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EMC Mtge. Corp. v Carlo | NYSC Vacates Foreclosure Sale, Plaintiff has not demonstrated ownership of the mortgage and note prior to commence foreclosure action

EMC Mtge. Corp. v Carlo | NYSC Vacates Foreclosure Sale, Plaintiff has not demonstrated ownership of the mortgage and note prior to commence foreclosure action


SUPREME COURT OF THE STATE OF NEW YORK
COUNTY OF RICHMOND

EMC MORTGAGE CORPORATION,
Plaintiff

against

FRED J. CARLO,
BOARD OF DIRECTORS OF
DEBMOR ESTATES HOMEOWNERS ASSOCIATION, INC.,
BOARD OF MANAGERS OF DEBMOR ESTATES CONDOMINIUM III,
NEW YORK CITY ENVIRONMENTAL CONTROL BOARD,
NEW YORK CITY TRANSIT ADJUDICATION BUREAU,
PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF NEW YORK, and
MRS. CARLO

Excerpt:
Conclusion

It is the finding of this court that the New York Supreme Court has jurisdiction to
adjudicate mortgage foreclosure matters. That is not the issue. Here, the plaintiff failed to have
ownership of the mortgage and note at the time it filed and served its summons and complaint
with the Richmond County Clerk. Therefore, the plaintiff lacked standing to commence this
action at the time.

Here, the default judgment of foreclosure and sale was taken while the defendant was
unrepresented by counsel. Consequently, he had no legal understanding of making an earlier
technical motion to challenge the standing of the plaintiff. Since the notice of the sale is
defective, the sale must set aside. Moreover due to the failure of the plaintiff to have ownership
of the note and mortgage at the time it commenced this action, it lacked the capacity and standing
to bring this action and to file a notice of pendency. Therefore, this action must be dismissed,
without prejudice.

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Citimortgage v Stosel | NY App Div., 2nd Dept. “failed to establish how or when it became the lawful holder of the note either by delivery or valid assignment of the note”

Citimortgage v Stosel | NY App Div., 2nd Dept. “failed to establish how or when it became the lawful holder of the note either by delivery or valid assignment of the note”


Decided on November 15, 2011

SUPREME COURT OF THE STATE OF NEW YORK

APPELLATE DIVISION : SECOND JUDICIAL DEPARTMENT

MARK C. DILLON, J.P.
RUTH C. BALKIN
RANDALL T. ENG
JEFFREY A. COHEN, JJ.
2010-06292
(Index No. 3007/08)

.

[*1]Citimortgage, Inc., respondent,

v

Usher Stosel, appellant, et al., defendants. Sanford Solny, Brooklyn, N.Y., for appellant. Katz & Rychik, P.C., New York, N.Y. (Bennett R. Katz of counsel), for respondent.

DECISION & ORDER

In an action to foreclose a mortgage, the defendant Usher Stosel appeals, as limited by his brief, from so much of an order of the Supreme Court, Kings County (Velasquez, J.), dated April 12, 2010, as granted those branches of the plaintiff’s motion which were for summary judgment on the complaint insofar as asserted against him and for an order of reference, and, in effect, denied that branch of his cross motion which was to dismiss the complaint insofar as asserted against him for lack of standing.

ORDERED that the order is reversed insofar as appealed from, on the law, with costs, those branches of the plaintiff’s motion which were for summary judgment on the complaint insofar as asserted against the defendant Usher Stosel and for an order of reference are denied, and that branch of the cross motion of the defendant Usher Stosel which was to dismiss the complaint insofar as asserted against him for lack of standing is granted.

Where, as here, a plaintiff’s standing to commence a foreclosure action is placed in issue by the defendant, it is incumbent upon the plaintiff to prove its standing to be entitled to relief (see US Bank N.A. v Madero, 80 AD3d 751, 752; U.S. Bank, N.A. v Collymore, 68 AD3d 752, 753). A plaintiff establishes its standing in a mortgage foreclosure action by demonstrating that it is both the holder or assignee of the subject mortgage and the holder or assignee of the underlying note, “either by physical delivery or execution of a written assignment prior to the commencement of the action” (Aurora Loan Servs., LLC v Weisblum, 85 AD3d 95, 108). Moreover, “an assignment of the mortgage without assignment of the underlying note or bond is a nullity” (U.S. Bank, N.A. v Collymore, 68 AD3d at 754; see Bank of N.Y. v Silverberg, 86 AD3d 274, 280).

Contrary to the determination of the Supreme Court, the plaintiff failed to demonstrate that it had standing to commence this foreclosure action, since it failed to establish how or when it became the lawful holder of the note either by delivery or valid assignment of the note to it (see e.g. Bank of N.Y. v Silverberg, 86 AD3d at 280-283; Aurora Loan Servs., LLC v Weisblum, 85 AD3d at 109; US Bank N.A. v Madero, 80 AD3d at 752-753; U.S. Bank, N.A. v Collymore, 68 AD3d at 754). Accordingly, under the circumstances presented, those branches of the plaintiff’s motion which were for summary judgment on the complaint insofar as asserted against the defendant Usher Stosel and for an order of reference should have been denied, and that branch of the [*2]cross motion of the defendant Usher Stosel which was to dismiss the complaint insofar as asserted against him for lack of standing should have been granted.

In view of the foregoing, we do not reach the remaining contentions of the defendant Usher Stosel.
DILLON, J.P., BALKIN, ENG and COHEN, JJ., concur.

ENTER:

Matthew G. Kiernan

Clerk of the Court

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Taylor v. BAYVIEW LOAN SERVICING, LLC | FL 2DCA “Genuine issues of material fact remain regarding the Taylors’ affirmative defense of lack of notice”

Taylor v. BAYVIEW LOAN SERVICING, LLC | FL 2DCA “Genuine issues of material fact remain regarding the Taylors’ affirmative defense of lack of notice”


JOYCE TAYLOR and LANKFORD TAYLOR, Appellants,
v.
BAYVIEW LOAN SERVICING, LLC, Appellee.

 

Case No. 2D10-1493.
District Court of Appeal of Florida, Second District. 

Opinion filed November 9, 2011.
Enrique Nieves III of Ice Legal, P.A., Royal Palm Beach, for Appellants.J. Joseph Givner, Esther S. Meisels, and Randon Loeb of Higer Lichter & Givner, LLP, Aventura, for Appellee.

PER CURIAM.

Joyce and Lankford Taylor appeal a final judgment of foreclosure entered after the trial court granted a motion for summary judgment in favor of Bayview Loan Servicing, LLC. Because genuine issues of material fact remain regarding the Taylors’ affirmative defense of lack of notice, we reverse the final judgment and remand for further proceedings.

On January 4, 2006, the Taylors signed a mortgage securing an indebtedness in the principal amount of $194,350, evidenced by a note Joyce Taylor signed on the same date. The mortgage names the lender as USMoney Source, Inc., d/b/a Soluna First (USMoney) and the mortgagee as Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems, Inc. (MERS), acting as a nominee for USMoney. Attached to the note is an allonge signed by the president of USMoney and dated January 4, 2006, that endorses the note without recourse to Bayview.

On August 1, 2007, Bayview filed an unsworn two-count complaint against the Taylors. Count one sought to establish and enforce the note, and count two sought to foreclose the mortgage. Bayview alleged that it “owns and holds said note by virtue of the endorsement/allonge and said mortgage by virtue of the assignment of mortgage, copies of both of which are attached hereto.” No copy of the assignment of mortgage was attached to the complaint. Although Bayview alleged that it holds the note, Bayview further alleged that the original note was lost or destroyed after Bayview acquired it and that the exact time and manner of the loss or destruction was unknown to Bayview. Copies of the note, allonge, and mortgage were attached to the complaint. The complaint also contained the general allegation that “[a]ll conditions precedent to the filing of this action have been performed or have occurred.”

The Taylors filed an answer and affirmative defenses. Among their affirmative defenses the Taylors asserted that Bayview “is not the proper holder of the mortgage and therefore lacks standing to bring a foreclosure action.” The Taylors also asserted that Bayview “failed to give proper notice of the default in the payments on the note and mortgage” and thus was “estopped from accelerating said debt.”

On November 21, 2007, Bayview filed its motion for summary judgment and affidavit of indebtedness. Later, amended affidavits of indebtedness were filed. None of the affidavits mentioned an assignment of mortgage, and no documents were attached to the affidavits.

Bayview did not file its reply to the Taylors’ affirmative defenses until June 17, 2008. In its reply, Bayview alleged that it met the notice requirements. Bayview also alleged that it was entitled to maintain the foreclosure action without a written assignment of mortgage because the transfer of the note was sufficient. Bayview subsequently filed the original note, allonge, and mortgage.

The trial court held a hearing on the motion for summary judgment on February 22, 2010. The record contains a notice of filing copy of assignment of mortgage dated February 10, 2010, but the notice was not filed until February 23, 2010. The assignment of mortgage reflects that it was executed on August 7, 2007, after the complaint was filed. The trial court granted summary judgment and rendered the final judgment of foreclosure.

The standard of review on a summary judgment is de novo. Estate of Githens ex rel. Seaman v. Bon Secours-Maria Manor Nursing Care Ctr., 928 So. 2d 1272, 1274 (Fla. 2d DCA 2006). “A movant is entitled to summary judgment `if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, admissions, affidavits, and other materials as would be admissible in evidence on file show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law.'” Id. (quoting Fla. R. Civ. P. 1.510(c)). The movant has the burden to prove the absence of a genuine issue of material fact, and “this court must view `every possible inference in favor of the party against whom summary judgment has been entered.'” Id. (quoting Maynard v. Household Fin. Corp. III, 861 So. 2d 1204, 1206 (Fla. 2d DCA 2003)). And, “if the record raises even the slightest doubt that an issue might exist, that doubt must be resolved against the moving party and summary judgment must be denied.” Nard, Inc. v. DeVito Contracting & Supply, Inc., 769 So. 2d 1138, 1140 (Fla. 2d DCA 2000). Furthermore, to be entitled to summary judgment, the movant must not only establish that there are no genuine issues of material fact regarding the parties’ claims, but also the movant “must either factually refute the affirmative defenses or establish that they are legally insufficient.” Konsulian v. Busey Bank, N.A., 61 So. 3d 1283, 1285 (Fla. 2d DCA 2011).

We reject the Taylors’ argument that Bayview lacked standing to foreclose the mortgage. The Taylors’ affirmative defense asserted, and they argue on appeal, that the assignment of mortgage did not occur until after the complaint was filed. See Country Place Cmty. Ass’n v. J.P. Morgan Mortg. Acquisition Corp., 51 So. 3d 1176, 1179 (Fla. 2d DCA 2010) (stating that the plaintiff lacked standing to bring the foreclosure action when it did not own or possess the note and mortgage when it filed the lawsuit); Jeff-Ray Corp. v. Jacobson, 566 So. 2d 885, 886 (Fla. 4th DCA 1990) (determining that a complaint to foreclose a mortgage did not state a cause of action when it was filed because the assignment of mortgage to the plaintiff was dated four months after the lawsuit was filed).

But Bayview contends that its standing to foreclose derives from the allonge to the note because the mortgage follows the note. Bayview argues that when USMoney transferred to Bayview the note which the mortgage secured, Bayview received equitable standing to foreclose the mortgage, even without a written assignment. We agree.

Bayview alleged in its complaint that it “owns and holds said note by virtue of the endorsement/allonge.” Bayview attached copies of the note and allonge to its complaint. The note and the allonge reflect that on the same day that Joyce Taylor executed the note in favor of USMoney, USMoney in turn endorsed the note without recourse to Bayview. Before the summary judgment hearing, Bayview filed the original note and the allonge. Thus Bayview established its status as holder of the note and its right to enforce the note. See § 671.201(20), Fla. Stat. (2005) (“`Holder,’ with respect to a negotiable instrument, means the person in possession if the instrument is payable to bearer or, in the case of an instrument payable to an identified person, if the identified person is in possession.”); Mortg. Elec. Registration Sys., Inc. v. Azize, 965 So. 2d 151, 153 (Fla. 2d DCA 2007) (“The holder of a note has standing to seek enforcement of the note.”); Kaminik v. Countrywide Home Loans, Inc., 64 So. 3d 195, 196 (Fla. 4th DCA 2011) (affirming in part a summary final judgment of foreclosure where the plaintiff “tendered the original promissory note to the trial court, which contained a special indorsement in its favor”); Riggs v. Aurora Loan Servs., LLC, 36 So. 3d 932, 933 (Fla. 4th DCA 2010) (“Aurora’s possession of the original note, indorsed in blank, was sufficient under Florida’s Uniform Commercial Code to establish that it was the lawful holder of the note, entitled to enforce its terms.”), review denied, 53 So. 3d 1022 (Fla. 2011).

Bayview also became the equitable owner of the mortgage when USMoney endorsed the note to Bayview because the ownership of the mortgage followed the note. In Johns v. Gillian, 184 So. 140, 143 (Fla. 1938), the Supreme Court of Florida summarized the law pertinent to the issue under review as follows:

[I]t has frequently been held that a mortgage is but an incident to the debt, the payment of which it secures, and its ownership follows the assignment of the debt. If the note or other debt secured by a mortgage be transferred without any formal assignment of the mortgage, or even a delivery of it, the mortgage in equity passes as an incident to the debt, unless there be some plain and clear agreement to the contrary, if that be the intention of the parties.

Johns stands for the proposition that a mortgage—as a mere incident to the debt it secures—follows the note unless the parties have clearly expressed a contrary intent. The First District Court of Appeal has cited Johns and other cases in support of the following proposition: “Because the lien follows the debt, there was no requirement of attachment of a written and recorded assignment of the mortgage in order for the appellant to maintain the foreclosure action.” Chem. Residential Mortg. v. Rector, 742 So. 2d 300, 300-01 (Fla. 1st DCA 1998) (footnote omitted). Because ownership of the mortgage followed the note in the absence of a contrary intention and Bayview owned and held the note when it filed its lawsuit, Bayview has standing to maintain the underlying foreclosure action. See Mazine v. M & I Bank, 67 So. 3d 1129, 1131 (Fla. 1st DCA 2011) (“The party seeking foreclosure must present evidence that it owns and holds the note and mortgage to establish standing to proceed with a foreclosure action.”).

Notably, the Taylors did not assert that the parties did not intend for the mortgage to follow the note, and they did not present any evidence in support of that proposition after Bayview filed with the trial court the original note, allonge, and mortgage. The mortgage itself reflects the parties’ intent that the mortgage would follow the note in the event of a sale. In addressing the subject of a sale or partial sale of the note in paragraph 20, the mortgage contemplates a sale of the note “together with this Security Instrument.” The note and the allonge reflect that USMoney sold the note to Bayview on the same day that the note and the mortgage were executed. The allonge also lists the “secured property address.” Thus the attachments to the complaint establish that Bayview acquired all of USMoney’s rights under both the note and the mortgage on January 4, 2006, before it filed the underlying action. Therefore, we conclude that Bayview refuted the Taylors’ affirmative defense and established its standing to foreclose the note and mortgage.

