Punitive Damages for Violations of Automatic Stay in Bankruptcy §362

Since 2008 I have called out bankruptcy practitioners for their lack of interest in false claims of securitization. The impact on the bankruptcy estate is usually enormous. But without aggressive education of the presiding judge the case will not only go as planned by the banks, it will also lock in the homeowner to “admissions” in bankruptcy schedules and orders that lead to a false conclusion of fact.

Where a pretender lender ignores the automatic stay Bankruptcy judges are and should be very harsh in their penalty. The stay is the bulwark of consumer protection under bankruptcy proceedings which are specifically enabled by the U.S. Constitution. Hence it is as important as free speech, freedom of assembly, freedom of religion and the right to keep and bear arms.

The attached article shown in the link below gives the practitioner a running start on holding the violator responsible and in giving the homeowner a path to punitive damages, given the corrupt nature of the mortgages and foreclosures that arose during the great mortgage meltdown.

This might be the place where a hearing on evidence is conducted as to the true nature of the forecloser and a place where the petitioner/homeowner will be given far greater latitude in discovery to reveal the emptiness behind the presumptions that the foreclosing “party” exists at all or to show that it never acquired the debt but seeks instead to enforce fabricated paper.

Remember that in cases involving securitization claims or which are based upon apparent securitization patterns the named “Trustee” is not the party in interest. The party is the named “Trust.” If the Trust doesn’t exist it doesn’t matter if the Pope is named as the Trustee, there still is no existing party seeking relief from the Court.

see Eviction Can Lead to Sanctions Including Punitive Damages for Violation of Automatic Stay

The challenge here is that most bankruptcy lawyers are not well equipped for litigation. So it is advised that a litigator be introduced into the case to plead and prove the case for sanctions, if the situation arises in which a violation of stay has occurred or if there is an adversary proceeding seeking to prevent the pretender lender from acting on its false claims.

Most of the litigation in bankruptcy court has simply been directed at motions to lift the automatic stay. In such motions, the petitioner is merely saying we want to litigate this in state court. The burden of proof is as light as a puff of smoke. If the court finds any colorable interest in the alleged loan, it will ordinarily grant the motion to lift stay — as it must under the existing rules. Homeowners in bankruptcy find it a virtually impossible uphill climb to defend because they are required to have evidence only in possession of the opposing party who also might not have the information needed to prove the lack of any colorable interest.

But the lifting of the stay applies to the litigation concerning foreclosure. It does not necessarily extend to the eviction or unlawful detainer that occurs afterwards. And where the stay has not been lifted the pretender lender is out of luck because there is no excuse for ignoring the automatic stay.

So further action by the foreclosing party is probably a violation of the automatic stay. And in certain cases the court might apply punitive damages on top of consequential damages, if any. The inability to prove actual damages is relatively unimportant unless the homeowner has such damages. It is the violation of the automatic stay that is paramount.

The article below starts with a premise that the “creditor” has received notice of the BKR and ignored it — sometimes willfully and arrogantly.

Here are some notable quotes from this well-written article by Carlos J. Cuevas.

The imposition of punitive damages for egregious violations of the automatic stay is vital to the function of the consumer bankruptcy system. Most consumer debtors cannot afford to pay their attorneys to prosecute an automatic stay violation. The enforcement of the automatic stay is predicated upon major financial institutions observing the automatic stay.

If there is a doubt as to the applicability of the automatic stay, then a creditor can obtain a comfort order as to the applicability of the automatic stay, or obtain relief from the automatic stay from the Bankruptcy Court.

“Parties may not make their own private determination of the scope of the automatic stay without consequence.”

What would be sufficient to deter one creditor may not even be sufficient to gain notice from another. Punitive damages must be tailored not only based upon the egregiousness of the violation, but also based upon the particular creditor in violation.

In determining whether to impose punitive damages under Bankruptcy Code Section 362(k), several bankruptcy courts have identified five factors to guide their decision. They are the nature of the creditor’s conduct, the creditor’s ability to pay, the motives of the creditor, any provocation by the debtor, and the creditor’s level of sophistication: In re Jean-Francois, 532 B.R. 449, 459 (Bankr. E.D.N.Y. 2015).

The fact that Church Avenue pursued the eviction more than a week after it learned of the debtor’s bankruptcy suggests that Church Avenue either made its own—incorrect—legal conclusion with respect to whether the eviction would be a stay violation, or decided that moving ahead to empty the building quickly and evict the occupants was worth more to it than the risk associated with defending a future § 362(k) motion.

when a creditor acts in arrogant defiance of the automatic stay it is circumventing the authority of the bankruptcy judge to exercise authority over that particular bankruptcy case. A bankruptcy judge is the only entity vested with the authority to determine whether the automatic stay should be lifted.

Egregious violations of the automatic stay can be deleterious to a consumer bankruptcy debtor. For example, a creditor who refuses to return a repossessed vehicle after the commencement of a bankruptcy case can create a significant hardship for a consumer debtor. A debtor whose vehicle has been repossessed may not be able to rent a substitute vehicle. This can create a significant hardship for a debtor who has to commute to work, who has to transport a child to school, or who is a caregiver for a sick relative.

Lateral Appeal in BKR to District Judge Often Overlooked

The PHH case underscores the statistics and the substance of actions brought in U.S> Bankruptcy Court. The fact is that BKR judges, once called magistrates, do not have the jurisdiction or power of ordinary District Court Judges.

In addition out of the three possible venues for appeal from BKR rulings and decisions, the one that gets the most traction the most often is directly to the sitting District Court judge in whose courthouse the BKR proceedings are pending. District judges are the most likely to find that the BKR “judge” lacked jurisdiction or power to even hear many matters.

Let us write the narrative for your appeal: 202-838-6345
Get a consult and TEAR (Title & Encumbrances Analysis and & Report) 202-838-6345. The TEAR replaces and greatly enhances the former COTA (Chain of Title Analysis, including a one page summary of Title History and Gaps).
https://www.vcita.com/v/lendinglies to schedule CONSULT, leave message or make payments. It’s better than calling!

Hat tip to Dan Edstrom

see PHH v Sensenich US Dist Lexis 207801

There are three possible routes for appeal. The one that gets the best results is rarely used for unknown reasons. So here are some pointers on bringing an appeal from a ruling or decision entered by a BKR judge:

  1. Lateral appeal to District Court Judge: Success rate around 50%
  2. Bankruptcy Appellate Panel (BAP): Success rate around 15%
  3. Direct appeal to the Circuit Court of Appeals: Success rate less than 15%.

This anomaly was first pointed out by a Bankruptcy Court Judge in Arizona who as presenting at a CLE Bar Seminar for Bankruptcy lawyers. The seminar was in 2009 and still we are waiting for BKR practitioners to pick up the ball.

An apparently little known fact is that BKR courts are courts of limited jurisdiction as to what they can hear and how they can hear the issues. Many practitioners avoid an appeal from BKR to the Federal District Court Judge because they think that the District judge is on the same level as the BKR judge. And they think that two judges on the same bench are not going to rule against each other.

This view is simply wrong. They are not on the same bench. District Judges have authority over everything that happens in BKR court. BKR court is itself broken up into two categories. One category is simple rulings on motions in the administrative court proceeding (which is why the BKR “Judges” were called magistrates).

Most of what happens in the administrative phase of a bankruptcy is ministerial. Rulings that cross the line of ruling from ministerial to substantive judgments on the law regarding consumer rights, foreclosures etc. are subject to challenge and are as likely to get overturned by the District Judge as not. This is the part most people have some familiarity.

The other category is Adversary actions. This means someone has filed a lawsuit in Bankruptcy Court that is separately served and subject to the same rules of procedure as an action filed in U.S. District Court. But the similarity ends there. Many adversary actions go far beyond the jurisdiction of the BKR judge.

Lack of jurisdiction means the judgment or ruling is void. Those void judgments are generally reversed by the District Court judge and not necessarily by the BAP or Circuit Court probably because nobody brings up the issue of whether the BKR action was in the correct court.

Generally speaking there are two categories of appeal: procedural and substantive. Appeals citing errors in procedure (including jurisdiction) generally get the most traction. Appeals citing substantive law or worse, citing errors in apprehending the evidence, have the lowest success rate.

In the case cited above, Federal District Court Judge Geoffrey Crawford reversed a bankruptcy judge’s ruling that had imposed sanctions against a creditor “based on Rule 3002.1(i) of the Rules of Bankruptcy Procedure, the bankruptcy court’s inherent authority, and Bankruptcy Code section 105.”

The sanctions were awarded in three cases where debtors had to make mortgage payments pursuant to chapter 13 plans.  The mortgage servicer had billed the debtors for fees that the bankruptcy trustee asserted were improper. At a trustee’s request, the bankruptcy court imposed sanctions against the servicer of $375,000: $25,000 for each case under Rule 3002.(i) and $300,000 total for violations of court orders under its inherent powers and section 105.

Rule 3002.1 permits bankruptcy courts to provide relief to debtors when mortgage creditors fail to disclose certain fees and charges. Rule 3002.1(i) allows courts to remedy violations of certain provisions of Rule 3002.1 by (among other things) “award[ing] other appropriate relief, including reasonable expenses and attorney’s fees caused by the failure.” Whether Rule 3002.1 authorizes punitive sanctions was a matter of first impression. Neither the parties nor the court had found a case where a bankruptcy court had invoked the rule to support sanctions in this manner.

