Justia Banking Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Consumer Law
Frazier v. Dovenmuehle Mortgage, Inc.
Frazier obtained a home mortgage loan for which Dovenmuehle served as sub-servicer. Beginning in October 2015, Frazier failed to make her monthly payments. Frazier successfully negotiated and settled her debt through a short sale of her home, which closed in January 2016. Frazier was later denied a new mortgage loan because her Equifax credit report reflected late payments on her previous mortgage in months following the short sale. She disputed the information to several credit reporting agencies. To confirm the accuracy of its records, Equifax sent Dovenmuehle four Automated Consumer Dispute Verification forms in 2019-2020. Frazier contends the amended codes Dovenmuehle gave Equifax for Pay Rate and Account History were inaccurate, pointing to how Equifax interpreted and reported the amended data in her credit reports.Frazier sued under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, 15 U.S.C. 1681, claiming that Dovenmuehle failed to conduct a reasonable investigation of disputed data and provided false and misleading information to credit reporting agencies. She relied on evidence about persisting inaccuracies in Equifax’s credit reports produced using the amended data. The district court granted Dovenmuehle summary judgment. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. Given the full record, no reasonable jury could find that Dovenmuehle provided patently incorrect or materially misleading information. View "Frazier v. Dovenmuehle Mortgage, Inc." 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
Weichsel v. JP Morgan Chase Bank NA
Weichsel's Chase credit card member agreement discloses an “Annual Membership Fee” to be added to his billing statement and that Weichsel may request an additional card for an authorized user. A “Rates and Fees Table” discloses the annual membership fee as $450 plus $75 for each additional card. Weichsel included one additional user. Weichsel alleges that his December 2019 billing statement included a renewal notice, stating that Weichsel’s annual $525.00 membership fee would be billed on 02/01/2020, how the fee would be charged, and how Weichsel could avoid it. The notice did not specify the breakdown: $450 for the primary cardholder and $75 for the additional user. The fee appeared as separate items on Weichsel’s February 2020 billing statement: a $450 charge and another for $75. Weichsel paid $525 but claims that “[h]ad [he] been aware” he could retain his credit card for $450, he would have paid only that amount. Weichsel filed a putative class action, alleging that Chase’s failure to itemize each component of the renewal fee in the December 2019 renewal notice violated the Truth in Lending Act (TILA), 15 U.S.C. 1601, and Regulation Z.The Third Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the suit. Weichsel had standing; he suffered an economic injury based on his assertion that he would not have paid the full $525 if he had known it included the additional card fee. However, neither TILA nor Regulation Z expressly mandates disclosure of each individual component of the total annual fee in a renewal notice. Regulation Z requires itemization of fees on other disclosures but lacks such a requirement for renewal notices. View "Weichsel v. JP Morgan Chase Bank NA" on Justia Law
Hammoud v. Equifax Information Services, LLC
Mohamad and Ahmed Hammoud, father and son, each filed a Chapter 7 bankruptcy petition, just over a year apart using the same attorney. The petitions contained their similar names, identical addresses, and—mistakenly—Ahmed’s social security number. Although the attorney corrected the social security number on Mohamad’s bankruptcy petition the day after it was filed, Experian failed to catch the amendment and erroneously reported Mohamad’s bankruptcy on Ahmed’s credit report for nine years. Ahmed learned of the uncorrected mistake while attempting to refinance his mortgage. He sued Experian and Equifax, alleging that each had violated the Fair Credit Reporting Act by failing to “follow reasonable procedures to assure maximum possible accuracy” of his reported information, 15 U.S.C. 1681e(b). Equifax and Ahmed settled.The district court granted Experian summary judgment. The Sixth Circuit affirmed. Ahmed had standing to sue but cannot establish that Experian’s procedures were unreasonable as a matter of law. Viewing the facts in the light most favorable to Ahmed, his cognizable injury was fairly traceable to Experian’s actions. A credit reporting agency’s reliance on information gathered by outside entities is reasonable if the information is not “obtained from a source that was known to be unreliable” and is “not inaccurate on its face” or otherwise inconsistent with information already had on file. Experian was not required to implement additional procedures for collecting and verifying corrected information from bankruptcy proceedings. View "Hammoud v. Equifax Information Services, LLC" on Justia Law
Young v. Midland Funding, LLC
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
Honchariw v. FJM Private Mortgage Fund, LLC
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
Lutz v. Portfolio Recovery Associates LLC
Lutz received a Capital One credit card, made purchases, and obtained cash advances with the card. Under the credit card agreement, Lutz could make minimum installment payments with interest at an annual rate of up to 22.90% on any unpaid monthly balance. His account balance rose to $2,343.76, including at least $341.67 in interest that had accrued at an annual rate of 22.90%. When Lutz failed to pay, Capital One sold the charged-off account to PRA, which is not a bank and cannot issue credit cards. PRA holds a license from the Pennsylvania Department of Banking and Securities to make motor vehicle loans and to charge interest at 18-21% on those loans but PRA’s sole business involves purchasing defaulted consumer debt at a discount and then attempting to collect the debt. PRA obtained a default judgment against Lutz.Lutz filed a putative class action against PRA under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, 15 U.S.C. 1692e, 1692f, alleging that PRA made false statements about debt and attempted to collect a debt not permitted by law, citing alleged violations of Pennsylvania’s Consumer Discount Company Act. The Third Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the suit. Lutz did not plausibly allege that Pennsylvania law prohibited PRA from collecting interest that had previously accrued at greater than 6% annually. PRA is not in the business of negotiating loans or advances and is not subject to the CDCA and its limitations on collecting interest. View "Lutz v. Portfolio Recovery Associates LLC" on Justia Law
Cantero v. Bank of Am., N.A.