With respect to the affirmative defense of lack of notice, Bayview failed to refute this affirmative defense; it therefore prevents summary judgment in this case. Bayview made a general allegation that all conditions precedent had been performed, but the motion for summary judgment and affidavits do not negate the affirmative defense that Bayview failed to give proper notice of the default in the payments on the note and mortgage. Paragraph 22 of the mortgage, attached to the complaint, requires the lender to give the borrower notice prior to acceleration of the debt. In fact, the notice provision is the same as the one in Konsulian. See Konsulian, 61 So. 3d at 1284. There, the lender failed to establish that it met the condition precedent of providing the requisite notice when the borrower raised the issue as an affirmative defense; therefore, the lender was not entitled to summary judgment. Id. at 1285; see also Goncharuk v. HSBC Mortg. Servs., Inc., 62 So. 3d 680, 682 (Fla. 2d DCA 2011) (reversing summary judgment for plaintiff’s failure to address in its motion for summary judgment and affidavits the affirmative defense of lack of notice); Lazuran v. Citimortgage, Inc., 35 So. 3d 189, 189-90 (Fla. 4th DCA 2010) (reversing summary judgment where the plaintiff failed to refute the affirmative defense of lack of notice). For this reason, summary judgment was premature. Therefore, we reverse the final judgment of foreclosure and remand for further proceedings.

Reversed and remanded.

SILBERMAN, C.J., and NORTHCUTT and WALLACE, JJ., Concur.

NOT FINAL UNTIL TIME EXPIRES TO FILE MOTION FOR REHEARING AND DISPOSITION THEREOF IF FILED.

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ROCKWELL P. LUDDEN, THE MERS MORTGAGE IN MASSACHUSETTS: GENIUS, SHELL GAME, OR INVITATION TO FRAUD?

ROCKWELL P. LUDDEN, THE MERS MORTGAGE IN MASSACHUSETTS: GENIUS, SHELL GAME, OR INVITATION TO FRAUD?


BY: ROCKWELL. P. LUDDEN

But Mousie, thou art no thy lane,
In proving foresight may be vain:
The best-laid schemes o’ mice an’ men
……………Gang aft agley,
An’ lea’e us nought but grief an’ pain,
……………For promis’d joy!

To a Mouse, Robert Burns

MERS, the Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems, was the creation of a mortgage industry
beset by a tremendous spike in the rate at which mortgage assets were being passed around on the
secondary market in an effort to reap the benefits of securitization. More transfers meant more
paperwork, more trips to an increasingly backlogged county land office, more assignments and
other mortgage-related documents to record, and of course more filing fees. Finally the industry
came up with a plan, ingenious on its face, and yet shrouded in just enough mystery to conceal a
number of assertions that are, upon closer scrutiny, decidedly untenable within the framework of
existing law. Further gaps in the system have allowed unscrupulous individuals to play fast and
loose with the foreclosure process, and although MERS has taken steps to prevent such mischief
in the future the damage already done is of potentially staggering proportion.

The mortgage industry had a number of objectives, a salient of which was the creation of
a privately run, electronic database that would be far more efficient and cost-effective in tracking
the beneficial interests in mortgage loans, servicing rights, and warehouse loans than the traditional
system of county recording offices. With today’s information technology this proved to be
a challenging but nonetheless straightforward undertaking. But there was another objective as
well, one that was far more ambitions—and problematic: to design a system that would allow
successive owners of a mortgage loan to avoid the time-consuming and costly process of having
to run to the local land office to file the necessary paperwork every time a transfer of the mortgage
took place. It is in the methodology by which this latter objective would be accomplished
that the intrigue begins.

The idea was for MERS to be set up as a member organization the members of which
would all individually agree to name MERS as the mortgagee of record in the local land office.
MERS would then track the mortgage loan electronically through its database and, because of the
agreement with its members, would remain the mortgagee of record at the local land office. Thus
the only time an assignment would be recorded would be if the mortgage loan were transferred
out of the MERS system or the actual owner of the mortgage were planning to foreclose in its
own name. This would not only save time and money but add liquidity to the secondary market
as well, thereby making mortgage assets more attractive to investors. Simply put, the goal was to
enable MERS’s designation as mortgagee in the public records to survive and persist in spite of
multiple transfers of the underlying economic obligation on the secondary market.

It was a brilliant idea—or so it seemed.

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FELTUS v. US Bank N.A. | FL 2DCA “Affidavit of Indebtedness Fail, Genuine Issue of Material Fact of Who Owned or Held the Note”

FELTUS v. US Bank N.A. | FL 2DCA “Affidavit of Indebtedness Fail, Genuine Issue of Material Fact of Who Owned or Held the Note”


JULIA FELTUS, Appellant,
v.
U.S. BANK NATIONAL ASSOCIATION, as TRUSTEE of MASTR ADJUSTABLE RATE MORTGAGES TRUST 2007-3, Appellee.

 

Case No. 2D10-3727.
District Court of Appeal of Florida, Second District. 

Opinion filed October 19, 2011.
Jacqulyn Mack of The Mack Law Firm, Englewood, for Appellant.Roy A. Diaz and Diana B. Matson of Smith, Hiatt & Diaz, P.A., Ft. Lauderdale for Appellee.

WHATLEY, Judge.

Julia Feltus appeals a final summary judgment of foreclosure in favor of U.S. Bank National Association, as Trustee of Mastr Adjustable Rate Mortgages Trust 2007-3 (U.S. Bank or the Bank). We reverse because material issues of fact as to which entity holding the promissory note executed by Feltus existed at the time the trial court entered summary judgment.

On August 24, 2009, U.S. Bank filed an unverified complaint seeking to reestablish a lost promissory note and to foreclose the mortgage on Feltus’s home. U.S. Bank attached to the complaint a copy of the note and the mortgage, but both documents showed the lender to be Countrywide Bank, N.A. In the count to reestablish the note pursuant to section 673.3091, Florida Statutes (2009), U.S. Bank alleged that the note was executed by Feltus on February 16, 2007; U.S. Bank is the owner and holder of the note; the original note has been lost and is not in U.S. Bank’s custody or control; the note was continuously in the possession and control of the Bank’s assignor and predecessor from the date of execution until the loss, at which time the assignor and predecessor was entitled to enforce the note; and the note has not been paid or otherwise satisfied, assigned, or transferred, or lawfully seized. Notably, these allegations did not include an allegation that Countrywide had assigned the note to U.S. Bank.

After Feltus filed a motion to dismiss alleging that U.S. Bank had failed to establish that it owned or held the subject note, on November 16, 2009, U.S. Bank filed an affidavit of indebtedness executed by Kathy Repka, an assistant secretary of BAC Home Loan Servicing, L.P., f/k/a Countrywide Home Loan Servicing, L.P. Repka asserted that her affidavit was based on the loan payment records of the servicing agent and her familiarity with those records. After she explained that the purpose of the records was “to monitor and maintain the account relating to a note and mortgage that are the subject matter of the pending case,” Repka asserted that U.S. Bank owns and holds the note described in its complaint. Then on November 18, 2009, U.S. Bank filed another copy of the note as a supplemental exhibit to its complaint. In contrast to the copy attached to the complaint that contained no endorsements, this copy contained two endorsements that were side by side on the last page—the first stated “PAY TO THE ORDER OF: COUNTRYWIDE HOME LOANS, INC. WITHOUT RECOURSE COUNTRYWIDE BANK, N.A.” and the second stated “PAY TO THE ORDER OF: __________ WITHOUT RECOURSE COUNTRYWIDE HOME LOANS, INC.” Notwithstanding this filing, eight days after Feltus filed her answer and affirmative defenses, on May 26, 2010, U.S. Bank filed a motion for summary final judgment alleging that it “owns and holds a promissory note and mortgage” and that the original note had been lost and is not in U.S. Bank’s control. But on June 4, 2010, the Bank filed a reply to Feltus’s affirmative defenses in which it asserted that it is now in possession of the original note, which it attached and which is the same note it filed on November 18, 2009. The Bank further asserted that because the note is endorsed in blank and it is in possession of the note, it is the bearer and entitled to foreclose the mortgage. See Riggs v. Aurora Loan Servs., LLC, 36 So. 3d 932, 933 (Fla. 4th DCA 2010) (noting that pursuant to Uniform Commercial Code, negotiation of note by transfer of possession with blank endorsement makes transferee the holder of the note entitled to enforce it).

We view U.S. Bank’s filing of a copy of the note that it later asserted was the original note as a supplemental exhibit to its complaint to reestablish a lost note as an attempt to amend its complaint in violation of Florida Rule of Civil Procedure 1.190(a). U.S. Bank did not seek leave of court or the consent of Feltus to amend its complaint. A pleading filed in violation of rule 1.190(a) is a nullity, and the controversy should be determined based on the properly filed pleadings. Warner-Lambert Co. v. Patrick, 428 So. 2d 718 (Fla. 4th DCA 1983).

Before a court may grant summary judgment, the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, admissions, and any affidavits must “`conclusively show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law.'” Allenby & Assocs., Inc. v. Crown St. Vincent Ltd., 8 So. 3d 1211, 1213 (Fla. 4th DCA 2009) (quoting Fini v. Glascoe, 936 So. 2d 52, 54 (Fla. 4th DCA 2006)). The party moving for summary judgment bears the burden to show conclusively that there is a complete absence of any genuine issue of material fact. Id.

The properly filed pleadings before the court when it heard the Bank’s motion for summary judgment were a complaint seeking to reestablish a lost note, Feltus’s answer and affirmative defenses alleging that the note attached to the complaint contradicts the allegation of the complaint that U.S. Bank is the owner of the note, a motion for summary judgment alleging a lost note of which U.S. Bank is the owner, an affidavit of indebtedness alleging that U.S. Bank was the owner and holder of the note described in the complaint, and U.S. Bank’s reply to Feltus’s affirmative defenses asserting that it was now in possession of the original note, which it attached to the reply. But the note attached to the complaint showed the lender to be Countrywide Bank, N.A. And the complaint failed to allege that “[t]he person seeking to enforce the instrument was entitled to enforce the instrument when loss of possession occurred, or has directly or indirectly acquired ownership of the instrument from a person who was entitled to enforce the instrument when loss of possession occurred.” § 673.3091(a). In addition, the affidavit of indebtedness revealed no basis for the affiant’s assertion that U.S. Bank owns and holds the note. The affiant is an assistant secretary for the alleged servicing agent of the Bank, and she asserted that she had personal knowledge of the loan based on the loan payment records. She did not assert any personal knowledge of how U.S. Bank would have come to own or hold the note. See Shafran v. Parrish, 787 So. 2d 177, 179 (Fla. 2d DCA 2001) (“When affidavits are filed to establish the factual basis of the motion [for summary judgment], they must be made on personal knowledge, demonstrate the affiant’s competency to testify, and be otherwise admissible in evidence.”).

The trial court erred in entering final summary judgment of foreclosure because the documents before it created a genuine issue of material fact of who owned or held the note. Accordingly, we reverse and remand for further proceedings.

CRENSHAW, J., Concurs.

CASANUEVA, J., Concurs with opinion.

CASANUEVA, Judge, Concurring.

I fully concur with the majority opinion and write only to point out further failings in the affidavit of indebtedness.

The affidavit of indebtedness was the sole affidavit offered in support of U.S. Bank’s motion for summary judgment. The affiant was an assistant secretary employed by the Bank’s loan servicing agent. She set forth, under oath, that her direct personal knowledge was restricted to that learned in maintaining the loan payment records of the servicing agent. And, as the majority opinion points out, she did not assert any personal knowledge of how U.S. Bank had come to own or hold the note. Beyond this deficiency noted in the majority opinion, the affiant also stated that U.S. Bank had accelerated the entire principal balance due and had “retained Smith, Hiatt & Diaz, P.A. to represent it in this matter.” Because the affiant’s competency was based only on her review of the loan payment records, she was not competent to aver as to actions of the Bank in accelerating the loan or hiring counsel, and her averments are hearsay and inadmissible at trial. The Bank could have easily established the facts of acceleration of the note and hiring of counsel with affidavits from the Bank’s official in charge of foreclosing this loan and/or the Bank’s counsel to establish the fact of hiring and of the fee arrangement. Such bank official or counsel would have direct personal knowledge, would be competent, and would have presented evidence admissible at trial.

The affidavit the Bank submitted fell woefully short of these requirements and could not aid the Bank in any way to support its motion for summary judgment of foreclosure.

NOT FINAL UNTIL TIME EXPIRES TO FILE MOTION FOR REHEARING AND DISPOSITION THEREOF IF FILED.

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AURORA v. TOLEDO | NJ SC  “We question whether Lehman’s designation of MERS as its nominee remained in effect after Lehman filed its bankruptcy”

AURORA v. TOLEDO | NJ SC “We question whether Lehman’s designation of MERS as its nominee remained in effect after Lehman filed its bankruptcy”


NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE
APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
SUPERIOR COURT OF NEW JERSEY
APPELLATE DIVISION
DOCKET NO. A-0804-10T3

AURORA LOAN SERVICES, LLC,
Plaintiff-Respondent,

v.

BERNICE TOLEDO,
Defendant-Appellant,

and

MR. TOLEDO, Husband of
BERNICE TOLEDO, MORTGAGE
ELECTRONIC REGISTRATION
SYSTEMS, INC., As Nominee
For LEHMAN BROTHERS BANK FSB;
MORTGAGE ELECTRONIC REGISTRATION
SYSTEMS, INC., As Nominee For
AURORA LOAN SERVICES LLC,
Defendants.
_________________________________________________________

Submitted September 26, 2011 – Decided October 18, 2011

Before Judges Alvarez and Skillman.

On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey,
Chancery Division, Passaic County, Docket
No. F-10005-09.

Kenneth C. Marano, attorney for appellant.

Victoria E. Edwards (Akerman Senterfitt),
attorney for respondent.

PER CURIAM

Defendant appeals from an order entered on August 31, 2010,
which granted a summary judgment in this mortgage foreclosure
action declaring that defendant’s answer “sets forth no genuine
issue as to any material fact challenged and that [plaintiff] is
entitled to a judgment as a matter of law.” There is no
indication in the record before us that plaintiff ever secured a
final judgment of foreclosure. Therefore, the appeal appears
interlocutory. See Wells Fargo Bank, N.A. v. Garner, 416 N.J.
Super. 520, 523-24 (App. Div. 2010). However, because defendant
did not move to dismiss on that basis and the appeal has been
pending for a substantial period of time, we grant leave to
appeal as within time and address the merits. See R. 2:4-
4(b)(2).

