigation, but I find it particularly interesting to watch experts attempt to reduce “questions of misrepresentation” regarding RMBS to yes/no answers. (15) Such attempts to quantify misrepresentation will be useful to resolve cases such as this but also to regulators and researchers down the line.

December 26, 2013 | Permalink | No Comments

December 24, 2013

Qualified Mortgages and The Community Reinvestment Act

By David Reiss

Regulators issued an Interagency Statement on Supervisory Approach for Qualified and Non-Qualified Mortgage Loans relating to the interaction between the QM rules and Community Reinvestment Act enforcement. This statement complements a similar rule issued in October that addressed the interaction between the QM rules and fair lending enforcement.

The statement acknowledges that lenders are still trying to figure out their way around the new mortgage rules (QM & ATR) that will go into effect in January. The agencies state that “the requirements of the Bureau’s Ability-to-Repay Rule and CRA are compatible. Accordingly, the agencies that conduct CRA evaluations do not anticipate that institutions’ decision to originate only QMs, absent other factors, would adversely affect their CRA evaluations.” (2)

This is important for lenders who intend to only originate plain vanilla QMs. There have been concerns that doing so may result in comparatively few mortgages being CRA-eligible. It seems eminently reasonable that lenders not find themselves between a CRA rock and a QM hard place if they decide to go the QM-only route. That being said, it will be important to continue to monitor whether low- and moderate-income neighborhoods are receiving sufficient amounts of mortgage credit. Given that major lenders are likely to originate non-QM products, this may not be a problem. But we will have to see how the non-QM sector develops next year before we can know for sure.

December 24, 2013 | Permalink | No Comments

Michigan Court Holds That Plaintiffs Were Not Subject to Double Liabilty on Their Debt and Thus Lacked Standing

By Ebube Okoli

The court in deciding Laues v. Bank of Am., N.A., 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 147912 ( E.D. Mich. Oct. 15, 2013) granted the defendant’s motion and dismissed the plaintiff’s claim.

Plaintiffs Roy A. Laues and Kristin G. Laues (“the Laues”), preceded pro se, and filed a complaint claiming that the defendants fraudulently conveyed their property and improperly bifurcated their note and mortgage. The plaintiff’s sought to quiet title by extinguishing Defendants’ interest in the property. Defendants filed a motion to dismiss the complaint for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6). After considering the arguments the court ultimately granted the defendant’s motion.

Plaintiff alleged that MERS lacked authority to assign the mortgages, which would make the subsequent assignments invalid. MERS acted as nominee for lender AWL in assigning the mortgages. The court found that the plaintiffs were not a party to the assignment and as such was not threatened with double liability on the debt. Thus the court determined that they had no standing to challenge the assignment.

December 24, 2013 | Permalink | No Comments