Now that you have won your “free “house, what happens next?

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On an upbeat note, we are getting more and more communication from homeowners who have won their cases outright and not subject to confidentiality agreements. Fortunately these happy homeowners have realized that the fight is not yet over but that they are obviously in control of the narrative. A word of caution about the case cited in yesterday’s article where the Judge granted a “free house” to a homeowner. The New Jersey bankruptcy case is potentially persuasive but legal authority that the Judge in your case must obey.

Banks have gone to great lengths in framing the narrative on these mortgages and these foreclosures. Almost everywhere you hear the phrase “free house.” Of course nobody really knows what anyone means by that phrase. “free houses” are a myth, just like the trusts, the assignments and the “holders” of the note and mortgage. Preventing the mortgagee from enforcement does NOT give a free house to anyone, regardless of the circumstances. It is a rare circumstance that the buyer of the new house does not expend thousands of dollars or tens of thousands of dollars or even hundreds of thousands of dollars on the house that they think they now own.

I know thousands perhaps millions put a down payment into a house thinking that their payment was equity they would retrieve when the house was sold or refinanced. A typical case I have witnessed is a home purchased for $500,000 with $100,000 down payment —- 20% of the purchase price based upon appraisals that wildly speculative and untrue.

Then the house gets sold in a short sale for $300,000. If that homeowner had fought the bank and the bank was found not to be the owner of the mortgage or note or debt and the mortgage was found to be unenforceable or even void, did that homeowner get the house for free. $100k down, plus $50k in improvements, furnishings etc. The homeowner is out $150,000 no matter what happens and that is not free. There is no such thing as a free house and there never was. But mortgages and notes are sometimes ab initio (from the start), unenforceable or void and in today’s market most of them fall somewhere in that category.

And there is an area of confusion between property law, bankruptcy law and contract law. Which brings us to the case decided in New Jersey by a bankruptcy court judge. It is the case of Washington versus specialized loan servicing and the Bank of New York Mellon as trustee for the certificate holders of an allegedly asset-backed trust.

This case is far from a cure all that will fix all other foreclosures. I doubt the Judge had jurisdiction to declare the mortgage void. And therein lies a potential problem for the homeowner that won here. The homeowner might lose on appeal or still have a problem even if the bank’s appeal is turned down.

I will point out again that Bank of New York Mellon represents itself as trustee for the certificate holders and old minutes any representation for the trust itself. One might conclude that the trust does not exist and that the certificate holders who obviously are the investors are the real parties in interest as I have repeatedly stated for more than seven years.
And by the way, NJ does not have a homestead exemption, so the debt, which is real and if it can be computed after giving credit for all payments to the creditors from all sources, is still owed and the homestead can still be foreclosed based upon a money judgment. So a free house is just not the right term to describe any of this.

I don’t think the judge realized that the investors were being directly represented by Bank of New York Mellon and that the reference to the bank as a trustee was merely a self-serving statement by the bank in order to block any inquiry into the identity of the certificate holders who were the obvious real parties in interest. In the months and years to come the distinction which I am drawing here will become increasingly important in court rooms across the country.

The bankruptcy judge carefully analyzed the statute of limitations and concluded that there was no way that the loan could be enforced and that therefore the claim in bankruptcy was void. The judge that he didn’t like to give anyone a free house but that was what he had to do in this case in New Jersey.

The foreclosure case in the state court was dismissed for lack of prosecution without prejudice. The effect of that dismissal was one of the things that was in dispute that the bankruptcy judge decided. The bad news is that I am not so sure this decision will be upheld if it is appealed. But even if it is upheld I’m not so sure that the homeowner actually received the free house that the judge expressly said was being given to him by the judges decision. Bankruptcy Judges are known to have an inflated view of their jurisdictional authority. The District Court Judge above him in the same courthouse might have been able to declare the mortgage void, but I doubt if a bankruptcy judge has that authority. But the decision to prevent enforcement of the mortgage in the bankruptcy proceeding and the decision to cause the alleged creditor to be unsecured instead of secured (which is what I have been advocating for 7 years) is probably valid.

