June 27, 2014

Tennessee Court Dismisses Plaintiff’s TCPA Claim

By Ebube Okoli

The court in deciding Amour v. Bank of Am., N.A., 2013 U.S. Dist. (E.D. Tenn., 2013) granted in part and denied in part the defendant’s motion to dismiss

The plaintiffs brought three separate causes of action each of which the defendant moved to dismiss. The plaintiffs’ complaint alleged violations of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, 15 U.S.C. §§ 1692, et seq., the Tennessee Consumer Protection Act, Tenn. Code Ann. 47-18-101, et seq., and wrongful foreclosure.

The court ultimately decided to allow all but the one of the plaintiffs’ claims. The one cause of action dismissed was the TCPA claim.

June 27, 2014 | Permalink | No Comments

Court Decides that Lower Court Was Correct in Granting Summary Judgment in Favor of Bank of America and ReconTrust on FDCPA Claims

By Ebube Okoli

The court in deciding Brown v. Bank of Am., N.A. (In re Brown), 2013 Bankr. (B.A.P. 9th Cir., 2013) affirmed the lower court’s holding.

The plaintiff in this case alleged alleged that BAC and ReconTrust violated the CPA by promulgating, recording, and relying on documents they should have known were false, in particular: the MERS’ assignment, the successor trustee appointment, and the notice of default. Plaintiffs also alleged that ReconTrust’s issuance and use of the notice of default violated the FDCPA and that ReconTrust’s attempts to dispossess the debtor of her property constituted malicious prosecution.

As to the claim for wrongful foreclosure, the plaintiffs alleged that the defendants violated the Washington Deed of Trust Act when they designated MERS as a beneficiary in the trust deed and MERS subsequently executed the MERS Assignment.

The plaintiffs contended that BAC’s authority to execute the successor trustee appointment and ReconTrust’s authority to execute the Notice of Default derived solely from the invalid MERS Assignment, invalidating both documents. They alleged that these transactions constituted a deception and, therefore, invalid transactions under the Trust Deed Act.

ReconTrust, Bank of America, N.A., as successor by merger to BAC, and MERS jointly brought a motion to dismiss the SAC pursuant to Civil Rule 12(b)(6). The defendants argued that the plaintiffs failed to adequately plead the identified claims and, in addition, that the plaintiffs should be collaterally estopped from contending that BofA could not initiate foreclosure proceedings, based on the order entered by the bankruptcy court on the uncontested relief from stay motion.

June 27, 2014 | Permalink | No Comments

Texas Court Rejects Claims Brought on the Grounds of “Show-me-the-Note” and “Split-the-Note” Theories

By Ebube Okoli

The court in deciding Hunt v. Worldwide Mortg. Co., 2013 U.S. Dist. (N.D. Tex., 2013) dismissed the plaintiff’s action in its entirety and specifically granted the defendant’s motion to dismiss.

Plaintiffs asserted claims for fraud (only against MidFirst and its mortgage servicer), wrongful foreclosure, and violations of the Texas Business and Commerce Code and Finance Code. The plaintiffs also sought to quiet title and declaratory relief.

Specifically, the plaintiffs argued variations of the roundly discounted “show me the note” and “split the note” theories, alleging that the defendants did not have the authority to foreclose on the Property because MERS was not holder of the note and thus was not entitled to enforce the deed of trust.

The plaintiffs also contended MidFirst perpetrated a fraud by misrepresenting that it was the holder or beneficiary of the deed of trust entitled to receive mortgage payments on the note, thus collecting on a debt that it had “no legal, equitable or pecuniary interest in.”

Plaintiffs also alleged violations of the Texas Business and Commerce Code, arguing that the defendant had failed to produce the note and that it is very likely that the defendant was not the holder of the note.

Defendants’ moved to dismiss the plaintiffs’ complaint under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction, Rule 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim, this was granted by the court.

