Editor: David Reiss
Brooklyn Law School

November 25, 2013

Deutsche Bank Fails to Sufficiently Prove Ownership in Maine Supreme Judicial Court

By Devon Avallone

In Deutsche Bank Nat’l Trust Co. v. Wilk, 2013 ME 79, 76 A.3d 363 (Me. 2013), the Maine Supreme Judicial Court vacated a judgment of foreclosure for Deutsche Bank on appeal by homeowner for Deutsche Bank’s failure to show ownership of the mortgage. Wilk procured a loan from Luxury Mortgage Company in 2005 with MERS named as nominee. Deutsche Bank commenced foreclosure proceedings after homeowners’ default in 2010, going to trial in 2012. The trial court found that Deutsche Bank provided evidence sufficient to merit foreclosure authority via a chain of assignments showing it was the holder of both the note and mortgage under 14 M.R.S. 6321. On appeal, the court notes that while Deutsche Bank evidenced its ownership of the note, it failed to adequately document its ownership of the mortgage, citing flaws in the chain of assignments. The court explains that the chain runs from MERS to IndyMac, then to FDIC as receiver for IndyMac to OneWest Bank, and finally OneWest Bank to Deutsche Bank; the problem is the date on the final assignment is two weeks prior to FDIC’s transfer to OneWest, meaning OneWest lacked authority to assign the mortgage at the time of its assignment to Deutsche Bank. Deutsche Bank attempted to rely on an earlier 2010 assignment from FDIC to Deutsche Bank, but provided no explanation for why the same mortgage as assigned twice by FDIC. As a result of the inconsistencies presented, the court found “the April 2010 assignment of the mortgage to Deutsche Bank, upon which the [trial] court relied, is not a ‘source whose accuracy cannot reasonably be questioned’ as a means of ‘accurate and ready’ proof of Deutsche Bank’s ownership of the mortgage.” See M.R. Evid. 201(b)(2); see also HSBC Mortg. Servs., Inc. v. Murphy, 2011 ME 59.

The court further found that the theory of estoppel by after-acquired property does not apply, and Deutsche Bank failed to prove its ownership under this theory; “the disputed assignment from OneWest Bank to Deutsche Bank did not involve a warranty deed or contain any factual allegation that OneWest Bank would need to contradict to assert title to the mortgage. The assignment purports to transfer ‘all interest’ OneWest Bank then held in the mortgage, without alleging that OneWest Bank had any interest to convey or making any other statement that could be interpreted to estop OneWest Bank from claiming title.” Pike v. Galvin, 29 Me. 183, 185 (1848); Bennett, 90 Me. at 461-62, 38 A. 372. Deutsche Bank was unable to prove any harmless error existed in the assignments, and therefore the trial court erred in granting the judgment of foreclosure.

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