Justia Banking Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit
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In 2008, State Bank, a Fentura subsidiary, hired Wollschlager to deal with “problem loans.” Wollschlager’s contract provided a golden parachute worth $175,000 if the Bank fired him early. In 2009, the FDIC deemed the Bank “troubled.” In 2010, Wollschlager negotiated an amended agreement worth $245,000. Wollschlager's 2011 separation agreement provided that the $245,000 payment would comprise $138,000 (one year’s salary) within 60 days of Wollschlager’s departure; $107,000 plus his base compensation through the end of the year ($28,000) would be paid once the Bank’s conditions improved. Fentura did not seek FDIC prior approval. The FDIC and the Federal Reserve subsequently approved the $138,000 installment. FDIC regulations “generally limit payments to no more than one year of annual salary.” In 2013, Fentura sought approval to pay the remainder, acknowledging that the agreements required prior approval. The FDIC refused, citing 12 U.S.C. 1828(k).The district court granted the FDIC judgment on the record. The Sixth Circuit affirmed The statute says that the agency should withhold golden parachute payments for misconduct and should also consider whether the employee “was in a position of managerial or fiduciary responsibility,” the “length of” the employment, and whether the “compensation involved represents a reasonable payment for” the employee’s services. The FDIC reasonably found that the payment would result in a windfall of two years’ salary for an employee who worked for just three years and that the Bank never sought initial approval. View "Wollschlager v. Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation" on Justia Law

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In 1989, the Plaintiffs opened Money Market Investment Accounts (MMIAs) with FNB. FNB guaranteed that the MMIAs’ annual rate of interest would “never fall below 6.5%.” The original contract did not limit an account holder’s right to enforce the agreement in court but stated: Changes in the terms of this agreement may be made by the financial institution from time to time and shall become effective upon the earlier of (a) the expiration of a thirty-day period of posting of such changes in the financial institution, or (b) the making or delivery of notice thereof to the depositor by the notice in the depositor’s monthly statement for one month.In 1997, FNB merged with BankFirst. In 2001, BankFirst merged with BB&T, which sent a Bank Services Agreement (BSA) to each account holder, which included an arbitration provision. A 2004 BSA amendment added a class action waiver. A 2017 Amendment made massive changes to the BSA, including an extensive arbitration provision and stating that continued use of the account after receiving notice constituted acceptance of the changes. The Plaintiffs maintained their accounts. In 2018, the Plaintiffs were notified that the annual percentage rate applicable to their accounts would drop from 6.5% to 1.05%.The Sixth Circuit reversed the dismissal of the Plaintiffs' breach of contract suit. Because there was no mutual assent, the 2001 BSA and its subsequent amendments are invalid to the extent that they materially changed the terms of the original agreement. BB&T gave the Plaintiffs no choice other than to acquiesce or to close their high-yield savings accounts. BB&T did not act reasonably when it added the arbitration provision years after the Plaintiffs’ accounts were established, thus violating the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing. View "Sevier County Schools Federal Credit Union v. Branch Banking & Trust Co." on Justia Law

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In 1971, Perna was hired by Health One, a federally-insured, Michigan-chartered credit union. Perna signed an employment agreement with an arbitration clause; it was set to expire in 2015. In 2014, the state concluded that Health One was operating in an “unsafe and unsound condition. The federal National Credit Union Administration Board was appointed as Health One’s liquidator and terminated Perna’s employment, 12 U.S.C. 1787(c)(1). The Board sold Health One’s assets.Perna sought unpaid benefits. The Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs dismissed Perna’s claim, citing the arbitration clause. Perna then submitted a claim to the Board under the claims-processing rules that apply when the Board acts as a credit union’s liquidating agent. 12 U.S.C. 1787(b)(5). The Board denied his claim as untimely under its notice to creditors. In 2018, Perna filed a claim for unpaid wages with the American Arbitration Association. Health One and the National Credit Union Administration refused to participate. The arbitrator found that Perna's firing was “without cause” and awarded him $315,645.02 but found that this decision could bind only Health One, not the Administration.Perna sued Health One and the Administration, seeking to confirm the award and make the Administration subject to it. The Sixth Circuit affirmed summary judgment in favor of the defendants. The Federal Credit Union Act provides that “no court shall have jurisdiction over” claims against covered credit unions asserted outside its exclusive framework, 12 U.S.C. 1787(b)(13)(D). View "Perna v. Health One Credit Union" on Justia Law

