FULL Mortgage Payoff Rejected, Broken Entry (2), FORECLOSURE JUDGEMENT REVERSED…PRICELESS! Fed. Deposit Ins. Corp., as Receiver of WAMU v. TRAVERSARI, 2010 Ohio 2406 – Ohio: Court of Appeals, 11th Dist., Geauga 2010

2010-Ohio-2406

Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, as Receiver of Washington Mutual Bank, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
Robert Traversari, et al., Defendants-Appellants.

No. 2008-G-2859.

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Eleventh District, Geauga County.

May 28, 2010.

Karen L. Giffen and Kathleen A. Nitschke, Giffen & Kaminski, L.L.C., 1300 East Ninth Street, #1600, Cleveland, OH 44114 and Donald Swartz, Lerner, Sampson & Rothfuss, P.O. Box 580, Cincinnati, OH 45210-5480 (For Plaintiff-Appellee).

Edward T. Brice, Newman & Brice, L.P.A., 214 East Park Street, Chardon, OH 44024 (For Defendants-Appellants).

OPINION

COLLEEN MARY O’TOOLE, J.

{¶1} Appellants, Robert Traversari (“Traversari”) and B & B Partners (“B & B”), appeal from the August 5, 2008 judgment entry of the Geauga County Court of Common Pleas, granting summary judgment in favor of appellee, Washington Mutual Bank, and entitling appellee to a judgment and decree in foreclosure.

{¶2} In 1994, appellant Traversari borrowed $190,000 from Loan America Financial Corporation which was memorialized by a promissory note and further secured by a mortgage on property located at 9050 Lake-in-the-Woods Trail, Bainbridge Township, Geauga County, Ohio. Appellant Traversari obtained the loan individually and/or in his capacity as the sole member and principal of appellant B & B, a real estate based company. The mortgage at issue was subsequently assigned to appellee.

{¶3} On January 8, 2007, appellee filed a complaint in foreclosure against appellants and defendants, JP Morgan Chase Bank, N.A., Charter One Bank, N.A., Jesse Doe, and Geauga County Treasurer. In count one of its complaint, appellee alleges that it is the holder and owner of a note in which appellant Traversari owes $149,919.96 plus interest at the rate of 7.75 percent per year from September 1, 2006, plus costs. In count two of its complaint, appellee alleges that it is the holder of a mortgage, given to secure payment of the note, which constitutes a valid first lien upon the real estate at issue. Appellee maintains that because the conditions of defeasance have been broken, it is entitled to have the mortgage foreclosed. Appellee indicated that appellant B & B may have claimed an interest in the property by virtue of being a current titleholder.

{¶4} Appellants filed an answer and counterclaim on February 16, 2007. In their defense, appellants maintain that appellee failed to comply with Civ.R. 10(D) and is estopped from asserting a foreclosure by its waiver of accepting payment. According to their counterclaim, appellants allege the following: on or about September 25, 2006, appellant Traversari sent a check in the amount of $150,889.96 to appellee for payment in full on the loan, which included the principal of $149.919.96 plus $970 of interest; on or about November 17, 2006, appellee issued a new home loan statement to appellant Traversari indicating the amount due was $5,608.95; appellant Traversari contacted appellee stating that a check had been sent for payment in full; appellee failed to respond; appellant Traversari mailed a check to appellee in the amount of $155,000; no stop payment was issued on the first check; because the house was vacant, appellant Traversari went to check the residence on December 26, 2006, and discovered that it had been broken into; an orange placard was placed on the premises indicating that a representative from appellee would secure the home; appellant Traversari immediately purchased new lock sets, secured the premises, and called and left a message for appellee to inform them to not enter the home; on December 31, 2006, electronic transmission was sent to appellee concerning the break-in and requested appellee to stop breaking into the home as well as to locate the two checks and to send a copy of a letter to a credit bureau; appellee did not respond; appellant Traversari then mailed a check from a separate account in the amount of the last payment demanded by appellee; appellee sent the $155,000 check back with a form letter to the address of the vacant property stating that personal checks were not accepted for payoff; appellee also rejected the $5,674.41 check; appellant Traversari then contacted appellee regarding the rejected checks; on January 11, 2007, appellant Traversari went to the home again, finding the kitchen door open, furnace running, new lock set taken out, garage door openers unplugged, and worse dings in the steel door; and appellant Traversari emailed appellee again, however, appellee indicated it could not give appellants any information because the case had been moved to foreclosure.

{¶5} Appellee filed a reply to appellants’ counterclaim on March 19, 2007, and an amended reply on September 6, 2007.

{¶6} According to the deposition of Maritza Torres (“Torres”), an employee of appellee in its senior asset recovery, loss prevention department, she was assigned to appellants’ case. Torres testified that appellee has no record of having received a check in the amount of $150,889.96 from appellant Traversari on September 25, 2006. However, she indicated that appellee received a check from appellant Traversari on September 30, 2006, in the amount of $102,538.74 (“Check #1”), which was returned to him due to appellee’s policy not to accept checks for early payoffs that are not certified funds.

{¶7} According to the deposition of Linda Rae Traversari (“Linda”), appellant Traversari’s wife, she is the handler of the family assets. Following the return of Check #1, appellee forwarded a delinquency letter to appellant Traversari in early November of 2006. Later that month, appellee sent a second default letter to him. Linda testified that on or around November 30, 2006, appellant Traversari sent another personal check for early payoff to appellee in the amount of $155,000 (“Check #2”). Appellee returned Check #2 with a letter explaining that noncertified funds are not accepted for early payoff. Linda stated that on January 2, 2007, appellant Traversari sent a third personal check via certified mail to appellee in the amount of $5,674.41 (“Check #3”). By the time appellee received Check #3, the loan had been referred to foreclosure. Check #3 was returned to appellant Traversari as “insufficient.”

{¶8} On March 14, 2008, appellee filed a motion for summary judgment pursuant to Civ.R. 56(b). Appellants filed a response on April 21, 2008.

{¶9} In its July 3, 2008 order, the trial court found, inter alia, that appellee was within its legal rights to reject the personal checks; appellee had the right to institute and maintain the foreclosure because appellants did not cure their default; and appellee had the right to enter the premises. Thus, the trial court indicated that appellee’s motion for summary judgment would be granted in its favor as to all issues and claims against appellants upon appellee’s presentation of an appropriate entry to be provided to the court.

{¶10} Appellee filed a “Motion For Submission Of Its Entry Granting Motion For Summary Judgment And Decree In Foreclosure” on July 11, 2008, and an amended entry on July 21, 2008. Appellants filed objections to appellee’s proposed amended entry the following day.

{¶11} Pursuant to its August 5, 2008 “Amended Entry Granting Summary Judgment And Decree In Foreclosure,” the trial court granted summary judgment in favor of appellee, entitling appellee to a judgment and decree in foreclosure. The trial court ordered, inter alia, that unless the sums found due to appellee are fully paid within 3 days from the date of the decree, the equity of redemption shall be foreclosed, the property sold, and an order of sale issued to the Sheriff directing him to appraise, advertise, and sell the property. The trial court further ordered that the proceeds of the sale follow the following order of priority: (1) to the Clerk of Courts, the costs of the action, including the fees of appraisers; (2) to the County Treasurer, the taxes and assessments, due and payable as of the date of transfer of the property after Sheriff’s Sale; (3) to appellee, the sum of $149,919.96, with interest at the rate of 7.75 percent per annum from September 1, 2006 to February 29, 2008, and 7.25 percent per annum from March 1, 2008 to present, together with advances for taxes, insurance, and costs; and (4) the balance of the sale proceeds, if any, shall be paid by the Sheriff to the Clerk of Court to await further orders. It is from that judgment that appellants filed the instant appeal, raising the following assignment of error for our review:

{¶12} “THE TRIAL COURT ERRED TO THE PREJUDICE OF DEFENDANTSA-PPELLANTS IN ITS ORDER GRANTING IN PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE’S FAVOR AS TO ALL ISSUES AND CLAIMS AND AGAINST DEFENDANTS, AND ITS AMENDED ENTRY GRANTING SUMMARY JUDGMENT AND DECREE IN FORECLOSURE TO PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE AGAINST DEFENDANTS-APPELLANTS.”

