BeforeYou Open Your Mouth Or Write Anything Down, Know What You Are Talking About

EDITOR’S NOTE: By popular demand I am writing a new workbook that is up to date on the theories and practices of real estate loans, documentation, securitizations and effective enforcement and foreclosure of the collateral (real property — i.e., the house). The book will be finished around the end of January. If you want to purchase an advance subscription to an advance copy we can give you a discount off the price of $599. You will receive the final edit drafts of each section as completed. And your comments might be included in the final text with attribution. This is an excerpt from what I have done so far ( the references to “boxes” is a reference to artwork that has not yet been completed but the meaning is clear enough from the words):

[Note: I did borrow some phrases and cites from Judge Jennifer Bailey’s Bench Book for Judges in Dade County. But things have changed substantially since she wrote that guide and my book is intended to update the various treatises, books and articles on the subject of mortgage related litigation in the era of securitization]

 

INTRODUCTION

 

The massive volume of foreclosures and real estate closings have resulted in a failure of the judicial system — both Judges and Attorneys to scrutinize the transactions and foreclosures and other enforcement actions for compliance with basic contract law. This starts with whether there is an actual loan at the base of the tree of assignments, endorsements, powers of attorney etc. If the party at the base of the tree did not in fact make any loan and was not possessed of any actual or apparent authority to represent the party who DID make the loan, then the instruments executed in favor of the originator are void, not voidable. This is simply because the loan contract like any contract requires offer, acceptance and consideration. Lacking any meeting of the minds and/or consideration, there was no contract regardless of what one of the parties signed.

 

The interesting issue at the start of our investigation is how to define the loan contract. Is it a contract that arises by operation of statutory or common law? Is it a contract that arises by execution of instruments? What if the borrower executes an instruments that acknowledges receipt of money he never received from the party he thought was giving him the money? Is it possible for the written instruments to create a conflict between the presumptions at law arising from written, properly executed instruments and the real facts that gave rise to a contract that was created by operation of law?

 

These questions come up because there is no actual written loan contract. The borrower and lender do not come together and sign a contract for loan. The contract is implied from the documents and actions contemporaneously occurring at or around the time of the loan “closing.” It appears to be a case of first impression that the borrower is induced to sign documents in favor of someone who, at the end of the day, does NOT give him the loan. This never was a defect before the era of claims of securitization. Now it is central to the issue of establishing the identity and rights of a creditor and debtor and whether the debt is secured or unsecured.

 

Even where the loan contract is solid, the same legal and factual problems arise at the time of the alleged acquisition of the loan where assignments lack consideration because, like the above origination, an undisclosed third party was the actual source of funds.

 

 

 

Definitions:

 

 

 

1)   Debt: in the context of loans, the amount of money due from the borrower to the lender. This may include successors to the lender. In a simple mortgage loan the amount of money due, the identity of the borrower and the identity of the lender are clear. In cases where the mortgage loan is subject to claims of assignments, transfers, sales or securitization by either the borrower or the party claiming to be the lender or the successor to the lender, there are questions of fact and law that must be determined by the court based on the method by which the money advanced to or on behalf of the borrower that leads to a finding by the court of the identity of the party who advanced the money for the origination of the debt or for the acquisition of the debt.

 

a)    In all cases the debt arises by operation of law at the moment that the borrower receives the advance of money from a lender regardless of the method utilized and regardless of the validity of any instruments that were executed by either the borrower or the lender.

 

i)     The acceptance of the money by the borrower raises a strong presumption that the advance of money in the context of the situation was not a gift.

 

ii)    In simple loans the legal instruments that were executed by the borrower at the loan closing are presumptively supported by consideration as expressed in the note or mortgage and a valid contract presumptively exists such that the court can enforce the note and the mortgage.

 

b)   The factual circumstances and any written instruments that were executed by the parties as part of a loan contract govern terms of repayment of the debt.

 

c)    Enforcement of the repayment obligation of the borrower requires either a lawsuit on the loan of money or a lawsuit on a promissory note.

