Friday, January 07, 2011

Massachusetts court voids Foreclosures

by Calculated Risk on 1/07/2011 12:53:00 PM

From Bloomberg: Banks Lose Pivotal Massachusetts Foreclosure Case

The state Supreme Judicial Court today upheld a judge’s decision saying two foreclosures were invalid because the banks didn’t prove they owned the mortgages, which he said were improperly transferred into two mortgage-backed trusts.

“We agree with the judge that the plaintiffs, who were not the original mortgagees, failed to make the required showing that they were the holders of the mortgages at the time of foreclosure,” Justice Ralph D. Gants wrote.
The concurring opinion by Justice Cordy helps clarify the situation:
I concur fully in the opinion of the court, and write separately only to underscore that what is surprising about these cases is not the statement of principles articulated by the court regarding title law and the law of foreclosure in Massachusetts, but rather the utter carelessness with which the plaintiff banks documented the titles to their assets. There is no dispute that the mortgagors of the properties in question had defaulted on their obligations, and that the mortgaged properties were subject to foreclosure. Before commencing such an action, however, the holder of an assigned mortgage needs to take care to ensure that his legal paperwork is in order. Although there was no apparent actual unfairness here to the mortgagors, that is not the point. ...

The type of sophisticated transactions leading up to the accumulation of the notes and mortgages in question in these cases and their securitization, and, ultimately the sale of mortgaged-backed securities, are not barred nor even burdened by the requirements of Massachusetts law. The plaintiff banks, who brought these cases to clear the titles that they acquired at their own foreclosure sales, have simply failed to prove that the underlying assignments of the mortgages that they allege (and would have) entitled them to foreclose ever existed in any legally cognizable form before they exercised the power of sale that accompanies those assignments. The court's opinion clearly states that such assignments do not need to be in recordable form or recorded before the foreclosure, but they do have to have been effectuated.
These are important points:
• The "assignments do not need to be in recordable form or recorded before the foreclosure". That is a key point.
• This case is really about the "utter carelessness with which the plaintiff banks documented the titles to their assets".

And this means that
• These issues are curable, but will be costly for the banks. As Tanta frequently argued, the upfront "cost savings" would be paid for in arrears!
• This does not appear to be a systemic risk.