Justia Banking Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Bankruptcy
Merritt v. USAA Federal Savings Bank
Gary and Jeanette Merritt own four residential properties in Marysville, Washington. Between 2005 and 2007, the Merritts opened five home equity lines of credit (HELOCs), executing five five promissory notes (notes or HELOC agreements) in favor of USAA Federal Savings Bank. The Merritts secured these loans by executing deeds of trust on the properties with USAA as the beneficiary. In November 2012, the Merritts filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. The Merritts stopped making their monthly payments on the USAA loans prior to the November 2012 bankruptcy filing. USAA never accelerated any of the loans or acted to foreclose on the properties. In 2020, the Merritts filed four quiet title complaints seeking to remove USAA’s liens on each of the properties. Relying on Edmundson v. Bank of America, NA, 378 P.3d 272 (2016), the Merritts argued that the six-year statute of limitations to enforce the deeds of trust expired six years after February 12, 2013, the day before their bankruptcy discharge. In October 2020, the Merritts moved for summary judgment in each case. In November 2020, the trial court denied each of these motions. In February 2021, USAA moved for summary judgment in each case. USAA argued that the plaintiffs were not entitled to quiet title because the statute of limitations to foreclose on the deeds of trust would not begin to run until the maturity date of each loan, the earliest of which will occur in 2025. The Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court, holding that the the six-year statute of limitations had not begun to run on enforcement of the deeds of trust since none of the loans had yet matured. The issue this case presented for the Washington Supreme Court's review was whether a bankruptcy discharge triggered the statute of limitations to enforce a deed of trust. The Court affirmed the Court of Appeals and the trial court and hold that bankruptcy discharge did not trigger the statute of limitations to enforce a deed of trust. View "Merritt v. USAA Federal Savings Bank" on Justia Law
Copper Creek (Marysville) Homeowners Ass’n v. Kurtz
The property at issue in this case was a residential home that was purchased in 2007 by Shawn and Stephanie Kurtz. The house was located in a subdivision, which required property owners to pay homeowners association (HOA) assessments to petitioner Copper Creek (Marysville) Homeowners Association. If the assessments were not paid, then Copper Creek was entitled to foreclose on its lien. However, Copper Creek’s lien was “subordinate to any security interest perfected by a first deed of trust or mortgage granted in good faith and for fair value upon such Lot.” The Kurtzes stopped paying their HOA assessments and the home loan in varying times in 2010. The Kurtzes (in the process of divorcing) individually filed for bankruptcy. Neither returned to the house, nor did they make any further payments toward their home loan or their HOA assessments. However, there was no attempt to foreclose on the deed of trust. As a result, the house sat vacant for years and fell into disrepair. The Kurtzes remained the property owners of record and HOA assessments continued to accrue in their names. In 2018, Copper Creek recorded a notice of claim of lien for unpaid HOA assessments, fees, costs, and interest. In January 2019, Copper Creek filed a complaint against the Kurtzes seeking foreclosure on the lien and a custodial receiver for the property. The issue this case presented concerned the statute of limitations to foreclose on a deed of trust securing an installment loan after the borrower receives an order of discharge in bankruptcy. As detailed in Merritt v. USAA Federal Savings Bank, No. 100728-1 (Wash. July 20, 2023), the Washington Supreme Court held that a new foreclosure action on the deed of trust accrues with each missed installment payment, even after the borrower’s personal liability is discharged. Actions on written contracts are subject to a six-year statute of limitations. Therefore, the nonjudicial foreclosure action on the deed of trust in this case was timely commenced as to all unpaid installments within the preceding six years, regardless of the borrowers’ bankruptcy discharge orders. In addition, the Court held the trial court properly exercised its discretion to award fees as an equitable sanction for respondents’ litigation misconduct. View "Copper Creek (Marysville) Homeowners Ass'n v. Kurtz" on Justia Law
Farm Credit Services v. Steven L. Swackhammer
After the bankruptcy court allowed Chapter 12 debtors – several years in a row – to modify their confirmed plan over the objection of their primary secured creditor, that creditor appealed. The issues are whether the bankruptcy court abused its discretion by confirming the debtors’ fourth modified plan under 11 U.S.C. Section 1229 without requiring the debtors to show an “unanticipated and substantial change in circumstances” and whether, under whatever standard applicable to plan modifications, the court’s factual findings were clearly erroneous. The Eighth Circuit affirmed. The court held that, at a minimum, a substantial change in circumstances is required to justify modification of a plan under Section 1229. The bankruptcy court’s alternate ruling that the debtors met their burden of showing an unanticipated, substantial change in circumstances is not clearly erroneous, nor is the bankruptcy court’s finding that the fourth modified plan was feasible and confirmable. View "Farm Credit Services v. Steven L. Swackhammer" on Justia Law
Landcastle Acquisition Corp. v. Renasant Bank
The case arises out of the insolvency of the Crescent Bank and Trust Company (“Crescent”) and the conduct of its customer lawyer, a manager of his law firm, Morris Hardwick Schneider, LLC (“Hardwick law firm”). In 2009, Crescent, a Georgia bank, made the lawyer a loan for $631,276.71. The lawyer, as his law firm’s manager, signed a security agreement that pledged, as collateral, his law firm’s certificate of time deposit (“CD”) for $631,276.71. When Crescent failed, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (“FDIC”), as receiver, took over and sold the lawyer’s loan and CD collateral to Renasant Bank. The lawyer then made loan payments to Renasant, and Renasant held the CD collateral. Landcastle sued Renasant (as successor to the FDIC and Crescent), claiming Renasant was liable for $631,276.71, the CD amount. Landcastle’s lawsuit seeks to invalidate the Hardwick law firm’s security agreement. The Eleventh Circuit reversed the district court’s ruling. The court explained that Landcastle’s lack-of-authority claims are barred under D’Oench because they rely on evidence that was outside Crescent’s records when the FDIC took over and sold the lawyer’s loan and CD collateral to Renasant. The court concluded that the lawyer’s acting outside the scope of his authority did not render the security agreement void but, at most, only voidable. A voidable interest is sufficient to pass the CD security agreement to the FDIC and to trigger the D’Oench shield View "Landcastle Acquisition Corp. v. Renasant Bank" on Justia Law
Oriental Bank v. Builders Holding Co., Corp.
