Justia Class Action Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Banking
Dutcher v. Matheson
Richard and Gwen Dutcher and their co-plaintiffs (collectively, “plaintiffs”) brought suit in Utah state court on behalf of a putative plaintiff class against ReconTrust, a national bank that served as the substitute trustee for class members’ deeds of trust over properties located in Utah. The suit alleged that ReconTrust illegally non-judicially foreclosed on the plaintiffs’ properties because depository institutions like ReconTrust did not have the power of sale over properties secured by trust deed. The plaintiffs also sued B.A.C. Home Loans Servicing (“BAC”) and Bank of America, N.A. (“BOA”), as the former trustees who transferred trusteeship to ReconTrust, as well as Stuart Matheson and his law firm, as the agents who conducted the foreclosure sale on behalf of ReconTrust. ReconTrust and the other defendants removed the case to federal court. They maintained that ReconTrust’s acts were lawful. The district court denied a motion by plaintiffs to remand the case to state court and agreed with ReconTrust on the merits, which led the court to grant the defendants’ pending motion to dismiss. On appeal to the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals, plaintiffs sought reversal of the court’s order denying remand to Utah state court, and reversal of the order granting dismissal of the case. The Tenth Circuit concluded, however, that the district court properly decided that it had jurisdiction under the Class Action Fairness Act (“CAFA”); accordingly, it correctly denied the plaintiffs’ motion for remand. On the merits, the Court concluded that ReconTrust was authorized to conduct the challenged foreclosures under federal law, and the plaintiffs had relatedly failed to state a claim on which relief could be granted. The Court therefore affirmed the district court’s judgment as to both issues. View "Dutcher v. Matheson" on Justia Law
Bickerstaff v. SunTrust Bank
A mandatory arbitration clause is contained in each deposit agreement for customers of appellee SunTrust Bank. The clause permits an individual depositor to reject the agreement’s mandatory arbitration clause by giving written notice by a certain deadline. SunTrust claimed it drafted the arbitration clause in such a way that only an individual depositor may exercise this right to reject arbitration on his or her own behalf, thereby permitting that individual to file only an individual lawsuit against the bank. But SunTrust asserted that even if, as it has been determined here, the filing of a lawsuit prior to the expiration of the rejection of arbitration deadline operated to give notice of the individual plaintiff’s rejection of arbitration, the complaint could not be brought as a class action because the filing of a class action could not serve to reject the arbitration clause on behalf of class members who have not individually given notice. Jeff Bickerstaff, Jr., who was a SunTrust Bank depositor, filed a complaint against SunTrust on behalf of himself and all others similarly situated alleging the bank’s overdraft fee constitutes the charging of usurious interest. At the time Bickerstaff opened his account (thereby agreeing to the terms of SunTrust’s deposit agreement), that agreement included a mandatory arbitration provision. In response to the ruling of a federal court in an unrelated action finding the arbitration clause in SunTrust’s deposit agreement was unconscionable at Georgia law, and after Bickerstaff’s complaint had been filed, SunTrust amended the arbitration clause to permit a window of time in which a depositor could reject arbitration by sending SunTrust written notification that complied with certain requirements. SunTrust had not notified Bickerstaff or its other customers of this change in the arbitration clause of the deposit agreement at the time Bickerstaff filed his complaint, but the complaint, as well as the first amendment to the complaint, was filed prior to the amendment’s deadline for giving SunTrust written notice of an election to reject arbitration. It was only after Bickerstaff’s complaint was filed that SunTrust notified Bickerstaff and its other existing depositors, by language printed in monthly account statements distributed on August 24, 2010, that an updated version of the deposit agreement had been adopted, that a copy of the new agreement could be obtained at any branch office or on-line, and that all future transactions would be governed by the updated agreement. SunTrust appealed the order denying its motion to compel Bickerstaff to arbitrate his claim, and the Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court, finding that the information contained in the complaint filed by Bickerstaff’s attorney substantially satisfied the notice required to reject arbitration. Bickerstaff appealed the order denying his motion for class certification, and in the same opinion the Court of Appeals affirmed that decision, holding in essence, that the contractual language in this case requiring individual notification of the decision to reject arbitration did not permit Bickerstaff to reject the deposit agreement’s arbitration clause on behalf of other putative class members by virtue of the filing of his class action complaint. The Georgia Supreme Court reversed that decision, holding that the terms of the arbitration rejection provision of SunTrust’s deposit agreement did not prevent Bickerstaff’s class action complaint from tolling the contractual limitation for rejecting that provision on behalf of all putative class members until such time as the class may be certified and each member makes the election to opt out or remain in the class. Accordingly, the numerosity requirement of OCGA 9-11-23 (a) (1) for pursuing a class complaint was not defeated on this ground. View "Bickerstaff v. SunTrust Bank" on Justia Law
In re Payment Card Interchange Fee and Merchant Discount Antitrust
