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FL 4DCA Reverses & Remands “Certificate of Title, Remands for an Evidentiary Hearing” REGNER v. AMTRUST

FL 4DCA Reverses & Remands “Certificate of Title, Remands for an Evidentiary Hearing” REGNER v. AMTRUST


DISTRICT COURT OF APPEAL OF THE STATE OF FLORIDA
FOURTH DISTRICT

July Term 2011

CHRISTOPHER REGNER and KARIN REGNER,
Appellants,

v.

AMTRUST BANK,
Appellee.

No. 4D11-1281

September 28, 2011]

GERBER, J.

The defendants, whose home was sold at a foreclosure sale, appeal
the circuit court’s order denying their verified motion to vacate the
certificate of title issued after the sale. The court denied the motion even
though it recognized that the bank had not offered any evidence in
opposition to the motion. The defendants argue that the court erred in
denying their motion because the clerk of court issued the certificate of
title while their objections to the sale were pending and because the
court did not conduct an evidentiary hearing on their objections.
We agree with the defendants’ arguments a n d reverse.
Compare § 45.031(5), Fla. Stat. (2010) (“If no objections to the sale are
filed within 10 days after filing the certificate of sale, the clerk shall file a
certificate of title . . . .”), with § 45.031(8), Fla. Stat. (2010) (“If timely
objections to the bid are served, the objections shall be heard by the
court.”); see also Opportunity Funding I, LLC v. Otetchestvennyi, 909 So.
2d 361, 362 (Fla. 4th DCA 2005) (“The Clerk of the Court lacks authority
to issue a certificate of title . . . when an objection to a foreclosure sale is
timely filed.”). “For the court to ‘hear’ objections, it must provide both
notice and an opportunity for any interested party to address those
objections.” U.S. Bank Nat’l Ass’n v. Bjeljac, 43 So. 3d 851, 853 (Fla. 5th
DCA 2010) (citations omitted). Further, “‘it is reversible error for a trial
court to deny a party an evidentiary hearing to which [the party] is
entitled.’” Avi-Isaac v. Wells Fargo Bank, N.A., 59 So. 3d 174, 177 (Fla.
2d DCA 2011) (quoting Sperdute v. Household Realty Corp., 585 So. 2d
1168, 1169 (Fla. 4th DCA 1991)).

We remand for an evidentiary hearing on the defendants’ claims that:
(1) they did not receive notice of the sale; (2) the bank breached the
parties’ settlement agreement by wrongfully rejecting the defendants’
final redemption payment; a n d (3) the bank’s purchase price was
inadequate. See Bennett v. Ward, 667 So. 2d 378, 382 (Fla. 1st DCA
1995) (“Th e failure to give adequate notice of a judicial sale may
effectively deprive the mortgagor of the right to redeem the property.”);
Indian River Farms v. YBF Partners, 777 So. 2d 1096, 1098-99 (Fla. 4th
DCA 2001) (remanding for evidentiary hearing on whether mortgagor’s
assignee timely exercised its right of redemption before the issuance of
the certificate of title); Blue Star Invs., Inc. v. Johnson, 801 So. 2d 218,
219 (Fla. 4th DCA 2001) (“[T]o vacate a foreclosure sale, the trial court
must find (1) that the foreclosure sale bid was grossly or startlingly
inadequate; and (2) that the inadequacy of the bid resulted from some
mistake, fraud or other irregularity in the sale.”) (citations and internal
quotations omitted).

On remand, the defendants bear the burden to establish their claims.
See Richardson v. Chase Manhattan Bank, 941 So. 2d 435, 437 (Fla. 3d
DCA 2006) (“On remand [the mortgagor] bears the burden to establish at
the evidentiary hearing that she did not receive notice of the rescheduled
sale and must also show what harm, if any, she suffered by reason of not
being notified of the sale.”). The defendants shall be entitled to testify at
the evidentiary hearing if they so request. See Sperdute, 585 So. 2d at
1169 (“Neither the submission of affidavits nor argument of counsel is
sufficient to constitute an evidentiary hearing. Since the purpose of an
evidentiary hearing is to allow a party to ‘have a fair opportunity to
contest’ the factual issues, this purpose is not effectuated if a party is not
allowed to testify.”) (citation omitted).

Reversed and remanded.

WARNER and POLEN, JJ., concur.
* * *
Appeal of non-final order from the Circuit Court for the Seventeenth
Judicial Circuit, Broward County; Michael L. Gates, Judge; L.T. Case No.
09-58312CACE.

Charles D. Franken of Charles D. Franken, P.A., Plantation, for
appellants.

Vivian Lasaga of Spear and Hoffman, P.A., Miami, for appellee.

Not final until disposition of timely filed motion for rehearing.

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RISCH v. BANK OF AMERICA | FL 2DCA Reverses & Remands for an Evidentiary Hearing, FL Rule of Civil Procedure 1.540

RISCH v. BANK OF AMERICA | FL 2DCA Reverses & Remands for an Evidentiary Hearing, FL Rule of Civil Procedure 1.540


IN THE DISTRICT COURT OF APPEAL
OF FLORIDA
SECOND DISTRICT


JANICE M. RISCH,
Appellant,

v.

