Justia Banking Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Banking
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In this case, the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit was asked to consider an appeal brought by BuzzFeed, Inc. and one of its journalists, Jason Leopold, against a decision of the District Court granting summary judgment to the Department of Justice (DOJ). The appellants sought the release of a partially redacted report on HSBC Bank's conduct under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). The District Court had ruled that the report was entirely exempt from disclosure under FOIA Exemption 8 which protects reports related to the regulation or supervision of financial institutions.The Court of Appeals held that the case must be remanded to the District Court to determine whether the DOJ can demonstrate that the release of any part of the report could foreseeably harm an interest protected by Exemption 8. The Court stressed the requirement for a sequential inquiry: first, whether an exemption applies to a document; and second, whether releasing the information would foreseeably harm an interest protected by the exemption. The Court found that the District Court had not sufficiently conducted this sequential inquiry, and the DOJ had not adequately demonstrated how the release of the report would cause foreseeable harm to an interest protected by Exemption 8.The Court noted that the FOIA requires agencies to release any reasonably segregable portion of a record, even if an exemption covers an entire agency record. The Court determined that the DOJ had not satisfactorily explained why the release of a redacted version of the report would cause foreseeable harm to an interest protected by Exemption 8. Therefore, the Court vacated the District Court's grant of summary judgment to the DOJ and remanded the case for further consideration. View "Leopold v. DOJ" on Justia Law

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In this case, Michael Bordick and Monica Bordick defaulted on a loan from Franklin Savings Bank, which was secured with a hunting cabin they owned on property they leased. The Bank filed a complaint for recovery of the cabin, and the Business and Consumer Docket ruled in favor of the Bank. The Bordicks appealed, arguing that the Bank did not make disclosures required by the Federal Truth in Lending Act (TILA). The Bank argued that the credit transaction was not subject to TILA.The Maine Supreme Judicial Court held that a credit transaction secured by real property in the form of a lease is not exempt from TILA under 15 U.S.C.A. § 1603(3). However, the court also found that the lower court applied an incorrect test to determine whether the loan was for commercial purposes and therefore exempt under § 1603(1). The court vacated the judgment in favor of the Bank and remanded the case for the lower court to determine the nature of the loan, looking at the totality of the circumstances.The court also clarified that although the leased land where the cabin was located was not the Bordicks' principal dwelling, the credit transaction is not exempt from TILA under § 1603(3) because it was secured with real property. View "Franklin Savings Bank v. Bordick" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court of Texas examined whether a lender could rescind a loan acceleration and reaccelerate the loan simultaneously, thereby resetting the foreclosure statute of limitations under the Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code Section 16.038. The plaintiffs, Linda and Thomas Moore, defaulted on their home loan, leading to an acceleration of the loan by the lenders, Wells Fargo Bank and PHH Mortgage Corporation. The lenders subsequently issued notices rescinding the acceleration and then reaccelerating the loan. The Moores sued, arguing that the foreclosure statute of limitations had run out because the lenders' rescission notices also included notices of reacceleration. The federal district court ruled against the Moores, leading to their appeal and the subsequent certification of questions to the Supreme Court of Texas by the Fifth Circuit. The key question was whether simultaneous rescission and reacceleration could reset the limitations period under Section 16.038.The Supreme Court of Texas held that a rescission that complies with the statute resets the limitations period, even if it is combined with a notice of reacceleration. The court reasoned that the statute doesn't require the rescission notice to be separate from other notices, nor does it impose a waiting period between rescission and reacceleration. The court's ruling means that lenders can rescind and reaccelerate a loan simultaneously, thereby resetting the foreclosure statute of limitations. View "MOORE v. WELLS FARGO BANK, N.A." on Justia Law

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In this case, the Supreme Court of North Dakota affirmed the lower court's ruling in favor of the North Dakota Industrial Commission (NDIC), acting through the North Dakota Housing Finance Agency (NDHFA), in a dispute over a lien on a property. The property in question was part of a housing development built by the Fendee Group, and was purchased by Carinne Gould, who obtained a mortgage through Guaranteed Rate, Inc., which was later assigned to the NDIC. After Gould defaulted on her payments, both the NDIC and Fendee filed liens on the property. Fendee argued that its liens were superior to the NDHFA's mortgage, but the court ruled that since the NDHFA's lien was perfected (or legally finalized) before Fendee's liens, the NDHFA held the superior lien. The court also rejected Fendee's claim of a "super lien," which would have given it priority over all other liens, and denied Fendee's request for attorney's fees. The court found that the dispute over the super lien was a question of first impression, meaning it was the first time such a question had come before the court, and therefore the appeal was not frivolous and did not warrant attorney’s fees. View "NDIC v. Gould" on Justia Law