Judge Crawford reasoned that, because Rule 3002.1 is a procedural rule, it cannot enlarge the substantive authority of the bankruptcy courts. If bankruptcy courts do not have the substantive authority under statute and case law to issue punitive sanctions, then a mere procedural rule cannot alter the lack of substantive authority. The court thus concluded that the question under Rule 3002.1(i) was reducible to the question under a bankruptcy court’s inherent powers and section 105.

For homeowners this ruling helps. Citing it puts the banks in the position of opposing a ruling that went in their favor, i.e., this PHH case.  This also puts the homeowner on notice to check carefully before filing an adversary action instead of a collateral action that is directly before the District Judge or even State Court.

The problem is that most BKR attorneys who mostly do Chapter 7 and Chapter 13, have little or no litigation experience. Thus it may be necessary to NOT  charge your BKR lawyer with there responsibility of filing an adversary or collateral action and to bring in separate trial counsel even if the decision is made to file an adversary complaint.




Deutsch and other Banks Under Investigation by DOJ for Filing False Documents

see https://findsenlaw.wordpress.com/2015/02/04/department-of-justice-investigates-deutsche-bank-for-false-documents-presented-to-court-in-bankruptcy-foreclosure-case/

Beth Findsen, Esq. in Scottsdale, Az posted an article on her blog back in February revealing that after 10 years+ the Department of Justice is finally examining the validity of the papers filed by the banks in support of purported foreclosures on behalf of ghosts. Beth is a realist as well as an idealist. And her skills as an attorney are second to none.

While the DOJ is always slow, they frequently get to the bottom of things when they put their minds to it. The prosecution of individuals working for the Banks may just be around the corner. Apparently there has been a serious on-going investigation since 2014. If an indictment follows, it will shake the entire foreclosure process to its core. If there is a settlement, then it will probably stay business as usual.

This is not the first case where a US Trustee in Bankruptcy has questioned the authenticity and validity of documents supplied by the banks. But it seems to be a more serious issue now as they continue to piece together whether the claims filed by banks as Trustees, servicers or agents are real. If they are not they are committing fraud on US Bankruptcy court which is a federal crime for which plenty of people have gone to jail.

The importance in bankruptcy cannot be overstated. The size of the bankruptcy estate is affected. On the asset side you have the house and its fair market value at the time of filing or the time of appraisal. On the liability side you have a party who claims to be a creditor but isn’t a creditor. Then you have John Does whose money was used without their knowledge in connection with the origination or acquisition of the alleged loan. And finally you have a prospective liability that either is secured or is not secured. This could affect everything from motions to lift stay to adversary actions.

Interesting parts of the article include

Although the investigation involves the case of only one homeowner in Connecticut, a court document filed on Jan. 26 by the United States Trustee’s Office said it wants to elicit information about Deutsche Bank’s practices in general in foreclosure cases.

In recent months, the office has stepped up efforts around the United States to block banks and law firms from using false or fabricated documents in home foreclosure actions. The effort follows disclosures in October 2010 of large-scale “robo-signing”, the mass signing of foreclosure affidavits containing “facts” that had never been checked, and wide production of false mortgage assignments.

The Jan. 26 court motion stated that “The United States Trustee has reviewed the documents filed by Deutsche in this case and has concerns about the integrity of those documents and the process utilized by Deutsche in” filing to foreclose.”

From Reuters:

April Charney, a Florida legal aid attorney who represents homeowners in foreclosure cases and who is an expert on mortgage securitizations, said that aside from possible sanctions against Deutsche Bank in this foreclosure case, the results could have significant effect on Deutsche Bank’s practices in general, and on its ability to foreclose on large numbers of homeowners in default.

Lawyers for homeowners in foreclosure have alleged similar practices by Deutsche Bank in cases around the country.

Wisconsin BKR Judge Orders Wells Fargo to Disgorge Payments It Received

For further information please call 954-495-9867 or 520-405-1688


Hat tip to anonymous

The full case was 25 pages, I redacted to about 4 below, but very substantial topics and analysis on this similar to Rivera in full version.
– A win on recovery of mortgage payments made to Wells, $73,000.
– Loss on recovery of attorneys fee’s to Debtor, BUT, court stated these would be proper if circumstances met criteria, just not here, and
Very interesting analysis on return of note, which backs up your prior analysis; Note will not be returned to Debtor, as even though note is not enforceable by Wells or its servicers, real party in interest may show up at some point. Debtor also did not point to any prior case law that would require return of note.

I question whether the bankruptcy judge had the required jurisdiction to enter this order in all respects. But the analysis he presents is pretty much on target and once again Wells Fargo is shown to be making false statements and representations in court with virtual immunity even in this case.

Decision dated 10/21/14



In re Chapter 13 Dennis E. Thompson and Pamela A. Thompson, Case No. 05-28262-svk Debtors.


Since this case’s inception in 2005, it has been fraught with litigation, failed mediations, discovery disputes, accusations of attorney misconduct and otherwise tumultuous actions. In 2013, these proceedings eventually culminated in this Court’s disallowance of the proof of claim filed on behalf of Wells Fargo Bank after it was established that Wells Fargo was not the holder of the mortgage note underlying the claim. As a result, the pro se debtors filed a flurry of motions to effectuate the claim disallowance decision. This memorandum decision will hopefully end the litigation concerning the mortgage note, at least in the bankruptcy court………………

……..“On January 12, 2006, the Court confirmed the Debtors’ Chapter 13 plan. Under the plan, the Debtors proposed to make direct current mortgage payments and cure their pre-petition mortgage arrearage via payments to the trustee. On June 27, 2011, the Debtors filed a motion to enter into the Court’s mortgage modification mediation program with Litton. (Docket No. 142.) In preparation for the mortgage mediation, the Debtors hired an attorney and conducted a title search on their property. (Hearing Recording, Docket No. 164, at 10:53:15.) The title search revealed that Wells Fargo did not hold the title to their mortgage. (Id.) Mediation attempts with both Litton and Ocwen Loan Servicing, LLC4 (“Ocwen”), the current servicer for Wells Fargo, failed. (Docket No. 168; Docket No. 213.) On March 19, 2012, the Debtors filed a motion that the Court construed as an objection to the Claim. (Docket No. 159.) On April 2, 2012, Ocwen responded to the objection. After several preliminary hearings, discovery disputes, and a final evidentiary hearing, the Court entered an order disallowing the Claim. (Docket No. 217, 5.) The Court determined that neither Wells Fargo nor its servicers had standing to file a claim in the Debtors’ bankruptcy case. (Id.) Wells Fargo appealed. U.S. District Judge J.P. Stadtmueller affirmed the Court’s decision to disallow Wells Fargo’s Claim, holding:

“[E]ven if each version of the note self-authenticates under FRE 902(9), without testimony or other evidence from Ocwen to “‘connect the dots’” between the disputed allonge and the note, the evidentiary record contained only equally probable “authentic” versions of the note countervailing one another. Against that evidentiary backdrop, the bankruptcy court committed no error in finding insufficient evidence to confer standing on Ocwen to prosecute the disputed proof of claim.

Ocwen Loan Servicing, LLC v. Thompson, No. 13-CV-487, 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 2109, at *14- 15 (E.D. Wis. Jan. 7, 2014).

Prior to the district court decision, the Debtors filed motions for reimbursement of mortgage payments (Docket No. 222) and attorneys’ fees. (Docket No. 223.) The Court entered an order determining that no action would be taken on the Debtors’ motions until after the district court entered a final order in the appeal. (Docket No. 225.) After the district court decision, the Debtors filed a motion to require the return of the original note to them. (Docket No. 239.) The Court set a briefing schedule. The parties have filed briefs. The motions are now ripe for decision.



Reimbursement of Mortgage Payments made on Disallowed Claim

Based on the disallowance of the Claim, the Debtors request a refund of all mortgage payments and trustee payments made to Litton and Ocwen since their bankruptcy case was filed in 2005. (Docket No. 222, 1.) Arguing that they “have every legal right to believe that they were or should have been paying the proper party,” (Id.), the Debtors calculate that a total of $146,972.45 should be reimbursed to them. (Docket No. 257, 4.) This amount includes $21,587.64 for “lost mortgage payments,” $106,167.91 for mortgage payments made outside the plan from July 2005 to December 2011, $11,716.90 for disbursements made by the Chapter 13 trustee on the disallowed Claim, and $7,500.00 for “return of sanction.”5 (Id.)

Wells Fargo raises only two objections to the Debtors’ motion for a refund of mortgage payments. First, Wells Fargo contends that the Court previously denied this motion at the March 14, 2013 hearing on the Debtors’ objection to Wells Fargo’s Claim……………….”

Second, Wells Fargo argues that the Court must balance the equities under the circumstances.6 Wells Fargo notes that Ocwen and Litton both expended funds during the course of the bankruptcy to prevent the Debtors’ property from going into tax foreclosureWells Fargo also argues that the Court’s decision disallowing the Claim did not alter the fact that the “Debtors borrowed money on April 14, 2000, and have yet to repay their debt,” and “[u]nder the circumstances, it would be inequitable to require Ocwen to take yet another loss on this account.” (Id. at 5-6.)

“The Court rejects Wells Fargo’s attempt to characterize the Court’s comments at the March 13, 2013 hearing as a definitive ruling on whether Wells Fargo should have to refund the payments it received from the Debtors during the bankruptcy case…………..

