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Gregory Johnson, An Individual v. Hsbc Bank Usa

March 19, 2012

GREGORY JOHNSON, AN INDIVIDUAL,
PLAINTIFF,
v.
HSBC BANK USA, NATIONAL ASSOCIATION AS TRUSTEE FOR THE ELLINGTON TRUST SERIES 2007-1; BANK OF AMERICA, N.A.; AND DOES 1 -- 10, INCLUSIVE, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Jeffrey T. Miller United States District Judge

ORDER DENYING MOTION TO DISMISS Docket No. 12

On September 12, 2011, Plaintiff Gregory Johnson brought a complaint against HSBC Bank USA, National Association as Trustee for the Ellington Trust Series 2007-1 ("HSBC") and Bank of America, N.A. ("BOA"). BOA has filed a motion to dismiss ("MTD" or "motion"). Plaintiff filed an opposition on February 17, 2012. HSBC originally failed to answer the complaint, but jointly moved with Plaintiff to set aside default. The court granted that motion, and HSBC now joins BOA's motion to dismiss with no further argument. Neither Defendant has filed a reply brief. For the reasons stated below, the motion is DENIED.

I. BACKGROUND

In December of 2006, Plaintiff obtained a loan from Fremont Investment & Loan ("Fremont") in order to purchase property located in Oceanside, California. Compl. ¶ 24. The Deed of Trust named Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems ("MERS") as the nominee and beneficiary of the Deed of Trust. ¶ 24. The complaint alleges that Fremont "attempted to securitize and sell [the] loan to another entity or entities" that were "not HSBC Bank or the Ellington Trust." ¶ 25. Consequently, HSBC "is merely a third-party stranger to the loan transaction." ¶ 26. Plaintiff alleges that despite his requests, BOA (apparently his mortgage servicer), has failed to verify the debt and amount owed.1 ¶ 26.

Specifically, Plaintiff alleges that the document purporting to assign the Deed of Trust from MERS to HSBC (Compl. Ex. A), dated May 29, 2008, was fraudulent, in part because the assignment was executed after the closing date of the trust, which violates the Pooling and Servicing Agreement ("PSA").2 ¶ 28-29. Plaintiff also alleges that Treva Moreland, "the purported signatory of the purported 'Assignment', was not the 'Assistant Secretary' for MERS and lacked the requisite corporate and legal authority to effect an actual 'assignment' of Plaintiff's Note and Mortgage." ¶ 38. The complaint states that Treva Moreland signs thousands of property record documents without any authority, and thus any amount Plaintiff owes is subject to equitable offset by damages owed by Defendants.

The complaint further alleges that in October of 2010, HSBC "caused a document purporting to be a Substitution of Trustee ('Substitution') to be recorded with the County of San Diego." ¶ 57. The substitution purported to substitute Quality Loan Service Corporation

While Plaintiff does not dispute that he owes money on the loan, he disputes the amount owed and "seeks the Court's assistance in determining who the holder in due course is of his Note and Deed of Trust." ¶ 22.

Plaintiff admits he is not a party to or beneficiary of the PSA, but claims that the failure to securitize his note should prevent HSBC and BOA from claiming any interest in the mortgage.

("Quality") as trustee, but Plaintiff claims that no such transfer ever occurred. ¶ 57. The complaint states that under California law, the lender must be the party to appoint the successor trustee, and HSBC was not the lender.

In the summer of 2009, Plaintiff sought a loan modification from Wilshire, the original servicer of Plaintiff's loan. ¶ 66. At some point the loan "was sold or transferred to BOA." ¶ 67. Plaintiff made nine payments under the modified plan, but BOA refused to honor the new plan. ¶ 68. After much confusion, Plaintiff obtained a loan modification from BOA to be effective February 1, 2011. ¶ 79. In March of 2011, Plaintiff sent a Qualified Written Request letter to verify the debt owed, but BOA did not provide a substantive response. ¶ 83.

