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Banking & Finance Law Report

Category Archives: Collection and Foreclosure

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Conflict of Interest and Cognovit Judgment

Posted in Attorneys and Clients, Collection and Foreclosure, Commercial Law, Litigation

Does a conflict of interest arise under the Ohio Rules of Professional Conduct (“Rules”) when an attorney confesses judgment on a cognovit note? No, according to a recent opinion (Opinion 2014-3, August 8, 2014) issued by The Supreme Court of Ohio’s Board of Commissioners on Grievances & Discipline (“Board”), so long as the cognovit note contains a warrant of attorney that expressly waives a conflict and permits a creditor’s attorney to confess judgment pursuant to R.C. §2323.13. In issuing the Opinion, the Board reaffirmed and updated Advisory Opinion 93-3, which found no conflict existed under Ohio’s former Code of Professional Responsibility, which the current Rules replaced in 2007.

R.C. §2323.13 permits an attorney hired by a creditor to obtain cognovit judgment without notice or hearing in certain commercial transactions (typically loans and guaranties of loans) by producing in court a valid warrant of attorney that also contains a specific warning to the debtor of the rights being surrendered and otherwise complies with law. Ohio courts grant such cognovit judgments because the debtor consented in advance to the creditor obtaining a judgment upon the debtor’s default.

The Opinion specifically finds that confessing judgment does not create a conflict of interest under R. 1.7 of the Rules, which governs conflicts of interest, because the confessing attorney represents only the creditor and not the debtor under both contract law and statute. DiBenedetto v. Miller, 180 Ohio App.3d 69, 72, 2008-Ohio-6505, 904 N.E.2d 554 ¶15 (1st Dist.). In other words, there is no …


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Significant Changes to Ohio Foreclosure Law Proposed

Posted in Collection and Foreclosure, Ohio Law

Legislation has been introduced in the Ohio House that would amend Ohio’s foreclosure law in a manner favorable to licensed auctioneers and realtors and unfavorable to county sheriffs and appraisers. As set forth below, House Bill 586 would, among other things, permit “private selling officers” to conduct judicial sales of real property; permit written or electronic bidding; eliminate the requirement that judgment creditors or lienholders who appear in an action pay deposits and eliminate the three-freeholder appraisal. The bill was introduced on June 17, 2014, and proposes amendments to O.R.C. §§2329.151, 2329.17, 2329.18, 2329.19, 2329.20, 2329.271, 2329.28, 2329.34, and 2329.39 and would enact new sections 2329.152 and 2329.311.

R.C. §2329.151 would be amended to permit goods and chattels levied upon execution to be sold by a licensed auctioneer who is a resident of the state and would permit sales of land upon execution to be auctioned by a “private selling agent”, defined at R.C. §2329.152(H) as a state resident who is both a licensed auctioneer under R. C. Chapter 4707 and a real estate agent under R. C. Chapter 4735.…


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Ohio Law on Cognovit Judgments and Relief Under Civ R. 60(B)

Posted in Collection and Foreclosure, Commercial Law, Commercial Loans and Leases

In K One Limited Partnership v. Salh Khan, et al., 10th Dist. No. 13AP-830, 2014 Ohio 2079, the Tenth District Court of Appeals for Franklin County, Ohio reexamined the limited meritorious defenses available to obtain relief from a cognovit judgment under Civ. R. 60(B) and held that such defenses are restricted “to the integrity and validity of the creation of the debt or note, the state of the underlying debt at the time of confession of judgment, or the procedure utilized in the confession of judgment on the note.”

