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NEW YORK CONTINUES ASSAULT ON MERS

NEW YORK CONTINUES ASSAULT ON MERS


By Jonathan C. Cross and Stacey Trimmer

New York government officials are continuing their assault against foreclosure actions where Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems, Inc. (“MERS”) was the assignee of the mortgage, and challenges to foreclosures involving MERS are increasingly gaining traction in New York courts. Recently, the New York State Attorney General filed a complaint against MERS and several banks alleging fraud and deception in foreclosure proceedings. People v. JPMorgan Chase Bank N.A., No. 2012/2768 (N.Y. Sup. Ct. Feb. 3, 2012). In addition, three New York trial courts have decided motions involving standing and other issues in such actions. CIT Group/Consumer Fin., Inc. v. Platt, 33 Misc. 3d 1231(A) (N.Y. Sup. Ct. 2011); U.S. Bank N.A. v. Bressler, 33 Misc. 3d 1231(A) (N.Y. Sup. Ct. 2011); Bank of New York Mellon v. Martinez, 33 Misc. 3d 1215(A) (N.Y. Sup. Ct. 2011). Two courts ruled against the foreclosing banks, finding they did not have standing to foreclose where MERS assigned a mortgage without express authority to do so or sufficient documentation evidencing that the note was also transferred. Although the third court dismissed a lack of standing defense, it did so solely for procedural reasons.

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RePOST: U.S. BANK v. BRESSLER | NYSC “ASMT from MERS is defective, as it had no right, authority to assign the mortgage or the note”

RePOST: U.S. BANK v. BRESSLER | NYSC “ASMT from MERS is defective, as it had no right, authority to assign the mortgage or the note”



Decided on December 7, 2011

Supreme Court, Kings County

 

U.S. Bank National Association, AS TRUSTEE FOR SG MORTGAGE SECURITIES ASSET BACKED CERTIFICATES, SERIES 2006-FRE2, Plaintiff,

against

Alan Bressler, CCU LLC, MERS, INC. ET AL, Defendants.

33920/08

Debra Silber, J.

Recitation, as required by CPLR 2219(a), of the papers considered in the review of plaintiff’s motion for summary judgment and for the appointment of a Referee to compute in this foreclosure action, and defendant’s cross-motion to dismiss.

PapersNumbered

Notice of Motion and Exhibits Annexed ……………………………….1-12

Cross-motion and Exhibits Annexed ……………………………………13- 20

Answering Affidavits …………………………………………………………21-30

Reply Affidavits ………………………………………………………………..

Other:

Upon the foregoing cited papers, the Decision/Order on this application is as follows:

Plaintiff’s motion for summary judgment and the appointment of a referee to compute in this foreclosure action concerning 1477 East 32nd Street, Brooklyn, NY, 11234, Block 7694, Lot 85, is denied and defendant mortgagor’s motion to dismiss the complaint for lack of standing is granted, for the reasons set forth herein.

Defendant Alan Bressler alleges in his Answer to the Complaint that the plaintiff lacks standing to bring this action. In response to the plaintiff’s motion for summary judgment, defendant cross moves to dismiss the foreclosure action on the grounds that plaintiff lacks standing to bring this action. The court finds that defendant is correct, and as such, the action must be dismissed.

The mortgage in question was issued by Fremont Investment and Loan on May 4, 2006. The loan states “for purposes of recording, MERS is the mortgagee of record.” The tortured history of MERS is described in Bank of NY v. Silverberg, 2011 NY Slip Op 5002, 86 AD3d 274 (2nd Dept), and need not be repeated. On December 18, 2008, an Assignment of Mortgage was executed, and subsequently recorded, which assigns the mortgage and not the note, and assigns it from MERS to plaintiff. First, the assignment of a mortgage without the note is defective as the transfer of the mortgage without the debt is a nullity. In a decision citing Silverberg, the court said “an assignment of the mortgage without assignment of the underlying note or bond is a nullity” Citimortgage, Inc. v Stosel, 2011 NY Slip Op 8319 (2nd Dept) citing U.S. Bank, N.A. v [*2]Collymore, 68 AD3d at 754; see Bank of NY v Silverberg, 86 AD3d 274, 280, 926 N.Y.S.2d 532.

Secondly, an assignment from MERS to plaintiff is defective, as MERS had no right or authority to assign the mortgage or the note. Bank of NY v Silverberg, supra. “The plaintiff, which merely stepped into the shoes of MERS, its assignor, and gained only that to which its assignor was entitled . . . did not acquire the power to foreclose by way of the

. . . assignment.” Id.

