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Glaski v. Bank of America, National Association

California Court of Appeals, Fifth District

July 31, 2013

THOMAS A. GLASKI, Plaintiff and Appellant,
v.
BANK OF AMERICA, NATIONAL ASSOCIATION et al. Defendants and Respondents.

Pub. order 8/8/13 (see end of opn.)

APPEAL from a judgment of the Superior Court of Fresno County, No. 09CECG03601 Alan M. Simpson, Judge.

Law Offices of Richard L. Antognini and Richard L. Antognini; Law Offices of Catarina M. Benitez and Catarina M. Benitez, for Plaintiff and Appellant.

AlvaradoSmith, Theodore E. Bacon, and Mikel A. Glavinovich, for Defendants and Respondents.

OPINION

FRANSON, J.

INTRODUCTION

Before Washington Mutual Bank, FA (WaMu) was seized by federal banking regulators in 2008, it made many residential real estate loans and used those loans as collateral for mortgage-backed securities.[1] Many 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 sustaining defendants’ demurrer as to all of his causes of action attacking the nonjudicial foreclosure. We conclude that, although the borrower’s allegations are somewhat confusing and may contain contradictions, he nonetheless has stated a wrongful foreclosure 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.

We therefore reverse the judgment of dismissal and remand for further proceedings.

FACTS

The Loan

Thomas A. Glaski, a resident of Fresno County, is the plaintiff and appellant in this lawsuit. The operative second amended complaint (SAC) alleges the following:

In July 2005, Glaski purchased a home in Fresno for $812, 000 (the Property). To finance the purchase, Glaski obtained a $650, 000 loan from WaMu. Initial monthly payments were approximately $1, 700. Glaski executed a promissory note and a deed of trust that granted WaMu a security interest in the Property (the Glaski deed of trust). Both documents were dated July 6, 2005. The Glaski deed of trust identified WaMu as the lender and the beneficiary, defendant California Reconveyance Company (California Reconveyance) as the trustee, and Glaski as the borrower.

Paragraph 20 of the Glaski deed of trust contained the traditional terms of a deed of trust and states that the note, together with the deed of trust, can be sold one or more times without prior notice to the borrower. In this case, a number of transfers purportedly occurred. The validity of attempts to transfer Glaski’s note and deed of trust to a securitized trust is a fundamental issue in this appeal.

Paragraph 22—another provision typical of deeds of trust—sets forth the remedies available to the lender in the event of a default. Those remedies include (1) the lender’s right to accelerate the debt after notice to the borrower and (2) the lender’s right to “invoke the power of sale” after the borrower has been given written notice of default and of the lender’s election to cause the property to be sold. Thus, under the Glaski deed of trust, it is the lender-beneficiary who decides whether to pursue nonjudicial foreclosure in the event of an uncured default by the borrower. The trustee implements the lender-beneficiary’s decision by conducting the nonjudicial foreclosure.[2]

Glaski’s loan had an adjustable interest rate, which caused his monthly loan payment to increase to $1, 900 in August 2006 and to $2, 100 in August 2007. In August 2008, Glaski attempted to work with WaMu’s loan modification department to obtain a modification of the loan. There is no dispute that Glaski defaulted on the loan by failing to make the monthly installment payments.

Creation of the WaMu Securitized Trust

In late 2005, the WaMu Mortgage Pass-Through Certificates Series 2005-AR17 Trust was formed as a common law trust (WaMu Securitized Trust) under New York law. The corpus of the trust consists of a pool of residential mortgage notes purportedly secured by liens on residential real estate. La Salle Bank, N.A., was the original trustee for the WaMu Securitized Trust.[3] Glaski alleges that the WaMu Securitized Trust has no continuing duties other than to hold assets and to issue various series of certificates of investment. A description of the certificates of investment as well as the categories of mortgage loans is included in the prospectus filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) on October 21, 2005. Glaski alleges that the investment certificates issued by the WaMu Securitized Trust were duly registered with the SEC.

The closing date for the WaMu Securitized Trust was December 21, 2005, or 90 days thereafter. Glaski alleges that the attempt to assign his note and deed of trust to the WaMu Securitized Trust was made after the closing date and, therefore, the assignment was ineffective. (See fn. 12, post.)

WaMu’s Failure and Transfers of the Loan

In September 2008, WaMu was seized by the Office of Thrift Supervision and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) was appointed as a receiver for WaMu. That same day, the FDIC, in its capacity as receiver, sold the assets and liabilities of WaMu to defendant JPMorgan Chase Bank, N.A., (JP Morgan). This transaction was documented by a “PURCHASE AND ASSUMPTION AGREEMENT WHOLE BANK” (boldface and underlining omitted) between the FDIC and JP Morgan dated as of September 25, 2008. If Glaski’s loan was not validly transferred to the WaMu Securitized Trust, it is possible, though not certain, that JP Morgan acquired the Glaski deed of trust when it purchased WaMu assets from the FDIC.[4] JP Morgan also might have acquired the right to service the loans held by the WaMu Securitized Trust.

