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The Kramer opposition to the Attorney General order to show cause

30 Aug

A good read

Opposition of Defendant (AG)

Challenges to Foreclosure Docs Reach a Fever Pitch

20 Jun

American Banker | Wednesday, June 16, 2010

By Kate Berry

Correction: An earlier version of this story misidentified the court
where Judge J. Michael Traynor presides. It is a Florida state court,
not a federal one. An editing error was to blame.

The backlash is intensifying against banks and mortgage servicers that
try to foreclose on homes without all their ducks in a row.

Because the notes were often sold and resold during the boom years, many
financial companies lost track of the documents. Now, legal officials
are accusing companies of forging the documents needed to reclaim the
properties.

On Monday, the Florida Attorney General’s Office said it was
investigating the use of “bogus assignment” documents by Lender
Processing Services Inc. and its former parent, Fidelity National
Financial Inc. And last week a state judge in Florida ordered a hearing
to determine whether M&T Bank Corp. should be charged with fraud after
it changed the assignment of a mortgage note for one borrower three
separate times.

“Mortgage assignments are being created out of whole cloth just for the
purposes of showing a transfer from one entity to another,” said James
Kowalski Jr., an attorney in Jacksonville, Fla., who represents the
borrower in the M&T case.

“Banks got away from very basic banking rules because they securitized
millions of loans and moved them so quickly,” Kowalski said.

In many cases, Kowalski said, it has become impossible to establish when
a mortgage was sold, and to whom, so the servicers are trying to
recreate the paperwork, right down to the stamps that financial
companies use to verify when a note has changed hands.

Some mortgage processors are “simply ordering stamps from stamp makers,”
he said, and are “using those as proof of mortgage assignments after the
fact.”

Such alleged practices are now generating ire from the bench.

In the foreclosure case filed by M&T in February 2009, the bank
initially claimed it lost the underlying mortgage note, and then later
claimed the mortgage was owned by First National Bank of Nevada, which
the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. shut down in 2008, before the
foreclosure had been started.

M&T then claimed Wells Fargo & Co. owned the note, “contradicting all of
its previous claims,” according to Circuit Court Judge J. Michael
Traynor, who ordered the evidentiary hearing last week into whether M&T
perpetrated a fraud on the court.

“The court has been misled by the plaintiff from the beginning,” Judge
Traynor said in his order, which also dismissed M&T’s foreclosure action
with prejudice.

The Marshall Watson law firm in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., which represents
M&T in the case, declined to comment and the bank said it could not
comment.

In a notice on its website, the Florida attorney general said it is
examining whether Docx, an Alpharetta, Ga., unit of Lender Processing
Services, forged documents so foreclosures could be processed more
quickly.

“These documents are used in court cases as ‘real’ documents of
assignment and presented to the court as so, when it actually appears
that they are fabricated in order to meet the demands of the institution
that does not, in fact, have the necessary documentation to foreclose
according to law,” the notice said.

Docx is the largest lien release processor in the United States working
on behalf of banks and mortgage lenders.

Peter T. Sadowski, an executive vice president and general counsel at
Fidelity National in Fort Lauderdale, said that more than a year ago his
company began requiring that its clients provide all paperwork before
the company would process title claims.

Michelle Kersch, a spokeswoman for Lender Processing Services, said the
reference on the Florida attorney general’s website to “bogus
assignments” referred to documents in which Docx used phrases like
“bogus assignee” as placeholders when attorneys did not provide specific
pieces of information.

“Unfortunately, on occasion, incomplete documents were inadvertently
recorded before the missing information was obtained,” Kersch said. “LPS
regrets these errors and the use of this particular placeholder
phrasing.”

The company, which was spun off from Fidelity National two years ago, is
cooperating with the attorney general and conducting its own internal
investigation.

Lender Processing Services disclosed in its annual report in February
that federal prosecutors were reviewing the business processes of Docx.
The company said it was cooperating with that investigation.

“This is systemic,” said April Charney, a senior staff attorney at
Jacksonville Area Legal Aid and a member of the Florida Supreme Court’s
foreclosure task force.

“Banks can’t show ownership for many of these securitized loans,”
Charney continued. “I call them empty-sack trusts, because in the rush
to securitize, the originating lender failed to check the paper trial
and now they can’t collect.”

In Florida, Georgia, Maryland and other states where the foreclosure
process must be handled through the courts, hundreds of borrowers have
challenged lenders’ rights to take their homes. Some judges have
invalidated mortgages, giving properties back to borrowers while lenders
appeal.

In February, the Florida state Supreme Court set a new standard
stipulating that before foreclosing, a lender had to verify it had all
the proper documents. Lenders that cannot produce such papers can be
fined for perjury, the court said.

Kowalski said the bigger problem is that mortgage servicers are working
“in a vacuum,” handing out foreclosure assignments to third-party firms
such as LPS and Fidelity.

“There’s no meeting to get everybody together and make sure they have
their ducks in a row to comply with these very basic rules that banks
set up many years ago,” Kowalski said. “The disconnect occurs not just
between units within the banks, but among the servicers, their bank
clients and the lawyers.”

He said the banking industry is “being misserved,” because mortgage
servicers and the lawyers they hire to represent them in foreclosure
proceedings are not prepared.

“We’re tarring banks that might obviously do a decent job, and the banks
are complicit because they hired the servicers,” Kowalski said.

non-judicial sale is NOT an available election for a securitized loan

2 Jun

Posted 6 days ago by Neil Garfield on Livinglies’s Weblog
NON-JUDICIAL STATES: THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN FORECLOSURE AND SALE:

FORECLOSURE is a judicial process herein the “lender” files a lawsuit seeking to (a) enforce the note and get a judgment in the amount owed to them (b) asking the court to order the sale of the property to satisfy the Judgment. If the sale price is lower than the Judgment, then they will ask for a deficiency Judgment and the Judge will enter that Judgment. If the proceeds of sale is over the amount of the judgment, the borrower is entitled to the overage. Of course they usually tack on a number of fees and costs that may or may not be allowable. It is very rare that there is an overage. THE POINT IS that when they sue to foreclose they must make allegations which state a cause of action for enforcement of the note and for an order setting a date for sale. Those allegations include a description of the transaction with copies attached, and a claim of non-payment, together with allegations that the payments are owed to the Plaintiff BECAUSE they would suffer financial damage as a result of the non-payment. IN THE PROOF of the case the Plaintiff would be required to prove each and EVERY element of their claim which means proof that each allegation they made and each exhibit they rely upon is proven with live witnesses who are competent — i.e., they take an oath, they have PERSONAL KNOWLEDGE (not what someone else told them),personal recall and the ability to communicate what they know. This applies to documents they wish to use as well. That is called authentication and foundation.

