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Banking & Finance Law Report

Tag Archives: Collections

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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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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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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Ohio Supreme Court Frowns On Constructive Notice Via Website Of Sheriff’s Sale

Posted in Real Estate

On May 17, 2012, this blog reported on the oral arguments in PHH Mortgage v. Prater, a case from Clermont County, Ohio regarding the extent to which an internet website may (or may not) be constitutionally adequate notice of a sheriff’s sale.

Yesterday, the Ohio Supreme Court issued a unanimous opinion in favor of the mortgage company, reversing the court of appeals and holding that “constructive notice by publication to a party with a property interest in a foreclosure proceeding via a sheriff’s office website is insufficient to constitute due process when that party’s address is known or easily ascertainable.”

The Court’s opinion, authored by Justice Evelyn Lundberg-Stratton (who will retire at the end of this year), discusses precedent from the U.S. Supreme Court (Mullane and Mennonite Bd. of Missions) and the Ohio Supreme Court (Central Trust Co.), as well as more recent authority from the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan (McCluskey v. Belford High School, E.D. Mich. No. 2:09-14345, 2010 WL 2696599 [June 24, 2009]) to conclude that the sheriff’s internet notice procedure impermissibly “shifts the burden of notification from the sheriff’s office to the persons to whom the notice is directed. *** While we understand the interest in using technology to conserve resources, we find that notice by Internet posting is more akin to publication in a newspaper, and due process demands more in this instance.” PHH Mortgage, 2012-Ohio-3931, ¶ 16.…


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Ohio Supreme Court to Hear Oral Arguments Regarding Adequacy of “Website Notice” of Sheriff Sales

Posted in Real Estate

On May 23, the Ohio Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in an appeal by PHH Mortgage Corporation that concerns whether a sheriff’s website can provide constitutionally sufficient notice of the date, time, and location of a sheriff’s sale of foreclosed property. Real estate lenders of all sorts will be interested in the outcome which has important implications for foreclosure proceedings.

Nearly two decades ago, in Central Trust Co. v. Jensen, 67 Ohio St.3d 140 (1993), the Supreme Court held that notice by mail or other “equally reliable” means is a constitutional prerequisite to a proceeding that adversely affects a party’s property interests, when the interest holder’s address is known or easily ascertainable. The PHH Mortgage Corp. case tests that principle in the Internet age.

In PHH Mortgage, the mortgage company (“PHH”) filed a foreclosure action in April 2008, and the trial court’s final judgment in favor of the company was entered the following September. The property was then to be sold through the Clermont County Sheriff’s Office. On three occasions in 2009, the order of sale was withdrawn. On each of these occasions, PHH was notified by mail of the date and time for the sale. The trial court scheduled a fourth sale for April 2010. But PHH did not receive notice by mail of this sale, because at some point before then the sheriff’s office (due to budget constraints) had stopped sending notice by mail of upcoming sales, and began publishing the sale dates on its website. So, even though PHH intended to bid on …


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