 

i)     If the lawsuit is on the loan of money plaintiff must state the ultimate facts upon which relief could be granted including the factual circumstances of the loan and the fact that the loan was made. In Florida — F.R.C.P. 1.110 (b), Form 1.936

 

ii)    The lawsuit is on a note plaintiff must state the ultimate facts upon which relief could be granted including that the plaintiff owns and holds the note, that Defendant owes the Plaintiff money, and state the amount of money that is owed. In Florida — F.R.C.P. 1.110 (b), Form 1.934

 

(1)Where the Plaintiff alleges it is a party by virtue of a sale, assignment, transfer or endorsement of the note, Plaintiffs frequently fail to allege the required elements in which case the Court should dismiss the complaint — unless the Defendant has already admitted the debt, the note, the mortgage, and the default.

 

(2)The burden of pleading and proving the required elements is on the Plaintiff and cannot be shifted to the defendant without violating the constitutional requirements of due process.

 

(3)Requiring the Defendant to raise a required but missing element of a defective complaint filed by a Plaintiff would require the Defendant to raise the missing element and then deny it as an attempt at stating an affirmative defense that raises no issue other than an element that was required to be in the complaint of the Plaintiff. This is reversible error in that it improperly shifts the burden of pleading onto the Defendant and requires the Defendant to prove facts mostly in the sole control of the Defendant and which would establish standing to bring the action.

 

d)   In those cases where the loan is subject to claims of assignments, transfers, sales or securitization by either party the court must decide on a case-by-case basis whether the legal consideration for the loan (i.e., the advance of money from lender to borrower or for the benefit of the borrower) supports the debt described in the legal instruments that were executed by the borrower at the loan closing.

 

i)     If the Court finds that the legal instruments that were executed by the borrower at the loan closing are not supported by consideration, then the debt simply exists by operation of law and is not secured.

 

(1)Such a finding could only be based on the court determining that the lender described in the legal instruments is a different party than the party who actually loaned the money.

 

(2)Warehouse lending arrangements may be sufficient for the court to determine that the named payee on the note or the identified lender supplied consideration. The court must determine whether the warehouse lender was an actual lender or a strawman, nominee or conduit.

 

ii)    If the court finds that the legal instruments that were executed by the borrower at the loan closing are supported by consideration, then a valid contract may be found to exist that the court can enforce.

 

2)   Mortgage: a contract in which a borrower agrees that the lender may sell the real property (as described in the mortgage) for the purposes of satisfying a debt described in a promissory note that is described in the mortgage contract. It must be a written instrument securing the payment of money or advances made to or on behalf of the borrower. A lien to secure payment of assessments for condominiums, cooperatives and homeowner association is treated as a mortgage contract, pursuant to the enabling documents. See state statutes. For example, F.S. 702.09, Fla. Stat. (2010)

 

a)    a mortgage, if properly perfected, creates a specific lien against the property and is not a conveyance of legal title or of the right of possession to the real property described in the mortgage contract. See state statutes. For example section 697.02, Fla. Stat. (2010), Fla. Nat’l Bank v brown, 47 So 2d 748 (1949).

 

b)   Mortgagee: the party to home the real property is pledged as collateral against the debt described in the note. Mortgagee is presumptively the party named in the mortgage contract. With the advent of MERS and other situations where there is an assignment of the mortgage (expressly or by operation of law) the named mortgagee might be a strawman or nominee for a party described as the lender. In such cases there is an issue of fact as to perfection of the mortgage contract and therefore the mortgage encumbrance resulting from the recording of the mortgage contract. See state statutes. For example F.S. 721.82(6), Fla. Stat. (2010).

 

i)     In Florida the term mortgagee refers to the lender, the secured party or the holder of the mortgage lien. There are several questions of fact and law that the court must determine in order to define and apply these terms.

 

c)    Mortgagor

 

d)   Lender: the party who loaned money to the borrower. If the lender was identified in the mortgage contract by name then the mortgage contract is most likely enforceable.

