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Diversity Jurisdiction: National Bank is a Citizen Only of State Where It Has Its Main Office

Posted in Banking

Another United States Circuit Court has ruled that, for purposes of diversity jurisdiction, a national bank is a citizen only of the state in which it has its main office.  In doing so, the Second Circuit joins a growing list of appellate courts that have rejected the argument that a national bank is also a citizen of the state in which it has its principal place of business.

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In OneWest Bank, N.A. v. Melina, U.S.C.A. 2nd Cir. Case No. 15-3063 (Jun. 29, 2016), a borrower sought dismissal of a foreclosure case for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, arguing that there was not diversity of citizenship because the lender’s principal place of business was in New York (another point with which the appellate court disagreed).  The trial court disagreed, finding that, as a national bank, the lender was a citizen only of California, where its main office was located.

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In order for a Federal Court to exercise diversity jurisdiction, there must be complete diversity at the time the case is filed.  Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §1348, national banks are deemed to be citizens of the States in which they are located, which the U.S. Supreme Court has interpreted to be the state where the bank has its main office, as designated by its articles of association.  The Second Circuit, joining the Ninth, Eighth, Fifth and Seventh Circuits, held that a national bank is a citizen only of the state in which it has its main office and not also in the state in which it has its principal place of business.

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While the Eleventh Circuit has held that a national bank is a citizen of the state in which it is designated to have its main office, it has not yet addressed whether this is to the exclusion of another state in which that bank has its principal place of business.  This is an issue that will likely arise, as more national banks, whether through mergers or otherwise, end up with their main offices and  their principal places of business in different states.  When this issue arises, OneWest Bank v. Melina provides a well-reasoned argument for the proposition that a national bank is a citizen only of the state in which its main office is located.


David Greene is a commercial litigation partner in Fox Rothschild’s West Palm Beach office.  His practice focuses primarily on banking litigation, real estate litigation, title insurance litigation, and construction litigation. You can reach David at 561-804-4441 or dgreene@foxrothschild.com.

A Ruling That Will Be of Interest to Lenders: Don’t Forget to Present Evidence of the Amount of Interest

Posted in Banking

Florida’s appellate courts continue to address the sufficiency of evidence in mortgage foreclosure cases.  This week, the Fourth District Court of Appeal provided guidance to lenders for properly establishing interest as part of their damages claim.

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In Marsden v. BAC Home Loans, L.P., Fla. 4th DCA Case No. 4D14-1623 (Jul. 13, 2016), the trial court had granted final judgment of foreclosure after trial.  During the trial, the lender relied upon the payment history as proof of its damages and presented a witness who testified that the amounts set forth in a proposed final judgment were consistent with the payment history.  However, neither the payment history, nor the testimony of the trial witness, set forth calculation of the amount of interest owed. Moreover, the proposed final judgment was not offered into evidence.

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The Fourth DCA ruled that the lender had failed to prove the amount of interest owed and sent the case back to the trial court enter a final judgment without the interest award.  The Court noted that it would have allowed the trial court to take additional evidence if the lender had offered some evidence of the amount of interest owed.  This case serves as a reminder for lenders to ensure that they offer evidence supporting every element of their damages claim.


David Greene is a commercial litigation partner in Fox Rothschild’s West Palm Beach office.  His practice focuses primarily on banking litigation, real estate litigation, title insurance litigation, and construction litigation. You can reach David at 561-804-4441 or dgreene@foxrothschild.com.

 

50 Cent Bankruptcy Success Story

Posted in Bankruptcy, Chapter 11, Creditors' Rights, Uncategorized

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The results are in!

As I mentioned in my May 25th blog post, Curtis James Jackson III, better known as rapper 50 Cent (“Jackson”) was scheduled for his bankruptcy confirmation hearing yesterday (July 6th).

All impaired creditor classes voted in to accept Jackson’s proposed plan of reorganization (“Repayment Plan”).  He filed his own declaration and the declarations of three professionals in support of his Repayment Plan at 11 am the morning of the hearing.

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No one sought to cross exam the declarants however, the Court did have Jackson take the stand to confirm that he understood his significant repayment obligations under the Repayment Plan and that the were freely undertaken by Jackson.

The Court was specifically concerned with whether Jackson understood the terms of his settlement with Lastonia Leviston (“Leviston”).

Jackson affirmed his understanding that: 1) Leviston had an allowed unsecured claim in the amount of $6 million; 2) as long as he made the payments under the Repayment Plan, she would be paid a percentage of her claim with other unsecured creditors; and 3) if he defaulted in those payments for any reason, her claim is non-dischargeable and that she could pursue the full amount of her claim against him.