BANK OF AMERICA, NATIONAL
ASSOCIATION, AS SUCCESSOR BY
MERGER TO LASALLE BANK, N.A. AS
TRUSTEE FOR ZUNI 2006-OA1,
Appellee.

Opinion filed August 3, 2011.

Appeal pursuant to Fla. R. App. P. 9.130
from the Circuit Court for Lee County; Hugh
E. Starnes, Senior Judge.

EXCERPT:

Janice M. Risch appeals the trial court’s denial of her emergency motion for rehearing or, in the alternative, for relief from judgment pursuant to Florida Rule of Civil Procedure 1.540. The record shows that the trial court conducted a hearing on Ms. Risch’s motion; however, there was no evidence presented. Since Ms. Risch’s motion asserted allegations of misrepresentation, which might give rise to relief pursuant to rule 1.540(b)(3), and since she attached an affidavit and records which could support her claim, we reverse and remand for an evidentiary hearing. See S. Bell Tel. & Tel. Co. v. Welden, 483 So. 2d 487, 489 (Fla. 1st DCA 1986) (“[W]here the moving party’s allegations raise a colorable entitlement to rule 1.540(b)(3) relief, a formal evidentiary hearing on the motion, as well as permissible discovery prior to the hearing, is required.”); see also Rosenthal v. Ford, 443 So. 2d 1077, 1078 (Fla. 2d DCA 1984) (“The  credibility of appellant’s allegations should only be determined by the trial court after an evidentiary hearing thereon.”).

Reversed and remanded.

SILBERMAN, C.J., and DAVIS, J., Concur.

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AURORA v. Carlsen, Wis: Court of Appeals, 4th Dist. 2011 – REVERSED “FAILED MERS ASSIGNMENT, FAILED AFFIDAVIT, FAILED STANDING, FAILED CASE”

AURORA v. Carlsen, Wis: Court of Appeals, 4th Dist. 2011 – REVERSED “FAILED MERS ASSIGNMENT, FAILED AFFIDAVIT, FAILED STANDING, FAILED CASE”


AURORA LOAN SERVICES LLC,

PLAINTIFF-RESPONDENT,

V.

DAVID J. CARLSEN AND NANCY L. CARLSEN,

DEFENDANTS-APPELLANTS.

APPEAL from a judgment of the circuit court for Rock County:

JAMES WELKER, Judge. Reversed.

Before Vergeront, P.J., Lundsten and Blanchard, JJ.

¶1 LUNDSTEN, J. This appeal involves a foreclosure action initiated
by Aurora Loan Services against David and Nancy Carlsen. Following a court
trial, the circuit court granted judgment of foreclosure in favor of Aurora, finding
that Aurora is the holder of the note and owner of the mortgage and that the
Carlsens were in default. We conclude that the circuit court’s finding that Aurora
was the holder of the note, a finding essential to the judgment, is not supported by
admissible evidence. We therefore reverse the judgment.

Background

¶2 Aurora Loan Services brought a foreclosure suit against David and
Nancy Carlsen, alleging that Aurora was the holder of a note and owner of a
mortgage signed by the Carlsens encumbering the Carlsens’ property. The
Carlsens denied several allegations in the complaint and, especially pertinent here,
denied that Aurora was the holder of the note. Aurora moved for summary
judgment, but that motion was denied.

¶3 A trial to the court was held on June 9, 2010. Aurora called one of
its employees, Kelly Conner, as its only witness. Aurora attempted to elicit
testimony from Conner establishing a foundation for the admission of several
documents purportedly showing that Aurora was the holder of a note that
obligated the Carlsens to make payments and that the Carlsens were in default. It
is sufficient here to say that the Carlsens’ attorney repeatedly objected to questions
and answers based on a lack of personal knowledge and lack of foundation, and
that the circuit court, for the most part, sustained the objections. Aurora’s counsel
did not move for admission of any of the documents into evidence. After the
evidentiary portion of the trial, and after hearing argument, the circuit court made
findings of fact and entered a foreclosure judgment in favor of Aurora. The
Carlsens appeal. Additional facts will be presented below as necessary.

Discussion

¶4 It is undisputed that, at the foreclosure trial, Aurora had the burden
of proving, among other things, that Aurora was the current “holder” of a note
obligating the Carlsens to make payments to Aurora. Because Aurora was not the
original note holder, Aurora needed to prove that it was the current holder, which
meant proving that it had been assigned the note. There appear to be other failures
of proof, but in this opinion we focus our attention solely on whether Aurora
presented evidence supporting the circuit court’s findings that “the business
records of Aurora Loan Services show … a chain of assignment of that … note”
and that “Aurora is the holder of the note.”

¶5 As to assignment of the note, the Carlsens’ argument is simple: the
circuit court’s findings are clearly erroneous because there was no admissible
evidence supporting a finding that Aurora had been assigned the note. The
Carlsens contend that, during the evidentiary portion of the trial, the circuit court
properly sustained objections to Aurora’s assignment evidence, but the court then
appears to have relied on mere argument of Aurora’s counsel to make factual
findings on that topic. We agree.