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The Bateses lost their condominium through a nonjudicial foreclosure. They claim the condo complex’s management company and its law firm violated the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, which generally defines “debt collectors” to cover parties who operate a “business the principal purpose of which is the collection of any debts” or who “regularly collect[] or attempt[] to collect” debts owed another, 15 U.S.C. 1692a(6). The Act contains a separate debt-collector definition for subsection 1692f(6), regulating parties who operate a “business the principal purpose of which is the enforcement of security interests.” General debt collectors must comply with all of the Act’s protections; security-interest enforcers need only comply with section 1692f(6). In 2019, the Supreme Court held (Obduskey) that parties who assist creditors with the nonjudicial foreclosure of a home fall within the separate definition, not the general one. Obduskey left open the possibility that these parties might engage in “other conduct” that would transform them from security interest enforcers into general debt collectors, subject to all of the Act’s regulations. The Sixth Circuit affirmed a judgment on the pleadings for the defendants. The Bateses’ complaint did not plead enough facts to take the defendants outside the separate definition for security-interest enforcers and bring them within the general debt-collector definition; there were almost no well-pleaded allegations about the principal business or regular activities of either. View "Bates v. Green Farms Condominium Association" on Justia Law

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Winget created the Trust, retaining the right to revoke the Trust at any time and to receive income generated by the trust property during his lifetime. He also served as the trustee with broad powers. Venture (a company owned by Winget) sought a loan from Chase. Winget guaranteed the loan both in his individual capacity and as a representative of the Trust. Venture defaulted on the loan, Chase sued. During one of six previous appeals, the Sixth Circuit held that the guarantee agreement limited Winget’s personal liability to $50 million but did not limit the Trust’s liability. Winget paid Chase $50 million; the Trust has not satisfied its obligation and now owes $750 million. The Sixth Circuit affirmed that Chase could recover that money from the Trust property. Under Michigan law trusts can enter into contracts and satisfy their contractual obligations through the trust property. Creditors can sue to recover from the trust property, just like with any other contract. Under Michigan law and the trust agreement, Winget had the power to enter into contracts on behalf of the Trust. The court rejected Winget’s argument that he “owns” the trust property because he can revoke the Trust and pays taxes on the trust property and that Chase cannot take the property to satisfy the Trust’s obligation. The trust property would not be used to satisfy Winget’s personal liability but would be used to satisfy the Trust’s liability. View "JPMorgan Chase Bank, N.A. v. Winget" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs own two dental practices, several properties that generate rental income, a sports bar, and an indoor basketball gymnasium that they rent out as an event center. Around 2009, they began “buying property” and obtained a $300,000 commercial line of credit from First Southern. In 2013, Plaintiffs sought a loan from Southern to convert a vacant former hotel into apartment units and commercial spaces. Southern approved a “maximum total principal balance” that “will not exceed $1,013,519.00.” Plaintiffs later sought additional funds to complete the renovation. A revised total estimated cost was $1,654,648.65, approximately $712,000 above the total cost for the project represented in Plaintiffs’ loan application. Southern then learned about Plaintiffs’ additional debt burden, refused to loan additional funds, and declined to extend the maturity date on the line of credit. After Scott paid off his debts with Southern, Southern’s automated computer system continued to report Scott’s entire prior payment history, including that he had previously been delinquent on his loans. Southern represented to Plaintiffs that it had contacted a consumer credit agency about the error. The Sixth Circuit affirmed summary judgment in favor of the defendants in a suit under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, 15 U.S.C. 1681. Plaintiffs never notified a consumer reporting agency about their dispute, a prerequisite for prevailing under the Act, which preempts state common law claims involving reporting to consumer reporting agencies. View "Scott v. First Southern National Bank" on Justia Law

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Brintley is blind. To navigate the internet, she uses a screen reader that scans webpages and narrates their contents. The technology struggles with some material, especially pictures and video. With some effort, companies can make their websites fully screen-reader compatible. The credit unions, established under Michigan law, maintain a limited brick-and-mortar presence; both operate websites. Brintley tried to browse these websites but found her screen reader unable to process some of their content. A “tester” of website compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, Brintley sued the credit unions, seeking compensatory and injunctive relief, arguing that the websites were a “service” offered through a “place of public accommodation,” entitling her to the “full and equal enjoyment” of the websites. 42 U.S.C. 12182(a). The district court rejected an argument that Brintley failed to satisfy Article III standing. The Sixth Circuit reversed. To establish standing, Brintley must show that she sustained an injury in fact, that she can trace the injury to the credit unions’ conduct, and that a decision in her favor would redress the injury. Brintley must show an invasion of a “legally protected interest” that is “concrete and particularized” and “actual or imminent” and that affects her in some “personal and individual way.” Brintley lacks eligibility under state law to join either credit union and her complaint does not convey any interest in becoming eligible to do so. View "Brintley v. Belle River Community Credit Union" on Justia Law