In this bankruptcy action, the First Circuit vacated the judgment of the district court affirming the order of the bankruptcy court granting summary judgment against Oriental Bank on all of the claims asserted against it, holding that remand was required for further proceedings in which remaining issues could be addressed.Builders Holding Company filed for bankruptcy and then filed an adverse action against the Puerto Rico Infrastructure Financing Authority and Oriental Bank. Builders's surety intervened in the adverse action and filed claims against Oriental Bank. Oriental Bank, in turn, filed counterclaims. All claims in the adverse action pertained to funds that the Financing Authority had directly deposited in Builder's account with Oriental Bank that the bank had taken to set off a debt that Builders owed to it. The bankruptcy court granted summary judgment against Oriental Bank on all claims against it, and the district court affirmed. The First Circuit vacated and remanded the summary judgment against Oriental Bank as to all claims, holding that the bankruptcy court was wrong to find that Article 1795 of the Puerto Rico Civil Code compelled the return of funds Oriental Bank set off against Builders's debt to it. View "Oriental Bank v. Builders Holding Co., Corp." on Justia Law
Sanborn Savings Bank v. Connie Freed
Defendant and her then-husband bought a condo for $525,000 with the intention of making it their primary residence. To finance the purchase, the couple took out a mortgage with the Plaintiff bank. Defendant did not sign the note but consented to her husband doing so. The mortgage contained a "future advances" clause, which granted Plaintiff a security interest in the Mortgage covering future funds Defendant's husband might borrow.Four years later, Defendant's husband borrowed additional funds from Plaintiff to keep his business afloat. Defendant did not sign the note. A few months later, Defendant's husband filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy and the condo was sold for $650,000, approximately $250,000 of which was deposited in escrow. The couple divorced and Defendant moved out of the state.In Defendant's husband's bankruptcy case, the court held a portion of the escrowed sale proceeds must pay down his business notes pursuant to the mortgage’s future advances clause and that he could not claim a homestead exemption. Plaintiff was granted summary judgment on its claims that Defendant's proceeds were also subject to the future advances clause and that Plaintiff could apply those proceeds to Defendant's husband's business note.Defendant appealed on several grounds, including unconscionability, contract formation, and public policy, all of which the court rejected, affirming the district court's granting of summary judgment to Plaintiff. View "Sanborn Savings Bank v. Connie Freed" on Justia Law
1944 Beach Boulevard, LLC v. Live Oak Banking Co.
Beach, a debtor in possession, sought to avoid Live Oak’s blanket lien on all of its assets. In Florida, a creditor’s financing statement that does not list the debtor’s correct name is “seriously misleading” and ineffective to perfect the creditor’s security interest. Fla. Stat. 679.5061(2). Live Oak asserted that abbreviating “Boulevard” to “Blvd.” did not render the financing statements defective or seriously misleading. Florida Statute 679.5061(3), establishes a safe harbor for defective financing statements. The bankruptcy court granted Live Oak summary judgment.Noting that lower courts, applying Florida law, have reached different conclusions regarding the application of the statutory safe harbor, the Eleventh Circuit certified to the Florida Supreme Court the questions: (1) Is the “search of the records of the filing office under the debtor’s correct name, using the filing office’s standard search logic,” as provided for by Florida Statute 679.5061(3), limited to or otherwise satisfied by the initial page of twenty names displayed to the user of the Registry’s search function? (2) If not, does that search consist of all names in the filing office’s database, which the user can browse to using the command tabs displayed on the initial page? (3) If the search consists of all names in the filing office’s database, are there any limitations on a user’s obligation to review the names and, if so, what factors should courts consider when determining whether a user has satisfied those obligations? View "1944 Beach Boulevard, LLC v. Live Oak Banking Co." on Justia Law
Bank of New York Mellon v. Enchantment at Sunset Bay Condominium Ass’n
The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of the 732 Hardy Way trust, the denial of summary judgment to the Bank, and the dismissal of the Bank's claims against the HOA in a quiet title action brought by the Bank, concerning title to real property in Nevada that was subject to a HOA nonjudicial foreclosure sale. At issue is whether the Bank, as the first deed of trust lienholder, may set aside a completed superpriority lien foreclosure sale on the grounds that the sale occurred in violation of the automatic stay in bankruptcy proceedings.The panel concluded that the Bank may raise the HOA's violation of the automatic stay provision and that the Bank has superior title. The panel explained that the Bank has standing under Nevada's quiet title statute, Nevada Revised Statute 40.010, and established case authority confirms that any HOA foreclosure sale made in violation of the bankruptcy stay—like the foreclosure sale here—is void, not merely voidable, Schwartz v. United States, 954 F.2d 569, 571–72 (9th Cir. 1992). Therefore, the district court erred in holding that the Bank lacked standing to pursue its quiet title claim in federal court. The panel remanded for further proceedings. View "Bank of New York Mellon v. Enchantment at Sunset Bay Condominium Ass'n" on Justia Law
Lehman Brothers Special Financing Inc. v. Bank of America N.A.
