Photo of Gregory C. Cook

Gregory is a partner in Balch & Bingham’s Birmingham office and serves as chair of the Financial Services Litigation Practice Group.  His practice centers on commercial litigation, with a concentration on complex litigation. Since joining Balch & Bingham LLP in 1991, Mr. Cook has focused his practice in the area of business and financial services litigation, including concentrating on class action defense (he has been involved in defending over 60 class actions). More recently, Mr. Cook has defended a number of actions and class actions arising out of the mortgage and subprime crisis, including matters for loan servicers, lenders, title insurance agents and settlement services providers. Mr. Cook is listed in Best Lawyers in commercial litigation, has been rated "AV" by Martindale Hubbell and was selected by Super Lawyers in Business Litigation.

In In Re: Bay Circle Properties, LLC., No. 1812536, 2020 WL 1696303 (Ala. April 8, 2020), the Eleventh Circuit dismissed an appeal by a guarantor alleging a wrongful foreclosure, because the guarantor did not own the foreclosed property and therefore lacked Article III standing.  Here are the facts:  Debtor owed for two loans,

At least two class actions filed in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic by disgruntled accounting firms allege some of the nation’s largest banks never paid “agent fees” to entities assisting small businesses apply for Paycheck Protection Program (“PPP”) loans under the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (“CARES”) Act – and never intended to.

These lawsuits allege plaintiffs represent a class of financial services and accounting firms that prepared PPP applications on behalf of eligible small business clients. Plaintiffs contend the CARES Act and implementing regulations require lenders to pay them “agent fees” for preparing loan applications. Fees are calculated by tiers according to the amount of the loan – a one percent fee for loans of $350,000 or less, a .50 percent fee for loans of more than $350,000 and up to $2 million, and a .25 percent fee on loans over $2 million.


Continue Reading Second Wave of CARES Act Litigation Filed Against Banks; Accounting Firms Seek “Agent Fees” for Preparing PPP Loan Applications.

In Forbes v. Platinum Mortgage, Inc., No. 1180985, 2020 WL 746533 (Ala. Feb. 14, 2020), the Alabama Supreme Court upheld the validity of a home mortgage.  There, the husband borrowed $175,000, securing the loan with a mortgage on the couple’s home.  The husband signed the mortgage for himself and signed on behalf of his wife – pursuant to a Power of Attorney from his wife.  Later, the wife was declared incompetent and ultimately died.  The conservator sued, seeking to nullify the loan and contending that the Power of Attorney was forged.

Continue Reading A Properly Notarized Power of Attorney Provides Authority to Execute Mortgages

In Williams v. First Advantage LNS Screening Solutions, Inc., 947 F.3d 735 (11th Cir. Jan. 9, 2020), the plaintiff recovered a jury verdict under the FCRA for $250,000 of compensatory damages and $3.3 Million of punitive damages.  The defendant was a criminal background report provider.  Because of various mistakes and procedures, the plaintiff’s information was mismatched and inaccurately lead potential employers to believe he had a criminal background.  Liability was asserted primarily under 15 U.S.C. § 1681e(b), which requires CRAs to follow “reasonable procedures to ensure maximum possible accuracy.”

Continue Reading Eleventh Circuit Affirms FCRA Punitive Damage Award But Reduces Ratio to 4:1

In a flurry of new class actions filed on behalf of unhappy small business owners, banks are facing suits alleging they unlawfully prioritized processing large loans under the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) over smaller ones. Two parallel class actions were filed on April 19, 2020 and April 20, 2020 in California federal court accusing two large banks of reshuffling loan applications instead of processing them on a first-come, first-served basis to purportedly maximize the banks’ profit from the federal loan program. Another similar class action was filed in state court in Texas. The class plaintiffs include a frozen yogurt shop, an auto body shop and a flooring company among others.

Continue Reading Banks Beware: New Class Actions Alleging Banks Prioritized Large PPP Loans Over Smaller Ones

The story is becoming all too common.  A merchant (or consumer) is convinced to wire money to a fraudulent account because of an incorrect belief that they are wiring the money to the real party.  A common example is a fraudster convincing a purchaser of a home to wire money in the mistaken belief that they are wiring the money to a closing attorney or agent.  Another common example is a fraudster convincing a company to wire money in the mistaken belief that they are paying a valid vendor.  These transactions can involve millions of dollars and it is rare that the money can be recovered after it is sent.

Can insurance cover these losses?  Recently the Eleventh Circuit decided Principle Solutions Group, LLC v. Ironshore Indemnity, Inc., 944 F.3d 886, (11th Cir. Dec. 9, 2019).  There, the insured employer filed an action against insurer, seeking coverage for a wire transfer of funds made by insured’s employee to scammers.  The employer claimed coverage under the “fraudulent instruction” provision of its commercial crime insurance policy, and asserted bad faith.


Continue Reading “Cyber” Insurance Found to Cover Fraudulent Wire Transfer

As we have noted in other postings, plaintiffs continue to bring actions regarding bank fees charged for Overdraft or Not Sufficient Funds (“NSF”) fees. While these claims originally challenged posting order, they are now more creative.  For instance, the “Authorize Positive Settle Negative” claims noted in an earlier post.  One of the newest theories is that a financial institution should charge an NSF fee only once, no matter how many times that transaction or item is processed.

Continue Reading Class Action Alleging Multiple NSF fees for the Same ACH “Item”

Over the last decade, financial institutions have seen an avalanche of claims regarding overdraft fees, especially in connection with debit card transactions. These claims are almost always brought as class actions.  The early cases concerned the practice of posting “high to low” during nightly processing, allegedly for the purposes of generating more overdraft fees.  The lead case was Gutierrez v. Wells Fargo, 704 F.3d 712 (9th Cir. 2012).  Eventually, an MDL was created in the Southern District of Florida against a large number of banks, leading to a number of settlements.  At about the same time, the Federal Reserve altered Regulation E, requiring deposit institutions to obtain express consent to charge overdraft fees on “everyday” debit card transactions, and providing far greater understanding by consumers of overdraft fees on electronic transactions.

Continue Reading “Authorize Positive, Settle Negative” Overdraft Fee Action Allowed to Move Forward

In Obduskey v. McCarthy & Holthus, LLP, the United States Supreme Court unanimously held the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act does not apply to a law firm conducting a nonjudicial foreclosure.

While the law firm prevailed in Obduskey, the Court’s opinion suggested several circumstances in which the law firm might have been subject

In In re Dukes, No. 16-16513 (11th Cir. Dec. 6, 2018), the Eleventh Circuit held that a debtor’s mortgage obligation was not discharged, despite a proof of claim not being filed, because the mortgage was not provided for by the debtor’s plan and because of the anti-modification provision of Section 1322(b)(2).

Continue Reading Eleventh Circuit: Mortgages not covered by bankruptcy discharge