When questioned about the possibility of default, Jackson stated “That’s not going to happen.”

He swore that he was committed to making the payments under the Repayment Plan and believed he could make them.

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The Court confirmed Jackson’s Repayment Plan and congratulated the parties and counsel for coming to consensual resolution of the differences that existed the first day they walked into her bankruptcy courtroom.

The Court further stated that is was pleased to confirm Jackson’s Repayment Plan – remarking that it was a significant event and praising Jackson for what it viewed as his very substantial effort to repay creditors.

If you want to read more on this significant event, several articles have been written on Jackson’s bankruptcy success story – VibeThe Guardian, The Wrap, HipHopdx, NME, and TheYBF.


 

Heather L. Ries is an attorney with the Financial Restructuring and Bankruptcy Department of the law firm of Fox Rothschild LLP.  Heather focuses her practice in matters related to bankruptcy, creditors’ rights, commercial workout and foreclosure disputes, and commercial litigation.  You can contact Heather at 561-804-4419 or hries@foxrothschild.com.

 

North Carolina Revisits and Revises HB2

Posted in Labor & Employment

Three months ago, I posted about North Carolina’s HB2 (the transgender bathroom bill that is still garnering headlines) and that many had overlooked a big change to North Carolina’s discrimination law separate and apart from bathrooms.  As I pointed out in my prior post, lost in the protests over the bathroom issues was the fact that all North Carolina citizens had lost the private right of action to file a state level discrimination claim for race, religion, color, age, biological sex or disability.

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Now, North Carolina legislators have taken steps to reverse that part of HB2 and restore the private right of action for citizens to sue for discrimination related to race, religion, color, age, biological sex or disability.

 

Chapter 11 Claims – Am I Disputed, Unliquidated, Contingent or Forgotten?

Posted in Bankruptcy, Chapter 11, Creditors' Rights

In my May 26th post, I raised several questions that unsecured creditors in any Chapter 11 case should know the answers to and take action where appropriate.  In my prior posts, I have already addressed “first-day motions” and creditors’ meetings.  Let’s move on to three more questions about claims.

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The answers to these three questions are VERY important.  Why?  You may not be eligible to receive any money from the debtor if you do not know the answers and act accordingly!

1) Is my claim properly listed on the debtor’s Schedules?

This question is simple to answer.  Peruse the debtor’s Schedules filed with the Court and see if the debtor has listed you and whether the amount is correct.  If the answer is NO, you need to file a proof of claim before the deadline set by the Court.

2) Has the debtor listed my claim as disputed, unliquidated or contingent? 

The answer to this question is also simple.  Look at the box where your claim is listed (if it is listed) on the Schedules.  There is a section that says…

As of the petition filing date, the claim is:

Check all that apply.

¤   Contingent

¤   Unliquidated

¤   Disputed

If one of these boxes is checked, the answer is YES and you need to file a proof of claim before the deadline set by the Court.

3) When is the deadline to file a proof of claim? 

The clerk of the court (or in some instances the Debtor), send a notice out to all creditors LISTED on the debtor’s Schedules which will set forth the deadline for filing a proof of claim.  If you are not listed as a creditor and do not receive the notice, but are aware of the bankruptcy, you can find out the deadline from looking at the Court docket.

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If you are not listed, your claim is not properly listed, or your claim is listed as contingent, unliquidated, or disputed, you MUST file a proof of claim in order to have your claim accurately allowed in the Chapter 11 case.

DO NOT miss the deadline to file a proof of claim!  There are very few acceptable excuses for late-filed claims and more likely than not, your late-filed claim will be DISALLOWED.


Heather L. Ries is an attorney with the Financial Restructuring and Bankruptcy Department of the law firm of Fox Rothschild LLP.  Heather focuses her practice in matters related to bankruptcy, creditors’ rights, commercial workout and foreclosure disputes, and commercial litigation.  You can contact Heather at 561-804-4419 or hries@foxrothschild.com.

 

Standing to Foreclose: Think About the Place Where Your Note’s Been

Posted in Banking

Standing in foreclosure cases continues to be a hot issue in Florida’s appellate courts. It seems like a week doesn’t go by without an opinion that reminds lenders what they need to do to establish standing to foreclose a mortgage.

This week, Florida’s Fourth District Court of Appeal issued two opinions discussing foreclosure standing. Both resulted in reversal of a foreclosure judgment.

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In the first case, the lender sought to establish standing as a “holder” of the note. The Court found, however, that the lender’s evidence at trial did not establish standing at the time the complaint was filed.  Because the note was not made payable to the lender and did not contain either a special endorsement in favor of the lender or a blank endorsement, standing was not established.  A blank endorsement on the original note that was dated after the complaint was filed and an assignment dated after suit was filed were both found to be insufficient.

