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Banking & Finance Law Report

Update – JNT Properties v. Keybank: Ambiguity in the Calculation of Interest

Posted in Commercial Lending

On November 30, 2011, the Supreme Court of Ohio accepted KeyBank’s appeal from the judgment in JNT Properties, LLC v. KeyBank, Nat’l Assoc., decided by the Eighth District Court of Appeals in Cuyahoga County, Ohio on June 30, 2011. As our July 2011 blog post, available here, explained, this case hinged on whether KeyBank’s use of the "365/360 method" of interest calculation, resulting in an effective interest rate of 9.05% per annum, breached a promissory note pursuant to which JNT Properties had agreed to repay principal together with interest at the rate of 8.93% per annum. The Eighth District Court found that the "365/360 method" used in the case "cannot be read as clearly evidencing an intent of the parties to alter the ordinary meaning of the term ‘per annum,’ or as creating an ‘annual interest rate’ other than the stated rate of 8.93 percent."   2011-Ohio-3260, at ¶ 21 (internal quotations omitted). Concluding that genuine issues of material fact remained, the Eighth District Court reversed the trial court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of KeyBank.

Since we last reported, KeyBank filed a Notice of Appeal of the case and Memorandum of Jurisdiction with the Supreme Court of Ohio on August 15, 2011. On the same date, the American Bankers Association and the Ohio Bankers League filed a Jurisdictional Memorandum of Amici Curae in support of KeyBank, arguing that the case is one of great public interest and could impact thousands of commercial loan transactions in Ohio. On November 30, 2011, in an entry by Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor, the Supreme Court of Ohio accepted the appeal.

The Supreme Court of Ohio’s resolution of this case may prove to be significant, as the decision as it stands creates uncertainty and may possibly render unenforceable the "365/360 method" commonly used in loan documents. Lenders should seek professional guidance on crafting "365/360 method" interest calculation language to ensure they receive their expected yield and avoid costly and unnecessary litigation.