Defendants-Appellants executed a cognovit guaranty containing warrant of attorney language (“Guaranty”) to guarantee payment of a related-company’s revolving cognovit promissory note (“Note”) in favor of Plaintiff-Appellee. The parties and others were involved in numerous business ventures when they entered into the Guaranty and Note. When the Note subsequently went unpaid, Plaintiff-Appellee brought a cognovit action to confess judgment against Defendants-Appellants on the Guaranty, and the trial court entered cognovit judgment in favor of Plaintiff-Appellee. Defendants-Appellants timely filed a motion for relief from judgment under Civ. R. 60(B) admitting they executed the Guaranty but alleging as defenses that Plaintiff-Appellee and related individuals and entities had acted fraudulently toward them in this and other transactions and intentionally misled them into executing the Guaranty. They also alleged they had legal and equitable claims relating to these and other business transactions pending against these parties in another jurisdiction. The 60(B) motion did not allege payment, partial payment or defects in the Guaranty or Note …


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Ohio Foreclosure Procedure . . . Twice the Appeal

Posted in Collection and Foreclosure, Ohio Law, Real Estate

Earlier this month the Supreme Court of Ohio resolved a split of authority between the Fifth District and Seventh District regarding whether a foreclosure decree is a final appealable order when it includes unspecified amounts advanced by the mortgagee for inspections, appraisals, property protection and the like. Prior to the May 15 decision in CitiMortgage, Inc. v. Roznowski1, it was unclear whether a judgment decree of foreclosure – which typically includes unspecified amounts that may be advanced by the mortgagee prior to confirmation of the foreclosure sale for inspections, appraisals, property protection and maintenance – is a final appealable order, or whether a foreclosure defendant must wait until after the property has been sold at sheriff’s sale and the order of confirmation of sale issued before he or she may appeal.

The Supreme Court of Ohio’s decision in the CitiMortgage case establishes that there are two separate opportunities for appeal. The first opportunity arises after the trial court issues a judgment decree of foreclosure. The Court found that as long as the foreclosure decree addresses the rights of all lienholders and the responsibilities of the mortgagor – regardless whether all exact amounts for which the mortgagor is liable are set forth in the judgment order, such as interest and protective advances made or to be made by the mortgagee – the foreclosure decree constitutes a final appealable order. A party appealing a foreclosure decree may challenge “the court’s decision to grant the decree of foreclosure” and once that …


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FBI increases criminal fraud investigations by 65%, director reports

Posted in Bank Lending, Collection and Foreclosure, Litigation

FBI Director James Comey shared the bureau’s enforcement trends and objectives at the New York City Bar Association’s Third Annual White Collar Crime Institute on May 19.

Comey recognized that although counter-terrorism is still a top priority for the agency, white-collar cases are receiving significant focus and resources. In the mortgage industry, agents are investigating foreclosure rescue companies preying on stressed homeowners and criminals who target senior citizens with the lure of reverse mortgages. In money laundering, enforcement targets are involved in a buying anonymous prepaid credit cards, using of “virtual currency” to transfer money and using smaller institutions to inject money into the banking system. In securities markets, the FBI also is targeting micro-cap market manipulation, insider trading and accounting fraud.

Comey emphasized in his remarks that the FBI has received additional resources from Congress, which allowed the agency to hire 2,000 people this year. In addition, he disclosed that more than 1,300 agents are working more than 10,000 white collar crime cases. These figures represent a 65% increase in the number of criminal fraud cases investigated by the FBI since 2008.…


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U.S. Supreme Court Says Restitution Depends on Property a Lender Loses, not Collateral the Lender Receives

Posted in Bank Lending, Collection and Foreclosure, Workouts

In the unanimous ruling Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court resolved a split in circuits regarding the interpretation of the Mandatory Victim’s Restitution Act (MVRA). In Robers v. United States, the high court confirmed that for purposes of calculating restitution, the return to the lender of collateral securing a fraudulent loan is not completed until the victim lender receives money from the sale of the collateral.

In 2010, Robers was convicted in federal court of conspiracy to commit wire fraud relating to two houses that Robers purchased by submitting fraudulent loan applications. When Robers failed to make loan payments, the banks foreclosed on the mortgages and, in 2006, took title to the two houses. The houses were sold in 2007 and 2008 in a falling real estate market. At sentencing, Robers was ordered to pay restitution of approximately $220,000, equal to the loan amount, minus the money that the banks had received from the sale of the two homes.