SALE: Means what it says. In non-judicial sale they just want to sell your property without showing any court that they can credibly make the necessary allegations for a judicial foreclosure and without showing the court proof of the allegations they would be required to make if they filed a judicial foreclosure. In a non-judicial state what they want is to SELL and what they don’t want is to foreclose. Keep in mind that every state that allows non-judicial sale treats the sale as private and NOT a judicial event by definition. In Arizona and many other states there is no election for non-judicial sale of commercial property because of the usual complexity of commercial transactions. THE POINT is that a securitized loan presents as much or more complexity than commercial real property loan transactions. Thus your argument might be that the non-judicial sale is NOT an available election for a securitized loan.

When you bring a lawsuit challenging the non-judicial sale, it would probably be a good idea to allege that the other party has ELECTED NON-JUDICIAL sale when the required elements of such an election do not exist. Your prima facie case is simply to establish that the borrower objects the sale, denies that they pretender lender has any right to sell the property, denies the default and that the securitization documents show a complexity far beyond the complexity of even highly complex commercial real estate transactions which the legislature has mandated be resolved ONLY by judicial foreclosure.

THEREFORE in my opinion I think in your argument you do NOT want to concede that they wish to foreclose. What they want to do is execute on the power of sale in the deed of trust WITHOUT going through the judicial foreclosure process as provided in State statutes. You must understand and argue that the opposition is seeking to go around normal legal process which requires a foreclosure lawsuit.

THAT would require them to make allegations about the obligation, note and mortgage that they cannot make (we are the lender, the defendant owes us money, we are the holder of the note, the note is payable to us, he hasn’t paid, the unpaid balance of the note is xxx etc.) and they would have to prove those allegations before you had to say anything. In addition they would be subject to discovery in which you could test their assertions before an evidentiary hearing. That is how lawsuits work.

The power of sale given to the trustee is a hail Mary pass over the requirements of due process. But it allows for you to object. The question which nobody has asked and nobody has answered, is on the burden of proof, once you object to the sale, why shouldn’t the would-be forecloser be required to plead and prove its case? If the court takes the position that in non-judicial states the private power of sale is to be treated as a judicial event, then that is a denial of due process required by Federal and state constitutions. The only reason it is allowed, is because it is private and “non-judicial.” The quirk comes in because in practice the homeowner must file suit. Usually the party filing suit must allege facts and prove a prima facie case before the burden shifts to the other side. So the Judge is looking at you to do that when you file to prevent the sale.

Legally, though, your case should be limited to proving that they are trying to sell your property, that you object, that you deny what would be the allegations in a judicial foreclosure and that you have meritorious defenses. That SHOULD trigger the requirement of re-orienting the parties and making the would-be forecloser file a complaint (lawsuit) for foreclosure. Then the burden of proof would be properly aligned with the party seeking affirmative relief (i.e., the party who wants to enforce the deed of trust (mortgage), note and obligation) required to file the complaint with all the necessary elements of an action for foreclosure and attach the necessary exhibits. They don’t want to do that because they don’t have the exhibits and the note is not payable to them and they cannot actually prove standing (which is a jurisdictional question). The problem is that a statute passed for judicial economy is now being used to force the burden of proof onto the borrower in the foreclosure of their own home. This is not being addressed yet but it will be addressed soon.

Ortiz v. Accredited Home Lenders

27 Feb
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA
Docket Number available at www.versuslaw.com
Citation Number available at www.versuslaw.com
July 13, 2009

ERNESTO ORTIZ; ARACELI ORTIZ, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
ACCREDITED HOME LENDERS, INC.; LINCE HOME LOANS; CHASE HOME FINANCE, LLC; U.S. BANK NATIONAL ASSOCIATION, TRUSTEE FOR JP MORGAN ACQUISITION TRUST-2006 ACC; AND DOES 1 THROUGH 100, INCLUSIVE, DEFENDANTS.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hon. Jeffrey T. Miller United States District Judge

ORDER GRANTING MOTION TO DISMISS Doc. No. 7

On February 6, 2009, Plaintiffs Ernesto and Araceli Ortiz (“Plaintiffs”) filed a complaint in the Superior Court of the State of California, County of San Diego, raising claims arising out of a mortgage loan transaction. (Doc. No. 1, Exh. 1.) On March 9, 2009, Defendants Chase Home Finance, LLC (“Chase”) and U.S. Bank National Association (“U.S. Bank”) removed the action to federal court on the basis of federal question jurisdiction, 28 U.S.C. § 1331. (Doc. No. 1.) Plaintiffs filed a First Amended Complaint on April 21, 2009, naming only U.S. Bank as a defendant and dropping Chase, Accredited Home Lenders, Inc., and Lince Home Loans from the pleadings. (Doc. No. 4, “FAC.”) Pending before the court is a motion by Chase and U.S Bank to dismiss the FAC for failure to state a claim pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure (“Rule”) 12(b)(6). (Doc. No. 7, “Mot.”) Because Chase is no longer a party in this matter, the court construes the motion as having been brought only by U.S. Bank. Plaintiffs oppose the motion. (Doc. No. 12, “Opp’n.”) U.S. Bank submitted a responsive reply. (Doc. No. 14, “Reply.”) Pursuant to Civ.L.R. 7.1(d), the matter was taken under submission by the court on June 22, 2009. (Doc. No. 12.)

For the reasons set forth below, the court GRANTS the motion to dismiss.

I. BACKGROUND

Plaintiffs purchased their home at 4442 Via La Jolla, Oceanside, California (the “Property”) in January 2006. (FAC ¶ 3; Doc. No. 7-2, Exh. 1 (“DOT”) at 1.) The loan was secured by a Deed of Trust on the Property, which was recorded around January 10, 2006. (DOT at 1.) Plaintiffs obtained the loan through a broker “who received kickbacks from the originating lender.” (FAC ¶ 4.) U.S. Bank avers that it is the assignee of the original creditor, Accredited Home Lenders, Inc. (FAC ¶ 5; Mot. at 2, 4.) Chase is the loan servicer. (Mot. at 4.) A Notice of Default was recorded on the Property on June 30, 2008, showing the loan in arrears by $14,293,08. (Doc. No. 7-2, Exh. 2.) On October 3, 2008, a Notice of Trustee’s Sale was recorded on the Property. (Doc. No. 7-2, Exh. 4.) From the parties’ submissions, it appears no foreclosure sale has yet taken place.

