Banking & Finance Law Report

Tag Archives: Debtor-creditor

Practice Pointer for Creditor’s Rights Counsel: Draft Complaints With the New Warrant of Attorney Bench Card in Mind

The Ohio Judicial Conference has issued a bench card, a copy of which is attached, that gives Ohio’s Common Pleas Court judges a checklist they may use when presented with an order seeking judgment on a note containing a warrant of attorney. While the bench card is merely advisory, it represents a victory for those who want to limit the use of warrants of attorney to confess judgment to monetary defaults only, and appears to be an end-run around the legislative process.

The checklist contains the following six items (quoted verbatim):

  • Original Note produced and Complaint has copy of note attached as exhibit?
  • Complaint incudes statement regarding last known address of the defendant either in averment or within caption?
  • At least one maker resides in jurisdiction or Note executed in jurisdiction where Complaint is filed?
  • Note includes “warrant of attorney” with statutory language above or below signature?
  • The Note does not arise from a consumer transaction?
  • Default consists of nonpayment on note, rather than default of other provision unrelated to payment”.

There is debate on both sides of the debtor/ creditor bar about whether a warrant of attorney may be used on confess judgment for a non-monetary default, also …

HB 67 Warrants of Attorney

Another attack on the use of warrants of attorney to confess judgment was recently introduced into the 132nd Ohio General Assembly.  H.B. 67 was introduced on February 16, 2017 by Representative Ron Young, a Republican of Leroy Township in Lake County.  The bill has not yet been assigned to a committee.

The bill seeks to amend R.C. §2323.13(A) to limit a confession of judgment to situations involving “the settlement of a dispute”. The bill does not further define that phrase.  Echoing the “dispute settlement” language, H.B. 67 would also amend R.C. §2323.12 to limit confessions of judgment to the “settlement of a dispute” under R.C. §2323.13 and makes a violation of the law a first degree misdemeanor.

The final amendment sought by H.B. 67 is to Ohio’s power of attorney statute, R.C. §1337.53 at subsections (F)(1), to prohibit the use of a general power of attorney with respect to claims and litigation to confess judgment. Echoing the changes to R.C. §§2323.12 and 2323.13, R.C. §1337.53(F)(2) would limit the use of a general power of attorney to confessing judgment “in connection with the settlement of a dispute.”

The absence of any explanation of the meaning of the phrase “in connection …

Location is Not Everything When Perfecting a Security Interest

Most of us are familiar with that old saw “location, location, location”. While location might enhance the value of real estate, including the location as part of the collateral description in the UCC financing statement can limit the protections provided to a secured creditor and may provide a strategy for attack by a bankruptcy trustee.  First Niagara Bank learned this valuable lesson but only after spending substantial legal fees to protect a security interest where perfection should have been routine.

In the case of Ring v. First Niagara Bank, NA (In Re: Sterling United, Inc.),____F.3d ____, 2016 U.S. App. LEXIS 23009 (2d Cir. Dec. 22, 2016) (No. 15-4131-bk.), the Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Trustee for Sterling United, Inc., (“Debtor”) sued First Niagara Bank (“First Niagara”) asserting that First Niagara’s security interests in Debtor’s assets were avoidable under 11 U.S.C. § 547.  Under U.S.C. § 547(b)(4)(A), a trustee may avoid any “transfer of an interest of the debtor in property … made … on or within 90 days before the date of the filing of the petition” for bankruptcy, provided that those interests are not perfected security interests pursuant to 11 U.S.C. § 547(c)(3).…

Sixth Circuit Underscores Importance Of Moving For A Stay After Entry Of Judgment In Foreclosure Proceedings

 

On September 9, 2016, the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit issued a decision that parties in foreclosure proceedings should read carefully. In MSCI 2007-IQ16 Granville Retail, LLC v. UHA Corporation, LLC, Case No. 15-3524, the court addressed whether the sale of foreclosed property during the pendency of an appeal moots the appeal.  The court’s answer?  Yes, at least under the facts of this case.

Facts

MSCI obtains a judgment

Plaintiff MSCI 2007-IQ16 Granville Retail, LLC (“MSCI”) obtained summary judgment in this commercial foreclosure case that was filed in federal court because of diversity of citizenship between the parties and the fact that the four commercial properties at issue were located in three different counties.  The United States District Court for the Southern District of Ohio (the “District Court”) issued an in rem judgment entry and decree in foreclosure, finding that Defendant UHA Corporation, LLC (“UHA”) owed MSCI more than $13 million on the defaulted loan at issue.  UHA timely appealed, alleging a number of errors by the District Court.