¶6 We focus our attention on a document purporting to be an
assignment of the note and mortgage from Mortgage Electronic Registration
Systems to Aurora. At trial, this document was marked as Exhibit D. Although
Aurora’s counsel seemed to suggest at one point that certain documents, perhaps
including Exhibit D, were certified, the circuit court determined that the
documents were not certified. Under WIS. STAT. § 889.17,1 certified copies of
certain documents are admissible in evidence based on the certification alone.
Aurora does not contend that Exhibit D is admissible on this basis.

¶7 Aurora argues that Conner’s testimony is sufficient to support the
circuit court’s finding that Aurora had been assigned the note. Our review of her
testimony, however, reveals that Conner lacked the personal knowledge needed to
authenticate Exhibit D. See WIS. STAT. § 909.01 (documents must be
authenticated to be admissible, and this requirement is satisfied “by evidence
sufficient to support a finding that the matter in question is what its proponent
claims”). Relevant here, Conner made general assertions covering several
documents. Conner either affirmatively testified or agreed to leading questions
with respect to the following:

  • · She works for Aurora.
  • · She “handle[s] legal files” and she “attend[s] trials.”
  • · “Aurora provided those documents that are in [her] possession.”
  • · She “reviewed the subject file” in preparing for the hearing.
    • · She declined to agree that she is the “custodian of records for

Aurora.”

    • · She “look[s] at documentation … [does] not physically handle

original notes and documents, but [she does] acquire
documentation.”

  • · “Aurora [is] the custodian of records for this loan.”
  • · She is “familiar with records that are prepared in the ordinary course
    of business.”
  • · She has “authority from Aurora to testify as to the documents, of
    [Aurora’s] records.”

As it specifically pertains to Exhibit D, the document purporting to evidence the
assignment of the note and mortgage from Mortgage Electronic Registration
Systems to Aurora, Conner testified:

  • · Aurora has “possession of Exhibit D.”
  • · Exhibit D is “an assignment of mortgage.”

With respect to possession of Exhibit D, Conner did not assert that Exhibit D was
an original or that Aurora had possession of the original document. For that
matter, Conner did not provide a basis for a finding that any original document she
might have previously viewed was what it purported to be.2

¶8 Thus, Conner did no more than identify herself as an Aurora
employee who was familiar with some unspecified Aurora documents, who had
reviewed some Aurora documents, and who had brought some documents,
including Exhibit D, to court. Although Conner was able to say that Exhibit D, on
its face, was an assignment, she had no apparent personal knowledge giving her a
basis to authenticate that document. See WIS. STAT. § 909.01.

¶9 Aurora points to various provisions in WIS. STAT. chs. 401 and 403,
such as those relating to the definition of a “holder” (WIS. STAT.
§ 401.201(2)(km)), to a person entitled to enforce negotiable instruments (WIS.
STAT. § 403.301), and to the assignment of negotiable instruments (WIS. STAT.
§§ 403.203, 403.204, and 403.205). This part of Aurora’s argument addresses the
underlying substantive law regarding persons entitled to enforce negotiable
instruments, such as the type of note at issue here, but it says nothing about
Aurora’s proof problems. That is, Aurora’s discussion of the underlying law does
not demonstrate why Exhibit D was admissible to prove that Aurora had been
assigned the note and was, under the substantive law Aurora discusses, a party
entitled to enforce the note.

¶10 Similarly, Aurora discusses the relationship between a note and a
mortgage and, in particular, the equitable assignment doctrine. But here again
Aurora’s discussion fails to come to grips with Aurora’s failure to authenticate
Exhibit D, the document purporting to be an assignment of the note to Aurora.
Aurora points to testimony in which Conner asserted that Aurora acquired and
possessed Exhibit D, but possession of Exhibit D is meaningless without
authentication of the exhibit.

¶11 Aurora argues that we may look at the “record as a whole,”
including summary judgment materials, to sustain the circuit court’s factual
findings. Thus, for example, Aurora asks us to consider an affidavit filed with its
summary judgment motion. In that affidavit, an Aurora senior vice-president
avers that the note was assigned to Aurora, that the assignment was recorded with
the Rock County Register of Deeds, and that Aurora is the holder of the note. This
argument is meritless. Aurora was obliged to present its evidence at trial. It could
not rely on the “record as a whole” and, in particular, it could not rely on summary
judgment materials that were not introduced at trial. See Holzinger v. Prudential
Ins. Co., 222 Wis. 456, 461, 269 N.W. 306 (1936). For that matter, even if Aurora
had, at trial, proffered the affidavit of its senior vice-president, the affidavit would
have been inadmissible hearsay. See WIS. STAT. § 908.01(3) (“‘Hearsay’ is a
statement, other than one made by the declarant while testifying at the trial or
hearing, offered in evidence to prove the truth of the matter asserted.”).

¶12 In sum, Aurora failed to authenticate Exhibit D, the document
purporting to be an assignment of the note. Thus, regardless of other alleged proof
problems relating to that note and the Carlsens’ alleged default, the circuit court’s
finding that Aurora was the holder of the note is clearly erroneous—no admissible
evidence supports that finding. Aurora failed to prove its case, and it was not
entitled to a judgment of foreclosure.