Plaintiffs assert causes of action under Truth in Lending Act, 15 U.S.C. § 1601 et seq. (“TILA”), the Perata Mortgage Relief Act, Cal. Civil Code § 2923.5, the Foreign Language Contract Act, Cal. Civ. Code § 1632, the California Unfair Business Practices Act, Cal. Bus. Prof. Code § 17200 et seq., and to quiet title in the Property. Plaintiffs seek rescission, restitution, statutory and actual damages, injunctive relief, attorneys’ fees and costs, and judgments to void the security interest in the Property and to quiet title.

II. DISCUSSION

A. Legal Standards

A motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) challenges the legal sufficiency of the pleadings. De La Cruz v. Tormey, 582 F.2d 45, 48 (9th Cir. 1978). In evaluating the motion, the court must construe the pleadings in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, accepting as true all material allegations in the complaint and any reasonable inferences drawn therefrom. See, e.g., Broam v. Bogan, 320 F.3d 1023, 1028 (9th Cir. 2003). While Rule 12(b)(6) dismissal is proper only in “extraordinary” cases, the complaint’s “factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level….” U.S. v. Redwood City, 640 F.2d 963, 966 (9th Cir. 1981); Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 US 544, 555 (2007). The court should grant 12(b)(6) relief only if the complaint lacks either a “cognizable legal theory” or facts sufficient to support a cognizable legal theory. Balistreri v. Pacifica Police Dep’t, 901 F.2d 696, 699 (9th Cir. 1990).

In testing the complaint’s legal adequacy, the court may consider material properly submitted as part of the complaint or subject to judicial notice. Swartz v. KPMG LLP, 476 F.3d 756, 763 (9th Cir. 2007). Furthermore, under the “incorporation by reference” doctrine, the court may consider documents “whose contents are alleged in a complaint and whose authenticity no party questions, but which are not physically attached to the [plaintiff’s] pleading.” Janas v. McCracken (In re Silicon Graphics Inc. Sec. Litig.), 183 F.3d 970, 986 (9th Cir. 1999) (internal quotation marks omitted). A court may consider matters of public record on a motion to dismiss, and doing so “does not convert a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to one for summary judgment.” Mack v. South Bay Beer Distributors, 798 F.2d 1279, 1282 (9th Cir. 1986), abrogated on other grounds by Astoria Fed. Sav. and Loan Ass’n v. Solimino, 501 U.S. 104, 111 (1991). To this end, the court may consider the Deed of Trust, Notice of Default, Substitution of Trustee, and Notice of Trustee’s Sale, as sought by U.S. Bank in their Request for Judicial Notice. (Doc. No. 7-2, Exhs. 1-4.)

B. Analysis

A. Truth in Lending Act

Plaintiffs allege U.S. Bank failed to properly disclose material loan terms, including applicable finance charges, interest rate, and total payments as required by 15 U.S.C. § 1632. (FAC ¶¶ 7, 14.) In particular, Plaintiffs offer that the loan documents contained an “inaccurate calculation of the amount financed,” “misleading disclosures regarding the…variable rate nature of the loan” and “the application of a prepayment penalty,” and also failed “to disclose the index rate from which the payment was calculated and selection of historical index values.” (FAC ¶ 13.) In addition, Plaintiffs contend these violations are “obvious on the face of the loans [sic] documents.” (FAC ¶ 13.) Plaintiffs argue that since “Defendant has initiated foreclosure proceedings in an attempt to collect the debt,” they may seek remedies for the TILA violations through “recoupment or setoff.” (FAC ¶ 14.) Notably, Plaintiffs’ FAC does not specify whether they are requesting damages, rescission, or both under TILA, although their general request for statutory damages does cite TILA’s § 1640(a). (FAC at 7.)

U.S. Bank first asks the court to dismiss Plaintiffs’ TILA claim by arguing it is “so summarily pled that it does not ‘raise a right to relief above the speculative level …'” (Mot. at 3.) The court disagrees. Plaintiffs have set out several ways in which the disclosure documents were deficient. In addition, by stating the violations were apparent on the face of the loan documents, they have alleged assignee liability for U.S. Bank. See 15 U.S.C. § 1641(a)(assignee liability lies “only if the violation…is apparent on the face of the disclosure statement….”). The court concludes Plaintiffs have adequately pled the substance of their TILA claim.

However, as U.S. Bank argues, Plaintiffs’ TILA claim is procedurally barred. To the extent Plaintiffs recite a claim for rescission, such is precluded by the applicable three-year statute of limitations. 15 U.S.C. § 1635(f) (“Any claim for rescission must be brought within three years of consummation of the transaction or upon the sale of the property, whichever occurs first…”). According to the loan documents, the loan closed in December 2005 or January 2006. (DOT at 1.) The instant suit was not filed until February 6, 2009, outside the allowable three-year period. (Doc. No. 1, Exh. 1.) In addition, “residential mortgage transactions” are excluded from the right of rescission. 15 U.S.C. § 1635(e). A “residential mortgage transaction” is defined by 15 U.S.C. § 1602(w) to include “a mortgage, deed of trust, … or equivalent consensual security interest…created…against the consumer’s dwelling to finance the acquisition…of such dwelling.” Thus, Plaintiffs fail to state a claim for rescission under TILA.

As for Plaintiffs’ request for damages, they acknowledge such claims are normally subject to a one-year statute of limitations, typically running from the date of loan execution. See 15 U.S.C. §1640(e) (any claim under this provision must be made “within one year from the date of the occurrence of the violation.”). However, as mentioned above, Plaintiffs attempt to circumvent the limitations period by characterizing their claim as one for “recoupment or setoff.” Plaintiffs rely on 15 U.S.C. § 1640(e), which provides:

This subsection does not bar a person from asserting a violation of this subchapter in an action to collect the debt which was brought more than one year from the date of the occurrence of the violation as a matter of defense by recoupment or set-off in such action, except as otherwise provided by State law.

Generally, “a defendant’s right to plead ‘recoupment,’ a ‘defense arising out of some feature of the transaction upon which the plaintiff’s action is grounded,’ … survives the expiration” of the limitations period. Beach v. Ocwen Fed. Bank, 523 U.S. 410, 415 (1998) (quoting Rothensies v. Elec. Storage Battery Co., 329 U.S. 296, 299 (1946) (internal citation omitted)). Plaintiffs also correctly observe the Supreme Court has confirmed recoupment claims survive TILA’s statute of limitations. Id. at 418. To avoid dismissal at this stage, Plaintiffs must show that “(1) the TILA violation and the debt are products of the same transaction, (2) the debtor asserts the claim as a defense, and (3) the main action is timely.” Moor v. Travelers Ins. Co., 784 F.2d 632, 634 (5th Cir. 1986) (citing In re Smith, 737 F.2d 1549, 1553 (11th Cir. 1984)) (emphasis added).