It must also be noted that not only did MERS lack the power and authority to execute the assignment on behalf of Fremont Investment and Loan on December 18, 2008, but Fremont did not exist any longer on that date, as it was first subjected to a cease and desist order from the FDIC and then went into Bankruptcy. Then, its assets were apparently sold sometime in 2010 in a Chapter 11 Bankruptcy proceeding, which started in the summer of 2008, to Signature Group Holdings Inc.[FN1]

Further, it must be noted that the execution of an Assignment of Mortgage by MERS is barred by the Settlement Agreement between the US Attorney’s Office on behalf of the United States of America and the Office of Steven J. Baum P.C. and Pillar Processing, LLC, dated October 6, 2011, which states at paragraph 14 that “Baum shall no longer permit anyone employed by or contracted by Baum to execute any assignment of a mortgage as an officer, director, employee, agent or other representative of MERSCORP, Inc., and/or Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems, Inc.” The office of Mr. Baum was the attorney for the plaintiff when this matter was commenced, the assignment at issue is stamped “Pillar Processing LLC” and is signed on behalf of MERS by Elpiniki M. Bechakas, an attorney in the office of Steven J. Baum, according to the public internet attorney registration website maintained by the State of New York.

To the extent that plaintiff’s counsel opposes the defendant’s motion to dismiss with various affirmations of counsel, including one that states that the Note was indeed also assigned, and annexes (Exhibit B) a photocopy of a document alleged to be an assignment of the note, which is merely a blank piece of paper that states “Pay to the order of US Bank National Association as Trustee, without recourse,” and is undated and signed by “Michael Koch, Vice President, Fremont Investment and Loan,” this is insufficient. Ms. Jones, Vice President for Loan Documentation for Wells Fargo Bank N.A., states in her affidavit (Paragraph 5) “the Note was endorsed and was physically delivered to Wells Fargo/ASC as servicing agent and custodian for US Bank prior to the commencement of this action . . . Thus, Wells Fargo’s records specifically reflect that, it was in physical possession of the endorsed note prior to the commencement of this action.” The language in the affidavit indicates that the loan was assigned and transferred to plaintiff while Fremont Investment & Loan was still in existence, in July of 2006, but this is the only indication of this fact, and does not indicate delivery to plaintiff, but merely alleging delivery to plaintiff’s agent for servicing without any supporting documentation. Ms Jones provides no date of the alleged delivery, and as discussed above, at the time of the alleged delivery, Fremont may not have existed, or may have been subject to the restrictions on transfer in the proceedings in Bankruptcy Court, or may have been subject to the FDIC’s cease [*3]and desist order. This cannot be ascertained without a date.

The affirmation of counsel that indicates that the current loan servicer has confirmed that the information in the complaint is accurate is also insufficient, as there is no indication that the alleged servicer is actually the servicer for this loan. The pooling and servicing agreement is between plaintiff and the servicer. There is nothing in the papers from Signature Group Holdings, Inc., the entity that now appears to own the Note and Mortgage, which confirms that they too have retained Wells Fargo as servicer for this loan.

In conclusion, plaintiff has failed to make out a prima facie case for summary judgment due to the defects in the documentation in their motion, described above. The defendant has made out a prima facie case for dismissal on the grounds that plaintiff lacked standing at the time the action was commenced, and may in fact still lack standing, which plaintiff has not overcome with any documentation, in admissible form or not, to prevent dismissal of the complaint.

This shall constitute the Decision and Order of the Court.

Dated: December 7, 2011

E N T E R :

Hon. Debra Silber A.J.S.C.

Footnotes

Footnote 1:http://nationalmortgageprofessional.com/news18108/former-sub-prime-lender-fremont-exits-bankruptcy-and-re-emerges-signature-group-holdings

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NYSC Judge Hammers Fremont, MERS, Pillar, Steven J. Baum PC, U.S. Bank “ASMT from MERS is defective, as it had no right, authority to assign the mortgage or the note”

NYSC Judge Hammers Fremont, MERS, Pillar, Steven J. Baum PC, U.S. Bank “ASMT from MERS is defective, as it had no right, authority to assign the mortgage or the note”



Decided on December 7, 2011

Supreme Court, Kings County

 

U.S. Bank National Association, AS TRUSTEE FOR SG MORTGAGE SECURITIES ASSET BACKED CERTIFICATES, SERIES 2006-FRE2, Plaintiff,

against

Alan Bressler, CCU LLC, MERS, INC. ET AL, Defendants.

33920/08

Debra Silber, J.

