Justia Banking Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit
Degroot v. Client Services, Inc.
Degroot defaulted on a debt owed to Capital. AllianceOne sent Degroot a letter, stating: The amount of your debt is $425.86 ... interest and fees are no longer being added. Degroot understood that Capital had “charged-off” his account, meaning that his debt would no longer accrue interest or other fees for any reason. Capital subsequently transferred the account to CSI. CSI's 2019 letter stated: BALANCE DUE: $425.86 and “NEW INFORMATION ON YOUR ACCOUNT,” indicating that Capital had placed the account with CSI for collections, with an itemized summary of Degroot’s balance. After offering to resolve the debt, with disclosures required by certain states, concluded by stating “no interest will be added to your account balance through the course of” CSI collection effortsDegroot filed a purported class action, alleging that CSI’s letter misleadingly implied that Capital would begin to add interest and fees to previously charged-off debts if consumers failed to resolve their debts with CSI and that he was “confused.” Degroot asserted that CSI violated the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. 15 U.S.C. 1692. The Seventh Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the suit. The 2019 letter accurately disclosed the amount of the debt and did not imply fees or interest would be added in the future. Even if CSI’s letter did imply that fees and interest could begin to accrue if the debt remained outstanding, the statement was not misleading given that Wisconsin law provided for the assessment of fees and interest on “static” debts in certain circumstances. View "Degroot v. Client Services, Inc." on Justia Law
Apex Mortgage Corp. v. Great Northern Insurance Co.
The Dais obtained a loan from Apex secured by a mortgage on their laundromat. The laundromat ceased operations; the Dais defaulted. Apex agreed to accept a deed in lieu of foreclosure if the property was marketable. A December 2008 inspection revealed that it was in disrepair, exposed to the elements, and open to vagrants. Apex took measures to preserve the property and returned the deed to the Dais in April 2009. In December 2010, two Chicago firefighters lost their lives battling a blaze at the abandoned laundromat. Their estates sued Apex. Apex and the estates settled. Apex's insurer, Federal, denied coverage, citing a policy exclusion for any liability or loss "arising out of property you acquire by foreclosure, repossession, deed in lieu of foreclosure or as mortgagee in possession.” The district court granted Federal summary judgment.The Seventh Circuit vacated, applying Pennsylvania law. Summary judgment was inappropriate given the open question of material fact: who possessed the property at the time of the fire. Apex instructed its realtor to post a notice informing the Dais how to obtain keys for the new locks. Apex urged the Dais to inspect and secure the property. In July 2009, Dai ordered a handyman to board up the property after being cited for building code violations. In October 2009, Dai entered into a settlement to cure the code infractions by November 2010. He failed to do so and served 180 days in jail. Apex had no contact with the property after April 2009. View "Apex Mortgage Corp. v. Great Northern Insurance Co." on Justia Law
United States v. Ginsberg
Spring Hill owned a 240-apartment complex in a Chicago suburb. In 2007, the owner converted the apartments into condominiums and attempted to sell them. Ginsberg recruited several people to buy units in bulk, telling them they would not need to put their own money down and that he would pay them after the closings. The scheme was a fraud that consisted of multiple components and false statements to trick financial institutions into loaning nearly $5,000,000 for these transactions. The seller made payments through Ginsberg that the buyers should have made, which meant that the stated sales prices were shams, the loans were under-collateralized, and the “buyers” had nothing at stake. The seller paid Ginsberg about $1,200,000; Ginsberg used nearly $600,000 to make payments the buyers should have made, paid over $200,000 to the buyers and their relatives, and kept nearly $400,000 for himself. The loans ultimately went into default, causing the financial institutions significant losses.The Seventh Circuit affirmed Ginsberg’s bank fraud conviction, 18 U.S.C. 1344. The evidence was sufficient for the jury to conclude Ginsberg knew that the loan applications, real estate contracts, and settlement statements contained materially false information about the transactions, including the sales prices, the down payments, and Ginsberg's fees. The court rejected a challenge to the admission of testimony by a title company employee. View "United States v. Ginsberg" on Justia Law
United States v. Khan
