Discovery you can’t afford to miss: the SEC!

Discovery you can’t afford to miss: the SEC!

(OP-ED) — The opinions expressed herein reflect those of the author and should not necessarily be construed as legal advice; however, the material has been vetted by an attorney who loves the thought process behind what is expressed here.

While everyone is getting the “rope-a-dope” from the banks and their mortgage loan servicers, no one’s looking to the enforcement arm of Wall Street … the revolving door into the United States Securities and Exchange Commission (“USSEC”). The author will abbreviate this agency, who is supposed to enforce violations of securities laws; however, seemingly, apparently hasn’t been doing so to the extent that We the People need them to.

The author of this post held off posting this article for the sake of clarification, insomuch that jumping the gun and sending the readers of this post on a wild goose chase for nothing would have been totally discrediting and thus, non-productive. Now that clarification has been achieved, it’s no holds barred.

The author devised a set of discovery, which was then turned into more productive aspects of a means to an end. That discovery revolves around the USSEC, who has the goods you’re looking for if you happen to be facing a REMIC trust, which most of you are since most of your loans were securitized.

This concept and thought process involves a two-pronged attack on the USSEC. Here’s step one:

If you’ll visit sec.gov, you’ll notice the search box in the upper, right-hand corner of the website.

Type in ONLY the REMIC trust’s “Series Number” (for example 2004-NC3, which I will reference in this post as the example). Do NOT type in the entire trust’s name and gobbledygook as you’ll end up with non-descript stuff you can’t use. Once the actual REMIC’s name appears below the search box, make a note of the “CIK” number by whatever means possible because this information will become part of your discovery request.

Rule #1: You cannot serve discovery on a non-party to a lawsuit!

Don’t even try it. You will be wasting your time and money. Instead, the attorney the author spoke with zeroed in on the fact that if you make the USSEC a third-party defendant in your case, the courts will most likely throw them out (dismiss them from your suit) at the first opportunity, much to the objections of the mortgage loan servicer (who’s bring the foreclosure against you trying to reimburse its own coffers), who will then figure out what you’re trying to get at. Thus, the attorney suggests getting a subpoena issued straightaway against the USSEC, asking for certified copies of information directly related to the REMIC trust you’re dealing with. Here’s where the concept attempts to get results:

Submit a complete and true certified copy of the 424(b)(5) Prospectus for 2004-NC3, filed with the USSEC on April 12, 2004.

Submit a complete and true certified copy of the Form 8-K, also known as Current Report for 2004-NC3, filed with the USSEC on May 3, 2004, as shown on the Edgar Entity Landing Page with a Reporting Date of April 16, 2004.

Submit a complete and true certified copy of the Form 8-K, also known as Current Report for 2004-NC3, filed with the USSEC on June 2, 2004, as shown on the Edgar Entity Landing Page with a Reporting Date of May 25, 2004.

Submit a complete and true certified copy of the Form 8-K, also known as Current Report for 2004-NC3, filed with the USSEC on July 1, 2004, as shown on the Edgar Entity Landing Page with a Reporting Date of June 25, 2004.

Submit a complete and true certified copy of the Form 8-K, also known as Current Report for 2004-NC3, filed with the USSEC on August 3, 2004, as shown on the Edgar Entity Landing Page with a Reporting Date of July 26, 2004.

Submit a complete and true certified copy of the Form 8-K, also known as Current Report for 2004-NC3, filed with the USSEC on August 27, 2004, as shown on the Edgar Entity Landing Page with a Reporting Date of August 25, 2004.

Submit a complete and true certified copy of the Form 8-K, also known as Current Report for 2004-NC3, filed with the USSEC on September 28, 2004, as shown on the Edgar Entity Landing Page with a Reporting Date of September 27, 2004.

Submit a complete and true certified copy of the Form 8-K, also known as Current Report for 2004-NC3, filed with the USSEC on November 1, 2004, as shown on the Edgar Entity Landing Page with a Reporting Date of October 25, 2004.

Submit a complete and true certified copy of the Form 8-K, also known as Current Report for 2004-NC3, filed with the USSEC on November 29, 2004, as shown on the Edgar Entity Landing Page with a Reporting Date of November 26, 2004.

Submit a complete and true certified copy of the Form 8-K, also known as Current Report for 2004-NC3, filed with the USSEC on January 3, 2005, as shown on the Edgar Entity Landing Page with a Reporting Date of December 27, 2004.

Submit a complete and true certified copy of the Form 8-K/A, also known as Current Report – amendment, and all amendments thereto for 2004-NC3, filed with the USSEC on January 12, 2005, as shown on the Edgar Entity Landing Page with a Reporting Date of November 26, 2004.

Submit a complete and true certified copy of the Form 8-K/A, also known as Current Report – amendment, and all amendments thereto for 2004-NC3, filed with the USSEC on January 12, 2005, as shown on the Edgar Entity Landing Page with a Reporting Date of October 25, 2004.