The record before us is rather sparse and disjointed.
However, the following facts may be gleaned from that record.
Defendant owns a home in the Borough of Prospect Park. On
July 24, 2006, defendant executed two promissory notes payable
to Lehman Brothers Bank, the first for $320,000, which was
payable on August 1, 2036, and the second for $60,000, which was
payable on August 1, 2021. Both notes were secured by mortgages
on defendant’s home.

On September 1, 2006, plaintiff began servicing the notes
on behalf of Lehman.

Sometime in 2008, defendant went into default in the
payment of her obligations under the notes.

On January 30, 2009, plaintiff purportedly obtained an
assignment of the $320,000 note from Lehman and the mortgage
securing that note.1 This assignment was signed by a person
named Joann Rein, with the title of Vice-President of Mortgage
Electronic Systems, Inc. (MERS). MERS was described in the
assignment document as a “nominee for Lehman Brothers Bank.”

This document is discussed in greater detail later in the
opinion.

On February 23, 2009, plaintiff filed this mortgage
foreclosure action. The parties subsequently engaged in
negotiations to resolve the matter. Those negotiations were
unsuccessful and are not relevant to our disposition of this
appeal.

Plaintiff filed a motion for summary judgment to strike
defendant’s answer on the ground there was no contested issue of
fact material to plaintiff’s right to foreclose upon defendant’s
property. In support of this motion, plaintiff relied primarily
on an affidavit by Laura McCann, one of its vice-presidents,
and exhibits attached to that affidavit, which are discussed
later in this opinion. Defendant submitted an answering
certification.

After hearing oral argument, the trial court issued a brief
written opinion and order granting plaintiff’s motion. This
appeal followed.

To have standing to foreclose a mortgage, a party generally
must “own or control the underlying debt.” Wells Fargo Bank,
N.A. v. Ford, 418 N.J. Super. 592, 597 (App. Div. 2011) (quoting
Bank of N.Y. v. Raftogianis, 418 N.J. Super. 323, 327-28 (Ch.
Div. 2010)). If the debt is evidenced by a negotiable
instrument, such as the promissory notes executed by defendant,
the determination whether a party owns or controls the
underlying debt “is governed by Article III of the Uniform
Commercial Code (UCC), N.J.S.A. 12:3-101 to -605, in particular
N.J.S.A. 12A:3-301.” Ibid. Under this section of the UCC, the
only parties entitled to enforce a negotiable instrument are
“[1] the holder of the instrument, [2] a nonholder in possession
of the instrument who has the rights of the holder, or [3] a
person not in possession of the instrument who is entitled to
enforce the instrument pursuant to [N.J.S.A.] 12A-3-309 or
subsection d. of [N.J.S.A.] 12A:3-418.” N.J.S.A. 12A:3-301
(brackets added).

In this case, it is clear for the same reasons as in Ford,
418 N.J. Super. at 598, that plaintiff is neither a “holder” of
the promissory notes executed by defendant nor a “person not in
possession” of those notes who is entitled to enforce them
pursuant to N.J.S.A. 12A:3-309 or N.J.S.A. 12A:3-418(d).

Therefore, as in Ford, plaintiff’s right to foreclose upon the
mortgages defendant executed to secure those notes depends upon
whether plaintiff established that it is “a nonholder in
possession of the instrument[s] who has the rights of a holder.”
N.J.S.A. 12A:3-301; see Ford, supra, 418 N.J. Super. at 498-99.

To establish its right to foreclose upon the mortgage
defendant executed to secure her $320,000 note to Lehman,
plaintiff relied upon an affidavit by Laura McCann, a vicepresident
of plaintiff. McCann’s affidavit states that she has
“custody and control of the business records of [plaintiff] as
they relate to [defendant’s] loans.” Regarding each of the
copies of defendant’s notes and mortgages attached to her
certifications, McCann asserts that it is a “true and correct
copy.” However, McCann does not state that she personally
confirmed that those attachments were copies of originals in
plaintiff’s files.

McCann’s affidavit also has attached a copy of a document
that purports to be a “Corporate Assignment of Mortgage” from
MERS, as Lehman’s nominee, to plaintiff. Again, McCann’s
affidavit asserts that this document “is a true and correct copy
of the instrument assigning the Mortgage and Note to
[plaintiff],” but does not state that she personally confirmed
that it was a copy of the original.

A certification in support of a motion for summary judgment
must be based on “personal knowledge.” Ford, supra, 418 N.J.
Super. at 599 (quoting R. 1:6-6); see also Deutsche Bank Nat’l
Trust Co. v. Mitchell, ___ N.J. Super. ___, ___ (App. Div. 2011)
(slip op. at 17-19). Our Supreme Court has recently reaffirmed
the need for strict compliance with this requirement in mortgage
foreclosure actions by adopting, effective December 20, 2010, a
new court rule which specifically states that an affidavit in
support of a judgment in a mortgage foreclosure action must be
“based on a personal review of business records of the plaintiff
or the plaintiff’s mortgage loan servicer.” R. 4:64-2(c)(2).
McCann’s affidavit does not state that she conducted such a
“personal review of [plaintiff’s] business records” relating to
defendant’s notes and mortgages.

Furthermore, even if plaintiff had presented adequate
evidence that the purported assignment of the mortgages and
notes attached to McCann’s affidavit was a copy of the original
in plaintiff’s files, this would not have been sufficient to
establish the effectiveness of the alleged assignment. This
document was signed by a JoAnn Rein, who identifies herself as a
vice-president of MERS, as nominee for Lehman Brothers, and was
notarized in Nebraska. Plaintiff’s submission in support of its
motion for summary judgment did not include a certification by
Rein or any other representative of MERS regarding her authority
to execute the assignment or the circumstances of the
assignment. In the absence of such further evidence, we do not
view the purported assignment of the mortgages and notes to be a
self-authenticating document that can support the summary
judgment in plaintiff’s favor. N.J.R.E. 901; see 2 McCormick on
Evidence § 221 (6th ed. 2006).

There is an additional potential problem with this
purported assignment. The assignment was not made by Lehman, as
payee of the promissory notes secured by the mortgage, but
rather by MERS, “as nominee for Lehman.” Although the notes and
mortgages appointed MERS as Lehman’s nominee, Lehman filed a
petition for bankruptcy protection in September 2008, see Andrew
Ross Sorkin, Lehman Files for Bankruptcy; Merrill is Sold, N.Y.
Times (Sept. 14, 2008), which was before the purported
assignment of defendant’s mortgage and note on January 30, 2009.

Therefore, we question whether Lehman’s designation of MERS as
its nominee remained in effect after Lehman filed its bankruptcy
petition, absent ratification of that designation by the
bankruptcy trustee. On remand, the trial court should address
the question whether MERS was still Lehman’s nominee as of the
date of its purported assignment of defendant’s note and
mortgage to plaintiff.

Accordingly, we reverse the August 31, 2010 order granting
plaintiff’s motion for summary judgment and remand to the trial
court for further proceedings in conformity with this opinion.

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NY Appellate Div – 2nd Dept. “Deutsche Bank Affidavit Fail, Submitted Two Different Versions of an Undated Allonge … Purportedly Affixed to the Original Note”

NY Appellate Div – 2nd Dept. “Deutsche Bank Affidavit Fail, Submitted Two Different Versions of an Undated Allonge … Purportedly Affixed to the Original Note”


Decided on October 4, 2011

SUPREME COURT OF THE STATE OF NEW YORK

APPELLATE DIVISION : SECOND JUDICIAL DEPARTMENT

.

REINALDO E. RIVERA, J.P.
ANITA R. FLORIO
JOHN M. LEVENTHAL
SHERI S. ROMAN, JJ.
2010-06483
(Index No. 38303/07)

[*1]Deutsche Bank National Trust Company, etc., respondent,
v
Joell C. Barnett, appellant, et al., defendants.

Joell C. Barnett, Brooklyn, N.Y., appellant pro se.

DECISION & ORDER

In an action to foreclose a mortgage, the defendant Joell C. Barnett appeals, as limited by her brief, from so much of an order of the Supreme Court, Kings County (Jackson, J.), dated February 23, 2010, as granted those branches of the plaintiff’s motion which were to strike the answer, for summary judgment on the complaint, and for an order of reference, and denied her cross motion pursuant to CPLR 3211(a)(3) to dismiss the complaint.

ORDERED that the order is modified, on the law, by deleting the provisions thereof granting those branches of the plaintiff’s motion which were to strike the answer, for summary judgment on the complaint, and for an order of reference, and substituting therefor provisions denying those branches the motion; as so modified, the order is affirmed insofar as appealed from, with costs to the appellant.

In order to commence a foreclosure action, a plaintiff must have a legal or equitable interest in the mortgage. A plaintiff has standing where it is the holder or assignee of both the subject mortgage and of the underlying note at the time the action is commenced (see Bank of N.Y. v Silverberg, 86 AD3d 274; Aurora Loan Servs., LLC v Weisblum, 85 AD3d 95; Wells Fargo Bank, N.A. v Marchione, 69 AD3d 204, 207; U.S. Bank, N.A. v Collymore, 68 AD3d 752; Countrywide Home Loans, Inc. v Gress, 68 AD3d 709). An assignment of a mortgage without assignment of the underlying note or bond is a nullity, and no interest is acquired by it (see Merritt v Bartholick, 36 NY 44, 45; Bank of N.Y. v Silverberg, 86 AD3d 274; LaSalle Bank Natl. Assn. v Ahearn, 59 AD3d 911, 912). “Either a written assignment of the underlying note or the physical delivery of the note prior to the commencement of the foreclosure action is sufficient to transfer the obligation” (U.S. Bank, N.A. v Collymore, 68 AD3d at 754; see Aurora Loan Servs., LLC v Weisblum, 85 AD3d at 108). [*2]Here, the plaintiff failed to establish, as a matter of law, that it had standing to commence the action. The Supreme Court thus erred in awarding the plaintiff summary judgment.

Contrary to the contention of the defendant Joell C. Barnett, an affidavit made by the plaintiff was not required, since the plaintiff was not proceeding upon Barnett’s default (cf. CPLR 3215[f]). However, the documentation submitted failed to establish that, prior to commencement of the action, the plaintiff was the holder or assignee of both the note and mortgage. The plaintiff submitted copies of two different versions of an undated allonge which was purportedly affixed to the original note pursuant to UCC 3-202(2) (see Slutsky v Blooming Grove Inn, Inc., 147 AD2d 208, 212). Moreover, these allonges purporting to endorse the note from First Franklin, A Division of National City Bank of Indiana (hereinafter Franklin of Indiana) to the plaintiff conflict with the copy of the note submitted, which contains undated endorsements from Franklin of Indiana to First Franklin Financial Corporation (hereinafter Franklin Financial), then from Franklin Financial in blank.

The plaintiff also failed to establish that the note was physically delivered to it prior to the commencement of this action. The vice president of the plaintiff’s servicing agent and the plaintiff’s counsel both affirmed that the original note is in the possession of the plaintiff’s counsel. However, the affidavits did not state any factual details concerning when the plaintiff received physical possession of the note and, thus, failed to establish that the plaintiff had physical possession of the note prior to commencing this action (see Aurora Loan Servs., LLC v Weisblum, 85 AD3d at 108; U.S. Bank, N.A. v Collymore, 68 AD3d at 754). Finally, the Certificates of Resolution and Incumbency submitted to establish the authority of one Eileen Gonzales to execute a September 14, 2007, assignment of mortgage from Franklin Financial to the plaintiff were executed after the subject assignment and, thus, cannot establish that she had such authority at the time the mortgage assignment was made. These inconsistencies raise an issue of fact as to the plaintiff’s standing to commence this action. Thus, the Supreme Court should have denied those branches of the plaintiff’s motion which were to strike the answer, for summary judgment on the complaint, and for an order of reference; the cross motion was properly denied (see US Bank N.A. v Madero, 80 AD3d 751, 753).
RIVERA, J.P., FLORIO, LEVENTHAL and ROMAN, JJ., concur.

ENTER:

Matthew G. Kiernan

Clerk of the Court

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WISCONSIN 4DCA Reverses, Remands Summary Judgment “Materials were insufficient to establish that BAC was the holder of the note”

WISCONSIN 4DCA Reverses, Remands Summary Judgment “Materials were insufficient to establish that BAC was the holder of the note”


BAC Home Loan Servicing, L.P. f/k/a Countrywide Home Loans Servicing L.P., Plaintiff-Respondent,
v.
Michael J. Williams and Nicole J. Williams, Defendants-Appellants.

No. 2010AP2334.
Court of Appeals of Wisconsin, District IV.

Opinion Filed: September 29, 2011.
Before Lundsten, P.J., Sherman and Blanchard, JJ.

¶ 1 PER CURIAM.

Michael and Nicole Williams (collectively, Williams) appeal a summary judgment order that granted BAC Home Loan Servicing (BAC) a judgment of foreclosure against them. Williams raises multiple arguments challenging the judgment of foreclosure, and further contends the circuit court erred in denying the counterclaims by an earlier order. We conclude that the circuit court properly dismissed the counterclaims, but that the summary judgment materials were insufficient to establish that BAC was the holder of the note upon which the foreclosure was based. Accordingly, we reverse the judgment of foreclosure and remand for further proceedings.

BACKGROUND

¶ 2 On January 25, 2008, Williams executed a promissory note in favor of One Choice Mortgage, LLC, secured by a mortgage on certain residential property in Sauk County. On August 7, 2009, BAC filed this action, seeking to foreclose on the property without deficiency, pursuant to Wis. Stat. § 846.101 (2009-10).[1]

¶ 3 BAC alleged in its complaint that it was the current holder of the note and mortgage, and that Williams had failed to make contractually required payments. Williams filed an answer, subsequently amended, admitting that Williams had failed to make payments, but raising a series of affirmative defenses. Williams also set forth a series of counterclaims seeking damages for the alleged failure of BAC (and/or its predecessors in interest) to comply with several federal administrative code provisions and for negligence, product liability, lender liability, and strict liability. BAC moved to dismiss the counterclaims and further sought summary judgment on the foreclosure.

¶ 4 The summary judgment materials included certified copies of the original note and mortgage, which were both issued to One Choice Mortgage through its nominee Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems, Inc., and an uncertified photocopy of an “Assignment of Mortgage” form. This form stated that Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems, Inc. “assigns to BAC … the mortgage executed by [Williams] to Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems Inc., as mortgagee on the 25th of January, 2008, together with the previously transferred note secured thereby ….” The assignment form was accompanied by an affidavit from a BAC employee. The employee averred that she was a custodian of BAC’s business records, having

possession, control and responsibility for the accounting and other mortgage loan records relating to the defendants’ mortgage loan which are created and kept and maintained in the ordinary course of business as a regular business practice and are prepared at or near the time of the transaction or event by a person with knowledge.

