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ABC News quoted me in Small Interest Rate Changes Mean Big Money for Home Buyers.  The story reads in part,

As the economy continues to recover from the worst recession since the 1930s, mortgage interest rates remain at historically low levels.

The Primary Mortgage Market Survey, produced by Freddie Mac, reported in mid-March the average rate for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages was 4.32 percent; 15-year fixed-rate mortgages averaged 3.32 percent and interest rates 5-year Treasury-indexed hybrid adjustable rate mortgages averaged 3.02 percent. Nonetheless, Frank Nothaft, chief economist for Freddie Mac, speculated the Fed’s gradual tapering of its stimulus efforts may prompt a rise in mortgage interest rates.

If mortgage interest rates do rise significantly in the future, what, if any effect will there be on the home buying market? According to Steve Calk, chairman and Chief Executive Officer of The Federal Savings Bank, interest rates have never been the deciding factor for whether potential home buyers actually purchase a home.

“Whether interest rates are 5.5 percent or 7.5 percent, when people are ready to buy, they’ll buy a home,” Calk said.

Price, location, size, appreciation value – these are factors many would-be homeowners consider long before mortgage interest rates enter into the picture. However, once they begin actively searching for a home, interest rates often play a role in their ultimate buying decision.

This is especially the case when interest rates are high, according to David Reiss, Professor of Law at Brooklyn Law School.

“When people think about buying houses, they think about the price of the house. But what they really should be thinking of are the monthly costs. The average 25-year-old might not think about housing rates until they go to a mortgage broker.
“Then they discover that 8 percent interest may mean that instead of a $200,000 home they can only afford a $160,000 home,” Reiss said.

*     *      *

Tight credit and persistent high unemployment have almost certainly played a role in depressing home buying figures during the recovery, as has the large numbers of home owners who perhaps bought homes at the height of the bubble who now find themselves underwater on their mortgages. However, many underwater homeowners could be missing out on a unique opportunity presented by the present financial climate. In a housing market where prices are depressed and borrowing is cheap, home buyers with solid incomes and good credit can find lenders willing to extend credit on favorable terms, ultimately putting them ahead financially, even if they sell their present homes at a loss, according to Reiss.

“Many people feel stuck in place because they are underwater or the market is bad. But although it may be counterintuitive, it could actually be a smart move to sell in a bad market. It’s a bit more sophisticated strategy, but you could move out of a cheap home into a better home for not that much money,” Reiss said.

*     *     *

Education and due diligence in maintaining good credit are the most potent tools that potential home buyers can employ, whether they are seeking their first home, a larger home or are scaling down to smaller quarters as empty nesters. Obtaining prequalification can provide home seekers with a better idea of precisely how much house they can afford, Reiss said.

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The court in deciding In re 1250 Oceanside Partners, (Bankr. D. Haw., 2013) ultimately came to the conclusion that Oceanside was entitled to foreclose.

The debtor in possession, 1250 Oceanside (Oceanside), sought to enforce a promissory note and foreclose a mortgage made by defendants Lawrence Shaw and Lisa Shaw (the Shaws). The other defendants claimed interests in the mortgaged property. Oceanside now sought summary judgment. The Shaws argued that the court lacked jurisdiction, that Oceanside was not entitled to foreclose, and that if it was entitled to foreclose, it was not entitled to a deficiency judgment.

The court decided that there was no dispute as to any material fact. Oceanside was entitled to foreclose on the property, but it was not entitled to a deficiency judgment against the Shaws at this stage in the litigation.

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The Tennessee court in deciding Mhoon v. United States Bank Home Mortg., 2013 U.S. Dist. (W.D. Tenn., 2013) dismissed the complaint of the plaintiff pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii).

Plaintiff [Mhoon] filed a complaint against defendant U.S. Bank. This case was an action to prohibit a non-judicial foreclosure of real property. The complaint alleged that U.S. Bank was engaged in efforts to illegally foreclosure on Mhoon’s home. The complaint also alleged that U.S. Bank acted with gross negligence and violated its duty of good faith.

In addition, the complaint alleged breach of contract because U.S. Bank failed to send any and all acceleration, default, and foreclosure notices to Mhoon in the manner required by the deed of trust.

The complaint further alleged U.S. Bank violated Truth in Lending Act (“TILA”); violated Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (“RESPA”) by failing to provide a good faith estimate; violated the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (“RICO”) statute and engaged in fraud; and lacked standing to initiate foreclosure proceedings on the Property.