Wells Fargo’s second argument requests that the Court balance the equities under the circumstances. Wells Fargo cites one case to support its position, which notes that “[c]ourts exercising equitable powers must behave akin to doctors operating under the Hippocratic Oath: first, do no harm. We must do equity to all parties and not just the party seeking equitable assistance . . .” Briarwood Club, LLC v. Vespera, LLC, 2013 WI App 119, ¶ 1, 351 Wis. 2d 62, 839 N.W.2d 124. Wells Fargo suggests that if the Court grants the Debtors’ request, the Debtors will gain a free house. It notes that the Debtors borrowed money that they have not fully repaid, and as long as they are not required to repay it twice, the Debtors are obligated under the mortgage note. (Docket No. 246, 6.) Wells Fargo explains that while it may not have legal enforcement power under Wisconsin law, it does still hold physical possession of the note. (Id.)

And, according to Wells Fargo, since there have not been any competing claims for repayment on the loan, it would be inequitable for the Court to require Wells Fargo to take another loss on this delinquent account. (Id. at 7.)

A similar argument was made and rejected in Thomas v. Urban P’ship Bank, Residential Credit Solutions, Inc., 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 59818 (N.D. Ill. April 26, 2013). In that case, Barbara Thomas filed suit against Urban Partnership Bank, alleging that Urban sought payments on a mortgage loan that it did not own. The central issue involved whether Thomas’s mortgage loan was included in an asset purchase agreement executed between Urban and Thomas’s original lender, ShoreBank. Urban moved to dismiss the complaint, arguing among other theories that there were no competing claims for payment on the note. But Thomas’s unjust enrichment claim survived the motion to dismiss. According to the district court:

Thomas clearly alleges that she owes someone money under the mortgage loan and that that someone is not Urban, and so it is irrelevant that no one else is currently making claims to her mortgage payments. If Thomas is correct that she owes money to someone other than Urban, then by paying Urban she has lost money without reducing the debt she owes to the loan’s true owner. . . . That amounts to the enrichment of Urban to Thomas’s detriment, since Thomas has lost and Urban has gained money for nothing . . . If, as Thomas adequately alleges, Urban had no right under the mortgage loan to the payments it received and Thomas made the payments on the mistaken premise that Urban was the loan’s owner, then fundamental principles of justice, equity, and good conscience require that Urban disgorge the payments . . . .

Id. at *27-29 (internal citations and quotations omitted).8

The district court in Thomas relied on Bank of Naperville v. Catalano, 86 Ill. App. 3d 1005, 408 N.E.2d 441, 444, 42 Ill. Dec. 63 (Ill. App. 1980), in which the court held,

“As a general rule, where money is paid under a mistake of fact, and payment would not have been made had the facts been known to the payor, such money may be recovered.”

The court also cited the Restatement (Third) of Restitution and Unjust Enrichment § 6 (2011) “Payment of Money Not Due” to the effect that payment by mistake gives the payor a claim in restitution against the recipient to the extent payment was not due, and a payor’s mistake as to liability may be a mistake about the identity of the creditor. The Restatement discusses two examples of payment by mistake that may be applicable here: mistake as to payee and mistake as to liability.9 Under mistake as to payee, the Restatement notes that “[a] mistaken payor has a claim in restitution when money is mistakenly transferred to someone other than the intended recipient.”…………..

Under mistake as to liability, the Restatement states that “[a] payor’s mistake as to liability may be a mistake about the identity of the creditor. In such a case, the payor believes that an obligation runs to the payee when in fact the obligation is to someone else.” The latter example applies here.10 The Debtors mistakenly believed that Wells Fargo was entitled to enforce the mortgage note. Wells Fargo’s servicers filed proofs of claim in the bankruptcy case, and they directed the Debtors to send their mortgage payments to Wells Fargo, in care of the servicers. The servicers accepted the Debtors’ mortgage payments on behalf of Wells Fargo, when in fact, Wells Fargo did not validly hold the mortgage note, and Wells Fargo was not entitled to the payments.

Although Wells Fargo has responded to the Debtors’ request for a refund with a plea for equity,11 in fact, the equities here favor the Debtors.

“A claim for unjust enrichment is based on the “universally recognized moral principle that one who received a benefit has the duty to make restitution when to retain such a benefit would be unjust.” Puttkammer v. Minth, 83 Wis. 2d at 689 (quoting Fullerton Lumber Co. v. Korth, 37 Wis. 2d 531, 536 (Wis. 1968))…..

 However, it is not enough to merely establish that a benefit was conferred and retained; the retention must also be inequitable. Id. This Court previously determined that Wells Fargo is not the holder of the Debtors’ mortgage note with legal authority to enforce it; that determination was affirmed on appeal. Without authority to enforce the note, Wells Fargo is not entitled to receive payments under the note. Only the party with a legally enforceable right to enforce the note is entitled to retain the benefit of the Debtors’ mortgage payments. Nevertheless, Wells Fargo, through its servicers, received voluntary payments from the Debtors and payments from the Trustee since the commencement of this bankruptcy case, subjecting the Debtors to the possibility of having to pay twice if the true owner of the note appears. Since Wells Fargo and its servicers have no legal right to the Debtors’ mortgage payments, retention of the Debtors’ mortgage payments would be inequitable.


Adding all of the entries for “payment” shows that the Debtors paid $97,979.68 from February 2006 to July 2011. (Docket No. 211, Ex. 11).12 Additionally, Wells Fargo should credit the Debtors with $7,500 for the sanctions awarded in the prior claim objection proceeding. (See Docket No. 103, at 10), for a total of $105,479.68. Wells Fargo points out that it made real estate tax payments on the Debtors’ behalf that should be deducted from any refund claim. The Court agrees. After subtracting $32,438.19 for the tax payments made on the Debtors’ behalf, the Debtors’ total claim for unjust enrichment is $73,041.49. Under the circumstances, Wells Fargo should be required to return this amount to the Debtors to avoid being unjustly enriched………….

Attorney Fee’s

“The Debtors also filed a motion for attorneys’ fees, arguing that Wells Fargo should pay approximately $12,500 in fees and costs the Debtors expended in connection with the failed mediations with Litton and Ocwen. According to the Debtors, “[u]nnecessary protracted negotiations have been ongoing since 2010. Starting with Litton Loan and ending with Ocwen. The plaintiff has misrepresented their standing, despite the efforts of the debtors to discuss this matter in the mediation process.” (Docket No. 223 at 1-2.) The Debtors also request punitive damages under 28 U.S.C. § 1927 for “vexatious litigation conduct” by Litton and Ocwen. (Id. At 2.) They note that Litton failed to attend several scheduled mediation sessions, and when Ocwen reinitiated mediation proceedings in 2012, there was a “delay to the debtors of 6 hours in the first and only scheduled mediation, with the debtors believing that progress was being established.”……………………… Although the Debtors have the right to be disappointed that the mediation did not succeed despite the attorneys’ fees that the Debtors expended, Wells Fargo’s attorneys acted under the impression that their client had proper standing. The Court finds that Wells Fargo’s attorneys did not unreasonably and vexatiously multiply the proceedings by their conduct in this case, and the Debtors’ request for attorneys’ fees is denied.

Request for Return of Note

The Debtors’ final motion asks the Court to order Wells Fargo to turn over the original mortgage note to them. Despite the Court’s ruling that Wells Fargo cannot enforce the note, the Debtors are concerned that Wells Fargo will somehow sell, transfer or trade the note, subjecting the Debtors to further litigation, emotional distress and financial hardship. Wells Fargo responds by attempting to discern the legal theories under which the Debtors are attempting to proceed, and then casting aspersions on those theories. The Court generally agrees with Wells Fargo that the Debtors could not succeed on a replevin claim or turnover action based on the note as property of the bankruptcy estate. However, the theory that the surrender of the original note consequently follows from the disallowance of Wells Fargo’s Claim warrants further analysis. The Court also takes this opportunity to clarify that, while not “undoing” any part of the Foreclosure Court’s judgment, Wells Fargo’s ability to enforce that judgment was never finally determined by the Foreclosure Court, and the disallowance of Wells Fargo’s Claim on standing grounds strongly suggests that Wells Fargo has no such ability………………..

Neither the Debtors nor Wells Fargo cited any case law supporting their position on whether the note should be returned to the Debtors after disallowance of the Claim, and the Court’s independent research uncovered no case directly on point…………………..Here, while the validity of the note and mortgage in favor of Provident was actually litigated and determined in the Foreclosure Case, Wells Fargo’s substitution as the plaintiff was summarily ordered without notice to the Debtors or any hearing on the issue. The Debtors were not afforded a reasonable opportunity to obtain review of the substitution order before the automatic stay intervened. That the party sought to be precluded had a reasonable opportunity to obtain review of the prior court’s order is a basic premise of the fundamental fairness prong of the issue preclusion analysis. Id. This Court previously denied Wells Fargo’s attempt to establish its standing to file the Claim based on the judgment and order of substitution in the Foreclosure Case. For the same reasons, issue preclusion does not act to bar the Debtors’ claim for return of the note……………..