Submit a complete and true certified copy of the Form 8-K/A, also known as Current Report – amendment, and all amendments thereto for 2004-NC3, filed with the USSEC on January 12, 2005, as shown on the Edgar Entity Landing Page with a Reporting Date of August 25, 2004.

Submit a complete and true certified copy of the Form 8-K/A, also known as Current Report – amendment, and all amendments thereto for 2004-NC3, filed with the USSEC on January 12, 2005, as shown on the Edgar Entity Landing Page with a Reporting Date of September 27, 2004.

Submit a complete and true certified copy of the Form 8-K/A, also known as Current Report – amendment, and all amendments thereto for 2004-NC3, filed with the USSEC on January 12, 2005, as shown on the Edgar Entity Landing Page with a Reporting Date of July 26, 2004.

Submit a complete and true certified copy of the Form 8-K/A, also known as Current Report – amendment, and all amendments thereto for 2004-NC3, filed with the USSEC on January 12, 2005, as shown on the Edgar Entity Landing Page with a Reporting Date of June 25, 2004.

Submit a complete and true certified copy of the Form 8-K/A, also known as Current Report – amendment, and all amendments thereto for 2004-NC3, filed with the USSEC on January 12, 2005, as shown on the Edgar Entity Landing Page with a Reporting Date of May 25, 2004.

Submit a complete and true certified copy of the SEC Form 15-15D, known as Suspension of Duty to Report [Section 13 and 15(d)] of 2004-NC3, filed with the USSEC on January 26, 2005.

Submit a complete and true certified copy of the 10-K, known as Annual Report [Section 13 and 15(d), not S-K Item 405] of 2004-NC3, filed with the USSEC on March 31, 2005, as shown on the Edgar Entity Landing Page with a Reporting Date of March 7, 2005.

EXPLANATION OF WHAT’S BEEN REQUESTED THUS FAR …

From the pull-down menu at sec.gov (when you’ve retrieved the REMIC’s files), print and save the list of all of the documents that have been filed with the USSEC on that particular REMIC. This should not be considered as over broad and burdensome to the USSEC since all of these files are contained within the USSEC’s database. They can easily be retrieved and the fee for sending it all to you is $4.00 in postage.

In this particular example, the pull-down menu, which was printed out in full, contained 19 documents, all of which became part of the request for production under subpoena.

You can either ask for all of these documents (that are contained within the USSEC’s files on the REMIC, which in this case was 19) outside of a lawsuit if you wish to get an advance look-see at everything. That’s an option if you don’t want to subpoena the records from the USSEC. However, there’s more to the story than what we’ve covered so far. This is where the subpoena comes in with the double whammy. A lot depends on the timing of the request and whether you’re attacking the servicer ahead of the foreclosure. You’ll want to depose someone with direct, first-hand knowledge of the REMIC you’re going after.

And here’s step two:

Get the court clerk to issue a subpoena to the USSEC to get them to produce someone with relevant knowledge of the documents that can verify and validate any violations of the governing regulations of the REMIC trust. (Again, this is framed as a suggestion and not given as legal advice!)

Inside of the subpoena, you can demand the USSEC check ALL of its records and produce whatever it has, in certified form, for the following (and this is just a sample):

Submit complete and true certified copies, if any you have in your possession or control, of all notes, memoranda and agreements for any certificateholder settlements known to the USSEC for  2004-NC3.

Submit complete and true certified copies, if any you have in your possession or control, of all known litigation filed by any certificateholder, known to the USSEC for  2004-NC3.

Submit complete and true certified copies, if any you have in your possession or control, of all known USSEC-related prosecutorial actions taken against 2004-NC3.

Submit complete and true certified copies, if any you have in your possession or control, of the mortgage loan documents which name the Plaintiffs as the Borrowers that demonstrated that the trustee of 2004-NC3 received the documents described on Page S-75 of the 2004-NC3’s 424(b)(5) Prospectus according to the stated governing regulations.

Submit a complete and true certified copy, if any you have in your possession or control, of any document that demonstrates the negotiation or transfer of the Plaintiff’s mortgage loan and all related documents therein, which specifically identify the date these mortgage loan documents, including all assignments of mortgage (or deed of trust) thereto, that were documented as part of the transfer from the Depositor to the REMIC trust by the trust’s Cut-Off Date.

You’ll want to review all of the trust’s “FILED” documents first, because the Amendments inside of those REMICs may reveal changes in the number of certificate holders receiving the 8-K’s and 10-K’s and may further reveal the actual “condition” of the REMIC before and after it closed. You’ll need this information for the next step.

Rule #2: You cannot depose a non-party to the suit without relevant cause!

This is a great way to get the mortgage loan servicer’s attention because if the REMIC trust settled out with all of the certificate holders, then the mortgage loan servicer, the real party bringing the foreclosure, has no standing because it can’t prove concrete injury-in-fact required under Spokeo v. Robins. Thus, it has no standing to pursue a foreclosure. And it’s going to fight you tooth and nail to keep its position in the suit because it wants to steal your property.