Recitation, as required by CPLR 2219(a), of the papers considered in the review of plaintiff’s motion for summary judgment and for the appointment of a Referee to compute in this foreclosure action, and defendant’s cross-motion to dismiss.

PapersNumbered

Notice of Motion and Exhibits Annexed ……………………………….1-12

Cross-motion and Exhibits Annexed ……………………………………13- 20

Answering Affidavits …………………………………………………………21-30

Reply Affidavits ………………………………………………………………..

Other:

Upon the foregoing cited papers, the Decision/Order on this application is as follows:

Plaintiff’s motion for summary judgment and the appointment of a referee to compute in this foreclosure action concerning 1477 East 32nd Street, Brooklyn, NY, 11234, Block 7694, Lot 85, is denied and defendant mortgagor’s motion to dismiss the complaint for lack of standing is granted, for the reasons set forth herein.

Defendant Alan Bressler alleges in his Answer to the Complaint that the plaintiff lacks standing to bring this action. In response to the plaintiff’s motion for summary judgment, defendant cross moves to dismiss the foreclosure action on the grounds that plaintiff lacks standing to bring this action. The court finds that defendant is correct, and as such, the action must be dismissed.

The mortgage in question was issued by Fremont Investment and Loan on May 4, 2006. The loan states “for purposes of recording, MERS is the mortgagee of record.” The tortured history of MERS is described in Bank of NY v. Silverberg, 2011 NY Slip Op 5002, 86 AD3d 274 (2nd Dept), and need not be repeated. On December 18, 2008, an Assignment of Mortgage was executed, and subsequently recorded, which assigns the mortgage and not the note, and assigns it from MERS to plaintiff. First, the assignment of a mortgage without the note is defective as the transfer of the mortgage without the debt is a nullity. In a decision citing Silverberg, the court said “an assignment of the mortgage without assignment of the underlying note or bond is a nullity” Citimortgage, Inc. v Stosel, 2011 NY Slip Op 8319 (2nd Dept) citing U.S. Bank, N.A. v [*2]Collymore, 68 AD3d at 754; see Bank of NY v Silverberg, 86 AD3d 274, 280, 926 N.Y.S.2d 532.

Secondly, an assignment from MERS to plaintiff is defective, as MERS had no right or authority to assign the mortgage or the note. Bank of NY v Silverberg, supra. “The plaintiff, which merely stepped into the shoes of MERS, its assignor, and gained only that to which its assignor was entitled . . . did not acquire the power to foreclose by way of the

. . . assignment.” Id.

It must also be noted that not only did MERS lack the power and authority to execute the assignment on behalf of Fremont Investment and Loan on December 18, 2008, but Fremont did not exist any longer on that date, as it was first subjected to a cease and desist order from the FDIC and then went into Bankruptcy. Then, its assets were apparently sold sometime in 2010 in a Chapter 11 Bankruptcy proceeding, which started in the summer of 2008, to Signature Group Holdings Inc.[FN1]

Further, it must be noted that the execution of an Assignment of Mortgage by MERS is barred by the Settlement Agreement between the US Attorney’s Office on behalf of the United States of America and the Office of Steven J. Baum P.C. and Pillar Processing, LLC, dated October 6, 2011, which states at paragraph 14 that “Baum shall no longer permit anyone employed by or contracted by Baum to execute any assignment of a mortgage as an officer, director, employee, agent or other representative of MERSCORP, Inc., and/or Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems, Inc.” The office of Mr. Baum was the attorney for the plaintiff when this matter was commenced, the assignment at issue is stamped “Pillar Processing LLC” and is signed on behalf of MERS by Elpiniki M. Bechakas, an attorney in the office of Steven J. Baum, according to the public internet attorney registration website maintained by the State of New York.

To the extent that plaintiff’s counsel opposes the defendant’s motion to dismiss with various affirmations of counsel, including one that states that the Note was indeed also assigned, and annexes (Exhibit B) a photocopy of a document alleged to be an assignment of the note, which is merely a blank piece of paper that states “Pay to the order of US Bank National Association as Trustee, without recourse,” and is undated and signed by “Michael Koch, Vice President, Fremont Investment and Loan,” this is insufficient. Ms. Jones, Vice President for Loan Documentation for Wells Fargo Bank N.A., states in her affidavit (Paragraph 5) “the Note was endorsed and was physically delivered to Wells Fargo/ASC as servicing agent and custodian for US Bank prior to the commencement of this action . . . Thus, Wells Fargo’s records specifically reflect that, it was in physical possession of the endorsed note prior to the commencement of this action.” The language in the affidavit indicates that the loan was assigned and transferred to plaintiff while Fremont Investment & Loan was still in existence, in July of 2006, but this is the only indication of this fact, and does not indicate delivery to plaintiff, but merely alleging delivery to plaintiff’s agent for servicing without any supporting documentation. Ms Jones provides no date of the alleged delivery, and as discussed above, at the time of the alleged delivery, Fremont may not have existed, or may have been subject to the restrictions on transfer in the proceedings in Bankruptcy Court, or may have been subject to the FDIC’s cease [*3]and desist order. This cannot be ascertained without a date.

