Glasky v. Bank of America
INTRODUCTIONBefore Washington Mutual Bank, FA (WaMu) was seized by federal bankingregulators in 2008, it made many residential real estate loans and used those loans ascollateral for mortgage-backed securities.1Many of the loans went into default, which led to nonjudicial foreclosure proceedings.Some of the foreclosures generated lawsuits, which raised a wide variety of claims.The allegations that the instant case shares with some of the other lawsuits are that(1) documents related to the foreclosure contained forged signatures of Deborah Brignac and (2) the foreclosing entity was not the true owner of the loan because its chain of ownership had been broken by a defective transfer of the loan to the securitized trust established for the mortgage-backed securities. Here, the specific defect alleged is that the attempted transfers were made after the closing date of the securitized trust holding the pooled mortgages and therefore the transfers were ineffective.In this appeal, the borrower contends the trial court erred by sustainingdefendants’ demurrer as to all of his causes of action attacking the nonjudicialforeclosure. We conclude that, although the borrower’s allegations are somewhatconfusing and may contain contradictions, heclosure claim under the lenient standards applied to demurrers. We conclude that a borrower may challenge the securitized trust’s chain of ownership by alleging the attempts to transfer the deed of trust to the securitized trust (which was formed under New York law) occurred after the trust’s closing date. Transfers that violate the terms of the trust instrument are void under New York trust law, and borrowers have standing to challenge void assignments of their loans even though they are not a party to, or a third party beneficiary of, the assignment agreement.H. Causes of Action Stated
Based on the foregoing, we conclude that Glaski’s fourth cause of action has stated a claim for wrongful foreclosure. It follows that Glaski also has stated claims for quiet title (third cause of action), declaratory relief (fifth cause of action), cancellation of instruments (eighth cause of action), and unfair business practices under Business and Professions Code section 17200 (ninth cause of action).We therefore reverse the judgment of dismissal and remand for further proceedings.
GlaskiBank of America
CA5, F064556 (Cal. 2013)
California Supreme Court
(See Reinagel v.Deutsche Bank National Trust Co. (5th Cir. 2013) ___ F.3d ___ [2013 WL 3480207 at p. *3] [
following majority rule that an obligor may raise any ground that renders the assignment void
, rather than merely voidable].) We adopt this view of the law and turn to the question whether Glaski’s allegations have presented a theory under which the challenged assignments are void, not merely voidable.
We reject the view that a borrower’s challenge to an assignment must fail once it is determined that the borrower was not a party to, or third party beneficiary of, the
13 “Although we may not rely on unpublished California cases, the California Rules of Court do not prohibit citation to unpublished federal cases, which may properly be cited as persuasive, although not binding, authority.” (Landmark Screens, LLC v. Morgan, Lewis & Bockius, LLP (2010) 183 Cal.App.4th 238, 251, fn. 6, citing Cal. Rules of Court, rule 8.1115.)
18 assignment agreement. Cases adopting that position “paint with too broad a brush.” (Culhane v. Aurora Loan Services of Nebraska, supra, 708 F.3d at p. 290.) Instead, courts should proceed to the question whether the assignment was void. D. Voidness of a Post-Closing Date Transfers to a Securitized Trust Here, the SAC includes a broad allegation that the WaMu Securitized Trust “did not have standing to foreclosure on the … Property, as Defendants cannot provide the entire chain of title of the note and the [deed of trust].”14 More specifically, the SAC identifies two possible chains of title under which Bank of America, as trustee for the WaMu Securitized Trust, could claim to be the holder of the Glaski deed of trust and alleges that each possible chain of title suffers from the same defect—a transfer that occurred after the closing date of the trust. First, Glaski addresses the possibility that (1) Bank of America’s chain of title is based on its status as successor trustee for the WaMu Securitized Trust and (2) the Glaski deed of trust became part of the WaMu Securitized Trust’s property when the securitized trust was created in 2005. The SAC alleges that WaMu did not transfer Glaski’s note and deed of trust into the WaMu Securitized Trust prior to the closing date established by the pooling and servicing agreement. If WaMu’s attempted transfer was void, then Bank of America could not claim to be the holder of the Glaski deed of trust simply by virtue of being the successor trustee of the WaMu Securitized Trust. Second, Glaski addresses the possibility that Bank of America acquired Glaski’s deed of trust from JP Morgan, which may have acquired it from the FDIC. Glaski 14 Although this allegation and the remainder of the SAC do not explicitly identify the trustee of the WaMu Securitized Trust as the entity that invoked the power of sale, it is reasonable to interpret the allegation in this manner. Such an interpretation is consistent with the position taken by Glaski’s attorney at the hearing on the demurrer, where she argued that the WaMu Securitized Trust did not obtain Glaski’s loan and thus was precluded from proceeding with the foreclosure. 