Don’t expect the mortgage loan servicer and its attorneys to sit idly by while you depose someone with knowledge of the particular REMIC trust. They’ll have their attorneys in the deposition, so you’ll have to craft your questions in such a way so as to expose the bad behavior on the part of the servicer’s employees when it comes to having the USSEC deponent examine the recorded assignment(s), specifically for:

  1. Who prepared the assignment? (Was it the law firm or the servicer’s employees?)
  2. Who executed the assignment? (Was it someone who wasn’t really who they said they were?)
  3. When was the assignment executed? (Well after the Cut-Off Date of the REMIC trust?)
  4. When was the assignment recorded? (Well after the Closing Date of the REMIC trust?)
  5. What do the governing regulations for this particular REMIC state about Assignment of the Mortgage Loans? (Is it obvious to the USSEC deponent that the regulations were violated?)
  6. Has the USSEC ever been notified by anyone to investigate this particular REMIC trust?
  7. Does the USSEC have any records of whether or not a credit default swap counterparty paid the certificate holders in full?
  8. Does the USSEC have any records of whether or not any default insurance policies paid the certificate holders in full?
  9. Does the USSEC have any records of whether or not there were any settlements wherein the certificate holders were paid in full or in part; thus settling any future payments due to them?
  10. Has the USSEC ever investigated this REMIC for any securities violations or irregularities?

In other words (and this is just a smattering of all of the questions to be asked of your USSEC deponent) … you’re trying to get the USSEC deponent’s attention to the fact that he/she can testify as to the fact that none of the governing regulations for the REMIC were complied with and that under New York Trust Law, they are void. Any question relevant to violations of the REMIC’s governing regulations would require a statement from the USSEC deponent that could be inferred to be a conclusion of law and the other side will object, but the comment will still go on the record, where the judge can see it.

This is a direct way to get someone in authority to see the assignments as fraudulent and to initiate a potential investigation, both civil and criminal, which may force the mortgage loan servicer to back off rather than run the risk of an exposed criminal prosecution.

You want the judge to see the REMIC for what it is and what the servicer is actually trying to do. Because most judges think they’re pensions are tied to these REMICs, to discover that the REMIC has been closed and the certificate holders paid would mean that the servicer (who has no contract with you) can triple-dip by stealing your home and that the judge doesn’t have to worry about his pension is going to be affected by making the proper ruling and kicking the mortgage loan servicer out of court.

If the investors (certificate holders) settled the case with the REMIC and accepted payment in full, how then can they come into court and claim they were financially harmed? They can’t … that’s the point. They’d have to prove they were damaged and if they got an insurance settlement and were paid in full, they weren’t damaged; thus, the mortgage loan servicer would be potentially committing fraud on the court to attempt to introduce evidence to the contrary.

Remember, in order to issue a subpoena, you have to file suit. You can use the SEC’s own forms to request all of the documents contained in the REMIC’s file for the shipping fee and they will send them certified (outside of the litigation); however, that takes time and doing it outside of litigation means the court has no control over the outcome of the request for anything from the USSEC. The fees for deposing a single party or entity these days is $3,000 – $5,000 depending on where the deposition takes place. However, if you’re trying to protect a million dollar property, no stone should be left unturned.

Again, this isn’t legal advice. It’s just plain common sense.

Notice of Default and Paragraph 22 of the Standard Mortgage

 

Some think that there has been a dry spell for wins of homeowners beating the big banks. However the decision below shows otherwise and is very important for a couple of reasons. First it gives us more of a confirmed road map of how to make defenses in certain cases that have facts similar to this case…i.e. violations of Paragraph 22 of the mortgage, in regards to a notice of default (NOD), which we knew about but this decision emphasizes the importance of this type of defense. But also important…..Judge Gantz is back in full swing helping borrowers fight against illegal foreclosures. You will recall that he wrote the Freemont decisionIbanez, and others…but then he seemed to have lost some momentum. However, with this decision, Judge Gantz is back in full stride protecting us from the criminal banks and their illegal foreclosure practices.

 

FEDERAL NATIONAL MORTGAGE ASSOCIATION vs. ELVITRIA M. MARROQUIN & others

 

 

NOTICE:  All slip opinions and orders are subject to formal revision and are superseded by the advance sheets and bound volumes of the Official Reports.  If you find a typographical error or other formal error, please notify the Reporter of Decisions, Supreme Judicial Court, John Adams Courthouse, 1 Pemberton Square, Suite 2500, Boston, MA, 02108-1750; (617) 557-1030; SJCReporter@sjc.state.ma.us SJC-12139

 

 

FEDERAL NATIONAL MORTGAGE ASSOCIATION  vs. ELVITRIA M. MARROQUIN & others.1 Essex.     January 9, 2017. – May 11, 2017. Present:  Gants, C.J., Lenk, Hines, Gaziano, Lowy, & Budd, JJ. Mortgage, Foreclosure, Real estate.  Real Property, Mortgage, Sale. Notice, Foreclosure of mortgage. Summary process.  Complaint filed in the Northeast Division of the Housing Court Department on June 18, 2012. The case was heard by David D. Kerman, J., on motions for summary judgment. The Supreme Judicial Court granted an application for direct appellate review. Cody J. Cocanig for the plaintiff. Dayne Lee (Eloise P. Lawrence also present) for Elvitria M. Marroquin. Joshua T. Gutierrez, Daniel D. Bahls, & Andrew S. Webman, for Lewis R. Fleischner & another, amici curiae, submitted a brief.