{¶13} In their sole assignment of error, appellants argue that the trial court erred by granting summary judgment in favor of appellee, and entitling appellee to a judgment and decree in foreclosure.

{¶14} “This court reviews de novo a trial court’s order granting summary judgment.” Hudspath v. Cafaro Co., 11th Dist. No. 2004-A-0073, 2005-Ohio-6911, at ¶8, citing Hapgood v. Conrad, 11th Dist. No. 2000-T-0058, 2002-Ohio-3363, at ¶13. “`A reviewing court will apply the same standard a trial court is required to apply, which is to determine whether any genuine issues of material fact exist and whether the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.'” Id.

{¶15} “Since summary judgment denies the party his or her `day in court’ it is not to be viewed lightly as docket control or as a `little trial.’ The jurisprudence of summary judgment standards has placed burdens on both the moving and the nonmoving party. In Dresher v. Burt [(1996), 75 Ohio St.3d 280, 296,] the Supreme Court of Ohio held that the moving party seeking summary judgment bears the initial burden of informing the trial court of the basis for the motion and identifying those portions of the record before the trial court that demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of fact on a material element of the nonmoving party’s claim. The evidence must be in the record or the motion cannot succeed. The moving party cannot discharge its initial burden under Civ.R. 56 simply by making a conclusory assertion that the nonmoving party has no evidence to prove its case but must be able to specifically point to some evidence of the type listed in Civ.R. 56(C) that affirmatively demonstrates that the nonmoving party has no evidence to support the nonmoving party’s claims. If the moving party fails to satisfy its initial burden, the motion for summary judgment must be denied. If the moving party has satisfied its initial burden, the nonmoving party has a reciprocal burden outlined in the last sentence of Civ.R. 56(E) to set forth specific facts showing there is a genuine issue for trial. If the nonmoving party fails to do so, summary judgment, if appropriate shall be entered against the nonmoving party based on the principles that have been firmly established in Ohio for quite some time in Mitseff v. Wheeler (1988), 38 Ohio St.3d 112 ***.” Welch v. Ziccarelli, 11th Dist. No. 2006-L-229, 2007-Ohio-4374, at ¶40.

{¶16} “The court in Dresher went on to say that paragraph three of the syllabus in Wing v. Anchor Media, Ltd. of Texas (1991), 59 Ohio St.3d 108 ***, is too broad and fails to account for the burden Civ.R. 56 places upon a moving party. The court, therefore, limited paragraph three of the syllabus in Wing to bring it into conformity with Mitseff. (Emphasis added.)” Id. at ¶41.

{¶17} “The Supreme Court in Dresher went on to hold that when neither the moving nor nonmoving party provides evidentiary materials demonstrating that there are no material facts in dispute, the moving party is not entitled a judgment as a matter of law as the moving party bears the initial responsibility of informing the trial court of the basis for the motion, `and identifying those portions of the record which demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of fact on a material element of the nonmoving party’s claim.’ Id. at 276. (Emphasis added.)” Id. at ¶42.

{¶18} In the case at bar, the record establishes that appellant Traversari sent personal checks to appellee for payment on the loan at issue. However, appellee returned the checks with letters indicating they would not be accepted as payment because they were not certified, and foreclosure proceedings commenced.

{¶19} There is no genuine issue of material fact that appellants executed and delivered a note and mortgage to appellee. However, a genuine issue of material fact does exist with regard to the fact that appellant Traversari tendered the entire principal payment and appellee rejected it because the payment was made by personal check. See Chase Home Fin., LLC v. Smith, 11th Dist. No. 2007-P-0097, 2008-Ohio-5451, at ¶19. The dates and amounts of the personal checks are conflicting due to the testimony and/or evidence submitted by the parties.

{¶20} “A cause of action exists on behalf of a damaged mortgagor when, in conformity with the terms of his note, he offers to the mortgagee full payment of the balance of the principal and interest, and the mortgagee refuses to present the note and mortgage for payment and cancellation.” Cotofan v. Steiner (1959), 170 Ohio St. 163, paragraph one of the syllabus.

{¶21} Appellant Traversari did not place any conditions on the personal checks tendered to appellee. We note that “[t]he essential characteristics of a tender are an unconditional offer to perform, coupled with ability to carry out the offer and production of the subject matter of the tender.” Walton Commercial Enterprises, Inc. v. Assns. Conventions, Tradeshows, Inc. (June 11, 1992), 10th Dist. No. 91AP-1458, 1992 Ohio App. LEXIS 3081, at 5. (Emphasis sic.)

{¶22} “It is an implied condition of every contract that one party will not prevent or impede performance by the other. If he does prevent or impede performance, whether by his prior breach or other conduct, he may not then insist on performance by the affected party, and he cannot maintain an action for nonperformance if the promises are interdependent.” Fed. Natl. Mtge. Assns. v. Banks (Feb. 20, 1990), 2d Dist. No. 11667, 1990 Ohio App. LEXIS 638, at 8-9, citing 17 American Jurisprudence 2d, Contracts, Sections 425, 426.

{¶23} In the instant matter, paragraph 3 of the Open-End Mortgage provides:

{¶24} “3. Application of Payments. Unless applicable law provides otherwise, all payments received by Lender under paragraphs 1 and 2 shall be applied: first, to any prepayment charges due under the Note; second, to amounts payable under paragraph 2; third; to interest due; fourth, to principal due; and last, to any late charges due under the Note.”

{¶25} Here, there was no new note and mortgage, nor agreement for application of payments, when the mortgage at issue was subsequently assigned from Loan America Financial Corporation to appellee. Rather, it was the policy of appellee to require mortgagors to pay by certified check for any amounts over $5,000. According to appellee’s employee, Torres, she indicated that any amount over $5,000 not paid by certified funds puts the company at risk because it can take anywhere between 7 to 10 days for a personal check to clear. We note, however, that the mortgagee has up to 90 days to verify the sufficiency of the underlying funds before satisfying and releasing its recorded mortgage. R.C. 5301.36(B). In the instant case, it would have been reasonable for appellee to have either waited 7 to 10 days for appellant Traversari’s checks to clear or to have inquired with his bank, see, generally, Hunter Sav. Assn. v. Kasper (Sept. 25, 1979), 10th Dist. No. 78AP-774, 1979 Ohio App. LEXIS 11777, at 13, if there were sufficient funds before returning any of his 3 personal checks and commencing foreclosure proceedings.

{¶26} The lender in this case unilaterally refused the debtor’s payment by check due to itsinternal policy that an amount over $5,000 had to be made by certified check. The terms and conditions of the mortgage, however, do not impose such a requirement. Under paragraph 3 of the Open-End Mortgage, it appears the lender had an obligation to apply the payment tendered, by personal check or otherwise. Its refusal to present the check for clearance and apply the payment on the ground of internal policy appears to have violated the debtor’s rights.

{¶27} Construing the evidence submitted most strongly in favor of appellants, we must conclude that genuine issues of material fact remain. Again, a genuine issue of material fact exists with regard to the fact that appellant Traversari tendered the entire principal payment and appellee rejected it because the payment was made by personal check. Also, the dates and amounts of the personal checks are conflicting due to the testimony and/or evidence submitted by the parties. Thus, the trial court erred by granting appellee’s motion for summary judgment.

{¶28} For the foregoing reasons, appellants’ sole assignment of error is well-taken. The judgment of the Geauga County Court of Common Pleas is reversed and the matter is remanded for further proceedings consistent with this opinion. It is ordered that appellee is assessed costs herein taxed. The court finds there were reasonable grounds for this appeal.

Trapp, P.J., Rice, J., concur.

Defendants are not named parties to the instant appeal.

The matter was stayed. On November 26, 2008, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation was substituted for appellee Washington Mutual Bank. This court instructed the Clerk of Courts to correct the docket by removing “Washington Mutual Bank” and substituting “Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, as Receiver of Washington Mutual Bank” as appellee in this appeal. The stay order automatically dissolved on August 29, 2009.

