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Terms of Art: Assignment or Endorsement?

by Neil Garfield | August 8, 2018

Lawyers, judges and homeowners are using different terms interchangeably thus muddying up the argument or ruling. An assignment refers to a mortgage whereas an endorsement (“indorsement” in legalese) refers to a note. The rules regarding enforcement of a mortgage are different than the enforcement of a note.

I want to point out the difference between assignment and endorsement. Because judges often defer to bank lawyers to explain the law, there is some confusion there. Often the point is that there was no valid purported assignment of the mortgage and there was no valid endorsement of the note. The argument has great significance particularly in view of the use of sham conduints at the initial “closing,” where the disclosed “ledner” is a misrepresentation, thus preventing the doctrine of merger in which the debt is merged with the note.

By law, notes are not assigned. They are endorsed if a transfer occurs. Like a check the endorsement must be on the face of the instrument (like the back of the check), or if there is no room because of prior endorsements then an allonge must be permanently affixed to the note containing the endorsement. A separate paper is not an allonge, by definition.

Keep in mind that the note is not the debt and the debt is not the note. The note can be (a) evidence of the debt or (b) merged with the debt (to prevent double liability only if the payee on the note is the same as the lender. The only exception to this is if the payee was acting as a disclosed agent for the lender. The debt exists regardless of whether there is paperwork. The note might exist but it might be invalid depending upon whether it memorializes a real transaction between the parties on the note.

In practice in the typical “closing” the borrower signs the note and mortgage before he receives the alleged loan. Neither one should be released, much less recorded, by the closing agent unless and until the borrower receives the funds or money is actually paid on the borrower’s behalf by the Payee on the note. When it comes to purported transfer of these residential “loans,” low level employees are not given powers over tens of millions of dollars worth of loans in banking custom and practice.

The biggest point I wish to make here is that the assignor and assignee of a mortgage must exist legally and actually. Similarly the endorser and endorsee of a note must exist. An apparently valid assignment or endorsement to a party who did not purchase the debt can result in two things: (a) the assignment of mortgage is not valid because it failed to transfer the debt and/or (b) the failure of the assignment to transfer the debt may be fairly construed as failing to place the subject loan in trust. Without the trust owning the debt (as evidenced by a real transaction in which the debt was purchased from a party who owned the debt), the trust does not exist as to the subject loan nor does it exist at all if that was the practice with respect to all alleged loans for which there was a transfer on paper that did not memorialize real life events.

Three endorsements:

Dated special endorsement to a particular party. This will be treated a presumptively valid. But the presumption can be rebutted — if the endorser (“indorser” in legalese) did not own the note or otherwise have the right to act as agent for a party who did own the note. This is the point of TERA, to expose the fact that the paper is self-generated and self-serving and fabricated by revealing the one simple fact that the party who executed the endorsement was an actual or fictitious individual who was probably a robo-signor on behalf of an entity that did not own the note nor have the power to assign.

Undated special endorsement to a particular party. If it is undated, it is probably fabricated because custom and practice in the industry does not treat mortgage loans the same as they treat checks. When dealing with high ticket items a special endorsement that is dated would (a) ordinarily accompany an assignment of mortgage (often abandoned by the foreclosing party) and (b) MUST be accompanied by acquisition for value — i.e., purchase of the debt. Ordinarily there would also be correspondence and written agreements concerning the sale of the note and mortgage. Those are issues for discovery.

Dated or undated blank endorsement — bearer paper. As stated above, big ticket items usually are not generally transferred by blank endorsements, assuming the paper is actually “negotiable.” Hence if it is bearer paper (no person identified as the endorsee) this is likely a fabricated, backdated document, if it is dated, or just a blanket self serving document that consists of a misrepresentation to the court. Note that most provisions in a PSA (Pooling and Servicing Agreement, also referred to as the “trust instrument”) state specifically that (a) the “trust” is organized to be a REMIC vehicle which means there is a 90 day window in which they can acquire loans (the cutoff period) and (b) the assignments must be in recordable form and (c) the endorsements must be valid. Otherwise, the apparent transfer cannot be accepted by the Trust under REMIC rules (see Internal Revenue Code 26 U.S. Code § 860D – REMIC defined), under the powers of the Trustee (virtually nonexistent in most REMIC Trusts), and under New York Law which almost always invoked as the State in which the Trust is organized. New York Law states that any act that contravenes the powers expressed in the Trust instrument are void, not voidable. So a transfer after the cutoff date is void, as it would ruin the REMIC status under the IRC and violate the specific provisions of the Trust designed to invoke the REMIC rules.

 

 

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