U.S. Bank suggests Plaintiffs’ TILA claim is not sufficiently related to the underlying mortgage debt so as to qualify as a recoupment. (Mot. at 6-7.) The court disagrees with this argument, and other courts have reached the same conclusion. See Moor, 784 F.2d at 634 (plaintiff’s use of recoupment claims under TILA failed on the second and third prongs only); Williams v. Countrywide Home Loans, Inc., 504 F.Supp.2d 176, 188 (S.D. Tex. 2007) (where plaintiff “received a loan secured by a deed of trust on his property and later defaulted on the mortgage payments to the lender,” he “satisfie[d] the first element of the In re Smith test….”). Plaintiffs’ default and U.S. Bank’s attempts to foreclose on the Property representing the security interest for the underlying loan each flow from the same contractual transaction. The authority relied on by U.S. Bank, Aetna Fin. Co. v. Pasquali, 128 Ariz. 471 (Ariz. App. 1981), is unpersuasive. Not only does Aetna Finance recognize the split among courts on this issue, the decision is not binding on this court, and was reached before the Supreme Court’s ruling in Beach, supra. Aetna Fin., 128 Ariz. at 473,

Nevertheless, the deficiencies in Plaintiffs’ claim become apparent upon examination under the second and third prongs of the In re Smith test. Section 1640(e) of TILA makes recoupment available only as a “defense” in an “action to collect a debt.” Plaintiffs essentially argue that U.S. Bank’s initiation of non-judicial foreclosure proceedings paves the path for their recoupment claim. (FAC ¶ 14; Opp’n at 3.) Plaintiffs cite to In re Botelho, 195 B.R. 558, 563 (Bkrtcy. D. Mass. 1996), suggesting the court there allowed TILA recoupment claims to counter a non-judicial foreclosure. In Botelho, lender Citicorp apparently initiated non-judicial foreclosure proceedings, Id. at 561 fn. 1, and thereafter entered the plaintiff’s Chapter 13 proceedings by filing a Proof of Claim. Id. at 561. The plaintiff then filed an adversary complaint before the same bankruptcy court in which she advanced her TILA-recoupment theory. Id. at 561-62. The Botelho court evaluated the validity of the recoupment claim, taking both of Citicorp’s actions into account — the foreclosure as well as the filing of a proof of claim. Id. at 563. The court did not determine whether the non-judicial foreclosure, on its own, would have allowed the plaintiff to satisfy the three prongs of the In re Smith test.

On the other hand, the court finds U.S. Bank’s argument on this point persuasive: non-judicial foreclosures are not “actions” as contemplated by TILA. First, § 1640(e) itself defines an “action” as a court proceeding. 15 U.S.C. § 1640(e) (“Any action…may be brought in any United States district court, or in any other court of competent jurisdiction…”). Turning to California law, Cal. Code Civ. Proc. § 726 indicates an “action for the recovery of any debt or the enforcement of any right secured by mortgage upon real property” results in a judgment from the court directing the sale of the property and distributing the resulting funds. Further, Code § 22 defines an “action” as “an ordinary proceeding in a court of justice by which one party prosecutes another for the declaration, enforcement, or protection of a right, the redress or prevention of a wrong, or the punishment of a public offense.” Neither of these state law provisions addresses the extra-judicial exercise of a right of sale under a deed of trust, which is governed by Cal. Civ. Code § 2924, et seq. Unlike the situation in Botelho, U.S. Bank has done nothing to bring a review its efforts to foreclose before this court. As Plaintiffs concede, “U.S. Bank has not filed a civil lawsuit and nothing has been placed before the court” which would require the court to “examine the nature and extent of the lender’s claims….” (Opp’n at 4.) “When the debtor hales [sic] the creditor into court…, the claim by the debtor is affirmative rather than defensive.” Moor, 784 F.2d at 634; see also, Amaro v. Option One Mortgage Corp., 2009 WL 103302, at *3 (C.D. Cal., Jan. 14, 2009) (rejecting plaintiff’s argument that recoupment is a defense to a non-judicial foreclosure and holding “Plaintiff’s affirmative use of the claim is improper and exceeds the scope of the TILA exception….”).

The court recognizes that U.S. Bank’s choice of remedy under California law effectively denies Plaintiffs the opportunity to assert a recoupment defense. This result does not run afoul of TILA. As other courts have noted, TILA contemplates such restrictions by allowing recoupment only to the extent allowed under state law. 15 U.S.C. § 1640(e); Joseph v. Newport Shores Mortgage, Inc., 2006 WL 418293, at *2 fn. 1 (N.D. Ga., Feb. 21, 2006). The court concludes TILA’s one-year statute of limitations under § 1635(f) bars Plaintiffs’ TILA claim.

In sum, U.S. Bank’s motion to dismiss the TILA claim is granted, and Plaintiffs’ TILA claims are dismissed with prejudice.

B. Perata Mortgage Relief Act, Cal. Civ. Code § 2923.5

Plaintiffs’ second cause of action arises under the Perata Mortgage Relief Act, Cal. Civ. Code § 2923.5. Plaintiffs argue U.S. Bank is liable for monetary damages under this provision because it “failed and refused to explore” “alternatives to the drastic remedy of foreclosure, such as loan modifications” before initiating foreclosure proceedings. (FAC ¶¶ 17-18.) Furthermore, Plaintiffs allege U.S. Bank violated Cal. Civ. Code § 2923.5(c) by failing to include with the notice of sale a declaration that it contacted the borrower to explore such options. (Opp’n at 6.)

Section 2923.5(a)(2) requires a “mortgagee, beneficiary or authorized agent” to “contact the borrower in person or by telephone in order to assess the borrower’s financial situation and explore options for the borrower to avoid foreclosure.” For a lender which had recorded a notice of default prior to the effective date of the statute, as is the case here, § 2923.5(c) imposes a duty to attempt to negotiate with a borrower before recording a notice of sale. These provisions cover loans initiated between January 1, 2003 and December 31, 2007. Cal. Civ. Code § 2923.5(h)(3)(i).