In an antitrust class action brought on behalf of approximately 12 million merchants against Visa and Mastercard, as well as other various banks, plaintiffs alleged conspiracy in violation of Section 1 of the Sherman Act, 15 U.S.C. 1. After the parties agreed to a settlement releasing all claims, the district court certified two settlement-only classes and approved the settlement. Numerous objectors and opt‐out plaintiffs appealed and argued that the class action was improperly certified and that the settlement was unreasonable and inadequate. The court concluded that class members of the (b)(2) class were inadequately represented in violation of both FRCP 23(a)(4) and the Due Process Clause. The court also concluded that procedural deficiencies produced substantive shortcomings in this class action and the settlement. Consequently, the court concluded that the class action was improperly certified and the settlement was unreasonable and inadequate. The court vacated the district court's certification of the class action and reversed the approval of the settlement. The court remanded for further proceedings. View "In re Payment Card Interchange Fee and Merchant Discount Antitrust" on Justia Law
Fangman v. Genuine Title, LLC
The Fangmans sought to represent a class of approximately 4,000 to 5,000 individuals who, from 2009 to 2014, retained Genuine Title for settlement and title services and utilized various lenders for the purchase and/or refinancing of their residences, allegedly as a result of referrals from the lenders. All of the lenders are servicers of federally related mortgage loans. The complaint alleges an illegal kickback scheme and that “sham companies” that were created by Genuine Title to conceal the kickbacks, which were not disclosed on the HUD-1 form. After dismissing most of the federal claims, the federal court certified to the Maryland Court of Appeals the question of law: Does Md. Code , Real Prop. [(1974, 2015 Repl. Vol.) 14-127 imply a private right of action?” The statute prohibits certain consideration in real estate transactions. That court responded “no” and held that RP 14-127 does not contain an express or implied private right of action, as neither its plain language, legislative history, nor legislative purpose demonstrates any intent on the General Assembly’s part to create a private right of action. View "Fangman v. Genuine Title, LLC" on Justia Law
Cunningham v. M&T Bank Corp.
Plaintiffs obtained residential mortgage loans from M&T to finance the purchase of their homes and, because the loans exceeded 80% of the value of the residences, agreed to pay for private mortgage insurance. As is customary, M&T selected the insurers who, in turn, reinsured the insurance policy with M&T Reinsurance, M&T’s captive reinsurer. Beginning in 2011, counsel sent letters to Plaintiffs advising that they were investigating claims concerning M&T’s captive mortgage reinsurance. Plaintiffs agreed to be part of a lawsuit against M&T and filed a putative class action complaint alleging violations of the anti-kickback and anti-fee-splitting provisions of the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (RESPA), 12 U.S.C. 2607, and unjust enrichment. After discovery, the court granted M&T summary judgment, finding the claims time-barred and that Plaintiffs could not equitably toll the limitations period because none of them had exercised reasonable diligence in investigating any potential claims under RESPA. The Third Circuit affirmed, noting that the one-year statute of limitations runs “from the date of the occurrence of the violation,” View "Cunningham v. M&T Bank Corp." on Justia Law
Legg v. West Bank
Plaintiffs, former customers of West Bank, filed a multiple-count proposed consumer class action lawsuit against the Bank challenging one-time nonsufficient funds fees the Bank charged when Plaintiffs used their debit cards to create overdrafts in their checking account. Plaintiffs alleged usury claims and sequencing claims. The district court denied the Bank’s motions for summary judgment on the usury and sequencing claims but granted summary judgment on the Bank’s motion for summary judgment on Plaintiffs’ usury claim arising under the Iowa Ongoing Criminal Conduct Act. In a companion case issued today, the Supreme Court concluded that the district court erred in denying the Bank’s motions for summary judgment except as to the good-faith claim involving the sequencing of overdrafts. Likewise, the Court here found that the district court also erred in certifying the class action on all claims except for Plaintiffs' good-faith sequencing claim. View "Legg v. West Bank" on Justia Law
Bell v. PNC Bank
Bell alleged that her former employer, PNC Bank, failed to pay her overtime wages in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act, 29 U.S.C. 201, and the Illinois Minimum Wage and Wage Payment and Collection Acts, and that the failure was not an isolated incident, but rather part of a PNC policy or practice that affected other employees. Bell claimed that she was evaluated, in part, based on how many new accounts she brought into the bank, and in order to generate new accounts she needed to spend “significant” time outside of her regular work hours visiting prospective clients. Some of the assignments to visit prospective clients came from a PNC vice president who did not work at the Bell’ branch. According to Bell, when she submitted time cards reflecting overtime work, her branch manager and a PNC regional manager told her that “PNC would not permit... overtime for the branch,” and “PNC expected its employees to handle their outside-the-branch work on their own time, without reporting any extra hours that they worked.” The Seventh Circuit affirmed certification of a class of plaintiffs. Many issues remain unanswered and the district court was correct to conclude that a class action would be an appropriate and efficient pathway to resolution. View "Bell v. PNC Bank" on Justia Law
In re JPMorgan Chase Bank, N.A.