19 contends this alternate chain of title also is defective because JP Morgan’s attempt to transfer the Glaski deed of trust to Bank of America, as trustee for the WaMu Securitized Trust, occurred after the trust’s closing date. Glaski specifically alleges JP Morgan’s attempted assignment of the deed of trust to the WaMu Securitized Trust in June 2009 occurred long after the WaMu Securitized Trust closed (i.e., 90 days after December 21, 2005). Based on these allegations, we will address whether a post-closing date transfer into a securitized trust is the type of defect that would render the transfer void. Other allegations relevant to this inquiry are that the WaMu Securitized Trust (1) was formed in 2005 under New York law and (2) was subject to the requirements imposed on REMIC trusts (entities that do not pay federal income tax) by the Internal Revenue Code. The allegation that the WaMu Securitized Trust was formed under New York law supports the conclusion that New York law governs the operation of the trust. New York Estates, Powers & Trusts Law section 7-2.4, provides: “If the trust is expressed in an instrument creating the estate of the trustee, every sale, conveyance or other act of the trustee in contravention of the trust, except as authorized by this article and by any other provision of law, is void.”15 Because the WaMu Securitized Trust was created by the pooling and servicing agreement and that agreement establishes a closing date after which the trust may no longer accept loans, this statutory provision provides a legal basis for concluding that the trustee’s attempt to accept a loan after the closing date would be void as an act in contravention of the trust document. 15 The statutory purpose is “to protect trust beneficiaries from unauthorized actions by the trustee.” (Turano, Practice Commentaries, McKinney’s Consolidated Laws of New York, Book 17B, EPTL § 7-2.4.) 20 We are aware that some courts have considered the role of New York law and rejected the post-closing date theory on the grounds that the New York statute is not interpreted literally, but treats acts in contravention of the trust instrument as merely voidable. (Calderon v. Bank of America, N.A. (W.D.Tex., Apr. 23, 2013, No. SA:12-CV- 00121-DAE) ___ F.Supp.2d ___, [2013 WL 1741951 at p. *12] [transfer of plaintiffs’ note, if it violated PSA, would merely be voidable and therefore plaintiffs do not have standing to challenge it]; Bank of America National Association v. Bassman FBT, L.L.C. (Ill.Ct.App. 2012) 981 N.E.2d 1, 8 [following cases that treat ultra vires acts as merely voidable].) Despite the foregoing cases, we will join those courts that have read the New York statute literally. We recognize that a literal reading and application of the statute may not always be appropriate because, in some contexts, a literal reading might defeat the statutory purpose by harming, rather than protecting, the beneficiaries of the trust. In this case, however, we believe applying the statute to void the attempted transfer is justified because it protects the beneficiaries of the WaMu Securitized Trust from the potential adverse tax consequence of the trust losing its status as a REMIC trust under the Internal Revenue Code. Because the literal interpretation furthers the statutory purpose, we join the position stated by a New York court approximately two months ago: “Under New York Trust Law, every sale, conveyance or other act of the trustee in contravention of the trust is void. EPTL § 7-2.4. Therefore, the acceptance of the note and mortgage by the trustee after the date the trust closed, would be void.” (Wells Fargo Bank, N.A. v. Erobobo (Apr. 29, 2013) 39 Misc.3d 1220(A), 2013 WL 1831799, slip opn. p. 8; see Levitin & Twomey, Mortgage Servicing, supra, 28 Yale J. on Reg. at p. 14, fn. 35 [under New York law, any transfer to the trust in contravention of the trust documents is void].) Relying on Erobobo, a bankruptcy court recently concluded “that under New York law, assignment of the Saldivars’ Note after the start up day is void ab initio. As such, none 21 of the Saldivars’ claims will be dismissed for lack of standing.” (In re Saldivar (Bankr.S.D.Tex., Jun. 5, 2013, No. 11-10689) 2013 WL 2452699, at p. *4.) We conclude that Glaski’s factual allegations regarding post-closing date attempts to transfer his deed of trust into the WaMu Securitized Trust are sufficient to state a basis for concluding the attempted transfers were void. As a result, Glaski has a stated cognizable claim for wrongful foreclosure under the theory that the entity invoking the power of sale (i.e., Bank of America in its capacity as trustee for the WaMu Securitized Trust) was not the holder of the Glaski deed of trust.16 We are aware that that some federal district courts sitting in California have rejected the post-closing date theory of invalidity on the grounds that the borrower does not have standing to challenge an assignment between two other parties. (Aniel v. GMAC Mortgage, LLC (N.D.Cal., Nov. 2, 2012, No. C 12-04201 SBA) 2012 WL 5389706 [joining courts that held borrowers lack standing to assert the loan transfer occurred outside the temporal bounds prescribed by the pooling and servicing agreement]; Almutarreb v. Bank of New York Trust Co., N.A. (N.D.Cal., Sept. 24, 2012, No. C 12- 16 Because Glaski has stated a claim for relief in his wrongful foreclosure action, we need not address his alternate theory that the foreclosure was void because it was implemented by forged documents. (Genesis Environmental Services v. San Joaquin Valley Unified Air Pollution Control Dist. (2003) 113 Cal.App.4th 597, 603 [appellate inquiry ends and reversal is required once court determines a cause of action was stated under any legal theory].) We note, however, that California law provides that ratification generally is an affirmative defense and must be specially pleaded by the party asserting it. (See Reina v. Erassarret (1949) 90 Cal.App.2d 418, 424 [ratification is an affirmative defense and the defendant ordinarily bears the burden of proof]; 49A Cal.Jur.3d (2010) Pleading, § 186, p. 319 [defenses that must be specially pleaded include waiver, estoppel and ratification].) Also, “[w]hether there has been ratification of a forged signature is ordinarily a question of fact.” (Common Wealth Ins. Systems, Inc. v. Kersten (1974) 40 Cal.App.3d 1014, 1026; see Brock v. Yale Mortg. Corp. (Ga. 2010) 700 S.E.2d 583, 588 [ratification may be expressed or implied from acts of principal and “is usually a fact question for the jury”; wife had forged husband’s signature on quitclaim deed].) 22 3061 EMC) 2012 WL 4371410.) These cases are not persuasive because they do not address the principle that a borrower may challenge an assignment that is void and they do not apply New York trust law to the operation of the securitized trusts in question. E. Application of Gomes The next question we address is whether Glaski’s wrongful foreclosure claim is precluded by the principles set forth in Gomes, supra, 192 Cal.App.4th 1149, a case relied upon by the trial court in sustaining the demurrer. Gomes was a pre-foreclosure action brought by a borrower against the lender, trustee under a deed and trust, and MERS, a national electronic registry that tracks the transfer of ownership interests and servicing rights in mortgage loans in the secondary mortgage market. (Id. at p. 1151.) The subject trust deed identified MERS as a nominee for the lender and that MERS is the beneficiary under the trust deed. After initiation of a nonjudicial foreclosure, borrower sued for wrongful initiation of foreclosure, alleging that the current owner of the note did not authorize MERS, the nominee, to proceed with the foreclosure. The appellate court held that California’s nonjudicial foreclosure system, outlined in Civil Code sections 2924 through 2924k, is a “‘comprehensive framework for the regulation of a nonjudicial foreclosure sale’” that did not allow for a challenge to the authority of the person initiating the foreclosure. (Gomes, supra, at p. 1154.) In Naranjo v. SBMC Mortgage (S.D.Cal., Jul. 24, 2012, No. 11-CV-2229- L(WVG)) 2012 WL 3030370 (Naranjo), the district court addressed the scope of Gomes, stating: “In Gomes, the California Court of Appeal held that a plaintiff does not have a right to bring an action to determine the nominee’s authorization to proceed with a nonjudicial foreclosure on behalf of a noteholder. [Citation.] The nominee in Gomes was MERS. [Citation.] Here, Plaintiff is not seeking such a determination. The role of the nominee is not central to this action as it was in Gomes. Rather, Plaintiff alleges that the transfer of rights to the WAMU Trust is improper, thus Defendants consequently 23 lack the legal right to either collect on the debt or enforce the underlying security interest.” (Naranjo, supra, 2012 WL 3030370, at p. *3.) Thus, the court in Naranjo did not interpret Gomes as barring a claim that was essentially the same as the post-closing date claim Glaski is asserting