U.S. Bank’s primary argument is that Plaintiffs’ claim should be dismissed because neither § 2923.5 nor its legislative history clearly indicate an intent to create a private right of action. (Mot. at 8.) Plaintiffs counter that such a conclusion is unsupported by the legislative history; the California legislature would not have enacted this “urgency” legislation, intended to curb high foreclosure rates in the state, without any accompanying enforcement mechanism. (Opp’n at 5.) The court agrees with Plaintiffs. While the Ninth Circuit has yet to address this issue, the court found no decision from this circuit where a § 2923.5 claim had been dismissed on the basis advanced by U.S. Bank. See, e.g. Gentsch v. Ownit Mortgage Solutions Inc., 2009 WL 1390843, at *6 (E.D. Cal., May 14, 2009)(addressing merits of claim); Lee v. First Franklin Fin. Corp., 2009 WL 1371740, at *1 (E.D. Cal., May 15, 2009) (addressing evidentiary support for claim).

On the other hand, the statute does not require a lender to actually modify a defaulting borrower’s loan but rather requires only contacts or attempted contacts in a good faith effort to prevent foreclosure. Cal. Civ. Code § 2923.5(a)(2). Plaintiffs allege only that U.S. Bank “failed and refused to explore such alternatives” but do not allege whether they were contacted or not. (FAC ¶ 18.) Plaintiffs’ use of the phrase “refused to explore,” combined with the “Declaration of Compliance” accompanying the Notice of Trustee’s Sale, imply Plaintiffs were contacted as required by the statute. (Doc. No. 7-2, Exh. 4 at 3.) Because Plaintiffs have failed to state a claim under Cal. Civ. Code § 2923.5, U.S. Bank’s motion to dismiss is granted. Plaintiffs’ claim is dismissed without prejudice.

C. Foreign Language Contract Act, Cal. Civ. Code § 1632 et seq.

Plaintiffs assert “the contract and loan obligation was [sic] negotiated in Spanish,” and thus, they were entitled, under Cal. Civ. Code § 1632, to receive loan documents in Spanish rather than in English. (FAC ¶ 21-24.) Cal. Civ. Code § 1632 provides, in relevant part:

Any person engaged in a trade or business who negotiates primarily in Spanish, Chines, Tagalog, Vietnamese, or Korean, orally or in writing, in the course of entering into any of the following, shall deliver to the other party to the contract or agreement and prior to the execution thereof, a translation of the contract or agreement in the language in which the contract or agreement was negotiated, which includes a translation of every term and condition in that contract or agreement.

Cal. Civ. Code § 1632(b).

U.S. Bank argues this claim must be dismissed because Cal. Civ. Code § 1632(b)(2) specifically excludes loans secured by real property. (Mot. at 8.) Plaintiffs allege their loan falls within the exception outlined in § 1632(b)(4), which effectively recaptures any “loan or extension of credit for use primarily for personal, family or household purposes where the loan or extension of credit is subject to the provision of Article 7 (commencing with Section 10240) of Chapter 3 of Part I of Division 4 of the Business and Professions Code ….” (FAC ¶ 21; Opp’n at 7.) The Article 7 loans referenced here are those secured by real property which were negotiated by a real estate broker.*fn1 See Cal. Bus. & Prof. Code § 10240. For the purposes of § 1632(b)(4), a “real estate broker” is one who “solicits borrowers, or causes borrowers to be solicited, through express or implied representations that the broker will act as an agent in arranging a loan, but in fact makes the loan to the borrower from funds belonging to the broker.” Cal. Bus. & Prof. Code § 10240(b). To take advantage of this exception with respect to U.S. Bank, Plaintiffs must allege U.S. Bank either acted as the real estate broker or had a principal-agent relationship with the broker who negotiated their loan. See Alvara v. Aurora Loan Serv., Inc., 2009 WL 1689640, at *3 (N.D. Cal. Jun. 16, 2009), and references cited therein (noting “several courts have rejected the proposition that defendants are immune from this statute simply because they are not themselves brokers, so long as the defendant has an agency relationship with a broker or was acting as a broker.”). Although Plaintiffs mention in passing a “broker” was involved in the transaction (FAC ¶ 4), they fail to allege U.S. Bank acted in either capacity described above.

Nevertheless, Plaintiffs argue they are not limited to remedies against the original broker, but may seek rescission of the contract through the assignee of the loan. Cal. Civ. Code § 1632(k). Section 1632(k) allows for rescission for violations of the statute and also provides, “When the contract for a consumer credit sale or consumer lease which has been sold and assigned to a financial institution is rescinded pursuant to this subdivision, the consumer shall make restitution to and have restitution made by the person with whom he or she made the contract, and shall give notice of rescission to the assignee.” Cal. Civ. Code § 1632(k) (emphasis added). There are two problems with Plaintiffs’ theory. First, it is not clear to this court that Plaintiffs’ loan qualifies as a “consumer credit sale or consumer lease.” Second, the court interprets this provision not as a mechanism to impose liability for a violation of § 1632 on U.S. Bank as an assignee, but simply as a mechanism to provide notice to that assignee after recovering restitution from the broker.

The mechanics of contract rescission are governed by Cal. Civ. Code § 1691, which requires a plaintiff to give notice of rescission to the other party and to return, or offer to return, all proceeds he received from the transaction. Plaintiffs’ complaint does satisfy these two requirements. Cal. Civ. Code § 1691 (“When notice of rescission has not otherwise been given or an offer to restore the benefits received under the contract has not otherwise been made, the service of a pleading…that seeks relief based on rescission shall be deemed to be such notice or offer or both.”). However, the court notes that if Plaintiffs were successful in their bid to rescind the contract, they would have to return the proceeds of the loan which they used to purchase their Property.

For these reasons discussed above, Plaintiffs have failed to state a claim under Cal. Civ. Code § 1632. U.S. Bank’s motion to dismiss is granted and Plaintiffs’ claim for violation of Cal. Civ. Code § 1632 is dismissed without prejudice.

D. Unfair Business Practices, Cal. Bus. & Prof. Code § 17200

California’s unfair competition statute “prohibits any unfair competition, which means ‘any unlawful, unfair or fraudulent business act or practice.'” In re Pomona Valley Med. Group, 476 F.3d 665, 674 (9th Cir. 2007) (citing Cal. Bus. & Prof. Code § 17200, et seq.). “This tripartite test is disjunctive and the plaintiff need only allege one of the three theories to properly plead a claim under § 17200.” Med. Instrument Dev. Labs. v. Alcon Labs., 2005 WL 1926673, at *5 (N.D. Cal. Aug. 10, 2005). “Virtually any law–state, federal or local–can serve as a predicate for a § 17200 claim.” State Farm Fire & Casualty Co. v. Superior Court, 45 Cal.App.4th 1093, 1102-3 (1996). Plaintiffs assert their § 17200 “claim is entirely predicated upon their previous causes of action” under TILA and Cal. Civ. Code §§ 2923.5 and § 1632. (FAC ¶¶ 25-29; Opp’n at 9.)