The court ultimately held (1) plaintiff has not sufficiently plead a breach of contract claim; (2) plaintiff’s claims for gross negligence and violation of the duty of good faith fail as a matter of law; (3) plaintiff’s allegations based on violations of the TILA and the RESPA were barred by the applicable statute of limitations and failed to state a claim because U.S. Bank was not the originating lender; and (4) plaintiff’s claims for fraud violations of the RICO, and lack of standing all failed as a matter of law.

For those reasons, this court dismissed the plaintiff’s complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii).

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Law360 quoting me in BofA Fight Won’t Blunt DOJ’s Favorite Bank Fraud Weapon (behind a paywall). It reads in part,

A federal magistrate judge on Thursday put a Justice Department case against Bank of America Corp. using a fraud statute from the 1980s in peril, but the case’s limited scope means the government is not likely to abandon its favorite financial fraud fighting tool, attorneys say.

Federal prosecutors have increasingly leaned on the Financial Institutions Reform, Recovery and Enforcement Act, a relic of the 1980s savings and loan crisis, as a vehicle for taking on banks and other financial institutions over alleged violations perpetrated during the housing bubble years.

*     *     *

Some banking analysts hailed the ruling as potentially the beginning of the end of the government’s pursuit of housing bubble-era violations.

“If the judge’s recommendation is accepted by the federal district court judge, then this development will represent a significant setback for the government’s legal efforts and likely mark the beginning of the end for crisis-era litigation,” Isaac Boltansky, a policy analyst at Compass Point Research & Trading LLC, said in a client note.

However, others say the government’s case was brought under relatively narrow claims that Bank of America did not properly value the securities to induce regulated banks to purchase securities they otherwise might not have.

That is a tougher case to bring than the broad wire fraud and mail fraud claims that were available to the government under FIRREA. The government has employed those tools with great success against Bank of America and Standard & Poor’s Financial Services LLC in other cases in far-flung jurisdictions, said Peter Vinella, a director at Berkeley Research Group.

“There was no issue about whether BofA did anything wrong or not. It’s just that the case was filed incorrectly. It was very narrowly defined,” he said.

It is not entirely clear that Bank of America is in the clear in this case, either.

U.S. district judges tend to give great deference to reports from magistrate judges, according to David Reiss, a professor at Brooklyn Law School.

But even if U.S. District Judge Max O. Cogburn Jr. accepts the recommendation, the Justice Department has already lodged a notice of appeal related to the report. And in the worst-case scenario, the government could amend its complaint.

A victory for Bank of America in the North Carolina case is unlikely to have a widespread impact, given the claims that are at stake. The government will still be able to bring its broader, and more powerful claims, under a law with a 10-year statute of limitations.

“It is one opinion that is going against a number of FIRREA precedents that have been decided in others parts of the country,” Reiss said. “It also appears that this case was brought and decided on much narrower grounds than those other cases, so I don’t think that it will halt the government’s use of the law.”

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The court in deciding Bank of Am., N.A. v. Pasqualone, 2013-Ohio-5795 (Ohio Ct. App., Franklin County, 2013) ultimately decided that the motion to strike moot, thus this court affirmed judgment of the lower court.

This court held that the promissory note was a negotiable instrument subject to relevant provisions of R.C. Chapter 1303 because it contained a promise to pay the lender the amount of $100,000, plus interest, and did not require any other undertakings that would render the note nonnegotiable. Moreover, because Bank of America was the holder of the note it was a person entitled to enforce the note pursuant to R.C. 1303.31(A)(1).

The court noted that based on the authorization, the note became payable to the bank as an identified person and, because the bank was the identified person in possession of the note, it was the holder of the note. Further, as the property owner’s defenses to the mortgage foreclosure did not fit the criteria of a denial, defense, or claim in recoupment under R.C. 1303.36 or R.C. 1303.35, the bank’s right to payment and to enforce the obligation was not subject to the owner’s alleged meritorious defenses.

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The court in deciding HSBC Bank USA v. Teagarden, 2013-Ohio-5816 (Ohio Ct. App., Trumbull County, 2013) reversed the ruling for summary judgment in favor of HSBC Bank.

Defendants-appellants, [Teagardens], appealed two judgment entries from the lower court, dismissing the Teagardens’ counterclaims and granting summary judgment in favor of plaintiff-appellee, HSBC Bank USA, National Trust Company.

