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Solving the Puzzle: Settlements with Homeowners Are Rising

by Neil Garfield | January 16, 2019

Hat tip Michael Bazemore

It’s not easy to see but if you look at the court docket after a ruling against the parties designated as “foreclosing parties” you can see that these cases are often dismissed with reference to an agreement or settlement between the parties.

The typical pleading asking the court to dismiss the case will read as follows:

IT IS HEREBY STIPULATED by and between Plaintiff X and Defendant Y that pursuant to [Federal][State] Rule of Civil Procedure (41(a)(2) [Federal] this action and all causes of action contained therein shall be dismissed with prejudice.

It is further Stipulated by and between Plaintiff and Defendant that each party shall bear their own costs and attorney fees associated with this action.

The parties are submitting a proposed order of dismissal concurrently with this Stipulation.

I took that wording from a case involving a homeowner asserting rights, among other things, that focussed on TILA Rescission. We all know that the consensus is that no court will rule in favor of homeowners. But here you have a settlement that the bank considered too risky to bet on — a case that could have served as precedent for the proposition that there is no note, there is no mortgage and the debt that could have been pursued under 15 USC §1635 (TILA Rescission) is now barred by Statute of Limitations (often stated as “SOT).

I am seeing more of these of late indicating that homeowners who fight aggressively are winning their case and forcing the banks to settle.

PRACTICE NOTE: I think it is error to predicate your thinking about settlement value on the value of the case as it is conventionally determined. The banks are not evaluating cases for settlement based upon what a particular homeowner might gain from a particular verdict. They are evaluating the case based upon potential exposure of the entire fraudulent scheme of foreclosure and the liability associated with false claims of securitization, dubbed “securitization fail” by Adam Levitin.

The threshold question of whether they will settle at all is answered by their evaluation of exposure. The amount of money damages paid is based upon the likely verdict in the case. But it remains to be seen as to whether those with an appetite for risk might bargain based upon the exposure in all cases rather than the risk of a negative verdict in this one particular case.

The index for such valuation could be based upon the amount of gain realized by the investment bank who posed as underwriter and perhaps Master Servicer of a nonexistent trust. Through sales and trading of derivatives based upon the signature of the borrower the investment bank collects as much as 40 times the principal due on the note without any allocation to the benefit of the investors or the borrowers. My opinion is that both investors and borrowers should share in the bounty of $10 million taken in on a $250,000 loan. My opinion has always been that the notion of a default or even a loss should be off the table. The question should not be one of foreclosure but of disgorgement of ill-gotten gains.

Litigating foreclosure defense in this context requires the mindset of a solving a puzzle. Like any word puzzle or video game you need to stare at it for a while. At first you see nothing there. It’s like a painting that upon longer viewing reveals a face. After awhile of looking at the names of parties or their purported roles your mind will kick in and you will see the gaps in their asserted roles.

 

 

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