The affirmation of counsel that indicates that the current loan servicer has confirmed that the information in the complaint is accurate is also insufficient, as there is no indication that the alleged servicer is actually the servicer for this loan. The pooling and servicing agreement is between plaintiff and the servicer. There is nothing in the papers from Signature Group Holdings, Inc., the entity that now appears to own the Note and Mortgage, which confirms that they too have retained Wells Fargo as servicer for this loan.

In conclusion, plaintiff has failed to make out a prima facie case for summary judgment due to the defects in the documentation in their motion, described above. The defendant has made out a prima facie case for dismissal on the grounds that plaintiff lacked standing at the time the action was commenced, and may in fact still lack standing, which plaintiff has not overcome with any documentation, in admissible form or not, to prevent dismissal of the complaint.

This shall constitute the Decision and Order of the Court.

Dated: December 7, 2011

E N T E R :

Hon. Debra Silber A.J.S.C.

Footnotes

Footnote 1:http://nationalmortgageprofessional.com/news18108/former-sub-prime-lender-fremont-exits-bankruptcy-and-re-emerges-signature-group-holdings

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NY Judge Slams Steven Baum’s Elpiniki Bechakas MERS Assignment “These actions undoubtedly raise the appearance of impropriety”

NY Judge Slams Steven Baum’s Elpiniki Bechakas MERS Assignment “These actions undoubtedly raise the appearance of impropriety”


Decided on October 28, 2011

Supreme Court, Queens County

 The Bank of New York Mellon F/K/A THE BANK OF NEW YORK, AS TRUSTEE FOR THE CERTIFICATE HOLDERS CWABS, INC., ASSETBACKED CERTIFICATES, SERIES 2006-IMI 400 Countrywide Way Simi Valley, CA 93065, Plaintiff,

against

Nancy Martinez, ET.AL., Defendant.

21097/09

Attorney for Plaintiff:
Megan B. Szeliga, Esq.
Steven J. Baum, P.C.
220 Northpointe Parkway – Suite G
Amherst, New York 14228

Attorney for Defendant:
Steven Beispel, Esq.
20 W. 86 Street
New York, New York 10024

Phyllis Orlikoff Flug, J.

[*2]The following papers numbered 1 to 5 read on this motion

Notice of Motion1 – 2

Affirmation in Opposition3

Reply Affirmation (2)4 – 5

Defendant, Nancy Martinez, moves for summary judgment dismissing plaintiff’s complaint as asserted against her.

This is an action to foreclose a mortgage on the real property located at 37-54 98th Street, in the County of Queens, City and State of New York.

On a motion for summary judgment, the proponent “must make a prima facie showing of entitlement to judgment as a matter of law, tendering sufficient evidence to eliminate an material issues of fact from the case . . .” (Winegrad v. New York Univ. Med. Center, 64 NY2d 851, 852 [1985]). Once the proponent has made this showing, the burden of proof shifts to the party opposing the motion to produce evidentiary proof in admissible form to establish that material issues of fact exist which requires a jury trial (Alvarez v. Prospect Hospital, 68 NY2d 320, 324 [1986]).

Defendant contends she is entitled to judgment on the ground that plaintiff lacked standing at the time the action was commenced. Defendant, however, has waived this defense as she did not raise it in her answer or in a pre-answer motion to dismiss (See HSBC Bank, USA v. Dammond, 59 AD3d 679, 680 [2d Dept. 2009]). Notably, defendant has also failed to move to amend her answer to assert this as a defense (See Aurora Loan Services, LLC v. Thomas, 70 AD3d 986, 987 [2d Dept. 2010]).

Defendant also contends she is entitled to summary judgment and dismissal of the action due to a conflict of interest on behalf of plaintiff’s attorneys. An attorney employed by Steven J. Baum, the law firm representing plaintiff, Elpiniki Bechakas, executed an assignment in favor of plaintiff, on behalf of Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems (“MERS”), a defendant in this action.