The affidavit further stated that the employee had personally inspected the records relating to Williams, and had personal knowledge of how such records generally were created and kept and maintained.

¶ 5 The circuit court dismissed the counterclaims and granted summary judgment on the foreclosure, and Williams appeals.

STANDARD OF REVIEW

¶ 6 This court reviews summary judgment decisions de novo, applying the same methodology and legal standard employed by the circuit court. Brownelli v. McCaughtry, 182 Wis. 2d 367, 372, 514 N.W.2d 48 (Ct. App. 1994).

We first examine the complaint to determine whether it states a claim, and then we review the answer to determine whether it joins a material issue of fact or law…. [Next,] we examine the moving party’s affidavits to determine whether they establish a prima facie case for summary judgment. If they do, we look to the opposing party’s affidavits to determine whether there are any material facts in dispute that entitle the opposing party to a trial.

Frost v. Whitbeck, 2001 WI App 289, ¶6, 249 Wis. 2d 206, 638 N.W.2d 325 (citations omitted), aff’d, 2002 WI 129, 257 Wis. 2d 80, 654 N.W.2d 225.

DISCUSSION

Summary Judgment on the Foreclosure

¶ 7 Although Williams raises multiple arguments, we conclude that one issue is dispositive as to whether summary judgment was properly granted on BAC’s foreclosure action. Specifically, we agree with Williams that BAC failed to make a prima facie case that it was in fact the current holder of the promissory note.

¶ 8 We first question whether the form assigning the mortgage to BAC, and making reference to a “previously transferred note” was actually the effective instrument transferring the promissory note to BAC. If the note had in fact been previously transferred, it would seem that the prior document would be necessary to establish that transfer, and should have been included in the summary judgment materials. In any event, as discussed below, even assuming that the document assigning the mortgage to BAC also assigned the promissory note or could properly be used to document the assignment by reference, we conclude that the assignment document was insufficiently authenticated to satisfy the summary judgment standard.

¶ 9 Affidavits in support or in opposition to a motion for summary judgment “shall be made on personal knowledge and shall set forth such evidentiary facts as would be admissible in evidence.” Wis. Stat. § 802.08(3). In order to be admissible in evidence, a document must be authenticated by “evidence sufficient to support a finding that the matter in question is what its proponent claims.” Wis. Stat. § 909.01. Certain documents may be self-authenticating, including certified copies of public records such as recorded instruments, and certified domestic records of regularly conducted activity. Wis. Stat. § 909.02(4) and (12). The rule on self-authentication for records of regularly conducted activity parallels the hearsay exception for such records, allowing admission of

a memorandum, report, record, or data compilation, in any form, of acts events, conditions, opinions, or diagnoses, made at or near the time by, or from information transmitted by, a person with knowledge, all in the course of a regularly conducted activity, as shown by the testimony of the custodian or other qualified witness.

Cf. Wis. Stat. §§ 908.03(6) and 909.02(12).

¶ 10 A records custodian seeking to authenticate a record must be qualified to testify both that the record at issue was made by a person with knowledge or from information transmitted by a person with knowledge, and that this was done in the course of a regularly conducted activity. Palisades Collection LLC v. Kalal, 2010 WI App 38, ¶20, 324 Wis. 2d 180, 781 N.W.2d 503. Being qualified means that the custodian possesses sufficient personal knowledge to testify about such things as who recorded or transmitted the information and the contemporaneousness of the record in relation to the events it purports to document. See id., ¶16.

¶ 11 We first note that the copy of the mortgage assignment form included in the summary judgment materials here was not certified, and therefore would not be admissible as a self-authenticated public record, even if it were recorded. Next, we question whether a form assigning a mortgage or promissory note from one party to another based upon consideration, constitutes “a memorandum, report, record, or data compilation” so as to qualify as a record of regularly conducted activity, subject to the self-authentication rule.

¶ 12 Even assuming for the sake of argument only that such a signed, notarized, and recorded instrument could be considered a “record” of regularly conducted activity, we are not persuaded that the BAC employee’s affidavit established that she was qualified to authenticate the assignment form here. The employee’s affidavit makes conclusory assertions parroting the statutory language that she has personal knowledge that the records in her custody are prepared in the ordinary course of business at or near the time of the transaction or event by a person with knowledge of the underlying transactions. However, it does not include any specific assertions to explain where the copy of the assignment form attached to her affidavit came from—for instance, whether it was made from the original, and if so, by whom. The fact that the employee may have been in a position to know how BAC prepared its account statements, which we would agree qualify as ordinary business records, does not mean that she was in a position to authenticate an uncertified copy of an instrument that she did not see executed.

¶ 13 Because the copy of the document purportedly assigning to BAC Williams’ mortgage—and by reference, the promissory note—was not properly authenticated, it did not meet the standard of admissible evidence required for summary judgment materials under Wis. Stat. § 802.08(3). Therefore, BAC failed to make a prima facie case that it had standing to foreclose based upon Williams’ failure to pay according to the terms of the promissory note. In light of BAC’s failure, we do not need to address whether any of the affirmative defenses asserted in Williams’ answer would also have created material disputes for the circuit court. Accordingly, we reverse the circuit court’s summary judgment decision and remand with directions that the matter proceed with discovery[2] and trial on BAC’s foreclosure claim.

Williams’ Counterclaims

¶ 14 Williams filed counterclaims alleging violations of 12 U.S.C. §§ 2605(b), 2605(c), 2605(e), 2605(e)(3), negligence, product liability, lender liability, and strict liability for alleged violations of the Truth in Lending Act.

¶ 15 Williams first argues that the circuit court violated due process by dismissing all counterclaims without providing an adequate opportunity to submit additional evidence. Williams correctly points out that when matters outside the pleadings are presented on a motion to dismiss, the motion shall be treated as one for summary judgment. Wis. Stat. § 802.06(2)(b). However, as we explained above, the first step in summary judgment methodology is to examine the sufficiency of the pleadings. If the pleadings do not state a claim upon which relief can be granted, there is no need for further analysis. Therefore, any error the circuit court may have committed in refusing to allow Williams to submit additional materials in response to BAC’s motion to dismiss was rendered harmless once the court determined that Williams’ pleadings in fact failed to state a claim, and the circuit court did not violate Williams’ due process rights by dismissing the counterclaims based on the pleadings alone.

¶ 16 Williams next contends that the circuit court applied the wrong standard in considering whether to dismiss the counterclaims because it did not mention the oft-cited language that a claim should be dismissed only if it is “quite clear” that under no circumstances could the plaintiff prevail. Instead, the circuit court cited Doe v. Archdiocese of Milwaukee, 2007 WI 95, ¶12, 303 Wis. 2d 34, 734 N.W.2d 827, for the proposition that “[d]ismissal of a claim is improper if there are any conditions under which the [pleading party] could recover.” The minor difference in language is a distinction without a difference. In short, we are satisfied the circuit court properly understood that it was to liberally construe the pleadings when testing their sufficiency.

¶ 17 Turning to the merits, Williams challenges the circuit court’s conclusion that the counterclaims of negligence, product liability, and strict liability were barred by the economic loss doctrine. Williams complains that the circuit court did not adequately explain why the economic loss doctrine applied to these claims, and why Williams did not qualify for an exception. The economic loss doctrine “preclud[es] contracting parties from pursuing tort recovery for purely economic or commercial losses associated with the contract relationship.” Kaloti Enterprises, Inc. v. Kellogg Sales Co., 2005 WI 111, ¶27, 283 Wis. 2d 555, 699 N.W.2d 205 (citations omitted). Contrary to Williams’ assertions, neither the status of being a consumer nor a lack of knowledge about the economic loss doctrine relieves a party from its constraints. Williams correctly points out that there is a limited exception to the economic loss doctrine when a contract was induced by fraud. See Digicorp, Inc. v. Ameritech Corp., 2003 WI 54, ¶¶51-52, 262 Wis. 2d 32, 662 N.W.2d 652. That exception does not apply here, however, because the instances of fraud Williams alleges in the complaint—namely, an erroneous real estate appraisal and a misrepresentation about whether a damages clause should apply to the APR rate—were allegedly committed by persons who were not employees of BAC or otherwise parties to the action.[3] In sum, Williams’ claims of negligence, product liability, and strict liability clearly lie in tort, and were plainly associated with contractual relationships arising out of a series of mortgages. The court did not need to say more to dispose of counterclaims six, seven and nine.

¶ 18 Williams presents no argument that the circuit court erred in the dismissal of the other counterclaims.

¶ 19 Finally, Williams contends the circuit court should have imposed sanctions on BAC based upon what Williams views as inaccurate statements in BAC’s filings to the court. However, the challenged statements appear simply to be legal propositions or characterizations that Williams disagrees with. The circuit court was well within its discretion to determine that there had been no ethical violation warranting sanctions.

By the Court.—Judgment reversed and cause remanded.

This opinion will not be published. See Wis. Stat. Rule 809.23(1)(b)5.

[1] All references to the Wisconsin Statutes are to the 2009-10 version unless otherwise noted.

[2] Williams complains that the circuit court ignored discovery requests, but does not specify what specific materials were sought. We therefore do not address any particular discovery matter in this appeal.

[3] Williams also contends that the circuit court should have granted Williams’ motion to add the appraiser and real estate broker to the action. As BAC points out, however, that motion was not filed until after the counterclaims had already been dismissed, and the alleged misconduct related to prior, satisfied mortgages that were not the subject of the current foreclosure action.

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SJC of Maine Vacates SJ No Mention of MERS in Note, HSBC failed to include any facts to “properly presented proof of… all assignments and endorsements of the note

SJC of Maine Vacates SJ No Mention of MERS in Note, HSBC failed to include any facts to “properly presented proof of… all assignments and endorsements of the note


MAINE SUPREME JUDICIAL COURT

HSBC BANK USA, N.A., AS TRUSTEE UNDER THE POOLING AND
SERVICING AGREEMENT DATED AS OF DECEMBER 1, 2005, FREMONT
HOME LOAN TRUST 2005-E

v.

JANELLE GABAY

EXCERPT:

[¶1] Janelle Gabay appeals from a summary judgment entered in the District
Court (Bridgton, Powers, J.) in favor of HSBC Bank USA, N.A., as Trustee under
the Pooling and Servicing Agreement dated as of December 1, 2005, Fremont
Home Loan Trust 2005-E, on HSBC’s complaint for foreclosure and sale pursuant
to 14 M.R.S. §§ 6321-6325 (2010).1 Gabay argues that HSBC’s motion for
summary judgment should have been denied because HSBC’s statement of
material facts left unresolved genuine issues of material fact as to (1) whether
HSBC is the owner and holder, pursuant to a valid endorsement, of the promissory
note due to HSBC’s failure to present adequate evidence of such; (2) the order of
priority among creditors; (3) the sufficiency of identification of the court costs that
HSBC sought to collect; and (4) the identification of the premises to be foreclosed
upon. Because genuine issues of material fact exist, we vacate the judgment and
remand for further proceedings.

[…]

II. LEGAL ANALYSIS

[¶8] We review a grant of summary judgment de novo, viewing the
evidence in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party to determine “whether
the parties’ statements of material facts and the referenced record evidence reveal a
genuine issue of material fact.” JPMorgan Chase Bank v. Harp, 2011 ME 5, ¶ 15,
10 A.3d 718. In so doing, we consider only the material facts set forth, and the
portions of the record referred to, in the statements of material facts. Salem
Capital Grp., LLC v. Litchfield, 2010 ME 49, ¶ 4, 997 A.2d 720. In summary
judgment practice, the court “is neither required nor permitted to independently
search a record to find support for facts offered by a party.” Levine v. R.B.K. Caly
Corp., 2001 ME 77, ¶ 9, 770 A.2d 653. A party’s motion for summary judgment
may not be granted if that party fails to properly put the material facts before the
court, “regardless of the adequacy, or inadequacy, of the nonmoving party’s
response.” Id. ¶ 5.

[¶9] HSBC contends that it need not properly identify which paragraph of a
supporting record reference is the basis for a particular statement of material fact
when (i) the supporting record is included in its entirety in the summary judgment
record, or (ii) the critical paragraph in the record has been cited to support a
different material fact. However, our rules require that each statement of material
fact must directly refer the court to “the specific portions of the record from which
each fact is drawn.” Id. ¶ 9; M.R. Civ. P. 56(h)(1), (4). We have repeatedly noted
the importance of applying the summary judgment rules strictly in the context of
mortgage foreclosures. See HSBC Mortg. Servs., Inc. v. Murphy, 2011 ME 59, ¶ 9,
19 A.3d 815; JPMorgan Chase Bank, 2011 ME 5, ¶ 15, 10 A.3d 718.

[¶10] “In residential mortgage foreclosure actions, certain minimum facts
must be included in a mortgage holder’s statement of material facts on summary
judgment.” HSBC Mortg. Servs., 2011 ME 59, ¶ 9, 19 A.3d 815; see also M.R.
Civ. P. 56(j). To support a summary judgment motion in a residential mortgage
foreclosure action, the mortgage holder must include, at a minimum, the following
facts in its statement of material facts, each supported by evidence of a quality that
could be admissible at trial:

(1) The existence of the mortgage, including the book and page
number of the mortgage, and an adequate description of the
mortgaged premises, including the street address, if any;

(2) Properly presented proof of ownership of the mortgage note and
the mortgage, including all assignments and endorsements of the note
and the mortgage;

(3) A breach of condition in the mortgage;

(4) The amount due on the mortgage note, including any reasonable
attorney fees and court costs;

(5) The order of priority and any amounts that may be due to other
parties in interest, including any public utility easements;

(6) Evidence of properly served notice of default and mortgagor’s
right to cure in compliance with statutory requirements;

(7) After January 1, 2010, proof of completed mediation (or waiver or
default of mediation), when required, pursuant to the statewide
foreclosure mediation program rules; and

(8) If the homeowner has not appeared in the proceeding, a statement,
with a supporting affidavit, of whether or not the defendant is in
military service in accordance with the Servicemembers Civil Relief
Act.

HSBC Mortg. Servs., 2011 ME 59, ¶ 9 n.6, 19 A.3d 815; Chase Home Fin. LLC v.
Higgins, 2009 ME 136, ¶ 11, 985 A.2d 508; see also M.R. Civ. P. 56(j) (providing,
among other things, that a summary judgment may not be entered in a foreclosure
action unless it is determined that “the plaintiff has properly certified proof of
ownership of the mortgage note and produced evidence of the mortgage note, the
mortgage, and all assignments and endorsements of the mortgage note and the
mortgage”).

