Consumer Financial Services Litigation

Long before eMortgages, electronic signatures, and mobile apps hit the secured lending scene, Lord Nottingham proposed that the English Parliament pass An Act for Prevention of Frauds and Perjuries in 1677 to prevent nonexistent agreements from being “proved” through false testimony. That statute and its progeny remain an important resource in today’s financial services industry. All states have adopted a version of the statute of frauds and many states have enacted statutes of frauds specifically designed to provide broad protection for financial institutions.  If used effectively, these “super” statutes of frauds can quickly dispose of claims and defenses related to credit agreements, allowing lenders to recover collateral, enforce notes and guarantees, and reduce the expense of litigation. These statutes should be one of the first tools lenders reach for when defending claims for breach of an unsigned credit agreement or prosecuting loan enforcement actions where claims and defenses related to credit agreements are asserted.

Continue Reading Win Your Lender-Liability Lawsuit and Enforce Your Loan Documents with this 342-year-old Statute

This article originally appeared in the November 2018 edition of National Mortgage Professional Magazine.

In the fallout from the 2008 financial crisis, courts across the United States were inundated with litigation challenging the legitimacy of mortgages, notes, and the records purporting the transfer or assign them. Such claims included asserting that endorsements of promissory notes were not enforceable, claiming assignments of mortgages were executed without authority, and allegations that the note, mortgage, or associated disclosure documents were neither presented to nor signed by the borrowers. In recent years, as the economy appears to have improved, much of this litigation has died down. However, it does not take much imagination to assume that if and when the next economic downturn hits, some borrowers may again find themselves in default on their mortgage obligations, and in turn may seek to challenge the enforceability of those agreements.  Continue Reading What’s Past is Prologue: Applying Lessons from the Financial Crisis to the Future of eMortgage and eNote Litigation

Anyone interested in charters from the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency should be following Lusnak vs. Bank of America, 883 F.3d 1185 (9th Cir. 2018), which is being appealed from the Ninth Circuit to the United States Supreme Court. OCC charters are of course a hot topic—now that the OCC is accepting applications from FinTech companies for national bank charters, the power of federal regulators to excuse federally chartered entities from compliance with state regulations may be more important than ever. After all, the key benefit offered by a national bank charter for many FinTech companies is exemption from state-level money transmission licensing and regulation… in theory.

In reality, many state-vs-federal constitutional questions remain unanswered. Federal courts are still defining the extent of the power of federal financial regulators to exempt federally regulated institutions from state laws. The Supreme Court could help clarify these important issues in the next year or two if it grants the recent request to consider LusnakContinue Reading Supreme Court Asked to Clarify Applicability of State Laws to OCC-Chartered Entities in Lusnak v. Bank of America

We work with many regional financial institution clients on a daily basis, and they regularly send us out-of-state garnishments, liens, levies, and other legal processes with one question—“Do I have to answer this?” The first question we ask is whether the foreign state can exercise jurisdiction over the regional financial institution—in other words, whether the financial institution is doing business in that state. Our clients are often quick to respond that they don’t have any branches or employees in other states, and so do not believe that they are doing business in those states.

But for the most part, the days of only “brick and mortar” banking are long gone. With the competition of internet banks and increase of technology, financial institutions are trying to become more appealing and accessible to their customers. To do that, they have increased their presence on the Internet. One result of this increased presence has been increased opportunity to market other products (such as CDs, car loans, or mortgage loans) outside of their home state.  Continue Reading Online Banking: Are Financial Institutions Subjecting Themselves to Other Jurisdictions Without Knowing?