The Second Circuit affirmed the district court's judgment affirming the bankruptcy court's grant of defendants' motion to dismiss in an action arising out of the Chapter 11 bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. The bankruptcy court held that, in the context of synthetic collateralized debt obligations, certain "Priority Provisions" that subordinated LBSF's payment priority to claims of the Noteholder defendants are enforceable by virtue of section 560 of the Bankruptcy Code, which exempts "swap agreements" from the Code's prohibition of "ipso facto clauses."Like the district court, the court held that, even if the Priority Provisions were ipso facto clauses, their enforcement was nevertheless permissible under the section 560 safe harbor. The court explained that the Priority Provisions are incorporated by reference into the swap agreements and thus, for the purposes of section 560, are considered to be part of a swap agreement; the contractual right to liquidate included distributions made pursuant to Noteholder priority; the Trustees exercised a contractual right to effect liquidation when they distributed the proceeds of the sold Collateral; and, in doing so, the Trustees exercised the rights of a swap participant. Because the Priority of Payments clauses are enforceable under the Code, the court held that LBSF's state-law claims also fail. Finally, the district court and bankruptcy court correctly concluded that LBSF is not entitled to declaratory relief. View "Lehman Brothers Special Financing Inc. v. Bank of America N.A." on Justia Law
Pentagon Federal Credit Union v. McMahan
Pentagon Federal Credit Union ("PenFed") appealed a circuit court judgment entered in favor of Susan McMahan. McMahan and her husband purchased property in Loxley, Alabama in 2005. The purchase mortgage was provided by Wells Fargo bank, and a second mortgage was granted in favor of PenFed. In pertinent part, the PenFed mortgage stated "At no time shall this mortgage, not including sums advanced to protect the security of this mortgage, exceed $55,000.00. ... [PenFed] shall be subrogated to the rights of the holder of any previous lien, security interest, or encumbrance discharged with funds advanced by [PenFed] regardless of whether these liens, security interests or other encumbrances have been released of record." In 2014, the McMahans filed for Chapter 13 bankruptcy protection, listing both the Wells Fargo and PenFed mortgages. Both Wells Fargo and PenFed ultimately foreclosed on the mortgages. The McMahans' bankruptcy case was dismissed in late 2015. The Wells Fargo debt/lien and the PenFed debt were not discharged in the bankruptcy proceedings. PenFed filed suit against Wells Fargo to quiet title as the first lien holder to the McMahan property by virtue of the PenFed mortgage, the foreclosure deed, and the erroneous legal description in the Wells Fargo mortgage. PenFed did not notify or make McMahan a party to that lawsuit. That lawsuit was never tried to conclusion but was settled, and PenFed paid Wells Fargo $91,256.54 to satisfy the [Wells Fargo] note and in exchange for a cancellation and release of the Wells Fargo mortgage. PenFed did not acquire the right to enforce the Wells Fargo note and/or mortgage. Within one year of the foreclosure, PenFed sold the property, leaving the McMahans with a deficiency balance of $14,433.41. PenFed's calculation of the post-foreclosure-sale surplus proceeds excluded the $91,256.54 that PenFed paid to Wells Fargo to satisfy the Wells Fargo note and cancel the Wells Fargo mortgage. In 2018, McMahan sued PenFed, alleging PenFed's sale of the property to third-party purchasers created excess proceeds greater than what PenFed was entitled to received under the original note. The circuit court concluded PenFed could not exclude the surplus proceeds it paid to Wells Fargo to settle the Wells Fargo mortgage. The Alabama Supreme Court concluded the circuit court erred in characterizing the doctrine of unjust enrichment as an affirmative defense. Accordingly, PenFed did not waive the defense of unjust enrichment by failing to plead it in its responsive pleadings. Instead, PenFed raised the argument to the circuit court at trial and in its trial brief; the argument was properly before the circuit court. Judgment was reversed for further consideration of the merits of PenFed's unjust-enrichment argument. View "Pentagon Federal Credit Union v. McMahan" on Justia Law