June 27, 2014 | Permalink | No Comments

June 26, 2014

State of the Nation’s Housing Finance

By David Reiss

The Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University has released the 2014 edition of The State of the Nation’s Housing. As to the nation’s housing finance system, the report finds that

The government still had an outsized footprint in the mortgage market in 2013, purchasing or guaranteeing 80.3 percent of all mortgages originated. The FHA/VA share of first liens, at 19.7 percent, was well above the average 6.1 percent share in 2002–03, let alone the 3.2 percent share at the market peak in 2005–06. Origination shares of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were also higher than before the mortgage market crisis, but less so than that of FHA. According to the Urban Institute’s Housing Finance Policy Center, the GSEs purchased or guaranteed 61 percent of originations in 2012 and 2013, up from 49 percent in 2002 and 2003.

Portfolio lending, however, has begun to bounce back, rising 8 percentage points from post-crisis lows and accounting for 19 percent of originations last year. While improving, this share is far from the nearly 30 percent a decade earlier. In contrast, private-label securitizations have been stuck below 1 percent of originations since 2008. Continued healing in the housing market and further clarity in the regulatory environment should set the stage for further increases in private market activity. (11)

As usual, this report is chock full of good information about the single-family and multi-family sectors. I did find that some of its characterizations of the housing market were lacking. For instance, the report states

Many factors have played a role in the sluggish recovery of the home purchase loan market in recent years, including falling household incomes and uncertainty about the direction of the economy and home prices. But the limited availability of mortgage credit for borrowers with less than stellar credit has also contributed. According to information from CoreLogic, home purchase lending to borrowers with credit scores below 620 all but ended after 2009. Since then, access to credit among borrowers with scores in the 620–659 range has become increasingly constrained, with their share of loans falling by 6 percentage points. At the same time, the share of home purchase loans to borrowers with scores above 740 rose by 8 percentage points.

Meanwhile, the government sponsored enterprises (GSEs) have also concentrated both their purchase and refinancing activity on applicants with higher credit scores. At Fannie Mae, only 15 percent of loans acquired in 2013 were to borrowers with credit scores below 700—a dramatic drop from the 35 percent share averaged in 2001–04. Moreover, just 2 percent of originations were to borrowers with credit scores below 620. The percentage of Freddie Mac lending to this group has remained negligible.

Yet another drag on the mortgage market recovery is the high cost of credit. For borrowers who are able to access credit, loan costs have increased steadily. To start, interest rates climbed from 3.35 percent at the end of 2012 to 4.46 percent at the end of 2013. This increase was tempered somewhat by a slight retreat in early 2014. In addition, the GSEs and FHA raised the fees required to insure their loans after the mortgage market meltdown, and many of these charges remain in place or have risen. The average guarantee fee charged by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac jumped from 22 basis points in 2009 to 38 basis points in 2012. In 2008, the GSEs also introduced loan level price adjustments (LLPAs) or additional upfront fees paid by lenders based on loan-to-value (LTV) ratios, credit scores, and other risk factors. LLPAs total up to 3.25 percent of the loan value for riskier borrowers and are paid for through higher interest rates on their loans. (20)

Implicit in this analysis is the view that lending should return in some way to its pre-bust levels. But, in fact, much of the boom lending was unsustainable for many borrowers. The analysis fails to identify the importance of promoting sustainable homeownership and instead relies on one dimensional metrics like credit denials for those with low credit scores. Until we are confident that borrowers with those scores can sustain homeownership in large numbers, we should not be so quick to bemoan credit constraints for people with a history of losing their homes to foreclosure.

The Center’s analysis also takes a simplistic view about guarantee fees.  The relevant metric is not the absolute size of the g-fee. Rather, the issue should be whether the g-fee level achieves its goals. At a minimum, those goals include appropriately measuring the risk of having to make good on the guarantee.

Finally, the Center demonstrates symptoms of historical amnesia when it characterizes an interest rate of 4.46% as “high.” This is an incredibly low rate of interest and one would expect that rates would rise as we exit from the bust years.

I have made the point before that the Center’s work seems to reflect the views of its funders. The funders of this report (not identified in the report by the way) include the National Association of Home Builders; National Association of Realtors; National Housing Conference; National Multifamily Housing Council; and a whole host of lenders, builders and companies in related fields that make up the Center’s Policy Advisory Board. These organizations benefit from a growing housing sector. This report seems to reflect an unthinking pro-growth perspective. It would have benefited from a parallel focus on sustainable homeownership.