By the Court.—Judgment reversed.

Not recommended for publication in the official reports.

_______________________________________

1All references to the Wisconsin Statutes are to the 2009-10 version unless otherwise noted.
 2 Our summary of Conner’s testimony omits several assertions Conner made that were
stricken by the circuit court. Similarly, we have not included examples of the circuit court
repeatedly sustaining hearsay and foundation objections. For example, the court repeatedly
sustained objections to Aurora’s attempts to have Conner testify that Aurora “owns” the note.
Aurora does not and could not reasonably argue that the Carlsens have not preserved their
authentication objections. The Carlsens’ attorney repeatedly and vigorously objected on hearsay,
foundation, and authentication grounds. The record clearly reflects that the Carlsens were
objecting to the admission of all of Aurora’s proffered documents on the ground that Conner
lacked sufficient knowledge to lay a foundation for admission.

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WEISBAND Case No. 4:09-bk-05175-EWH. BKR Tucson Judge HOLLOWELL Denies MLS for Lack of Standing

WEISBAND Case No. 4:09-bk-05175-EWH. BKR Tucson Judge HOLLOWELL Denies MLS for Lack of Standing


Via: Livinglies

GMAC has failed to demonstrate that it is the holder of the Note because, while it was in possession of the Note at the evidentiary hearing, it failed to demonstrate that the Note is properly payable to GMAC

Once the securities have been sold, the SPV is not actively involved.

IN RE WEISBAND

In re: BARRY WEISBAND, Chapter 13, Debtor.

Case No. 4:09-bk-05175-EWH.

United States Bankruptcy Court, D. Arizona.

March 29, 2010.

Barry Weisband, Tucson, AZ, Ronald Ryan, Ronald Ryan, P.C., Tucson, AZ, Attorney for Debtor.

MEMORANDUM DECISION

EILEEN W. HOLLOWELL, Bankruptcy Judge

I. INTRODUCTION

The debtor, Barry Weisband (“Debtor”), has challenged the standing of creditor, GMAC Mortgage, LLC (“GMAC”), to seek stay relief on his residence. After reviewing the documents provided by GMAC and conducting an evidentiary hearing, the court concludes that GMAC, the alleged servicer of the Debtor’s home loan, lacks standing to seek stay relief. The reasons for this conclusion are explained in the balance of this decision.

II. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

A. Creation of Debtor’s Note And Asserted Subsequent Transfers

On or about October 6, 2006, the Debtor executed and delivered to GreenPoint Mortgage Funding, Inc. (“GreenPoint”) an adjustable rate promissory note in the principal sum of $540,000 (“Note”) secured by a Deed of Trust (“DOT”) on real property located at 5424 East Placita Apan, Tucson, Arizona 85718 (“Property”).

On a separate piece of paper, GreenPoint endorsed the Note to GMAC (“Endorsement”). The Endorsement is undated. The DOT was signed by the Debtor on October 9, 2006, and recorded on October 13, 2006. The DOT lists GreenPoint as the lender, and Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems, Inc. (“MERS”) as the beneficiary of the DOT “solely as nominee for [GreenPoint], its successors and assigns.”

Approximately five months before the creation of the Note and DOT, on April 10, 2006, GreenPoint entered into a Flow Interim Servicing Agreement (“FISA”) (Exhibit D)[ 1 ] with Lehman Capital, a division of Lehman Brothers Holdings, Inc. (collectively “Lehman”), pursuant to which Lehman agreed to purchase conventional, residential, fixed and adjustable rate first and second lien mortgage loans from GreenPoint. Under the FISA, GreenPoint agreed to service the mortgage loans it sold to Lehman. According to GMAC, GreenPoint transferred the Note and DOT to Lehman under the FISA.

On November 1, 2006, Lehman entered into a Mortgage Loan Sale and Assignment Agreement (“MLSAA”) with Structured Asset Securities Corporation (“SASC”) (Exhibit E). Under that agreement, Lehman transferred a number of the mortgage loans it acquired under the FISA to SASC. GMAC claims that the Note was one of the mortgage loans transferred to SASC. SASC created a trust to hold the transferred mortgages — GreenPoint Mortgage Funding Trust (“Trust”). The MLSAA also transferred the right to receive principal and interest payments under the transferred mortgage loans from Lehman to the Trust.

Also, on November 1, 2006, SASC entered into a Trust Agreement (Exhibit F) with Aurora Loan Services (“Aurora”) as the master servicer, and U.S. Bank National Association (“U.S. Bank”) as the trustee. A Reconstituted Servicing Agreement (Exhibit G) was executed the same day, which provided that GreenPoint would continue to service the mortgages transferred to the Trust under the MLSAA, but that the Trust could change servicers at any time. Also, according to GMAC, on November 1, 2006, GMAC, Lehman, and Aurora entered into a Securitization Servicing Agreement (“SSA”) (Exhibit H), pursuant to which GMAC would service the loans transferred to the Trust. GMAC claims that under the SSA it is the current servicer of the Note and DOT.