[¶11] Our analysis focuses on the first, second, fourth, and fifth
requirements listed above. We begin our discussion with the second requirement.
A. Ownership and Endorsement of the Note

[¶12] As noted above, HSBC is required to include the following
properly-supported facts in its statement of material facts: “properly presented
proof of ownership of the mortgage note . . . , including all assignments and
endorsements of the note . . . .” HSBC Mortg. Servs., 2011 ME 59, ¶ 9 n.6, 19
A.3d 815; Chase Home Fin., 2009 ME 136, ¶ 11, 985 A.2d 508.

[¶13] In its statement of material facts, HSBC asserts that it is the “current
holder of the Note,” citing to paragraph seven of its complaint and to paragraph
four of the Lender affidavit. There are multiple deficiencies in this statement of
material fact as it concerns proof of ownership of the note.

[¶14] First, neither of the citations included to support the bare factual
statement that HSBC is the current holder of the note properly supports that factual
statement. The cited paragraph of the Lender’s affidavit refers only to HSBC’s
being the current holder of the mortgage. The cited paragraph of the complaint
asserts that “[HSBC] is the current holder of the Note and Mortgage by virtue of an
assignment dated on or about December 22, 2008.” However, the assignment
expressly referred to in that averment, which assignment was not attached to the
complaint but which is included in the summary judgment record, did not assign
the note to HSBC. The December 22, 2008, assignment, entitled “ASSIGNMENT
OF MORTGAGE,” assigned MERS’s interest in the mortgage, but not the note, to
HSBC.8

[¶15] While an averment in a complaint that a defendant has failed to deny
is generally deemed admitted, see M.R. Civ. P. 8(d), the statement in HSBC’s
complaint that it is the current holder of the note pursuant to the December 22,
2008, assignment is not sufficiently supported in the context of a residential
mortgage foreclosure proceeding. When, as here, the mortgage-holder must
strictly comply with the requirements of 14 M.R.S. §§ 6321-6325 and M.R. Civ. P.
56(j), the paragraph of HSBC’s complaint cited in support of HSBC’s statement of
material facts providing that it is the current holder of the note does not properly
support that fact.

[¶16] An additional deficiency in HSBC’s statement of material facts is that
HSBC failed to include any facts relating to “properly presented proof of . . . all
assignments and endorsements of the note.” Chase Home Fin., 2009 ME 136,
¶ 11, 985 A.2d 508. HSBC was required to provide such proof, as it is undisputed
that the note was originally executed and delivered to Fremont Investment. HSBC
suggests in its brief, but does not specify in its statement of material facts, that the
summary judgment record contains evidence of a valid endorsement of the note to
HSBC including (1) paragraph two of the Lender’s affidavit, which states that
HSBC holds the note pursuant to a special endorsement, and (2) a copy of the
purported endorsement itself, included in the record as a separate page
accompanying, but not discernably affixed to, a photocopy of the note. Because
the statement of material facts contains no fact concerning properly presented
proof as to any endorsement of the note, however, much less a statement supported
by proper record references, we will not independently search the record to find
such evidence, see id. ¶ 12 n.4; Levine, 2001 ME 77, ¶ 9, 770 A.2d 653, and HSBC
would not be entitled to judgment as a matter of law.

[¶17] Our statement that we will not, and trial courts should not,
independently search a record to find evidence to support a party’s claim when that
claim is insufficiently referenced in that party’s statement of material facts is no
mere technicality to make summary judgment practice more difficult. Certainly in
each individual case it can be argued, as HSBC argues here, that review of the
entire record, with the specific facts now identified in the brief on appeal,
demonstrates that there really is no material fact in dispute. Such arguments
illustrate the need to identify material facts with specific citations to the record in
the statement of material facts filed in the trial court. If an essential fact can be
stated, with a proper record reference, in a brief on appeal, that fact could have and
should have been stated, with a proper record reference, in the statement of
material facts filed in the trial court. Before easy identification by brief on appeal,
the information to make an inadequate statement of material facts complete may
have been locatable only by a search of a record of fifty, one hundred, or more
pages. Placing every material fact in the statement of material facts, with a proper
record citation, as the rules require, avoids the necessity for such a time-consuming
search. Trial courts, who may have to consider multiple motions for summary judgment
at a time, could be considerably burdened searching for facts through
hundreds of pages of records, if the rules requiring complete, properly supported
statements of material facts are not enforced on appeal.

[¶18] Because HSBC’s statement of material facts fails to properly present
proof of ownership of the mortgage note, including all assignments and
endorsements of the note, genuine issues of material fact regarding HSBC’s
ownership of the note exist, precluding entry of judgment as a matter of law.

[…]

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The Ohio Supreme Court is taking up the question of what a bank needs to prove to force someone from his home

The Ohio Supreme Court is taking up the question of what a bank needs to prove to force someone from his home


To preview the case check out OHIO APPEALS COURT AFFIRMS “NO STANDING TO FORECLOSE” U.S. BANK v. DUVALL

Be sure to listen to audio for the latest SURPRISING TWIST!

WKSU

The Ohio Supreme Court is getting ready to take on what some are calling the biggest issue in state foreclosure law in a century. The question before the justices is what paperwork does a lender need to force an owner out of his home? For Ohio Public Radio, WCPN’s Mhari Saito reports that what the state’s justices decide could have huge implications for the financial services industry.

[WKSU]

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MAZINE v. M & I BANK | FL 1DCA Reversed “Affidavit Fail, Undisputed not the holder of the mortgage and note”

MAZINE v. M & I BANK | FL 1DCA Reversed “Affidavit Fail, Undisputed not the holder of the mortgage and note”


MOSHE MAZINE and JAACOV E. BOUSKILA, Appellants,
v.
M & I BANK, Appellee.

Case No. 1D10-2127.

District Court of Appeal of Florida, First District.

Opinion filed July 22, 2011.

David H. Charlip of Charlip Law Group, LC, Aventura, for Appellants.

Erin Berger, Florida Default Law Group, PL, Tampa, for Appellee.

VAN NORTWICK, J.

Moshe Mazine and Jaacov Bouskila appeal an amended final judgment of mortgage foreclosure in favor of M & I Bank, appellee. Because the documentary evidence necessary to establish the amount owed under the note and mortgage was admitted without proper foundation and it is undisputed that M & I Bank was not the holder of the mortgage and note, we reverse and remand for further proceedings.

The party seeking foreclosure must present evidence that it owns and holds the note and mortgage to establish standing to proceed with a foreclosure action. Servedio v. U.S. Bank Nat. Ass’n, 46 So. 3d 1105 (Fla. 4th DCA 2010). Because a promissory note is a negotiable instrument and because a mortgage provides the security for the repayment of the note, the person having standing to foreclose a note secured by a mortgage may be either the holder of the note or a nonholder in possession of the note who has the rights of a holder. See § 673.3011, Fla. Stat. (2009); Taylor v. Deutsche Bank Nat. Trust Co., 44 So. 3d 618 (Fla. 5th DCA 2010). An allegation of default in a complaint must be proven by competent evidence. See Terra Firma Holdings v. Fairwinds Credit Union, 15 So. 3d 885 (Fla. 2d DCA 2009).

In January 2009, M & I Bank filed a complaint seeking foreclosure of a mortgage naming Mazine and Bouskila as party defendants. An amended complaint later followed, but the named plaintiff remained the same. After several motions challenging the sufficiency of service of process and personal jurisdiction, Bouskila eventually filed an answer which denied almost all of allegations of the amended complaint, including the allegation that Bouskila secured a mortgage on the real property at issue and the allegation as to amount in default. Mazine did not file an answer but moved to dismiss the amended complaint on several grounds, including the ground that the entity listed on the note and mortgage was “M & I Marshall & Ilsley Bank,” not the named plaintiff, “M & I Bank.” The motion to dismiss was not considered by the trial court before the cause was heard at a bench trial.

The only witness to testify at the bench trial regarding the allegations of the amended complaint was David Taxdal, the regional security officer for “M & I Marshall and Ilsley Bank” in the State of Florida. According to Taxdal’s testimony, his “duties and responsibilities are fraud investigation, internal investigation and physical security for the branches” in Florida, and he does not originate loans, service loans or collect loans in default. Through Taxdal, the bank attempted to introduce several documents, including an affidavit as to amounts due and owing. The affidavit was executed by Michael Koontz, who did not appear at trial, and the bank sought to introduce it as a business record. Taxdal testified that he had no knowledge as to who prepared the documents submitted at trial by the bank as he is not involved in the preparation of documents such as the ones proffered by the bank, that he does not keep records as a records custodian, that he has no personal knowledge as to how the information in the affidavit as to the amounts due and owing was determined or whether it was prepared in the normal course of business, and that he did not know whether such information was accurate.

Counsel for the defendants vigorously opposed admission of the affidavit of indebtedness, the only evidence of the amount allegedly in delinquency, as a business record. Counsel observed that the affiant (Koontz) was not subject to cross-examination, and that given the matters to which Taxdal testified it was evident that Taxdal “has no knowledge of the basis upon which this affidavit was prepared.”

The trial court denied defendants’ objection and admitted the affidavit without explanation. This was error. Before a document may be admitted as a business record, a foundation for such admission must be laid. Section 90.803(6), Florida Statutes (2010), allows the admission of records of a regularly kept business activity when the business record was made at or near the time of the matters reported and when the business record is made by a person having personal knowledge of the matters reported or when the information supplied in the record is supplied by a person with knowledge. Further, it must be shown that the business record was kept in the ordinary course of a regularly conducted business activity and that it is the regular practice of the business keeping the record to make such a business record. Yisrael v. State, 993 So. 2d 952 (Fla. 2008). While it is not necessary to call the individual who prepared the document, the witness through whom a document is being offered must be able to show each of the requirements for establishing a proper foundation. Forester v. Norman Roger Jewell & Brooks, 610 So. 2d 1369, 1373 (Fla. 1st DCA 1992).

Here, none of the requirements for admission of a business record were met. As noted, Taxdal candidly admitted that he had no knowledge as to the preparation or maintenance of the documents offered by the bank, including the affidavit as to amounts due and owing. Taxdal did not testify and, indeed, could not testify, that the affidavit as to the amounts owed was actually kept in the regular course of business. Further, he did not know if the source of the information contained in the affidavit was correct. He did not know if the amounts reported in the affidavit were accurate. There was no attempt to admit the affidavit by certification or declaration pursuant to section 90.803(6)(c), Florida Statutes.

Accordingly, because no foundation was laid, the admission of the affidavit was erroneous. Because the affidavit was the only evidence as to the amount of defendants’ default, the error was harmful necessitating that the amended final judgment of foreclosure be reversed.

Furthermore, the trial court erred in denying appellants’ motion for a directed verdict given the lack of proof that the named plaintiff and appellee, M & I Bank, holds the mortgage and note. “M & I Marshall & Ilsley Bank” is shown as the holder of both the note and mortgage. At the time the bank offered the affidavit as to amounts due and owing into evidence, Taxdal testified that M & I Bank FSB — which we assume is M & I Bank — and M & I Marshall and Ilsley Bank are different entities.[1] The amended judgment of foreclosure styles the prevailing party as “M & I Bank,” not “M & I Marshall and Ilsley Bank.” To have standing to foreclose, it must be demonstrated that the plaintiff holds the note and mortgage in question. See Khan v. Bank of America, N.A., 58 So. 3d 927 (Fla. 5th DCA 2011), and Philogene v. ABN Amro Mtg. Group, Inc., 948 So. 2d 45 (Fla. 4th DCA 2006). Therefore, because M & I Bank had not demonstrated it possessed the standing to proceed in the foreclosure action, we must reverse on this issue as well.

REVERSED and REMANDED for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

LEWIS, and ROBERTS, JJ., CONCUR.

NOT FINAL UNTIL TIME EXPIRES TO FILE MOTION FOR REHEARING AND DISPOSITION THEREOF IF FILED.

[1] Although M & I Bank filed a motion to substitute a party by which M & I Marshall and Isley Bank was to be substituted for M & I Bank, the trial court never acted upon this motion. We note that, while the name of the bank in the mortgage and note is spelled “M & I Marshall and Ilsley“, the motion to substitute spells the name somewhat differently, “M & I Marshall and Isley” (italics added).

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IN RE DeSHETLER | OH BK Court GRANTS THE UNITED STATES TRUSTEE’S MOTION FOR ENTRY OF AN ORDER AUTHORIZING THE EXAMINATION OF AND REQUIRING THE PRODUCTION OF DOCUMENTS BY WELLS FARGO HOME MORTGAGE

IN RE DeSHETLER | OH BK Court GRANTS THE UNITED STATES TRUSTEE’S MOTION FOR ENTRY OF AN ORDER AUTHORIZING THE EXAMINATION OF AND REQUIRING THE PRODUCTION OF DOCUMENTS BY WELLS FARGO HOME MORTGAGE


In re: THOMAS L. DeSHETLER, CHERYL A. DeSHETLER, Chapter 13, Debtors.

Case No. 10-36557.

United States Bankruptcy Court, S.D. Ohio, Western Division, Dayton.

July 12, 2011.

Scott A. King, Jennifer L. Maffett, 2000 Courthouse Plaza, N.E., Dayton, Ohio, Counsel for Wells Fargo Bank, N.A.

Pamela Arndt, Office of the United States Trustee, Columbus, Ohio, Counsel for the United States Trustee.

DECISION GRANTING IN PART AND DENYING IN PART THE UNITED STATES TRUSTEE’S MOTION FOR ENTRY OF AN ORDER AUTHORIZING THE EXAMINATION OF AND REQUIRING THE PRODUCTION OF DOCUMENTS BY WELLS FARGO HOME MORTGAGE

GUY R. HUMPHREY, Bankruptcy Judge.

I. Introduction

This contested matter is before the court on the motion filed by the United States trustee[1] seeking an order authorizing him to conduct an examination of Wells Fargo Home Mortgage, one of the nation’s largest residential mortgage lenders, pursuant to Federal Rules of Bankruptcy Procedure 2004 and 9016. Wells Fargo objects to this request.

As a backdrop to understanding this contested matter, the UST’s motion seeking to conduct a 2004 examination comes in the wake of the mortgage crisis that has gripped this nation for the last several years, highlighted by an unprecedented number of foreclosures and litigation in the bankruptcy courts concerning issues of standing and documentation.[2] The volume of foreclosure proceedings has caused strain on mortgage servicers’ ability to process the large volume of delinquent loans encountered in the last several years. Compounding the challenges arising out of the sheer volume of the foreclosure filings is that most of these loans are syndicated, having been originated at a local level, bundled with other mortgage loans, and then sold to private investors, resulting in at least one and usually multiple transfers of the loan.[3] Thus, the state and federal courts, particularly the bankruptcy courts, have been engulfed by the “perfect storm” arising out of the mass syndication of mortgage loans and the ensuing financial crisis.

