How to ask the right questions in discovery

Discovery is part law, part art, and part intuition. The lawyer must generate questions that can be used, by themselves, to bring certain issues in front of the judge either because the opponent answered the questions or because they didn’t answer.

If your point is that your opponent doesn’t own the claim even though they either said or implied that they do own it, then you need to do some investigation first so you can ask the right questions in the right way. If your point is that there are two agreements, one for loan and the other for securitization, the same thing applies. Either way you face an uphill climb as you attempt to persuade a judge who is not an investment banker and doesn’t understands securitization but still thinks he or she understands residential homeowner transactions.

So continuing with our example, you want to show the judge that despite the requirements for legal standing your opponent does not have standing. In order to have standing the claimant must have an injury. Financial injury qualifies and that is what the banks are relying upon when they try to foreclose.

How does one have financial injury? Actual financial damages occur when one actually loses money or permanent value of some property — tangible, intangible, real or personal property all qualify.

By “actual” that means you can count the money that was lost as a direct and proximate result of the action or inaction of the defendant or, in this case, the homeowner.

If the homeowner doesn’t make a payment that had been expected, then several things occur in the law that makes this fairly simple proposition complex.

  1. Does the homeowner owe any money to the party to whom payment was previously being made? If not, then the complaining party had no right to declare, much less enforce the claim of default. The subheading here is counterintuitive — does the debt exist as  an asset owned by any entity, including the claimant? Assuming that the answer to these questions is in the affirmative is an assumption that compromises the entire defense of a foreclosure case. Assuming the answer is no, then discovery will be on the right track.
  2. BUT having previously made payments to the complaining party, the homeowner has been acting against his/her own interest and that is often treated as an implied admission that payment was previously made because the homeowner thought it was due. To take a contrary position now is contradictory and diminishes the credibility of the homeowner who later says that the money is not due.
  3. Was there an agreement under which the homeowner agreed to make the payment? Not so fast. This is more complicated than anything you can imagine because there is no agreement, no matter what was signed or what was even done, unless the agreement is enforceable. In the eyes of the law an unenforceable agreement is no agreement — a legal nullity. And there are very precise elements of a legally enforceable agreement, each of which must be present. this isn’t horseshoes — close is not enough.
  4. Is the claimant a party to the agreement? In the context of loans this is easy if there really was an original lender and a borrower. In the context of securitization, this condition can only be satisfied by the claimant if it purchased the underlying debt for value in exchange for a conveyance of the ownership of the debt. In today’s foreclosures this element is the focal point for most litigation. The claimant always has a conveyance, but never produces any proof of payment for the debt. That makes the conveyance (assignment of mortgage or indorsement of note) void even if it was executed and recorded. It is regarded in all jurisdictions as a legal nullity. If the conveyance was void then the claimant is not a party to the agreement. Litigation is between the bank forces using legal presumptions arising from the apparent facial validity of the conveyance and the actual facts which are absent showing that value was paid for the debt in exchange for the conveyance.
  5. Was there mutual consideration? If not, there is no agreement. In the context of loans this means that the original agreement produced mutuality. In other words, the party that is disclosed as “lender”, pursuant to the provisions of the Truth in lending Act, gave money to the borrower and the borrower took it, in exchange for a promise to repay the money to that party. At least 65% of all loans from the year 2000 to the present were not originated by the party named as “lender” in the “agreement” (note and mortgage). They are table funded loans against public policy. But they are often enforced under the belief that the originator was in privity (agreement) with the source of funds. In the context of securitization, which covers around 95% of all such loans, there was no privity because the source of funds did not want to liable for lending violations (inflated appraisals, nonviable loans etc). The issue is complicated by the fact that the borrower did receive consideration and did make the promise to pay the originator — but neither the note nor the mortgage were supported by consideration from the originator. Any “purchase” from the originator was therefore void, and any conveyance of the mortgage or note from the originator was void unless the grantee had already paid for the underlying debt. In virtually all cases in which securitization claims are present, the grantee has never paid for the debt, nor has it ever possessed the resources to purchase the debt. It is a
    “bankruptcy remote vehicle” which is to say that it is there in name only and possible not even as a legal entity. If you can show that fact or show that the other side refuses to answer properly worded questions about the status and ownership of the debt, then you can raise the inference that the claimant doesn’t possess a claim and therefore lacks standing.