1 Julio E. Vasquez and Christopher Vasquez. GANTS, C.J.  In Pinti v. Emigrant Mtge. Co., 472 Mass. 226, 227, 232 (2015), we held that a foreclosure by statutory power of sale pursuant to G. L. c. 183, § 21, and G. L. c. 244, §§ 11- 17C, is invalid unless the notice of default strictly complies with paragraph 22 of the standard mortgage, which informs the mortgagor of, among other things, the action required to cure the default, and the right of the mortgagor to bring a court action to challenge the existence of a default or to present any defense to acceleration and foreclosure.

We applied this holding to the parties in Pinti but concluded that our decision “should be given prospective effect only.”  Id. at 243.  We therefore declared that the decision “will apply to mortgage foreclosure sales of properties that are the subject of a mortgage containing paragraph 22 or its equivalent and for which the notice of default required by paragraph 22 is sent after the date of this opinion,” which was issued on July 17, 2015.Id. We did not reach the question whether our holding should be applied to any case pending in the trial court or on appeal. Id. at 243 n.25.

We reach that question here, and conclude that the Pinti decision applies in any case where the issue was timely and fairly asserted in the trial court or on appeal before July 17, 2015.  Because we conclude that the defendants timely and fairly raised this issue in the Housing Court before that date, and because the notice of default did not strictly comply with the requirements in paragraph 22 of the mortgage, we affirm the judge’s ruling declaring the foreclosure sale void.

Background.  In December, 2005, the defendants2 secured a mortgage loan in the amount of $312,000 from American Mortgage Express Corporation (American Mortgage) and, as security for the loan, granted a mortgage on their home to Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems, Inc. (MERS), which American Mortgage had designated as the mortgagee in a nominee capacity. MERS subsequently assigned the mortgage to Bank of America, N.A. (Bank of America), as successor by merger to BAC Home Loans Servicing, LP, formerly known as Countrywide Home Loans Servicing, LP. After the defendants failed to make their mortgage payments, the loan servicer, Countrywide Home Loans Servicing, LP, on October 17, 2008, mailed the defendants a notice of intention to foreclose (notice of default). The notice informed the defendants that they were in default and set forth the amount due to cure the default. The notice warned in relevant part:

2 The mortgage loan was secured by the defendants Elvitria M. Marroquin and Julio E. Vasquez. The limited record before us suggests that Christopher Vasquez is Marroquin’s son, and that a motion filed by the Federal National Mortgage Association to amend the summons and complaint to include him was granted by the Housing Court judge. For convenience, we refer to “the defendants” throughout this opinion.

“If the default is not cured on or before January 15, 2009, the mortgage payments will be accelerated with the full amount remaining accelerated and becoming due and payable in full, and foreclosure proceedings will be initiated at that time. As such, the failure to cure the default may result in the foreclosure and sale of your property. . . . You may, if required by law or your loan documents, have the right to cure the default after the acceleration of the mortgage payments and prior to the foreclosure sale of your property if all amounts past due are paid within the time permitted by law. . . .Further, you may have the right to bring a court action to assert the non-existence of a default or any other defense you may have to acceleration and foreclosure.”

The defendants did not cure the default, and in March, 2012, Bank of America gave notice and conducted a foreclosure sale by public auction of the mortgaged home.       Bank of America was the high bidder at the foreclosure auction and subsequently assigned its winning bid to the Federal National Mortgage Association (Fannie Mae or plaintiff), which properly recorded the foreclosure deed conveying title of the property in May, 2012.    On June 18, 2012, Fannie Mae initiated a summary process action in the Housing Court to evict the defendants from the property.  On June 19, 2012, the defendants, representing themselves but assisted by counsel, filed an answer in which, by checking a box, they proffered as a defense to the eviction that “[t]he plaintiff’s case should be dismissed because it does not have proper title to the property and therefore does not have standing to bring this action and/or cannot prove a superior right to possession of the premises.”

For reasons not apparent from the record, Fannie Mae did not move for summary judgment until June, 2015, where, among other arguments, it contended that Bank of America had complied with the terms of the mortgage in exercising the power of sale, and specifically asserted that the notice of default had complied with paragraph 22 of the mortgage.3 On September 23, 2015, the defendants filed a cross motion for summary judgment in which they argued that the notice of default failed to strictly comply with the terms of paragraph 22 of the mortgage and that the defendants should be entitled to the benefit of our decision in Pinti even though the notice of default was sent well before the issuance of that opinion. In October, 2015, the judge granted the defendants’ cross motion for summary judgment and denied the plaintiff’s motion.

