Foreclosure Defense and Offense: ALL 2001-2008 WERE ASSIGNED AND SECURITIZED

WHAT’S IN A NAME: WHY THE WORDS “ASSET BACKED SECURITIES” IN THE PLAINTIFF’S NAME OF A FORECLOSURE CASE SHOULD MAKE YOU DIG

In view of the fact that the bulk of mortgages, especially those created in connection with refinance and home equity lines which were initiated between 2002 and 2007, were only a small cog in a much larger machine, anyone even vaguely familiar with foreclosure litigation knows that the plaintiff in the foreclosure action is often styled as something along the lines of “So and so as Trustee for XYZ Asset-Backed Securities”. There is much more to this denomination than meets the eye, and whether or not such a plaintiff even has the right to institute a foreclosure case at all is a question which anyone defending such a foreclosure should be asking right up front.

There are numerous articles on this blog which explain the threshold concept of why the plaintiff in these types of cases winds up being a trustee for a group of otherwise unidentified holders of securities. The “Cliff Notes” version is presented here for the purpose of this article and to give the reader a place to begin their inquiry. However, it is strongly recommended that the reader delve into the wealth of information on the blog in order to have a more complete understanding of the entire transaction of which the mortgage was only literally “the pimple on the elephant” before taking the actual step of defending a foreclosure based on any of the matters herein.

In the case of the “asset-backed security” plaintiff, the sceanario went something like this:

(a) borrower seeks refi or HELOC (home equity line of credit) from mortgage broker, asking broker for best loan program available given borrower’s income, credit history, and ability to repay the loan;

(b) mortgage broker either initially tells borrower that they qualify for a fixed rate loan with an even payment throughout the loan and later changes this to “the only thing available to you is an adjustable rate loan”, or makes this representation at the outset if the borrower has sketchy credit, low income, etc.;

(c) mortgage broker presents borrower with loan application;

(d) loan is “approved” either on original appraisal or “revised” or “amended” appraisal if original was not sufficient to create the necessary loan-to-value to approve the loan;

(e) loan is also “approved” on basis of borrower’s qualifying for “teaser rate” only, not the adjustable rate later in the life of the loan which the originating lender knew the borrower could not qualify for, but did not care about as the loan was already either presold to aggregator or would be after closing;

(f) assignment of the mortgage to aggregator has either already been made at the time of the initial approval for the loan, at the time of the application, or is made shortly after closing;

(g) closing takes place. Original “lender” (which in certain cases was nothing more than a front for a securities brokerage) has already sold or assigned the mortgage or will do so shortly;

(h) mortgage is assigned to an aggregator, “bundler”, or other third-party for further resale;

(i) aggregator sells mortgage, with hundreds or thousands of others, in “bundles” to investment bankers;

(j) investment bankers create series of “mortgage-backed securities” to be sold to investors with false, unsupported, or outright fraudulent AAA ratings, as underlying stability of the borrowers (who oftentimes were not and could not have been approved for the life of the adjustable rate loan) is dubious at best, and probably nonexistent as borrowers did not qualify as having ability to repay loan after “teaser” rate expired and higher rate kicked in;

(k) borrowers default in droves, causing loss of value of security;

(l) trustee or other third party is appointed to represent the holders of the “mortgage-backed securities” to foreclose on the collateral (the property).

Thus, the name of the plaintiff in a foreclosure lawsuit can reveal a lot about where the underlying mortgage went and how it got there. With these types of actions, one knows, right away, that there had to have been multiple assignments of the mortgage from the time of initiation to the point where the mortgage became collateral for an “asset-backed security”. As such, the first series of questions to be asked are those surrounding the assignment process:

(a) for each assignment, was there a valid assignment given by one with full authority to transfer the interest in the mortgage?

(b) was the assignment recorded?

(c) was there any consideration for the assignment (e.g. were any monies paid to purchase the mortgage at a discount, thus creating a payment against the obligation on the mortgage note)?

The answers to these threshold questions will directly impact how the defense of the foreclosure will proceed. If all of the assignments in the chain were valid, then the ultimate assignee (here, the Trustee for the Certificate Holders of the Asset-Backed securities) took the mortgage subject to all defenses which the borrower could have raised against the originating “lender”. As such, on proof of a valid chain of assignments, defenses which the borrower may have had against the originating lender under the Federal TILA, HOEPA, and RESPA Statutes; state Consumer Protection statutes; and other laws (see blog glossaries for definitions of these terms) can be asserted against the “trustee” plaintiff. Obviously, if the assignments are nonexistent or problematic, the borrower can assert that the “trustee” plaintiff does not have the legal capacity to even institute the foreclosure action in the first instance (known as “lack of standing or capacity” in legal lingo).

The next level of inquiry in any multiple-assignment process involves a determination of whether any payments by any of the assignees to the assignor in connection with the assignment can be characterized as payments against the underlying obligation of the note to which the mortgage attaches. The originating “lender” is obviously not going to assign the mortgage to an aggregator for no money. As such, there is the possibility that the foreclosing plaintiff may have wrongfully claimed the borrower to be in default, which results not only in a fraud being perpetrated upon the borrower, but also on the court as well. Unrecorded or unapplied paydowns against the note result in the foreclosing plaintiff not only seeking monies which it is not owed, but also in effect causing the theft of property to which the plaintiff is not entitled.

These threshold issues should be addressed at the outset of any foreclosure proceeding where there is an “asset-backed security” plaintiff, as the results of the inquiry may open up numerous additional avenues of defense and potential affirmative claims as well. Obviously the more diligent one is with their inquiry, the better potential for an effective, multi-level defense against the foreclosure.

A word of caution, however, which we have echoed in other blog articles: although these concepts may appear deceptively simple, asserting them properly in a foreclosure action as a defense, affirmatively in a separate legal action, or inside of a Federal bankruptcy proceeding is both a science and an art best left to attorneys who are versed in the technical terminology and the proper procedural rules in order to render these defenses effective. We thus repeat the recurring caveat to all non-lawyers reading these articles:

DON’T TRY THIS AT HOME!

Jeff Barnes, Esq.

One Response

  1. i need your help;

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