The properties are sold

During the pendency of the appeal—because UHA failed to move for a stay of execution on the judgment in the District Court—the …

Expanding the Defense of Ordinary Course and Widening the Range of Acceptable Payments During the Historical Period

The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals in Unsecured Creditors Committee of Sparrer Sausage Co., Inc. v. Jason’s Foods, Inc., 2016 WL 3213090 (7th Cir. June 10, 2016) expanded the scope of the ordinary course defense in a bankruptcy preference action.  This case provides an excellent road map for a creditors’ rights attorney defending a preference suit and suggests arguments for increasing the payments a creditor can retain even if those payments were made during the 90-day preference period.

Here are the facts in Jason’s Foods.  During the 90-day preference period, the debtor paid invoices it received from Jason’s Foods totaling about $587,000.00.  The Unsecured Creditors’ Committee filed suit asking the bankruptcy court to avoid all payments made within the 90-day preference period.  The bankruptcy court ruled that prior to the preference period, the debtor generally paid the invoices to Jason’s Foods within 16 to 28 days.  Accordingly, of the 23 invoices paid during the preference period, 12 were within the range and 11 were outside the range.  Thus, the bankruptcy court concluded that $306,110.23 of the payments were not made in the ordinary course.  The issue for the Seventh Circuit was whether the bankruptcy court set the …

Proposed Limitations On The Use Of Cognovit Notes

The Ohio General Assembly is currently considering a bill that would greatly restrict creditors’ ability to ask debtors to sign cognovit notes. A cognovit note allows a creditor, upon a debtor’s default, to enter judgment against the debtor without the usual notice or hearing.

Current Ohio law, specifically Ohio Revised Code Section 2323.13, generally enforces cognovit notes, but Ohio courts will not enter judgment on a cognovit note unless the note contains specific disclaimer language clearly and conspicuously visible, warning the debtor that signing the cognovit note surrenders the debtor’s rights to notice and a court trial upon default.1  Additionally, cognovit notes are banned entirely in consumer transactions.2

Ohio Supreme Court Confirms That A Foreclosure Plaintiff May Submit Proof Of Standing Subsequent To Filing The Complaint

In what most pundits agreed would be a swift reversal, the Ohio Supreme Court did in fact unanimously reverse the Ninth District Court of Appeals in Wells Fargo Bank, N.A. v. Horn, Slip Opinion No. 2015-Ohio-1484, a 20-paragraph decision that helps to explain a sometimes-misunderstood line from Schwartzwald.

In Horn, Wells Fargo filed the foreclosure complaint on its behalf as “successor by merger to Wells Fargo Home Mortgage, Inc. fka Norwest Mortgage, Inc.”  Both the note and the mortgage identified Norwest Mortgage as the lender and the Horns as the borrowers.  The Horns, first acting pro se and later with the assistance of counsel, defended against the complaint and Wells Fargo’s ensuing motion for summary judgment by asserting that Wells Fargo was not the real party in interest and lacked standing.  Wells Fargo then submitted the affidavit of a “Default Litigation Specialist” employed there, who averred that in 2000, Norwest Mortgage, Inc. had changed its name to Wells Fargo Home Mortgage, Inc., that Wells Fargo Home Mortgage, Inc. had later merged into Wells Fargo, and that Wells Fargo was the holder of the note and mortgage at the time it filed the complaint.  The trial court granted …

The Modernization of Ohio’s Receivership Statute

I.  Introduction

Effective March 23, 2015, Ohio’s antiquated receivership statute (Ohio Rev. Code Chapter 2735) will be modernized, particularly as it relates to the appointment of a receiver in commercial mortgage foreclosures and the ability of a receiver to sell real estate free and clear of liens.

 II.  Appointment of a Receiver

Previously, commercial mortgagees were a bit hamstrung because only two of Ohio Rev. Code Section 2735.01’s provisions for appointment of a receiver typically potentially applied, Section 2735.01(B) (“In an action by a mortgagee, for the foreclosure of his mortgage and sale of the mortgaged property, when it appears that the mortgaged property is in danger of being lost, removed, materially injured, or that the condition of the mortgage has not been performed, and the property is probably insufficient to discharge the mortgage debt”) and Section 2735.01(F) (“In all other cases in which receivers have been appointed by the usages of equity”).  In situations where it was unclear whether the property was worth less than the unpaid mortgage balance, some courts struggled with the decision of whether to appoint a receiver, even in cases where the borrower agreed in the mortgage to appointment of a receiver upon the occurrence …

Conflict of Interest and Cognovit Judgment

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 …

Significant Changes to Ohio Foreclosure Law Proposed

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.…

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

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 …

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

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 …

It’s Easy, People: Read Before You Sign

In a decision that will warm the hearts of vendors everywhere, the Court of Appeals for Ohio’s Eighth Appellate District recently upheld the enforceability of personal guaranty language in a credit application. See Wholesale Builders Supply, Inc. v. Green-Source Development, L.L.C., et al., 2013-Ohio-5129. This decision also serves as a reminder to read before signing.