“The court agreed with other courts that simply because a creditor lacks standing to enforce a note, the debtor is not discharged of her obligations under the note. Id. This Court has concluded (and the district court on appeal agreed) that Wells Fargo is neither the holder of the note nor a nonholder in possession of the instrument with the rights to enforce it. (Docket No. 233, 11.) Therefore, Wells Fargo (and its affiliates, servicers, successors and assigns) cannot enforce the note, but that fact does not cancel the note nor discharge the Debtors’ obligations to the true owner. In the absence of any authority for their request for turnover of the original note and analogizing to the cases requesting dismissal with prejudice, the Debtors’ motion to require Wells Fargo to surrender the original note is denied….


The Debtors’ motion for reimbursement of the payments made on Wells Fargo’s disallowed Claim is granted, subject to offset for real estate taxes paid by Wells Fargo. Within 30 days of the date of this Order, Wells Fargo must pay $73,041.49 to the Debtors and $11,716.90 to the Chapter 13 trustee. The Debtors’ motions for reimbursement of attorneys’ fees and turnover of the original note are denied. The foregoing constitutes the Court’s findings of fact and conclusions of law. The Court will enter separate orders on each motion.

Dated: October 21, 2014

Objections and Preserving Your Rights on Appeal: From, Whose Lien Is It Anyway? by Neil F Garfield

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Editor’s Comment:

Foreclosure cases are won or lost on procedure more than on the merits of the case offered by either side. Lawyer and especially pro se litigants tend to use the right of appeal, as though it was a vehicle for entertaining evidence, objections or motions that should have been made. These make up a large percentage of the 85% of cases that are affirmed on appeal.[1]

The appellate court rarely has even the power to consider affidavits or other evidence that was not proffered and which does not show up on the record on appeal sent by the clerk of the court on the “trial” level. The appellate court is limited to what DID happen and not what SHOULD have happened. If the matter was properly raised in the lower court, then the matter may be considered by the appellate court. If not, then they must simply state that the grounds for appeal were not properly preserved for appeal and affirm the decision of the lower court Judge.

In foreclosure cases, most of the objections that should be made are known in advance and quite probably should be brought or offered as a motion in limine before the actual hearing, so that the complete focus of the court is on the issue that  would be presented by opposing counsel  and the objections raised by the borrower homeowner. In those cases, where the objections are known in advance, you should not only state that you have an objection, but the state the reasons for your objection and include a memorandum of law on the point, complete with copies of the most relevant cases.

Most of the errors that I see on the trial court level amounts to denial of due process in that the Court refuses to hear the merits or to allow the parties to conduct discovery. If that is the case in your case, you should mention it even though it is “fundamental error” that the appellate court could hear even without raising the objection contemporaneously with the subject of your objection.

This assures (along with the transcription from a court reporter) that everything about that objection was stated, presented and denied, if such is the case. It might also alert the Judge that you are ready to make such an appeal. If the objection is procedural relating to whether a proper foundation has been laid for the introduction of evidence, or whether the Court is accepting the proffer of counsel without any evidence in the record to support it, then you must make that point clearly and with support from citations in your own state. If the court refuses to hear the objections in limine then you still have the matters raised as part of the court record but you must raise the objection in the hearing or you might well have waived them unless your main point (ill advised) is that the court abused its discretion in denying the motion in limine without hearing it on the merits.

In every case I have seen reversed on appeal, there was something in the record that contradicted or nothing in the record that supported the position taken on appeal.

There are no magic words or bullets on objections. What is necessary is that you state it, without rambling on tangent subjects, with sufficient specificity so that the appellate court will understand in a flash what your objection related to, and what grounds and what law upon which you were relying. Do not combine objections. If you have more than one then state that you have 2 or more objections and proceed with the first.

The mistake I see in appeals and trial proceedings is that the attorney for the homeowner borrower remains silent while opposing counsel states facts that are not in the record (because there has not been an adversary proceeding and that you deny those facts, as they are in issue between the two sides). In many cases the Judge takes silence as a concession that the facts are true as stated and that your defense relates to something other than contesting the facts being proffered by opposing counsel.

The appellate court might agree, particularly if you are not clear in immediately identifying the fact that there was a real transaction in which money exchanged hands and then another event which involved the signing of papers but in which there was no actual transaction. The fact that the borrower believed the papers to be true while everyone else knew they were not, cannot now be used to further the fraud upon your client.


[1] It has been pointed out by some bankruptcy court judges that out of the three possibilities for appeal of a bankruptcy court ruling, petitioners and their counsel usually bypass the appeal laterally to the sitting District Court Judge charged with hearing civil cases with Federal jurisdiction and with hearing appeals from decisions made in the bankruptcy court. Sources tell us that the percentage of reversals and remand is possibly as high as 50% when brought to the District Judge rather than the BAP or Circuit Court of Appeals.

The Price of Arrogance: Far-Reaching Order Sets Precedent that MERS Scheme is Unlawful


COMBO Title and Securitization Search, Report, Documents, Analysis & Commentary CLICK HERE TO GET COMBO TITLE AND SECURITIZATION REPORT

SERVICE 520-405-1688 — My apologies. A draft of this article was accidentally published yesterday. Judge Grossman’s decision dates back one year. It is not a recent decision but it has huge significance right now in my opinion. The draft left the impression that Judge Grossman had just ruled. That is not correct.

“This Court does not accept the argument that because MERS may be involved with 50% of all residential mortgages in the country, that is reason enough for this Court to turn a blind eye to the fact that this process does not comply with the law.” — Judge Grossman, 2/10/11

No Retroactive Effect Because of Rooker Feldman Doctrine

EDITOR’S NOTE: Five years ago, while thinking about the “business model” Wall Street invented I concluded that in the end the issue would be decided by title law — and its effect on the so-called debt, the promissory note containing false declarations of fact, and the mortgage or deed of trust that also contained false declarations of fact and which also explicitly did not travel with the note (which didn’t describe the real transaction anyway).

The rule was that the note generally traveled with the mortgage and that the note was equivalent to the obligation unless the parties intentionally acted to the contrary. Because Wall Street needed a colorable claim in order to purchase insurance and credit enhancements on loans it did not own, it intentionally split the note from the obligation and the mortgage from both the obligation and the note. Thus I concluded that at some point, unless 300 years of common law was going to be turned on its head, the obligation from borrower (homeowner) to lender (investor) existed but it was both unsecured and undocumented.

The answer to the entire housing problem was a lawsuit to quiet title.

From that conclusion the rest was easy. All the documents pouring into the foreclosure system had to be fabricated, falsified, forged and lack both authenticity and authorization. The Banks had stepped on a huge rake and it was eventually going to hit them square in the face. A courageous Judge dealing with a level of arrogance not usually seen in court has killed MERS and all that flows from MERS or anything else like it.

It took years for the likes of Judges Boyco in Ohio, Shack in New York, and other Judges around the country to start questioning the “dance.” Finally Judge Grossman last year, entered an order that made it clear that the MERS business model was not just flawed, it was illegal..His reasoning was impeccable and the Banks took notice and started the “negotiations” for a “settlement” right away. After all, if Grossman’s ruling was applied across the board, virtually every prospective foreclosure would be off the table and every fictitious asset relating to mortgages would be written off of the balance sheets of the banks claiming ownership. It is still a wonder to me how any auditing firm can look at those books, see that the funding came from the investors, understand that the loan receivable asset was owned by the creditor investor and still allow the bank to claim the asset and losses from devaluation of the asset.

The bottom line is that Judge Grossman’s 2011 ruling, especially in bankruptcy court means that the debt is unsecured and is therefore fully dischargeable unless the issue had already been litigated in that case in state court where a contrary decision was reached. It means that foreclosures cannot proceed without an explicit ruling from another Bench stating that Grossman was wrong.

It also means that at least half, probably closer to 85% of all the homes subject to foreclosure were stolen — a violation of the civil rights of each and every homeowner subject to foreclosure and eviction on a loan that was securitized, especially those that overtly used MERS. remember that just because MERS doesn’t show on the mortgage or deed of trust, doesn’t mean that MERS is not in use. In one form or another MERS or its equivalent was in use, using the layered or Laddered” (a Goldman Sachs term) shell game of entities, none of whom owned anything, none of whom were properly capitalized and none of whom could or would pay a judgment for damages no matter how large or how small.

Perhaps more importantly, the moment that the closing took place with the homeowner, there was no known party to whom payment should be made or from whom a valid satisfactions of mortgage could be received. MERS took on the dual role of nominee for the mortgagee and mortgagee, which was pointed out by Judge Grossman. The originator took on the triple role of originator, mortgage broker and nominee for the real lender, which is also ridiculous. The note described a transaction between the homeowner and the “lender” that never occurred. The mortgage purported to secure the transaction that never occurred.

What is missing form these explanations is why this was done because the answer satisfied the gnawing question of why should these paperwork anomalies be used to benefit borrowers. The reason it was done was to create the appearance of ownership of the loans in the banks and servicers; they created a convoluted argument using fabricated documents to declare that they were the “holder.”

In fact, there is nothing inherently wrong with securitization. It is a tool which in fact has been used for hundreds of years under various names.

What is wrong is that the brokers pretended to be owners so they could trade securities they did not own, foreclose or collect on debts they did not fund or buy, and claim losses on assets that were falsely inflated and induced the American taxpayer in a moment of panic to cough up tens of trillions of dollars — none of which was directed at the investors who actually put up the money, nor the homeowners whose debts were being reduced by these payments from taxpayers, insurers and counterparties.