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FINALLY!!! Supreme Court of Florida DENIES FORECLOSURE MILLS Ben-Ezra and Katz, P.A.’s Motion for Rehearing and Shapiro and Fishman, LLP’s Motion for Rehearing

via 4ClosureFraud

RE: Verification of Complaints

NO MORE EXCUSES

Supreme Court of Florida

THURSDAY, JUNE 3, 2010
CASE NOS.: SC09-1460 AND SC09-1579
IN RE: AMENDMENTS TO THE FLORIDA RULES OF CIVIL PROCEDURE IN
RE: AMENDMENTS TO THE FLORIDA RULES OF CIVIL PROCEDURE – FORM 1.996
(FINAL JUDGMENT OF FORECLOSURE)

In light of the revised opinion, Ben-Ezra and Katz, P.A.’s Motion for Rehearing and Shapiro and Fishman, LLP’s Motion for Rehearing or Clarification are hereby

DENIED

IN RE: AMENDMENTS TO THE FLORIDA RULES OF CIVIL PROCEDURE

REVISED

MASSIVE RULING TO PROTECT CALIFORNIA HOMEOWNERS FROM NON JUDICIAL FORECLOSURE: MABRY v. THE SUPERIOR COURT OF ORANGE COUNTY‎ CODE 2923.5

From: b.daviesmd6605

PUBLISHED OPINION AT THE APPEALS LEVEL FOR CC 2923.5. IT IS THE LAW. THERE IS A FACT SPECIFIC CAUSE OF ACTION FOR THIS CALIFORNIA CODE. THIS IS A MASSIVE PROTECTION IN CALIFORNIA FOR THE DEVIL DEEDS OF CC2924, NON JUDICIAL FORECLOSURE. MASSIVE POSITIVE FINALLY FOR HOMEOWNERS IN CALIFORNIA.

One Size Fits All Doesn’t Work! MERS/CITIMORTGAGE PreLIMINARY INJUNCTION Dalton V. CitiMortgage Reno, Nevada No. 3:09-CV-534-RCJ (VPC) 2009

“One Size DOES NOT FIT ALL”

This is a case where Plaintiff’s counsel aggressively sought to have all foreclosures stopped due to no standing. He states “Thats why the MERS system tried to be a nationwide system”.

“One Size Fits All Doesn’t Work”

The Conclusion…If we could only turn back time: IN THE MATTER OF MERSCORP, INC. v. Romaine, 2005 NY Slip Op 9728 – NY: Supreme Court, Appellate Div., 2nd Dept. 2005

2005 NY Slip Op 09728

IN THE MATTER OF MERSCORP, INC., ET AL., appellants-respondents,
v.
EDWARD P. ROMAINE, ETC., ET AL., respondents-appellants.

2004-04735.

Appellate Division of the Supreme Court of New York, Second Department.

Decided December 192005.

Hiscock & Barclay, LLP, Buffalo, N.Y. (Charles C. Martorana of counsel), for appellants-respondents.

Cahn & Cahn, LLP, Melville, N.Y. (Richard C. Cahn and Daniel K. Cahn of counsel), for respondents-appellants.

Bainton McCarthy, LLC, New York, N.Y. (J. Joseph Bainton of counsel), for American Land Title Association, amicus curiae.

Decher, LLP, New York, N.Y. (Joseph P. Forte and Kathleen N. Massey of counsel), for Mortgage Bankers Association, amicus curiae.

Howard Lindenberg, McLean, VA., for Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation, amicus curiae, and Kenneth Scott, Washington, D.C., for Federal National Mortgage Association, amicus curiae (one brief filed).

Brigitte Amiri, Brooklyn, N.Y., for South Brooklyn Legal Services, amicus curiae, April Carrie Charney, Jacksonville, FL., for Jacksonville Area Legal Aid, Inc., amicus curiae, and Daniel P. Lindsey, Chicago, IL, for Legal Assistance Foundation of Metropolitan Chicago, amicus curiae (one brief filed).

Before: ROBERT W. SCHMIDT, J.P., BARRY A. COZIER, REINALDO E. RIVERA, STEVEN W. FISHER, JJ.

DECISION & ORDER

ORDERED that the order and judgment is modified, on the law, by (1) deleting the provision thereof denying that branch of the petitioners’ motion for summary judgment which was to compel the Suffolk County Clerk to record and index the subject assignments and discharges, and substituting therefor a provision granting that branch of the motion, and (2) adding thereto a provision declaring that the mortgages, assignments, and discharges which name Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems, Inc., as the lender’s nominee or the mortgagee of record are acceptable for recording and indexing; as so modified, the order and judgment is affirmed insofar as appealed and cross-appealed from, with one bill of costs to the petitioner.

The petitioners, MerscorpInc. (hereinafter Merscorp), and its subsidiary, Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems, Inc. (hereinafter MERS), operate a national electronic registration system (hereinafter the MERS System) for residential mortgages and related instruments (hereinafter MERS Instruments). In essence, lenders who subscribe to the MERS System (hereinafter MERS Members) designate MERS as their nominee or the mortgagee of record for the purpose of recording MERS Instruments in the county where the subject real property is located. The MERS Instruments are registered in a central database, which tracks all future transfers of the beneficial ownership interests and servicing rights among MERS Members throughout the life of the loan.

Merscorp and MERS commenced this hybrid proceeding and action in response to the announcement by the Suffolk County Clerk (hereinafter the Clerk) that, as of May 1, 2001, he would no longer accept MERS Instruments that listed MERS as the mortgagee or nominee of record unless MERS was, in fact, the actual mortgagee. In June 2002 this court granted the motion by Merscorp and MERS to preliminarily compel the Clerk to record MERS Instruments and list MERS as the mortgagee in the County’s alphabetical indexes pending the SupremeCourt’s determination of the hybrid proceeding and action on the merits (see Matter ofMerscorp, Inc. v. Romaine, 295 AD2d 431).

The Supreme Court properly compelled the Clerk to record MERS mortgages (seeKlostermann v. Cuomo, 61 NY2d 525, 539). In short, the Clerk has a statutory duty that is ministerial in nature to record a written conveyance if it is duly acknowledged and accompanied by the proper fee (see Real Property Law §§ 290[3], 291; County Law § 525[1]). Accordingly, the Clerk does not have the authority to refuse to record a conveyance which satisfies the narrowly-drawn prerequisites set forth in the recording statute (see People ex rel. Frost v. Woodbury, 213 NY 51; People ex rel. Title Guar.& Trust Co. v. Grifenhagen, 209 NY 569;Matter of Westminster Hgts. Co. v. Delany, 107 App Div 577, affd 185 NY 539; Putnam v. Stewart, 97 NY 411).

Similarly, Real Property Law § 316-a (1), which only applies to the Suffolk County indexing system, provides that the Clerk must record and index “[e]very instrument affecting real estate or chattels real, situated in the county of Suffolk, which shall be, or which shall have been recorded in the office of the clerk of said county . . . pursuant to the provisions of this act.” Pursuant to Real Property Law § 316-a(2), the Clerk must maintain the indexes so they “contain the date of recording of each instrument, the names of the parties to each instrument and the liber and page of the record thereof” (see also Real Property Law § 316-a[4] and [5]). Thus, the Clerk’s duty to index recorded instruments is mandatory and ministerial in nature.

Contrary to the Supreme Court’s determination, there is no valid distinction between MERS mortgages and MERS assignments or discharges for the purpose of recording and indexing. Pursuant to Real Property Law § 321(1), the discharge document may be signed either by the mortgagee, the person who appears from the public record to be the last assignee, or their personal representatives.

As the proponents of a motion for summary judgment, Merscorp and MERS made a prima facie showing that they were entitled to judgment as a matter of law by tendering sufficient evidence to establish that they complied with the applicable recording statutes (see Winegrad v. New York Univ. Med. Ctr., 64 NY2d 851, 853Artistic Landscaping v. Board of Assessors,303 AD2d 699). Once this showing was made, the burden shifted to the Clerk, who failed to raise a triable issue of fact in opposition to the motion (Alvarez v. Prospect Hosp., 68 NY2d 320, 324Zuckerman v. City of New York, 49 NY2d 557, 562).

