Insurance, Credit Default Swaps, Guarantees: Third Party Payments Mitigate Damages to “Lender”

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Editor’s Analysis: The topic of conversation (argument) in court is changing to an inquiry of what is the real transaction, who were the parties and did they pay anything that gives them the right to claim they suffered financial damages as a result of the “breach” by the borrower. And the corollary to that is what constitutes mitigation of those damages.

If the mortgage bond derives its value solely from underlying mortgage loans, then the risk of loss derives solely from those same underlying mortgages. And if those losses are mitigated through third party payments, then the benefit should flow to both the investors who were the source of funds and the borrowers balance must be correspondingly and proportionately adjusted. Otherwise the creditor ends up in a position better than if the debtor had paid off the debt.

If your Aunt Sally pays off your mortgage loan and the bank sues you anyway  claiming they didn’t get any payment from YOU, the case will be a loser for the bank and a clear winner for you because of the defense of PAYMENT. The rules regarding damages and mitigation of damages boil down to this — the alleged injured party should not be placed in a position where he/she/it is better off than if the contract (promissory) note had been fully performed.

If the “creditor” is the investor lender, and the only way the borrower received the money was through intermediaries, then those intermediaries are not entitled to claim part of the money that the investor advanced, nor part of the money that was intended for the “creditor” to offset a financial loss. Those intermediaries are agents. And the transaction,  while involving numerous intermediaries and their affiliates, is a single contemporaneous transaction between the investor lender and the homeowner borrower.

This is the essence of the “Single transaction doctrine” and the “step transaction doctrine.” What the banks have been successful at doing, thus far, is to focus the court’s attention on the individual steps of the transaction in which a borrower eventually received money or value in exchange for his promise to pay (promissory note) and the collateral he used to guarantee payment (mortgage or deed of trust). This is evasive logic. As soon as you have penetrated the fog with the single transaction rule where the investor lenders are identified as the creditor and the homeowner borrower is identified as the debtor, the argument of the would-be forecloser collapses under its own weight.

Having established a straight line between the investor lenders and the homeowner borrowers, and identified all the other parties as intermediary agents of the the real parties in interest, the case for  damages become much clearer. The intermediary agents cannot foreclose or enforce the debt except for the benefit of an identified creditor which we know is the group of investor lenders whose money was used to fund the tier 2 yield spread premium, other dubious fees and profits, and then applied to funding loans by wire transfer to closing agents.

The intermediaries cannot claim the house because they are not part of that transaction as a real party in interest. They may have duties to each other as it relates to handling of the money as it passes through various conduits, but their principal duty is to make sure the transaction between the creditor and debtor is completed.

The intermediaries who supported the sale of fake mortgage bonds from an empty REMIC trust cannot claim the benefits of insurance, guarantees or the proceeds of hedge contracts like credit default swaps. For the first time since the mess began, judges are starting to ask whether the payments from the third parties has relevance to the debt of the borrower. To use the example above, are the third parties who made the payments the equivalent of Aunt Sally or are they somehow going to be allowed to claim those proceeds themselves?

The difference is huge. If the third parties who made those payments are the equivalent of Aunt Sally, then the mortgage is paid off to the extent that actual cash payments were received by the intermediary agents. Aunt Sally might have a claim against the borrower or it might have been a gift, but in all events the original basis for the transaction has been reduced or eliminated by the receipt of those payments.

If Aunt Sally sues the borrower, it would  be for contribution or restitution, unsecured, unless Aunt sally actually bought the loan and received an assignment along with a receipt for her funds. If there was another basis on which Aunt Sally made the payment besides a gift, then the money should still be credited to the benefit of the investor lenders who have received what they thought was a bond payable but in reality was still the note payable.

In no event are the intermediary agents to receive those loss mitigation payments when they had no loss. And to the extent that payments were received, they should be used to reduce the receivable of the investor lender and of course that would reduce the payable owed from the homeowner borrower to the investor lender. To do otherwise would be to allow the “creditor” to end up in a much better position than if the homeowner had simply paid off the loan as per the promissory note or faked mortgage bond.

None of this takes away from the fact that the REMIC trust was not source the funds used to pay for the mortgage origination or transfer. That goes to the issue of the perfection of the mortgage lien and not to the issue of how much is owed.

Now Judges are starting to ask the right question: what authority exists for application of the third party payments to mitigate damages? If such authority exists and the would-be foreclosures used a false formula to determine the principal balance due, and the interest payable on that false balance then the notice of delinquency, notice of default, and foreclosure proceedings, including the sale and redemption period would all be incorrect and probably void because they demanded too much from the borrower after having received the third party payments.

If such authority does not exist, then the windfall to the banks will continue unabated — they get the fees and tier 2 yield spread premium profits upfront, they get the payment servicing fees, they get to sell the loan multiple times without any credit to the investor lender, but most of all they get the loss mitigation payments from insurance, hedge, guarantee and bailouts for a third party loss — the investor lenders. This is highly inequitable. The party with the loss gets nothing while a party who already has made a profit on the transaction, makes more profit.

If we start with the proposition that the creditor should not be better off than if the contract had been performed, and we recognize that the intermediary investment bank, master servicer, trustee of the empty REMIC trust, subservicer, aggregator, and others did in fact receive money to mitigate the loss on those certificates and thus on the loans supposedly backing the mortgage bonds, then the only equitable and sensible conclusion would be to credit or allocate those payments to the investor lender up to the amount they advanced.

With the creditor satisfied or partially satisfied the mortgage loan, regardless of whether it is secured or not, is also satisfied or partially satisfied.

