The report of the ruling below by this Federal Judge has several implications:
- Mortgage modifications may come to a halt again
- Attorney’s and anyone supposedly “helping” with modifications should be very, very wary
- The federal court in Manhattan is recognizing a couple very important issues:
- Servicers are NOT the owners of the loans (in the case of a securitized loan)
- Investors own the loans
- Servicers MAY be liable to buy back modified loans (subject to the terms of the PSA)
This ruling could ultimately end up being the demise of ALL foreclosure actions involving securitized loans. One thing is clear in that the federal court identifies the investors as the owners of the loan and is so doing the court also recognizes that the servicer/intermediaries/pretender lender have no authority to do ANYTHING in the way of enforcement, modification, collection through legal means such as a foreclosure action because they simply have no standing (the alleged debt is not owed to anyone other than the investors).
Just because a secret deal between Wall Street, servicers, banks and MERS occurred to obscure the ownership and the transfers of mortgages doesn’t mean their deal will hold up under the careful eye of diligent judge who understands AND cares about the law being upheld.
* Federal judge lacks jurisdiction, moves case to states
* Loan modifications can hurt mortgage investors
NEW YORK, Aug 20 (Reuters) – A federal judge has ruled that Bank of America Corp (BAC.N: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz) cannot have a lawsuit by investors seeking to force it to buy back mortgages heard in federal court, saying he lacks jurisdiction to decide the case.
Tuesday’s ruling by Judge Richard Holwell of the U.S. District Court in Manhattan means the case will move to state court. Holwell did not decide the merits of the case.
“Congress passed two statutes within a year of each other to address the mortgage crisis,” the judge wrote. “In neither of these statutes did Congress federalize the case.”
The ruling is a win for investors, to the extent that Holwell rejected a claim by the bank’s Countrywide Financial Corp unit that new federal laws to encourage loan modifications to help struggling borrowers stay in their homes govern this case.
Countrywide had argued that the laws negated obligations it might have had to buy back modified loans. In 2008, Countrywide agreed with some 11 state attorneys general to modify $8.4 billion of loans made to roughly 400,000 borrowers.
Investors who own mortgage securities typically receive interest and principal payments. If servicers modified the underlying loans to reduce borrower obligations, investors would be harmed because they would receive lower payments.
Holwell did rule that investors bear the burden of showing that pooling and servicing agreements for their loans, taken “as a whole,” require Countrywide to buy back the loans.
Bank of America could not immediately be reached for comment. A published report said a spokeswoman agreed that the court did not rule on the merits of the plaintiffs’ claims.
The current case was brought by two investment funds holding Countrywide mortgages, Greenwich Financial Services Distressed Mortgage Fund 3 LLC and QED LLC.
These investors complained they would be harmed if Countrywide shifted the burdens of loan modifications to 374 trusts into which loans had been repackaged and securitized.
These investors would rather Countrywide repurchase modified loans for the full unpaid amounts.
Countrywide had been the largest U.S. mortgage lender before Bank of America acquired it last July for $2.5 billion.
The case is Greenwich Financial Services Distressed Mortgage Fund 3 LLC and QED LLC v. Countrywide Financial Corp, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan), No. 08-11343. (Reporting by Jonathan Stempel, with additional reporting by John Tilak in Bangalore)
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