The judge decided that both the note and mortgage were unenforceable. He also decided that because they were unenforceable that Bank of New York Mellon did not have a secured claim for purposes of the bankruptcy proceeding. The judge went further than that by stating that the underlying lien is deemed void pursuant to 11 USC 506(a)(1) and (d). So for purposes of that bankruptcy proceeding court made a determination that Bank of New York Mellon did not have secured status. The Court also seemed to accept the agreement of both size that Bank of New York Mellon or a specialized loan servicing had the original note and mortgage.

The Question I have is the same question that Is being asked in many circles today. When all is said and done the mortgage still is present in the county records — it was recorded so it still exists in the county records of the County recorder in the jurisdiction in which the property is located. My question is whether in the absence of a court order stating that the mortgage is void or nullified, and in the absence of the recording of such an order at the county recorders office, will this homeowner be legally correct in assuming that the mortgage will not affect his title and that no payment will be required at the time the homeowner seeks to sell or refinance the property.

It may seem like splitting hairs and maybe It is. But I think there’s a difference between a lien that is in the county records and therefore encumbers the title answer the question of the enforceability of the lean. When you pull up the title chain by hand or by computer, the mortgage will be there. Would you buy that property without getting rid of that mortgage? Would you lend money on that property? In this case the Bankruptcy judge has decided for purposes of the bankruptcy proceeding that the secured status of Bank of New York Mellon did not exist.

I question whether that decision automatically means that the mortgage was in fact nullified or void unless the County recorder accepts the court order for recording and the recorded order is interpreted as nullification unemployed mortgage document. And THAT basically means you need to file a quiet title action, which bring you back to attacking the initial loan transaction ab initio (from the beginning). Unless you can say that the note and mortgage should never have been released from the closing table, much less recorded, I think there is a potential problem lurking in the shadows. The homeowner might be prevented from selling or refinancing the home without the AMGAR program or something like it.

Otherwise what it comes time to sell or refinance the property, the homeowner may find that he still must deal with either paying off somebody claiming to own the mortgage or the homeowner is required to file a quiet title action to resolve the question. Of course the longer the homeowner waits before taking any action to sell or refinance the property, more likely it is that the homeowner will in fact end up with the property unencumbered by the mortgage. My point is that I don’t think that question has been answered and I don’t think that the answer will be consistent across the country.

It is my opinion that nullification of the mortgage as a void instrument that never should’ve been released much less recorded is first required for the Court can consider of cause of action to quiet title in favor of the homeowner and specifically against the encumbrance filed in the county records as a mortgage. I would also Council caution on applying this bankruptcy case to other cases in the State judicial system even in New Jersey.

But I would also say that the distaste of people sitting on the bench for hey results that benefits the homeowner signals bias for which there is no proper foundation. There is no question that these loans, debts, notes, mortgages, assignments and transfers. collection modification and foreclosures are all clouded in obscure schemes created by the banks and not the borrowers. 50 million borrowers did not wake up one morning and meet in some stadium with the idea of defrauding the banks and the federal government and insurers, guarantors and investors. But a handful of Wall Street titans who had become accustomed to their power, did in fact arrogantly pursue a scheme that did defraud borrowers, investors, insurance companies and the U.S. government.

To say that nobody can file a foreclosure is not to say that the debt cannot be enforced. There are causes of action based solely on common law or the note. If a real creditor could step forward showing a real advance of funds, they would probably prevail in at least establishing that the debt is owed from the homeowner and possibly get a money judgment. In states that have little or no homestead exemption the lien can be recorded, attaches the chain of title for the house and can be foreclosed as a judgment lien. But of course that would require the party seeking to enforce the debt to show that they actually advanced the money as a creditor. And THAT is the problem for the banks. If they had that evidence there would be no argument over the enforceability of the alleged loan documents that I call worthless.

They would have produced it long ago if the notes and mortgages were valid documents. They didn’t, they can’t, and that is why Elizabeth Warren is absolutely right in demanding that the principal balance of the debt be corrected downward. And it is stink and no crime for a Judge to apply the law evenly and allow the chips to fall where they may. If that means nobody gets to enforce the mortgage it doesn’t mean the homeowner received a free house.