3 Paragraph 22 of the mortgage provides that in the event the borrower commits a breach of any term of the mortgage, prior to acceleration of the loan the lender must notify the borrower of “(a) the default; (b) the action required to cure the default; (c) a date, not less than [thirty] days from the date the notice is given to [the defendants], by which the default must be cured; and (d) that failure to cure the default on or before the date specified in the notice may result in acceleration of the sums secured by [the mortgage].”

Paragraph 22 further provides that such notice must inform the borrower “of the right to reinstate after acceleration and the right to bring a court action to assert the non-existence of a default or any other defense of the borrower to acceleration and sale.”   It also declares that, if the default is not timely cured, the lender “may invoke the statutory power of sale.”

The judge found that the issue in Pinti had been “timely and fairly raised,” and concluded that our decision in Pinti should apply to all cases similarly situated that were pending in the trial court or on appeal where the issue had been timely and fairly raised before July 17, 2015.   The judge also concluded that the notice of default failed to strictly comply with the requirement in paragraph 22 of the mortgage that the notice shall inform the borrower “of the right to reinstate after acceleration and the right to bring a court action to assert the non-existence of a default or any other defense of the borrower to acceleration and sale.”The judge found that, by stating, “You may, if required by law or your loan documents, have the right to cure the default after the acceleration of the mortgage payments and prior to the foreclosure sale of your property . . . ,” and “you may have the right to bring a court action to assert the non-existence of a default or any other defense you may have to acceleration and foreclosure” (emphasis added), the notice “significantly, and inexcusably, differed from, watered. . . down, and overshadowed the notice that was contractually and legally required by the mortgage.”   He added that “there was no excuse for the difference in language “and that it was impossible to imagine any purpose for drafting a notice that failed to track the language of the mortgage “unless, of course, the purpose was to discourage [b]orrowers from asserting their rights.”4 After the judge issued his decision, the Appeals Court held in Aurora Loan Servs., LLC v. Murphy, 88 Mass. App. Ct. 726, 727

(2015), that the Pinti decision applies to cases pending on appeal where the claim that the notice of default failed to strictly comply with the notice provisions in the mortgage had been “raised and preserved” before the issuance of the decision. Although the issue was not before it, the Appeals Court declared that “the Pinti rule” did not extend to cases pending in the trial court.  Id. at 732.  Relying on this dictum, the plaintiff moved to vacate the judgment under Mass. R. Civ. P. 60 (b), 365 Mass. 828 (1974). The judge denied the motion, and the plaintiff appealed.  We allowed the defendants’ application for direct appellate review. Discussion.  1.  Application of the Pinti decision to pending cases.  Our decision in Pinti was grounded in the requirement in G. L. c. 183, § 21, that, before a mortgagee may

4 The judge analogized the warning in the notice of default to a Miranda warning that informed a suspect before interrogation: “You [may] have the right to remain silent.  If you give up the right [and if you have that right], anything you say or do [may] can and will be used against you in a court of law. You [may] have the right to an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney [and if you have that right], one [may] will be appointed for you. Do you understand these rights as they have been read to you?”

exercise the power of sale in a foreclosure, it must “first comply[] with the terms of the mortgage and with the statutes relating to the foreclosure of mortgages by the exercise of a power of sale.”Because the power of sale is a “substantial power” that permits a mortgagee to foreclose without judicial oversight, we followed the traditional and familiar rule that “‘one who sells under a power [of sale] must follow strictly its terms’; the failure to do so results in ‘no valid execution of the power, and the sale is wholly void.’” Pinti, 472 Mass. at 232-233, quoting U.S. Bank Nat’l Ass’n v. Ibanez, 458 Mass. 637, 646 (2011).  See Pryor v. Baker, 133 Mass. 459, 460 (1882) (“The exercise of a power to sell by a mortgagee is always carefully watched, and is to be exercised with careful regard to the interests of the mortgagor”).

Although it had long been established in law that the failure to strictly comply with the terms of a mortgage renders void an otherwise valid foreclosure sale, we gave our decision “prospective effect only, because the failure of a mortgagee to provide the mortgagor with the notice of default required by the mortgage is not a matter of record and, therefore, where there is a foreclosure sale in a title chain, ascertaining whether clear record title exists may not be possible.” Pinti, 472 Mass. at 243.  Our concern was that a third party who purchases property that had once been sold at a foreclosure auction would not, through a title search, be able to determine whether the notice of default strictly complied with the terms of the mortgage. It would therefore be nearly impossible to eliminate the risk that the foreclosure sale would later be declared void and that the title would be returned to the foreclosed property owner. See id. We presumed that, after our decision in Pinti, mortgagees “as a general matter” would address this uncertainty by executing and recording “an affidavit of compliance with the notice provisions of paragraph 22 that includes a copy of the notice that was sent to the mortgagor pursuant to that paragraph.” Id. at 244.