 

i)     If the lender described in the mortgage contract is a strawman, nominee or conduit then there is an issue of fact as to whether any party could claim to be a secured party under the mortgage contract. Under such circumstances the mortgage contract must be treated as naming no identified secured party. Whether this results in a finding that the mortgage contract is not complete, not perfected or not enforceable is a question of fact that is decided on a case-by-case basis.

 

e)    No right to jury trial exists for enforcement of provisions of the mortgage. However, a right to jury trial exists if timely demanded provided that the foreclosing party seeks judgment on the note or the loan, to wit: financial damages for financial injury suffered by the Plaintiff.

 

i)     Bifurcation of the trial for damages and trial for enforcement of the mortgage contract may be necessary if the basis for the enforcement of the mortgage is non-payment of the note. Any properly raised affirmative defenses relating to setoff or enforceability of the note would be raised in the case for damages.

 

ii)    In that case the trial on the breach of the note would first be needed to render a verdict on the default and then a trial on enforcement of the mortgage would be held before the court without a jury.  Any properly raised defense relating to fees and other costs assessed in enforcement of the mortgage contract.

 

iii)  A question of fact and law must be decided by the court in actions in which the plaintiff merely seeks to enforce the mortgage by virtue of an alleged default by the plaintiff but does not seek monetary damages. Florida Form 1.944 (Foreclosure Complaint) is not specific as to whether it is allowing for a single trial without jury.

 

(1)Since foreclosures are actions in equity, no jury trial is required, but it can be allowed. Since actions for damages require jury trial if properly demanded, it would appear that this issue was not considered when the Florida Form was created.

 

iv)  The requirement that the Plaintiff must own the loan is a requirement that the Plaintiff is not acting in a representative capacity unless it brings the action on behalf of a principal that is disclosed and alleges and attaches to the complaint an instrument that confers upon Plaintiff its authority to do so.

 

v)    Owning the loan means, as set forth in Article 9 of the UCC that the Plaintiff paid for it in money or other consideration that was equivalent to money. The same thing holds true under Article 3 of the UCC for enforcement of the note if the Plaintiff seeks the exalted status of Holder in Due Course which requires payment PLUS no knowledge of defenses all of which must be alleged and proven by the Plaintiff. [1]

 

3)   Note: a written instrument describing the terms of repayment or terms of payment to the payee or a legal successor in interest. In mortgage loans the payor is often described as the borrower. This instrument is usually described in the mortgage contract as the basis for the forced sale of the property. The note is part of a contract for loan of money. It is often considered the total contract. The loan contract is not complete without the loan of money from the payee on the note. If the lender was identified in the note by name then the note is most likely enforceable.

 


[1] In non-judicial states where the power of sale is recognized as a contractual right, the issue is less clear as to the alignment of parties, claims and defenses. In actions to contest substitution of trustees, notices of sale, notices of default etc. it is the borrower who must bring the lawsuit and in some states they must do so within a very short time frame. Check applicable state statutes. The confusion stems from the fact that the Borrower is actually denying the allegations that would have been made if the alleged beneficiary under the deed of trust had filed a judicial complaint. The trustee on the deed of trust probably should file an action in interpleader if a proper objection is raised but this does not appear to be occurring in practice. This leaves the borrower as the Plaintiff and requiring allegations that would, in judicial states, be either denials or affirmative defenses. Temporary restraining orders are granted but usually only on a showing that the Plaintiff has a likelihood of  prevailing — a requirement not imposed on Plaintiffs in judicial states where the lender or “owner” must file the complaint.

 

Everyone Else Knows: Why Do We Continue To Ignore It?

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Editor’s Comment:

In a short article by Patrick Jenkins in the Financial Times (Doubts Over Lending Push), it seems that everyone in Europe understands the problem well, and that the the consequences are dire but are unsure about what to do about it. Here in the United States housing is the elephant in the living room that nobody really wants to talk about. European leaders don’t like talking about it either but they are doing it anyway. Maybe they actually care what happens next unlike American politicians who seem to enjoy creating catastrophes, then handing power over to the other party and blaming them for the results.