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In this case, the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit addressed a dispute involving the owners of two parcels of real estate in Chicago who contended that banks tried to collect notes and mortgages that belonged to different financial institutions. The state judiciary had ruled that the banks were entitled to foreclose on both parcels, but the properties had not yet been sold and no final judgments defining the debt were in place. The plaintiffs attempted to initiate federal litigation under the holding of Exxon Mobil Corp. v. Saudi Basic Industries Corp., arguing that their case was still pending. However, the district court dismissed the case, citing the Rooker-Feldman doctrine, which states that only the Supreme Court of the United States can review the judgments of state courts in civil suits.The Appeals court held that the application of the Rooker-Feldman doctrine was incorrect in this case because the foreclosure litigation in Illinois was not yet "final". According to the court, the foreclosure process in Illinois continues until the property is sold, the sale is confirmed, and the court either enters a deficiency judgment or distributes the surplus. Since these steps had not occurred, the plaintiffs had not yet "lost the war", and thus parallel state and federal litigation could be pursued as per Exxon Mobil Corp. v. Saudi Basic Industries Corp.However, by the time the district court dismissed this suit, the state litigation about one parcel was over because a sale had occurred and been confirmed, and by the time the Appeals court heard oral argument that was true for the second parcel as well. The Appeals court stated that Illinois law forbids sequential litigation about the same claim even when the plaintiff in the second case offers novel arguments. The court found that the plaintiffs could have presented their constitutional arguments in the state court system and were not free to shift what is effectively an appellate argument to a different judicial system.The court also noted that Joel Chupack, the lead defendant, was the trial judge in the state case and was not a party to either state case. He did not claim the benefit of preclusion. Judge Chupack was found to be entitled to absolute immunity from damages, as he acted in a judicial capacity.The judgment of the district court was modified to reflect a dismissal with prejudice rather than a dismissal for lack of jurisdiction, and as so modified it was affirmed. View "Bryant v. Chupack" on Justia Law

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In the case before the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, Yagoub Mohamed, a self-employed mechanic, sued Bank of America, alleging that the bank's conduct and error-claim procedures violated the federal Electronic Fund Transfer Act (EFTA) and various state laws. Mohamed had applied for unemployment benefits during the COVID-19 pandemic and was found eligible to receive $14,644, which he elected to receive via a Bank of America-issued debit card. However, by the time he received and activated his card, the entire benefit amount had been spent on transactions he did not recognize. The bank opened an error claim and later froze his account due to possible fraud.The district court granted Bank of America's motion to dismiss Mohamed's federal claim, stating that the unemployment benefits he was to receive via a prepaid debit card were not protected by the EFTA. The court did not exercise jurisdiction over the state-law claims.On appeal, the Fourth Circuit vacated the judgment and remanded the case for further proceedings. The court held that the account in which Mohamed's benefits were held qualified as a "government benefit account" under the EFTA and its implementing regulations. As such, the court concluded that Mohamed had stated a claim under the Act. The court rejected the bank's arguments that it had established the account in question, asserting that the account was established by the state of Maryland, and the bank acted solely under its contract with the state.The court's holding is significant because it clarifies the scope of protection offered by the EFTA for government benefits distributed via prepaid debit cards, and it underlines the responsibilities of banks in managing such accounts. View "Mohamed v. Bank of America, N.A." on Justia Law

