Judge Slashes ‘Fat Cat’ Bank’s Bill for Subpoenaed Documents

Mark Fass
New York Law Journal
December 28, 2009

A Brooklyn judge has rejected a bank’s request for $9,112 in costs for producing subpoenaed documents, calling the claim an example of the excess and greed among “fat cat bankers on Wall Street.”

JPMorgan Chase, a non-party in an action to confirm an arbitration award, sought 25 cents per page and $25 per hour for producing 18,248 pages of subpoenaed documents demanded by the petitioner.

In a blistering 11-page decision, Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Arthur Schack granted JPMorgan Chase only $1,250.27, or about one-seventh of the amount the bank requested.

The judge quoted a recent interview of President Barack Obama on “60 Minutes” in which the president suggested that the greed of “fat cat bankers” played a role in the present recession.

“Clearly, Chase’s arbitrary $25.00 per hour … fee for the unsubstantiated 182 hours of research by person or persons unknown only helps to unjustly enrich ‘a bunch of fat cat bankers on Wall Street,'” Justice Schack wrote in Matter of Arbitration of Klein v. Persaud, 8007/09. “This Court is not a collection vehicle to further enrich already rich bankers.”

Schack called the bank’s CEO, James S. Dimon, the “fattest cat” at JPMorgan Chase, citing Dimon’s compensation of nearly $20 million in 2008.

Petitioner Abraham Klein initiated the underlying action to confirm a multimillion-dollar arbitration award against Christine Persaud and Caring Home Care Agency.

In July, Schack asked non-party JPMorgan Chase to submit an affirmation regarding its production expenses.

The bank claimed it provided Klein 18,248 pages of documents and requested $9,112 — $4,550 for locating and retrieving the documents and $4,562 for printing them.

In opposing JPMorgan Chase’s request, Klein called the bank’s demand “flawed and disingenuous.” He argued that the bank sought to be “rewarded for ignoring court orders” and reimbursed for pages it never produced. Klein also claimed that JPMorgan Chase flooded his attorneys with “thousands” of documents they never requested.

JPMorgan Chase denied those allegations.

“Chase produced approximately 12,000 pages by [the] deadline set by the Court … The 12,000 pages are responsive to petitioner’s unequivocal and explicit demand for all documents for that account,” the bank contended in court papers. “Chase has also produced more than 6,000 pages of documents for the other four accounts listed in the June 12th subpoena.”

Schack sided with Klein.

First, the judge reduced the bank’s hourly fee from $25 to $6.55 — the minimum wage in Indiana, where the judge believed the work may have been done, at the time the documents were produced.

“[T]he Court … is guided by the principal that ‘[o]rdinarily, the retrieval and evaluation of documents should be done by the lowest-level person consistent with accurate and reliable identification of the material called for,'” Schack wrote.

The 182 hours worked by JPMorgan Chase employees therefore came to $1,192, not $4,562, the judge concluded.

In order to determine the compensation rate per page the bank copied, the judge “examined” the Web sites of “three major stationary suppliers” and determined that a case of Hammermill Copy Plus Paper, containing 10 reams (i.e., 5,000 sheets) lists for $44.99, or a little less than a penny per page.

Schack therefore awarded JPMorgan Chase one cent per page for paper, plus an additional two cents for “toner, copier maintenance and electricity.”

The judge also noted that of the 18,248 pages that JPMorgan Chase produced, the bank placed 16,317 pages online, as opposed to printing them. For those pages, the bank only deserved compensation for labor and not supplies, the judge wrote, calling the bank’s claim “disingenuous.”

At three cents per page for only 1,939 pages, instead of 25 cents per page for 18,248, the bank deserved $58.17, not $4,562, Schack concluded.

The judge ordered Klein to pay JPMorgan Chase a total of $1,250.27.

Michelle E. Tarson of Simmons, Jannace & Stagg represented Chase. The firm did not return calls for comment.

Paulino J. Salazar and Mendel Zilberberg of Mendel Zilberberg & Associates in Brooklyn represented Klein.

Advertisements

Subprime Legal: Judges Scrutinize Mortgage Docs, Deny Foreclosures

By Amir Efrati JULY 25, 2008, 8:27 PM ET

foreclosureIt’s been about nine months since several federal judges in Ohio issued the widely-read amir foreclosure dismissals that shined a light on sloppy paperwork done by companies that specialize in handling foreclosures.

Since then, the WSJ reports tonight, other judges across the country have caught on and are carefully scrutinizing mortgage documents filed as part of foreclosures and dismissing cases based on mistakes they’re finding, which borrowers might be able to exploit when facing foreclosure. (For another good read on judges and lawyers working to staunch foreclosure, click here for a recent NLJ story.)