However, we applied our ruling to the parties in Pintiid. at 243, citing Eaton v. Federal Nat’l Mtge. Ass’n, 462 Mass. 569, 589 (2012), and deferred the question whether our holding “should be applied to any other class of cases pending on appeal.”    Id. at 243 n.25. In Galiastro v. Mortgage Elec. Registration Sys., Inc., 467 Mass. 160, 167-170 (2014), we addressed that same issue in a closely parallel context.     In Eaton, 462 Mass. at 571, we declared that a foreclosure by power of sale is invalid unless a foreclosing party holds the mortgage and also either holds the underlying note or acts on behalf of the note holder.

We applied this rule to the parties in Eaton, but otherwise gave the ruling prospective effect only.  Id.  In Galiastrosupra at 168, we extended the benefit of our decision in Eaton to litigants who had preserved this issue and whose cases were pending on appeal at the time that Eaton was decided. We declared that “[w]here multiple cases await appellate review on precisely the same question, it is inequitable for the case chosen as a vehicle to announce the court’s holding to be singled out as the ‘chance beneficiary’ of an otherwise prospective rule.”   Galiastrosupra at 167-168, citing United States v. Johnson, 457 U.S. 537, 555 n.16 (1982), and Commonwealth v. Pring-Wilson, 448 Mass. 718, 736 (2007).

Limiting the application of prospective rulings to such a “chance beneficiary” would mean that something as arbitrary as the speed at which a case is litigated might determine its outcome, as only the first case raising this issue to reach the Supreme Judicial Court would get the benefit of the ruling. It would also greatly diminish the “incentive to bring challenges to existing precedent” by depriving similarly situated litigants “of the benefit for the work and expense involved in challenging the old rule.”    Galiastrosupra at 169, quoting Powers Wilkinson, 399 Mass. 650, 664 (1987).

The same principles underlying our decision in Galiastro to extend the Eaton rule to cases pending on appeal cause us to extend the Pinti rule to cases pending in the trial court where the Pinti issue was timely and fairly raised before we issued our decision in Pinti.  In such cases, the homeowner-mortgagors are similarly situated to the plaintiffs in Pinti, because they presented the same arguments in the trial court that the Pinti plaintiffs presented to this court on appeal.  All that distinguishes the homeowners in Pinti from the homeowners in this case is the pace of the litigation.  The summary process complaint in this case was first filed in June, 2012; the complaint in Pinti seeking a judgment declaring that the foreclosure sale was void was filed in January, 2013.  If this case had proceeded to judgment more promptly in the Housing Court, this appeal, rather than Pinti, might have been the one that established the so-called Pinti rule.5

Having so ruled, we now consider whether the homeowner defendants in this case timely and fairly raised a Pinti defense before the issuance of our Pinti decision.  The judge found that they had, and we conclude that he was not clearly erroneous in so finding. We recognize that the defendants did not specifically allege that the mortgagee’s notice of default failed to strictly comply with the terms of paragraph 22 of the mortgage until they filed their cross motion for summary judgment on September 23,

5 We recognize that this ruling will increase the impact our Pinti decision may have on the validity of titles, but we expect the increase to be modest and that it will simply be part of the inherent “unevenness [that] is an inevitable consequence of any change in doctrine.” Galiastro v. Mortgage Elec. Registration Sys., Inc., 467 Mass. 160, 170 (2014), quoting Johnson Controls, Inc. v. Bowes, 381 Mass. 278, 283 n.4 (1980).

2015, more than two months after the issuance of our opinion in Pinti.  But more than three years before that opinion, in June, 2012, they filed an answer as self-represented litigants where they checked the box proffering as a defense to the eviction that the plaintiff did not have “superior right to possession of the premises.”6 We need not consider whether the assertion of this affirmative defense alone was sufficient to give fair notice of a Pinti defense, because it is apparent from the plaintiff’s memorandum in support of its motion for summary judgment, which was filed one month before the issuance of our Pinti decision, that the plaintiff recognized that the defendants had alleged that the notice of default failed to comply with the terms of paragraph 22 of the mortgage. In that memorandum, the plaintiff argued that it had complied with the requirements of paragraph 22 and that it would be “irrational and fundamentally unfair” to declare the foreclosure proceeding void because of the purported minor differences between the language of the notice of default and that of the mortgage.

6 The full text of the defense, marked box no. 67 on the answer, states:”The plaintiff’s case should be dismissed because it does not have proper title to the property and therefore does not have standing to bring this action and/or cannot prove a superior right to possession of the premises. Wayne Inv. Corp. v. Abbott, 350 Mass. 775 (1966) (title defects can be raised as defense in summary process); G. L.239, § 1 (summary process available to plaintiff only if foreclosure carried out according to law).