Thus, according to GMAC, as of November 1, 2006, the Note and DOT had been transferred to the Trust, with SASC as the Trustor, U.S. Bank as the Trustee, Aurora as the master servicer, and GMAC as the sub-servicer. GreenPoint went out of business in 2007. According to GMAC, it remains the sub-servicer of the Note, and that is its only financial interest in the Note and DOT. (Transcript Nov. 10, 2009, pp. 44, 47, 75.)

B. Bankruptcy Events

As of March 1, 2009, the Debtor was in default of his obligations under the Note. Debtor filed his petition for relief under Chapter 13 of the Bankruptcy Code on March 19, 2009. On May 16, 2009, GMAC filed a proof of claim (“POC”), which attached the Note and DOT. The Endorsement from GreenPoint to GMAC was not attached to GMAC’s proof of claim. On May 12, 2009, MERS, as nominee for GreenPoint, assigned its interest in the DOT to GMAC (“MERS Assignment”). The MERS Assignment was recorded on July 16, 2009.

GMAC filed a Motion for Relief from Stay (“Motion”) on May 29, 2009, on the grounds that the Debtor had no equity in the Property and the Property was not necessary for an effective reorganization. The Motion also requested adequate protection payments to protect GMAC’s alleged interest in the Property. GMAC attached the Note with the Endorsement and DOT as exhibits to the Motion.

The Debtor filed a response challenging GMAC’s standing to seek relief from stay. After various discovery disputes, GMAC sent a letter dated September 17, 2009, to the Debtor which purported to explain the various transfers of the Note and the DOT. (Docket #90). The letter explained that GreenPoint transferred the “subject loan” to Lehman under the FISA, that Lehman sold the “subject loan” to SASC under the MLSAA, that SASC, Aurora Loan Services, and U.S. National Bank entered into a trust agreement, which created the Trust and made Aurora the master servicer for the “subject loan,” and, that GMAC was the servicer of the “subject loan” under the SSA. According to GMAC, its status as servicer, along with the Endorsement of the Note to GMAC and the assignment of the DOT from MERS to GMAC, demonstrated that it had standing to bring the Motion.

On November 10, 2009, the Court conducted an evidentiary hearing on the Motion. GMAC offered the original Note at the hearing and admitted into evidence a copy of the Note, DOT, copies of the FISA, MLSAA, Trust Agreement, the Reconstituted Servicing Agreement and the SSA. However, GMAC did not offer any documents demonstrating how the Note and DOT were conveyed by GreenPoint to the FISA. No document was offered demonstrating how the Note and DOT were conveyed from the FISA to the MLSAA or from the MLSAA into the Trust. Schedule A-1 of the MLSAA, where the transferred mortgages presumably would have been listed, only has the words “Intentionally Omitted” on it, and Schedule A-2 has the word “None.” (Exhibit F, pp. 19-20). Similarly, there is no evidence that the Note and DOT are subject to the SSA. Exhibit A to the SSA, titled “Mortgage Loan Schedule,” is blank. At the conclusion of the hearing, this Court ordered the Debtor to begin making adequate protection payments commencing on December 1, 2009 to the Chapter 13 Trustee. The Court further ordered GMAC and the Debtor to negotiate the amount of the adequate protection payments. When the parties were unable to reach agreement, the Court set the amount of the monthly payments at $1,000.

III. ISSUE

Does GMAC have standing to bring the Motion?

IV. JURISDICTIONAL STATEMENT

Jurisdiction is proper under 28 U.S.C. §§ 1334(a) and 157(b)(2)(G).

V. DISCUSSION

A. Introduction

Section 362(a) of the Bankruptcy Code provides that the filing of a bankruptcy petition operates as a stay of collection and enforcement actions. 11 U.S.C. § 362(a). The purpose of the automatic stay is to provide debtors with “protection against hungry creditors” and to assure creditors that the debtor’s other creditors are not “racing to various courthouses to pursue independent remedies to drain the debtor’s assets.” In re Tippett,Dean v. Trans World Airlines, Inc., 72 F.3d 754, 755-56 (9th Cir. 1995)); see also In re Johnston, 321 B.R. 262, 2737-4 (D. Ariz. 2005). Despite the broad protection the stay affords, it is not without limits. 542 F.3d 684, 689-90 (9th Cir. 2008) (citing Section 362(d) allows the court, upon request of a “party in interest,” to grant relief from the stay, “such as terminating, annulling, modifying, or conditioning such stay.” 11 U.S.C. § 362(d)(1). The court may grant relief “for cause, including the lack of adequate protection.” Id. The court may also grant relief from the stay with respect to specific property of the estate if the debtor lacks equity in the property and the property is not necessary to an effective reorganization. 11 U.S.C. § 362(d)(2).

