U.S. Supreme Court Holds Foreclosure Firms Conducting Nonjudicial Foreclosures Are Not Debt Collectors Under the FDCPA

By: Wayne Streibich, Diana M. Eng, Cheryl S. Chang, Jonathan M. Robbin, and Namrata Loomba

The United States Supreme Court holds businesses conducting nonjudicial foreclosures are not “debt collectors” under the FDCPA, but lenders and foreclosure firms should take note that the Court specifically chose to leave open the question of whether businesses that conduct judicial foreclosures are “debt collectors” under the statute. 

On March 20, 2019, in Obduskey v. McCarthy, the Supreme Court of the United States issued an opinion holding businesses conducting nonjudicial foreclosures are not “debt collectors” under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (“FDCPA”). The Supreme Court limited its decision to nonjudicial foreclosures.1 The Justices ruled 9-0 in the case, with Justice Breyer writing the opinion and Justice Sotomayor concurring.

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New York Appellate Court Rejects Usage of a Mortgage’s Reinstatement Provision as a Defense to the Expiration of the Statute of Limitations

By: Wayne Streibich, Diana M. Eng, Jonathan M. Robbin, and Diana M. Eng

On March 13, 2019, in a case of first impression, New York’s Appellate Division, Second Department (“Second Department”) issued a decision holding the reinstatement provision of a mortgage does not prevent the acceleration of the loan prior to entry of a foreclosure judgment. In Bank of New York Mellon v. Dieudonne, 2019 WL 1141973 (2d Dept. Mar. 13, 2019), the Second Department affirmed the Kings County Supreme Court’s decision granting defendant Dieudonne’s (“Defendant”) motion to dismiss the complaint pursuant to CPLR 3211(a)(5) because the foreclosure action was barred by the expiration of the statute of limitations. Specifically, the Second Department held that “the extinguishment of the defendant’s contractual right to de-accelerate the maturity of the debt pursuant to the reinstatement provision of paragraph 19 of the mortgage was not a condition precedent to the plaintiff’s acceleration of the mortgage” and, therefore, acceleration occurred upon commencement of the prior foreclosure action.

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Third Circuit Broadens Definition of “Debt Collector” under FDCPA to Include Entities That Acquire Debt but Outsource Collection of That Debt

By: Jonathan M. Robbin, Diana M. Eng, and Maria K. Vigilante

In Barbato v. Greystone Alliance, LLC et al., a recent precedential decision, the Third Circuit Court of Appeals held an entity whose business is the purchasing of defaulted debts for the purpose of collecting on them falls squarely within the “principal purpose” definition of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (“FDCPA”), 15 U.S.C. § 1692(a), even where the entity does not collect the debt and a third party is retained to do so. No. 18-1042, __ F.3d __ (3d Cir. 2019).

Specifically, Barbato expanded the Supreme Court’s holding in Henson v. Santander Consumer USA, 137 S. Ct. 1718 (2017) and rejected the defendant’s argument that Henson renders it a creditor rather than a debt collector because “its principal purpose is the acquisition—not the collection” of debt. Thus, the Barbato court held that where an entity meets the “principal purpose” definition, it cannot avoid the FDCPA’s requirements by retaining a third party to collect the debt.

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Ninth Circuit Holds That Fannie Mae Is Not a Consumer Reporting Agency under FCRA

By: Wayne StreibichCheryl S. Chang, Diana M. Eng, and Christine Lee

On January 9, 2019, a divided Ninth Circuit panel ruled that the Federal National Mortgage Association, or Fannie Mae, was not a “consumer reporting agency” within the meaning of the Fair Credit Reporting Act (“FCRA”). In Zabriskie v. Federal National Mortgage Association, the Ninth Circuit reversed the Arizona District Court’s holding that Fannie Mae acts as a consumer reporting agency when it licenses its proprietary software, Desktop Underwriter (“DU”), to lenders and that it is therefore subject to the FCRA. Zabriskie v. Fed. Nat’l Mortgage Ass’n, Nos. 17-15807, 17-16000, 2019 WL 137931 (9th Cir. Jan. 9, 2019).

The FCRA defines a “consumer reporting agency” as “any person which, for monetary fees, dues, or on a cooperative nonprofit basis, regularly engages in whole or in part in the practice of assembling or evaluating consumer credit information or other information on consumers for the purpose of preparing or furnishing consumer reports.” 15 U.S.C. § 1681a(f). In reaching its conclusion, the Ninth Circuit specifically examined whether Fannie Mae’s licensing of its DU software constituted: (1) regularly engaging in the practice of assembling or evaluating consumer credit information and (2) for the purpose of preparing or furnishing consumer reports.