These actions undoubtedly raise the appearance of impropriety. Indeed, these practices were the subject of the October 6, 2011 settlement agreement between Steven J. Baum and the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York. Nevertheless, defendant has failed to establish that these actions breached a specific duty to plaintiff and require a dismissal of the action as a matter of law (See, e.g., Swift v. Ki Young Choe, 242 AD2d 188, 192 [1st Dept. 1988]). [*3]

Accordingly, plaintiff is hereby ordered to submit waivers of any potential conflict of interest from plaintiff, Bank of New York, and MERS no later than December 2, 2011. In addition, plaintiff shall refrain from relying on any documents that raise the appearance of impropriety, including the aforementioned assignment, in its prosecution of this action.

Defendant’s motion for summary judgment is denied, with leave to renewal, upon plaintiff’s failure to comply with this order or upon the completion of discovery and on the presentment of proper papers.

October 28, 2011 ____________________

J.S.C.

 

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Amherst law firm agrees to pay fine, Settlement involves foreclosure practices

Amherst law firm agrees to pay fine, Settlement involves foreclosure practices


“I am glad the U. S. Attorney completed this phase of the Baum saga and that he is changing his practice,” said New York City attorney Susan Chana Lask

[…]

“I hope homeowners use the settlement to show the courts the foreclosure mill problem was real and damaged a lot of people’s lives. It’s not over.”

I’m almost certain she is referencing that although the US Attorney settled, AG Schneiderman has yet to complete his investigation.

 

Buffalo News-

Steven J. Baum PC, the Amherst law firm that has been under heavy fire for its foreclosure practices, agreed Thursday to pay a $2 million fine and “extensively” overhaul its practices in a settlement with the U. S. Attorney’s Office in Manhattan that has statewide implications.

The agreement with Baum resolves a federal investigation into whether the state’s largest foreclosure law firm, on behalf of lenders, filed misleading affidavits, mortgage assignments and other documents in state and federal courts.

[BUFFALO NEWS]

image: thetorchtheatre

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In RE: FORECLOSURE FRAUD SETTLEMENT “MERS, Pillar Processing & Steven J. Baum, P.C.”

In RE: FORECLOSURE FRAUD SETTLEMENT “MERS, Pillar Processing & Steven J. Baum, P.C.”


Mortgage Fraud

Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems
Pillar Processing, LLC
Steven J. Baum, P.C.

Action Date: October 7, 2011
Location: New York, NY

On October 6, 2011, a settlement agreement was signed regarding the practices of one of the largest foreclosure mills in the country, Steven J. Baum, P.C., a law firm operating from Amherst, New York. The settlement was obtained by Preet Bharara, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of NY. The investigation was conducted by the Civil Frauds Unit of the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York which investigated under the Financial Institutions Reform, Recovery, and Enforcement Act of 1989 (“FIRREA).

Under the settlement, the Baum Firm is required to pay $2 million and make significant reforms, but is still allowed to say (paragraph 4): “This Agreement does not constitute a finding by any Court or Agency that Baum has engaged in any unlawful practice or wrongdoing of any kind.”

Most significantly, Baum employees – including the very prolific robo-signing associate, Elpiniki Bechakas, may no longer sign mortgage assignments as officers of Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems, Inc. (“MERS”). (Bechakas is not specifically named in the Agreement, but has been singled out by NY judges, including the Honorable (and very savvy) Arthur Schack of Brooklyn, as a Baum attorney with very questionable practices.)

The relief provided in the Settlement Agreement is very much prospective relief, and in that regard, is very comprehensive.

For those pending cases, however, the relief in paragraph 15(a) may seem grossly inadequate:

“Baum shall provide the following notification:

a. In any pending foreclosure action where an application for a judgment of foreclosure has not been submitted to a court, if Baum has filed an assignment of mortgage as a corporate officer of MERS, Baum shall disclose that fact to the court in the application for the judgment of foreclosure, or earlier. Such disclosure shall not be required if the Baum firm does not file a proposed judgment of foreclosure (e.g. because another law firm has been substituted as counsel for the matter prior to the filing of a proposed judgment of foreclosure, because the action is dismissed, etc.)”

All that the banks need to do under this settlement in pending cases is to sub in another law firm that may use the Baum assignments to foreclose, without even making any further disclosure to the courts such as “the signers are really employees of the Baum Law Firm who previously represented the banks in this matter.”

While it is true that most defense attorneys will no doubt raise this point, it is also true that most homeowners in foreclosure proceed pro se and are likely to be completely unaware of this Settlement Agreement, and the actual employer of Elpiniki Bechakas and other Baum signers.

