Articles Posted in Banking

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The Community Bank loaned money to several entities (“the Borrowers”) over the course of several years. The Borrowers executed five promissory notes, granting the bank a security interest in real estate located in three different counties. To further secure the loans, the Guarantors signed commercial guaranties (“the Guaranties”) in which they guaranteed full payment of the notes. In 2011, RES-GA foreclosed on and bought the properties that were serving as collateral. It then filed confirmation actions in the three counties in which the secured properties were located. In each instance, the court entered an order refusing to confirm the sale, finding that RES-GA had failed to prove that it obtained the fair market value of the property in question, and refusing to allow a resale. RES-GA appealed two of those orders, and the Georgia Court of Appeals affirmed in each case. Last year, the Supreme Court held that compliance with OCGA 44-14-161, Georgia’s confirmation statute, “is a condition precedent to the lender’s ability to pursue a guarantor for a deficiency after foreclosure has been conducted, but a guarantor retains the contractual ability to waive the condition precedent requirement.” The Court granted certiorari in this case to consider additional questions regarding creditors’ ability to pursue deficiency actions against guarantors. The Court concluded that Jim York and John Drillot (“the Guarantors”) waived any defense based on the failure of creditor RES-GA LJY, LLC (“RES-GA”) to confirm the relevant foreclosure sales, and thus affirmed the Court of Appeals’ decision that upheld deficiency judgments against them. View "York v. RES-GA LJY, LLC" on Justia Law

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A mandatory arbitration clause is contained in each deposit agreement for customers of appellee SunTrust Bank. The clause permits an individual depositor to reject the agreement’s mandatory arbitration clause by giving written notice by a certain deadline. SunTrust claimed it drafted the arbitration clause in such a way that only an individual depositor may exercise this right to reject arbitration on his or her own behalf, thereby permitting that individual to file only an individual lawsuit against the bank. But SunTrust asserted that even if, as it has been determined here, the filing of a lawsuit prior to the expiration of the rejection of arbitration deadline operated to give notice of the individual plaintiff’s rejection of arbitration, the complaint could not be brought as a class action because the filing of a class action could not serve to reject the arbitration clause on behalf of class members who have not individually given notice. Jeff Bickerstaff, Jr., who was a SunTrust Bank depositor, filed a complaint against SunTrust on behalf of himself and all others similarly situated alleging the bank’s overdraft fee constitutes the charging of usurious interest. At the time Bickerstaff opened his account (thereby agreeing to the terms of SunTrust’s deposit agreement), that agreement included a mandatory arbitration provision. In response to the ruling of a federal court in an unrelated action finding the arbitration clause in SunTrust’s deposit agreement was unconscionable at Georgia law, and after Bickerstaff’s complaint had been filed, SunTrust amended the arbitration clause to permit a window of time in which a depositor could reject arbitration by sending SunTrust written notification that complied with certain requirements. SunTrust had not notified Bickerstaff or its other customers of this change in the arbitration clause of the deposit agreement at the time Bickerstaff filed his complaint, but the complaint, as well as the first amendment to the complaint, was filed prior to the amendment’s deadline for giving SunTrust written notice of an election to reject arbitration. It was only after Bickerstaff’s complaint was filed that SunTrust notified Bickerstaff and its other existing depositors, by language printed in monthly account statements distributed on August 24, 2010, that an updated version of the deposit agreement had been adopted, that a copy of the new agreement could be obtained at any branch office or on-line, and that all future transactions would be governed by the updated agreement. SunTrust appealed the order denying its motion to compel Bickerstaff to arbitrate his claim, and the Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court, finding that the information contained in the complaint filed by Bickerstaff’s attorney substantially satisfied the notice required to reject arbitration. Bickerstaff appealed the order denying his motion for class certification, and in the same opinion the Court of Appeals affirmed that decision, holding in essence, that the contractual language in this case requiring individual notification of the decision to reject arbitration did not permit Bickerstaff to reject the deposit agreement’s arbitration clause on behalf of other putative class members by virtue of the filing of his class action complaint. The Georgia Supreme Court reversed that decision, holding that the terms of the arbitration rejection provision of SunTrust’s deposit agreement did not prevent Bickerstaff’s class action complaint from tolling the contractual limitation for rejecting that provision on behalf of all putative class members until such time as the class may be certified and each member makes the election to opt out or remain in the class. Accordingly, the numerosity requirement of OCGA 9-11-23 (a) (1) for pursuing a class complaint was not defeated on this ground. View "Bickerstaff v. SunTrust Bank" on Justia Law