The impact of this ploy was that only the investors and the homeowners had any interest in modifications but only the banks and servicers had control over the process. The only motivation the banks and servicers had was to kick every possible case into foreclosure because that is where the financial incentives arose — IMAGINE, you walk up to a rigged auction and submit by phone a “credit bid” even though you are neither the creditor nor do you know the identity of the creditor, knowing full well that the real creditor doesn’t know about the auction and probably would not bid even if they did (because they are seeking remedies elsewhere). By successfully submitting a false credit bid (see recent report from San Francisco County) you are able to get title to the house, evict the homeowner and either rent or sell the property.

Once you see it in that light it is impossible to arrive at any conclusion except that the narrative from the banks about a “free house” is a lie. The free house is going to the banks and servicers. The banks and servicers have nothing against a free house — in fact they pursue it every day and they get it. NO, this is not about a free house. This is about blaming the victims of fraud — the investors who put up the money and the homeowners who put up their property in a scheme where the banks would end up with all the money and all the property.

United States Bankruptcy Judge Robert Grossman has ruled that MERS’s business practices are unlawful. He explicitly acknowledged that this ruling sets a precedent that has far-reaching implications for half of the mortgages in this country. MERS is dead. The banks are in big trouble. And all foreclosures should be stopped immediately while the legislative branch comes up with a solution.

For some weeks I have been arguing that MERS is perpetrating foreclosure fraud all across the nation. Its business model makes it impossible to legally foreclose on any mortgaged property registered within its system — which includes half of the outstanding mortgages in the US. MERS was a fraud from day one, whose purpose was to evade property recording fees and to subvert five centuries of property law. Its chickens have come home to roost.

Wall Street wanted to transform America’s housing sector into the world’s biggest casino and needed to undermine property rights to make it easier to run the scam. The payoffs were bigger for lenders who could induce homeowners to take mortgages they could not possibly afford. The mortgages were packaged into securities sold-on to patsy investors who were defrauded by the “reps and warranties” falsely certifying the securities as backed by top grade loans. In fact the securities were not backed by mortgages, and in any case the mortgages were sure to go bad. Given that homeowners would default, the Wall Street banks that serviced the mortgages needed a foreclosure steamroller to quickly and cheaply throw families out of the homes so that they could be resold to serve as purported collateral for yet more gambling bets. MERS — the industry’s creation — stepped up to the plate to facilitate the fraud. The judge has ruled that its practices are illegal. MERS and the banks lose; investors and homeowners win.

Here’s MERS’s business model in brief. Real estate property sales and mortgages are supposed to be recorded in local recording offices, with fees paid. With the rise of securitization, each mortgage might be sold a dozen times before it came to rest as the collateral behind a mortgage backed security (MBS), and each of those sales would need to be recorded. MERS was created to bypass public recording; it would be listed in the county records as the “mortgagee of record” and the “nominee” of the holder of mortgage. Members of MERS could then transfer the mortgage from one to another without all the trouble of changing the local records, simply by (voluntarily) recording transactions on MERS’s registry.

A mortgage has two parts, the “note” and the “security” (not to be confused with the MBS) or “deed of trust” that is usually just called the “mortgage”. The idea behind MERS was that the “note” would be transferred from seller to purchaser, but the “mortgage” would be held by MERS. In fact, MERS recommended that the “note” be held by the mortgage servicer to facilitate foreclosures, but in practice it seems that the notes were often lost or destroyed (which is why all those Burger King Kids were hired to Robo-sign “lost note affidavits”).

At each transfer, the note and mortgage are supposed to be “assigned” to the new owner; MERS claimed that because it was the “mortgagee of record” and the “nominee” of both parties to every transaction, there was no need to assign the “mortgage” until foreclosure. And it argued that since the old adage is that the “mortgage follows the note” and that both parties intended to assign the notes (even if they did not get around to doing it), then the Bankruptcy Court should rule that the assignments did take place in some sort of “virtual reality” so that there is a clear chain of title that allows the servicers to foreclose.

The Judge rejected every aspect of MERS’s argument. The Court rejected the claim that MERS could be both holder of the mortgage as well as nominee of the “true” owner. It also found that “mortgagee of record” is a vague term that does not give one legal standing as mortgagee. Hence, at best, MERS is only a nominee. It rejected MERS’s claim that as nominee it can assign notes or mortgages — a nominee has limited rights and those most certainly do not include the right to transfer ownership unless there is specific written instruction to do so. In scarcely veiled anger, the Judge wrote:

“According to MERS, the principal/agent relationship among itself and its members is created by the MERS rules of membership and terms and conditions, as well as the Mortgage itself. However, none of the documents expressly creates an agency relationship or even mentions the word “agency.” MERS would have this Court cobble together the documents and draw inferences from the words contained in those documents.”

Judge Grossman rejected MERS’s arguments, saying that mere membership in MERS does not provide “agency” rights to MERS, and agreeing with the Supreme Court of Kansas that ruled “The parties appear to have defined the word [nominee] in much the same way that the blind men of Indian legend described an elephant — their description depended on which part they were touching at any given time.”

He went on to disparage MERS’s claim that since in legal theory the “mortgage follows the note”, the Court should overlook the fact that MERS separated them. He stopped just short of saying that by separating them, MERS has irretrievably destroyed the clear chain of title, although he hinted that a future ruling could come to that conclusion:

“MERS argues that notes and mortgages processed through the MERS System are never “separated” because beneficial ownership of the notes and mortgages are always held by the same entity. The Court will not address that issue in this Decision, but leaves open the issue as to whether mortgages processed through the MERS system are properly perfected and valid liens. See Carpenter v. Longan, 83 U.S. at 274 (finding that an assignment of the mortgage without the note is a nullity); Landmark Nat’l Bank v. Kesler, 216 P.3d 158, 166-67 (Kan. 2009) (“[I]n the event that a mortgage loan somehow separates interests of the note and the deed of trust, with the deed of trust lying with some independent entity, the mortgage may become unenforceable”).”

That would mean not only the end of MERS, but also the end of the banks holding unenforceable mortgages because they were not, and cannot be, “perfected”. MERS and the banks screwed up big time, and there is no “do over” — there is no valid lien on the property, so owners have got their homes free and clear.

There have been numerous court rulings against MERS — including decisions made by state supreme courts. What is significant about the US Bankruptcy Court of New York’s ruling is that the judge specifically set out to examine the legality of MERS’s business model. As the judge argued in the decision, “The Court believes this analysis is necessary for the precedential effect it will have on other cases pending before this Court”. In the scathing opinion, Judge Grossman variously labeled MERS’s positions as “stunningly inconsistent” with the facts, “absurd, at best”, and “not supported by the law”. The ruling is a complete repudiation of every argument MERS has made about the legality of its procedures.

What is particularly ironic is that MERS actually forced the judge to undertake the examination of its business model. The case before the judge involved a foreclosed homeowner who had already lost in state court. The homeowner then approached the US Bankruptcy Court to argue that the foreclosing bank did not have legal standing because of MERS’s business practices. However, by the “Rooker-Feldman” doctrine (or res judicata), the US Bankruptcy Court is prohibited from “looking behind” the state court’s decision to determine the issue of legal standing. Hence, Judge Grossman ruled in the bank’s favor on that particular issue.

Yet, MERS’s high priced lawyers wanted to push the issue and asked for the Judge to rule in favor of MERS’s practices, too. So while MERS won the little battle over one foreclosed home, it lost the war against the nation’s homeowners. The Judge ruled against MERS on every single issue of importance. And it was MERS’s stupid arrogance that brought it down.

As I predicted two weeks ago, MERS would be dead within weeks. Judge Grossman has driven the final stake through its black heart. The half of America’s homeowners whose mortgages are registered at MERS have been handed a “get out of jail free” card. Wall Street has no right to foreclose on their property. The tide has turned. It won’t be easy, but homeowners in those states with judicial foreclosures now have Judge Grossman on their side. Those in the other states (just over half) will have a tougher time because they can lose their home before they ever get to court. But the law is still on their side — foreclosure by members of MERS is theft — so class action lawsuits may be the way to go.

MERS is dead, but can the banks survive? There are two separate issues. First, there are the “reps and warranties” given by the mortgage securitizers (Wall Street investment banks) to the investors (pension funds, GSEs, PIMCO, and so on). We now know that a quarter to a third of the mortgages bundled to serve as backing for the securities did not meet stated quality. Worse, we also know that the banks knew this — they hired third parties to undertake “due diligence” to check quality. This was not done to protect the investors, rather, the purpose was to strengthen the bargaining position of the securitizers, who were able to reduce the prices paid for the mortgages. Now, the investors are suing the banks for restitution–forcing them to cover the losses and buy-back the bad mortgages at original price. To add insult to injury, even the NYFed is suing them. That is a lot like having your parents sue you for their inadequate parental oversight of your behavior.

The second issue is that the mortgages backing the securities were supposed to be placed in Trusts (affiliates of the securitizing banks), with the Trustee certifying not only that the mortgages met the reps and warranties but also that the documents were up to snuff and safely locked away. We know they were not. As mentioned above, MERS told the servicers to hold the notes, and many or most of them were destroyed or lost. Further, the notes were separated from the mortgages — making them null and void. In any case, they are not at the Trusts. This means the MBSs are not backed by mortgages, meaning the MBSs are unsecured debt. MERS’s business model ensures that. So, again, the banks must take back the fraudulent securities — paying off the investors.

