Editor: David Reiss
Brooklyn Law School

August 28, 2013

U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York Rules That a Party Perfects its Security Interests in Disputed Loans by Taking Possession of the Notes as Opposed to Recording the Mortgage Assignments, Pursuant to UCC Article 9

By Alex Orchowski

In Provident Bank v. Community Home Mortgage Corp., 498 F.Supp.2d 558, 558 (E.D.N.Y. 2007) the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York ruled in favor of intervenor-plaintiff NetBank, granting its cross motion for summary judgment against intervenor-plaintiff, Southwest Securities Bank (herein described as Southwest) in a dispute regarding conflicting recorded mortgage assignments for nine loans. The court stated that “where parties assert competing interests in mortgage assignments,” under Article 9, “possession of the note perfects the assignee’s security interest regardless of whether any mortgage securing the note has been properly recorded.” It concluded that NetBank perfected its interest in eight of the nine disputed loans and took possession of them before Southwest, giving it a superior interest in those loans.

Confusion over who possessed the loans started when Defendant Community, a mortgage banker, entered into agreements with two banks, Southwest and RBMG (NetBank’s successor in interest), to fund a portion of its mortgage loans. Community entered Mortgage Purchase Agreements with both banks and engaged in a scheme known as “double booking,” where it “obtained duplicate funding for one loan from two different lenders and retained the entire value of the loan.” Essentially, “Community created two original notes and mortgages for each of the disputed loans.” Because of Community’s fraud “only one of the lenders would be paid in full,” and each bank claimed a priority interest in the nine loans that Community sold to it. Southwest recorded its assignments of the mortgages before RBMG for five of the loans, but RBMG received the original notes and assignments for eight of the loans before Southwest.

In determining which of the loans belonged to Southwest or NetBank and which of the mortgages were valid, the court had to decide “whether Article 9 or state real property law governs the security interests in mortgages.”  Under Article 9, a party perfects it security interest in a note by taking possession of it. Alternatively, under “race-notice statutes in state real property law,” a party perfects its security interest in a mortgage by recording the assignment. Southwest argued that the court should follow New York’s race-notice statute, whereas RBMG argued that Article 9 should govern.

Before reaching its decision, the court examined the New York Real Property Law Section 291, which states that a “bona fide purchaser for value, without notice of a junior mortgage, who records his assignment is entitled to priority over a prior unrecorded mortgage of which his assignor has full knowledge.” It explained that previous decisions applying the statute did not address instances where the “first party to record a mortgage assignment [had] a prior interest over another party who first takes possession of the note securing the mortgage.”  The court stated that in this case, the question depended on the “supremacy of perfecting the security interest in the note [as opposed to previous cases which regarded] perfecting the security interest in the mortgage.”

According to the statute’s language and precedent decisions regarding the same issue, Southwest would have a priority interest in five of the loans that it recorded before RMGA. Instead, the court applied Article 3 and Article 9 of the UCC in reaching its conclusions. It stated that “NetBank perfected its security interest in the loans and Southwest,” did not. The court agreed with previous cases in the Circuit which held that, “perfection of a security interest in the note (by taking possession under Article 9) should carry over to the mortgage incidental to it.” It explained that in New York, assignment of a note creates a security interest in the note, but a party perfects its security interest in the note by possessing it. From this reasoning, the court determined Southwest was not the first party to perfect its security interest in the loans, as it merely recorded its mortgage assignments but never possessed them. Therefore, the court denied Southwest’s motion for summary judgment requesting possession over the disputed loans.

Instead, the court granted NetBank’s motion for summary judgment, pursuant to Article 9, as it possessed eight of the disputed loans before Southwest. It also held that under UCC Article 3, NetBank qualified as a holder in due course (defined as a holder of a negotiable instrument who takes it for value, in good faith, and without notice that it is overdue or has been dishonored) in regards to seven of the loans, entitling it to those loans independent of its possession under Article 9.

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