Since this is a declaratory judgment action, the order and judgment must be modified, inter alia, by adding a declaration that the mortgages, assignments, and discharges which name MERS as the lender’s nominee or the mortgagee of record are acceptable for recording and indexing (see Lanza v. Wagner, 11 NY2d 317, 334, appeal dismissed 371 US 74, cert denied372 US 901).

SCHMIDT, J.P., COZIER, RIVERA and FISHER, JJ., concur.

RELATED ARTICLE:

This case might have put MERS in the SPOT LIGHT: MATTER OF MERSCORP, INC. v. Romaine, 295 AD 2d 431 – NY: Supreme Court, Appellate Div., 2nd Dept. 2002

This case might have put MERS in the SPOT LIGHT: MATTER OF MERSCORP, INC. v. Romaine, 295 AD 2d 431 – NY: Supreme Court, Appellate Div., 2nd Dept. 2002

295 A.D.2d 431 (2002)

743 N.Y.S.2d 562

In the Matter of MERSCORP, INC., et al., Appellants,
v.
EDWARD P. ROMAINE et al., Respondents.

Appellate Division of the Supreme Court of the State of New York, Second Department.

Decided June 10, 2002.

S. Miller, J.P., Krausman and Cozier, JJ., concur.

Ordered that the order is reversed, without costs or disbursements, and the motion for a preliminary injunction is granted pending the Supreme Court’s determination of the hybrid proceeding and action on the merits.

The petitioners, Merscorp, Inc. (hereinafter Merscorp), and its subsidiary, MortgageElectronic Registration SystemsInc. (hereinafter MERS), operate a national electronicregistration system (hereinafter the MERS System) for residential mortgages and related instruments (hereinafter MERS Instruments). In essence, lenders who subscribe to the MERS System (hereinafter MERS Members) designate MERS as their nominee or the “mortgagee of record” for the purpose of 432*432 recording MERS Instruments in the county where the subject real property is located. The MERS Instruments are registered in a central database, which tracks all future transfers of the beneficial ownership interests and servicing rights among MERS Members. As of May 2001, the MERS System had recorded more than four million MERS Instruments in more than 3,000 counties in all 50 states, including more than 16,000 MERS Instruments in Suffolk County.

On April 5, 2001, the Attorney General issued Informal Opinion No. 2001-2 (2001 Atty Gen [Inf Ops] 2001-2) in response to two questions posed by the Nassau County Clerk regarding the latter’s obligation to record and index MERS Instruments. Although the Attorney General concluded that the Nassau County Clerk had a statutory duty under Real Property Law § 291 to record MERS Instruments if they were duly acknowledged and accompanied by the proper fee, he advised the Nassau County Clerk to list the MERS Instruments in the County’s alphabetical indexes under the names of the actual lenders. Based in part on the Attorney General’s Informal Opinion, the Suffolk County Clerk announced that as of May 1, 2001, he would no longer accept MERS Instruments which listed MERS as the mortgagee or nominee of record unless MERS was, in fact, the actual mortgagee.

Simultaneously with commencing this hybrid proceeding and action, Merscorp and MERS moved, inter alia, for a preliminary injunction to compel the Suffolk County Clerk to record MERS Instruments and list MERS as the mortgagee in the County’s alphabetical mortgagee-mortgagor indexes for recorded conveyances. Although the Supreme Court, Suffolk County (Bivona, J.), granted the request of Merscorp and MERS for a temporary restraining order on May 2, 2001, the same court (Catterson, J.), subsequently denied their request for a preliminary injunction on May 22, 2001.

It is well established that the decision to grant or deny a preliminary injunction lies within the sound discretion of the Supreme Court (see Doe v Axelrod, 73 NY2d 748, 750). In exercising that discretion, however, the Supreme Court must consider several factors, including whether the moving party has established (1) a likelihood of success on the merits, (2) irreparable harm if the injunction is denied, and (3) a balance of the equities in favor of the injunction (see CPLR 6301, 6312 [a]; Grant Co. v Srogi, 52 NY2d 496, 517Clarion Assoc. v Colby Co., 276 AD2d 461). Upon our review of the record, we find that the Supreme Court failed to set forth specific findings with respect to the tripartite test for injunctive relief and 433*433 improvidently exercised its discretion in denying the motion for preliminary injunctive relief.

Merscorp and MERS demonstrated a reasonable probability of success on the merits of its claim for a writ of mandamus to compel the Suffolk County Clerk to record MERS Instruments (see Klostermann v Cuomo, 61 NY2d 525, 539). Contrary to the contention of the Suffolk County Clerk, he has a statutory duty that is ministerial in nature to record a written conveyance if it is duly acknowledged and accompanied by the proper fee (see Real Property Law § 290 [3]; § 291; County Law § 525 [1]). Accordingly, the Clerk does not have the authority to refuse to record a conveyance which satisfies the narrowly drawn prerequisites set forth in the recording statute (see People ex rel. Frost v Woodbury, 213 NY 51; People ex rel. Title Guar. & Trust Co. v Grifenhagen, 209 NY 569; Matter of Westminster Hgts. Co. v Delany, 107 App Div 577, affd 185 NY 539; Putnam v Stewart, 97 NY 411).

This Court notes that the Suffolk County index is governed exclusively by Real Property Law § 316-a. Real Property Law § 316-a (1) provides that the Suffolk County Clerk shall record and index “[e]very instrument affecting real estate or chattels real, situated in the county of Suffolk * * * which shall have been recorded in the office of the [C]lerk of said county * * * pursuant to the provisions of this act” (emphasis supplied). Pursuant to Real Property Law § 316-a (2), the Suffolk County Clerk must maintain the indexes so they “contain the date of recording of each instrument, the names of the parties to each instrument and the liber and page of the record thereof and shall be substantially the forms of the schedules hereto annexed” (emphasis supplied; see also Real Property Law § 316-a [5]).

Therefore, in light of Real Property Law § 316-a, Merscorp and MERS also demonstrated a reasonable probability of success on the merits of their claim to compel the Suffolk County Clerk to perform his ministerial duty to index MERS Instruments as the language of Real Property Law § 316-a is mandatory and not permissive (see Klostermann v Cuomo, supra at 539).

Moreover, to the extent that the Suffolk County Clerk has recorded approximately 16,000 MERS Instruments before May 1, 2001, MERS established irreparable harm to its business operation, the mortgage lending industry, and the general public, in the absence of a preliminary injunction compelling the Suffolk County Clerk to record and index MERS Instruments (see Clarion Assoc. v Colby Co., supraMcLaughlin, Piven, 434*434 Vogel v Nolan & Co., 114 AD2d 165, 174), particularly since Real Property Law § 316-a (8), (9) and (10) sets forth a mechanism for correcting any mistakes in the indexes.

Under these circumstances, a preliminary injunction should be granted to maintain the status quo while the legal issues are determined in a deliberate and judicious manner (see Moody v Filipowski, 146 AD2d 675, 678Incorporated Vil. of Babylon v Anthony’s Water Cafe, 137 AD2d 791, 792Tucker v Toia, 54 AD2d 322, 326).

Goldstein, J., concurs in the result, with the following memorandum:

Although I do not necessarily agree with my colleagues that there is a likelihood of success on the merits, I nevertheless concur in granting a preliminary injunction, as the Supreme Court failed to take into consideration and address the other factors which must be taken into account, namely, irreparable harm to the movant absent the granting of a preliminary injunction, and a balancing of the equities (see Melvin v Union Coll., 195 AD2d 447, 448). Where, as here, the case involves issues of first impression in the courts, it is appropriate to grant a preliminary injunction, “`to hold the parties in status quo while the legal issues are determined in a deliberate and judicious manner'” (Time Sq. Books v City of Rochester, 223 AD2d 270, 278,quoting Tucker v Toia, 54 AD2d 322, 326State of New York v City of New York, 275 AD2d 740Sau Thi Ma v Xuan T. Lien, 198 AD2d 186).