What can Wall Street do? Well, I suppose the “help wanted” signs are already up at MERS and Wall Street banks: “Needed: Burger King Kids to Robo-sign forged quasi-professional-looking docs”. The problem is that even with tens of thousands of Robo-Kids, Wall Street will not be able to pull off a vast criminal conspiracy on the necessary scale. Think about it: 60 million mortgages, each sold ten times, means 600 million transactions and assignments that have to be forged. MERS’s documentation was notoriously sloppy, relying on voluntary recording by members. The Robo-Kids would have to go back through a decade of records to manufacture a paper trail that would convince now-skeptical judges that there is a clear chain of title from the first recording in the public record through to the foreclosure. It ain’t going to happen.

The only other hope is that Wall Street can call in its campaign contribution chips and get Congress to retroactively legalize fraud. That is what they do in those dictatorships that protestors are now bringing down in the Middle East. Is Washington willing to take that risk, just to please its Wall Street benefactors?

The court document is available here. It is terrific reading.

This post originally appeared at Benzinga.

Michael Premo

c. 917.547.1292


Don’t Ask, Just Cram: It’s Time to Put Mortgage Modifications Back into Judges’ Hands

Don’t Ask, Just Cram: It’s Time to Put Mortgage Modifications Back into Judges’ Hands

By Abigail Field Posted 12:00PM 04/06/11 Columns, Real Estate, Credit

Many state attorneys general, federal law enforcers and regulators say they want big banks to pay for their fraudulent foreclosures and abusive mortgage servicing practices by reducing what borrowers owe them by some $20 billion. That’s the amount the banks allegedly saved by doing a lousy job servicing troubled mortgages. (That math is questionable at best, Yves Smith noted when that figure began making the rounds.)

But the solution to this problem is not a settlement with the banks that mandates principal write-downs. Principals on these loans should be reduced, but it should be done in the most efficient, effective way: Congress should give bankruptcy judges back a power they once had — the right to reduce the principal on a mortgage to the home’s current market value. In other words: Bring back the cram down.

Reducing mortgage principals to homes’ current market value is critical step to healing our economy. First, it would stop many foreclosures because borrowers would be able to afford to keep their homes. Reducing foreclosures would preserve property values and cut back on a big source of the oversupply in the housing market. Moreover, after cram downs, people could more easily sell their homes and move to where jobs are. Sales wouldn’t be “short” anymore. Finally, in a post-cram-down America, people would have more disposable income, which would allow discretionary consumer spending to rise.

Why Voluntary, Bank-Run Modification Programs Fail

So why shouldn’t regulators simply include write downs in the settlement between law enforcement and the banks? Because the Home Affordable Modification Program has shown that any system that relies on banks to chose among borrowers and design their modifications will fail. Back in the 1980s, this country experienced a similar failure of voluntary programs to solve a huge problem with underwater mortgages triggered by the popping of an agricultural real estate bubble.

As the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland explained in its analysis of what happened then to family farms:

“Many farmers, like many homeowners now, were in danger of losing their primary residences, with little prospect of relief under the bankruptcy options available to farmers at that time….

Moratoriums on foreclosures in a number of farm states slowed the rising tide of farm foreclosures somewhat, but they provided only a temporary reprieve as the fundamental economic factors … left many farmers unable to service their existing debt and with almost no possibility of renegotiating their secured loans with creditors….

…voluntary modification efforts, even when subsidized by the government, did not lead agricultural lenders to negotiate loan modifications.”

That phrase “with little prospect of relief under the bankruptcy options available” is key. Our current bankruptcy laws allow debtors in bankruptcy to force banks to reduce the principal on most loans secured by property to the current market value of that property, but not all.

For example, if a debtor owes $500,000 on a yacht that’s now worth $300,000, the debtor can keep the yacht by paying every penny of the $300,000, and as much of the rest as the bankruptcy process allows. Ditto for a limo. More to the point, bankruptcy judges can “cram down” the principal on mortgages securing vacations homes and investment properties — but for the most common mortgage of all, the one securing the loan on a person’s primary residence, they cannot.

A Solution That Has Worked Before

At least, not anymore. Home mortgages could be crammed down nationwide until 1978, when Congress changed the rules. Even after that, thanks to disagreement among courts on how to interpret the rule change, they could be crammed down in some parts of the country until a 1993 Supreme Court decision ended the practice completely.

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In the 1980s, the Cleveland Fed explained, the bankruptcy code didn’t let allow family farm mortgages to be crammed down either. But when voluntary programs failed, Congress created special bankruptcy law provisions to authorize farm cram downs. Then, as now, reported the Cleveland Fed, the banks warned of financial doomsday, saying cram downs “would flood bankruptcy courts, permit abuse by borrowers who could afford to pay their loans, and reduce the availability of credit, among other things.” None of those things happened.

Instead, the cram down law “worked without working”: It was rarely used actively, but banks sustainably modified mortgages anyway. As soon as borrowers had leverage — negotiating with the threat of a cram down behind them — banks started cutting meaningful deals.

To be fair to then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s House of Representatives, it passed a cram down bill in 2009. But the Senate failed to get the job done, as President Obama and some powerful groups like MoveOn.org and labor unions largely sat that fight out.

How Banks Beat Back Cram Downs

What was the argument that the banking lobby used to kill the bill?

Surely it wasn’t the claptrap about “moral hazard.” Unlike the banks and their executives bailed out by the taxpayers, homeowners aren’t “encouraged” by a principal reduction “bailout” to make increasingly risky, self-interested decisions, secure in the knowledge the the government will save their bacon if it falls in the fire again. That’s behavior by bankers is a real and present hazard to our financial system.

The only specific “hazard” the anti-principal mod lobby mention is that borrowers who are current will default to get mortgage modifications. There’s one big problem with that claim: Mortgage servicers have routinely been telling borrowers who are current that they will have default before they can get help. These are borrowers who were blowing through their savings struggling to stay current on their underwater mortgages, and were reaching out before default to work something out with their banks — responsible borrowers.

The practice of telling these people to default before a modification could even be discussed has become so common that both the state attorneys general’s proposed settlement with mortgage servicers and the banks’ much weaker counteroffer address the issue. This alone makes a mockery of any potential argument about the bad moral consequences of allowing judges to make principal modifications.

And doing the reductions via the bankruptcy code also reduces any incentive to default to get help. Borrowers don’t — and shouldn’t — take bankruptcy lightly.

Fears of Another Financial Industry Meltdown

So what was the argument the bank lobby really used to kill the cram down bill in 2009? I don’t know, but one type of financial doomsday lurks in the background now that didn’t in the 1980s: Bank Bailout II. Mortgage principal write downs in large numbers could push some big banks over the edge — or force them to reveal their present insolvency.

The question is whether enough consumers to bring on that dreaded scenario are willing to face the long, punitive process that is bankruptcy to get mortgage principal write-downs. That begs a second question: If large numbers of write downs led banks to demand another bailout, would they get it? Both are impossible to answer, but the gains are well worth the risks.

If restoring the cram down induces a consumer-bankruptcy-driven financial system failure, that’s an important reality check. The nation would have to face the fact that TARP had failed to get the job done, and that it was time to either fix the big banks’ balance sheets for real, or shut them down. It would prove that we can’t continue to engage in policy theater such as HAMP or leaving mortgage modifications to the discretion of lenders.

Whatever the outcome for banks, Washington needs to suck it up and start instituting good policy.

See full article from DailyFinance: http://srph.it/gagyj1


The Affidavit executed by Movant’s loan servicer makes no mention of the location of the original Note or who has possession of it. Movant proffered no business records or testimony tracing ownership of the Note and establishing Movant is the present holder of the Note.

The Affidavit executed by Movant’s loan servicer makes no mention of the location of the original Note or who has possession of it. Movant proffered no business records or testimony tracing ownership of the Note and establishing Movant is the present holder of
the Note.
The veracity of the Allonge and Assignment is questionable. The dates contained in the Allonge are chronologically impossible. The Allonge is dated August 1, 2006, but references a trust that came into existence on October 31, 2006. The signature of Jennifer Henninger is undated and not notarized. The Allonge was not referenced in or filed with Movant’s Motion in October 2009, but was presented three months later as an attachment to its post-hearing brief.

The Assignment was executed and recorded post-petition approximately two weeks prior to Movant’s filing of the Motion for Relief. It was prepared by Jennifer Henninger, who executed the Allonge, and was recorded by the law firm that is representing Movant in this proceeding. Jack Jacob’s execution of the Assignment was notarized by Jennifer Henninger and witnessed by Louis Zaffino, the affiant of Movant’s Affidavit. It appears the Allonge and the Assignment were created post-petition for the purpose of the relief from stay proceeding. Movant did not establish Jennifer Henninger and Jack Jacob had authority to execute the Allonge and Assignment.



In re:

JORGE CANELLAS, Case No. 6:09-bk-12240-ABB
Chapter 7


This matter came before the Court on the Motion for Relief from Stay (Doc. No.
22) (“Motion”) filed by U.S. Bank National Association, as Trustee of the Lehman
Brothers Small Balance Commercial Mortgage Pass-Through Certificates, 2006-3
(“Movant”), and the Objection thereto (Doc. No. 25) filed by the Chapter 7 Trustee Carla P. Musselman (“Trustee”). Hearings were held on November 23, 2009, December 7, 2009, December 21, 2009, and January 4, 2010 at which the Trustee, her counsel, counsel for Movant, and counsel for the Debtor Jorge Canellas (“Debtor”) appeared.