The UST’s motion raises several issues. The threshold issue is whether the UST has the authority to conduct an examination and to compel the production of documents pursuant to Federal Rule of Bankruptcy Procedure 2004. If the UST possesses such authority, two additional issues must be addressed: 1) whether the UST has demonstrated “good cause” under Rule 2004 for this request; and 2) whether the scope of the requested examination is appropriate.

For the reasons to be discussed, the court finds that the UST has the authority to conduct an examination under Rule 2004, including the ability to compel the production of documents. The court further finds that the UST has established good cause. However, the court limits the scope of the examination to the documents related to Wells Fargo’s claim that it is the holder, or other person entitled to enforce, the promissory note that is the subject of this inquiry. Any oral examination, as limited by this decision, shall only proceed in the event that the UST determines that Wells Fargo has not produced sufficient documentation to establish that it is entitled to enforce the note and when that occurred.

II. Factual and Procedural Background

Thomas L. DeShetler and Cheryl A. DeShetler (the “Debtors”) filed a joint chapter 13 petition on October 11, 2010 (doc. 1). Wells Fargo Home Mortgage filed a proof of claim (claim 9-1) on November 19, 2010 on behalf of Well Fargo Bank, N.A.[4] Attached to Wells Fargo’s proof of claim are copies of a mortgage granted to Washington Mutual Bank, FA (the “Mortgage”) and a promissory note payable to Washington Mutual Bank, FA endorsed in blank (the “Note”). On December 8, 2010 the court entered an order confirming the Debtors’ plan (doc. 21).

The UST filed a motion seeking to conduct a 2004 examination on December 8, 2010 (doc. 19) (the “2004 Motion”); on January 7, 2011 Wells Fargo filed an objection to the 2004 Motion (doc. 27) on February 22, 2011 the UST filed a reply (doc. 37) and on March 15, 2011 Wells Fargo filed a supplemental brief (Doc. 43) and a Request for Hearing (doc. 44), which the court granted (doc. 45). The court heard oral argument on April 13, 2011.

III. Positions of the Parties

The UST argues that he may conduct a 2004 examination because Wells Fargo’s proof of claim fails to attach documentation that Wells Fargo had standing to file its claim. In particular, the UST asserts that the Mortgage and Note attached to the proof of claim reference only Washington Mutual Bank, FA and that it is unknown whether the Note and Mortgage were ever properly assigned to Wells Fargo. To assist in determining the validity of Wells Fargo’s claim, the UST requests that Wells Fargo produce the “transactional mortgage loan history on the Debtors’ mortgage loan, along with payments for escrow advances made by Wells Fargo.” 2004 Motion, Exhibit A. The UST also requests that Wells Fargo provide evidence of the chain of assignment of the Mortgage and endorsement of the Note. Finally, the UST seeks to examine a representative of Wells Fargo regarding those documents.

In response, Wells Fargo asserts that the statutory powers granted to the UST do not include the authority to investigate and determine validity of claims based on state law rights and unilaterally increase the documentation necessary to file a valid proof of claim under Federal Rule of Bankruptcy Procedure (“BR”) 3001.[5] Wells Fargo further argues that, assuming that the UST has the statutory powers to conduct a 2004 examination, the UST lacks good cause to request a 2004 examination because the proof of claim establishes that Wells Fargo holds the Note since a copy is attached to its proof of claim and because, under Ohio law, security follows the debt, it need not provide a copy of the assignment of the Mortgage. Finally, Wells Fargo challenges the UST’s request for a “complete loan history” as unnecessary. If the court allows the 2004 examination, Wells Fargo concludes that the scope of the document requests must be narrowed and any examination conducted at the place of employment of the individual representative who is examined.

IV. Legal Analysis

A. Jurisdiction

This court has jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1334 and General Order No. 05-02 of the United States District Court for the Southern District of Ohio, which is the general order of reference referring all bankruptcy proceedings and matters to this bankruptcy court. This is a core proceeding pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 157(b)(2)(A) and (O).

B. The Role of the United States Trustee’s Program

Because Wells Fargo challenges the UST’s authority to conduct 2004 examinations, an examination of the role of the UST, including the relevant statutes, is in order.

The UST was created by the Bankruptcy Reform Act of 1978 (the “1978 Act”) as a pilot effort in select federal judicial districts of the United States to remedy the perceived institutional bias arising out of bankruptcy judges’ handling of both the judicial and administrative aspects of the bankruptcy system. H.R. Rep. No. 595, 95th Cong., 1st Sess. 100, reprinted in 1978 U.S.C.C.A.N. 5963, 6061. Under the program, the UST was appointed to take over the administrative functions previously assumed by bankruptcy judges. Id.

To implement the newly created program, the 1978 Act added a new chapter to Title 28 of the United States Code, chapter 39, which addresses, among other things, the appointment, role, and salaries of United States trustees. See 28 U.S.C. §§ 581-586(a). Section 586 sets forth a list of the duties of the UST and defines the United States Attorney General’s supervision to be exercised over these trustees. 28 U.S.C. § 586; In re Countrywide Home Loans, Inc., 384 B.R. 373, 380 (Bankr. W.D. Pa. 2008). It provides in relevant part that:

(a) Each United States trustee, within the region for which such United States trustee is appointed, shall—

(3) supervise the administration of cases and trustees in cases under chapter 7, 11, 12, 13, or 15 of title 11 by, whenever the United States trustee considers it to be appropriate—

[…]

(C) monitoring plans filed under chapters 12 and 13 of title 11 and filing with the court, in connection with hearings under sections 1224, 1229, 1324, and 1329 of such title, comments with respect to such plans;

[…]

(F) notifying the appropriate United States attorney of matters which relate to the occurrence of any action which may constitute a crime under the laws of the United States and, on the request of the United States attorney, assisting the United States attorney in carrying out prosecutions based on such action;

(G) monitoring the progress of cases under title 11 and taking such actions as the United States trustee deems to be appropriate to prevent undue delay in such progress…

28 U.S.C. § 586(a). The legislative history explains:

The Trustee in each case will be responsible for the administration of the case. The bill gives him adequate powers to accomplish what must be done, and relieves him of the necessity for applying to the court and receiving court approval for every action he proposes to take. The bill introduces the concept that the trustee may take any action necessary to the administration of the case if he notifies those parties in interest to whom notice would be appropriate under the particular circumstances . . . and provide an opportunity for a party in interest to object.

H.R. Rep. No. 595, 95th Cong., 1st Sess. 107-108, reprinted in 1978 U.S.C.C.A.N. 5963, 6069. Based on the pilot program’s success, Congress expanded the program and made it permanent through the enactment of the Bankruptcy Judges, United States Trustees, and Family Farmer Bankruptcy Act of 1986 (the “1986 Act”), P.L. 99-554. See also U.S. Trustee v. Columbia Gas Sys., Inc. (In re Columbia Gas Sys. Inc.), 33 F.3d 294, 296 (3rd Cir. 1994).

As part of the 1986 Act, Congress added a new provision to the Code — 11 U.S.C. § 307. That section provides that “[t]he United States trustee may raise and may appear and be heard on any issue in any case or proceeding under this title but may not file a plan pursuant to section 1121(c) of this title” (emphasis added). The House Report explains:

The U.S. Trustee is given standing to raise, appear, and be heard on any issue in any case or proceeding under Title 11, U.S. Code-except that the U.S. Trustee may not file a plan in a Chapter 11 case. In this manner, the U.S. Trustee is given the same right to be heard as a party in interest, but retains the discretion to decide when a matter of concern to the proper administration of the bankruptcy laws should be raised.

H.R. Rep. No. 764, 99th Cong., 2d Sess. 27, reprinted in 1986 U.S.C.C.A.N. 5227, 5240.

Wells Fargo advocates a view that restricts the powers granted to the UST to those specifically enumerated in § 586 and posits that § 307 is merely an enabling provision granting the UST the standing necessary to perform his duties under § 586. The UST argues that, pursuant to his congressionally mandated role as a “watchdog” of the bankruptcy system, § 586 and § 307 confer upon him broad authority to seek and conduct 2004 examinations.

C. Rule 2004 Examinations

The UST seeks to conduct an examination of Wells Fargo pursuant to BR 2004. It provides in pertinent part as follows:

(a) Examination on motion. On motion of any party in interest, the court may order the examination of any entity.

(b) Scope of examination. The examination of an entity under this rule or of the debtor under § 343 of the Code may relate only to the acts, conduct, or property or to the liabilities and financial condition of the debtor, or to any matter which may affect the administration of the debtor’s estate, or to the debtor’s right to a discharge. In . . . an individual’s debt adjustment case under chapter 13 . . ., the examination may also relate to the operation of any business and the desirability of its continuance, the source of any money or property acquired or to be acquired by the debtor for purposes of consummating a plan and the consideration given or offered therefor, and any other matter relevant to the case or to the formulation of a plan.

(c) Compelling attendance and production of documents. The attendance of an entity for examination and for the production of documents, whether the examination is to be conducted within or without the district in which the case is pending, may be compelled as provided in Rule 9016 for the attendance of a witness at a hearing or trial. As an officer of the court, an attorney may issue and sign a subpoena on behalf of the court for the district in which the examination is to be held if the attorney is admitted to practice in that court or in the court in which the case is pending.

* * * *

(e) Mileage. An entity other than a debtor shall not be required to attend as a witness unless lawful mileage and witness fee for one day’s attendance shall be first tendered . . . .

BR 2004.

The purpose of 2004 is to provide a tool to parties to a bankruptcy, particularly trustees, to obtain information concerning “the acts, conduct, or property” of the debtor, “the liabilities and financial condition of the debtor,” “any matter which may affect the administration of the debtor’s estate, or to the debtor’s right to a discharge,” and in a Chapter 11, 12, or 13 case, “the operation of any business and the desirability of its continuance, the source of any money or property acquired or to be acquired by the debtor for purposes of consummating a plan and the consideration given or offered therefor, and any other matter relevant to the case or to the formulation of a plan.” SeeIn re GHR Energy Corp., 35 B.R. 534, 536-38 (Bankr. Mass. 1983). See also In re Express One Int’l, Inc., 217 B.R. 215, 216 (Bankr. E.D. Tex. 1998) (The general purpose of a BR 2004 examination is to review the estate’s condition for the benefit of the rights of creditors.). BR 2004(b);

Bankruptcy courts have broad discretion in determining whether to order a 2004 examination. Bank One, Columbus NA v. Hammond (In re Hammond), 140 B.R. 197, 201 (S.D. Ohio 1992); In re Drexel Burnham Lambert Group, Inc., 123 B.R. 702, 708-09 (Bankr. S.D.N.Y. 1991); and In re Fearn, 96 B.R. 135 (Bankr. S.D. Ohio 1989). As Judge Cole noted, a 2004 examination’s scope is very broad:

It is well-established that the scope of a Rule 2004 examination is very broad and great latitude of inquiry is ordinarily permitted. The scope of examination permitted pursuant to Rule 2004 is wider than that allowed under Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and can legitimately be in the nature of a “fishing expedition”. Although the primary purpose of a Rule 2004 examination is to permit a party in interest to quickly ascertain the extent and location of the estate’s assets, such examination is not limited to the debtor or his agents, but may properly extend to creditors and third parties who have had dealings with the debtor.

Id. at 137-38 (citations omitted). However, Judge Cole also noted that, while broad, the scope of Rule 2004 examinations is not “limitless.” Id. at 138. “The examination should not be so broad as to be more disruptive and costly to the party sought to be examined than beneficial to the party seeking discovery.” Id. Moreover, an examination cannot be used for purposes of abuse or harassment. Fearn, 96 B.R. at 138; In re Mittco, Inc., 44 B.R. 35, 36 (Bankr. E.D. Wisc. 1984).

The use of a 2004 examination is not permitted for matters not related to the financial condition of a debtor or a debtor’s estate. Upon a creditor objection, the examiner must establish “good cause,” taking into consideration the totality of the circumstances, including the importance of the information to the examiner and the costs and burdens on the creditor. See Countrywide Home Loans, 384 B.R. at 393. The level of good cause required to be established varies depending on the potential intrusiveness. Id., citing Fearn, 96 B.R. at 138. See also Official Cmte. Of Unsecured Creditors v. Eagle-Pitcher Indus., Inc. (In re Eagle-Pitcher Indus., Inc.), 169 B.R. 130, 134 (Bankr. S.D. Ohio 1994)Hammond, 140 B.R. at 201 (similar). (examination should not be so broad as to be more disruptive and costly to the party to be examined than beneficial to the party seeking discovery);

D. The UST Has Authority to Monitor the Bankruptcy Claims Process

Wells Fargo argues that the UST lacks the authority under § 586 to investigate the proof of claim that it filed and, therefore, no basis exists for the UST to conduct a 2004 examination. Wells Fargo argues that § 586 sets forth the specific and limited tasks which the UST may undertake and that § 307 merely provides the UST with standing to take actions related to those specific tasks. Wells Fargo asserts that investigation of proofs of claim is not one of those specific tasks.

28 U.S.C. § 586(a)(3) grants the UST broad authority to “supervise the administration of cases and trustees in cases under chapter 7, 11, 12, 13, or 15 of title 11 by, whenever the United States trustee considers it to be appropriate . . . [.]” This authority includes “monitoring the progress of cases under title 11 and taking such actions as the United States trustee deems to be appropriate to prevent undue delay in such progress[.]” 28 U.S.C. § 586(a)(3)(G). As such, the UST is charged by statute with the duty to oversee and supervise the administration of bankruptcy cases. 28 U.S.C. § 586(a). Congress has summarized the role of the UST as protector of the public interest with the responsibility to ensure that bankruptcy cases are conducted in accordance with the law. Morgenstern v. Revco D.S., Inc. (In re Revco D.S., Inc.), 898 F.2d 498, 500 (6th Cir. 1990), citing H. Rep. No. 595 at 109, reprinted in 1978 U.S.C.C.A.N. at 6070; United Artists Theatre Co. v. Walton, 315 F.3d 217, 225 (3rd Cir. 2003); U.S. Trustee v. Clark (In re Clark), 927 F.2d 793, 795 (4th Cir. 1990); In re Plaza de Diego Shopping Center, 911 F.2d 820, 824 (1st Cir. 1990); Adams v. Zarnel (In re Zarnel), 619 F.3d 156, 162 (2nd Cir. 2010).

