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Wednesday, November 14, 2007

In Re Foreclosure Cases

by Tanta on 11/14/2007 12:00:00 PM

First of all, thanks to Anne and NYT Junkie and Lyndal who immediately sent me the Opinion and Order. You guys rock.

Second of all, sorry that it took a while to get this updated post written. I'm still convulsing in helpless laughter over one of the footnotes. If you don't know how to have a good time over footnotes to a court order, I can't help you. If you do, you'll love this.

If you don't know what this is about, read this post from earlier today first.

Here's what Judge Boyko (my new personal Snark Hero) had to say on October 31, 2007 regarding some Deutsche Bank FC filings:

On October 10, 2007, this Court issued an Order requiring Plaintiff-Lenders in a number of pending foreclosure cases to file a copy of the executed Assignment demonstrating Plaintiff was the holder and owner of the Note and Mortgage as of the date the Complaint was filed, or the Court would enter a dismissal. After considering the submissions, along with all the documents filed of record, the Court dismisses the captioned cases without prejudice.
Yes, the bold italic underscoring is in the original. This means that the judge wanted Deutsche Bank to show it had standing to foreclose on the day the foreclosure suit was initiated, which seems reasonable. Further, this suit was dismissed "without prejudice," meaning that DB can refile if and when it gets its ducks in a row. So right off the bat, we are not dealing with a case in which there is no hope of this foreclosure ever getting completed.

So what happened here?
In each of the above-captioned Complaints, the named Plaintiff alleges it is the holder and owner of the Note and Mortgage. However, the attached Note and Mortgage identify the mortgagee and promisee as the original lending institution — one other than the named Plaintiff. Further, the Preliminary Judicial Report attached as an exhibit to the Complaint makes no reference to the named Plaintiff in the recorded chain of title/interest. The Court’s Amended General Order No. 2006-16 requires Plaintiff to submit an affidavit along with the Complaint, which identifies Plaintiff either as the original mortgage holder, or as an assignee, trustee or successor-in interest. Once again, the affidavits submitted in all these cases recite the averment that Plaintiff is the owner of the Note and Mortgage, without any mention of an assignment or trust or successor interest. Consequently, the very filings and submissions of the Plaintiff create a conflict. In every instance, then, Plaintiff has not satisfied its burden of demonstrating standing at the time of the filing of the Complaint.

Understandably, the Court requested clarification by requiring each Plaintiff to submit a copy of the Assignment of the Note and Mortgage, executed as of the date of the Foreclosure Complaint. In the above-captioned cases, none of the Assignments show the named Plaintiff to be the owner of the rights, title and interest under the Mortgage at issue as of the date of the Foreclosure Complaint. The Assignments, in every instance, express a present intent to convey all rights, title and interest in the Mortgage and the accompanying Note to the Plaintiff named in the caption of the Foreclosure Complaint upon receipt of sufficient consideration on the date the Assignment was signed and notarized. Further, the Assignment documents are all prepared by counsel for the named Plaintiffs. These proffered documents belie Plaintiffs’ assertion they own the Note and Mortgage by means of a purchase which pre-dated the Complaint by days, months or years. . . .

Despite Plaintiffs’ counsel’s belief that “there appears to be some level of disagreement and/or misunderstanding amongst professionals, borrowers, attorneys and members of the judiciary,” the Court does not require instruction and is not operating under any misapprehension. The “real party in interest” rule, to which the Plaintiff-Lenders continually refer in their responses or motions, is clearly comprehended by the Court and is not intended to assist banks in avoiding traditional federal diversity requirements.2 Unlike Ohio State law and procedure, as Plaintiffs perceive it, the federal judicial system need not, and will not, be “forgiving in this regard.”3
Okay, before we get to footnote three, here's the plain English version: DB was ordered to produce evidence of standing, but the copies of notes and mortgages it included with its filings don't show ultimate endorsement/assignment to DB. Judge ordered DB to fix this. DB did so by having its attorneys draft after-the-fact assignments, undoubtedly because nobody could find the original assignments. This pissed Judge Boyko off, and rightly so. From His Honor's response to the oral arguments, one has the impression that somebody from DB said, basically, "hey! The dog ate our homework!" There was never really any question that the loans weren't legally sold or assigned to DB; there seems to be a question about the arrogance and audacity of a lender telling a judge to ignore its sloppy paperwork and just get on with a foreclosure.

So here's footnote three:
3 Plaintiff’s, “Judge, you just don’t understand how things work,” argument reveals a condescending mindset and quasi-monopolistic system where financial institutions have traditionally controlled, and still control, the foreclosure process. Typically, the homeowner who finds himself/herself in financial straits, fails to make the required mortgage payments and faces a foreclosure suit, is not interested in testing state or federal jurisdictional requirements, either pro se or through counsel. Their focus is either, “how do I save my home,” or “if I have to give it up, I’ll simply leave and find somewhere else to live.”

In the meantime, the financial institutions or successors/assignees rush to foreclose, obtain a default judgment and then sit on the deed, avoiding responsibility for maintaining the property while reaping the financial benefits of interest running on a judgment. The financial institutions know the law charges the one with title (still the homeowner) with maintaining the property.

There is no doubt every decision made by a financial institution in the foreclosure process is driven by money. And the legal work which flows from winning the financial institution’s favor is highly lucrative. There is nothing improper or wrong with financial institutions or law firms making a profit — to the contrary , they should be rewarded for sound business and legal practices. However, unchallenged by underfinanced opponents, the institutions worry less about jurisdictional requirements and more about maximizing returns. Unlike the focus of financial institutions, the federal courts must act as gatekeepers, assuring that only those who meet diversity and standing requirements are allowed to pass through.

Counsel for the institutions are not without legal argument to support their position, but their arguments fall woefully short of justifying their premature filings, and utterly fail to satisfy their standing and jurisdictional burdens. The institutions seem to adopt the attitude that since they have been doing this for so long, unchallenged, this practice equates with legal compliance. Finally put to the test, their weak legal arguments compel the Court to stop them at the gate.

The Court will illustrate in simple terms its decision: “Fluidity of the market” — “X” dollars, “contractual arrangements between institutions and counsel” — “X” dollars, “purchasing mortgages in bulk and securitizing” — “X” dollars, “rush to file, slow to record after judgment” — “X” dollars, “the jurisdictional integrity of United States District Court” —“Priceless.”
I say, Judge Boyko For President! I couldn't be any snarkier than that if you gave me a two-week head start.

To summarize: there were dollars on the table encouraging secondary market participants to get real sloppy. Judge Boyko is making them pay now for what they didn't pay then. So the big news here is not that securitized loans cannot be foreclosed. The big news here is that the true cost of doing business is belatedly showing up. I happen to think that's a more important story than was originally reported.