Then there is the matter of the tens of thousands of homeowners who have lost their homes in cases where Baum employees signed mortgage assignments as officers of MERS. Most often, they assigned mortgages to mortgage-backed trusts so that the trusts could foreclose, even though such transfers did not take place on the dates and in the manner set forth on the Baum assignments. These Baum Assignments appear throughout the New York courts, but often in the Courts of other states as well.

Two million seems to be the magic number. This is also the amount paid by the Law Offices of Marshall Watson in Florida whose associates engaged in similar practices of signing as MERS officers, assigning mortgages after foreclosure actions were initiated, etc.

Further relief may be forthcoming, from both criminal prosecutions, the NY Bar, and most certainly from private class action and RICO lawsuits brought by private litigants.

Investors in mortgage-backed securities must ask for reports from the Trustees of how much they have paid for these Baum Assignments in the last five years, how much they have lost and how much more they will lose when foreclosures are successfully defended because the loan documents relied on by the trustees were “Baum-made.”

This is a first-of-its-kind settlement with one significant party in the foreclosure fraud morass.

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JUDGE SCHACK DOES IT AGAIN! TOSSES OUT US BANK FORECLOSURE!

JUDGE SCHACK DOES IT AGAIN! TOSSES OUT US BANK FORECLOSURE!


Hasn’t this law firm learned their lesson…time and time again??

Homeowners’ hero judge slaps US Bank

Post staff for NYPOST
Last Updated: 4:42 AM, July 5, 2010
Posted: 12:44 AM, July 5, 2010

Brooklyn’s battling Judge Arthur M. Schack has struck again, giving a Brooklyn homeowner an Independence Day gift — freedom from foreclosure.

The judge, who has steadfastly pressed banks in foreclosure cases to prove they own the troubled mortgage and has tossed cases when banks have failed to do so, has again dismissed a foreclosure case — this time because the lawyer on the case, Steven J. Baum, represented the mortgage broker, the bank that bought the loan and the industry registration service serving as the nominee of the loan.

But Baum’s conflict of interest wasn’t the case’s only problem.

Judge Schack, in his decision, also found that the bank, US Bank, never should have filed the foreclosure action because of an “ineffective assignment of the subject mortgage and note to it.” In other words, it sold the mortgage, and the mortgage was securitized, leaving the company simply as the servicer — but it decided to try and take back the Crown Heights home anyway.

The Post has reported that the actions of the Baum firm in foreclosure cases has caught the eye of the US Trustee, the arm of the Justice Department responsible for monitoring the Bankruptcy Court.

Baum, a Buffalo-based foreclosure mill that filed 12,551 foreclosure actions in New York last year, has been scolded by judges for bringing foreclosure cases without proper documentation.

In this case, a Baum lawyer, Elpiniki Bechakas, signed papers claiming to be an executive of Mortgage Electronic Registration System, or MERS, which was given certain rights to the mortgages by the broker, Fremont Investment and Loan, while simultaneously representing Fremont and US Bank, which filed the foreclosure in July 2009.

“The Court is concerned that the concurrent representation by [the Baum firm] of both assignor MERS, as nominee for Fremont, and assignee plaintiff US Bank is a conflict of interest,” Schack wrote.

Photo Credit: CBS

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THE REAL EMPLOYERS OF THE SIGNERS OF MORTGAGE ASSIGNMENTS TO TRUSTS: BY Lynn E. Szymoniak, Esq.

THE REAL EMPLOYERS OF THE SIGNERS OF MORTGAGE ASSIGNMENTS TO TRUSTS: BY Lynn E. Szymoniak, Esq.


THE REAL EMPLOYERS OF THE SIGNERS OF

MORTGAGE ASSIGNMENTS TO TRUSTS

BY Lynn E. Szymoniak, Esq., Editor, Fraud Digest (szymoniak@mac.com),

April 15, 2010

On May 11, 2010, Judge Arthur J. Schack, Supreme Court, Kings County, New York, entered an order denying a foreclosure action with prejudice. The case involved a mortgage-backed securitized trust, SG Mortgage Securities Asset Backed Certificates, Series 2006-FRE2. U.S. Bank, N.A. served as Trustee for the SG Trust. See U.S. Bank, N.A. v. Emmanuel, 2010 NY Slip Op 50819 (u), Supreme Court, Kings County, decided May 11, 2010. In this case, as in hundreds of thousands of other cases involving securitized trusts, the trust inexplicably did not produce mortgage assignments from the original lender to the depositor to the securities company to the trust.