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In 2007, Cindy and David Ames executed a security deed to their residential property in favor of Washington Mutual Bank, F.A. (WaMu). WaMu’s receiver, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), later assigned the deed to JP Morgan Chase Bank, N.A (Chase). When Chase initiated a non-judicial foreclosure sale on the property, the Ameses filed lawsuits in state court and then in federal court, alleging among other things that the assignment of the security deed to Chase was invalid. The Georgia Supreme Court granted certiorari to decide whether the Georgia Court of Appeals erred in concluding in the state lawsuit, the Ameses lacked standing to bring such a challenge to the assignment, a conclusion based on that court’s previous decisions in "Montgomery v. Bank of America," (740 SE2d 434 (2013)), and "Jurden v. HSBC Mortgage Corp.," (765 SE2d 440 (2014)). The Supreme Court found no reversible error in the appellate court's decision. Alternatively, the assignment issue raised by the Ameses was precluded because it had already been resolved against them in their federal lawsuit by the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit. View "Ames v. JP Morgan Chase Bank, N.A." on Justia Law

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In "Vinings Bank v. Brasfield & Gorrie, LLC," (759 SE2d 886 (2014)), the Court of Appeals affirmed, among other rulings, the trial court’s determination that Vinings Bank was not entitled to summary judgment with regard to a counterclaim for conversion brought against the Bank by Brasfield & Gorrie, LLC ("B&G"). This case stemmed from a defaulted $1.4 million business loan. The bank made the loan to Wagner Enterprises, Inc., which used as collateral, a security interest in all of its accounts and accounts receivable, including Wagner's contract to provide drywall services for general contractor B&G. Wagner defaulted on the loan, and the Bank filed suit against B&G seeking to collect on Wagner's accounts receivable. B&G counterclaimed for conversion, and the parties filed cross-motions for summary judgment. The bank appealed the denial of its motion. The Supreme Court affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded. In affirming the trial court's judgment, the Court of Appeals did not consider whether B&G had any right to assert a counterclaim against the bank for conversion of funds due to Wagner's subcontractors. The Supreme Court found that B&G had no direct relationship with the Bank, B&G was not, itself, a subcontractor of Wagner entitled to any of Wagner's funds, B&G did not have direct contractual relationships with any of Wagner's subcontractors, and B&G had no fiduciary relationship with any of Wagner's subcontractors. Furthermore, there was no evidence that Wagner or Wagner's affected subcontractors assigned B&G any of their rights. "Therefore, even if we assume without deciding that funds in [Wagner's] account were held in a constructive trust for the benefit of [Wagner's] subcontractors, B&G is not the party to assert those rights and had no standing to do so." View "Vinings Bank v. Brasfield & Gorrie, LLC" on Justia Law

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The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia certified a question of Georgia law to the Georgia Supreme Court. As the receiver of the Buckhead Community Bank, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation sued nine former officers and directors of the bank, alleging that they were negligent with respect to the making of loans, which, according to the FDIC, led the bank, to suffer nearly $22 million in losses. The defendants moved to dismiss the lawsuit, arguing that the business judgment rule relieved officers and directors of any liability for ordinary negligence. The FDIC responded that such a business judgment rule is no part of the common law in Georgia, and even if it were, it did not apply to bank officers and directors, insofar as the statutory law in Georgia explicitly requires bank officers and directors to exercise ordinary diligence and care. Unable to "discern clear and controlling precedent the federal district court asked: "[d]oes the business judgment rule in Georgia preclude as a matter of law a claim for ordinary negligence against the officers and directors of a bank in a lawsuit brought by the FDIC as receiver for the bank?" The Georgia Court answered that question in the negative. View "Fed. Deposit Ins. Corp. v. Loudermilk" on Justia Law