RELATED ARTICLE:

The Conclusion…If we could only turn back time: IN THE MATTER OF MERSCORP, INC. v. Romaine, 2005 NY Slip Op 9728 – NY: Supreme Court, Appellate Div., 2nd Dept. 2005

Judge ARTHUR SCHACK’s COLASSAL Steven J. BAUM “MiLL” SMACK DOWN!! HSBC BANK USA, NA v. YEASMIN, 2010 NY Slip Op 50927 – NY: Supreme Court, Kings 2010

2010 NY Slip Op 50927(U)

HSBC BANK USA, N.A. AS TRUSTEE FOR NOMURA ASSET-BACKED CERTIFICATE SERIES

2006-AF1,, Plaintiff,
v.
LOVELY YEASMIN, ET. AL., Defendants.

34142/07

Supreme Court, Kings County.

Decided May 24, 2010.

Steven J Baum, PC, Amherst NY, Plaintiff — US Bank.

ARTHUR M. SCHACK, J.

Plaintiff’s renewed motion for an order of reference, for the premises located at 22 Jefferson Street, Brooklyn, New York (Block 3170, Lot 20, County of Kings), is denied with prejudice. The instant action is dismissed and the notice of pendency for the subject property is cancelled. Plaintiff HSBC BANK USA, N.A. AS TRUSTEE FOR NOMURA ASSET-BACKED CERTIFICATE SERIES 2006-AF1 (HSBC) failed to comply with my May 2, 2008 decision and order in the instant matter (19 Misc 3d 1127 [A]), which granted plaintiff HSBC leave:

to renew its application for an order of reference for the premises located at 22 Jefferson Street, Brooklyn, New York (Block 3170, Lot 20, County of Kings), upon presentation to the Court, within forty-five (45) days of this decision and order of:

(1) a valid assignment of the instant mortgage and note to plaintiff, HSBC . . .;

(2) an affirmation from Steven J. Baum, Esq., the principal of Steven J. Baum, P.C., explaining if both MORTGAGE ELECTRONIC REGISTRATION SYSTEMS, INC. [MERS], the assignor of the instant mortgage and note, and HSBC . . . the assignee of the instant mortgage and note, pursuant to 22 NYCRR § 1200.24, consented to simultaneous representation in the instant action, with “full disclosure of the implications of the simultaneous representation and the advantages and risks involved” explained to them;

(3) compliance with the statutory requirements of CPLR § 3215 (f), by an affidavit of facts executed by someone with authority to execute such an affidavit, and if the affidavit of facts is executed by a loan servicer, a copy of a valid power of attorney to the loan servicer, and the servicing agreement authorizing the affiant to act in the instant foreclosure action; and

(4) an affidavit from an officer of plaintiff HSBC . . . explaining why plaintiff HSBC . . . purchased a nonperforming loan from MERS, as nominee for CAMBRIDGE HOME CAPITAL, LLC [CAMBRIDGE].

[Emphasis added]

Plaintiff made the instant motion on January 6, 2009, 249 days subsequent to the May 2, 2008 decision and order. Thus, the instant motion is 204 days late. Plaintiff’s unavailing lateness explanation, in ¶ 16 of plaintiff’s counsel’s January 6, 2009 affirmation of regularity, states:

A previous application has been made for this or like relief but was subsequently denied without prejudice with leave to renew upon proper papers. By Decision and Order of this court dated the 2nd day of May 2008, plaintiff had 45 days to renew its application.

However on June 29, 2008 the Plaintiff permitted the mortgagor to enter into a foreclosure forbearance agreement. Said agreement was entered into with the hope that the Defendant would be able to keep her home. The agreement was not kept by the mortgagor and Plaintiff has since resumed the foreclosure action. The defects of the original application are addressed in the Affirmation attached hereto at Tab F [sic].

June 29, 2008 was 58 days subsequent to May 2, 2008. This was 13 days subsequent to the Court ordered deadline for plaintiff to make a renewed motion for an order of reference. While it’s laudatory for plaintiff HSBC to have granted defendant a forbearance agreement, plaintiff HSBC never notified the Court about this or sought Court approval of extending the 45-day deadline to make the instant motion. However, even if the instant motion was timely, the documents plaintiff’s counsel refers to at Tab F [exhibit F of motion] do not cure the defects the Court found with the original motion and articulated in the May 2, 2008 decision and order.

Background

 

Defendant LOVELY YEASMIN borrowed $624,800.00 from CAMBRIDGE on May 10, 2006. The note and mortgage were recorded by MERS, as nominee for CAMBRIDGE, for purposes of recording the mortgage, in the Office of the City Register, New York City Department of Finance, on May 23, 2006, at City Register File Number (CRFN) XXXXXXXXXXXXX. Then, MERS, as nominee for CAMBRIDGE, assigned the mortgage to plaintiff HSBC on September 10, 2007, with the assignment recorded in the Office of the City Register, on September 20, 2007, at CRFN XXXXXXXXXXXXX. The assignment was executed by “Nicole Gazzo, Esq., on behalf of MERS, by Corporate Resolution dated 7/19/07.” Neither a corporate resolution nor a power of attorney to Ms. Gazzo were recorded with the September 10, 2007 assignment. Therefore, the Court found the assignment invalid and plaintiff HSBC lacked standing to bring the instant foreclosure action. Ms. Gazzo, the assignor, according to the Office of Court Administration’s Attorney Registration, has as her business address, “Steven J. Baum, P.C., 220 Northpointe Pkwy Ste G, Buffalo, NY 14228-1894.” On September 10, 2008, the same day that Ms. Gazzo executed the invalid assignment for MERS, as nominee for CAMBRIDGE, plaintiff’s counsel, Steven J. Baum, P.C., commenced the instant action on behalf of purported assignee HSBC by filing the notice of pendency, summons and complaint in the instant action with the Kings County Clerk’s Office. The Court, in the May 2, 2008 decision and order, was concerned that the simultaneous representation by Steven J. Baum, P.C. of both MERS and HSBC was a conflict of interest in violation of 22 NYCRR § 1200.24, the Disciplinary Rule of the Code of Professional Responsibility entitled “Conflict of Interest; Simultaneous Representation,” then in effect. Further, plaintiff’s moving papers for an order of reference and related relief failed to present an “affidavit made by the party,” pursuant to CPLR § 3215 (f). The instant application contained an “affidavit of merit and amount due,” dated November 16, 2007, by Cathy Menchise, “Senior Vice President of WELLS FARGO BANK, N.A. D/B/A AMERICA’S SERVICING COMPANY, Attorney in Fact for HSBC BANK USA, N.A. AS TRUSTEE FOR NOMURA ASSET-BACKED CERTIFICATE SERIES 2006-AF1.” Ms. Menchise stated “[t]hat a true copy of the Power of Attorney is attached hereto.” Actually attached was a photocopy of a “Limited Power of Attorney,” dated July 19, 2004, from HSBC, appointing WELLS FARGO BANK, N.A. as its attorney-in-fact to perform various enumerated services, by executing documents “if such documents are required or permitted under the terms of the related servicing agreements . . . in connection with Wells Fargo Bank, N.A.[‘s] . . . responsibilities to service certain mortgage loans . . . held by HSBC . . . as Trustee of various trusts.” The “Limited Power of Attorney” failed to list any of these “certain mortgage loans.” The Court was unable to determine if plaintiff HSBC’s subject mortgage loan was covered by this “Limited Power of Attorney.” The original motion stated that defendant YEASMIN defaulted on her mortgage payments by failing to make her May 1, 2007 and subsequent monthly loan payments. Yet, on September 10, 2007, 133 days subsequent to defendant YEASMIN’S alleged May 1, 2007 payment default, plaintiff HSBC took the ssignment of the instant nonperforming loan from MERS, as nominee for CAMBRIDGE. Thus, the Court required, upon renewal of the motion for an order of reference, a satisfactory explanation of why HSBC purchased a nonperforming loan from MERS, as nominee for CAMBRIDGE.

