Modifications: Interest reduction, Principal reduction, Payment reduction, and Term increase

In the financial world we don’t measure just the amount of principal. For example if I increased your mortgage principal by $100,000 and gave you 100 years to pay without interest it would be nearly equivalent to zero principal too (especially factoring in inflation). A reduction in the interest rate has an effect on the overall amount of money due from the borrower if (and this is an important if) the borrower is given 40 years to pay AND they intend to live in the house for that period of time. To the borrower the reduction in interest rate and the extension of the period in which it is due lowers the monthly payment which is all that he or she normally cares about.

Nonetheless you are generally correct. And THAT is because the average time anyone lives in a house is 5-7 years, during which an interest reduction would not equate to much of a principal reduction even with inflation factored in. Unsophisticated borrowers get caught in exactly that trap when they do a modification where the monthly payments decline. But when they want to refinance or sell the home they find themselves in a new bind — having to come to the table with cash to sell their home because the mortgage is upside down.

So the question that must be answered is what are the intentions of the homeowner. The only heuristic guide (rule of thumb) that seems to hold true is that if the house has been in the family for generations, it is indeed likely that they will continue to own the property. In that event calculations of interest and inflation, present value etc. make a big difference. But for most people, the only thing that cures their position of being upside down (ignoring the fact that they probably don’t owe the full amount demanded anyway) is by a direct principal reduction.

THAT is the reason why I push so hard on getting credit for receipt of insurance and other loss sharing arrangements, including FDIC, servicer advances etc. Get credit for those and you have a principal CORRECTION (i.e., you get to the truth) instead of a principal REDUCTION, which presumes the old balance was actually due. It isn’t due and it is probable that there is nothing due on the debt, in addition to the fact that it is not secured by the property because the mortgage and note do NOT describe any actual transaction that took place between the parties to the note and the mortgage.

Is Donald Duck Your Lender?

 

I was asked a question a few days ago that runs to the heart of the problem for the banks in enforcing false claims for foreclosure and false claims of losses that should really allocated to the investors so that the investor would get the benefits of those loss mitigation payments. This is the guts of the complaints by insurers, investors, guarantors et al against the investment banks — that there was fraud, not breach of contract, because the investment bank never intended to follow the plan of securitization set forth in the prospectus and pooling and servicing agreement. The question asked of me only reached the issue of whether borrowers could claim credit for third party payments to the creditor. But the answer, as you will see, branches much further out than the scope of the question.

If you look at Steinberger in Arizona and recent case decisions in other jurisdictions you will see that if third party payments are received by the creditor, they must be taken into account — meaning the account receivable on their books is reduced by the amount of the payment received. If the account receivable is reduced then it is axiomatic that the account payable from the borrower is correspondingly reduced. Each debt must be taken on its own terms. So if the reduction was caused by a payment from a third party, it is possible that the third party might have a claim against the borrower for having made the payment — but that doesn’t change the fact that the payment was made and received and that the debt to the trust or trust beneficiaries has been reduced or even eliminated.

The Court rejected the argument that the borrower was not an intended third party beneficiary in favor of finding that the creditor could only be paid once on the debt. I am finding that most trial judges agree that if loss-sharing payments were made, including servicer advances (which actually come from the broker dealer to cover up the poor condition of the portfolio), the account is reduced as to that creditor. The court further went on to agree that the “servicer” or whoever made the payment might have an action for unjust enrichment against the borrower — but that is a not a cause of action that is part of the foreclosure or the mortgage. The payment, whether considered volunteer or otherwise, is credited to the account receivable of the creditor and the borrower’s liability is corresponding reduced. In the case of servicer payments, if the creditor’s account is showing the account current because it received the payment that was due, then the creditor cannot claim a default.

A new “loan” is created when a volunteer or contractual payment is received by the creditor trust or trust beneficiaries. This loan arises by operation of law because it is presumed that the payment was not a gift. Thus the party who made that payment probably has a cause of action against the borrower for unjust enrichment, or perhaps contribution, but that claim is decidedly unsecured by a mortgage or deed of trust.

You have to think about the whole default thing the way the actual events played out. The creditor is the trust or the group of trust beneficiaries. They are owed payments as per the prospectus and pooling and servicing agreements. If those payments are current there is no default on the books of creditor. If the balance has been reduced by loss- sharing or insurance payment, the balance due and the accrued interest are correspondingly reduced. And THAT means the notice of default and notice of sale and acceleration are all wrong in terms of the figures they are using. The insurmountable problem that is slowly being recognized by the courts is that the default, from the perspective of the creditor trust or trust beneficiaries is a default under a contract between the trust beneficiaries and the trust.