This particular residential mortgage-backed securities trust in the Emmanuel case had a cut-off date of July 1, 2006. The entities involved in the creation and early agreements of this trust included Wells Fargo Bank, N.A., as servicer, U.S. Bank, N.A. as trustee, Bear Stearns Financial Products as the “swap provider” and SG Mortgage Securities, LLC. The Class A Certificates in the trust were given a rating of “AAA” by Dominion Bond Rating Services on July 13, 2006.

The designation “FRE” in the title of this particular trust indicates that the loans in the trust were made by Fremont Investment & Loan, a bank and subprime lender and subsidiary of Fremont General Corporation. The “SG” in the title of the trust indicates that the loans were “securitized” by Signature Securities Group Corporation, or an affiliate.

Fremont, a California-based corporation, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection on June 19, 2008, but continued in business as a debtor-in-possession. On March 31, 2008, Fremont General sold its mortgage servicing rights to Carrington Capital Management, a hedge fund focused on the subprime residential mortgage securities market. Carrington Capital operated Carrington Mortgage Services, a company that had already acquired the mortgage servicing business of New Century after that large sub-prime lender also filed for bankruptcy. Carrington Mortgage Services provides services a portfolio of nearly 90,000 loans with an outstanding principal balance of over $16 billion. Nearly 63% of the portfolio is comprised of adjustable rate mortgages. Mortgage servicing companies charge  substantially higher fees for servicing adjustable rate mortgages than fixed-rate mortgages. Those fees, often considered the most lucrative part of the subprime mortgage business, are paid by the securitized trusts that bought the loans from the original lenders (Fremont & New Century), after the loans had been combined into trusts by securities companies, like Financial Assets Securities Corporation, SG and Carrington Capital.

Carrington Capital in Greenwich, Connecticut, is headed by Bruce Rose, who left Salomon Brothers in 2003 to start Carrington. At Carrington, Rose packaged $23 billion in subprime mortgages. Many of those securities included loans originated by now-bankrupt New Century Financial. Carrington forged unique contracts that let it direct any foreclosure and liquidations of the underlying loans. Foreclosure management is also a very lucrative part of the subprime mortgage business. As with servicing adjustable rate mortgages, the fees for the foreclosure management are paid ultimately by the trust. There is little or no oversight of the fees charged for the foreclosure actions. The vast majority of foreclosure cases are uncontested, but the foreclosure management firms may nevertheless charge the trust several thousand dollars for each foreclosure of a property in the trust.

The securities companies and their affiliates also benefit from the bankruptcies of the original lenders. On May 12, 2010, Signature Group Holdings LLP, (“SG”) announced that it had been chosen to revive fallen subprime mortgage lender Freemont General, once the fifth-largest U.S. subprime mortgage lender. A decision to approve Signature’s reorganization plan for Fremont was made through a bench ruling issued by the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Santa Ana, CA. The bid for Fremont lasted nearly two years, with several firms competing for the acquisition.

The purchase became much more lucrative for prospective purchasers in late March, 2010, when Fremont General announced that it would settle more than $89 million in tax obligations to the Internal Revenue Service without actually paying a majority of the back taxes. The U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Central District of California, Santa Ana Division, approved a motion that allowed Fremont General to claim a net operating loss deduction for 2004 that is attributable for its 2006 tax obligations, according to a regulatory filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

In addition, Fremont General will deduct additional 2004 taxes, because of a temporary extension to the period when companies can claim the credit. The extension from two years to five went into effect when President Obama signed the Worker, Homeownership, and Business Assistance Act of 2009. While approved by the bankruptcy court judge, the agreement must also meet the approval of the Congressional Joint Committee on Taxation, but according to the SEC filing, both Fremont General and the IRS anticipate that it will be approved. In all, Fremont’s nearly $89.4 million tax assessment was reduced to about $2.8 million, including interest. In addition, as a result of the IRS agreement, a California Franchise Tax Board tax claim of $13.3 million was reduced to $550,000.

Another development that made the purchase especially favorable for SG was the announcement on May 10, 2010, that Federal Insurance Co. has agreed to pay Fremont General Corp. the full $10 million loss limits of an errors and omissions policy to cover subprime lending claims, dropping an 18-month battle over whether the claims were outside the scope of its bankers professional liability policies.

All of these favorable developments are part of a long history of success for Craig Noell, the head of Signature Group Holdings, the winning bidder for Fremont. Previously, as a member of the distressed investing area at Goldman Sachs, Noell founded and ran Goldman Sachs Specialty Lending, investing Goldman’s proprietary capital in “special situations opportunities.”