Plaintiff HSBC needed “standing” to proceed in the instant action. The Court of Appeals (Saratoga County Chamber of Commerce, Inc. v Pataki, 100 NY2d 801, 912 [2003]), cert denied 540 US 1017 [2003]), held that “[s]tanding to sue is critical to the proper functioning of the judicial system. It is a threshold issue. If standing is denied, the pathway to the courthouse is blocked. The plaintiff who has standing, however, may cross the threshold and seek judicial redress.” In Carper v Nussbaum, 36 AD3d 176, 181 (2d Dept 2006), the Court held that “[s]tanding to sue requires an interest in the claim at issue in the lawsuit that the law will recognize as a sufficient predicate for determining the issue at the litigant’s request.” If a plaintiff lacks standing to sue, the plaintiff may not proceed in the action. (Stark v Goldberg,297 AD2d 203 [1d Dept 2002]). “Since standing is jurisdictional and goes to a court’s authority to resolve litigation [the court] can raise this matter sua sponte.” (Axelrod v New York State Teachers’ Retirement System, 154 AD2d 827, 828 [3d Dept 1989]).

In the instant action, the September 10, 2007 assignment from MERS, as nominee for CAMBRIDGE, to HSBC was defective. Therefore, HSBC had no standing to bring this action. The recorded assignment by “Nicole Gazzo, Esq. on behalf of MERS, by Corporate Resolution dated 7/19/07,” had neither the corporate resolution nor a power of attorney attached. Real Property Law (RPL) § 254 (9) states: Power of attorney to assignee. The word “assign” or other words of assignment, when contained in an assignment of a mortgage and bond or mortgage and note, must be construed as having included in their meaning that the assignor does thereby make, constitute and appoint the assignee the true and lawful attorney, irrevocable, of the assignor, in the name of the assignor, or otherwise, but at the proper costs and charges of the assignee, to have, use and take all lawful ways and means for the recovery of the money and interest secured by the said mortgage and bond or mortgage and note, and in case of payment to discharge the same as fully as the assignor might or could do if the assignment were not made. [Emphasis added]

To have a proper assignment of a mortgage by an authorized agent, a power of attorney is necessary to demonstrate how the agent is vested with the authority to assign the mortgage. “No special form or language is necessary to effect an assignment as long as the language shows the intention of the owner of a right to transfer it [Emphasis added].” (Tawil v Finkelstein Bruckman Wohl Most & Rothman, 223 AD2d 52, 55 [1d Dept 1996]). (See Suraleb, Inc. v International Trade Club, Inc., 13 AD3d 612 [2d Dept 2004]). To foreclose on a mortgage, a party must have title to the mortgage. The instant assignment was a nullity. The Appellate Division, Second Department (Kluge v Fugazy, 145 AD2d 537, 538 [2d Dept 1988]), held that a “foreclosure of a mortgage may not be brought by one who has no title to it and absent transfer of the debt, the assignment of the mortgage is a nullity.” Citing Kluge v Fugazy, the Court inKatz v East-Ville Realty Co. (249 AD2d 243 [1d Dept 1998]), held that “[p]laintiff’s attempt to foreclose upon a mortgage in which he had no legal or equitable interest was without foundation in law or fact.” Plaintiff HSBC, with the invalid assignment of the instant mortgage and note from MERS, lacked standing to foreclose on the instant mortgage. The Court, in Campaign v Barba (23 AD3d 327 [2d Dept 2005]), held that “[t]o establish a prima facie case in an action to foreclose a mortgage, the plaintiff must establish the existence of the mortgage and the mortgage note, ownership of the mortgage, and the defendant’s default in payment [Emphasis added].” (See Household Finance Realty Corp. of New York v Wynn, 19 AD3d 545 [2d Dept 2005]; Sears Mortgage Corp. v Yahhobi, 19 AD3d 402 [2d Dept 2005]; Ocwen Federal Bank FSB v Miller, 18 AD3d 527 [2d Dept 2005]; U.S. Bank Trust Nat. Ass’n v Butti, 16 AD3d 408 [2d Dept 2005]; First Union Mortgage Corp. v Fern, 298 AD2d 490 [2d Dept 2002]; Village Bank v Wild Oaks Holding, Inc., 196 AD2d 812 [2d Dept 1993]). Even if plaintiff HSBC can cure the assignment defect, plaintiff’s counsel has to address his conflict of interest in the representation of both assignor MERS, as nominee for CAMBRIDGE, and assignee HSBC. 22 NYCRR § 1200.24, of the Disciplinary Rules of the Code of Professional Responsibility, entitled “Conflict of Interest; Simultaneous Representation,” states in relevant part: (a) A lawyer shall decline proffered employment if the exercise of independent professional judgment in behalf of a client will be or is likely to be adversely affected by the acceptance of the proffered employment, or if it would be likely to involve the lawyer in representing differing interests, except to the extent permitted under subdivision (c) of this section. (b) A lawyer shall not continue multiple employment if the exercise of independent professional judgment in behalf of a client will be or is likely to be adversely affected by the lawyer’s representation of another client, or if it would be likely to involve the lawyer in representing differing interests, except to the extent permitted under subdivision (c) of this section. (c) in the situations covered by subdivisions (a) and (b) of this section, a lawyer may represent multiple clients if a disinterested lawyer would believe that the lawyer can competently represent the interest of each and if each consents to the representation after full disclosure of the implications of the simultaneous representation and the advantages and risks involved. [Emphasis added]

The Court, upon renewal of the instant motion for an order of reference wanted to know if both MERS and HSBC were aware of the simultaneous representation by plaintiff’s counsel, Steven J. Baum, P.C., and whether both MERS and HSBC consented. Upon plaintiff’s renewed motion for an order of reference, the Court required an affirmation by Steven J. Baum, Esq., the principal of Steven J. Baum, P.C., explaining if both MERS and HSBC consented to simultaneous representation in the instant action with “full disclosure of the implications of the simultaneous representation and the advantages and risks involved.” The Appellate Division, Fourth Department, the Department, in which both Ms. Gazzo and Mr. Baum are registered (In re Rogoff, 31 AD3d 111 [2006]), censured an attorney for, inter alia, violating 22 NYCRR § 1200.24, by representing both a buyer and sellers in the sale of a motel. The Court, at 112, found that the attorney “failed to make appropriate disclosures to either the sellers or the buyer concerning dual representation.” Further, the Rogoff Court, at 113, censured the attorney, after it considered the matters submitted by respondent in mitigation, including: that respondent undertook the dual representation at the insistence of the buyer, had no financial interest in the transaction and charged the sellers and the buyer one half of his usual fee. Additionally, we note that respondent cooperated with the Grievance Committee and has expressed remorse for his misconduct. Then, if counsel for plaintiff HSBC cures the assignment defect and explains his simultaneous representation, plaintiff HSBC needs to address the “affidavit of merit” issue. The May 2, 2008 decision and order required that plaintiff comply with CPLR § 3215 (f) by providing an “affidavit made by the party,” whether by an officer of HSBC, or someone with a valid power of attorney from HSBC, to execute foreclosure documents for plaintiff HSBC. If plaintiff HSBC presents a power of attorney and it refers to a servicing agreement, the Court needs to inspect the servicing agreement. (Finnegan v Sheahan, 269 AD2d 491 [2d Dept 2000];Hazim v Winter, 234 AD2d 422 [2d Dept 1996]; EMC Mortg. Corp. v Batista, 15 Misc 3d 1143 [A] [Sup Ct, Kings County 2007]; Deutsche Bank Nat. Trust Co. v Lewis, 4 Misc 3d 1201 [A] [Sup Ct, Suffolk County 2006]).