Among the issues hitting snags among the judges, according to WSJ:

“Backdated” mortgage assignments: Assignments, documents that transfer ownership of the mortgage, are executed after the foreclosure process has begun but state that they are “effective as of” a date prior to the foreclosure action. Some judges are dismissing those cases, saying attempts to retroactively assign the mortgage aren’t valid.

Suspicious multiple hats: Employees for mortgage companies are signing affidavits stating they are employees of one company, but other mortgage documents say they work at another firm. In some cases, an employee claims to work for companies on both sides of a transaction, prompting one skeptical judge to ask for that person’s work history for the last three years.

Shared office space: In foreclosure filings, one judge has found that numerous mortgage-related companies, including units of Wall Street banks, all claim to share the same address: a suite of a West Palm Beach, Fla., building. “The Court ponders if Suite 100 is the size of Madison Square Garden to house all of these financial behemoths or if there is a more nefarious reason for this corporate togetherness,” the judge wrote in a recent decision.

Judge SchackBrooklyn Crusader: The judge making Madison Square Garden references is Brooklyn’s own Arthur M. Schack (pictured) of Kings County Supreme Court, who has dismissed dozens of foreclosures sua sponte because of shoddy documents or suspicious patterns he notices in the filings.

Schack, 63, a former counsel to the MLB Players Association who is known for peppering his rulings with pop culture references such as Bruce Willis movies, says barely any of the foreclosures he has denied eventually are completed.

In one of his foreclosure dismissals, Schack (Indiana, New York Law School) cited the film “It’s a Wonderful Life” to make the point that homeowners now deal with “large financial organizations, national and international in scope, motivated primarily by their interest in maximizing profit, and not necessarily by helping people.”

In an interview, Schack, a Brooklyn native, told WSJ: “Taking away someone’s home is a serious matter. I’m a neutral party and in reviewing papers filed with the court, I have to make sure they’re proper.”

A ‘Little Judge’ Who Rejects Foreclosures, Brooklyn Style: Judge Arthur Schack

If other judges knew more of what really is than whats not perhaps they would also know the fraud that is being played in their court rooms.

By MICHAEL POWELL Published: August 30, 2009

The judge waves you into his chambers in the State Supreme Court building in Brooklyn, past the caveat taped to his wall — “Be sure brain in gear before engaging mouth” — and into his inner office, where foreclosure motions are piled high enough to form a minor Alpine chain.

 Nicole Bengiveno/The New York Times

“I don’t want to put a family on the street unless it’s legitimate,” Justice Arthur M. Schack said.

Every week, the nation’s mightiest banks come to his court seeking to take the homes of New Yorkers who cannot pay their mortgages. And nearly as often, the judge says, they file foreclosure papers speckled with errors.

He plucks out one motion and leafs through: a Deutsche Bank representative signed an affidavit claiming to be the vice president of two different banks. His office was in Kansas City, Mo., but the signature was notarized in Texas. And the bank did not even own the mortgage when it began to foreclose on the homeowner.

The judge’s lips pucker as if he had inhaled a pickle; he rejected this one.

“I’m a little guy in Brooklyn who doesn’t belong to their country clubs, what can I tell you?” he says, adding a shrug for punctuation. “I won’t accept their comedy of errors.”

The judge, Arthur M. Schack, 64, fashions himself a judicial Don Quixote, tilting at the phalanxes of bankers, foreclosure facilitators and lawyers who file motions by the bale. While national debate focuses on bank bailouts and federal aid for homeowners that has been slow in coming, the hard reckonings of the foreclosure crisis are being made in courts like his, and Justice Schack’s sympathies are clear.

He has tossed out 46 of the 102 foreclosure motions that have come before him in the last two years. And his often scathing decisions, peppered with allusions to the Croesus-like wealth of bank presidents, have attracted the respectful attention of judges and lawyers from Florida to Ohio to California. At recent judicial conferences in Chicago and Arizona, several panelists praised his rulings as a possible national model.

His opinions, too, have been greeted by a cry of affront from a bank official or two, who say this judge stands in the way of what is rightfully theirs. HSBC bank appealed a recent ruling, saying he had set a “dangerous precedent” by acting as “both judge and jury,” throwing out cases even when homeowners had not responded to foreclosure motions.

Justice Schack, like a handful of state and federal judges, has taken a magnifying glass to the mortgage industry. In the gilded haste of the past decade, bankers handed out millions of mortgages — with terms good, bad and exotically ugly — then repackaged those loans for sale to investors from Connecticut to Singapore. Sloppiness reigned. So many papers have been lost, signatures misplaced and documents dated inaccurately that it is often not clear which bank owns the mortgage.