The debt is due, after all adjustments, and it could be enforced by other means — unless the truth is that the borrowers ARE off the hook because the original debt, upon which all other debts deals rely as their foundation, has already been paid off. Then the homeowner doesn’t owe the money on the original debt and if somebody wants to make a case against the homeowner for recovery of what they actually lost then let them bring that action. Otherwise too bad. If the original debt is paid off through any third party payment (i.e., if the certificate holders have received payment in full directly or indirectly on their investment), then there should be no possibility of a mortgage foreclosure because that is the only debt that is allegedly secured by a mortgage. Other parties who have been lurking in the shadows would have to come into the limelight and allege and prove their case including the allegation that they are losing money as a result of these complex and obscure transactions.

The banks started this and they should suffer the consequences. There is plenty of blame to go around. To have homeowners pay the full price for the bank’s misbehavior, for the servicer’s fraud, and the Wall Street bank’s greedy method of siphoning the life out of our economy is just plain wrong. Even if we want to treat the loan documents as real, the consequences should be spread around and not on banks who are reporting higher and higher profits from aggressive release of reserves that comes from money they stole from investors —- a fact that is now dawning upon securities analysts as they downgraded Wells Fargo and other banks.

Like I said, the loans never made into the “pools”

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Editor’s Comment:

When I first suggested that securitization itself was a lie, my comments were greeted with disbelief and derision. No matter. When I see something I call it the way it is. The loans never left the launch pad, much less flew into a waiting pool of investor money. The whole thing was a scam and AG Biden of Đelaware and Schniedermann of New York are on to it.

The tip of the iceberg is that the note was not delivered to the investors. The gravitas of the situation is that the investors were never intended to get the note, the mortgage or any documentation except a check and a distribution report. The game was on.

First they (the investment banks) took money from the investors on the false pretenses that the bonds were real when anyone with 6 months experience on Wall street could tell you this was not a bond for lots of reasons, the most basic of which was that there was no borrower. The prospectus had no loans because there were no loans made yet. The banks certainly wouldn’ t take the risks posed by this toxic heap of loans, so they were waiting for the investors to get conned. Once they had the money then they figured out how to keep as much of it as possible before even looking for residential home borrowers. 

None of the requirements of the Internal Revenue Code on REMICS were followed, nor were the requirements of the pooling and servicing agreement. The facts are simple: the document trail as written never followed the actual trail of actual transactions in which money exchanged hands. And this was simply because the loan money came from the investors apart from the document trail. The actual transaction between homeowner borrower and investor lender was UNDOCUMENTED. And the actual trail of documents used in foreclosures all contain declarations of fact concerning transactions that never happened. 

The note is “evidence” of the debt, not the debt itself. If the investor lender loaned money to the homeowner borrower and neither one of them signed a single document acknowledging that transaction, there is still an obligation. The money from the investor lender is still a loan and even without documentation it is a loan that must be repaid. That bit of legal conclusion comes from common law. 

So if the note itself refers to a transaction in which ABC Lending loaned the money to the homeowner borrower it is referring to a transaction that does not now nor did it ever exist. That note is evidence of an obligation that does not exist. That note refers to a transaction that never happened. ABC Lending never loaned the homeowner borrower any money. And the terms of repayment intended by the securitization documents were never revealed to the homeowner buyer. Therefore the note with ABC Lending is evidence of a non-existent transaction that mistates the terms of repayment by leaving out the terms by which the investor lender would be repaid.

Thus the note is evidence of nothing and the mortgage securing the terms of the note is equally invalid. So the investors are suing the banks for leaving the lenders in the position of having an unsecured debt wherein even if they had collateral it would be declining in value like a stone dropping to the earth.

And as for why banks who knew better did it this way — follow the money. First they took an undisclosed yield spread premium out of the investor lender money. They squirreled most of that money through Bermuda which ” asserted” jurisdiction of the transaction for tax purposes and then waived the taxes. Then the bankers created false entities and “pools” that had nothing in them. Then the bankers took what was left of the investor lender money and funded loans upon request without any underwriting.