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The Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (RESPA) creates a cause of action for “borrower[s],” 12 U.S.C. 2605(f). Tara and Nathan Keen got a loan and took out a mortgage when they bought their house. Both of them signed the mortgage; only Nathan signed the loan. The pair later divorced. Nathan gave Keen full title to the house. He died shortly afterward. Although Tara was not legally obligated to make payments on the loan after Nathan died, she made payments anyway so she could keep the house. She later ran into financial trouble, fell behind on those payments, and contacted the loan servicer, Ocwen. After unsuccessful negotiations, Ocwen proceeded with foreclosure. The house was sold to a third-party buyer, Helson. Soon after foreclosure, Tara sued both Ocwen and Helson, alleging that Ocwen violated the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (RESPA), 12 U.S.C. 2601, which requires that loan servicers take certain steps when a borrower asks for options to avoid foreclosure. Tara alleged that Ocwen failed to properly review her requests before it foreclosed on her house. The Sixth Circuit affirmed the dismissal of Keen’s RESPA claims. RESPA’s cause of action extends only to “borrower[s].” Keen was not a “borrower” because she was never personally obligated under the loan agreement. View "Keen v. Helson" on Justia Law

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Fifth Third Bank’s “Early Access” program is a short-term lending option for certain customers who hold eligible checking accounts. Fifth Third deposited Early Access loans straight into borrowers’ accounts, then paid itself back automatically, with a 10% “transaction fee,” after a direct deposit posted or 35 days elapsed, whichever came first. The contract governing the program disclosed the annual percentage rate (APR) as 120% in all cases. Plaintiffs obtained Early Access loans, which were paid back fewer than 30 days later. They contend that the 120% figure is false and misleading. Calculated using a more conventional method, in which the APR is tied to the length of the loan, plaintiffs assert that the APR was actually as high as 3650%. The district court rejected an Ohio law breach-of-contract claim, holding that the contract unambiguously disclosed the method for calculating APR despite admitting that the result “may be misleading.” The Sixth Circuit reversed. The contract was ambiguous because it provided different descriptions of “APR” that cannot be reconciled. The first was a definition, lifted verbatim from a federal regulation, that describes the APR as being “expressed as a yearly rate”; the second was the method used to calculate it, which is not based on any time period. The ambiguity raises a question of fact that should be resolved on remand. View "Laskaris v. Fifth Third Bank" on Justia Law

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FAMC and UNB entered into a 2005 Correspondent Loan Purchase Agreement: FAMC would purchase mortgage loans from UNB; UNB made representations and warranties, including that there would be no fact or circumstance that would entitle a subsequent purchaser to demand repurchase of a loan. UNB agreed to repurchase any loans if a representation or warranty turned out to be false or if a subsequent buyer required that FAMC repurchase the loan. UNB promised to indemnify FAMC for losses due to any misrepresentation or breach of the Agreement. UNB later agreed to perform underwriting for loans it sold to FAMC. The 2006 “Salvino Loan” and the 2007 “Turner Loan” were underwritten by UNB. FAMC resold both to Wells Fargo. In 2010, Wells Fargo notified FAMC that it had identified defects in the underwriting for both loans and demanded that FAMC repurchase the Salvino Loan and indemnify with respect to the Turner Loan. FAMC paid Wells Fargo $231,225.33. UNB refused to repurchase or indemnify. To cut its losses, FAMC resold the Salvino Loan. In 2013, FAMC sued. The district court granted FAMC summary judgment, awarding $188,858.71 in damages. The Sixth Circuit affirmed. The repurchase and indemnification provisions created independent contractual obligations, so the claims did not accrue until 2010 and 2011, when FAMC incurred its losses; the 2013 complaint was timely. FAMC produced sufficient evidence of breach and causation and its mitigation efforts were reasonable. View "Franklin American Mortgage Co. v. The University National Bank of Lawrence" on Justia Law