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Eleventh Circuit Clarifies Foreign Company’s Dual Citizenship Status but Leaves Room for Further Debate

By: Jonathan M. Robbin and Anthony Richard Yanez

A drunken tumble on a cruise ship may lead to resolving how alienage/jurisdiction is determined in the Eleventh Circuit. In Caron v. NCL (Bahamas), Ltd., — F.3d —, 2018 WL 6539178 (11th Cir. Dec. 13, 2018), the Eleventh Circuit, for the first time, held an alien corporation has dual citizenship, but limited its holding. Specifically, Caron held there is no diversity jurisdiction in a suit between a foreign incorporated corporation with its principal place of business in Florida and a citizen of Canada. Unfortunately, despite guidance from sister courts, Caron left unresolved the question of whether a domestic incorporated corporation with a principal place of business abroad can invoke alienage-dual citizenship diversity in a suit against an alien following the 2012 amendments to 28 U.S.C. § 1332(c).

Background

On July 14, 2016, Canadian citizen Olivier Caron sued Norwegian Cruise Lines (“NCL”) after he sustained personal injuries by falling down an escape hatch on a ship while he was inebriated. Mr. Caron filed suit in the Southern District of Florida asserting diversity of citizenship jurisdiction and admiralty jurisdiction.[1]

Caron argued that the alienage-diversity provision, governing suits between aliens and citizens of a State, applies, and the district court properly entertained jurisdiction under this provision. Caron is a Canadian citizen and NCL is a Bermuda corporation with its principal place of business in Florida. Thus, Caron argued that NCL is a Florida citizen for alienage-diversity jurisdiction purposes. Continue reading

NY’s Fourth Department Holds That Notice of Default Did Not Provide Clear and Unequivocal Notice to Accelerate the Debt

By: Andrea M. Roberts and Diana M. Eng

In Ditech Financial LLC v. Corbett, 2018 WL 6006682, at *1, —N.Y.S.3d —- (2d Dept. Nov. 16, 2018), the Appellate Division, Fourth Department, held that a notice of default sent to the borrowers-defendants, which discussed a possible future event, did not provide clear and unequivocal notice sufficient to accelerate the debt, thereby triggering the statute of limitations.

In January 2016, plaintiff, Ditech Financial LLC (“Plaintiff”), commenced an action to foreclose against borrowers, Timothy Corbett and Sheila Corbett (“Borrowers”). Plaintiff moved for summary judgment (the “Motion”), and Borrowers opposed the Motion on the grounds that the statute of limitations to foreclose had expired. In support, Borrowers alleged that a January 2010 notice of default (“2010 Default Letter”) sent by Plaintiff’s predecessor-in-interest accelerated the debt and therefore, the statute of limitations to foreclose began to run on the entire debt at that time. The Onondaga County Supreme Court (“Lower Court”) granted Plaintiff’s Motion. Borrowers appealed. Continue reading

New York Appellate Court Holds Short Sale Documents Do Not Constitute an Acknowledgment of the Debt to Restart the Statute of Limitations

By: Wayne StreibichDiana M. Eng, Jonathan M. Robbin, and Andrea M. Roberts

On August 29, 2018, New York’s Appellate Division, Second Department, issued two decisions holding that documents submitted by a borrower in connection with an attempted short sale of the property did not constitute an acknowledgment of debt under New York General Obligations Law § 17-101 (“GOL § 17-101”). In Karpa Realty Group, LLC v. Deutsche Bank Nat’l Trust Co., 2018 WL 4101011 (2d Dept. Aug. 29, 2018), the Second Department affirmed the Kings County Court’s decision granting plaintiff Karpa Realty Group, LLC’s motion for summary judgment and denying defendant Deutsche Bank National Trust Company’s cross-motion for summary judgment to dismiss Karpa Realty’s quiet title complaint. Deutsche Bank argued that the statute of limitations to foreclose had not expired because the borrower submitted a written hardship letter in connection with his short sale application, acknowledging the debt under GOL § 17-101, thus renewing the statute of limitations. The Second Department held the letter “did not constitute an unqualified acknowledgment of the debt or manifest a promise to repay the debt sufficient to reset the running of the statute of limitations.” Id. at *2.

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