On appeal, Robers challenged the sentence imposed pursuant to the MVRA and argued that the MVRA required the court to determine the amount of loss based upon fair market value of the homes on the date that the lenders obtained title to the house, as opposed to the fair market value on the date that the properties were sold.…


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Ohio Supreme Court to Address Issues Arising in Schwartzwald’s Wake

Posted in Collection and Foreclosure

As all professionals whose business involves the prosecution of foreclosures in Ohio almost certainly know by now, the Ohio Supreme Court’s decision in Fed. Home Loan Mortg. Corp. v. Schwartzwald1 provided that the foreclosing plaintiff must have standing to bring the action at the time the plaintiff files the complaint. Typically this requires the claimant to be the holder of the note and mortgage at the time it files its foreclosure complaint. The substance of the court’s holding in Schwartzwald does not leave much room for interpretation, but the actual application of the decision in practice has led to a number of procedural questions and disputes. The Supreme Court of Ohio has again stepped up and agreed to hear two specific cases where the district courts of appeal have rendered differing standards.

The first question involves the extent to which proof of standing needs to be offered at the time of filing the complaint, arising out of Wells Fargo Bank, N.A. v. Horn.2 The issue in dispute in Horn relates to whether the foreclosing plaintiff need affirmatively prove its standing at the time of filing the complaint – in other words, whether sufficient documentation needs to be attached to the complaint in order to establish standing at the time of filing, rather than having to meet that burden at a later time during the proceedings. The Eighth and Tenth District Courts of Appeal have ruled that although standing does need to exist at the time the complaint …


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Ohio Supreme Court Resolves Certified Conflict Regarding Oral Forbearance Agreements

Posted in Bank Lending, Bank Litigation, Collection and Foreclosure, Commercial Law, Commercial Lending, Commercial Loans and Leases, Community Banking, Ohio Law, Real Estate

Last Spring, we discussed on this blog a trifecta of noteworthy lending cases pending before the Ohio Supreme Court. Today, the Court resolved one of them, and in doing so also resolved a certified conflict among Ohio’s appellate districts regarding whether Ohio’s Statute of Frauds bars a party from relying on an oral forbearance agreement to defeat a judgment that was entered pursuant to a written contract. The court’s unanimous opinion in FirstMerit Bank, N.A. v. Inks, Slip Opinion No. 2014-Ohio-789, is available here.

Daniel Inks, Deborah Inks, David Slyman, and Jacqueline Slyman guaranteed that Ashland Lakes, LLC would repay a $3.5 million loan from FirstMerit Bank. When the LLC defaulted, FirstMerit sued the guarantors, and the trial court awarded judgment to FirstMerit based on confessions of judgment entered by the defendants under warrants of attorney. The Slymans and Inkses then appealed to Ohio’s Ninth District Court of Appeals on the basis that the confessing lawyer did not produce the original warrants of attorney. After filing that (ultimately unsuccessful) appeal, the Slymans and Inkses also moved the trial court for relief from judgment, arguing that FirstMerit was not entitled to recover because it had entered into an oral forbearance agreement with the LLC. The trial court concluded that this argument was barred by Ohio’s Statute of Frauds, and the Slymans and Inkses appealed from that decision as well. The Ninth District Court of Appeals reversed the trial court’s decision on the Statute of Frauds, saying:

By its plain language, …


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Banking & Finance Law Report Top 10: News and Trends from 2013

Posted in Agricultural Lending, Bank Lending, Bank Regulation, Collection and Foreclosure, Commercial Lending, Community Banking, Health Care Lending, Ohio Law, Real Estate

2013 was an active year for the Banking & Finance Law Report. Our authors covered a wide range of topics — from legislative and regulatory changes to court opinions to financing and bankruptcy matters in the healthcare, agricultural and oil and gas industries. To offer a glimpse into the news and trends of the past year, following is a synopsis of the 10 best-read articles of 2013.