The form of credit application used by Wholesale Builders Supply, Inc. (“Wholesale”) with prospective customers included the following language:

BY SIGNING THIS AGREEMENT YOU ARE BOTH PERSONALLY AND CORPORATELY LIABLE FOR THE TOTAL OF YOUR PURCHASES BY YOU OR ANYONE DESIGNATED TO SIGN FOR YOUR PURCHASES ON YOUR ACCOUNT.

Defendant Green Building Technology, L.L.C. (“Green”), through its principal John A. Pumper (“Pumper”), executed one of Wholesale’s credit applications, and Green thereafter ordered and received goods from Wholesale, along with invoices from Wholesale.…

Collection Victory for an Ohio Equipment Lessor

On July 8, 2013, Ohio’s 5th District Court of Appeals issued an opinion that will be of interest to commercial equipment lessors in Ohio.  This case concerns the commercial lease of a beverage caddy and the status of the “middle man” lessee when the vendor undergoes bankruptcy.

Elms Country Club, the lessee (“Elms”), believed that the agreement constituted a “zero-net-lease” so that the vendor would pay lessee the monthly payments, which lessee would then pay to the bank. The vendor (“Royal Links”) made only four of the anticipated sixty payments.  Elms made no further payments and retained possession of the caddy because the lessor never repossessed the caddy.

The lessor, a commercial bank, sued for breach of the equipment lease and Elms filed a third party complaint against Royal Links which filed a bankruptcy action. After relief from the bankruptcy stay, some years later, the lessor filed a motion for summary judgment which was granted.…

Post-Judgment Remedies

This article is Part Five in a seven-part series on how to structure sales and what to do when your customer fails to pay.  You can find previous articles in this series here: Structuring Sales to Ensure Payment; Signs of Trouble Before Payment Default; Default by a Customer; Knowledge is Power and What to Consider When Non-Payment Leads to Litigation.  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.

You have obtained money judgment against your debtor, thus turning you into a "judgment creditor" and them into a "judgment debtor", and now it’s time to convert that important piece of paper called a "certificate of judgment" into cash or something that can be reduced to cash.  First, determine what assets are available to pay your judgment, then determine how to access them.

 

Analyze the Debtor’s Assets

 

There are a number of sources of information about your judgment debtor’s assets and financial situation, including the following:

 

   Examine financial statements that the judgment debtor provided during the course of your business relationship to identify available assets.

 

What to Consider When Non-Payment Leads to Litigation

This article is Part Four in a seven-part series on how to structure sales and what to do when your customer fails to pay. You can find previous articles in this series here: Structuring Sales to Ensure Payment; Signs of Trouble Before Payment Default and Default by a Customer: Knowledge is Power.  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.

The previous article in this series, Default by a Customer: Knowledge is Power, outlined how to negotiate favorable terms with the customer to avoid default, proceed with litigation against the customer before there is a deluge, and prepare for a bankruptcy by the customer. This article will cover key considerations as you head toward litigation with a customer in default.

Determine Your Weaknesses

   Determine if you as vendor or service provider are subject to any counterclaims if you sue your customer for nonpayment. Might the customer assert that the goods sold or services provided were faulty, not in accordance with contract, or otherwise unacceptable? Your customer will have a difficult time proving its counterclaim if it has retained the goods you …

Default by a Customer: Knowledge is Power

This article is Part Three in a seven-part series on how to structure sales and what to do when your customer fails to pay. You can find previous article in this series here: Structuring Sales to Ensure Payment, Signs of Trouble Before Payment Default. 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.

By understanding your position prior to or shortly after a default by the customer, it may be possible to negotiate favorable terms with the customer to avoid default, proceed with litigation against the customer before there is a deluge or prepare for a bankruptcy by the customer. To identify your options and rights as a vendor you must first determine the following:

1.      Default provisions;

2.      Default notice requirements;

3.      Permitted interest, late charges and attorney fees;

4.      The existence of guaranties (corporate or individual);

5.      Existing or potential collateral and available equity; and

6.      Where you would need to sue, i.e., jurisdiction. 

Signs of Trouble Before Payment Default

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

Update to SMLCC Charging Order Blog Post

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 …

Charging Order Protection for Multi-Member and Single Member LLCs

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 …

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