Justia Banking Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Supreme Court of Pennsylvania
Marion v. Bryn Mawr Trust Co.
Robert Bentley (Bentley) was a broker of certificates of deposits (CDs). He operated his business through two entities: Bentley Financial Services (BFS) and Entrust Group (Entrust). Entrust had a $2 million line of credit with Main Line Federal Savings Bank (Main Line). In 1996, Main Line terminated the line of credit after the bank discovered Bentley had forged his accountant’s signature on a document. Main Line demanded repayment of the outstanding $2 million balance. In order to pay back Main Line, Bentley sold $2 million of fake CDs. Thereafter, Bentley engaged in a Ponzi scheme in which he would sell fraudulent or fictitious CDs to new investors in order to pay off previous investors. In 1997, as he continued to defraud investors, Bentley opened deposit and wire transfer accounts with a new bank, Bryn Mawr Trust Company (BMT). Bentley became one of BMT’s largest customers. In 2001, the Securities and Exchange Commission commenced an action against Bentley for his Ponzi scheme. The federal court appointed David Marion (Marion) as a receiver for BFS and Entrust. In 2004, Marion initiated this case. Marion’s complaint, amended in 2012, raised claims of breach of fiduciary duty, breach of the Uniform Fiduciaries Act (UFA), aiding and abetting fraud, and negligence. In 2014, the trial court granted summary judgment to BMT on the claim of aiding and abetting fraud. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court granted limited discretionary review to consider whether to recognize a cause of action for aiding and abetting fraud and, if so, to determine the scienter requirement for this tort. The Court held aiding and abetting fraud was a cognizable claim under Pennsylvania law, and the required state of mind was actual knowledge of the fraud. Accordingly, the Superior Court’s decision was affirmed in part and reversed in part, and the case was remanded to the trial court for a new trial. View "Marion v. Bryn Mawr Trust Co." on Justia Law
Johnson v. Phelan Hallinan & Schmieg
In 2002, Edella and Eric Johnson executed a $74,000 mortgage and associated promissory note, secured by property in Pittsburgh. The instrument was recorded and later assigned to the Bank of New York Mellon Trust Company (“Mellon”). Six years later, the Johnsons defaulted on their mortgage. In March 2009, Mellon, through its debt-collection counsel Phelan Hallinan & Schmieg, LLP (“Phelan”), filed a complaint in mortgage foreclosure. In that complaint, Phelan included a claim for attorneys’ fees of $1,300. Following a non-jury trial, the court entered judgment for Mellon. In March 2012, while the underlying mortgage foreclosure case was still ongoing, the Johnsons filed the instant class action against Phelan. When the Pennsylvania Loan Interest and Protection Law ("Act 6") was enacted in 1974, a “residential mortgage” was defined as “an obligation to pay a sum of money in an original bona fide principal amount of fifty thousand dollars ($50,000) or less.” In 2008, however, the General Assembly amended Act 6’s definition of a “residential mortgage” to increase the principal-amount ceiling to $217,873 - a base figure that automatically was adjusted for inflation annually. This appeal centered on whether that increased principal-amount ceiling should apply to mortgages that were executed before the 2008 amendment to Act 6. Specifically, the question presented was whether the $74,000 mortgage the Johnsons executed should have been considered a "residential mortgage" under Act 6, given that when Appellants' lender initiated foreclosure proceedings in 2009, the increased principal-amount ceiling had gone into effect. Because the Pennsylvania Supreme Court concluded that nothing in the 2008 legislation amending Act 6 demonstrated that the revised figure should have applied retroactively, the Supreme Court affirmed the Superior Court's order. View "Johnson v. Phelan Hallinan & Schmieg" on Justia Law
Bayview Loan v. Wicker
James and Beryl Wicker signed a mortgage agreement for their residence in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania in favor of Countrywide Bank, FSB (Countrywide) in February 2008. The mortgage agreement indicated that Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems, Inc. (MERS) would act as nominee for Countrywide and its successors and assigns and was designated as the mortgagee. In an assignment of mortgage recorded in November 2011, MERS, as nominee for Countrywide, assigned the mortgage to Bank of America. In May 2012, Bank of America filed a mortgage foreclosure action against the Wickers alleging that the Wickers defaulted on their mortgage as of September 1, 2010. It further averred that it had provided the Wickers with the statutorily required foreclosure notice on September 21, 2011. Bank of America then moved for summary judgment, which the trial court granted in part and denied in part. In so doing, the trial court narrowed the issues for trial to determining whether Bank of America had provided proof of: (1) the required foreclosure notices; (2) the date of default; and (3) the amount of indebtedness. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court granted review to consider the application of Pennsylvania’s business records exception to the rule against hearsay, pursuant to Pennsylvania Rule of Evidence 803(6) and the Uniform Business Records as Evidence Act, 42 Pa.C.S. 6108. The parties agreed that then-current Pennsylvania precedent allowed a records custodian to authenticate documents even if the witness did not personally record the specific information in the documents. The parties disagreed, however, as to whether a records custodian could lay a foundation for documents incorporated into the files of the custodian’s employer when the information in the documents was recorded by a third party, a process which was allowed under the similar but not identical Federal Rule of Evidence 803(6), pursuant to the so-called adopted business records doctrine. The Supreme Court affirmed the Superior Court in concluding that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in allowing the testimony of the records custodian and admitting the documents under the facts of this case. View "Bayview Loan v. Wicker" on Justia Law