Justice Schack’s take is straightforward, and sends a tremor through some bank suites: If a bank cannot prove ownership, it cannot foreclose.

“If you are going to take away someone’s house, everything should be legal and correct,” he said. “I’m a strange guy — I don’t want to put a family on the street unless it’s legitimate.”

Justice Schack has small jowls and big black glasses, a thin mustache and not so many hairs combed across his scalp. He has the impish eyes of the high school social studies teacher he once was, aware that something untoward is probably going on at the back of his classroom.

He is Brooklyn born and bred, with a master’s degree in history and an office loaded with autographed baseballs and photographs of the Brooklyn Dodgers. His written decisions are a free-associative trip through popular, legal and literary culture, with a sideways glance at the business pages.

Confronted with a case in which Deutsche Bank and Goldman Sachs passed a defaulted mortgage back and forth and lost track of the documents, the judge made reference to the film classic “It’s a Wonderful Life” and the evil banker played by Lionel Barrymore.

“Lenders should not lose sight,” Justice Schack wrote in that 2007 case, “that they are dealing with humanity, not with Mr. Potter’s ‘rabble’ and ‘cattle.’ Multibillion-dollar corporations must follow the same rules in the foreclosure actions as the local banks,savings and loan associations or credit unions, or else they have become the Mr. Potters of the 21st century.”

Last year, he chastised Wells Fargo for filing error-filled papers. “The court,” the judge wrote, “reminds Wells Fargo of Cassius’s advice to Brutus in Act 1, Scene 2 of William Shakespeare’s ‘Julius Caesar’: ‘The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves.’ ”

Then there is a Deutsche Bank case from 2008, the juicy part of which he reads aloud:

“The court wonders if the instant foreclosure action is a corporate ‘Kansas City Shuffle,’ a complex confidence game,” he reads. “In the 2006 film ‘Lucky Number Slevin,’ Mr. Goodkat, a hit man played by Bruce Willis, explains: ‘A Kansas City Shuffle is when everybody looks right, you go left.’ ”

The banks’ reaction? Justice Schack shrugs. “They probably curse at me,” he says, “but no one is interested in some little judge.”

Little drama attends the release of his decisions. Beaten-down homeowners rarely show up to contest foreclosure actions, and the judge scrutinizes the banks’ papers in his chambers. But at legal conferences, judges and lawyers have wondered aloud why more judges do not hold banks to tougher standards.

“To the extent that judges examine these papers, they find exactly the same errors that Judge Schack does,” said Katherine M. Porter, a visiting professor at the School of Law at the University of California, Berkeley, and a national expert in consumer credit law. “His rulings are hardly revolutionary; it’s unusual only because we so rarely hold large corporations to the rules.”

Banks and the cottage industry of mortgage service companies and foreclosure lawyers also pay rather close attention.

A spokeswoman for OneWest Bank acknowledged that an official, confronted with a ream of foreclosure papers, had mistakenly signed for two different banks — just as the Deutsche Bank official did. Deutsche Bank, which declined to let an attorney speak on the record about any of its cases before Justice Schack, e-mailed a PDF of a three-page pamphlet in which it claimed little responsibility for foreclosures, even though the bank’s name is affixed to tens of thousands of such motions. The bank described itself as simply a trustee for investors.

Justice Schack came to his recent prominence by a circuitous path, having worked for 14 years as public school teacher in Brooklyn. He was a union representative and once walked a picket line with his wife, Dilia, who was a teacher, too. All was well until the fiscal crisis of the 1970s.

“Why’d I go to law school?” he said. “Thank Mayor Abe Beame, who froze teacher salaries.”

He was counsel for the Major League Baseball Players Association in the 1980s and ’90s, when it was on a long winning streak against team owners. “It was the millionaires versus the billionaires,” he says. “After a while, I’m sitting there thinking, ‘He’s making $4 million, he’s making $5 million, and I’m worth about $1.98.’ ”

So he dived into a judicial race. He was elected to the Civil Court in 1998 and to the Supreme Court for Brooklyn and Staten Island in 2003. His wife is a Democratic district leader; their daughter, Elaine, is a lawyer and their son, Douglas, a police officer.

Justice Schack’s duels with the banks started in 2007 as foreclosures spiked sharply. He saw a plague falling on Brooklyn, particularly its working-class black precincts. “Banks had given out loans structured to fail,” he said.

The judge burrowed into property record databases. He found banks without clear title, and a giant foreclosure law firm, Steven J. Baum, representing two sides in a dispute. He noted that Wells Fargo’s chief executive, John G. Stumpf, made more than $11 million in 2007 while the company’s total returns fell 12 percent.

