|by Neil Garfield|
I was traveling and re listening to an older lecture given by 2 Bankruptcy judges generally held in high esteem. The largest point was that naming a party as the creditor and checking the right boxes showing they are secured basically ends the discussion on the motion to lift stay and restricts your options to either filing an adversary lawsuit attached to the administrative bankruptcy petition or filing an action in state court which is where you will be if you don't follow this same simple direction. If you file schedules attached to your petition for bankruptcy relief, as you are required to do, these are basically the same as sworn affidavits. They will be used against you in any contested hearing.
So the judge lifts the stay and then often mistakenly enters additional language in the order ending the issue of whom is the real lender. After all, that is who you were making the payments to, right, so they must be a creditor. And this is all about a mortgage foreclosure so they must, in addition to being a creditor, they must be a secured creditor. And if the collateral is worth less than the claim, there is not much else to talk about it is simple to these Judges because nobody has shown them differently and one of the Judges is retired now. By definition when the Bankruptcy Judge says in the order who is the creditor, he or she has gone beyond their jurisdiction and due process because there was no evidentiary hearing.
This all results from a combination of technology (garbage in, garbage out), inexperience with securitized mortgages, laziness and failure to do the research to determine what is the truth and what is not. If you are a bankruptcy practitioner who uses one of the desktop bankruptcy programs, then the questions, boxes, and fill-ins are intuitively placed in the schedule that your client swears to. No problem unless the schedules are wrong. And they are wrong where the debt runs from the Petitioner to the REMIC trust beneficiaries and is unsecured by any mortgage that the homeowner borrower petitioner ever signed or meant to sign.
The first point is that the amount if the debt is unknown and we now this for a fact because there are multiple offsets for Third party payment (like Servicer advances) that must be examined one by one. It could be zero, it could be there is money due to the borrower, it could be more or less what is being demanded by the Servicer or trustee. Another thing we know is that neither the Servicer or trustee is likely to know the amount of their claim. So send out a QWR to all addresses for the Servicer and the REMIC trustee.
If you get several different payment histories it is a fair bet they came off of different records, different systems and require the records custodian to authenticate each Servicer' rendition, of beginning balance, ending balance and every transaction in between. The creditor who filed a proof of claim has the burden of showing a color able right to enforce the mortgage. That can only come from the pooling and servicing agreement. The parties to the PSA are the REMIC Trust, the REMIC Trust beneficiaries and the broker dealer who sold the bonds issued by the REMIC trust.
But if there is no trust or the REMIC trust never actually acquired the subject loan, then the appointed Servicer in the PSA draws no power from a PSA for a nonexistent or empty trust (at least empty of the subject loan.) it is not the Servicer by right, it has become the Servicer by its intervention into the contractual right between the borrower homeowner and the lender (the REMIC trust beneficiaries). The "apparent authority" of the Servicer will only take it so far.
And every transactions means that as a Servicer they were paying or passing on the borrower's payments . Where are those records --- missing. Does the corporate representative know about those payments? Who was the creditor paid. When did the payments from Servicer start and when did they stop --- or are they still on-going right up to and including trial, foreclosure sale auction and final disposition of proceeds from an REO sale.
So from the perspective of the Petitioner he might have made payments to an entity that claimed to be the Servicer and those payments are due back not the bankruptcy estate. OOPS but that is what happens when a company arrogated unto itself the powers of a Servicer for loans that are claimed to be in a trust --- where the trust doesn't own the loan, note or mortgage (deed of trust). Thus the Servicer would be owed zero but you would show them in the unsecured column, unliquidated and disputed. This could have a substantial income on the amount of the claim, whether part or all of it is secured.
But no matter, if you fail to take a history from the client, get the closing documents, title and securitization report together with loan level analysis, you are going to do a disservice to your client. We provide litigation support and analysis to give you the data to make an informed decision, fight the POC, MLS, turnover of rents, etc. Then you might avoid the dreaded call of calling your insurance carrier who will probably tell you neither paid for nor received a tail on your claims made policy.