Plaintiffs in two putative class actions took out home mortgage loans from Bank of America, N.A. (“BOA”), one before and the other after the effective date of certain provisions of the DoddFrank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (“DoddFrank”). The loan agreements, which were governed by the laws of New York, required Plaintiffs to deposit money in escrow accounts for property taxes and insurance payments for each mortgaged property. When BOA paid no interest on the escrowed amounts, Plaintiffs sued for breach of contract, claiming that they were entitled to interest under New York General Obligations Law Section 5-601, which sets a minimum 2% interest rate on mortgage escrow accounts. BOA moved to dismiss on the ground that GOL Section 5-601 does not apply to mortgage loans made by federally chartered banks because, as applied to such banks, it is preempted by the National Bank Act of 1864 (“NBA”). The district court disagreed and denied the motion. The Second Circuit reversed and remanded. The court held that (1) New York’s interest-on-escrow law is preempted by the NBA under the “ordinary legal principles of pre-emption,” Barnett Bank of Marion Cnty., N.A. v. Nelson, 517 U.S. 25, 37 (1996), and (2) the Dodd-Frank Act does not change this analysis. GOL Section 5-601 thus did not require BOA to pay a minimum rate of interest, and Plaintiffs have alleged no facts supporting a claim that interest is due. View "Cantero v. Bank of Am., N.A." on Justia Law
Zirpoli v. Midland Funding LLC
OneMain, a non-bank finance company, loaned Zirpoli $6,200.08, to be repaid at a rate of 26.91% (total $11,364.35). The loan was issued under the Consumer Discount Company Act (CDCA), a consumer protection statute, which creates an exception to Pennsylvania’s usury law. The loan is governed by a disclosure statement, a security agreement, and an arbitration agreement. Later, OneMain sold delinquent accounts to Midland, including Zirpoli’s loan. Midland sued Zirpoli but later dismissed the suit and undertook collection efforts.Zirpoli filed a class action, alleging that Midland’s collection activities constituted an unlawful attempt to collect the loan because Midland does not have a CDCA license and never obtained nor requested approval from the Department of Banking. Midland was, therefore, not lawfully permitted to purchase the loan. Midland moved to compel arbitration. The court denied the motion, focusing on the validity of the assignment from OneMain and Midland. The Third Circuit vacated. The ultimate illegality of a contract does not automatically negate the parties’ agreement that an arbitrator should resolve disputes arising from the contract. The parties to the loan clearly agreed to arbitrate the issue of arbitrability. The arbitration agreement provides that an arbitrator shall resolve the arbitrability of defenses to enforcement, including alleged violations of state usury laws. View "Zirpoli v. Midland Funding LLC" on Justia Law
Hurst v. Caliber Home Loans, Inc.
Hurst sought a loan modification in 2018. Caliber notified Hurst that her application was complete as of April 5, 2018, that it would evaluate her eligibility within 30 days, that it would not commence foreclosure during that period, and that it might need additional documents for second-stage review. On May 1, Caliber requested additional documents within 30 days. Although Hurst responded, she did not meet all of Caliber’s requirements. On May 31, Caliber informed Hurst that it could not review her application. Hurst sent some outstanding documents on June 7, but her application remained incomplete. Caliber filed a foreclosure action on June 18. Hurst spent $13,922 in litigating the foreclosure but continued working with Caliber. Caliber again denied the application as incomplete on August 31 but eventually approved her loan modification and dismissed the foreclosure action.Hurst filed suit under the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (RESPA), alleging that Caliber violated Regulation X’s prohibition on “dual tracking,” which prevents a servicer from initiating foreclosure while a facially complete loan-modification application is pending, 12 C.F.R. 1024.41(f)(2); failed to exercise reasonable diligence in obtaining documents and information necessary to complete her application, section 1024.41(b)(1); and failed to provide adequate notice of the information needed to complete its review (1024.41(b)(2)). The district court granted Caliber summary judgment. The Sixth Circuit reversed with respect to the “reasonable diligence” claim. Hurst identified communications where Caliber employees provided conflicting information and had trouble identifying deficiencies. View "Hurst v. Caliber Home Loans, Inc." on Justia Law