The parties, pursuant to the Court’s directive, filed post-hearing briefs (Doc. Nos. 43, 45, 46, and 47). The Movant’s Motion is due to be denied for the reasons set forth herein. The Court makes the following findings of fact and conclusions of law after
reviewing the pleadings and evidence, hearing live proffers and argument, and being
otherwise fully advised in the premises.

Hoffner Avenue Property

The Debtor filed this case on August 21, 2009 (“Petition Date”). He owns commercial property located at 830 Hoffner Avenue, Orlando, Florida 32809
(“Property”) and more particularly described as:
Lot 7, SUNDAY BLOCK, according to the plat thereof, recorded in Plat Book O, Page 27, of the Public Records of Orange County, Florida.

He values the Property at $250,000.00 and listed “Aurora” in Schedule D as holding a
security interest in the Property valued at $0.00 (Doc. No. 1). The security interest is not designated as contingent, unliquidated, or disputed. He did not claim the Property as exempt in Schedule C. The Property constitutes non-exempt property of the estate
pursuant to 11 U.S.C. Section 541(a).

The Debtor filed an Affidavit (Doc. No. 47) asserting the Property is important to his appraisal business, Appraisers of America, because he operates his business at the Property. The Debtor’s statements regarding his business location and intentions as to
the Property are inconsistent. He set forth in this Statement of Financial Affairs (Doc. No. 1) he operates the business at his home at 2033 Bearing Lane, Kissimmee, Florida 34741. He set forth in his Statement of Intention (Doc. No. 1) he intends to surrender the Property. His Schedule J does not include a monthly expense for the Property.

The Trustee filed a memorandum on October 21, 2009 stating the initial meeting of creditors pursuant to 11 U.S.C. Section 541 was held and concluded on October 14, 2009, but she has not designated this case as an asset or no asset case. No bar date has
been established for the filing of proofs of claim. No proofs of claim have been filed.
The Debtor received a discharge on December 22, 2009 (Doc. No. 39).

Movant filed the Motion for Relief from Stay on October 19, 2009 seeking relief from the automatic stay of 11 U.S.C. Section 362(a) pursuant to 11 U.S.C. Sections
362(d)(1) and (d)(2) to continue a foreclosure proceeding against the Property which was
pending on the Petition Date. Movant asserts in its Motion:

(i) It is the “owner and holder” of a promissory note and first-priority mortgage on the Property pursuant to an Assignment of Mortgage and Loan Documents.
(ii) The Debtor has failed to pay the monthly mortgage payment of $2,282.90 since May 1, 2009 and the loan balance is approximately $300,662.84, which contains interest charges of $18,232.08, late charges of $570.70, and forced placed insurance
costs of $11,314.24.
(iii) The Property has a value of $178,273.00 based upon the Orange County Property Appraiser’s 2009 assessment.
(iv) Legal title to the Property is vested in the Debtor.
Accompanying Movant’s Motion are:

A. An Affidavit in Support of Motion for Relief from Stay executed in the State of California on October 9, 2009 by Louis Zaffino as a special assets officer at
Aurora Bank FSB, which is Movant’s authorized servicer and services the Debtor’s loan.
The Affidavit sets forth the loan balance and a break-down of the arrearages.

B. A copy of the Promissory Note (“Note”) executed by the Debtor as Borrower on August 1, 2006 for the principal amount of $274,500.00 payable to Lehman
Brothers Bank, FSB as Lender. The Note requires the Debtor to make monthly loan payments of principal and interest of $2,282.90 to Lender from October 1, 2006 for sixty months and thereafter at varying monthly amounts. The interest rate is variable. The
Note designates the loan as Loan Number 00207199.
The Note provides it is secured by the Property described in the Mortgage dated August 1, 2006. It sets forth at page 2: “The terms of this Note . . . shall inure to the benefit of Lender and its successors and assigns. . . .” and it is “governed by federal law
applicable to Lender and, to the extent not preempted by federal law, the laws of the State
of California without regard to its conflicts of law provisions.”

C. A copy of the Mortgage dated August 1, 2006 and executed by the Debtor as Grantor, and his wife Amanda Crim as the joining spouse, in favor Lehman Brothers Bank, FSB as Lender pursuant to which the Debtor granted Lender a first-priority
mortgage in the Property, its rents, and personal property to secure his performance of the
Note obligations. The Mortgage references Loan Number 00207199, the Note, and contains an identical legal description for the Property as contained in the Note.

The Mortgage provides regarding governing law:
With respect to procedural matters related to the perfection and enforcement of Lender’s rights against the Property, this Mortgage will be governed by federal law applicable to Lender and to the extent not
preempted by federal law, the laws of the State of Florida. In all other respects, this Mortgage will be governed by federal law applicable to Lender and, to the extent preempted by federal law, the laws of the State of California without regard to its conflicts of law provisions.

Mortgage at p. 7. It provides regarding successors and assigns: Subject to any limitations stated in this Mortgage on transfer of Grantor’s interest, this Mortgage shall be binding upon and inure to the benefit of the parties, their successors and assigns.
Id. “Lender” is defined as “Lehman Brothers Bank, FSB, its successors and assigns.” Id.

The recordation stamp on page one of the Mortgage reflects it was recorded in the Official Records Book for Orange County, Florida on August 15, 2006 as Instrument 20060534342 at Book 08805, Page 4292.

D. A copy of an Assignment of Mortgage and Loan Documents (“Assignment”) executed on September 28, 2009 by Jack Jacob as the Vice President of
“Aurora Bank FSB f/k/a Lehman Brothers Bank, FSB,” and notarized on September 30, 2009, purporting to assign the Mortgage and underlying loan documents from Aurora Bank FSB, formerly known as Lehman Brothers Bank, FSB, as Assignor, to and in favor
of Movant, as Assignee, “effective as of the 30th day of November, 2006.”

The Assignment references the Mortgage’s Book and Page Numbers and the Property’s common and legal descriptions. The recordation stamp on its first page
reflects it was recorded in the Official Records Book for Orange County, Florida on October 5, 2009 at Book 9944, Page 1038.

Trustee’s Objection

The Trustee opposes Movant’s Motion on the grounds Movant lacks standing to obtain stay relief and it failed to perfect its security interest prior to the Petition Date.
Her opposition is grounded on the contention the Assignment is invalid. She has
presented various legal theories in support of her position:

1.Aurora Bank FSB f/k/a Lehman Brothers Bank did not own the Mortgage and Promissory Note on the date of execution of the Assignment and had no authority to assign them to Movant.
2. By the terms of the two securitized trusts for Lehman Brothers designated 2006-3 registered with the U.S. Securities and Exchange
Commission, no assignment occurred.
3. The Assignment was executed and recorded post-petition and may constitute a violation of the automatic stay pursuant to 11 U.S.C. Section 362(a)(4).
4. Movant has not established that on the Petition Date it had physical possession of the original Promissory Note properly endorsed in its favor.
5. Lehman Brothers’ ability to enforce the Promissory Note or Mortgage was extinguished in 2006 when it was paid by the Trust for the pool of mortgages which form the Trust’s corpus.
6. Title between the Promissory Note and Mortgage were bifurcated, thereby rendering the Mortgage unenforceable.
The Trustee asserts Movant is an unsecured creditor and she has authority to sell the Property free and clear of encumbrances for the benefit of the estate.
Movant asserts the Note and Mortgage are owned by the Lehman Brothers Small Balance Commercial Mortgage Pass-Through Certificates, 2006-3, a private securitized trust, and Movant, as the asserted owner and holder of the Note and Mortgage, has
authority to enforce the security interest. Movant presented with its post-hearing brief an Allonge to Promissory Note (“Allonge”) purportedly dated August 1, 2006 and executed by Jennifer Henninger as the Special Assets Administrative Assistant of Aurora Bank FSB directing: Pay to the Order of U.S. Bank National Association, as Trustee (the
‘Trustee’) under the Trust Agreement dated as of October 31, 2006, among Structured Asset Securities Corporation, as Depositor, Lehman
Brothers Bank, FSB, as Servicer, and the Trustee relating to Lehman Brothers Small Balance Commercial Mortgage Pass-Through Certificates,
Series 2006-3, without recourse.

Doc. No. 46 (emphasis added).

The Debtor filed an Affidavit (Doc. No. 47) stating he had no prepetition communications with Movant, was not aware Movant had a security interest in the
Property, and, if the Assignment is deemed invalid, desires to purchase the Property from the Trustee.


The evidence presented establishes the Property is encumbered by the Mortgage, which secures the Debtor’s performance of the Note. The Mortgage was properly perfected pre-petition through its recordation in the Official Records Book for Orange
County, Florida. The Mortgage and Note have not been bifurcated. The Mortgage has not been satisfied. The Debtor had actual knowledge of the unsatisfied Mortgage and the Trustee, through the recordation of the original Mortgage, had constructive, if not actual,
knowledge of the unsatisfied Mortgage. Kapila v. Atlantic Mortgage and Inv. Corp. (In re Halabi), 184 F.3d 1335, 1339 (11th Cir. 1999).

The purported assignment of the Note and Mortgage to Movant does not affect perfection or constitute a transfer of property of the estate or the Debtor. Id. at 1337.
“[A] subsequent assignment of the mortgagee’s interest – whether recorded or not – does not change the nature of the interest of the mortgagor or someone claiming under him.”
Id. at 1338. Recordation of an assignment post-petition does not constitute a violation of the automatic stay. Id. at 1337; Rogan v. Bank One, N.A. (In re Cook), 457 F.3d 561, 568 (6th Cir. 2006) (affirming the analysis of In re Halabi).

