Federal Rules Advisory Committee Proposes Amendments to Rule Governing Class Actions in Federal Court

Since 2011, a Subcommittee of the Federal Rules Advisory Committee has been mulling changes to Rule 23 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. On April 14, 2016, the Advisory Committee forwarded proposed changes to the Standing Committee on Rules of Practice and Procedure, recommending that they be published for public comment. On August 12, the Standing Committee published a draft. Any approved changes will be made effective December 1, 2018.

The most significant changes involve measures to deter “bad faith” objectors. Under the new Rule 23(e)(5)(B), the Court must approve any side payment to an objector or objector’s counsel associated with withdrawing an objection or abandoning an appeal from a judgment approving a settlement.

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Alabama Court of Civil Appeals reverses summary judgment granted in favor of mortgage servicer based on res judicata defense.

In Sims v. JPMC Specialty Mortgage, LLC, No. 2150437, a borrower had been involved in two previous lawsuits arising out of a mortgage servicer’s foreclosure upon the borrower’s property. The servicer obtained summary judgment in the trial court based on the doctrine of res judicata.  The Alabama Court of Civil Appeals reversed, finding that genuine issues of material fact precluded summary judgment based on res judicata.

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Joint Tenancy Lienholders Should Timely Execute on Judgment Liens in Order to Avoid Losing Property Interest

The Alabama Supreme Court recently held in Ex parte Arvest Bank, that an unexecuted judgment lien against the property interest of one joint tenant does not sever a joint tenancy with the right of survivorship, thereby extinguishing the lienholder’s rights in the property when that joint tenant dies.

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Eleventh Circuit Holds Arbitration Clause Unenforceable Due to Unavailability of Arbitral Forum

The Eleventh Circuit recently held in Parm v. National Bank of California, that a payday lender’s arbitration clause was unenforceable because the forum selected was unavailable and no alternative forum was provided for.

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Eleventh Circuit: Failure to provide debtor with FDCPA-required disclosures constitutes injury-in-fact to confer standing

In an unpublished opinion, the Eleventh Circuit applied the Supreme Court’s recent opinion in Spokeo, Inc. v. Robins, 578 U.S. ___, 136 S. Ct. 1540 (2016) and held that a debtor who allegedly did not receive certain disclosures required by the Fair Debt Collections Practices Act (FDCPA) suffered an injury-in-fact to her statutorily created right to receive such information, and therefore had standing to pursue an FDCPA claim against the entity attempting to collect the debt.

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Against the Grain: Bankruptcy court allows FDCPA claim to proceed despite res judicata argument

Few issues involving the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) are more hotly contested than whether filing a proof of claim on a time-barred debt violates the FDCPA. In bankruptcy, creditors have a right to file proofs of claim outlining the debt owed to them by the bankrupt debtor. In some instances, the statute of limitations for filing a lawsuit on that debt has run, and up until July 10, 2014, when the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals issued its decision in Crawford v. LVNV  Funding, LLC, it was common practice to file a proof of claim on such a time-barred debt. Crawford—for the first time—likened the filing of a proof of claim to the filing of a lawsuit, finding that if one is wrongful, so is the other. After Crawford, debt collectors have faced a tidal wave of cases across the country, raising numerous defenses, one of which is res judicata. The argument goes like this: if a debt collector files a proof of claim to which neither the debtor nor the trustee objects and the court subsequently confirms the debtor’s plan, then a final judgment exists stating the debt is valid. Thus the debtor is barred by res judicata  from further challenging the debt.

Despite a chorus of cases adopting this reasoning, the United States District Court for the Southern District of Georgia recently dealt a blow to the res judicata argument, finding that the grounds upon which the FDCPA claim was raised and the grounds upon which the proof of claim was confirmed were not sufficiently similar such that one could foreclose the other. For two years the so-called Crawford cases have raged; circuit splits exist; and this recent decision from the Southern District of Georgia shows that further disagreement is likely. Creditors and debt collectors alike should monitor the development of these cases to ensure they know how their claims will be treated in the bankruptcy courts.