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n November 2005, Appellant Richard Mitchell obtained title to property located in Alpharetta and executed a security deed in favor of MERS, who subsequently assigned the security deed to Wells Fargo as trustee. The property was foreclosed upon after Appellants Richard (and his wife Deborah) became delinquent on their mortgage payments. Wells Fargo purchased the property at a foreclosure sale. Since that time, Appellants admitted that they made numerous "dilatory filings," proceeding pro se, in state, federal, and bankruptcy courts. In May 2010, Mitchell filed a complaint against Wells Fargo; Wells Fargo moved to dismiss the complaint and moved for a bill of peace pursuant to OCGA 23-3-110 against Mitchell as a measure to end Mitchell's "meritless filings" in state court. The trial court issued an order granting Wells Fargo's motion to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction because Mitchell had not properly served Wells Fargo. The court also granted Wells Fargo's motion for a bill of peace, finding that the records of Fulton County courts reflected "nothing less than repeated and contemptuous behavior in the courts of this State" and that the lengthy history of filings in federal court showed a pattern of behavior by Mitchell consistent with his state filings. The court permanently enjoined Mitchell from filing any pleading or complaint related to the foreclosure and eviction from the property at issue for a period of five years unless Mitchell first received written approval from the court. Mitchell moved to set aside the order granting the bill of peace, which the court denied. The Mitchells appealed the dismissal of their lawsuit against Wells Fargo. Finding no reversible error, the Supreme Court affirmed. View "Mitchell v. Wells Fargo Bank" on Justia Law

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In a foreclosure action, the trial court granted partial summary judgment to bankruptcy trustee J. Coleman Tidwell against National City Mortgage Company. Addressing its jurisdiction sua sponte, the Court of Appeals dismissed the appeal on the grounds that PNC Bank, N.A. was not a party to the foreclosure and therefore lacked standing to appeal the order entered against National City. The Supreme Court granted certiorari to consider whether the Court of Appeals correctly held that PNC Bank lacked standing to appeal on behalf of its predecessor National City Mortgage Company. Because the Court of Appeals erred in concluding that the appeal must be dismissed due to the trial court's failure to substitute or join PNC Bank as a party under OCGA 9-11-25 (c), the Court reversed and remanded the case for the Court of Appeals to address issues raised in this appeal. View "National City Mortgage Co. v. Tidwell " on Justia Law

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Appellant Alstep, Inc. obtained a multimillion dollar loan from Appellee State Bank and Trust Company (SB&T) for the purchase of a sandwich shop, gas station and liquor store. Alstep fell behind on loan payments, and the Bank conducted a non-judicial foreclosure. SB&T was the highest bidder at the sale, and applied the proceeds of that sale to Alstep's loan balance. There was still a deficit. The Bank demanded immediate possession of the property, but Alstep refused. Despite receiving notice of a temporary restraining order, Alstep continued to operate the gas station and otherwise make use of the property. SB&T filed and served Alstep with an emergency motion for appointment of a receiver. SB&T cited three grounds in support of its motion: (1) that Alstep converted rent from the property's tenant (the sandwich shop) that should have gone to SB&T; (2) that Alstep was depleting the property that served as collateral for its debt; and (3) that SB&T needed to take control of the property to guard against its potential liability under state and federal environmental regulations as the owner of the gas station. Appellant never filed a response to the motion, but ultimately challenged the trial court's appointment of a receiver. The Supreme Court held that the trial court had broad discretion in deciding whether to appoint a receiver, and found no abuse of that discretion. View "Alstep, Inc. v. State Bank & Trust Co." on Justia Law

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Stephen Jenkins brought a tort action against Wells Fargo Bank, N.A. alleging that a Bank teller had improperly accessed Jenkins’s confidential information and given it to her husband, allowing the husband to steal Jenkins’s identity. Jenkins claimed the Bank negligently failed to protect the information, breached a duty of confidentiality, and invaded his privacy. The trial court granted the Bank’s motion for judgment on the pleadings. The Court of Appeals reversed as to Jenkins’s negligence claim after finding that the allegations of his complaint established the elements of negligence. The Supreme Court granted certiorari to consider whether the Court of Appeals erred in holding that a violation of an alleged duty imposed the Gramm–Leach–Bliley Act gave rise to a cause of action for negligence under Georgia law. The Supreme Court concluded that the holding was in error, and reversed that portion of the judgment of the Court of Appeals. View "Wells Fargo Bank, N.A. v. Jenkins" on Justia Law

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The United States District Court for the Northern District of Georgia certified three questions regarding the operation of the State's law governing non-judicial foreclosure to the Georgia Supreme Court. After careful analysis, the Georgia Court concluded that current law did not require a party seeking to exercise a power of sale in a deed to secure debt to hold, in addition to the deed, the promissory note evidencing the underlying debt. The Court also concluded that the plain language of the State statute governing notice to the debtor (OCGA 44-14-162.2), required only that the notice identify "the individual or entity [with] full authority to negotiate, amend, and modify all terms of the mortgage with the debtor." This construction of OCGA 44-14-162.2 rendered moot the third and final certified question. View "You v. JP Morgan Chase Bank, N.A." on Justia Law