In 2006-2009,, Ghuman and Khan “flipped” 44 gas stations. Ghuman would recruit a buyer before they purchased the station. The buyers lacked the financial wherewithal to qualify loans. Ghuman and Khan's co-defendant, AEB loan officer Brahmbhatt, arranged loans based on fraudulent documentation. They also created false financial statements for the gas stations. Co-defendant Mehta, an accountant, prepared fictitious tax returns. The loans, which were guaranteed by the Small Business Administration, went into arrears. In 2008-2009 the SBA began auditing the AEB loans; the FBI began looking into suspected bank fraud. AEB ultimately incurred a loss in excess of $14 million.Khan cooperated and pled guilty to one count of bank fraud, 18 U.S.C. 1344, in connection with a $331,000 loan. Ghuman pleaded guilty to another count of bank fraud in connection with a $744,000 loan and to one count of filing a false tax return, 26 U.S.C. 7206. The district court denied Ghuman credit for acceptance of responsibility and imposed a below-Guidelines prison term of 66 months. The court ordered Khan to serve a 36-month prison term and ordered Ghuman to pay $11.8 million and Khan to pay $10.8 million in restitution. The Seventh Circuit affirmed the sentences with an adjustment to Ghuman’s term of supervised release. View "United States v. Khan" on Justia Law
Seaway Bank & Trust Co. v. J&A Series I, LLC, Series C
In 2012, Seaway Bank sued J&A to collect on loans secured by a mortgage on Chicago property. In 2013, the court entered a judgment of foreclosure. The court approved the sale of the mortgaged property and entered a $116,381 deficiency judgment against the guarantor. In 2017, Illinois regulators closed Seaway. The FDIC was appointed as receiver, set a claims bar date, and published notice. J&A filed no timely claims. Months later, J&A filed a Petition to Quash Service in the 2012 state-court lawsuit. J&A argued that once relief was granted, it was entitled to the property.The FDIC removed the proceeding to federal court and moved to stay the proceedings to allow J&A to exhaust the mandatory claims process under the Financial Institutions Reform, Recovery, and Enforcement Act, 12 U.S.C. 1821(d). The court granted the stay; J&A did not submit any claims by the submission deadline. The FDIC moved to dismiss for failure to exhaust the Act's claims process. J&A asserted that the jurisdiction-stripping provision applied only to claims seeking payment from a failed bank and that J&A did not seek payment but only to quash service and vacate void orders; only if the court granted that non-monetary relief could they pursue “possessory relief,” so that the FDIC’s motion was not ripe because they were not yet seeking the return of the property or monetary relief. The Seventh Circuit affirmed dismissal. The district court lacked jurisdiction over the Petition because J&A failed to exhaust administrative remedies. View "Seaway Bank & Trust Co. v. J&A Series I, LLC, Series C" on Justia Law
Taylor v. J.P. Morgan Chase Bank, N.A.
Taylor fell behind on his mortgage payments during the 2008 financial crisis and sought help under the Home Affordable Mortgage Program (HAMP), which allowed eligible homeowners to reduce their monthly mortgage payments to avoid foreclosure. The first step toward a permanent loan modification was for qualifying borrowers to enter into a Trial Period Plan (TPP, 12 U.S.C. 5219(a)(1)) with their lenders and make lower payments on a provisional basis. Taylor’s lender, Chase, sent him a proposed TPP agreement to be signed and returned to Chase to start the process. That agreement stated that the trial period would not begin until both parties signed the TPP and Chase returned to Taylor a copy bearing its signature. Taylor signed the proposed agreement, but Chase never did. Taylor’s loan was never modified. Taylor sued Chase.The district court granted Chase judgment on the pleadings. The breach of contract claim failed because Taylor failed to allege that Chase had signed and returned a copy of the TPP. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. Chase never pre-committed to sending Taylor a countersigned copy of the TPP; it expressly reserved the right not to The return of the signed copy was a condition precedent to contract formation. Taylor alleged no actions by Chase from which it could be reasonably inferred that Chase intended to proceed with the trial modification absent a countersignature. View "Taylor v. J.P. Morgan Chase Bank, N.A." on Justia Law
Preston v. Midland Credit Management, Inc.
Preston brought a putative class action, claiming that Midland Credit sent him a collection letter that violated the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, 15 U.S.C. 1692–1692[. He claimed the words “TIME SENSITIVE DOCUMENT” on the envelope violated section 1692f(8)’s prohibition against “[u]sing any language or symbol,” other than the defendant’s business name or address, on the envelope of a debt collection letter. He claimed that those words, and the combination statements about discounted payment options with a statement that Midland was not obligated to renew those offers, in the body of the letter, were false and deceptive, under section 1692e(2) and (10). The district court dismissed the complaint, citing a "benign‐language exception" to the statutory language because the language “TIME SENSITIVE DOCUMENT” did not create any privacy concerns or expose Preston to embarrassment. The court also rejected Preston’s section 1692e claims. The Seventh Circuit reversed in part: the language of section 1692f(8) is clear and its application does not lead to absurd results. The prohibition of any writing on an envelope containing a debt collection letter represents a rational policy choice by Congress. The language on the envelope and in the letter does not, however, violate section 1692e(2) and (10). Midland accurately and appropriately used safe‐harbor language as described in precedent. View "Preston v. Midland Credit Management, Inc." on Justia Law
Steffek v. Client Services, Inc.
