Justia Banking Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Business Law
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The Law Firm of Fox and Fox (Law Firm) appealed from a judgment entered after the trial court granted summary judgment in favor of Chase Bank, N.A. The Law Firm filed this action against Chase, alleging negligence in the disbursement of funds from a blocked account containing estate funds to the sole signatory on the account (as administrator of the estate), Jazzmen Brumfield (Brumfield). The trial court granted Chase’s motion for summary judgment. On appeal, the Law Firm contends it raised triable issues of fact with respect to whether Chase owed a duty to the Law Firm, whether Chase breached any such duty, and whether Chase’s conduct in distributing the funds to Brumfield (who absconded with the funds) was the proximate cause of the Law Firm’s damages.   The Second Appellate District reversed. The court concluded Chase owed the Law Firm a duty of care based on the special relationship it had with the Law Firm as an intended beneficiary of the probate court’s order directing that the estate funds be deposited into a blocked account from which withdrawals could only be made “on court order” and Chase’s acceptance of that order by executing the “receipt and acknowledgment of order for the deposit of money into blocked account.” The court explained that although banks do not generally have a duty to police customer accounts for suspicious activity, Chase owed the Law Firm, as an intended beneficiary of the blocked account order and acknowledgment, a duty to act with reasonable care in limiting distributions from the blocked account to those authorized by court order. View "The Law Firm of Fox and Fox v. Chase Bank" on Justia Law

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Consolidated suits claimed that many firms in the broiler-chicken business formed a cartel. Third-party discovery in that ongoing suit turned up evidence that Rabobank, a lender to several broiler-chicken producers, urged at least two of them to cut production. Some plaintiffs added Rabobank as an additional defendant.The Seventh Circuit affirmed the dismissal of those claims. The Sherman Act, 15 U.S.C. 1, bans combinations and conspiracies in restraint of trade and does not reach unilateral action. Here, all the plaintiffs allege is that Rabobank tried to protect its interests through unilateral action. The complaint does not allege that Rabobank served as a conduit for the producers’ agreement, helped them coordinate their production and catch cheaters, or even knew that the producers were coordinating among themselves. A flurry of emails among managers and other employees at Rabobank observing that lower output and higher prices in the broiler-chicken market would improve the bank’s chance of collecting its loans and a pair of emails from the head of Rabobank’s poultry-lending section, to executives at two producers indicated nothing but unilateral action. The intra-Rabobank emails could not have promoted or facilitated cooperation among producers and the two messages only reminded the producers that as long as demand curves slope downward, lower output implies higher prices. Advice differs from agreement. View "Amory Investments LLC v. Utrecht-America Holdings, Inc." on Justia Law

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4201 2nd Ave. W., LLC, d.b.a. Safari Fuels 105 (“4201”) appealed a district court’s judgment finding First State Bank & Trust, formerly First National Bank & Trust Company (“the bank”), held a valid and enforceable security interest in a liquor license and other collateral. In 2015, the bank loaned approximately $4.34 million to Racers Store 102, LLC (“Racers”) under a promissory note for its operation of a convenience store. As security for the loan, Racers signed the bank a leasehold mortgage, security agreement, and fixture filing against real and personal property including a liquor license, coffee kiosk, walk-in freezer, and Kohler generator, among other collateral. In 2016, Racers defaulted on its loan, and the bank commenced a foreclosure action. During foreclosure proceedings, the bank took control of the convenience store and contracted with 4201 to operate the store while the foreclosure action was pending. Racers transferred its rights, titles, and interests in the ground lease and assets of the store to 4201; 4201 entered into a forbearance agreement with the bank. The parties subsequently discovered the liquor license could not be transferred until delinquent property taxes were paid. The bank and 4201 executed an addendum to the forbearance agreement agreeing to pay equal shares of the property taxes whereby the liquor license would become an asset of 4201 subject to the existing lien held by the bank. The parties also entered into a personal property pledge in which 4201 pledged to give the bank a continuing first-priority interest in the liquor license, 4201 agreed not to sell, assign, or transfer the license, and 4201 agreed to reimburse the bank for costs associated with defending its interest in the license. In 2021, the bank decided to cease operations of the store and offered to sell the liquor license to 4201. 4201 commenced legal action seeking a declaratory judgment that the bank no longer held a valid and enforceable lien on the liquor license, coffee kiosk, walk-in freezer, and Kohler generator. Following a bench trial, the district court determined the bank held a valid and enforceable security interest in the liquor license and other collateral. The court dismissed the bank’s counterclaim. Finding no reversible error in the district court's judgment, the North Dakota Supreme Court affirmed. View "4201 2nd Ave W v. First State Bank & Trust, et al." on Justia Law