Three years ago, the Illinois Supreme Court shook up foreclosure professionals when it affirmed the appellate court in 1010 Lakeshore Ass’n v. Deutsche Bank Nat’l Trust Co., 2015 IL 119372, 398 Ill. Dec. 95, 43 N.E.3d 1005 (“1010 Lakeshore”), to find that a homeowners’ association’s lien for past due assessments owed by the previous owner is not extinguished after a foreclosure sale if the new owner fails to pay foreclosure assessments accruing after foreclosure. The court reasoned that section 9(g)(3) of the Condominium Property Act (which requires a new owner to pay assessments “from and after the day of the month after the date of the judicial foreclosure” and provides that such payment confirms extinguishment of the lien), provided an incentive for “prompt payment” of post-foreclosure assessments. Continue Reading Confusion Still Looms in Illinois Over Past-Due Association Assessments After Foreclosure

It has been almost easy to forget that the PHH v. CFPB case started life as an appeal of an enforcement action taken by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) for purported violations of the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (RESPA).  Technical RESPA issues quickly took a back seat in public discourse to the juicier issue in the case—whether the structure of the CFPB itself was unconstitutional. (Among the factors heightening the drama was the fact that, post-election, the new leadership at the Department of Justice reversed the Obama-era course in the litigation, directing its lawyers to argue against the CFPB and contend that the CFPB was unconstitutional.)

In the latest turn in the case, in a January 31 opinion, the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit brought the RESPA issues back to the fore — ironically, in an opinion that does not substantively discuss the RESPA issues.  Continue Reading Latest PHH v. CFPB Ruling Brings RESPA and CFPB Enforcement Approaches Back in Focus

2018 has a tough act to follow, after a 2017 full of momentous developments—starting with a new Administration and wrapping up with a showdown over the right to serve as Acting Director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) (a fight that continues as of this writing, as discussed below).

But 2018 is unlikely to be a quiet year. In addition to developments in the CFPB leadership battle and other litigation, the year is expected to bring developments such as effective and compliance dates for major regulations on data protection, Bank Secrecy Act/anti-money-laundering (BSA/AML), mortgage servicing, and other topics, and could bring changes in supervisory focus at multiple federal agencies.  Continue Reading Fasten Your Seatbelts: Are You Ready for Another Eventful Year?

On June 12, 2017, the United States Supreme Court held that a buyer of defaulted consumer debt was not subject to the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (“FDCPA”). The question of whether such debt buyers fit within the FDCPA’s definition of “debt collector” has long been a subject of contention. While this result will not shield debt buyers entirely from the FDCPA’s purview, it does provide additional defenses against FDCPA liability and has broad potential implications for other consumer protection actions.

In Henson v. Santander Consumer USA, the petitioner had defaulted on a car loan owed to CitiFinancial Auto, which then sold the debt to Santander, which attempted to collect on the debt. The petitioner alleged that Santander’s collection methods violated the FDCPA. Continue Reading Debt Buyers Get Some FDCPA Relief from Supreme Court: Case Offers Insights But Leaves Some Questions Unanswered

On May 24, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit heard oral arguments in the case of PHH vs. CFPB. The case, arising out of a CFPB enforcement action under the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (RESPA), also addresses the fundamental issue of whether the CFPB’s leadership structure is permissible under the Constitution.   

The en banc consideration of the case followed the opinion of a three-judge panel of the D.C. Circuit that found the Bureau’s structure unconstitutional because it features a single director who is not removable at will by the President. While other federal agencies are led by a single person—including a fellow financial regulator, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC)—the court dismissed the similarity in a footnote, distinguishing the OCC structure in noting that the authorizing statutory language is not identical.  Continue Reading En Banc Oral Argument in PHH vs. CFPB Case Continues the CFPB Saga, Pits Federal Government Against Itself

In Johnston v. Midland Credit Mgmt., No. 16-437, 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 10610 (W.D. Mich. Jan. 26, 2017), the court recently dismissed a class action complaint alleging a violation of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (“FDCPA”) for lack of Article III standing. Johnston is notable as the first FDCPA claim dismissed for lack of Article III standing in the Sixth Circuit. In addition, Johnston provides an interesting case study regarding some of the issues that may need to be considered prior to filing a motion premised on lack of Article III standing. Continue Reading A Case Study – Some Things to Consider When Challenging a Putative Consumer Class Action in Federal Court for Lack of Article III Standing