It is uncontroverted the Note has been in default since approximately May 2009 and a balance of approximately $300,662.84 is due and owing. The Debtor, who is a property appraiser, values the Property at $250,000.00 and Movant values the Property at $178,000.00. The Debtor is not making adequate protection payments to Movant. There
is no equity in the Property and it is not necessary to an effective reorganization given this is a Chapter 7 proceeding and the disclosures made by the Debtor regarding the Property in his bankruptcy papers. Grounds exist for relief from the automatic stay
pursuant to 11 U.S.C. Sections 362(d)(1) and (d)(2).

Movant’s Motion, however, is due to be denied because Movant has failed to establish it has standing to seek stay relief. A motion for relief from the automatic stay must be prosecuted in the name of the real party in interest. 11 U.S.C. § 362(d); FED. R. 7
CIV. P. 17(a)(1); FED. R. BANKR. P. 7017. “The real party in interest in relief from stay is whoever is entitled to enforce the obligation sought to be enforced.” In re Jacobson, 402 B.R. 359, 366 (Bankr. W.D. Wash. 2009). Only the holder of the Note and Mortgage, or
its authorized agent, has standing to bring the Motion. Id. at 367.
Movant asserts in its Motion it is the “owner and holder” of the Note and Mortgage, but has presented no evidence substantiating that assertion. The copies of the Note presented do not contain an endorsement evidencing an assignment of the Note.
The Affidavit executed by Movant’s loan servicer makes no mention of the location of the original Note or who has possession of it. Movant proffered no business records or testimony tracing ownership of the Note and establishing Movant is the present holder of
the Note.

The veracity of the Allonge and Assignment is questionable. The dates contained in the Allonge are chronologically impossible. The Allonge is dated August 1, 2006, but references a trust that came into existence on October 31, 2006. The signature of Jennifer Henninger is undated and not notarized. The Allonge was not referenced in or filed with Movant’s Motion in October 2009, but was presented three months later as an attachment to its post-hearing brief.

The Assignment was executed and recorded post-petition approximately two weeks prior to Movant’s filing of the Motion for Relief. It was prepared by Jennifer Henninger, who executed the Allonge, and was recorded by the law firm that is representing Movant in this proceeding. Jack Jacob’s execution of the Assignment was notarized by Jennifer Henninger and witnessed by Louis Zaffino, the affiant of Movant’s Affidavit. It appears the Allonge and the Assignment were created post-petition for the purpose of the relief from stay proceeding. Movant did not establish Jennifer Henninger and Jack Jacob had authority to execute the Allonge and Assignment.

Movant’s submissions are insufficient to establish it is the owner and holder of the Note and Mortgage or is authorized to act for whoever holds these documents. In re Relka, No. 09-20806, 2009 WL 5149262, at *5 (Bankr. D. Wyo. Dec. 22, 2009) (granting
stay relief where movant established possession of note through testimony of witness
who personally retrieved note from movant’s vault); In re Jacobson, 402 B.R. at 370 (denying movant’s stay relief motion due to movant’s failure to establish it was holder of note); In re Hayes, 393 B.R. 259, 270 (Bankr. D. Mass. 2008) (denying movant’s stay relief motion and sustaining debtor’s claim objection due to movant’s failure to establish it was holder of note). Movant has not established it has standing to bring the Motion and the Motion is due to be denied.

Accordingly, it is

ORDERED, ADJUDGED AND DECREED that the Property located at 830 Hoffner Avenue, Orlando, Florida 32809 and more particularly described as:

Lot 7, SUNDAY BLOCK, according to the plat thereof, recorded in Plat Book O, Page 27, of the Public Records of Orange County, Florida is encumbered by the Mortgage executed by the Debtor on August 1, 2006 and recorded in the Official Records Book for Orange County, Florida on August 15, 2006 as
Instrument 20060534342 at Book 08805, Page 4292, which Mortgage constitutes a valid properly perfected lien, and which secures the Promissory Note executed by the Debtor on August 1, 2006 in the principal amount of $274,500.00 and designated as Loan
Number 00207199; and it is further ORDERED, ADJUDGED AND DECREED that the amount of the Mortgage lien encumbering the Property exceeds the Property’s value and there is no equity in the
Property; and it is further ORDERED, ADJUDGED AND DECREED that the Movant’s Motion for
Relief from Stay (Doc. No. 22) is hereby DENIED due to Movant’s failure to establish it
has standing to bring the Motion; and it is further

ORDERED, ADJUDGED AND DECREED that the Trustee, within twenty-one days of the entry of this Order, is hereby directed, pursuant to 11 U.S.C. Section 704(a) and Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 5009, to file with the Court a Report of No Distribution or to designate this case as an asset case.

Dated this 9th day of February, 2010.

/s/ Arthur B. Briskman

United States Bankruptcy Judge


Dist Ct. Case No. 2-09-CV-00661-KJD-L

Bankr. Ct Case No. BK-S-07-16645-LBR


Appeal by MERS from Bankruptcy Court decision denying MERS’ motion for lift of automatic stay in 18 cases. Affirmed by District Court.

The significance of this decision is that it gives a simple explanation for the findings by dozens of other judges. Here are the salient points of this decision:

  1. Just because the document SAYS that an entity is the beneficiary doesn’t mean that is either true or dispositive. It is merely an allegation that is subject to the test of judicial process. The courts look to”Substance over form” rather than the other way around. Otherwise ANYONE could come in with paperwork of any kind and whether it was right or not, make a successful claim against you. [Litigation Hint: You only want to pay your real creditor, not some imposter. So you raise the question in a credible way and seek expedited discovery to show you are not trying to delay anything. After all the answers and paperwork you are seeking should have been in the possession of the forecloser before they initiated proceedings.)
  2. In the context of a motion for lift from stay, the burden is on the movant (MERS in this case) to establish to prove it is the real party in interest. This is a standing issue and can be raised at any time because standing is jurisdictional. In order to prove their status as real party in interest they must now file a pleading that contains the story of how they got to be the real party in interest.
  3. The Judge ruled that since MERS, by design, neither took in any money nor paid it out it could not be the real party in interest. A real party in interest is one who has advanced actual money in the transaction, while MERS serves only as a “bookkeeping” service in a shell game designed to confuse or obscure the identity of the real party in interest.
  4. The same logic applied to its claim that it was a beneficiary. MERS produced no evidence that they ever advanced any money to fund the loan, admitted that they would not lose money if the obligation not was paid and could not show that they were in fact (as counsel had represented to the court) an authorized agent for the real creditor. An essential background or context to this ruling is that MERS refused to identify the real party in interest, who would be the real beneficiary of the promise to pay, or obligation.
  5. The breakthrough of this opinion was that a statement in a document, whether recorded or not, is not a proof of the matter asserted. The matter asserted was that MERS was a beneficiary and their only reason for saying so is that the deed of trust said it. While the Judge would give the benefit of a reputable presumption that a recitation in a document is true, the presumption is eviscerated merely by challenge based upon (a) information to the contrary, like a expert written signed and perhaps notarized report and (b) and references to the MERS’ Website where it quite explicitly says it will take no interest in the obligation,note or mortgage.
    1. At that point it is the burden of MERS to file a pleading that tells the story of why it is the real party in interest.
    2. Even before that pleading is filed, you seek expedited discovery and an expedited evidentiary hearing on this issue alone. Here is where the rubber meets the road. An attorney’s rhetoric is neither information nor evidence. An objection to the lawyer’s comments is appropriate seeking to have the lawyer contain his comments to either matters that are already in evidence (I.e, accepted by the judge and stamped as such by the clerk) or legal matters that would effective the quality or credibility of the evidence. Instead he will try to replace their burden of proof with rhetoric — the old two-step. If the lawyer wants his rhetoric treated as true, then he must become a factual witness, and probably quit the case because he is a material witness. In any event, if he chooses to represent facts to be accepted by the court into evidence, then like any other witness he must take the witness stand, be sworn in,establish his first hand knowledge (personal knowledge) of the events, how he came into possession of this knowledge and who else has knowledge regarding these documents. He would be subject to cross examination which is the subject to the lessons I am preparing for laymen and lawyers.

PRACTICE NOTE: Here was a Judge who “got it.” He was alarmed that the wrong party was in court and curious as to why the right party was not present. That is the nub of your strategy and tactics. The potential invalidity or enforceability of the obligation, note or mortgage is a secondary, deeper issue that should arise only after it is clear that, as here, MERS did not have the note or other documents to show any standing and even admitted it, tried to withdraw its motion but was NOT ALLOWED TO WITHDRAW THE MOTION TO LIFT STAY ON THE TRUSTEE’S OBJECTION. 27 cases went down with this ruling. Why did MERS try to withdraw the motion? In my opinion it was because the argument had shifted from theoretical legal argument to hard facts.

EVIDENCE NOTE: There are substantial differences between rhetoric (argument), information, and evidence. Those who know the differences are more likely to prevail than those who don’t.

Of particular note is the Court’s mention that while the Deed of Trust NAMED MERS as beneficiary of the note, there was no mention of the identity of the CURRENT beneficial owner of the note. And perhaps of even greater significance is the failure to identity any successors in interest. This is the case in securitized obligations, notes, and mortgages even where MERS is NOT involved.

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