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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

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In 2004, Foster, a real estate investor, purchased Florida property, with a $1.1 million loan secured by a PNC mortgage. Foster and PNC had multiple disputes. PNC acquired force‐placed insurance. While the parties disputed that issue, Foster only made payments in the amount originally specified in a 2010 modification although the payments had increased as a result of the force‐placed insurance policies. In 2012, PNC began returning Foster’s payments as incomplete payments. As of May 2019, PNC claimed Foster owed more than $1.75 million. PNC reported delinquent payments to credit agencies; Foster’s credit score dropped.Foster’s lawsuit included a claim under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) for PNC’s failure to investigate the two credit reporting disputes; a breach of contract claim regarding the force‐placed insurance policies; a breach of the implied duty of good faith and fair dealing claim for the insurance; and a breach of fiduciary duty claim for the alleged mishandling of the escrow account. PNC counterclaimed to seek judgment on the loan. After determining that Foster’s affidavit was conclusory and speculative as to proof of insurance and his loan payments and that his evidence of damages was too general and conclusory, the district court granted PNC judgment. The Seventh Circuit affirmed but found that the FCRA claim should be dismissed for lack of standing. Foster did not establish an injury-in-fact fairly traceable to PNC’s conduct. View "Foster v. PNC Bank, National Association" on Justia Law

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Young claims her employer told her that it had received a wage garnishment order in 2019. Young then discovered the existence of a 2010 default judgment against her, in favor of Midland, for a purported debt of $8,529.93 plus interest. Young sued to set aside the 2010 default judgment, based on extrinsic mistake or fraud. She sought damages, penalties, and reasonable attorney fees and costs under the Rosenthal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (Civ. Code, 1788), arguing that Midland was a debt collector of consumer debt and had engaged in false and deceptive conduct in attempting to collect that debt, citing her contention that she was never served with process. Midland denied Young’s allegations, asserted affirmative defenses, and filed an anti-SLAPP motion (section 425.16) to strike Young’s claims.The trial court granted the anti-SLAPP motions, finding Young did not show she would probably prevail on the merits of her claims and awarded Midland attorney fees and costs. The court of appeal vacated. Young showed she would probably prevail on the merits of her Rosenthal Act claim, producing prima facie evidence that Midland falsely represented substituted service on her was accomplished. She was not required to show that Midland knowingly made this false representation. Young’s Rosenthal Act cause of action was not time-barred. View "Young v. Midland Funding, LLC" on Justia Law

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Lightning, a Delaware start-up company that owns intellectual property protecting designs for a pallet used for transporting cold foods, sought $26 million in outside funding to retire debt, cover operational expenses, and purchase equipment to begin production. GrowMI, an entity created by the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, agreed to loan Lightning $5 million and used its relationship with Flagstar Bank to secure an additional $7 million loan. GrowMI and Flagstar conditioned their loans on Lightning’s securing the rest of the $26 million by selling equity and securing lines of credit from Lightning shareholders. Lightning’s creditor LT sent GrowMI a letter indicating that Lightning owed LT $3.3 million, secured by an interest in Lightning’s intellectual properties. GrowMI allowed Lightning to use a portion of GrowMI’s loan to repay LT, ensuring GrowMI’s first secured position on Lightning’s intellectual properties.GrowMI subsequently became aware of wrongdoing at Lightning, which defaulted on its debt to GrowMI. GrowMI sued LT and its principals, Lightning shareholders, Lightning employees, and a consulting company, alleging violation of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO), 18 U.S.C. 1962, by a pattern of racketeering activity that included bank fraud, transactions involving money derived from that bank fraud, trade secrets misappropriation, and wire fraud. The Sixth Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the suit. GrowMI’s claims rest on its status as Lightning’s creditor, making its injury derivative of the harm incurred by Lightning. GrowMI does not plausibly allege that it was directly injured by reason of the alleged racketeering activities. View "Grow Michigan, LLC v. LT Lender, LLC" on Justia Law