1. Major Changes to Affirmative Action Requirements Become Effective March 24, 2014
by Mike Underwood

In just two months, financial institute and other types of employers will need to comply with new affirmative action rules that:

  • Require employers to gather and retain data showing the results of their recruiting and hiring efforts and to set numeric targets for hiring veterans and disabled persons
  • Include significant additional obligations for reviewing, analyzing and documenting good-faith efforts and results
  • Specify that employers must offer applicants the opportunity to self-identify as a covered veteran or disabled person before a job offer occurs

Many employers may face a real challenge identifying and networking with recruiting sources that can refer qualified candidates for their businesses. They also will likely need to adjust data collection, retention, and analysis processes. Read the full article.

2. Ohio Passes Legislation Preventing Recovery on “Cherryland” Insolvency Carveouts in Nonrecourse Loans, Among Other Changes
by Amy Strang

Ohio’s Legacy Trust Act (Am. Sub. H.B. 479), which became effective in March 2013, prohibits the use of post-closing solvency covenants as nonrecourse carveouts in a nonrecourse …


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Agreeing to Renegotiate a Loan Does Not Waive Lender’s Right to Foreclose

Posted in Bank Lending, Bank Litigation, Collection and Foreclosure, Commercial Lending, Real Estate, Workouts

In its Oct. 30, 2013 decision in General Electric Capital Corporation v. Tartan Fields Gold Club, Ltd., et al., 2013-Ohio-4875, the Fifth District Court of Appeals made clear that a lender does not waive its right to enforce its rights upon the borrower’s default merely entering into negotiations to restructure a loan; the court further held that the lender’s enforcement of its default rights during negotiations is not an act of bad faith. The court also relied on longstanding Ohio precedent that without more, a lender does not have a fiduciary relationship with a borrower.

In 2007, Tartan Fields Golf Club, Ltd. borrowed $13.3 million from GECC and secured the loan with a mortgage on its Delaware County golf course development. When Tartan Fields approached GECC in early 2009 about renegotiating the loan, GECC required that Tartan Fields sign a “Pre-Negotiation Agreement” that provided, among other things, that Tartan acknowledged that GECC had no fiduciary, confidential or special relationship with GECC; the Pre-Negotiation Agreement also gave both parties the unilateral right to terminate negotiations with three business days’ notice to the other party in their sole discretion and contained an integration clause.…


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Appellate Court Rules That Creditor Cannot Cog on an Accelerated Debt

Posted in Collection and Foreclosure, Ohio Law

In The Henry County Bank v. Stimmels, Inc., et al., 3rd Dist. No. 7-12-19, 2013-Ohio-1607 (Apr. 22, 2013) the Third Appellate District Court rendered a decision that will dismay commercial creditor’s rights attorneys in Ohio in holding that a warrant of attorney to confession judgment R.C. §2323.13 may only be used if the debtor was in default of payment, even where the debt had been accelerated.

The Henry County Bank obtained a cognovit judgment against the defendants, claiming as events of default the defendants’ failures to pay taxes when due and to maintain a stated indebtedness to tangible net worth ratio. After receiving notice of the judgment, the defendants filed a motion under Civil Rule 60(B) to vacate the cognovit judgment. The defendants supported their motion with an affidavit stating that they were not in default of payment, and here is the key: despite having accelerated the debt, the bank stipulated that the defendants were not in default of payment.

The trial court denied the defendants’ motion for relief after a hearing and supplemental briefs, and the defendants filed an appeal. Their sole assignment of error was that the trial court erred in granting judgment on the note without the bank asserting or proving that the defendants failed to pay on time, arguing that a warrant of attorney to confess judgment under R.C. §2323.13 could be used in a payment default situation.