The first issue before this court was whether the original lender may be a debt collector for the purposes of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) when the debt is assigned to a third party. The remaining issues were: whether the one-year statute of limitations for FDCPA actions precluded claims based on false affidavits filed in a prior foreclosure action; whether there is justifiable reliance on false affidavits to support a fraudulent misrepresentation claim when the veracity of the affidavits were contested; whether the failure to comply with federal mortgage servicing guidelines may sustain a cause of action for breach of contract; whether the term “branch office” as used in federal regulations refers only to offices with qualified mortgage servicing personnel; and whether actual damages are a necessary element to state a valid claim for a violation of the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (RESPA).

This court found that the original lender of a mortgage debt was not a debt collector under 15 U.S.C.S. § 1692a(6) or liable under the FDCPA, even though it had transferred the debt to a transferee and subsequently attempted to collect the debt on behalf of the transferee.

The court noted that the original lender consistently dealt with the debtors in entities using its name and the debtors did not allege that they believed these entities were third parties, independent of the original lenders. The court found that the debtors’ claim that the original lender misrepresented that it was the holder of the loan when it was the mortgage servicer did not raise a reasonable inference that it used a false name to create the impression that another party was attempting to collect the debt. The also found that the debtors’ claim against the transferee was based on actions that were time-barred under 15 U.S.C.S. § 1692k(d); the claims based on the underlying fees and costs were also time-barred.

Accordingly, this court affirmed the lower court’s dismissal of the Teagardens’ counterclaims. This court also reversed the lower court’s entry of summary judgment in favor of HSBC Bank on the note.

 

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Inside Mortgage Finance quoted me in a story, GSE Jr. Preferred Shareholders Have a Tough ‘Row to Hoe’ in Winning Their Lawsuits (behind a paywall). It reads,

Expect a long and winding legal road to resolution of investor lawsuits challenging the Treasury Department’s “net worth sweep” of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac earnings, warn legal experts.

More than a dozen lawsuits filed against the government – including hedge funds Perry Capital and Fairholme Capital Management – are pending in federal district court in Washington, DC, and in the Court of Federal Claims. The private equity plaintiffs allege that the Treasury’s change in the dividend structure of its preferred stock leaves the government-sponsored enterprises with no funds to pay anything to junior shareholders.

The complaints raise complex constitutional and securities law issues, according to Emily Hamburger, a litigation analyst for Bloomberg Industries. “It may be a year before the crucial questions can be answered by the courts because the parties are still in the early stages of gathering evidence,” explained Hamburger during a recent webinar.

Brooklyn Law School Professor David Reiss agrees. “The plaintiffs, in the main, argue that the federal government has breached its duties to preferred shareholders, common shareholders, and potential beneficiaries of a housing trust fund authorized by the same statute that authorized their conservatorships. At this early stage, it appears that the plaintiffs have a tough row to hoe,” notes Reiss in a draft paper examining the GSE shareholder lawsuits.

Government attorneys argue that Treasury has authority to purchase Fannie and Freddie stock when it’s determined such actions are necessary to provide stability to the financial markets, prevent disruptions in the availability of mortgage finance and protect the taxpayer. The government also argues that the plaintiffs do not have a legal property interest for purposes of a Fifth Amendment “takings” claim due to the GSEs’ status in conservatorship.

Hamburger predicted that the judges in the various suits won’t be able to ignore the “obvious equitable tensions” involved. “The government is changing the terms years after their bailout, but on the other hand, the timing and motivation of investors is going to be challenged too,” she noted.

While Reiss agrees that the junior shareholders “look like they are receiving a raw deal from the federal government,” it’s a tall order to sue the federal government even under the most favorable of circumstances. The plaintiffs will have to overcome the government’s sovereign immunity, unless it is waived, and the government has additional defenses, including immunity from Administrative Procedures Act claims, under the Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008.

Reiss explained that HERA states that except “at the request of the Federal Housing Finance Agency, no court may take any action to restrain or affect the exercise of powers or functions of [FHFA] as conservator or receiver.” It remains to be seen how this language might apply to Treasury’s change in the preferred stock agreement, but Reiss said it could be read to give the government broad authority to address the financial situation of the two companies.

“The litigation surrounding GSE conservatorship raises all sorts of issues about the federal government’s involvement in housing finance,” said Reiss. “These issues are worth setting forth as the proper role of these two companies in the housing finance system is still very much up in the air.”

The full paper, An Overview of the Fannie and Freddie Conservatorship Litigation (SSRN link), can also be found on BePress.