U.S. Bank first contend Plaintiffs lack standing to pursue a § 17200 claim because they “do not allege what money or property they allegedly lost as a result of any purported violation.” (Mot. at 9.) The court finds Plaintiffs have satisfied the pleading standards on this issue by alleging they “relied, to their detriment,” on incomplete and inaccurate disclosures which led them to pay higher interest rates than they would have otherwise. (FAC ¶ 9.) Such “losses” have been found sufficient to confer standing. See Aron v. U-Haul Co. of California, 143 Cal.App.4th 796, 802-3 (2006).

U.S. Bank next offers that Plaintiffs’ mere recitation of the statutory bases for this cause of action, without specific allegations of fact, fails to state a claim. (Mot. at 10.) Plaintiffs point out all the factual allegations in their complaint are incorporated by reference into their § 17200 claim. (FAC ¶ 25; Opp’n at 9.) The court agrees there was no need for Plaintiffs to copy all the preceding paragraphs into this section when their claim expressly incorporates the allegations presented elsewhere in the complaint. Any argument by U.S. Bank that the pleadings failed to put them on notice of the premise behind Plaintiffs’ § 17200 claim would be somewhat disingenuous.

Nevertheless, all three of Plaintiffs’ predicate statutory claims have been dismissed for failure to state a claim. Without any surviving basis for the § 17200 claim, it too must be dismissed. U.S. Bank’s motion is therefore granted and Plaintiffs’ § 17200 claim is dismissed without prejudice.

E. Quiet Title

In their final cause of action, Plaintiffs seek to quiet title in the Property. (FAC ¶¶ 30-36.) In order to adequately allege a cause of action to quiet title, a plaintiff’s pleadings must include a description of “[t]he title of the plaintiff as to which a determination…is sought and the basis of the title…” and “[t]he adverse claims to the title of the plaintiff against which a determination is sought.” Cal. Code Civ. Proc. § 761.020. A plaintiff is required to name the “specific adverse claims” that form the basis of the property dispute. See Cal. Code Civ. Proc. § 761.020, cmt. at ¶ 3. Here, Plaintiffs allege the “Defendant claims an adverse interest in the Property owned by Plaintiffs,” but do not specify what that interest might be. (Mot. at 6-7.) Plaintiffs are still the owners of the Property. The recorded foreclosure Notices do not affect Plaintiffs’ title, ownership, or possession in the Property. U.S. Bank’s motion to dismiss is therefore granted, and Plaintiffs’ cause of action to quiet title is dismissed without prejudice.

III. CONCLUSION

For the reasons set forth above, U.S. Bank’s motion to dismiss (Doc. No. 7) is GRANTED. Accordingly, Plaintiffs’ claim under TILA is DISMISSED with prejudice and Plaintiffs’ claims under Cal. Civ. Code § 2923.5, Cal. Civ. Code § 1632, and Cal. Bus. & Prof. Code § 17200, and their claim to quiet title are DISMISSED without prejudice.

The court grants Plaintiffs 30 days’ leave from the date of entry of this order to file a Second Amended Complaint which cures all the deficiencies noted above. Plaintiffs’ Second Amended Complaint must be complete in itself without reference to the superseded pleading. Civil Local Rule 15.1.

IT IS SO ORDERED.


Opinion Footnotes


*fn1 Although U.S. Bank correctly notes the authorities cited by Plaintiffs are all unreported cases, the court agrees with the conclusions set forth in those cases. See Munoz v. International Home Capital Corp., 2004 WL 3086907, at *9 (N.D. Cal. 2004); Ruiz v. Decision One Mortgage Co., LLC, 2006 WL 2067072, at *5 (N.D. Cal. 2006).

Latest ruling on Civil Code 2923.5

26 Feb

B. Perata Mortgage Relief Act, Cal. Civ. Code § 2923.5

Plaintiffs’ second cause of action arises under the Perata Mortgage Relief Act, Cal. Civ. Code § 2923.5. Plaintiffs argue U.S. Bank is liable for monetary damages under this provision because it “failed and refused to explore” “alternatives to the drastic remedy of foreclosure, such as loan modifications” before initiating foreclosure proceedings. (FAC PP 17-18.) Furthermore, Plaintiffs allege U.S. Bank violated Cal. Civ. Code § 2923.5(c) by failing to include with the notice of sale a declaration that it contacted the borrower to explore such options. (Opp’n at 6.)

Section 2923.5(a)(2) requires a “mortgagee, beneficiary or authorized agent” to “contact the borrower in person or by telephone in order to assess the borrower’s [*1166] financial situation and explore options for the borrower to avoid foreclosure.” For a lender which had recorded a notice of default prior to the effective date of the statute, as is the case here, § 2923.5(c) imposes a duty to attempt to negotiate with a borrower before recording a notice of sale. These provisions cover loans initiated between January 1, 2003 and December 31, 2007. Cal. Civ. Code § 2923.5(h)(3), (i).

U.S. Bank’s primary argument is that Plaintiffs’ claim should be dismissed because neither § 2923.5 nor its legislative history clearly indicate an intent to create a private right of action. (Mot. at 8.) Plaintiffs counter that such a conclusion is unsupported by the legislative history; the California legislature would not have enacted this “urgency” legislation, intended to curb high foreclosure rates in the state, without any accompanying enforcement mechanism. (Opp’n at 5.) The court agrees with Plaintiffs. While the Ninth Circuit has yet to address this issue, the court found no decision from this circuit [**15] where a § 2923.5 claim had been dismissed on the basis advanced by U.S. Bank. See, e.g. Gentsch v. Ownit Mortgage Solutions Inc., 2009 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 45163, 2009 WL 1390843, at *6 (E.D. Cal., May 14, 2009)(addressing merits of claim); Lee v. First Franklin Fin. Corp., 2009 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 44461, 2009 WL 1371740, at *1 (E.D. Cal., May 15, 2009) (addressing evidentiary support for claim).

On the other hand, the statute does not require a lender to actually modify a defaulting borrower’s loan but rather requires only contacts or attempted contacts in a good faith effort to prevent foreclosure. Cal. Civ. Code § 2923.5(a)(2). Plaintiffs allege only that U.S. Bank “failed and refused to explore such alternatives” but do not allege whether they were contacted or not. (FAC P 18.) Plaintiffs’ use of the phrase “refused to explore,” combined with the “Declaration of Compliance” accompanying the Notice of Trustee’s Sale, imply Plaintiffs were contacted as required by the statute. (Doc. No. 7-2, Exh. 4 at 3.) Because Plaintiffs have failed to state a claim under Cal. Civ. Code § 2923.5, U.S. Bank’s motion to dismiss is granted. Plaintiffs’ claim is dismissed without prejudice.