The plaintiffs received form notices from Client Services with a header stated only “RE: CHASE BANK USA, N.A.,” with an account number. The letters continued: “The above account has been placed with our organization for collections.” The letters did not say whether Chase Bank still owned the accounts or had sold the debts. The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, 15 U.S.C. 1692, requires the collector of consumer debt to send the consumer-debtor a written notice containing, among other information, “the name of the creditor to whom the debt is owed.” The plaintiffs argued that Client Services’ letters failed to identify clearly the current holder of the debt. The district court certified a plaintiff class of Wisconsin debtors who received substantially identical notices from Client Services, found that Chase Bank was actually the current creditor, and granted Client Services summary judgment. The Seventh Circuit reversed and remanded. The actual identity of the current creditor does not control the result. The question under the statute is whether the letters identified the then-current creditor clearly enough that an unsophisticated consumer could identify it without guesswork. The notices here failed that test. View "Steffek v. Client Services, Inc." on Justia Law
Dennis v. Niagara Credit Solutions, Inc.
Dennis fell behind on his debt to Washington Mutual Bank. LVNV bought the debt and Niagara Credit sent a form collection letter on LVNV’s behalf, stating: “Your account was placed with our collection agency” and that Niagara’s “client” had authorized it to offer a payment plan or a settlement of the debt in full. The letter identifies Washington Mutual as the “original creditor” and LVNV as the “current creditor.” It lists the principal and interest balances of the debt and the last four digits of the account number. Dennis filed a putative class action complaint, claiming violation of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act by “fail[ing] to identify clearly and effectively the name of the creditor to whom the debt was owed,” 15 U.S.C. 1692g(a)(2). The Seventh Circuit affirmed the rejection of the suit on the pleadings, rejecting an argument that listing two entities as “creditor” then stating that Niagara was authorized to make settlement offers on behalf of an unknown client could likely confuse consumers. The defendants’ letter expressly identifies LVNV as the current creditor and meets the Act’s requirement of a written notice containing “the name of the creditor to whom the debt is owed.” An unsophisticated consumer will understand that his debt has been purchased by the current creditor; the letter is not abusive or unfair. Section 1692(g)(a)(2) does not require a detailed explanation of the transactions leading to the debt collector’s notice. View "Dennis v. Niagara Credit Solutions, Inc." on Justia Law
Saccameno v. U.S. Bank National Association
Around 2009, Saccameno defaulted on her mortgage. U.S. Bank began foreclosure proceedings. She began a Chapter 13 bankruptcy plan under which she was to cure her default over 42 months while maintaining her monthly mortgage payments, 11 U.S.C. 1322(b)(5). In 2011, Ocwen acquired her previous servicer. Ocwen, inexplicably, informed her that she owed $16,000 immediately. Saccameno continued making payments based on her plan. Her statements continued to fluctuate. In 2013, the bankruptcy court issued a notice that Saccameno had completed her payments. Ocwen never responded; the court entered a discharge order. Within days an Ocwen employee mistakenly treated the discharge as a dismissal and reactivated the foreclosure. For about twp years, Saccameno and her attorney faxed her documents many times and spoke to many Ocwen employees. The foreclosure protocol remained open. Ocewen eventually began rejecting her payments. Saccameno sued, citing breach of contract; the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act; the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act; and the Illinois Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Business Practices Act (ICFDBPA), citing consent decrees that Ocwen previously had entered with regulatory bodies, concerning inadequate recordkeeping, misapplication of payments, and poor customer service. The jury awarded $500,000 for the breach of contract, FDCPA, and RESPA claims, plus, under ICFDBPA, $12,000 in economic, $70,000 in non-economic, and $3,000,000 in punitive damages. The Seventh Circuit remanded. While the jury was within its rights to punish Ocwen, the amount of the award is excessive. View "Saccameno v. U.S. Bank National Association" on Justia Law