Mitt Romney and Barack Obama are battling it out over economic policies and whether lower taxes and fiscal stimulus will benefit the economy. Mitt wants to cut what is left of federal and state spending thus deepening the depression or recession or whatever it is. Barack wants to stimulate economic growth with more money. How about this: they are both wrong. And the Europeans, for all their chaotic political intrigues, are zooming in on the cure a lot faster than we are because we won’t even talk about it.

Both candidates seem to think that cheaper money and more of it delivered to the banks and large corporations will stimulate borrowing and commerce. But Graeme Leach, chief economist at the Institute of Directors boiled it down to one simple sentence: “Companies alarmed by the euro crisis will not be eager to borrow, regardless of the cost.” It is obviously obvious to anyone with a brain that companies are not going to borrow unless they think they need the money.

And they are not going to think they need the money unless demand is going up. With unemployment topping out near Great Depression levels, why would anyone think that commerce can be revived? Add in the fact that real wages have declined over the last 30 years and you can easily see why companies won’t borrow unless they think they can make money increasing their debt burden. Who does the buying — fairies? It’s consumers, stupid, and they are broke, tapped out on credit, and have very little confidence in their prospects.

The Europeans actually understand that there is a difference between the real economy and the one reported in the newspapers. The real one is where a strong middle class has savings and resources and they buy things. The one in the newspapers is all about paper and trades with companies buying and selling each other and “bets” being made on who is right about bonds, stocks and other crazy financial “innovations.”

Virtually half of the GDP published by Washington is made up of paper trades where the typical citizen is left out of the equation altogether. So here is a repeat of my prediction regarding the stock market: either it will “crash” in a correction that is congruent with actual commerce levels or the financial institutions and rating agencies will continue to rate and recommend securities of companies whose substance is gone —- called zombies in the FI article.

BOA is one such Zombie institution. It’s broke. Everyone knows it’s broke and yet they persist on pretending that it is just fine. Then they want consumers to express confidence in the economy or government. Why should they?

Everyone understands that the problem is housing and the fraudulent printing of “money” by private banks dwarfing any real money supply that is supplied by world governments. $700 TRILLION is traded as cash equivalents while world governments, even with quantitative easing have issued less than $70 TRILLION in real currency. Why would anyone think that taxes or stimulus or quantitative easing (printing money) could even nick the side of this barn. We are being forced to sustain a false tree of money on which thousands of branches are hanging onto a trunk that is not there and never was. Fear is now the dominant word that describes the behavior of world leaders and the leaders of central banks.

Here is the solution and it is the application of justice at the same time: since the mortgage papers contained lies and did not disclose the identity of the lender nor the actual terms of repayment, there is no law in existence that would allow such a transaction to become  an encumbrance on the land.

Add to that the fact that the transaction recited never took place because the borrower was actually doing business with a stranger where money DID exchange hands but was never documented, and you have the answer: the mortgages are invalid, the notes are invalid and the the banks having been already paid several times over for a loss they never incurred but instead foisted upon pension funds and sovereign wealth funds from other nations, let’s call it a day.

I don’t care if people get an unfair advantage or perk for being a victim in this scheme. I don’t care if this interferes with the ideology of personal responsibility (which is being ignorantly applied to this situation). I care about the country, our society and what will happen if our economy can’t come up off the ground. I care that too many people are underemployed or unemployed. I care that average savings are zero and that most Americans have suffered a grievous loss of wealth.

I care that there are not enough people to buy things because they don’t have any money. Rescind the so-called mortgage transactions, let the branches of derivatives and credit default swaps and other bets and enhancements fall to the ground. It’s not as bad as you think. Most of the bets settle out to zero exchanges because with certain exceptions the bets are balanced.

The world will not end if we give homeowners their homes free and clear of any encumbrance. The governments could even prosper if they took an interest in those mortgages they already purchased (or think they purchased) and imposed a fair mortgage with fair terms based upon realistic current market conditions in housing and finance. Then people would be returned to their former status in far less time, the rate of commerce would improve, the real economy would recover and the fake economy and the people who go with it can take a hike or go to jail, if we dare to put them there.

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