Further, Congress has expressly given the UST standing under § 307 to raise and be heard on any issue under title 11, except that the UST may not file a chapter 11 plan. 11 U.S.C. § 307; Revco, 898 F.2d at 500; United States Trustee v. Price Waterhouse, 19 F.3d 138, 141 (3rd Cir. 1994); U.S. Trustee v. FIshback (In re Glados, Inc.), 83 F.3d 1360, 1361, n.1 (11th Cir. 1996); In re Donovan Corp., 215 F.3d 929, 930 (9th Cir. 2000); Clark, 927 F.2d at 796; Plaza de Diego Shopping Center, 911 F.2d at 824.[6] Because of his role as representative of the public interest, the UST is not required to demonstrate any concrete pecuniary injury to exercise his standing under § 307 of the Code. Revco, 898 F.2d at 500. For example, the Sixth Circuit has held that a United States trustee had standing to appeal a bankruptcy court decision not to appoint an examiner under 1104(b)(2) because the public interest is a sufficient stake to confer standing upon the UST.[7] Id.

Wells Fargo’s argument that § 586 circumscribes the UST’s authority under § 307 contradicts the express language of § 307. Section 307 specifically provides that “[t]he United States trustee may raise and appear and be heard on any issue in any case or proceeding under this title . . . .” 11 U.S.C. § 307 (emphasis added). In enacting § 307, Congress did not limit the issues which the United States trustees may raise to those specifically enumerated in § 586. Rather, Congress used very broad, all-inclusive language to authorize the United States trustees to raise any issue in any case or proceeding. In Countrywide, after an extensive review of the history of the UST, including the legislative history behind §§ 586 and 307, case law interpreting the powers granted to the United States trustees under those provisions, and a thorough application of traditional canons of statutory interpretation, the court concluded that:

Section 307 is written in extremely broad language. Indeed it is difficult to conceive of how section 307 could have been written in any broader language. The court has thus no difficulty concluding that the plain meaning of the power to “raise” and to “appear and be heard” as to any issue in any bankruptcy case or proceeding includes the ability to conduct examinations pursuant to Rule 2004 in the right circumstances.

Countrywide, 384 B.R. at 384. The court adopts the thorough analysis performed by the Countrywide court in concluding that the UST’s authority is not limited to the specific tasks expressly mentioned in § 586 and that the UST may conduct the requested 2004 examination in this case.

The claims process, including the filing and allowance of claims, constitutes a significant part of the bankruptcy process. Sections 501 through 511 of the Code directly address the claims process in bankruptcy cases. Other Code provisions cover varying issues relating to the determination, allowance, and treatment of claims.[8] In addition to these Code provisions, Rules 3001 through 3014 address the claims process and claims issues in bankruptcy cases. Additional Rules cover the diverse issues relating to the determination, allowance, and treatment of claims.[9] Section 586 is broad enough to allow the UST to monitor the claims process, including through the investigation of proofs of claim filed by creditors, to assist in his duty of monitoring the progress of cases. Issues, with proofs of claims filed by mortgage lenders, affect the administration of cases. Accordingly, monitoring the claims process falls well within the UST’s duty to monitor the progress of bankruptcy cases.

Other courts have recognized the UST’s ability to monitor the claims process in bankruptcy cases and under the broad standing accorded by § 307, to object to proofs of claim. In re Borrows, 2011 WL 721842 (Bankr. W.D. Wash. Feb. 22, 2011). In Borrows, the United States trustee filed an objection to a mortgage lender’s proof of claim. The lender, rather than responding to the substance of the objection, challenged the United States trustee’s standing to object to claims. Id. at *1. The court determined that § 307 provided standing to the United States trustee to object to a proof of claim. In so deciding, it found that § 586(3)(G) provided “specific authority for the UST to bring an objection to claim under the circumstances of this case.” Id. at *2.[10]

Similarly, in Countrywide, the court concluded that the UST had sufficient interest to conduct a 2004 examination in connection with the UST’s challenge to Countrywide’s manner of calculating proofs of claim because “she has been charged to act as a watchdog to protect the integrity of the bankruptcy system.” Countrywide, 384 B.R. at 391, citingRevco, 898 F.2d at 500 and Eagle-Pitcher Holdings, 2005 WL 4030131, at *4 (Bankr. S.D. Ohio Aug. 26, 2005). The UST filed notices of 2004 examinations to obtain information from Countrywide in various bankruptcy cases alleging that the lender had engaged in questionable actions when filing proofs of claims. The UST sought to examine a corporate representative of Countrywide regarding “[its] bankruptcy procedures as they related to the Debtors’ financial affairs, the administration of their estate and the impact of Countrywide’s bankruptcy procedures on the integrity of the bankruptcy process in the Western District of Pennsylvania.” Countrywide, 384 B.R. at 400. The subpoena part of the request asked Countrywide to produce a variety of documents. The court rejected many of the same arguments made by Wells Fargo in this case in finding that the UST had the authority to conduct 2004 examinations relating to claims filed by Countrywide.

In addition, In re Wilson is instructive because it dealt with the UST’s on-going investigation into mortgage lenders’ filings in bankruptcy cases. 413 B.R. 330 (Bankr. E.D. La. 2009). In that case, the UST did not move for a 2004 examination but merely issued subpoenas to the mortgage lender. The court, finding “no reason to differ from the vast majority of courts on this issue” specifically adopted the reasoning in Countrywide, and allowed the UST to propound discovery on a mortgage lender in connection with allegations of improper filings by the lender pursuant to 11 U.S.C. §307 and § 105(a). Id. at 335-36. Noting that even though the UST had not sought discovery pursuant to 2004, “the preferable method for the UST to obtain the information it seeks from the [m]ovants,” the court concluded that its decision would have been the same. Id. at 336.

Perhaps most apposite to this case is the decision in In re Michalski, 449 B.R. 273 (Bankr. N.D. Ohio 2011). Wells Fargo filed a motion to quash a subpoena issued by the UST and requesting the court to reconsider an order granting a 2004 examination. The UST sought to examine records and documentation pertaining to the proof of claim which Wells Fargo filed in the debtors’ Chapter 13 case. While limiting the scope of the examination and documents to be produced, the court otherwise enforced the subpoena and denied the request to reconsider the granting of the 2004 examination. The court relied in large part on the rationale provided by Countrywide and Wilson and held that the UST had the authority “under Sections 307 and/or 586” to conduct the 2004 examination and to subpoena the documents underlying Wells Fargo’s proof of claim. Id. at 280.

Finally, another bankruptcy court rejected similar arguments made by BAC Home Loans Servicing, adopting the rationale of Countrywide, Wilson, and Michalski. The court stated: “The UST is charged to serve as a watchdog to protect the integrity of the bankruptcy system. That status compels the conclusion that Congress intended the UST to have the tools, including the ability to conduct Rule 2004 examinations and issue subpoenas, to carry out that duty. Without such authority, the UST’s role as a watchdog would be circumscribed and toothless.” In re Youk-See, ___ B.R. ___, 2011 WL 2458106, at *9 (Bankr. D. Mass. June 16, 2011).

The cases upon which Wells Fargo relies to argue that the UST’s authority under § 586 is very narrow do not alter this court’s conclusions. First, Wells Fargo cites In re Washington Mfg. Co., but that decision addressed the issue of whether a UST could intervene in an adversary proceeding under BR 7014, not the power of the UST to move for a 2004 examination. Citicorp North Amer., Inc. v. Finley (In re Washington Mfg. Co.) 123 B.R. 272, 275-76 (Bankr. M.D. Tenn. 1991). Of even greater significance, Washington Mfg. was decided prior to the Sixth Circuit’s decision in Revco.[11]

Accordingly, the court concludes that the UST may be involved in the claims process by virtue of his duty to monitor the progress of bankruptcy cases in his role as the “public watchdog” of the system.

E. A 2004 Examination is a Tool Which the UST May Use in Exercising His Authority to Monitor the Progress of Bankruptcy Cases, Including the Claims Process

As noted, the UST has the authority under § 586 to monitor the progress of bankruptcy cases and to investigate conduct to determine if a crime has been conducted. Through § 307 Congress made the UST a party in interest to all bankruptcy cases and authorized the UST to appear in any case or proceeding and to raise any issue in any case or proceeding. The 2004 examination is a tool which Congress has given to parties in interest in bankruptcy cases to investigate matters relating to debtors’ financial condition, including to determine whether to proceed with litigation. A 2004 examination may be used by the UST to investigate proofs of claim filed in bankruptcy cases provided that the examination is otherwise appropriate under Rule 2004. Accordingly, the court will now address whether the UST’s requests in this case meet the requirements of Rule 2004.

F. The Requirements and Limits of Rule 2004 Examinations Applied to the UST’s Request

1. Standing: The UST Has Standing To Pursue a Rule 2004 Examination

For the reasons discussed, the UST has standing pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 586 and § 307 to pursue a 2004 examination.

2. Good Cause: The UST Has Established Good Cause for Conducting a 2004 Examination

Wells Fargo argues that the UST does not have the necessary good cause to conduct a 2004 examination. Wells Fargo explains that “[a] UST is not vested with the power to independently investigate and determine the validity of claims based on state law rights and, in the process, unilaterally increase the required documentation necessary for the filing of a valid proof of claim under Fed. R. Bankr. 3001.” doc. 27, p. 3. Wells Fargo further argues that “the documents attached to the Wells Fargo claim already establish its standing.” doc. 27, p. 8. The court disagrees.[12]

Essentially, Wells Fargo’s argument is premised upon an erroneous conclusion — that attaching a copy of a promissory note asserted to be the Note executed by the Debtors conclusively establishes that it is the holder of the Note and, therefore, is entitled to enforce the rights under the Note and Mortgage. See Objection, pp. 8-11. The court does not disagree with, and the UST has conceded, the propositions that under Ohio law the holder of a promissory note may enforce the note and that the rights under a mortgage are incidental to the rights under the promissory note which it secures.[13] However, Wells Fargo’s argument that attachment of a copy of a promissory note to a proof of claim conclusively establishes Wells Fargo’s standing to file the proof of claim is not well taken.

A properly filed proof of claim is only prima facie evidence of the validity of a claim, and the UST is entitled to verify that eligibility by requiring that original documents or other evidence of the claimant’s entitlement to file and enforce the claim be produced. 11 U.S.C. § 502(a). Wells Fargo’s argument that the UST’s request amounts to an attempt to rewrite the rules governing the documentation of proofs of claim misses the point. In seeking to verify Wells Fargo’s standing to file a proof of claim, the UST is seeking to ensure that Wells Fargo complies with the Code and the Rules and to verify that Wells Fargo is a creditor entitled to file a proof of claim under § 501 of the Code. While the UST has not yet challenged the validly of Wells Fargo’s claim by objecting to it, he is entitled to make preliminary inquiries before determining if an objection is warranted. That inquiry is exactly the purpose of a 2004 examination. As noted, the UST seeks production of the Note based on the fact that the copy of the Note affixed to Wells Fargo’s proof of claim, which Note is endorsed in blank, fails to show Wells Fargo as the holder of the Note. Wells Fargo’s ability to provide a copy of the Note does not necessarily equate to it being in possession of the original Note, much less being in its possession at the time it filed its proof of claim. Under these circumstances, the UST may seek to verify Wells Fargo’s entitlement to file the proof of claim, including review of the original Note or such other appropriate documentation to convince the UST that Wells Fargo is in possession of the original Note or otherwise was entitled to file the proof of claim.[14] In this regard, the court notes that the Debtors’ case is an open Chapter 13 case continuing to be administered by the Chapter 13 Trustee and an objection to the claim could still be made. After conducting its 2004 examination, the UST can decide if it is appropriate to object to Wells Fargo’s proof of claim or to take other appropriate action.

Under the standards described, the UST has established good cause to conduct a 2004 examination. The Debtors’ case is open and being administered. The UST has questioned the status of Wells Fargo as the legitimate holder of the Note and Mortgage attached to Wells Fargo’s proof of claim based on the fact that neither of those documents shows Wells Fargo as the holder. Because the Note was endorsed in blank, the UST seeks production of the original Note by Wells Fargo to evidence Wells Fargo’s possession of that Note. As the recognized “watchdog” of the bankruptcy system, charged with the duties to protect its integrity and to ensure that bankruptcy cases are conducted in accordance with the law, the UST is a party in interest entitled to seek to verify the standing of claimants and their entitlement to payment. Those matters relate to the Debtors’ liabilities and financial condition and may affect the administration of their estate and the dividend paid to unsecured creditors in particular. See BR 2004(b).

Wells Fargo also suggests that a 2004 examination is inappropriate because no objection to Wells Fargo’s proof of claim has been filed, but a contested matter is not required. See Hammond, 140 B.R. at 204 (A 2004 examination is appropriate to determine whether a potential plaintiff has grounds under 11 U.S.C. § 523(d) and BR 9011 for filing an action); In re Johnson, 2007 Bankr. LEXIS 3022 (Bankr. S.D. Ohio July 23, 2007) (2004 examination is normally a pre-litigation device); In re Michalski, 449 B.R. at 281 (“[A] Rule 2004 examination is frequently used as a pre-litigation tool . . . .”); Collier on Bankruptcy, ¶ 2004.01[1]. See also In re Robinson, 2011 Bankr. LEXIS 1667 (Bankr. W.D. Tenn. April 6, 2011) (United States trustee has standing to examine the representative of the holder of an allowed secured claim when no objection has been filed with respect to the claim by the Chapter 13 Trustee or anyone else.).

Having decided that good cause exists for the UST to conduct a 2004 examination, the last issue is whether the scope of the UST’s request is appropriate.

3. The Scope of the Examination

The UST seeks to examine a Wells Fargo representative at the UST’s office in Columbus, Ohio and requests that Wells Fargo produce the following documents:

1. The actual, contemporaneously-kept transactional mortgage loan history on the Debtors’ mortgage loan, along with payments for escrow advances made by Wells Fargo Home Mortgage.

2. Evidence of the chain of assignment of the mortgage and chain of endorsement of the note which would tend to support claimant’s right to make the within claim in Debtor’s bankruptcy case.

Motion, Exhibit A, p. 9.

Wells Fargo argues that the scope of the production of documents is too broad. It explains that it should not have to produce a complete loan history as it is irrelevant to Wells Fargo’s standing to file its proof of claim, the only basis asserted by the UST for his request. In that same vein, Wells Fargo adds that an in-person examination is superfluous as the standing issue can be addressed through the production of documents.

Rule 2004(c) provides with respect to examinations that:

Compelling attendance and production of documents. The attendance of an entity for examination and for the production of documents, whether the examination is to be conducted within or without the district in which the case is pending, may be compelled as provided in Rule 9016 for the attendance of a witness at a hearing or trial. As an officer of the court, an attorney may issue and sign a subpoena on behalf of the court for the district in which the examination is to be held if the attorney is admitted to practice in that court or in the court in which the case is pending.

BR 2004(c).