Any party affected by the stay should be entitled to seek relief. 3 COLLIER’S ON BANKRUPTCY ¶ 362.07[2] (Henry Somers & Alan Resnick, eds. 15th ed., rev. 2009); Matter of Brown Transp. Truckload, Inc., 118 B.R. 889, 893 (Bankr. N.D. Ga. 1990); In re Vieland, 41 B.R. 134, 138 (Bankr. N.D. Ohio 1984)). Relief from stay hearings are limited in scope — the validity of underlying claims is not litigated. In re Johnson, 756 F.2d 738, 740 (9th Cir. 1985). As one court has noted, “[s]tay relief hearings do not involve a full adjudication on the merits of claims, defenses or counterclaims, but simply a determination as to whether a creditor has a colorable claim.” In re Emrich, 2009 WL 3816174, at *1 (Bankr. N.D. Cal. 2009).

Nevertheless, in order to establish a colorable claim, a movant for relief from stay bears the burden of proof that it has standing to bring the motion. In re Wilhelm, 407 B.R. 392, 400 (Bankr. D. Idaho 2009). The issue of standing involves both “constitutional limitations on federal court jurisdiction and prudential limitations on its exercise.” Warth v. Seldin, 422 U.S. 490, 498 (1975). Constitutional standing concerns whether the plaintiff’s personal stake in the lawsuit is sufficient to have a “case or controversy” to which the federal judicial power may extend under Article III. Id.; see also Lujan v. Defenders of Wildlife, 504 U.S. 555, 559-60 (1992); Pershing Park Villas Homeowners Ass’n v. United Pac. Ins. Co., 219 F.3d 895, 899 (9th Cir. 2000).

Additionally, the “prudential doctrine of standing has come to encompass several judicially self-imposed limits on the exercise of federal jurisdiction.'” Pershing Park Villas, 219 F.3d at 899. Such limits are the prohibition on third-party standing and the requirement that suits be maintained by the real party in interest. See Warth v. Seldin, 422 U.S. at 498-99; Gilmartin v. City of Tucson, 2006 WL 5917165, at *4 (D. Ariz. 2006). Thus, prudential standing requires the plaintiff to assert its own claims rather than the claims of another. The requirements of Fed. R. Civ. P. 17, made applicable in stay relief motions by Rule 9014, “generally falls within the prudential standing doctrine.” In re Wilhelm, 407 B.R. at 398.

B. GMAC’s Standing

GMAC advances three different arguments in support of its claim to be a “party in interest” with standing to seek relief from stay. First, GMAC asserts it has standing because the Note was endorsed to GMAC and GMAC has physical possession of the Note. Second, GMAC asserts that by virtue of the MERS Assignment, it is a beneficiary of the DOT and entitled to enforce and foreclose the DOT under Arizona law. Third, GMAC asserts it has standing because it is the servicer of the Note. The court addresses each of GMAC’s claims in turn.

1. GMAC Has Not Demonstrated That It Is A Holder Of The Note

If GMAC is the holder of the Note, GMAC would be a party injured by the Debtor’s failure to pay it, thereby satisfying the constitutional standing requirement. GMAC would also be the real party in interest under Fed. R. Civ. P. 17 because under ARIZ. REV. STAT. (“A.R.S.’) § 47-3301, the holder of a note has the right to enforce it.[ 2 ] However, as discussed below, GMAC did not prove it is the holder of the Note.

Under Arizona law, a holder is defined as “the person in possession of a negotiable instrument that is payable either to bearer or to an identified person that is the person in possession.” A.R.S. § 47-1201(B)(21)(a).[ 3 ] GMAC has failed to demonstrate that it is the holder of the Note because, while it was in possession of the Note at the evidentiary hearing, it failed to demonstrate that the Note is properly payable to GMAC. A special endorsement to GMAC was admitted into evidence with the Note. However, for the Endorsement to constitute part of the Note, it must be on “a paper affixed to the instrument.” A.R.S. § 47-3204; see also In re Nash, 49 B.R. 254, 261 (Bankr. D. Ariz. 1985). Here, the evidence did not demonstrate that the Endorsement was affixed to the Note. The Endorsement is on a separate sheet of paper; there was no evidence that it was stapled or otherwise attached to the rest of the Note. Furthermore, when GMAC filed its proof of claim, the Endorsement was not included, which is a further indication that the allonge containing the Endorsement was not affixed to the Note.[ 4 ]

In Adams v. Madison Realty & Dev., Inc., 853 F.2d 163 (3d Cir. 1988), the plaintiffs executed promissory notes which, after a series of transfers, came into the defendant’s possession. At issue was whether the defendant was the rightful owner of the notes. The court held that the defendant was not entitled to holder in due course status because the endorsements failed to meet the UCC’s fixation requirement. Id. at 168-69. The court relied on UCC section 3-202(2) [A.R.S. § 47-3204]: “An indorsement must be written by or on behalf of the holder and on the instrument or on a paper so firmly affixed thereto as to become a part thereof.” Id. at 165. Since the endorsement page, indicating that the defendant was the holder of the note, was not attached to the note, the court found that the note had not been properly negotiated. Id. at 166-67. Thus, ownership of the note never transferred to the defendant. Applying that principle to the facts here, GMAC did not become a holder of the Note due to the improperly affixed special endorsement.