So the question is whether mitigation payments are part of the transaction between the investor lender and the homeowners borrower. While this specific application of insurance payments etc has never been addressed we find plenty of support in the case law, statutes and even the notes and bonds themselves that show that such third party mitigation payments are part of the transaction and the expectancy of the investor lender and therefore will affect the borrower’s balance owed on the debt, regardless of whether it is secured or unsecured.

Starting with the DUTY TO MITIGATE DAMAGES, we can assume that if there is such a duty, and there is, then successfully doing so must be applicable to the loan or contract and is so treated in awarding damages without abridgement. Keep in mind that the third party contract for mitigation payments actually refer to the borrowers. Those contracts expressly waive any right of the payor of the mitigation loss coverage to go after the homeowner borrower.

To allow all these undisclosed parties to receive compensation arising out of the initial loan transaction and not owe it to someone is absurd. TILA says they owe all the money they made to the borrower. Contract law says the payments should first be applied to the investor lender and then as a natural consequence, the amount owed to the lender is reduced and so is the amount due from the homeowner borrower.

See the following:

Pricing and Mitigation of Counterparty Credit Exposures, Agostino Capponi. Purdue University – School of Industrial Engineering. January 31, 2013. Handbook of Systemic Risk, edited by J.-P. Fouque and J.Langsam. Cambridge University Press, 2012

  • “We analyze the market price of counterparty risk and develop an arbitrage-free pricing valuation framework, inclusive of collateral mitigation. We show that the adjustment is given by the sum of option payoff terms, depending on the netted exposure, i.e. the difference between the on-default exposure and the pre-default collateral account. We specialize our analysis to Interest Rates Swaps (IRS) and Credit Default Swaps (CDS) as underlying portfolio, and perform a numerical study to illustrate the impact of default correlation, collateral margining frequency, and collateral re-hypothecation on the resulting adjustment. We also discuss problems of current research interest in the counterparty risk community.” pdf4article631

Whether this language  makes sense to you or not, it is English and it does say something clearly — it is all about risk. And the risk of the investor lender was to have protected by Triple A rating, insurance, and credit default swaps, as well as guarantees and provisions of the pooling and servicing agreement, for the REMIC trust. Now here is the tricky part — the banks must not be allowed to say on the one hand that the securitization documents are real even if there was no money trail or consideration to support them on the one hand then say that they are not real for purposes of receiving loss mitigation payments, which they want to keep even if it leaves the real creditor with a net loss.

To put it simply — either the parties to the underwriting of the bond to investors and the loan to homeowners were part of the the transaction (loan from investor to homeowner) or they were not. I fail to see any logic or support that they were not.

And the simple rule of measure of how these parties fit together is found under the single transaction doctrine. If the step transaction under scrutiny would not have occurred but for the principal transaction alleged, then it is a single transaction.

The banks would argue they were trading in credit default swaps and other exotic securities regardless of what lender fit with which borrower. But that is defeated by the fact that it was the banks who sold to mortgage bonds, it was the banks who set up the Master Servicer, it was the banks who purchased the insurance and credit default swaps and it was the underwriting investment bank that promised that insurance and credit default swaps would be used to counter the risk. And it is inescapable that the only risk applicable to the principal transaction between investor lender and homeowner borrower was the risk of non payment by the borrower. These third party payments represent the proceeds of protection from that risk.

Would the insurers have entered into the contract without the underlying loans? No. Would the counterparties have entered into the contract without the underlying loans? No.

So the answer, Judge is that it is an inescapable conclusion that third party loss mitigation payments must be applied, by definition, to the loss. The loss was suffered not by the banks but by the investors whose money they took. The loss mitigation payments must then be applied against the risk of loss on the money advanced by those investors. And the benefit of that payment or allocation is that the real creditor is satisfied and the real borrower receives some benefit from those payments in the way of a reduction of the his payable to the investor.

It is either as I have outlined above or the money — all of it — goes to the borrower, to the exclusion of the investor under the requirements of TILA and RESPA. While the shadow banking system is said to be over $1.2 quadrillion,  we must apply the same standards to ourselves and our cases as we do to the opposing side. Only actual payments received by the participants in the overall obscured investor lender transaction with the homeowner borrower.

Hence discovery must include those third parties and review of their contracts for the court to determine the applicability of third party payments that were actually received in relation to either the subject loan, the subject mortgage bond, or the subject REMIC pool claiming ownership of the subject loan.

The inequality between the rich and not-so-rich comes not from policy but bad arithmetic.

As the subprime mortgage market fell apart in late 2007 and early 2008, many financial products, particularly mortgage-backed securities, were downgraded.  The price of credit default swaps on these products increased.  Pursuant to their collateral agreements, many protection buyers were able to insist on additional collateral protection.  In some cases, the collateral demanded represented a significant portion of the counterparty’s assets.  Unsurprisingly, counterparties have carefully evaluated, and in some cases challenged, protection buyers’ right to such additional collateral amounts.  This tension has generated several recent lawsuits:

• CDO Plus Master Fund Ltd. v. Wachovia Bank, N.A., 07-11078 (S.D.N.Y. Dec. 7, 2007) (dispute over demand     for collateral on $10,000,000 protection on collateralized debt obligations).

• VCG Special Opportunities Master Fund Ltd. v. Citibank, N.A., 08 1563 (S.D.N.Y. Feb. 14, 2008) (same).

• UBS AG v. Paramax Capital Int’l, No. 07604233 (N.Y. Sup. Ct. Dec. 26, 2007) (dispute over demand for $33 million additional capital from hedge fund for protection on collateralized debt obligations).

Given that the collateral disputes erupting in the courts so far likely represent only a small fraction of the stressed counterparties, and given recent developments, an increase in counterparty bankruptcy appears probable.

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