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On December 30, Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi (AG) filed a motion in the Fourth District Court of Appeal seeking to advance the state's investigation into whether certain law firms engaged in misconduct while foreclosing on Florida homeowners. In April, the appeals court ruled that the AG did not have authority to subpoena records from one of the law firms under investigation. The state cannot appeal that decision to the Florida Supreme Court unless it is certified as an issue of great public importance. Therefore, the AG has asked the Fourth District to certify to the state supreme court as such an issue the question of whether the creation of invalid assignments of mortgages by a law firm and subsequent use of such documents to foreclose constitutes an unfair and deceptive practice under Florida law that may be investigated by the AG.
Recently, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit affirmed separate lower court rulings that Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems, Inc. (MERS) had authority to foreclose under Utah law even though the notes at issue had been sold by the original lenders and securitized. Commonwealth Property Advocates v. Mortgage Elec. Reg. Sys, Inc., Nos. 10-4182, 10-4193, 10-4215, 2011 WL 6739431 (10th Cir. Dec. 23, 2011). In each of the underlying cases, the deed of trust contained the usual language naming MERS as the "nominee" for both the original lender and the lender's "successors and assigns," and providing MERS with authority "to foreclose and sell the Property" on behalf of those entities. The plaintiff (a firm that acquired title to each of the properties from delinquent borrowers) based its challenge to MERS' authority to foreclose on a Utah statute providing that the "transfer of any debt secured by a trust deed shall operate as a transfer of the security therefor." Utah Code Ann. § 57-1-35. According to the Plaintiff, the statute meant that sale and securitization of the notes deprived "original 'nominees,' such as MERS," of any right to exercise any power under the deeds of trust absent authorization by the new owners of the debt, i.e., the security-holders. The Tenth Circuit, relying on prior Utah and federal-court decisions, rejected that argument. It held that the statute merely codifies the well-established rule that a lender's transfer of a note also transfers that lender's interest in the associated security instrument. The statute in no way impacted MERS' explicit authority under the deeds of trust to continue to act as the "nominee" of each successive buyer of the note and to foreclose on each such buyer's behalf.
- Daniel R. Alonso to discuss "The international compliance situation and new challenges" at the World Compliance Association Covid Compliance Conference
- Benjamin W. Hutten to discuss "Understanding OFAC sanctions" at a NAFCU webinar
- Garylene D. Javier to discuss "Navigating workplace culture in 2020" at the DC Bar Conference