“Where the plaintiff recognized that the defendants had raised the Pinti issue as a defense before our Pinti decision, the judge did not err in finding that the defendants fairly and timely raised the issue and therefore were entitled to the benefit of the Pinti decision.

Obligation of strict compliance. Having determined that the defendants are entitled to the benefit of our holding in Pinti, we must now address whether the notice of default strictly complied with paragraph 22 of the mortgage. It did not. Once a borrower has defaulted on a mortgage, G. L. c. 183, 21, authorizes the mortgagee to foreclose and sell the premises, provided it “first compl[ies] with the terms of the mortgage and with the statutes relating to the foreclosure of mortgages by the exercise of the power of sale.” Pinti, 472 Mass. at 232, quoting G. L. c. 183, § 21.  As we explained in Pintisupra at 236, “the ‘terms of the mortgage’ with which strict compliance is required — both as a matter of common law under this court’s decisions and under § 21 — include not only the provisions in paragraph 22 relating to the foreclosure sale itself, but also the provisions requiring and prescribing the preforeclosure notice of default” (footnote omitted). See Foster, Hall & Adams Co. v. Sayles, 213 Mass. 319, 322-324 (1913).

The notice of default in this case communicated much of what paragraph 22 requires but fell short in several crucial respects.  Paragraph 22 requires that the notice “inform [the borrower] of the right to reinstate after acceleration and the right to bring a court action to assert the non-existence of a default or any other defense of [the borrower] to acceleration of sale.” Despite this language in the plaintiff’s own uniform mortgage instrument, the notice declared that the borrower “may, if required by law or [the borrower’s] loan documents, have the right to cure the default after the acceleration of the mortgage payments and prior to the foreclosure sale of [the borrower’s] property if all amounts past due are paid within the time permitted by law” (emphasis added). Similarly, the notice declared that the borrower “may have the right to bring a court action to assert the non-existence of a default or any other defense [the borrower] may have” (emphasis added).

We agree with the judge that this language in the notice “significantly, and inexcusably, differed from” the language in paragraph 22 of the mortgage, and “watered . . . down” the rights provided in that paragraph to the mortgagor homeowner. The phrase, “you may, if required by law or your loan documents, have the right to cure the default after acceleration,” suggests that the right to cure and reinstate is not available to every mortgagor, and that any such right is contingent upon the law or the provisions of other loan documents.  But paragraph 19 of the mortgage specifically grants a mortgagor the right to reinstatement after acceleration, and sets forth the steps required to do so.This phrase instead suggests that the homeowner may need to perform legal research and analysis to discern whether the right to cure and reinstate is available.

Similarly, rather than unequivocally inform the borrower of the right to bring a court action to attempt to prevent a foreclosure by asserting that there was no default or by invoking another defense, the notice of default stated that the borrower may have the right to bring such an action. Here, too, the implication is that the right is merely conditional, without specifying the conditions, and that the mortgagor may not have the right to file an action in court.

The defendant contends that it accurately informed borrowers that they “may have” the right to bring a court action because they would have no such right if their court action lacked a good faith basis. But neither paragraph 22 of the mortgage nor the notice identified a bad faith exception to this right and we cannot reasonably infer that a borrower would understand that the “may have” language referenced such an exception.7

7 Because we find that the notice of default was not in strict compliance with paragraph 22, we need not address the We agree with the judge that, because the Pinti decision applies to this case and because the notice of default did not strictly comply with the requirements of paragraph 22 of the mortgage, the foreclosure sale is void.

Conclusion.  The allowance of the defendants’ cross motion for summary judgment, as well as the denials of the plaintiff’s motions for summary judgment and for relief from judgment, are affirmed.

So ordered.

defendants’ contention that the plaintiff waived its argument that the notice was in strict compliance when it conceded that it was only in substantial compliance in the memorandum in support of its motion for summary judgment and at the hearing in the Housing Court.

MERS Is Dead

download pdf button

MERS Is Dead: Can Be Sued For Fraud: WA Supreme Court

Countdown to banks forcing Congress to protect MERS in 3,2,1…

State Court Ruling Deals Body Blow to MERS

(Reuters) – The highest court in the state of Washington recently ruled that a company that has foreclosed on millions of mortgages nationwide can be sued for fraud, a decision that could cause a new round of trouble for the nation’s banks.

The ruling is one of the first to allow consumers to seek damages from Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems, a company set up by the nation’s major banks, if they can prove they were harmed.

Legal experts said last month’s decision from the Washington Supreme Court could become a precedent for courts in other states. The case also endorsed the view of other state courts that MERS does not have the legal authority to foreclose on a home.

“This is a body blow,” said consumer law attorney Ira Rheingold. “Ultimately the MERS business model cannot work and should not work and needs to be changed.”