Then the bankers claimed they were losing money on defaults when the loss was that of the investor lenders. To add insult to injury the bankers had used some of the investor lender money to buy insurance, credit default swaps and create other credit enhancements where they — not the investor lender —- were the beneficiary of a payoff based on the default of mortgages or an “event” in which the nonexistent pool had to be marked down in value. When did that markdown occur? Only when the wholly owned wholly controlled subsidiary of the investment banker said so, speaking as the ” master servicer.”

So the truth is that the insurers and counterparties on CDS paid the bankers instead of the investor lenders. The same thing happened with the taxpayer bailout. The claims of bank losses were fake. Everyone lost money except, of course, the bankers.

So who owns the loan? The investor lenders. Who owns the note? Who cares, it was worth less when they started; but if anyone owns it it is most probably the originating “lender” ABC Lending. Who owns the mortgage? There is no mortgage. The mortgage agreement was written and executed by the borrower securing terms of payment that were neither disclosed nor real.

Bank Loan Bundling Investigated by Biden-Schneiderman: Mortgages

By David McLaughlin

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and Delaware’s Beau Biden are investigating banks for failing to package mortgages into bonds as advertised to investors, three months after a group of lenders struck a nationwide $25 billion settlement over foreclosure practices.

The states are pursuing allegations that some home loans weren’t correctly transferred into securitizations, undermining investors’ stakes in the mortgages, according to two people with knowledge of the probes. They’re also concerned about improper foreclosures on homeowners as result, said the people, who declined to be identified because they weren’t authorized to speak publicly. The probes prolong the fallout from the six-year housing bust that’s cost Bank of America Corp., JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPM) and other lenders more than $72 billion because of poor underwriting and shoddy foreclosures. It may also give ammunition to bondholders suing banks, said Isaac Gradman, an attorney and managing member of IMG Enterprises LLC, a mortgage-backed securities consulting firm.

“The attorneys general could create a lot of problems for the banks and for the trustees and for bondholders,” Gradman said. “I can’t imagine a better securities law claim than to say that you represented that these were mortgage-backed securities when in fact they were backed by nothing.”

Countrywide Faulted

Schneiderman said Bank of America Corp. (BAC)’s Countrywide Financial unit last year made errors in the way it packaged home loans into bonds, while investors have sued trustee banks, saying documentation lapses during mortgage securitizations can impair their ability to recover losses when homeowners default. Schneiderman didn’t sue Bank of America in connection with that criticism.

The Justice Department in January said it formed a group of federal officials and state attorneys general to investigate misconduct in the bundling of mortgage loans into securities. Schneiderman is co-chairman with officials from the Justice Department and the Securities and Exchange Commission.

The next month, five mortgage servicers — Bank of America Corp., Wells Fargo & Co. (WFC), Citigroup Inc. (C), JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Ally Financial Inc. (ALLY) — reached a $25 billion settlement with federal officials and 49 states. The deal pays for mortgage relief for homeowners while settling claims against the servicers over foreclosure abuses. It didn’t resolve all claims, leaving the lenders exposed to further investigations into their mortgage operations by state and federal officials.

Top Issuers

The New York and Delaware probes involve banks that assembled the securities and firms that act as trustees on behalf of investors in the debt, said one of the people and a third person familiar with the matter.

The top issuers of mortgage securities without government backing in 2005 included Bank of America’s Countrywide Financial unit, GMAC, Bear Stearns Cos. and Washington Mutual, according to trade publication Inside MBS & ABS. Total volume for the top 10 issuers was $672 billion. JPMorgan acquired Bear Stearns and Washington Mutual in 2008.

The sale of mortgages into the trusts that pool loans may be void if banks didn’t follow strict requirements for such transfers, Biden said in a lawsuit filed last year over a national mortgage database used by banks. The requirements for transferring documents were “frequently not complied with” and likely led to the failure to properly transfer loans “on a large scale,” Biden said in the complaint.

“Most of this was done under the cover of darkness and anything that shines a light on these practices is going to be good for investors,” Talcott Franklin, an attorney whose firm represents mortgage-bond investors, said about the state probes.