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In the second case, the original note was not presented at trial. The Court again found that the plaintiff failed to prove that it was the holder of the note when the complaint was filed.  The plaintiff’s failure to offer evidence as to when the allonge was attached to the note or when the endorsement occurred ultimately doomed the lender’s case.  The absence of proof that the plaintiff had possession of the note when the case was filed also prevented a finding that it was entitled to enforce it as a lost instrument.

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Florida appellate courts continue to take a hard-line view of foreclosure standing. These rulings are a reminder to lenders to “Think about the place where [your note’s] been,” but makes you “Wonder why [they] haven’t before.”


David Greene is a commercial litigation partner in Fox Rothschild’s West Palm Beach office.  His practice focuses primarily on banking litigation, real estate litigation, title insurance litigation, and construction litigation. You can reach David at 561-804-4441 or dgreene@foxrothschild.com.

 

Creditors’ Meeting – Gold Mine for Information?

Posted in Bankruptcy, Chapter 11, Creditors' Rights

In my May 26th post, I raised several questions that unsecured creditors in any Chapter 11 case should know the answers to and take action where appropriate.  In my June 2nd post, I addressed the first question on “first-day motions”.

Let’s move on to the second question –  When is the “meeting of creditors” and should I attend?

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Section 341 of Title 11 of the U.S. Code, requires a creditors’ meeting – also referred to as “the 341 meeting” or “meeting of creditors,” which generally takes place within forty days after the bankruptcy is filed.

All creditors listed on a debtors schedule of debts are given notice of the meeting by the clerk of the bankruptcy court.  An assistant U.S. Trustee or attorney from the U.S. Trustee’s office generally presides over the recorded meeting where a representative of the corporate debtor appears and answers questions under oath.

Creditors are not required to attend, but may want to attend as the meeting is a chance for the creditor to get a preliminary idea of:

  • the debtor’s financial situation
  • whether the debtor has good prospects for reorganizing
  • what the debtor’s plan of reorganization might look like, and
  • the likelihood of the creditor’s claim being paid.

The Assistant U.S. Trustee or attorney will questions about the debtor’s financial history, reason for filing bankruptcy, plans for reorganization and generally go through the Chapter 11 filings to insure all filings are complete, true and correct.  This is a good way to educate yourself about the case and decide how actively you want or need to participate going forward.

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Creditors are also permitted to ask questions at the meeting, but as a general rule, the opportunity to ask questions will be limited.  If the size of your claim warrants it and you wish to do a detailed examination of the debtor about the case and/or your claim, you employ counsel to notice and take the debtor’s Rule 2004 examination – a deposition where you can inquire broadly into the debtor’s finances.


Heather L. Ries is an attorney with the Financial Restructuring and Bankruptcy Department of the law firm of Fox Rothschild LLP.  Heather focuses her practice in matters related to bankruptcy, creditors’ rights, commercial workout and foreclosure disputes, and commercial litigation.  You can contact Heather at 561-804-4419 or hries@foxrothschild.com.

Chapter 11 Cases Move Fast – First Day Motions

Posted in Bankruptcy, Chapter 11, Creditors' Rights

In my May 26th post, I raised several questions that unsecured creditors in any Chapter 11 case should know the answers to and take action where appropriate.

At least 5 Chapter 11 cases (Nirvana Inverrary Lofts, Inc., Inverrary Resort Hotel Condominium Assoc., Inc., Alrames S.A. de C.V. Corp., HDRepair.com Corp., and Kattour, Inc.) have been filed in South Florida in the last 2 days.

Several first day motions have already been filed and heard by the Court in the Iron Bridge Tools, Inc. bankruptcy, which was mentioned in my last post.

A Ferris Bueller quote is applicable here –  Life [like bankruptcy cases] moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it [i.e. important bankruptcy events and deadlines].

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So let’s hurry up and address my first question – Is my claim (or are my rights) affected by any “first-day motions”?

When a Chapter 11 is filed, there are a number of motions which are ordinarily filed by a debtor on the first day of the case, hence the name “first-day motions”.

In the Southern District of Florida, these motions may include the following: Motions for Authority for the Payment of Prepetition Wages, Motion for Payment of Critical Vendors, Motion to Use Cash Collateral,  Motions for Approval of Postpetition Financing, Motions for Authority to Pay Prepetition Claims.

As the titles to these motions suggest, they almost always seek to provide certain creditors priority treatment they might not otherwise be entitled to under the Bankruptcy Code’s general priority scheme for claims.  These motions are often granted if the debtor can establish that the payment of certain claims is critical to the debtor’s ongoing operations and the going concern value of the business.