2009-2010 livinglies recap

2 Jan

1. No governmental relief is in sight for homeowners except in isolated instances of community action together with publicity from the media.
2. State and federal governments continue to sink deeper into debt, cutting social and necessary services while avoiding the elephant in the living room: the trillions of dollars owed and collectible in taxes, recording fees, filing fees, late fees, penalties, financial damages, punitive damages and interest due from the intermediary players on Wall Street who created trading “instruments” based upon conveyance of interests in real property located within state borders. The death grip of the lobby for the financial service industry is likely to continue thus making it impossible to resolve the housing crisis, the state budget crisis or the federal budget deficit.
3. Using taxpayer funds borrowed from foreign governments or created through quantitative easing, trillions of dollars have been paid, or provided in “credit lines” to intermediaries on the false premise that they own or control the mortgage backed securities that have defaulted. Foreclosures continue to hit new highs. Total money injected into the system exceeds 8 trillion dollars. Record profits announced by the financial services industry in which power is now more concentrated than before, making them the strongest influence in Federal and State capitals around the world.
4. Toxic Titles reveal unmarketable properties in and out of foreclosures with no relief in sight because nearly everyone is ignoring this basic problem that is a deal-breaker on every transfer of an interest in real property.
5. Evictions continue to hit new highs as Judges continue to be bombarded with ill-conceived motions that do not address the jurisdiction or authority of the court. The illegal evictions are based upon fraudulent conveyances procured through abuse of the foreclosure process and direct misrepresentations and fraud upon the court and recording system in each county as to the documents fabricated for purposes of foreclosure — creating the illusion of a proper paper trail.
6. 1.7 million new foreclosed properties are due to hit the market according to published statistics. Livinglies estimate the number to be at least 4 million.
7. Downward pressure on both price and marketability continues with no end in sight.
8. Unemployment continues to rise, albeit far more slowly than at the beginning of 2009. Unemployment, underemployment, employment drop-outs, absence of entry-level jobs, low statistics on new business starts, and former members of workforce (particularly men) are harbingers for continued decline in median income combined with higher expenses for key components, particularly health care. The ability to pay anything other than rent is continuing its decline.
9. Concurrent with the increase in foreclosures and the decrease in housing prices, official figures put the number of homes underwater at 25%. Livinglies estimates that when you look at three components not included in official statistics, the figure rises to more than 45%. The components are selling discounts, selling expenses, and continued delusional asking prices that will soon crash when sellers realize that past high prices were an illusion, not a market fluctuation.
10. The number of people walking from their homes is increasing daily, including people who are not behind in their mortgages. This is increasing the inventory of homes that are not officially included in the pipeline because they are not sufficiently advanced in the delinquency or foreclosure process. This is a hidden second wave of pressure on housing prices and marketability.
11. With the entire economy on government life-support that is not completely effective in preventing rises in homelessness and people requiring public assistance, the likelihood of severe social unrest and political upheaval increases month by month. Increasing risks of unrest prompted at least one Wall Street Bank to order enough firearms and ammunition to start an armory.
12. Modification of mortgages has been largely a sham.
13. Short-sales have been largely a sham.
14. Quiet titles in favor of homeowners are increasing at a slow pace as the sophistication of defenses improves on the side of financial services companies seeking free homes through foreclosures.
15. Legislative Intervention has been ineffective and indeed, misleading
16. Executive intervention has been virtually non-existent. The people who perpetrated this fraud not only have evaded prosecution, they maintain close relationships with the Obama administration.
17. Judicial intervention has been spotty and could be much better once people accept the complexity of securitization and the simplicity of STRATEGIES THAT WORK.
18. Legal profession , slow to start went from zero to 15 mph during 2009. Let’s hope they get to 60 mph during 2010.
19. Accounting profession, which has thus far stayed out of the process is expected to jump in on several fronts, including closer scrutiny of the published financial statements of public companies and financial institutions and the cottage industry of examining loan documents for compliance issues and violations of Federal and State lending laws.
20. Prospects for actual economic recovery affecting the average citizen are dim. While there has been considerable improvement from the point of risk we had reached at the end of 2008, the new President and Congress have yet to address essential reforms on joblessness, regulation of financial services (including insurance businesses permitted to write commitments without sufficient assets in reserve to assure the payment of the risk. The economic indicators have been undermined by the intentional fraud perpetrated upon the world economic and financial system. Thus the official figures are further than ever from revealing the truth about about our current status. Without key acceptance of these anomalies it is inconceivable that the economy will, in reality, improve during 2010.
21. Real inflation affecting everyday Americans has already started to rise as credit markets become increasingly remote from the prospective borrowers. Hyperinflation remains a risk although most of us were off on the timing because we underestimated the tenacious grip the dollar had on world commerce. While this assisted us in moving toward a softer landing, the probability that the dollar will continue to fall is still very high, thus making certain non-dollar denominated commodities more valuable. This phenomenon could affect housing prices in an upward direction if the trend continues. However the higher dollar prices will be offset by the fact that the cheaper dollars are required in greater quantities to buy anything. Thus the home prices might rise from $125,000 to $150,000 but the price of a loaf of bread will also be higher by 20%.
22. GDP has been skewed away from including econometrics for actual work performed in the home unless money changes hands. Societal values have thus depreciated the value of child-rearing and stable homes. The results have been catastrophic in education, crime, technological innovation and policy making. While GDP figures are officially announced as moving higher, the country continues to move further into a depression. No actual increase in GDP has occurred for many years, unless the declining areas of the society are excluded from what is counted.
23. The stock market is vastly overvalued again based upon vaporous forward earnings estimates and completely arbitrary price earnings ratios used by analysts. The vapor created by a 1000% increase in money supply caused by deregulation of the private financial institutions together with the illusion of profits created by these institutions trading between themselves has resulted in an increase from 16% to 45% of GDP activity. This figure is impossible to be real. As long as it is accepted as real or even possible, public figures, appointed and elected will base policy decisions on the desires of what is currently seen as the main driver of the U.S. economy. The balance of wealth will continue to move toward the levels of revolutionary France or the American colonies.
24. Perceptible increases in savings and consumer resistance to retail impulse buying bodes well for the long-term prospects of the country. As the savings class becomes more savvy and more wealthy, they will, like their counterparts in the upper echelons of government commence exercising their power in the marketplace and in the voting booth.