in this case. Furthermore, the limited nature of the holding in Gomes is demonstrated by the Gomes court’s discussion of three federal cases relied upon by Mr. Gomes. The court stated that the federal cases were not on point because none recognized a cause of action requiring the noteholder’s nominee to prove its authority to initiate a foreclosure proceeding. (Gomes, supra, 192 Cal.App.4th at p. 1155.) The Gomes court described one of the federal cases by stating that “the plaintiff alleged wrongful foreclosure on the ground that assignments of the deed of trust had been improperly backdated, and thus the wrong party had initiated the foreclosure process. [Citaiton.] No such infirmity is alleged here.” (Ibid.; see Lester v. J.P. Morgan Chase Bank (N.D.Cal., Feb. 20, 2013) ___ F.Supp.2d____, [2013 WL 633333, p. *7] [concluding Gomes did not preclude the plaintiff from challenging JP Morgan’s authority to foreclose].) The Gomes court also stated it was significant that in each of the three federal cases, “the plaintiff’s complaint identified a specific factual basis for alleging that the foreclosure was not initiated by the correct party.” (Gomes, supra, at p. 1156.) The instant case is distinguishable from Gomes on at least two grounds. First, like Naranjo, Glaski has alleged that the entity claiming to be the noteholder was not the true owner of the note. In contrast, the principle set forth in Gomes concerns the authority of the noteholder’s nominee, MERS. Second, Glaski has alleged specific grounds for his theory that the foreclosure was not conducted at the direction of the correct party. In view of the limiting statements included in the Gomes opinion, we do not interpret it as barring claims that challenge a foreclosure based on specific allegations that an attempt to transfer the deed of trust was void. Our interpretation, which allows borrowers to pursue questions regarding the chain of ownership, is compatible with 24 Herrera v. Deutsche Bank National Trust Co., supra, 196 Cal.App.4th 1366. In that case, the court concluded that triable issues of material fact existed regarding alleged breaks in the chain of ownership of the deed of trust in question. (Id. at p. 1378.) Those triable issues existed because Deutsche Bank’s motion for summary judgment failed to establish it was the beneficiary under that deed of trust. (Ibid.) F. Tender Defendants contend that Glaski’s claims for wrongful foreclosure, cancellation of instruments and quiet title are defective because Glaski failed to allege that he made a valid and viable tender of payment of the indebtedness. (See Karlsen v. American Sav. & Loan Assn. (1971) 15 Cal.App.3d 112, 117 [“valid and viable tender of payment of the indebtedness owing is essential to an action to cancel a voidable sale under a deed of trust”].) Glaski contends that he is not required to allege he tendered payment of the loan balance because (1) there are many exceptions to the tender rule, (2) defendants have offered no authority for the proposition that the absence of a tender bars a claim for damages,17 and (3) the tender rule is a principle of equity and its application should not be decided against him at the pleading stage. Tender is not required where the foreclosure sale is void, rather than voidable, such as when a plaintiff proves that the entity lacked the authority to foreclose on the property. (Lester v. J.P. Morgan Chase Bank, supra, ___ F.Supp.2d____, [2013 WL 633333, p. *8]; 4 Miller & Starr, Cal. Real Estate (3d ed. 2003) Deeds of Trust, § 10:212, p. 686.) 17 See generally, Annotation, Recognition of Action for Damages for Wrongful Foreclosure—Types of Action (2013) 82 A.L.R.6th 43 (claims that a foreclosure is “wrongful” can be tort-based, statute-based, and contract-based). 25 Accordingly, we cannot uphold the demurrer to the wrongful foreclosure claim based on the absence of an allegation that Glaski tendered the amount due under his loan. Thus, we need not address the other exceptions to the tender requirement. (See e.g., Onofrio v. Rice (1997) 55 Cal.App.4th 413, 424 [tender may not be required where it would be inequitable to do so].) G. Remedy of Setting Aside Trustee’s Sale Defendants argue that the allegedly ineffective transfer to the WaMu Securitized Trust was a mistake that occurred outside the confines of the statutory nonjudicial foreclosure proceeding and, pursuant to Nguyen v. Calhoun (2003) 105 Cal.App.4th 428, 445, that mistake does not provide a basis for invalidating the trustee’s sale. First, this argument does not negate the possibility that other types of relief, such as damages, are available to Glaski. (See generally, Annot., Recognition of Action for Damages for Wrongful Foreclosure—Types of Action, supra, 82 A.L.R.6th 43.) Second, “where a plaintiff alleges that the entity lacked authority to foreclose on the