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Financial Services Law Insights and Observations

Ninth Circuit Holds Nevada AG Suit Against Bank Not Removable Under CAFA

FDCPA Mortgage Servicing Class Action State Attorney General HAMP / HARP

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On March 2, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit held that a parens patriae suit brought by Nevada’s Attorney General (AG) related to mortgage modification and foreclosure practices could not be removed from state court under the Class Action Fairness Act (CAFA). Nevada v. Bank of America Corp., No 12-15005, 2012 WL 688552 (9th Cir. Mar. 2, 2012). The AG alleges that Bank of America Corp. (BAC) violated state law by misleading Nevada consumers about the terms and operation of its home mortgage modification and foreclosure processes, and that it violated a consent judgment entered between the state and several of its subsidiaries. BAC removed the case to federal court under CAFA. The district court denied the state’s motion to remand, finding that (i) it had jurisdiction over the suit as a CAFA “class action,” but not as a “mass action,” and (ii) it had federal question jurisdiction because the allegations require interpretation of the federal HAMP program and the Fair Debt Collections Practices Act. On appeal, the Ninth Circuit consistent with its opinion in Washington v. Chimei Innolux Corp., 659 F.3d 842 (9th Cir. 2011), which was issued after the district court ruled on Nevada’s motion, held that a parens patriae suit does not qualify as a class action removable under CAFA, and does not otherwise satisfy CAFA’s “mass action” requirements. The court reasoned that Nevada is the real party in interest and therefore held that the case could not qualify as a mass action removable under CAFA. The Ninth Circuit also held that, because only state law causes of action are alleged and there is no overriding federal interest, the district court does not have federal question jurisdiction.

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