Banks set up MERS in the 1990s to help speed the process of packaging loans into mortgage-backed bonds by easing the process of transferring mortgages from one party to another. But ever since the housing crash, MERS has been besieged by litigation from state attorneys general, local government officials and homeowners who have challenged the company’s authority to pursue foreclosure actions.

A spokeswoman for MERS said the company is confident its role in the financial system will withstand legal challenges.

The Washington Supreme Court held that MERS’ business practices had the “capacity to deceive” a substantial portion of the public because MERS claimed it was the beneficiary of the mortgage when it was not.

This finding means that in actions where a bank used MERS to foreclose, the consumer can sue it for fraud. If the foreclosure can be challenged, MERS’ involvement would make repossession more complicated.

On top of that, virtually any foreclosed homeowner in the state in the past 15 years who feels they have been harmed in some way could file a consumer fraud suit.

“This may be the beginning of a trend,” says Elizabeth Renuart, a professor at Albany Law School focusing on consumer credit law.

The company’s history dates back to the 1990s, when banks began aggressively bundling home loans into mortgage-backed securities. The banks formed MERS to speed up the handling of all the paperwork associated with recording the filing of a deed and the subsequent inclusion of a mortgage in an entity that issues a mortgage-backed security.

MERS allowed the banks to save time and money because it permitted lenders to bypass the process of filing paperwork with the local recorder of deeds every time a mortgage was sold.

Instead, banks put MERS’ name on the deed. And when they bought and sold mortgages, they just recorded the transfer of ownership of the note in the MERS system.

The MERS’ database was supposed to keep track of where those loans went. The company’s motto: “Process loans, not paperwork.”

But the foreclosure crisis revealed major flaws with the MERS database.

The plaintiffs in the Washington case, homeowners Kristin Bain and Kevin Selkowitz, argued that the problems with the MERS database made it difficult, if not impossible; to determine who really owned their loan. It’s an argument that has been raised in numerous other lawsuits challenging the ability of MERS to foreclose on a home.

“It’s going to be very easy for consumers to say they were harmed because it’s inherently misleading,” says Geoff Walsh, an attorney with the National Consumer Law Center. If consumers can’t identify who owns their loan, then they don’t know whom to negotiate with, and can’t even be certain of the legitimacy of the foreclosure.

In a statement, MERS spokeswoman Janis Smith noted that banks stopped using MERS’ name to foreclose last year. She added that the opinion will “create confusion” for homeowners in the state of Washington while the trial courts consider its effect on pending cases.

Meanwhile, MERS is attempting to remake itself. The company has a new chief executive and a new branding campaign. In Washington D.C. federal lawmakers have recognized the need to create a national mortgage-recording database that would track all U.S. mortgages. MERS is lobbying to build it.

The case is Bain (Kristin), et al. v. Mortg. Elec. Registration Sys., et al., Washington Supreme Court, No. 86206-1.

LIST OF FORECLOSURE LAWS BY STATE

Get In Touch

Phone / Fax

Phone: 800-459-1215

Fax: 844-318-3941

Email

info@fraudstoppers.org

Hours: 24/7/365

 

Send A Message

 

Fraud Stoppers Logo

THIS SITE IS NOT INTENDED TO BE MISCONSTRUED AS LEGAL ADVICE. FRAUD STOPPERS is a Private Members Association PMA. FRAUD STOPPERS PMA is NOT a law firm, non-profit organization, or government agency.  FRAUD STOPPERS PMA does not operate in the public sector. Although this website is visible to the public  FRAUD STOPPERS PMA does not intend for any information contained in this website to be considered as legal advise.

The information about Foreclosure law and other legal information provided on this website does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal advice; instead, all information, content, and materials available on this site are for general informational purposes only.  Information on this website may not constitute the most up-to-date legal or other information.  This website contains links to other third-party websites.  Such links are only for the convenience of the reader, user or browser; FRAUD STOPPERS and its members do not recommend or endorse the contents of the third-party sites.

Readers of this website should contact their attorney to obtain advice with respect to any particular legal matter.  No reader, user, or browser of this site should act or refrain from acting on the basis of information on this site without first seeking legal advice from counsel in the relevant jurisdiction.  Only your individual attorney can provide assurances that the information contained herein – and your interpretation of it – is applicable or appropriate to your particular situation.  Use of, and access to, this website or any of the links or resources contained within the site do not create an attorney-client relationship between the reader, user, or browser and website authors, contributors, contributing law firms, or committee members and their respective employers. This site provides “information” about the law and is only designed to help users safely cope with their own legal needs. But legal information is not the same as legal advice — the application of law to an individual’s specific circumstances.

The views expressed at, or through, this site are those of the individual authors writing in their individual capacities only – not those of their respective employers, FRAUD STOPPERS, or committee/task force as a whole.  All liability with respect to actions taken or not taken based on the contents of this site are hereby expressly disclaimed.  The content on this posting is provided “as is;” no representations are made that the content is error-free.

For instant access to an affordable local competent attorney click here

 

Spread the love
Yum