(BREAKING NEWS, OP-ED) — Part of what we’ll be discussing in the upcoming Foreclosure Defense 101 Workshop on Saturday, October 24th between 10:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. (EDT) is affidavits … in general … and specifically regarding lost notes and assignments.
To further this discussion, I did some heavy research after seeing a Law.com post about a Pennsylvania “lost note affidavit” case and upon review, found what I was looking for … and the results were shocking!
On Page 2 of this 12-page opinion, the borrower (Rao) mortgaged the property and gave MERS nominee status on behalf of SunTrust Mortgage, Inc. That was in early 2006. Notice the following sentence … “On or around April 22, 2013, SunTrust discovered the note was missing from their vault and David Aken, Vice President, executed a Lost Note Affidavit.” Two years later MERS, assigned the mortgage to MB Financial.
Without looking at the assignment, I’ll bet you the servicer’s employees drafted and executed that assignment and it all followed Rao’s alleged “default” on his mortgage (March 1, 2011). That means it took SunTrust two years (April 22, 2013) to discover it didn’t have a “note” in its vault. Could it be that the note was shredded after it was uploaded into the MERS® System? At the bottom of page 2, MB Financial claimed it was in possession, either “directly or through an agent” of a “Lost Note Affidavit”, maintaining it had the right to foreclose on the mortgage.
Now we go to court … MB Financial’s attorney brought in a witness from SunTrust’s “default” department, attesting to the fact that a “Lost Note Affidavit” existed with a “copy” of the note, which contained no endorsement page. Gee, the author wonders how they got a “copy” of the Note if it was lost … Hmmm. Did anyone bother to ask why that was so? How can you negotiate a “note” if only a “copy” exists?
The bank also submitted a certified copy of the Assignment of Mortgage, assumedly drafted and executed by SunTrust to MB Financial. The trial court sustained Mr. Rao’s objection to the Lost Note Affidavit based on hearsay and refused to allow it into evidence, in addition to the admission of the Limited Power of Attorney.
The confusion begins where Mr. Rao (assumedly through his attorney) first made an oral motion for a Nonsuit and discussing with the judge the difference between a Nonsuit and a Directed Verdict, which the Court then entered on behalf of the homeowner. The Directed Verdict was later changed to a Nonsuit in favor of the homeowner after the bank filed a Post-Trial Motion. The next paragraphs … read them carefully because they contain the “nuggets”, in which the objections were sustained in favor of the homeowner.
Understand that was this entire matter was over was the differences between a nonsuit and a directed verdict and what the evidence could otherwise prove or show. Because the Trial Court precluded the Lost Note Affidavit from evidence, MB Financial couldn’t prove “possession” of the Note. But could it “prove” its case anyway if it only had a “copy”?
This is where it helps to know local court rules (or at best, state rules).
What you’re seeing in this case is the roundabout, typical argument that banks always use in getting their lost notes “re-established” to make them “stick” as evidence at trial. Why then, did it take SunTrust so long to discover it had no note? Was it because it wasn’t until after 2011 that Rao didn’t pay his mortgage loan and someone went looking for the documentation? Why did it take so long to discover the original note wasn’t part of the collateral loan file? The Superior Court ruled that as long as the witness can “provide sufficient information relating to the preparation and maintenance of the records” to justify their trustworthiness, they should be allowed into evidence as business records.
However, there is no mention of proof of the default. Since MERS was involved, the note had to have been securitized into a REMIC trust, which was commonplace during that time. The author sees no evidence of any default argument here, but rather, a business records exception argument.
Also notice that the Court declined to analyze whether the contents of the Lost Note Affidavit complied with the statutory “sufficiency requirements” and reversed and remanded the case for a new trial. That means MB Financial “gets another bite at the apple”.
And this is why we’re going to cover the affidavits per se in our upcoming workshop. The basis for creating an affidavit is personal knowledge and how and when “things” got lost, stolen, misplaced … or even created in the first place!
You can sign up for the workshop on the Clouded Titles website!
The author of this post is not an attorney and offers this constructive analysis for educational purposes only.