In September 2008, Glaski spoke to a representative of defendant Chase Home Finance LLC (Chase), [5] which he believed was an agent of JP Morgan, and made an oral agreement to start the loan modification process. Glaski believed that Chase had taken over loan modification negotiations from WaMu.

On December 9, 2008, two documents related to the Glaski deed of trust were recorded with the Fresno County Recorder: (1) an “ASSIGNMENT OF DEED OF TRUST” and (2) a “NOTICE OF DEFAULT AND ELECTION TO SELL UNDER DEED OF TRUST” (boldface omitted; hereinafter the NOD). The assignment stated that 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.[6]

Notice of Default and Sale of the Property

The NOD informed Glaski that (1) the Property was in foreclosure because he was behind in his payments[7] and (2) the Property could be sold without any court action. The NOD also stated that “the present beneficiary under” the Glaski deed of trust had delivered to the trustee a written declaration and demand for sale. According to the NOD, all sums secured by the deed of trust had been declared immediately due and payable and that the beneficiary elected to cause the Property to be sold to satisfy that obligation.

The NOD stated the amount of past due payments was $11, 200.78 as of December 8, 2008.[8] It also stated: “To find out the amount you must pay, or to arrange for payment to stop the foreclosure, … contact: JPMorgan Chase Bank, National Association, at 7301 BAYMEADOWS WAY, JACKSONVILLE, FL 32256, (877) 926-8937.”

Approximately three months after the NOD was recorded and served, the next official step in the nonjudicial foreclosure process occurred. On March 12, 2009, a “NOTICE OF TRUSTEE’S SALE” was recorded by the Fresno County Recorder (notice of sale). The sale was scheduled for April 1, 2009. The notice stated that Glaski was in default under his deed of trust and estimated the amount owed at $734, 115.10.

The notice of sale indicated it was signed on March 10, 2009, by Deborah Brignac, as Vice President for California Reconveyance. Glaski alleges that Brignac’s signature was forged to effectuate a fraudulent foreclosure and trustee’s sale of his primary residence.

Glaski alleges that from March until May 2009, he was led to believe by his negotiations with Chase that a loan modification was in process with JP Morgan.

Despite these negotiations, a nonjudicial foreclosure sale of the Property was conducted on May 27, 2009. Bank of America, as successor trustee for the WaMu Securitized Trust and beneficiary under the Glaski deed of trust, was the highest bidder at the sale.

On June 15, 2009, another “ASSIGNMENT OF DEED OF TRUST” was recorded with the Fresno County Recorder. This assignment, like the assignment recorded in December 2008, identified JP Morgan as the assigning party. The entity receiving all beneficial interest under the Glaski deed of trust was identified as Bank of America, “as successor by merger to ‘LaSalle Bank NA as trustee for WaMu [Securitized Trust].…”[9] The assignment of deed of trust indicates it was signed by Brignac, as Vice President for JP Morgan. Glaski alleges that Brignac’s signature was forged.

The very next document filed by the Fresno County Recorder on June 15, 2009, was a “TRUSTEE’S DEED UPON SALE.” (Boldface omitted.) The trustee’s deed upon sale stated that California Reconveyance, as the duly appointed trustee under the Glaski deed of trust, granted and conveyed to Bank of America, as successor by merger to La Salle NA as trustee for the WaMu Securitized Trust, all of its right, title and interest to the Property. The trustee’s deed upon sale stated that the amount of the unpaid debt and costs was $738, 238.04 and that the grantee, paid $339, 150 at the trustee’s sale, either in lawful money or by credit bid.

PROCEEDINGS

In October 2009, Glaski filed his original complaint. In August 2011, Glaski filed the SAC, which alleged the following numbered causes of action:

(1) Fraud against JPMorgan and California Reconveyance for the alleged forged signatures of Deborah Brignac as vice president for California Reconveyance and then as vice president of JPMorgan;

(2) Fraud against all defendants for their failure to timely and properly transfer the Glaski loan to the WaMu Securitized Trust and their representations to the contrary;

(3) Quiet title against Bank of America, Chase, and California Reconveyance based on the broken chain of title caused by the defective transfer of the loan to the WaMu Securitized Trust;

(4) Wrongful foreclosure against all defendants, based on the forged signatures of Deborah Brignac and the failure to timely and properly transfer the Glaski loan to the WaMu Securitized Trust;

(5) Declaratory relief against all defendants, based on the above acts by defendants;

(8) Cancellation of various foreclosure documents against all defendants, based on the above ...


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