Last, the Court required an affidavit from an officer of HSBC, explaining why, in the middle of our national mortgage financial crisis, plaintiff HSBC purchased from MERS, as nominee for CAMBRIDGE, the subject nonperforming loan. It appears that HSBC violated its corporate fiduciary duty to its stockholders by purchasing the instant mortgage loan, which became nonperforming on May 1, 2007, 133 days prior to its assignment from MERS, as nominee for CAMBRIDGE, to HSBC, rather than keep the subject mortgage loan on CAMBRIDGE’s books.

Discussion

 

The instant renewed motion is dismissed for untimeliness. Plaintiff made its renewed motion for an order of reference 204 days late, in violation of the Court’s May 2, 2008 decision and order. Moreover, even if the instant motion was timely, the explanations offered by plaintiff’s counsel, in his affirmation in support of the instant motion and various documents attached to exhibit F of the instant motion, attempting to cure the four defects explained by the Court in the prior May 2, 2008 decision and order, are so incredible, outrageous, ludicrous and disingenuous that they should have been authored by the late Rod Serling, creator of the famous science-fiction televison series, The Twilight Zone. Plaintiff’s counsel, Steven J. Baum, P.C., appears to be operating in a parallel mortgage universe, unrelated to the real universe. Rod Serling’s opening narration, to episodes in the 1961-1962 season of The Twilight Zone (found at http://www.imdb.com/title/tt005250/quotes), could have been an introduction to the arguments presented in support of the instant motion by plaintiff’s counsel, Steven J. Baum, P.C. — “You are traveling through another dimension, a dimension not only of sight and sound but of mind. A journey into a wondrous land of imagination. Next stop, the Twilight Zone.” With respect to the first issue for the renewed motion for an order of reference, the validity of the September 10, 2007 assignment of the subject mortgage and note by MERS, as nominee for CAMBRIDGE, to plaintiff HSBC by “Nicole Gazzo, Esq., on behalf of MERS, by Corporate Resolution dated 7/19/07,” plaintiff’s counsel claims that the assignment is valid because Ms. Gazzo is an officer of MERS, not an agent of MERS. Putting aside Ms. Gazzo’s conflicted status as both assignor attorney and employee of assignee’s counsel, Steven J. Baum, P.C., how would the Court have known from the plain language of the September 10, 2007 assignment that the assignor, Ms. Gazzo, is an officer of MERS? She does not state in the assignment that she is an officer of MERS and the corporate resolution is not attached. Thus, counsel’s claim of a valid assignment takes the Court into “another dimension” with a “journey into a wondrous land of imagination,” the mortgage twilight zone. Next, plaintiff’s counsel attached to exhibit F the July 17, 2007 “Agreement for Signing Authority” between MERS, Wells Fargo Home Mortgage, a Division of Wells Fargo Bank NA (WELLS FARGO), a MERS “Member” and Steven J. Baum, P.C., as WELLS FARGO’s “Vendor.” The parties agreed, in ¶ 3, that “in order for Vendor [Baum] to perform its contractual duties to Member [WELLS FARGO], MERS, by corporate resolution, will grant employees of Vendor [Baum] the limited authority to act on behalf of MERS to perform certain duties. Such authority is set forth in the Resolution, which is made a part of this Agreement.” Also attached to exhibit F is the MERS corporate resolution, certified by William C. Hultman, Corporate Secretary of MERS, that MERS’ Board of Directors adopted this resolution, effective July 19, 2007, resolving:

that the attached list of candidates are employee(s) of Steven J. Baum, P.C. and are hereby appointed as assistant secretaries and vice presidents of Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems, Inc., and as such are authorized to: Execute any and all documents necessary to foreclose upon the property securing any mortgage loan registered on the MERS System that is shown to be registered to the Member . . . Take any and all actions and execute all documents necessary to protect the interest of the Member, the beneficial owner of such mortgage loan, or MERS in any bankruptcy proceedings . . . Assign the lien of any mortgage loan registered on the MERS System that is shown to be registered to Wells Fargo.

Then, the resolution certifies five Steven J. Baum, P.C. employees [all currently admitted to practice in New York and listing Steven J. Baum, P.C. as their employer in the Office of Court Administration Attorney Registry] as MERS officers. The five are Brian Kumiega, Nicole Gazzo, Ron Zackem, Elpiniki Bechakas, and Darleen Karaszewski. The language of the MERS corporate resolution flies in the face of documents recorded with the City Register of the City of New York. The filed recordings with the City Register show that the subject mortgage was owned first by MERS, as nominee for CAMBRIDGE, and then by HSBC as Trustee for a Nomura collateralized debt obligation. However, if the Court follows the MERS’corporate resolution and enters into a new dimension of the mind, the mortgage twilight zone, the real owner of the subject mortgage is WELLS FARGO, the MERS Member and loan servicer of the subject mortgage, because the corporate resolution states that the Member is “the beneficial owner of such mortgage loan.” The MERS mortgage twilight zone was created in 1993 by several large “participants in the real estate mortgage industry to track ownership interests in residential mortgages. Mortgage lenders and other entities, known as MERS members, subscribe to the MERS system and pay annual fees for the electronic processing and tracking of ownership and transfers of mortgages. Members contractually agree to appoint MERS to act as their common agent on all mortgages they register in the MERS system.” (MERSCORP, Inc. v Romaine, 8 NY3d 90, 96 [2006]). Next, with respect to Ms. Gazzo’s employer, Steven J. Baum, P.C, and its representation of MERS, through Ms. Gazzo, the Court continues to journey through the mortgage twilight zone. Also, attached to exhibit F of the instant motion is the August 11, 2008 affirmation of Steven J. Baum, Esq., affirmed “under the penalties of perjury.” Mr. Baum states, in ¶ 3, that “My firm does not represent HSBC . . . and MERS simultaneously in the instant action.” Then, apparently overlooking that the subject notice of pendency, summons, complaint and instant motion, which all clearly state that Steven J. Baum, P.C. is the attorney for plaintiff HSBC, Mr. Baum states, in ¶ 4 of his affirmation, that “My firm is the attorney of record for Wells Fargo Bank, N.A., d/b/a America’s Servicing Company, attorney in fact for HSBC Bank USA, N.A., as Trustee for Nomura Asset-Backed Certificate Series 2006-AF1. My firm does not represent . . . [MERS] as an attorney in this action.” In the mortgage world according to Steven J. Baum, Esq., there is a fine line between acting as an attorney for MERS and as a vendor for a MERS member. If Mr. Baum is not HSBC’s attorney, but the attorney for WELLS FARGO, why did he mislead the Court and defendants by stating on all the documents filed and served in the instant action that he is plaintiff’s attorney for HSBC? Further, in ¶ 6 of his affirmation, he states “Nowhere does the Resolution indicate that Ms. Gazzo, or my firm, or any attorney or employee of my firm, shall act as an attorney for MERS. As such I am unaware of any conflict of interest of Steven J. Baum, P.C. or any of its employees, in this action.” While Mr. Baum claims to be unaware of the inherent conflict of interest, the Court is aware of the conflict. ¶ 3 of the MERS “Agreement for Signing Authority,” cited above, states that “in order for Vendor [Baum] to perform its contractual duties to Member [WELLS FARGO], MERS, by corporate resolution, will grant employees of Vendor [Baum] the limited authority to act on behalf of MERS to perform certain duties. Such authority is set forth in the Resolution, which is made a part of this Agreement.” As the Court continues through the MERS mortgage twilight zone, attached to exhibit F is the June 30, 2009-affidavit of MERS’ Secretary, William C. Hultman. Mr. Hultman claims, in ¶ 3, that Steven J. Baum, P.C. is not acting in the instant action as attorney for MERS and, in ¶ 4, Ms. Gazzo in her capacity as an officer of MERS executed the September 10, 2007 subject assignment “to foreclose on a mortgage loan registered on the MERS System that is being serviced by Wells Fargo Bank, N.A.” Thus, Mr. Hultman perceives that mortgages registered on the MERS system exist in a parallel universe to those recorded with the City Register of the City of New York. While Mr. Hultman waives, in ¶ 9, any conflict that might exist by Steven J. Baum, P.C. in the instant action, neither he nor Mr. Baum address whether MERS, pursuant to 22 NYCRR § 1200.24, consented to simultaneous representation in the instant action, with “full disclosure of the implications of the simultaneous representation and the advantages and risks involved” explained to MERS. Then, attached to exhibit F, there is the June 11, 2008-affidavit of China Brown, Vice President Loan Documentation of WELLS FARGO. This document continues the Court’s trip into “a wondrous land of imagination.” Despite the affidavit’s caption stating that HSBC is the plaintiff, Mr. or Ms. Brown (the notary public’s jurat refers several times to China Brown as “he/she”), states, in ¶ 4, that “Steven J. Baum, P.C. represents us as an attorney of record in this action.” The Court infers that “us” is WELLS FARGO. Moving to the third issue that plaintiff was required to address in the instant motion, compliance with the statutory requirements of CPLR § 3215 (f) with an affidavit of facts executed by someone with authority to execute such an affidavit, plaintiff’s instant motion contains an affidavit of merit, attached as exhibit C, by Kim Miller, “Vice President of Wells Fargo Bank, N.A. as Attorney in Fact for HSBC,” executed on December 8, 2008, 220 days after my May 2, 2008 decision and order. The affidavit of merit is almost six months late. Again, plaintiff attached a photocopy of the July 19, 2004 “Limited Power of Attorney” from HSBC [exhibit D], which appointed WELLS FARGO as its attorney-in-fact to perform various enumerated services, by executing documents “if such documents are required or permitted under the terms of the related servicing agreements . . . in connection with Wells Fargo[‘s] . . . responsibilities to service certain mortgage loans . . . held by HSBC . . . as Trustee of various trusts.” Further, the “Limited Power of Attorney” fails to list any of these “certain mortgage loans.” Therefore, the Court is unable to determine if the subject mortgage loan is one of the mortgage loans that WELLS FARGO services for HSBC. The “Limited Power of attorney” gives WELLS FARGO the right to execute foreclosure documents “if such documents are required or permitted under the terms of the related servicing agreements.” Instead of presenting the Court with the “related servicing agreement” for review, plaintiff’s counsel submits copies of the cover page and redacted pages 102, 104 and 105 of the October 1, 2006 Pooling and Servicing Agreement between WELLS FARGO, as Master Servicer, HSBC, as Trustee, and other entities. This is in direct contravention of the Court’s May 2, 2008-directive to plaintiff HSBC that it provides the Court with the entire pooling and servicing agreement upon renewal of the instant motion. Thomas Westmoreland, Vice President Loan Documentation of HSBC, in ¶ 10 of his attached June 13, 2008-affidavit, also in exhibit F, claims that the snippets of the pooling and servicing agreement provided to the Court are “a copy of the non-proprietary portions of the Pooling and Servicing Agreement that was entered into when the pool of loans that contained the subject mortgage was purchased.” The Court cannot believe that there is any proprietary or trade secret information in a boilerplate pooling and servicing agreement. If plaintiff HSBC utilizes an affidavit of facts by a loan servicer, not an HSBC officer, to secure a judgment on default, pursuant to CPLR § 3215 (f), then the Court needs to examine the entire pooling and servicing agreement, whether proprietary or non-proprietary, to determine if the pooling and servicing agreement grants authority, pursuant to a power of attorney, to the affiant to execute the affidavit of facts.