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Borrower took out a $5.6 million dollar bridge loan, with 8.5% interest per annum, secured by a deed of trust on real property. They defaulted on a monthly payment of $39,667, triggering late fee provisions: a one-time 10% fee assessed against the overdue payment ($3,967) and a default interest charge of 9.99% per annum assessed against the total unpaid principal balance. Borrower filed a demand for arbitration, alleging the loan was in violation of Business & Professions Code 10240 and the late fee was an unlawful penalty in violation of section 1671. The arbitrator rejected both claims and denied the demand for arbitration. Borrower petitioned to vacate the decision, arguing that the arbitrator exceeded their authority by denying claims in violation of “nonwaivable statutory rights and/or contravention of explicit legislative expressions of public policy.”The court of appeal reversed the denial of that petition. The trial court erroneously failed to vacate an award that constitutes an unlawful penalty in contravention of public policy set forth in section 1671. Liquidated damages in the form of a penalty assessed during the lifetime of a partially matured note against the entire outstanding loan amount are unlawful penalties. There is no precedent upholding a liquidated damages provision where a borrower missed a single installment and then was penalized pursuant to such a provision. View "Honchariw v. FJM Private Mortgage Fund, LLC" on Justia Law

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NJBA, a non-profit trade association representing 88 New Jersey banks, sought to make independent expenditures and contributions to political parties and campaigns for state and local offices. NJBA has not made these payments because of N.J. Stats. 19:34-45, which provides that, “[n]o corporation carrying on the business of a bank . . . shall pay or contribute money or thing of value in order to aid or promote the nomination or election of any person, or in order to aid or promote the interests, success or defeat of any political party.” NJBA brought a facial challenge on its own behalf and on behalf of third-party banks.The district court held that section 19:34-45’s prohibition on independent expenditures violates the First Amendment but that the ban on political contributions by certain corporations does not violate the First Amendment and passes intermediate scrutiny. The Third Circuit reversed, declining to address the First Amendment issues. The statute does not apply to trade associations of banks. NJBA is not “carrying on the business of a bank.” With respect to the facial challenge, NJBA does not satisfy the narrow exception to the general rule against third-party standing. View "New Jersey Bankers Association v. Attorney General New Jersey" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Citibank, N.A, the Administrative Agent for the lenders on a $1.8 billion seven-year syndicated loan to Revlon Inc., appeals from the judgment of the district court in favor of Defendants, the Loan Managers for certain lenders, who received and refused to return  Citibank’s accidental, unintended early repayment of the loan. The district court, after a bench trial, relying on Banque Worms v. BankAmerica International, 570 N.E.2d 189 (N.Y. 1991), ruled that the rule of discharge for value provided a defense against Citibank’s suit for restitution.   The Second Circuit vacated the district court’s ruling. The court held because the Defendants had notice of the mistake and because the lenders were not entitled to repayment at the time, the rule of Banque Worms does not protect the Defendants. The court explained that the Court of Appeals’ specified requirement of entitlement to the money, combined with the cases it cited as precedents for the rule, and its continued espousal of New York’s general rule that mistaken payments should be returned, lead the court to conclude that, in New York, a creditor may not invoke the discharge-for-value rule unless the debt at issue is presently payable. Here, the debt on which Citibank mistakenly made a payment was not due for another three years. As a result, Defendants may not invoke the discharge-for-value rule as a shield against Citibank’s claims for restitution. View "In re: Citibank August 11, 2020" on Justia Law