Fabrication of Documents: MERS GAP Illuminated

23 Dec

Posted on July 30, 2009 by livinglies

Another example of why a TILA audit is grossly inadequate. A forensic audit is required covering all bases. Although dated, this article picks up on a continuing theme that demonstrates the title defect, the questionable conduct of pretender lenders and the defects in the foreclosure process when you let companies with big brand names bluff the system. The MERS GAP arises whether MERS is actually the nominee on the deed of trust (or mortgage deed) or not. It is an announcement that there will be off record transactions between parties who have no interest in the loan but who will assert such an interest once they have successfullly fabricated documents, had someone without authority sign them, on behalf of an entity with no real beneficial interest or other economic interest in the loan, and then frequently notarized by someone in another state. we have even seen documents notarized in blank and forged signatures of borrowers on loan closing papers.

NYTimes.com
Lender Tells Judge It ‘Recreated’ Letters
Tuesday January 8, 2008 11:38 pm ET
By GRETCHEN MORGENSON
The Countrywide Financial Corporation fabricated documents related to the bankruptcy case of a Pennsylvania homeowner, court records show, raising new questions about the business practices of the giant mortgage lender at the center of the subprime mess.The documents — three letters from Countrywide addressed to the homeowner — claimed that the borrower owed the company $4,700 because of discrepancies in escrow deductions. Countrywide’s local counsel described the letters to the court as “recreated,” raising concern from the federal bankruptcy judge overseeing the case, Thomas P. Agresti.

“These letters are a smoking gun that something is not right in Denmark,” Judge Agresti said in a Dec. 20 hearing in Pittsburgh.

The emergence of the fabricated documents comes as Countrywide confronts a rising tide of complaints from borrowers who claim that the company pushed them into risky loans. The matter in Pittsburgh is one of 300 bankruptcy cases in which Countrywide’s practices have come under scrutiny in western Pennsylvania.

Judge Agresti said that discovery should proceed so that those involved in the case, including the Chapter 13 trustee for the western district of Pennsylvania and the United States trustee, could determine how Countrywide’s systems might generate such documents.

A spokesman for the lender, Rick Simon, said: “It is not Countrywide’s policy to create or ‘fabricate’ any documents as evidence that they were sent if they had not been. We believe it will be shown in further discovery that the Countrywide bankruptcy technician who generated the documents at issue did so as an efficient way to convey the dates the escrow analyses were done and the calculations of the payments as a result of the analyses.”

The documents were generated in a case involving Sharon Diane Hill, a homeowner in Monroeville, Pa. Ms. Hill filed for Chapter 13 bankruptcy protection in March 2001 to try to save her home from foreclosure.

After meeting her mortgage obligations under the 60-month bankruptcy plan, Ms. Hill’s case was discharged and officially closed on March 9, 2007. Countrywide, the servicer on her loan, did not object to the discharge; court records from that date show she was current on her mortgage.

But one month later, Ms. Hill received a notice of intention to foreclose from Countrywide, stating that she was in default and owed the company $4,166.

Court records show that the amount claimed by Countrywide was from the period during which Ms. Hill was making regular payments under the auspices of the bankruptcy court. They included “monthly charges” totaling $3,840 from November 2006 to April 2007, late charges of $128 and other charges of almost $200.

A lawyer representing Ms. Hill in her bankruptcy case, Kenneth Steidl, of Steidl and Steinberg in Pittsburgh, wrote Countrywide a few weeks later stating that Ms. Hill had been deemed current on her mortgage during the period in question. But in May, Countrywide sent Ms. Hill another notice stating that her loan was delinquent and demanding that she pay $4,715.58. Neither Mr. Steidl nor Julia Steidl, who has also represented Ms. Hill, returned phone calls seeking comment.

Justifying Ms. Hill’s arrears, Countrywide sent her lawyer copies of three letters on company letterhead addressed to the homeowner, as well as to Mr. Steidl and Ronda J. Winnecour, the Chapter 13 trustee for the western district of Pennsylvania.

The Countrywide letters were dated September 2003, October 2004 and March 2007 and showed changes in escrow requirements on Ms. Hill’s loan. “This letter is to advise you that the escrow requirement has changed per the escrow analysis completed today,” each letter began.

But Mr. Steidl told the court he had never received the letters. Furthermore, he noticed that his address on the first Countrywide letter was not the location of his office at the time, but an address he moved to later. Neither did the Chapter 13 trustee’s office have any record of receiving the letters, court records show.

When Mr. Steidl discussed this with Leslie E. Puida, Countrywide’s outside counsel on the case, he said Ms. Puida told him that the letters had been “recreated” by Countrywide to reflect the escrow discrepancies, the court transcript shows. During these discussions, Ms. Puida reduced the amount that Countrywide claimed Ms. Hill owed to $1,500 from $4,700.

Under questioning by the judge, Ms. Puida said that “a processor” at Countrywide had generated the letters to show how the escrow discrepancies arose. “They were not offered to prove that they had been sent,” Ms. Puida said. But she also said, under questioning from the court, that the letters did not carry a disclaimer indicating that they were not actual correspondence or that they had never been sent.

A Countrywide spokesman said that in bankruptcy cases, Countrywide’s automated systems are sometimes overridden, with technicians making manual adjustments “to comply with bankruptcy laws and the requirements in the jurisdiction in which a bankruptcy is pending.” Asked by Judge Agresti why Countrywide would go to the trouble of “creating a letter that was never sent,” Ms. Puida, its lawyer, said she did not know.

“I just, I can’t get over what I’m being told here about these recreations,” Judge Agresti said, “and what the purpose is or was and what was intended by them.”

Ms. Hill’s matter is one of 300 bankruptcy cases involving Countrywide that have come under scrutiny by Ms. Winnecour, the Chapter 13 trustee in Pittsburgh. On Oct. 9, she asked the court to sanction Countrywide, contending that the company had lost or destroyed more than $500,000 in checks paid by homeowners in bankruptcy from December 2005 to April 2007.

Ms. Winnecour said in court filings that she was concerned that even as Countrywide had misplaced or destroyed the checks, it levied charges on the borrowers, including late fees and legal costs. A spokesman in her office said she would not comment on the Hill case.

O. Max Gardner III, a lawyer in North Carolina who represents troubled borrowers, says that he routinely sees lenders pursue borrowers for additional money after their bankruptcies have been discharged and the courts have determined that the default has been cured and borrowers are current. Regarding the Hill matter, Mr. Gardner said: “The real problem in my mind when reading the transcript is that Countrywide’s lawyer could not explain how this happened.”

Filed under: CDO, CORRUPTION, Eviction, GTC | Honor, Investor, Mortgage, bubble, currency, foreclosure, securities fraud | Tagged: borrower, countrywide, disclosure, foreclosure defense, foreclosure offense, fraud, rescission, RESPA, TILA audit, trustee
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