This is the essential legal problem that the broker dealers (investment banks) caused when they interposed themselves as owners instead of what they were supposed to be — intermediaries, depositories, and agents of the investors (trust beneficiaries). The default of the borrower is irrelevant to whether the trust beneficiaries have suffered a loss due to default in payment from the trust. The borrower never promised that he or she or they would make payment to the trust or the trust beneficiaries — and that is the fundamental flaw in the actual mortgage process that prevailed for more than a dozen years. There would be no flaw if the investment banks had not committed fraud and instead of protecting investors, they diverted the money, ownership of the note and ownership of the mortgage or deed of trust to their own controlled vehicles. If the plan had been followed, the trusts and trust beneficiaries would have direct rights to collect from borrowers and foreclose on their property.

If the investment banks had not intended to divert the money, income, notes and mortgages or deeds of trust from the creditor trust or trust beneficiaries, then there would have no allegations of fraud from the investors, insurers and government guarantee agencies.

If the investment banks had done what was represented in the prospectus and pooling and servicing agreements, then the borrower would have known that the loan was being originated for or on behalf of the trust or beneficiaries and so would the rest of the world have known that. The note and mortgage would have shown, at origination, that the loan was payable to the trust and the mortgage or deed of trust was for the benefit of the trust or trust beneficiaries, as required by TILA and all the compensation earned by people associated with the origination of the loan would have had to have been disclosed (or returned to the borrower for failure to disclose). That would have connected the source of the loan — the trust or trust beneficiaries — to the receipt of the funds (the homeowner borrowers).

Instead, the investment banks hit on a nominee strawman plan where the disclosures were not made and where they could claim that (1) the investment bank was the owner of the debt and (2) the note and mortgage or deed of trust were executed for the benefit of a nominee strawman for the investment bank, who then claimed an insurable interest as owner of the debt. As owner of the debt, the investment banks received loss sharing payments from the FDIC. As agents for the investors those payments should have been applied to the balance owed the investors with a corresponding reduction in the balance due from the borrower —- if the payments were actually made and received and were not hypothetical or speculative. The investment banks did the same thing with the bonds, collecting payments from insurers, counterparties to credit default swaps, and guarantees from government sponsored entities.

When I say nominee or strawman I do not merely mean MERS which would have been entirely unnecessary unless the investment banks had intended to defraud the investors. What I am saying is that even the “lender” for whom MERS was the “nominee” falls into the same trapdoor. That lender was also merely a nominee which means that, as I said 7 years ago, they might just as well have made out the note and mortgage to Donald Duck, a fictitious character.

Since no actual lender was named in the note and mortgage and the terms of repayment were actually far different than what was stated on the borrower’s promissory note (i.e., the terms of the mortgage bond were the ONLY terms applicable to the plan of repayment to the creditor investors), the loan contract (or quasi loan contract, depending upon which jurisdiction you are in) was never completed. Hence the mortgage and note should never have been accepted into the file by the closing agent, much less recorded.

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Damages Rising: Wrongful Foreclosure Costs Wells Fargo $3.2 Million

Damage awards for wrongful foreclosure are rising across the country. In New Mexico a judge issued a $3.2 million judgment (including $2.7 million in punitive damages) against Wells Fargo for foreclosing on a man’s home after his death even though he had an insurance policy through the bank that paid the remaining balance on his mortgage. The balance “owed” on the mortgage was $125,000. Despite the fact that the bank knew about the insurance (because it was purchased through the bank) Wells Fargo continued to pursue foreclosure, ignoring the claim for insurance. It is because of cases like this that people are asking “why would they do that?”

The answer is what I’ve been saying for years.  Where a loan is subject to claims of securitization, and the investment banks lied to insurers, investors, guarantors and other co-obligors, they most likely have been paid many times for the same loan and never gave credit to the investors. By not crediting the investors they created the illusion of a higher balance that was due on the loan. They also created the illusion of a default that probably never occurred. But by pursuing foreclosure and foreclosure sale, they compounded the illusion and avoided claims for refund and repayment received from third parties and created claims for recovery of servicer advances. In many foreclosures that I have  reviewed, payments received from the FDIC under loss-sharing were never taken into account. Thus the bank collects money repeatedly for a loss it never incurred.

This case is another example of why I insist on following the money. By following the money trail you will discover that the documents upon which the foreclosure relies referred to  fictitious transactions. The documents are worthless, but nevertheless accepted in court unless a proper objection is made based upon preserving issues for trial and appeal by proper pleading and discovery.

Lawyers should take note of this profit opportunity. Most homeowners are looking for attorneys to take cases on contingency. Typical contingency fee is 40%. If these lawyers were on a typical contingency fee arrangement, their payday would have been around $1.2 million.

I should add that for every one of these judgments that are reported, I hear about dozens of confidential settlements that are of similar nature, to wit: clear title on the house, damages and attorneys fees.

Wells Fargo Ordered to Pay $3.2 Million for “Shocking” Foreclosure

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