Plaintiff also alleges that Defendants have not properly credited payments he has made on the mortgage and have incorrectly calculated interest. ¶ 85. He claims that Defendants knew at all times that Plaintiff was paying incorrect amounts. ¶ 86. As a result of their actions, Plaintiff's credit has been damaged and his home has been made unmarketable because "the title to Plaintiff's home has been slandered [and] clouded." ¶ 89. Finally, the complaint states that "Plaintiff has offered to and is ready, willing, and able to unconditionally tender his obligation."

Based on these factual allegations, the complaint seeks relief under seven causes of action, each applied to both Defendants: (1) declaratory relief under 28 U.S.C. §§ 2201-2202; (2) negligence; (3) quasi-contract; (4) violation of 12 U.S.C. § 2605; (5) violation of 15 U.S.C. § 1692; (6) violation of Cal. Bus. & Prof. Code § 17200 et seq.; (7) accounting.

II. LEGAL STANDARD AND DISCUSSION

A motion to dismiss under Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6) challenges the legal sufficiency of the pleadings. De La Cruz v. Tormey, 582 F.2d 45, 48 (9th Cir. 1978). In evaluating the motion, the court must construe the pleadings in the light most favorable to the non-moving party, accepting as true all material allegations in the complaint and any reasonable inferences drawn therefrom.

See, e.g., Broam v. Bogan, 320 F.3d 1023, 1028 (9th Cir. 2003). The Supreme Court has held that in order to survive a 12(b)(6) motion, "[f]actual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level." Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). The court should grant 12(b)(6) relief only if the complaint lacks either a "cognizable legal theory" or facts sufficient to support a cognizable legal theory. Balistreri v. Pacifica Police Dep't, 901 F.2d 696, 699 (9th Cir. 1990).

A. Viability of Attack on Loan Securitization

1. Ability to Challenge Loan Securitization

The threshold issue of whether Plaintiff can make any claim related to the loan's securitization affects the viability of many of the individual claims discussed below. BOA cites Rodenhurst v. Bank of America, 773 F.Supp.2d 886, 899 (D. Haw. 2011) for its statement that "[t]he overwhelming authority does not support a cause of action based upon improper securitization." However, the discussion cited in that case centers on plaintiffs who claim that securitization itself violates the agreement between the mortgagor and mortgagee. Here, Plaintiff does not dispute the right to securitize the mortgage, but alleges that as a result of improper procedures, the true owner of his mortgage is unclear. As a result, he has allegedly been paying improper entities an excess amount.

Ninth Circuit district courts have come to different conclusions when analyzing a plaintiff's right to challenge the securitization process as Plaintiff has here. See Schafer v. CitiMortgage, Inc., 2011 WL 2437267 (C.D. Cal. 2011) (denying defendants' motion to dismiss declaratory relief claim, which was based on alleged improper transfer due to alleged fraud in signing of documents); Vogan v. Wells Fargo Bank, N.A., 2011 WL 5826016 (E.D. Cal. 2011) (allowing § 17200 claim when plaintiffs alleged that assignment was executed after the closing date of securities pool, "giving rise to a plausible inference that at least some part of the recorded assignment was fabricated"). But see Armeni v. America's Wholesale Lender, 2012 WL 603242 (C.D. Cal. 2012) (dismissing declaratory relief, quasi-contract, UCL, and accounting claims because "plaintiff lack[ed] standing to challenge the process by which his mortgage was (or was not) securitized because he is not a party to the PSA"); Junger v. Bank of America, N.A., 2012 WL 603262 at *3 (C.D.Cal. 2012).

Here, the court finds that Plaintiff is not categorically excluded from making claims based on allegations surrounding the loan's securitization.3 As in Vogan, and unlike Armeni, Plaintiff here alleges both violations of the PSA and relevant law. BOA has not sufficiently demonstrated that violations of law associated with the loan's securitization can go unchecked because Plaintiff is not a party to the PSA.

Other cases cited by BOA on this issue are irrelevant or ...


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