CFPB Employs “Mystery Shoppers” to Investigate Allegations of Discrimination

With the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (“CFPB”) now employing mystery shoppers, financial institutions must ensure that their branches are actually putting non-decimation policies into practice.  As we reported here on July 1, BancorpSouth, a Mississippi-based bank, recently entered into a $10.6M settlement with the CFPB regarding alleged redlining in the Memphis market.  That investigation was the CFPB’s first use of testing, also called “mystery shopping,” as an investigative tool.  This practice, which has long been in use by the Department of Justice and the Department of Housing and Urban Development, involves sending both white and African American individuals into branch offices to determine whether white customers are treated more favorably than African American customers.

More information about the CFPB’s use of mystery shopper’s as well as the redlining settlement can be located here.


Bankruptcy courts divided on whether Chapter 13 plan extends time for redemption

Bankruptcy courts are currently divided on whether a debtor has a right to redeem property sold at a tax sale after the redemption period has run. The time for redemption depends on the law of the state where the property is located.  In Alabama, for example, the statutory redemption period is three (3) years. Usually, a debtor must redeem by paying the full amount within the redemption period or be time barred. However, recent bankruptcy cases in Pennsylvania allowed debtors to treat tax purchasers as secured creditors, thereby permitting the debtors to pay the redemption amount as a secured claim over the life of a confirmed chapter 13 plan. See In re Gonzalez, Case No. 15-10628 (Bankr. E.D. Pa. May 18, 2016); In re Pittman, Case No. 14-17665 (Bankr. E.D. Pa. May 6, 2016). In these cases, the debtors filed chapter 13 petitions before the right of redemption expired under local law, but confirmation of their chapter 13 plans did not occur until after the redemption period would have expired. The rationale for this treatment is based on the view that a debtor’s right to redeem property after a tax sale resembles a mortgagor / mortgagee relationship with the tax purchaser. The opposing view—expressed by a California bankruptcy judge last year In re Richter, 525 B.R. 735 (Bankr. C.D. Cal. 2015)—is that the right of redemption following a tax sale is an asset of the debtor, rather than a claim. Until this issue is resolved by higher courts, tax sale purchasers should consult the law of their local jurisdiction so that they are not left waiting for years while a Chapter 13 debtor repays the redemption amount.


Eleventh Circuit: No arbitration because bank failed to prove existence of arbitration agreement

Last week, the Eleventh Circuit refused to compel arbitration because the defendant financial institution failed to prove that its online deposit agreement actually included an arbitration clause.  This decision reflects the importance of (1) documenting the original agreement (both the actual terms and the assent of the consumer), (2) retaining the documentation, (3) documenting any change in terms (and the customer’s assent to them) and (4) carefully proving the existence of these agreements (and the customer’s assent) in Court.   

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CFPB Announces $10.6M Settlement with Mississippi Bank over Redlining

In a case that demonstrates the scope of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s (“CFPB’s”) reach, the CFPB and Department of Justice (“DOJ”) have entered into a settlement with BancorpSouth totaling almost $10,600,000 over alleged redlining.  Redlining is the practice of denying services or raising prices to residents of certain geographic areas based upon their racial or ethnic makeup.  The term was coined from the practice by lenders of marking in red areas on maps of cities that were not desirable for mortgage loans.

According to the CFPB and DOJ, when BancorpSouth expanded into the Memphis market, it did not build any branches in neighborhoods with large minority populations.  Further, nearly all of its loans allegedly originated outside minority neighborhoods.  The fine was announced as part of a settlement between BancorpSouth and the government under which, if approved by the court, Bancorp South will provide $4,000,000 in direct loan subsidies in minority neighborhoods, spend at least $800,000 on community programs and minority outreach, pay $2,780,000 to African American customers who were overcharged or denied  credit, and pay a $3,000,000 penalty.  Although it settled with the government, BancorpSouth did not admit guilt.