June 26, 2014 | Permalink | No Comments

Alabama Court Rejects “Split-the-Note” Theory

By Ebube Okoli

The court in deciding Gray v. MERSCORP, Inc., 2013 U.S. Dist. (N.D. Ala., 2013) rejected the split the note theory put forward by Gray.

This matter arose out of a note and mortgage executed in March 2007 by plaintiffs Clayburn Kyle Gray and Carrie Ann Gray, defendant Quicken Loans, Inc., and defendant MERS.

Plaintiffs’ resulting suit primarily consisted of two allegations: (1) that the defendant Quicken wrongfully and deceptively caused the plaintiffs’ entire ten-acre property to be encompassed by the mortgage and (2) that the defendant OneWest, to whom the mortgage was subsequently assigned by defendant MERS, was incapable of foreclosing on the mortgaged property, due to “a separation of the note and mortgage in this cause.”

Defendants filed a motion to dismiss, this was subsequently granted. The court noted that Alabama courts, have roundly rejected the “split the note” theory, thus rendering it ineffective and inapplicable in the present case.

June 26, 2014 | Permalink | No Comments

Alabama Court Reverses Lower Court’s Decision Granting Summary Judgment to Foreclosing Entity

By Ebube Okoli

The court in deciding Sturdivant v. BAC Home Loan Servicing, LP, 2013 Ala. Civ. App. (Ala. Civ. App., 2013) reversed the lower court’s ruling that granted summary judgment to a foreclosing entity with respect to its complaint in ejectment against a mortgagor under Ala. Code § 6-6-280(b).

The court’s decision was based on the fact that the foreclosing entity presented no evidence that it was either the assignee of the mortgage or the holder of the note at the time it foreclosed, it failed to present a prima facie case that it had the authority to foreclose and, thus, had valid title to or the right to possess the property–one of the elements of its claim in ejectment.

June 26, 2014 | Permalink | No Comments

June 25, 2014

S&P on Risky Reps and Warranties

By David Reiss

Standard & Poor’s posted New Players In The RMBS Market Could Present Unique Representations And Warranties Risks. It opens, S&P

believes that new entrants into the residential mortgage-backed securitization (RMBS) market that make loan-level representations and warranties (R&Ws) may present additional risks not present with more established market players. Many of these new entrants not only lack historical loan performance data, but have not yet established track records for remedying any R&W breaches. This can call into question their ability or willingness to repurchase under R&W provisions. In light of this, mitigating factors may exist that could alleviate the risk of a potential R&W breach. (1)

This all sounds pretty serious, but I am not so sure that it is.

S&P explains its concerns further:

We believe it is important for investors and other market participants to evaluate the quality and depth of various factors that mitigate the risk of R&W breaches occurring in U.S. RMBS transactions, including those that would be remedied by new entities with limited histories and the risk that comes with their willingness or ability to do so. Specifically, we believe the quality and scale of third-party due diligence, the depth of operational reviews, and a transaction’s overall expected losses, are critical for assessing the risk of a breach and if a new entity would be remedying it. We consider all of these aspects in our assessment of the credit characteristics of loans that are securitized in U.S. RMBS deals. (1)

One assumes that every party to every transaction would consider the counterparty risk — the risk that the other side of a deal won’t or can’t make good on its obligations. Regular readers of this blog also know that many well-known companies have attempted to avoid their responsibilities pursuant to reps and warranties clauses. So, when S&P states that “the quality and scale of third-party due diligence, the depth of operational reviews, and a transaction’s overall expected losses, are critical for assessing the risk of a breach and if a new entity would be remedying it,” one wonders why this is more true for new players than it is for existing ones.

Further undercutting itself, this report notes that “post-2008 issuers have been addressing many of these potential R&W risks, including newer players. The level of third-party due diligence in recently issued U.S. RMBS for example has been more comprehensive from a historical (pre-2008) perspective in terms of the number of loans reviewed and the scope of the reviews.” (1)

So I am left wondering what S&P is trying to achieve with this report. Are they really worried about new entrants to the market? Are they signalling that they will take a tough stance on lowering due diligence standards as the market heats up? Are they favoring the big players in the market over the upstarts? I don’t think that this analysis stands up on its own legs, so I am guessing that there is something else going on.  If anyone has a inkling as to what it is, please share it with the rest of us.

June 25, 2014 | Permalink | No Comments