Further, there is hope that Mr. Westmoreland, unlike Steven J. Baum, Esq., is not in another dimension. Mr. Westmoreland, in ¶ 1 of his affidavit, admits that HSBC is the plaintiff in this action. However, with respect to why plaintiff HSBC purchased the subject nonperforming loan, Mr. Westmoreland admits to a lack of due diligence by plaintiff HSBC. His admissions are straight from the mortgage twilight zone. He states in his affidavit, in ¶’s 4-7 and part of ¶ 10: 4. The secondary mortgage market is, essentially, the buying and selling of “pools” of mortgages. 5. A mortgage pools is the packaging of numerous mortgage loans together so that an investor may purchase a significant number of loans in one transaction. 6. An investigation of each and every loan included in a particular mortgage pool, however, is not conducted, nor is it feasible. 7. Rather, the fact that a particular mortgage pool may include loans that are already in default is an ordinary risk of participating in the secondary market . . . 10. . . . Indeed, the performance of the mortgage pool is the measure of success, not any one individual loan contained therein. [Emphasis added] The Court can only wonder if this journey through the mortgage twilight zone and the dissemination of this decision will result in Mr. Westmoreland’s affidavit used as evidence in future stockholder derivative actions against plaintiff HSBC. It can’t be comforting to investors to know that an officer of a financial behemoth such as plaintiff HSBC admits that “[a]n investigation of each and every loan included in a particular mortgage pool, however, is not conducted, nor is it feasible” and that “the fact that a particular mortgage pool may include loans that are already in default is an ordinary risk of participating in the secondary market.”

Cancelling of notice of pendency

 

The dismissal with prejudice of the instant foreclosure action requires the cancellation of the notice of pendency. CPLR § 6501 provides that the filing of a notice of pendency against a property is to give constructive notice to any purchaser of real property or encumbrancer against real property of an action that “would affect the title to, or the possession, use or enjoyment of real property, except in a summary proceeding brought to recover the possession of real property.” The Court of Appeals, in 5308 Realty Corp. v O & Y Equity Corp. (64 NY2d 313, 319 [1984]), commented that “[t]he purpose of the doctrine was to assure that a court retained its ability to effect justice by preserving its power over the property, regardless of whether a purchaser had any notice of the pending suit,” and, at 320, that “the statutory scheme permits a party to effectively retard the alienability of real property without any prior judicial review.” CPLR § 6514 (a) provides for the mandatory cancellation of a notice of pendency by: The Court, upon motion of any person aggrieved and upon such notice as it may require, shall direct any county clerk to cancel a notice of pendency, if service of a summons has not been completed within the time limited by section 6512; or if the action has beensettled, discontinued or abated; or if the time to appeal from a final judgment against the plaintiff has expired; or if enforcement of a final judgment against the plaintiff has not been stayed pursuant to section 551. [emphasis added] The plain meaning of the word “abated,” as used in CPLR § 6514 (a) is the ending of an action. “Abatement” is defined (Black’s Law Dictionary 3 [7th ed 1999]) as “the act of eliminating or nullifying.” “An action which has been abated is dead, and any further enforcement of the cause of action requires the bringing of a new action, provided that a cause of action remains (2A Carmody-Wait 2d § 11.1).” (Nastasi v Natassi, 26 AD3d 32, 40 [2d Dept 2005]). Further, Nastasi at 36, held that the “[c]ancellation of a notice of pendency can be granted in the exercise of the inherent power of the court where its filing fails to comply with CPLR § 6501 (see 5303 Realty Corp. v O & Y Equity Corp., supra at 320-321; Rose v Montt Assets, 250 AD2d 451, 451-452 [1d Dept 1998]; Siegel, NY Prac § 336 [4th ed]).” Thus, the dismissal of the instant complaint must result in the mandatory cancellation of plaintiff HSBC’s notice of pendency against the property “in the exercise of the inherent power of the court.”

Conclusion

 

Accordingly, it is ORDERED, that the renewed motion of plaintiff, HSBC BANK USA, N.A. AS TRUSTEE FOR NOMURA ASSET-BACKED CERTIFICATE SERIES 2006-AF1, for an order of reference, for the premises located at 22 Jefferson Street, Brooklyn, New York (Block 3170, Lot 20, County of Kings), is denied with prejudice; and it is further

ORDERED, that the instant action, Index Number 34142/07, is dismissed with prejudice; and it is further

ORDERED that the Notice of Pendency in this action, filed with the Kings County Clerk on September 10, 2007, by plaintiff, HSBC BANK USA, N.A. AS TRUSTEE FOR NOMURA ASSET-BACKED CERTIFICATE SERIES 2006-AF1, to foreclose a mortgage for real property located at 22 Jefferson Street, Brooklyn New York (Block 3170, Lot 20, County of Kings), is cancelled.

This constitutes the Decision and Order of the Court.