“Maybe,” he advised the bank, “counsel should wonder, like the court, if Mr. Stumpf was unjustly enriched at the expense of W.F.’s stockholders.”

He was, how to say it, mildly appalled.

“I’m a guy from the streets of Brooklyn who happens to become a judge,” he said. “I see a bank giving a $500,000 mortgage on a building worth $300,000 and the interest rate is 20 percent and I ask questions, what can I tell you?”

Applications For Foreclosures By Mighty Banks Are Often Speckled With Mistakes

Applications For Foreclosures By Mighty Banks Are Often Speckled With Mistakes

by  Karen,   published:  Wednesday May 19, 2010

There is an adage fixed to the walls in front of the chambers of Judge Arthur M. Schack in Supreme Court Building at Brooklyn – “Be sure brain in gear before engaging mouth.” Inside foreclosures are piled up high enough to vie with the Alps. Each week the high and mighty banks of USA seek out his court to snatch the houses of New York residents who have failed in paying mortgage dues. Very often, said Schack, the applications of the banks are speckled with mistakes.

Judge Schack points out one motion coming from Deutsche Bank. The representative of the bank had claimed to be the vice president of two banks. His office was located in Kansas City but the notarization of the signature was in Texas. Moreover the bank was not the owner of the mortgage when it started with foreclosure proceedings against the borrower. Promptly the matter was dismissed.

Judge Schack said, “I’m a little guy in Brooklyn who doesn’t belong to their country clubs, what I can tell you? I won’t accept their comedy of errors.”

While there are hot debates and angst against bailing out banks and demands for more action to help homeowners, Judge Schack is sparring with the deadliest sword of all – the law. The law is being used to put them lenders in their places. The sympathies of the judge are clear for all to see.

In the previous two years 102 foreclosure places had come before him. He has tossed out from these 46 cases. His slicing decisions laced with allusions to the wealth of the bank presidents that are reminders of the legendary King Croesus, have won the respect of the legal fraternity across USA and especially in Florida, Ohio and California.

One or two bank officials have tried to stand up against him complaining that the judge has been depriving them of what is rightfully theirs. Recently HSBC made an appeal against a ruling complaining that the judge has set before others a “dangerous precedent” by behaving like “both judge and jury.” He has got rid of foreclosure cases even before getting any response from the house owners.

Together with few other state and federal judges, Justice Schack has held up a magnifying glass before the doings of the mortgage industry. During the past decade the bankers in heady haste handed out millions of mortgage loans with terms that were an admixture of good, bad and dangerously ugly.

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

THE REAL EMPLOYERS OF THE SIGNERS OF

MORTGAGE ASSIGNMENTS TO TRUSTS

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

April 15, 2010

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Where are the missing mortgage assignments?

NEW YORK COURT DISMISSES FORECLOSURE WITH PREJUDICE ON ILLEGAL MERS ASSIGNMENT EXECUTED BY COUNSEL FOR THE FORECLOSING PLAINTIFF

May 12, 2010

New York Judge Arthur Schack has dismissed another foreclosure case, this time with prejudice, as a result of an illegal MERS assignment which was “executed” by an attorney in the office of counsel for the Plaintiff, finding that the alleged assignment violated the New York Rules of Professional Conduct as doing so was a conflict of interest.

The Plaintiff was US Bank, N.A. as Trustee for the SG Mortgage Securities Asset-Backed Certificates, Series 2006-FRE2. The original lender was Fremont Investment and Loan. The purported Assigment of Mortgage (which did not assign the Note at all) was executed by a New York attorney as “Assistant Secretary and Vice-President” of MERS. As this attorney, signing for the assignor, listed her business address as that of the law office of the Plaintiff’s counsel (Steven J. Baum P.C.), which represented the assignee US Bank as Trustee, the Court found this to be a conflict of interest in violation of 22 NYCRR sec. 1200.0 Rules of Professional Conduct. Judge Schack dismissed US Bank’s foreclosure action with prejudice and cancelled the Lis Pendens.

We know that there are literally hundreds (if not thousands) of these MERS assignments which have been executed by paralegals and others from the law offices of the Plaintiff’s foreclosure counsel as alleged “Vice Presidents” or “Assistant Secretarys” of MERS. This decision indicates that all such purported assignments are most likely illegal, void, and that any foreclosure action based on such an assignment should be dismissed with prejudice.

Jeff Barnes, Esq., www.ForeclosureDefenseNationwide.com

RELATED STORY: Lasalle Bank N.A. v Smith 2010: NY Slip Judge Schack does it again! Slams BAUM Law Firm!