While the bankruptcy court in In re Nash, 49 B.R. 254 (Bankr. D. Ariz. 1985) found that holder in due course status existed even though an allonge was not properly affixed to an instrument, the court based its determination on the clear intention that the note assignment be physically attached because: (1) the assignment was signed and notarized the same day as the trust deed; (2) the assignment specifically referenced the escrow number; (3) the assignment identified the original note holder; and (4) the assignment recited that the note was to be attached to the assignment. Id. at 261.

In this case, however, there is no proof that the allonge containing the special endorsement from GreenPoint to GMAC was executed at or near the time the Note was executed. Furthermore, the Endorsement does not have any identifying numbers on it, such as an account number or an escrow number, nor does it reference the Note in any way. There is simply no indication that the allonge was appropriately affixed to the Note, in contradiction with the mandates of A.R.S. § 47-3204. Thus, there is no basis in this case to depart from the general rule that an endorsement on an allonge must be affixed to the instrument to be valid.

GMAC cannot overcome the problems with the unaffixed Endorsement by its physical possession of the Note because the Note was not endorsed in blank and, even if it was, the problem of the unaffixed endorsement would remain.[ 5 ] As a result, because GMAC failed to meet its burden of demonstrating that the Endorsement was proper, it has failed to demonstrate that it is the holder of the Note.

2. The MERS Assignment Of The DOT Did Not Provide GMAC With Standing

GMAC argues that it has standing to bring the Motion as the assignee of MERS.[ 6 ] In this case, MERS is named in the DOT as a beneficiary, solely as the “nominee” of GreenPoint, holding only “legal title” to the interests granted to GreenPoint under the DOT. A number of cases have held that such language confers no economic benefit on MERS. See, e.g., In re Sheridan, 2009 WL 631355, *4 (Bankr. D. Idaho 2009); In re Mitchell, 2009 WL 1044368, *3-4 (Bankr. D. Nev. 2009); In re Jacobson, 402 B.R. 359, 367 (Bankr. W.D. Wash. 2009). As noted by the Sheridan court, MERS “collect[s] no money from [d]ebtors under the [n]ote, nor will it realize the value of the [p]roperty through foreclosure of the [d]eed of [t]rust in the event the [n]ote is not paid.” 2009 WL 631355 at *4.

Because MERS has no financial interest in the Note, it will suffer no injury if the Note is not paid and will realize no benefit if the DOT is foreclosed. Accordingly, MERS cannot satisfy the requirements of constitutional standing. GMAC, as MERS’ assignee of the DOT, “stands in the shoes” of the assignor, taking only those rights and remedies the assignor would have had. Hunnicutt Constr., Inc. v. Stewart Title & Trust of Tucson, Trust No. 3496, 187 Ariz. 301, 304 (Ct. App. 1996) citing Van Waters & Rogers v. Interchange Res., Inc., 14 Ariz. App. 414, 417 (1971); In re Boyajian, 367 B.R. 138, 145 (9th Cir. BAP 2007). Because GMAC is MERS’ assignee, it cannot satisfy the requirements of constitutional standing either.[ 7 ]

3. GMAC Does Not Have Standing As The Servicer Of The Note

(a) Servicer’s Right To Collect Fees For Securitized Mortgages

Securitization of residential mortgages is “the process of aggregating a large number of notes secured by deeds of trust in what is called a mortgage pool, and then selling security interests in that pool of mortgages.” Kurt Eggert, Held Up In Due Course: Predatory Lending, Securitization, and the Holder in Due Course Doctrine, 35 CREIGHTON L. REV. 503, 536 (2002). The process begins with a borrower negotiating with a mortgage broker for the terms of the loan. Then, the mortgage broker either originates the loan in its own name or in the name of another entity, which presumably provides the money for the loan. Almost immediately, the broker transfers the loan to the funding entity. “This lender quickly sells the loan to a different financial entity, which pools the loan together with a host of other loans in a mortgage pool.” Id. at 538.

The assignee then transfers the mortgages in the pool to another entity, which in turn transfers the loans to a special purpose vehicle (“SPV”,) whose sole role is to hold the pool of mortgages. Id. at 539. “The transfer to the special purpose trust must constitute a true sale, so that the party transferring the assets reduces its potential liability on the loans and exchanges the fairly illiquid loans for much more liquid cash.” Id. at 542. Next, the SPV issues securities which the assignee sells to investors. Id. at 539.

Once the securities have been sold, the SPV is not actively involved. It “does not directly collect payments from the homeowners whose notes and deeds of trust are held by the SPV.” Id. at 544. Rather, servicers collect the principal and interest payments on behalf of the SPV. Id. Fees are associated with the servicing of loans in the pool. Therefore, GMAC would have constitutional standing if it is the servicer for the Note and DOT because it would suffer concrete injury by not being able to collect its servicing fees.[ 8 ]In re O’Kelley, 420 B.R. 18, 23 (D. Haw. 2009) . In this case, however, the evidence does not demonstrate that the Note and DOT were transferred to the Trust, and, without that evidence, there is no demonstration that GMAC is the servicer of the Note.