In Countrywide, the court linked the good cause requirement with the scope of the examination. The court was legitimately concerned with the potential for abuse that could occur if parties were given essentially carte blanche to conduct broad, unlimited investigations resulting in unwarranted expensive burdens on private parties. The court stated:

Countrywide points out that a finding of an unchecked power in the UST to pursue examinations of creditors under Rule 2004 could lead to full-scale “investigations” by the UST that would unfairly intrude into the private business affairs of creditors and chill their participation in the bankruptcy process. That is a legitimate concern which the Court takes seriously. While the UST was undoubtedly intended to be a “watchdog” of the bankruptcy system, that cannot and should not be viewed as providing a license for the UST to engage in potentially invasive and expensive Rule 2004 discovery based on nothing more than her own curiosity. Such a license would be inimical to bedrock principles underlying the relationship between the federal government and the people (intended in the broad sense, including corporations such as Countrywide.)

Countrywide, 384 B.R. at 392 [footnote omitted]. In order to guard against over-reaching intrusions and examinations, the court applied a sliding scale approach to determine whether the United States trustee had sufficient cause to justify the scope of the examination she sought to conduct. The court continued:

The question of whether the UST has shown sufficient good cause to pursue a Rule 2004 examination and the type of discovery implicitly allowed by the Rule in a given matter is not suited to application of a mechanical test. Rather, a totality of circumstances approach is required, taking into account all relevant factors. Consistent with this approach it is appropriate to apply the “good cause” standard in what may be termed a “sliding scale” manner or balancing test. That is to say, the level of good cause required to be established by the UST before she can obtain certain documents or pursue a certain line of inquiry in a Rule 2004 examination involving a creditor will vary depending on the potential intrusiveness involved.

Id. at 393. While such factors may bear on whether good cause exists for a 2004 examination, these considerations are even more useful in determining the appropriate scope of the examination once a party establishes standing and good cause. The more compelling the cause, the greater latitude the court will allow for the 2004 examination.

In this case the UST’s cause for the examination is narrow — determining whether Wells Fargo was legally entitled to file the proof of claim. Accordingly, the scope of any examination granted should likewise be narrowly focused. In order to verify Wells Fargo’s entitlement to file a proof of claim in this case, the UST is entitled to review the original Note and any such documents that establish Wells Fargo is the holder of the Note under the Ohio Uniform Commercial Code and when Wells Fargo came into possession of the original Note. To the extent that the “contemporaneously-kept transactional mortgage loan history on the Debtors’ mortgage loan” is intended by the UST to capture documents in Wells Fargo’s possession relating to the transfer of the Note or interests in the Note from one entity to another until Wells Fargo became the holder of the Note, the request is granted and Wells Fargo shall produce such documents to the UST.[15] In addition, the request for documents pertaining to “the chain of assignment of the mortgage and chain of endorsement of the note which would tend to support claimant’s right to make the within claim in Debtor’s bankruptcy case” is granted as those documents are clearly relevant to the UST’s inquiry into Wells Fargo’s legal basis and standing for filing the proof of claim. However, to the extent that the UST is seeking a loan history relating to the payments made by the Debtors, charges made by the lender on the account, and other debits and credits relating to the loan evidenced by the Note and Mortgage, or any documents other than the original Note and other documents pertaining to the chain of ownership interests in the Note, the UST’s request is denied. The UST is not challenging the amount of the claim filed by Wells Fargo or any other issue other than the legal basis for its filing the proof of claim and, therefore, any other such documents would unnecessarily burden Wells Fargo. Any production of documentations authorized in this decision shall occur within forty-five (45) days after entry of the court’s order on this decision unless otherwise agreed by the parties.

After the documents are produced by Wells Fargo, if the UST determines that the documents produced do not establish Wells Fargo as the person entitled to enforce the Note under Ohio law and that it had that status at the time the proof of claim was filed, then at the request of the UST, Wells Fargo shall appear for an oral examination through an appropriate representative designated by Wells Fargo to be examined concerning how Wells Fargo became the holder of the Note. Any such examination shall take place at the office of the UST nearest to the principal place of business of the representative designated by Wells Fargo to be orally examined or at such other location or manner as the parties may agree.[16] To the extent such oral examination is not conducted by consent of the parties, the UST shall comply with the requirements of Rule 2004(c) and (d).

V. Conclusion

For the foregoing reasons, the court grants in part and denies in part the UST’s Motion for Entry of an Order Authorizing the Examination of and Production of Documents by Wells Fargo Home Mortgage Pursuant to Fed. R. Bankr. P. 2004 and 9016 (doc. 27). The court finds that the UST has the authority to investigate the proof of claim filed by Wells Fargo and has standing to conduct a 2004 examination for that purpose and that the UST has demonstrated good cause to conduct a 2004 examination. However, the examination shall be limited as provided by this decision, with an oral examination to occur only in the event that the documentary production is insufficient to establish Wells Fargo’s standing to file the proof of claim. In the event that the UST determines that an oral examination is necessary, the oral examination shall be conducted in accordance with BR 2004(c) and (d) and this decision, unless otherwise agreed upon by the parties.

The court is concurrently entering an order consistent with this decision.

IT IS SO ORDERED.

[1] “United States trustee” includes a designee of the United States Trustee. 11 U.S.C. § 102(9). For simplicity, the court will use the abbreviation “UST” whether referring to the movant, Daniel M. McDermott, United States Trustee for Region 9, his designee, or the United States Trustee program generally.

[2] See e.g., Harker v. Wells Fargo Bank, NA (In re Krause), 414 B.R. 243, 268, n.22 (Bankr. S.D. Ohio 2009); In re Parsley, 384 B.R. 138 (Bankr. S.D. Tex. 2008); Nosek v. Ameriquest Mortgage Co. (In re Nosek), 386 B.R. 374 (Bankr. D. Mass 2008), aff’d in part, vacated in part 406 B.R. 434 (D. Mass. 2009), aff’d as modified 609 F.3d 6 (1st Cir. 2010); In re Foreclosure Cases, 521 F. Supp. 2d 650 (N.D. Ohio 2007).

[3] See In re Saffold, 373 B.R. 39, 42 (Bankr. N.D. Ohio 2007); Chris Markus, Ron Taylor & Blake Vogt, From Main Street to Wall Street: Mortgage Loan Securitization and New Challenges Facing Foreclosure Plaintiffs in Kentucky, 36 N. Ky. L. Rev. 395 (2009).

[4] The proof of claim describes the creditor as Wells Fargo Bank, NA and the name to which notices and payments should be sent as Wells Fargo Home Mortgage. The United States Trustee, in his motion, used Wells Fargo Home Mortgage while the creditor used Wells Fargo Bank, NA in its filings. The court will simply refer to Wells Fargo Bank, N.A. and Wells Fargo Home Mortgage collectively as “Wells Fargo.”

[5] Unless otherwise noted, all references to rules of court shall be to the Federal Rules of Bankruptcy Procedure (“BR”).

[6] Some courts have discussed whether § 307 enlarges or further defines the authority granted to the UST § 586. See e.g., In re Parsley, 384 B.R. 138, 147 (Bankr. S.D. Tex. 2008) (it is well within the authority of the UST to investigate the activities of a loan servicer and its local and national counsel); In re South Beach Securities, Inc., 606 F.3d 366, 371 (7th Cir 2010) (finding, among other things, that section 307 gives the United States UST the power to object to a chapter 11 plan of reorganization in his role as guardian of the public interest in bankruptcy proceedings); In re LWD Inc., 342 B.R. 514, 519 (Bankr. W.D. Ky. 2006) (the UST is not limited to the duties set out in § 586); and Zarnel, 619 F.3d at 161-62. Wells Fargo’s argument relies in large part on this debate, wanting this court to conclude that § 586 limits the authority of the UST, while § 307 is merely a standing provision giving the UST authority to act in bankruptcy cases in those areas expressly mentioned in § 586. While the interaction between § 586 and § 307 and the reach of these statutes continues to be debated, this court only finds that under § 586 and § 307 the UST has sufficient authority to conduct a 2004 examination under these circumstances. Even if § 586 circumscribes § 307, the court finds that the UST has sufficient authority under § 586 to monitor the progress of cases, including the claims process, and that includes the ability to object to claims and to conduct 2004 examinations. See In re Borrows, 2011 WL 721842 at *2 (Bankr. W.D. Wash. Feb. 22, 2011) (“Without deciding whether Section 586 is all inclusive as to the permissible activities of the UST in bankruptcy cases, the Court concludes that subsection (a)(3)(G) of Section 586 provides specific authority for the UST to bring an objection to [a] claim under the circumstances of this case.”).

[7] The United States Supreme Court has long recognized that the pecuniary interest test may not be the only test to confer standing and that noneconomic tests may also confer standing as long as the “interest sought to be protected by the complainant is arguably within the zone of interests to be protected or regulated by the statute or constitutional guarantee in question.” Ass’n of Data Processing Servs. Orgs., Inc. v. Camp, 397 U.S. 150, 153 (1970).

[8] See e.g., § 523 (concerning dischargeability of debts); § 524 (c) & (d) (concerning reaffirmation agreements); § 552 (concerning the post-petition effect of prepetition security interests); § 553 (concerning setoffs against claims); § 1111 (deeming proofs of claim or interest in Chapter 11 cases filed for claims or interests scheduled other than as disputed, contingent, or unliquidated and allowing for the “1111(b)” election for secured creditors); and §§ 1122, 1222(a)(3), and 1322(a)(3) (concerning classification and treatment of claims and interests in Chapter 11, 12, and 13 plans).

[9] See e.g., BR 1007 (concerning the filing of the schedules and other documents at the inception of the case); 2016 (professional compensation and reimbursement of expenses); 3021 (distribution to claims under a plan); 4007 (outlining the procedure for determinations of the dischargeability of debts); and 4008 (outlining the reaffirmation process).

[10] Although the obligation to challenge the validity of filed proofs of claim generally falls upon debtors or standing trustees, the overarching duty of the UST is to ensure the proper management of debtors’ debts provides them with the requisite standing to review proofs of claims. See In re Wassenaar, 268 B.R. 477, 479 (W.D. Va. 2001). Wells Fargo argues that the UST cannot interject himself into state law issues as to the validity of proofs of claim. However, in Wassenaar, the court rejected this notion, stating: “[t]he question in this case is whether creditors’ attorney’s fees should be charged as an administrative expense to the bankruptcy estate. While this issue focuses on the state-law question of awarding attorney’s fees, the federal bankruptcy issue remains. The United States Trustee’s interest is plain: to ensure the proper management of Kurt Wassenaar’s debts. The Bankruptcy Court, therefore, properly allowed the Trustee to participate in this case.” Id. at 479. See also Borrows, 2011 WL 721842, at *3 (rejecting BAC Home Loans Servicing, L.P.’s argument that granting the UST authority to investigate proofs of claim “impermissibly encroaches on the province of the Chapter 13 trustee to object to proofs of claim.”).

[11] Wells Fargo also cites to In re Gold Standard Baking, Inc., 179 B.R. 98 (Bankr. N.D. Ill. 1995) and In re Howard Ins. Agency, Inc., 109 B.R. 445, 446 (Bankr. N.D. Okla. 1989). Both cases are distinguishable in that the former dealt with a UST’s attempt to impose a new requirement on Chapter 11 debtors-in-possession to imprint their checks with the phrase “Debtor in Possession” and the latter with the power of the UST to promulgate administrative regulations.

[12] Another court rejected essentially this same argument made by Wells Fargo in In re Michalski, 449 B.R. 273 (Bankr. N.D. Ohio 2011) (“Wells Fargo mistakenly construes the Rule 2004 examination as an attempt by the UST to `unilaterally increase the requirements for filing a valid proof of claim.'” Id. at 280 (internal citations omitted). Noting that determination of proofs of claim in bankruptcy cases frequently requires analysis of state law, the court found that “[t]his argument totally misses the mark” and that the UST could conduct a Rule 2004 examination to obtain information from Wells Fargo concerning the proof of claim it filed in that case. Id.

[13] Under Ohio law, security follows the note and therefore whoever holds the note also holds any security securing such note. See Noland v. Wells Fargo Bank, N.A. (In re Williams), 395 B.R. 33, 47 (Bankr. S.D. Ohio 2008), citing Gemini Services, Inc. v. Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems, Inc. (In re Gemini Services, Inc.), 350 B.R. 74, 82 (Bankr. S.D. Ohio 2006).

[14] The most common, but not exclusive way to establish being the “person entitled to enforce” a negotiable instrument, under the Ohio U.C.C., is to be the holder, such as a typical promissory note. See Ohio Revised Code § 1303.31 (Person entitled to enforce an instrument). If a promissory note is endorsed in blank, possession of the original note, endorsed in blank, establishes the right to enforce it as the holder and, therefore, standing to file a proof of claim. Densmore v. Litton Loan Servicing, L.P. (In re Densmore), ___ B.R. ___, 2011 WL 1181359 (Bankr. D. Ct. March 21, 2011).

[15] It appears that there may be some confusion as to what the UST meant with respect to “transactional loan history.” Wells Fargo appears to construe this request as a request for a “complete loan history,” or in other words, the history of payments made by the Debtors and charges made by the lender relating to the loan account and perhaps this construction of that request is understandable given the ending phrase of that request — “along with payments for escrow advances made by Wells Fargo Home Mortgage.” See doc. 27, pp. 8 & 11.

[16] The UST has suggested the possibility of videoconferencing.

[ipaper docId=60832852 access_key=key-jct15ono0cbshx5gztf height=600 width=600 /]

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MUST READ | Ohio Supreme Court Reviews Order Certifying Conflict Exists “Owner AND Holder”

MUST READ | Ohio Supreme Court Reviews Order Certifying Conflict Exists “Owner AND Holder”


Read this below first to understand the Supreme Court:

[CLICK LINK] to OHIO APPEALS COURT AFFIRMS “NO STANDING TO FORECLOSE” U.S. BANK v. DUVALL

U.S. Bank National Assoc.
v.
Antoine Duvall et al.

This cause is pending before the Court on the certification of a conflict by the Court of Appeals for Cuyahoga County. On review of the order certifying a conflict, it is determined that a conflict exists. The parties are to brief the issue stated in the court of appeals’ Judgment Entry filed January 31, 2011, as follows:

“To have standing as a plaintiff in a mortgage foreclosure action, must a party show that it owned the note and the mortgage when the complaint was filed?”

It is ordered by the Court that the Clerk shall issue an order for the transmittal of the record from the Court of Appeals for Cuyahoga County.

(Cuyahoga County Court of Appeals; No. 94174)

Maureen O’Connor
Chief Justice

Case Announcements:

The conflict cases are U.S. Bank, N.A. v. Bayless, Delaware App. No. 09
CAE 01 004, 2009-Ohio-6115, U.S. Bank, N.A. v. Marcino, 181 Ohio App.3d 328,
2009-Ohio-1178, Bank of New York v. Stuart, Lorain App. No. 06CA008953,
2007-Ohio-1483, and Countrywide Home Loan Servicing, L.P. v. Thomas, Franklin
App. No. 09AP-819, 2010-Ohio-3018.

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