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In the case before the Supreme Court of the State of Alaska, MJ Corporation, the owner of an automated teller machine (ATM), sued Societe Financial, LLC, an ATM processor, and its owner, James Dainis, for breach of contract, conversion, and for piercing the corporate veil. MJ Corp. alleged that it had not been receiving its full share of transaction fees and reimbursement for vault cash dispensed by the ATM as per their agreement.The court reversed summary judgment on the breach of contract claim and piercing the corporate veil, as the processor presented genuine issues of material fact pertaining to those claims. The court held that while MJ Corp. presented admissible evidence of an implied contract and breach of the same, Dainis's affidavit raised a genuine dispute of material fact regarding the damages, thus barring summary judgment on the breach of contract claim.The court affirmed the superior court’s decision to grant summary judgment on the conversion claim. It found that MJ Corp. satisfied its prima facie burden for summary judgment, and Societe's evidence was too conclusory to present a genuine dispute of material fact regarding conversion.Regarding the claim to pierce the corporate veil, the court found that there was insufficient evidence on summary judgment to hold Dainis personally liable or to pierce the corporate veils of Societe's subsidiary company and another company owned by Dainis. The case was remanded for further proceedings in line with the court's opinion. View "Societe Financial, LLC v. MJ Corporation" on Justia Law

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The United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit ruled in favor of the United States in a case involving civil penalties for failure to file a Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts (FBAR). The defendant, James J. Kelly Jr., was a U.S. citizen who had a bank account in Switzerland with a balance exceeding $10,000, which required him to file an FBAR with the U.S. Department of the Treasury. Failure to do so risks civil penalties. The government sued Kelly for willfully failing to timely file FBARs for 2013, 2014, and 2015. The district court granted summary judgment to the government.The Court of Appeals affirmed the lower court's decision, finding that Kelly's failure to comply with his FBAR obligations was reckless, if not knowing. The court argued that Kelly had taken steps to intentionally evade his legal duties and acted with objective recklessness. Despite being aware of his FBAR obligations and participating in the IRS Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program (OVDP), Kelly failed to ensure that the FBARs were submitted. His failure to consult with any professionals about his tax obligations and his considerable efforts to keep his account secret were further evidence of his willful violation of the Bank Secrecy Act. Thus, the court concluded that Kelly's failure to satisfy his FBAR requirements for the years 2013, 2014, and 2015 was a willful violation of the Bank Secrecy Act. View "United States v. Kelly" on Justia Law

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This case concerns a foreclosure proceeding related to a property in Bristol, Rhode Island. The plaintiff, Steven Serenska, obtained a mortgage from Wells Fargo Bank, N.A. and defaulted on his payments. Wells Fargo and HSBC Bank USA, National Association as Trustee, initiated foreclosure proceedings. The plaintiff filed a complaint, alleging that there was an ambiguity in the mortgage document and that he had not received proper notice before the foreclosure.The Supreme Court of Rhode Island held that there was no ambiguity in the mortgage contract. The court found that the notice of default sent to the plaintiff strictly complied with the requirements of the mortgage agreement. The court noted that the plaintiff's alleged prejudice (claiming he would have paid the sum due had he received notice of the deadline for reinstating the mortgage) was irrelevant in this context. The court also found that an issue raised by the plaintiff on appeal (concerning additional language in the notice of default) was not properly presented before the lower court and was therefore waived.The court thus affirmed the order of the Superior Court granting the defendants' motions to dismiss the plaintiff's complaint. View "Serenska v. Wells Fargo Bank, N.A." on Justia Law

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The Indiana Supreme Court heard a case involving a dispute between Tonia Land and the IU Credit Union (IUCU). When Land became a customer at the credit union, she was given an account agreement that could be modified at any time. Later, when she registered for online banking, she accepted another agreement that allowed the IUCU to modify the terms and conditions of the services. In 2019, the IUCU proposed changes to these agreements, which would require disputes to be resolved through arbitration and prevent Land from initiating or participating in a class-action lawsuit. Land did not opt out of these changes within thirty days as required, which, according to the IUCU, made the terms binding. However, Land later filed a class-action lawsuit against the credit union, which attempted to compel arbitration based on the addendum.The court held that while the IUCU did provide Land with reasonable notice of its offer to amend the original agreements, Land's subsequent silence and inaction did not result in her assent to that offer, according to Section 69 of the Restatement (Second) of Contracts. The credit union petitioned for rehearing, claiming that the court failed to address certain legal authorities and arguments raised on appeal and in the transfer proceedings.Upon rehearing, the court affirmed its original decision, rejecting the credit union's arguments. However, the court also expressed a willingness to consider a different standard governing the offer and acceptance of unilateral contracts between businesses and consumers in future cases. The court found no merit in the credit union's arguments on rehearing and affirmed its original opinion in full. View "Land v. IU Credit Union" on Justia Law