In the underlying putative class action, counsel for the named plaintiffs obtained a collection of records owned by JPMorgan Chase Bank, N.A. (Chase). Plaintiffs sought to rely on the documents to pursue claims sounding in fraud, deceit, and conversion against Chase. A dispute arose as to whether portions of the Chase records were shielded from discovery and litigation under a provision of Bank Secrecy Act and related regulations. A magistrate judge reviewed all of the disputed documents in camera and concluded that the majority of the documents were not shielded by statute or regulation. Chase then initiated this mandamus proceeding, asking the First Circuit to intervene by declaring that the Act and related regulations shielded an additional fifty-five pages of Chase records from production or use in the putative class action. The First Circuit denied the petition for writ of mandamus, holding that, even assuming that the Act and regulations apply, the documents at dispute would not be shielded from discovery or use in litigation. View "In re JPMorgan Chase Bank, N.A." on Justia Law
In re: Community Bank of N. Va.
Plaintiffs described a predatory lending scheme affecting numerous borrowers nationwide, allegedly masterminded by Shumway, a residential mortgage loan business operating through other entities and title companies, to offer high-interest mortgage-backed loans to financially strapped homeowners. As a non-depository lender, Shumway was subject to fee caps and interest ceilings imposed by state mortgage lending laws. Plaintiffs claimed that, to circumvent those limitations, Shumway formed associations with banks, including CBNV and Guaranty, which were depository institutions. Plaintiffs alleged that CBNV and Guaranty uniformly misrepresented the apportionment and distribution of settlement and title fees on their HUD–1 Settlement Statement forms. The district court certified a nationwide class of individuals who received residential mortgage loans from CBNV. Two previous appeals involved certification of settlement classes. In a third appeal, the Third Circuit rejected arguments that there was a fundamental class conflict that undermines the adequacy of representation provided by class counsel; that the court conditionally certified the class and thus erred; and that the putative class does not meet the ascertainability, commonality, predominance, superiority, or manageability requirements of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23. View "In re: Community Bank of N. Va." on Justia Law
Windesheim v. Larocca
Respondents, three married couples, obtained home equity lines of credit from Petitioners, a bank and its loan officer. Approximately four years later, Petitioners filed a putative class action alleging that these transactions were part of an elaborate “buy-first-sell-later” mortgage fraud arrangement carried out by Petitioners and other defendants. Petitioners alleged numerous causes of action, including fraud, conspiracy, and violations of Maryland consumer protection statutes. The circuit court granted summary judgment for Petitioners, concluding that the statute of limitations barred several of Respondents’ claims and that no Petitioner violated the Maryland Secondary Mortgage Loan Law as a matter of law. The Court of Special Appeals reversed. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding that the Court of Special Appeals (1) erred in concluding that Respondents stated a claim upon which relief could be granted under the Maryland Secondary Mortgage Loan Law; and (2) erred in concluding that it was a question of fact to be decided by the jury as to whether Respondents’ claims against Petitioners were barred by the relevant statute of limitations. View "Windesheim v. Larocca" on Justia Law