(b) There Is Insufficient Evidence That The Note Was Sold To Lehman And Became Part Of The Trust

When the Debtor executed the Note and DOT, GreenPoint was the original holder of the Note and the economic beneficiary of the DOT. GreenPoint, allegedly, transferred the Note to Lehman pursuant to the FISA. However, the term “mortgage loans” is not defined in the FISA and GMAC’s documents regarding the securitization of the Note and DOT provide no evidence of actual transfers of the Note and DOT to either the FISA or the Trust. Because such transfers must be “true sales,” they must be properly documented to be effective. Thus, to use an overused term, GMAC has failed “to connect the dots” to demonstrate that the Note and DOT were securitized. Accordingly, it is immaterial that GMAC is the servicer for the Trust.

C. Debtor’s Other Arguments

1. Securities Investors Are Not The Only Individuals Who Can Satisfy Standing Requirements When Dealing With A 362 Motion on a “Securitized” Mortgage

The Debtor argues that, in an asset securitization scheme, only the securities investors have standing to seek stay relief because they are the only parties with a financial interest in the securitized notes. However, because the Debtor executed the Note and received consideration (which he used to purchase the house), the contract is enforceable regardless of who provided the funding. In other words, the fact that the funds for a borrower’s loan are supplied by someone other than the loan originator, does not invalidate the loan or restrict enforcement of the loan contract to the parties who funded the loan. A number of cases and treatises recognize that consideration for a contract, including a promissory note, can be provided by a third party. See, e.g., DCM Ltd. P’ship v. Wang, 555 F. Supp. 2d 808, 817 (E.D. Mich. 2008); Buffalo County v. Richards, 212 Neb. 826, 828-29 (Neb. 1982); 3 WILLISTON ON CONTRACTS § 7:20 (Richard A. Lord, 4th ed. 2009); RESTATEMENT (SECOND) OF CONTRACTS § 71(4) (2009).

Notes are regularly assigned and the assignment does not change the nature of the contract. The assignee merely steps into the shoes of the assignor. In re Boyajian, 367 B.R. 138, 145 (9th Cir. BAP 2007); In re Trejos, 374 B.R. 210, 215 (9th Cir. BAP 2007). No additional consideration is required, as opposed to a novation which creates a new obligation. Id. at 216-17 citing RESTATEMENT (SECOND) OF CONTRACTS § 280, cmt. e. Therefore, the Debtor’s argument that the Note is unenforceable because the funder of the Note was not the payee fails. The Note is still valid and can be enforced by the party who has the right to enforce it under applicable Arizona law.

2. Proof Of A Note’s Entire Chain Of Ownership Is Not Necessary For Stay Relief

A movant for stay relief need only present evidence sufficient to present a colorable claim — not every piece of evidence that would be required to prove the right to foreclose under a state law judicial foreclosure proceeding is necessary. In re Emrich, 2009 WL 3816174, at *1 (Bankr. N.D. Cal. 2009). Accordingly, not every movant for relief from stay has to provide a complete chain of a note’s assignment to obtain relief.

Arizona’s deed of trust statute does not require a beneficiary of a deed of trust to produce the underlying note (or its chain of assignment) in order to conduct a Trustee’s Sale. Blau v. Am.’s Serv. Co., 2009 WL 3174823, at *6 (D. Ariz. 2009); Mansour v. Cal-W. Reconveyance Corp., 618 F. Supp. 2d 1178, 1181 (D. Ariz. 2009); Diessner v. Mortg. Elec. Registration Sys., 618 F. Supp. 2d 1184, 1187 (D. Ariz. 2009). It would make no sense to require a creditor to demonstrate more to obtain stay relief than it needs to demonstrate under state law to conduct a judicial or non-judicial foreclosure. Moreover, if a note is endorsed in blank, it is enforceable as a bearer instrument. See In re Hill, 2009 WL 1956174, at *2 (Bankr. D. Ariz. 2009). Therefore, this Court declines to impose a blanket requirement that all movants must offer proof of a note’s entire chain of assignments to have standing to seek relief although there may be circumstances where, in order to establish standing, the movant will have to do so.

3. The Movant Has Not Violated Rule 9011

The Debtor argues that GMAC “violated Rule 7011″ by presenting insufficient and misleading evidence. Given that there is no Rule 7011, the Court assumes that the Debtor was actually referring to Bankruptcy Rule 9011. Rule 9011 allows a court to impose sanctions for filing a frivolous suit. FED. R. BANKR. P. 9011(c); see also FED. R. CIV. P. 11(c). As noted at the evidentiary hearing, the Court did not find that GMAC filed its motion for relief stay in bad faith, nor does this Court believe GMAC filed its motion thinking it did not have proper evidentiary support. There are numerous, often conflicting, decisions on the issues of “real party in interest” and constitutional standing, and what evidence must be presented by a servicer seeking stay relief. The record in this case does not support imposition of 9011 sanctions.

VI. CONCLUSION

GMAC has not demonstrated that it has constitutional or prudential standing or is the real party in interest entitled to prosecute a motion for relief from stay.

Accordingly, its motion is DENIED without prejudice.

Posted in case, foreclosure fraud, livinglies, MERS, mortgage electronic registration system, MORTGAGE ELECTRONIC REGISTRATION SYSTEMS INC., Mortgage Foreclosure Fraud, neil garfieldComments (0)


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