So the questions that should be constructed and posed should center on the following guidelines, for purposes of this illustration:

  1. In which bank account were prior payments received and who controlled that bank account.
  2. On what general ledger of what company is the claimed debt appearing as an asset receivable of that company?
  3. What was the asset account from which the claimant entered a debit to pay for ownership of the debt?
  4. Does the named claimant as beneficiary or Plaintiff own the claimed debt as a result of a transaction on a certain date in which it paid value for the debt to a grantor who owned the debt in exchange for an conveyance of ownership of the debt?
  5. To whom did the servicer forward payments received from the borrower/homeowner?
  6. What person or entity did not receive money as a result of the claimed default?
  7. What is the date on which the named claimant received ownership of the underlying debt?
  8. On what dates has the named claimant issued any payments to third parties whose contractual rights to such payments were in any way related to payments received from the borrower/homeowner?
  9. What is the name and contact information of the officer(s) or employee(s) of the named claimant who is in charge of accounting and finance for the named claimant?
  10. What is the name and contact information of the officer or employee of the named claimant who is the custodian of records relating to the underlying debt, payments received and payments disbursed that were in any way related to the underlying debt, payments made by the borrower/homeowner, or payments received by third parties (possibly investors).
  11. Describe source and the amount of the remuneration and compensation received by the named claimant in connection with the creation, administration, collection or enforcement of the subject underlying debt, note and mortgage.
  12. Describe dates and names of the lockbox contract(s) maintained with third parties for the collection of borrower/homeowner payments relating to the subject loan.
Don’t use the above as the actual wording of your interrogatories, request for production or request for admission although some cutting and pasting could be used. Check with local counsel before you attempt to enter the legal process of discovery, motions to compel, motions for sanctions and motions in limine.
This article is not a complete treatise on discovery in foreclosure actions. It is not a substitute for seeking advice from an attorney licensed in the jurisdiction in which your property is located.
Neil F Garfield, MBA, JD, 73, is a Florida licensed trial attorney since 1977. He has received multiple academic and achievement awards in business and law. He is a former investment banker, securities broker, securities analyst, and financial analyst.


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5 Responses

  1. What about Property Taxes ???? Who are paying them. Why are they paying them. And more importantly are they considered financial injury ??? (Although it’s obvious the Plaintiff is definitely not paying them.)…

  2. Yes Summer. It is time to call out Kamala Harris for her role in cover-up. Of course, Trump continued by appointing Mnuchin. I don’t have Mnuchin involved. Nevertheless, it just goes to show — those in control are never challenged. They just keep getting away with it. Will we hear anything about Harris’ miserable approach to the financial crisis? Of course not. And she would be next in line to be president. WHY is not the media all over this???

    All the bad decisions first came out of California. Thanks Kamala. Great job. What else can we expect?

  3. When I ask PennyMac mob who sold them my loan they respond that my question (just the name of the Seller) is irrelevant, unduly burdensome and proprietory.

    The same answer when I ask which Ginnie Mae Trust holds my loan as a security….

    But I am confident that Courts will not care who is the Seller if I sue PennyMac. Judges don’t care about anything except “donations” from banks and high interest on their investment from fake securitization scheme

  4. Bob — I think they will deem all as irrelevant, unduly burdensome, not likely to lead to admissible evidence, etc., etc. — and the judge does nothing about it.

  5. your kill shots are in discovery questions numbered 2,3,4,7 and 9. if the bankster cannot prove up and produce the items sought in these requests, then you should win.

    the rest of the discovery questions will be successfully challenged as being irrelevant, unduly burdensome, not likely to lead to admissible evidence, etc., etc.

    in my opinion, the rest of NG’s post can be safely ignored, as it has been my experience that the arguments therein won’t help you one wit.

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