property, the foreclosure sale would be void. [Citation.]” (Lester v. J.P. Morgan Chase Bank, supra, ___ F.Supp.2d____, [2013 WL 633333, p. *8].) Consequently, we conclude that Nguyen v. Calhoun, supra, 105 Cal.App.4th 428 does not deprive Glaski of the opportunity to prove the foreclosure sale was void based on a lack of authority. H. Causes of Action Stated Based on the foregoing, we conclude that Glaski’s fourth cause of action has stated a claim for wrongful foreclosure. It follows that Glaski also has stated claims for quiet title (third cause of action), declaratory relief (fifth cause of action), cancellation of instruments (eighth cause of action), and unfair business practices under Business and Professions Code section 17200 (ninth cause of action). (See Susilo v. Wells Fargo Bank, 26 N.A. (C.D.Cal. 2011) 796 F.Supp.2d 1177, 1196 [plaintiff’s wrongful foreclosure claims served as predicate violations for her UCL claim].) IV. JUDICIAL NOTICE A. Glaski’s Request for Judicial Notice When Glaski filed his opening brief, he also filed a request for judicial notice of (1) a Consent Judgment entered on April 4, 2012, by the United States District Court of the District of Columbia in United States v. Bank of America Corp. (D.D.C. No. 12-CV- 00361); (2) the Settlement Term Sheet attached to the Consent Judgment; and (3) the federal and state release documents attached to the Consent Judgment as Exhibits F and G. Defendants opposed the request for judicial notice on the ground that the request violated the requirements in California Rules of Court, rule 8.252 because it was not filed with a separate proposed order, did not state why the matter to be noticed was relevant to the appeal, and did not state whether the matters were submitted to the trial court and, if so, whether that court took judicial notice of the matters. The documents included in Glaski’s request for judicial notice may provide background information and insight into robo-signing18 and other problems that the lending industry has had with the procedures used to foreclose on defaulted mortgages. However, these documents do not directly affect whether the allegations in the SAC are sufficient to state a cause of action. Therefore, we deny Glaski’s request for judicial notice.
18 Claims of misrepresentation or fraud related to robo-signing of foreclosure documents is addressed in Buchwalter, Cause of Action in Tort for Wrongful Foreclosure of Residential Mortgage, 52 Causes of Action Second, supra, at pages 147 to 149. 27 B. Defendants’ Request for Judicial Notice of Assignment The “ASSIGNMENT OF DEED OF TRUST” recorded on December 9, 2008, that stated JP Morgan transferred and assigned all beneficial interest under the Glaski deed of trust to “LaSalle Bank NA as trustee for WaMu [Securitized Trust]” together with the note described in and secured by the Glaski deed of trust was not attached to the SAC as an exhibit. That document is part of the appellate record because the respondents’ appendix includes a copy of defendants’ request for judicial notice that was filed in June 2011 to support a motion for judgment on the pleadings. In ruling on defendants’ request for judicial notice, the trial court stated that it could only take judicial notice that certain documents in the request, including the assignment of deed of trust, had been recorded, but it could not take judicial notice of factual matters stated in those documents. This ruling is correct and unchallenged on appeal. Therefore, like the trial court, we will take judicial notice of the existence and recordation of the December 2008 assignment, but we “do not take notice of the truth of matters stated therein.” (Herrera v. Deutsche Bank National Trust Co., supra, 196 Cal.App.4th at p. 1375.) As a result, the assignment of deed of trust does not establish that JP Morgan was, in fact, the holder of the beneficial interest in the Glaski deed of trust that the assignment states was transferred to LaSalle Bank. Similarly, it does not establish that LaSalle Bank in fact became the owner or holder of that beneficial interest. Because the document does not establish these facts for purposes of this demurrer, it does not cure either of the breaks in the two alternate chains of ownership challenged in the SAC. Therefore, the December 2008 assignment does not provide a basis for sustaining the demurrer. 28 DISPOSITION The judgment of dismissal is reversed. The trial court is directed to vacate its order sustaining the general demurrer and to enter a new order overruling that demurrer as to the third, fourth, fifth, eighth and ninth causes of action. Glaski’s request for judicial notice filed on September 25, 2012, is denied. Glaski shall recover his costs on appeal. _____________________ Franson, J. WE CONCUR: _____________________ Wiseman, Acting P.J. _____________________ Kane, J.