Critical to Investors

Proper document transfers are critical to investors because if there are defects, the trusts, which act on behalf of investors, can’t foreclose on borrowers when they default, leading to losses, said Beth Kaswan, an attorney whose firm, Scott + Scott LLP, represents pension funds that have sued Bank of New York Mellon Corp. (BK) and US Bancorp as bond trustees. The banks are accused of failing in their job to review loan files for missing and incomplete documents and ensure any problems were corrected, according to court filings.

“You have very significant losses in the trusts and very high delinquencies and foreclosures, and when you attempt to foreclose you can’t collect,” Kaswan said.

Laurence Platt, an attorney at K&L Gates LLP in Washington, disagreed that widespread problems exist with document transfers in securitization transactions that have impaired investors’ interests in mortgages.

“There may be loan-level issues but there aren’t massive pattern and practice problems,” he said. “And even when there are potential loan-level issues, you have to look at state law because not all states require the same documents.”

Fixing Defects

Missing documents don’t have to prevent trusts from foreclosing on homes because the paperwork may not be necessary, according to Platt. Defects in the required documents can be fixed in some circumstances, he said. For example, a missing promissory note, in which a borrower commits to repay a loan, may not derail the process because there are laws governing lost notes that allow a lender to proceed with a foreclosure, he said.

A review by federal bank regulators last year found that mortgage servicers “generally had sufficient documentation” to demonstrate authority to foreclose on homes.

Schneiderman said in court papers last year that Countrywide failed to transfer complete loan documentation to trusts. BNY Mellon, the trustee for bondholders, misled investors to believe Countrywide had delivered complete files, the attorney general said.

Hindered Foreclosures

Errors in the transfer of documents “hampered” the ability of the trusts to foreclose and impaired the value of the securities backed by the loans, Schneiderman said.

“The failure to properly transfer possession of complete mortgage files has hindered numerous foreclosure proceedings and resulted in fraudulent activities,” the attorney general said in court documents.

Bank of America faced similar claims from Nevada Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto, who accused the Charlotte, North Carolina-based lender of conducting foreclosures without authority in its role as mortgage servicer due improper document transfers. In an amended complaint last year, Masto said Countrywide failed to deliver original mortgage notes to the trusts or provided notes with defects.

The lawsuit was settled as part of the national foreclosure settlement, Masto spokeswoman Jennifer Lopez said.

Bank of America spokesman Rick Simon declined to comment about the claims made by states and investors. BNY Mellon performed its duties as defined in the agreements governing the securitizations, spokesman Kevin Heine said.

“We believe that claims against the trustee are based on a misunderstanding of the limited role of the trustee in mortgage securitizations,” he said.

Biden, in his complaint over mortgage database MERS, cites a foreclosure by Deutsche Bank AG (DBK) as trustee in which the promissory note wasn’t delivered to the bank as required under an agreement governing the securitization. The office is concerned that such errors led to foreclosures by banks that lacked authority to seize homes, one of the people said.

Renee Calabro, spokeswoman for Frankfurt-based Deutsche Bank, declined to comment.

Investors have raised similar claims against banks. The Oklahoma Police Pension and Retirement System last year sued U.S. Bancorp as trustee for mortgage bonds sold by Bear Stearns. The bank “regularly disregarded” its duty as trustee to review loan files to ensure there were no missing or defective documents transferred to the trusts. The bank’s actions caused millions of dollars in losses on securities “that were not, in fact, legally collateralized by mortgage loans,” according to an amended complaint.

“Bondholders could have serious claims on their hands,” said Gradman. “You’re going to suffer a loss as bondholder if you can’t foreclose, if you can’t liquidate that property and recoup.”

Teri Charest, a spokeswoman for Minneapolis-based U.S. Bancorp (USB), said the bank isn’t liable and doesn’t know if any party is at fault in the structuring or administration of the transactions.

“If there was fault, this unhappy investor is seeking recompense from the wrong party,” she said. “We were not the sponsor, underwriter, custodian, servicer or administrator of this transaction.”

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