Cash collateral and postpetition financing motions, if approved, can have an enormous impact on payment to unsecured creditors because they commonly provide for priming, replacement liens, debt service requirements and sometimes, carve-outs for payment of certain claims.

Unsecured creditors should review these motions carefully and determine whether the relief sought could have an impact on their rights or make payment on their claim less likely.  If the motion benefits you, great!  However, if it negatively affects your claim or your rights, and there are grounds to object, act quickly…otherwise, you may find that you missed your opportunity.


Heather L. Ries is an attorney with the Financial Restructuring and Bankruptcy Department of the law firm of Fox Rothschild LLP.  Heather focuses her practice in matters related to bankruptcy, creditors’ rights, commercial workout and foreclosure disputes, and commercial litigation.  You can contact Heather at 561-804-4419 or hries@foxrothschild.com.

Iron Bridge Tools Has A New Tool In Its Belt – Chapter 11 Bankruptcy

Posted in Chapter 11, Creditors' Rights

Yesterday, Iron Bridge Tools, Inc., a full-service design, development, and distribution company serving the consumer and professional hand-tool market, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in Fort Lauderdale (Case No. 16-17505-RBR).

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Among the 20 largest creditors are ZheJiang Everpower ($9,885,335.75), Everpower Group Co., Ltd. ($2,800,000), Meridian Int’l Co. ($1,274,057.43), True Value ($490,805.42), Retract-A-Bit ($396,658.22), Packaging Corporation of America ($200,948.57) and Southeast Computer Solutions ($156,193.75).

Iron Bridge as estimated that it has $1 – 10 million in assets and $10 – 50 million in liabilities.  As the Debtor has not filed its Schedules, Statement of Financial Affairs or Chapter 11 case summary yet, little other information is currently available.

As general unsecured creditors are generally the last-in-position to be paid according to the payment scheme provided under the Bankruptcy Code, they may benefit from monitoring the debtor’s case and/or consulting an attorney regarding their claim.

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Unsecured creditors in any Chapter 11 case, including Iron Bridge Tools, should know the answers to the following questions (among others) and take action where appropriate:

1) Is my claim affected by any “first-day motions”?

2) When is the “meeting of creditors” and should I attend?

3) Is my claim properly listed on the Debtor’s Schedules?

4) Has the Debtor listed my claim as disputed, unliquidated or contingent

5) Am I entitled to priority payment?

6) Do I have any reclamation rights?

7) When is the deadline to file a proof of claim?

8) Do I want to serve as a member on any creditors’ committee that is formed?

We will explore these issues further in my future blog posts.


Heather L. Ries is an attorney with the Financial Restructuring and Bankruptcy Department of the law firm of Fox Rothschild LLP.  Heather focuses her practice in matters related to bankruptcy, creditors’ rights, commercial workout and foreclosure disputes, and commercial litigation.  You can contact Heather at 561-804-4419 or hries@foxrothschild.com.

 

No Foreclosure Summary Judgment Without Refuting “Notice and Opportunity to Cure” Defense: Remember to “Say it Ain’t So”

Posted in Banking

In an opinion issued yesterday in Chester A. Brooks, et al. v. Bank of America, et al., Case No. 4D14-3337 (Fla. 4th DCA May 25, 2016), Florida’s Fourth District Court of Appeal made clear that, in order to obtain summary judgment of foreclosure, a lender must prove facts to refute a defense of failure to provide notice of default and opportunity to cure.

Evidence

In Brooks, the trial court granted summary judgment of foreclosure, even though the borrowers had asserted a legally sufficient affirmative defense of failure to comply with the requirements of paragraph 22 of the mortgage, which required notice of intent to accelerate and an opportunity to cure.  However, because the lender had failed to establish by summary judgment evidence that it had sent the required notice, the appellate court reversed the final judgment.

Affidavit

Brooks should serve as a reminder to lenders that they must submit correspondence that satisfies any notice requirement or state in an affidavit that any required notice was provided. Failure to do so leaves a disputed issue of material fact and precludes entry of summary judgment.

Don't Forget

When a borrower asserts an affirmative defense of failure to satisfy the condition precedent of providing notice and an opportunity to cure, a lender seeking summary judgment of foreclosure must remember to “Say it Ain’t So” …


David Greene is a commercial litigation partner in Fox Rothschild’s West Palm Beach office.  His practice focuses primarily on banking litigation, real estate litigation, title insurance litigation, and construction litigation. You can reach David at 561-804-4441 or dgreene@foxrothschild.com.