Noting that "cognovit judgments are generally disfavored in the law" {¶8} and that R.C. §2323.13 is to "be strictly construed" …


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Signs of Trouble Before Payment Default

Posted in Bank Lending, Bank Litigation, Bankruptcy, Collection and Foreclosure, Commercial Lending, Commercial Loans and Leases

This article is Part Two in a seven-part series on how to structure sales and what to do when your customer fails to pay. You can find Part One of this series here: Structuring Sales to Ensure Payment. Please subscribe to this blog by entering your email in the box on the left, or check back weekly for additional articles in the series. 

With the recent economic slowdown in many sectors and the parade of corrupt corporate executives on the evening news, corporate managers are more sensitive than ever to signs of troubled business practices and how those practices affect outstanding receivables.  Many distressed businesses display early warning signs of impending trouble, including some or all of the following:

  • Lack of a sound business plan- The company may not have a plan or may have expanded past the vision of it original business plan.
  • Ineffective management style- The management of a small company that has experienced rapid growth may not be able to delegate authority effectively. 
  • Poor lender/vendor relationships- The company may not respond quickly or fully to its vendor’s request for financial information or may actively hide information from its vendors.
  • Change in market conditions- The market for the company’s product may have changed, leaving the company with a shrinking market share and lower sales. The company’s technology or marketing may be obsolete to compete in the current marketplace (remember 8-track tapes?).
  • Over-diversification of products- The company may enter non-traditional markets too quickly in an effort to increase flagging sales but without the necessary resources or knowledge to

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Update to SMLCC Charging Order Blog Post

Posted in Collection and Foreclosure

Substitute House Bill 48, an amendment to Ohio’s Limited Liability Company Act, discussed in our December 9, 2011 post, Charging Order Protections for Multi-Member and Single-Member LLCs (SMLLCs), has been passed by the Ohio General Assembly and signed into law by Governor Kasich. This act amends ORC 1705.19 to expressly provide that a charging order is the "sole and exclusive remedy" of a creditor seeking to satisfy judgment against the LLC membership interest of a debtor and to prohibit any creditor of a member of an LLC from having any right to obtain possession of, or to exercise legal or equitable remedies with respect to, the property of the LLC. It also specifically limits the rights of a judgment creditor who has obtained a charging order against a debtor’s membership interests to those of an assignee of a membership interest, as laid out in ORC 1705.18. The amendment will become effective May 4, 2012.

The act contains no exception for SMLLCs and makes a charging order a judgment creditor’s exclusive remedy to reach the membership interests of its debtor. Because of this, it is likely that Ohio courts will interpret the statute to provide SMLLCs with the same charging order protections as multi-member LLCs, leaving creditors unable to recover judgments by forcing the sale of their debtors’ SMLLC assets and distributing proceeds.

Bankers should take necessary precautions to avoid relying on unreachable assets of the debtor’s SMLLC as security for the credit they extend. In most cases, the straight-forward solution is …


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Charging Order Protection for Multi-Member and Single Member LLCs

Posted in Collection and Foreclosure

In the course of their business, bankers routinely encounter single member limited liability companies ("SMLLCs"), entities commonly used in real estate and small businesses. Despite the prevalence of SMLLCs, there is a fundamental legal uncertainty as to whether the assets of an SMLLC share the same level of protection from its member’s creditors as is provided to the assets of a multi-member LLC through the charging order remedy.

Depending on state law, bankers may or may not be able to reach the assets of their debtors’ SMLLCs through a charging order. Furthermore, changes to Ohio law have recently been discussed in the Ohio Legislature which attempt to remove any uncertainty and would prevent bankers and other creditors from reaching assets of a SMLLC through a charging order.

The following analysis discusses recent case law from around the country examining a judgment creditor’s ability to reach the assets of an SMLLC in which its debtor holds the sole membership interest. The LLC charging order is a remedy through which a creditor who has won a judgment may reach its debtor’s membership interest in an LLC. State LLC statutes generally require the unanimous consent of all members (other than the assigning member) in order for the assignee of an LLC membership interest, such as a creditor who has attached its debtor’s membership interest, to participate "as a member" in the management of the LLC. To protect this approval right of the other members in a multi-member LLC, a charging order entitles a creditor …


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