Bruce Rose’s Carrington Mortgage Services and Craig Noell’s Signature Group Holdings are part of the story of the attempted foreclosure on Arianna Emmanuel in Brooklyn, New York. U.S. Bank, N.A., as Trustee for SG Mortgage Securities Asset-Backed Certificates, Series 2006 FRE-2 attempted to foreclose on Arianna Emmanuel. The original mortgage had been made by Fremont Investment & Loan (the beneficiary of the $100 milion tax break and the $10 million insurance payout discussed above).

To successfully foreclose, the Trustee needed to produce proof that the Trust had acquired the loan from Fremont. At this point, the document custodian for the trust needed only to produce the mortgage assignment. The securities company that made the SG Trust, the mortgage servicing company that serviced the trust and U.S. Bank as Trustee had all made frequent sworn statements to the SEC and shareholders that these documents were safely stored in a fire-proof  vault.

Despite these frequent representations to the SEC, the assignment relied upon by U.S. Bank, the trustee, was one executed by Elpiniki Bechakas as assistant secretary and vice president of MERS, as nominee for Freemont. In foreclosure cases all over the U.S., assignments signed by Elpiniki Bechakas are never questioned. But on May 11, 2010, the judge examining the mortgage assignment was the Honorable Arthur J. Schack in Brooklyn, New York.

Bechakas signed as an officer of MERS, as nominee for Fremont, representing that the property had been acquired by the SG Trust in June, 2009. None of this was true. Judge Schack determined sua sponte that Bechakas was an associate in the law offices of Steven J. Baum, the firm representing the trustee and trust in the foreclosure. Judge Schack recognized that the Baum firm was thus working for both the GRANTOR and GRANTEE. Judge Schack wrote, “The Court is concerned that the concurrent representation by Steven J. Baum, P.C. of both assignor MERS, as nominee for FREMONT, and assignee plaintiff U.S. BANK is a conflict of interest, in violation of 22 NYCRR § 1200.0 (Rules of Professional Conduct, effective April 1, 2009) Rule 1.7, “Conflict of Interest: Current Clients.”

Judge Schack focused squarely on an issue that pro se homeowner litigants and foreclosure defense lawyers often attempt to raise – the authority of the individuals signing mortgage assignments that are used by trusts to foreclose. In tens of thousands of cases, law firm employees sign as MERS officers, without disclosing to the Court or to homeowners that they are actually employed by the law firm, not MERS, and that the firm is being paid and working on behalf of the Trust/Grantee while the firm employee is signing on behalf of the original lender/Grantor.

Did the SG Trust acquire the Emmanuel loan in 2006, the closing date of the trust, or in 2009, the date chosen by Belchakas and her employers? There are tremendous tax advantages being claimed by banks and mortgage companies based on their portfolio of nonperforming loans. There are also millions of dollars in insurance payouts being made ultimately because of non-performing loans. There are substantial fees being charged by mortgage servicing companies and mortgage default management companies – being paid by trusts and assessed on homeowners in default. The question of the date of the transfer is much more than an academic exercise.

As important as the question of WHEN, there is also the question of WHAT – what exactly did the trust acquire? What is the reason for the millions of assignments to trusts that flooded recorders’ offices nationwide starting in 2007 that were prepared by law firm employees like Bechakas or by employees of mortgage default companies or document preparation companies specializing is providing “replacement” mortgage documents. Why, in judicial foreclosure states, are there thousands of Complaints for Foreclosure filed with the allegations: “We Own the Note; we had the note; we lost the note.” Why do bankruptcy courts repeatedly see these same three allegations in Motions For Relief of Stay filed by securitized trusts attempting to foreclose? If the assignments and notes are missing, has the trust acquired anything (other than investors’ money, tax advantages and insurance payouts)? In many cases, the mortgage servicing company does eventually acquire the property – often by purchasing the property after foreclosure for ten dollars and selling it to the trust that had claimed ownership from the start.

Where are the missing mortgage assignments?

Posted in bear stearns, case, concealment, conspiracy, foreclosure fraud, foreclosure mills, forensic loan audit, fraud digest, goldman sachs, Lynn Szymoniak ESQ, MERS, mortgage electronic registration system, MORTGAGE ELECTRONIC REGISTRATION SYSTEMS INC., Mortgage Foreclosure Fraud, robo signer, S.E.C.Comments (0)


GARY DUBIN LAW OFFICES FORECLOSURE DEFENSE HAWAII and CALIFORNIA
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