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Mirfasihi v. Fleet Mortgage — Defense of Class Action Cases

Jun 21, 2006 | By: Michael J. Hassen

Class Action Settlement Approval of Nationwide Class Action Reversed and Remanded for District Court Failure to Analyze Value of Class Claims Under the State Laws of Each Applicable Jurisdiction Seventh Circuit Holds

On June 19, 2006, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals considered for the second time a proposed class action settlement of a nationwide class action against Fleet Mortgage brought under the Truth in Lending Act (TILA), the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) and various state laws. Mirfasihi v. Fleet Mortgage Corp., ___ F.3d ___, 2006 WL 1667802 (7th Cir. 2006) (“_Fleet II_”). As explained below, the class action involved two classes: a “telemarketing class,” and an “information-sharing class.” The Seventh Circuit previously reversed district court approval of a proposed settlement of the class action claims because “the district court failed to consider adequately the value of the claims of the so-called ‘information-sharing class’ (a class of consumers whose privacy interests were purportedly intruded upon, but who did not suffer any out-of-pocket damages).” Slip Opn., at 1-2 (citing _Mirfasihi v. Fleet Mortgage Corp._, 356 F.3d 781 (7th Cir. 2004) (“_Fleet I_”).

The class action involved claims that Fleet sold mortgage information to third-party telemarketers, and that Fleet “was an active collaborator in drafting the script that the telemarketers used and allowed direct billing of the fees for the telemarketers’ products onto the mortgage bill of its customers, without obtaining pre-approval from customers.” Slip Opn., at 2. The “telemarketing class” consisted of 190,000 people who purchased financial products from the telemarketers; the “information-sharing class” consisted of 1.4 million Fleet borrowers whose information had been sent to telemarketers but who had not purchased any services from them. Id., at 2-3.

The class action settlement approved by the district court in Fleet I provided for payments to the telemarketing class, but the information-sharing class “was left out in the cold and received nothing.” Slip Opn., at 3. (The terms of the class action settlement are detailed in Fleet I and Fleet II; we focus here only on the monetary recovery for each class.) Fleet I reversed the district court’s approval of the class action settlement because “the district court failed to consider with adequate specificity the reasonableness of an entire class receiving a ‘big fat zero’ in the settlement.” Slip Opn., at 4 (citing Fleet I, at 785). “Specifically, the district court did not canvass all potential avenues of recovery to determine whether the information-sharing class’s claims were indeed essentially hopeless (and thus worthless) under the pertinent controlling law.” Slip Opn., at 4.

Class Action Court Decisions Class Actions In The News FCRA Class Actions Multidistrict Litigation RESPA/TILA Class Actions Uncategorized



Considerations Regarding Removal to Federal Court: Defense Of Class Action Claims Alleging RESPA Violations Part III

May 24, 2006 | By: Michael J. Hassen

Part III Considerations Regarding Removal to Federal Court

A lender that must defend itself against a class action alleging violations of RESPA may benefit from removing the case to federal court. A defendant may remove a case to federal court if there is any “separate and independent” claim subject to federal question jurisdiction: “A federal court has removal jurisdiction if the plaintiff’s claims are either exclusively federal or there is a separate and independent federal question. 28 U.S.C. § 1441. In order for a defendant to remove, the federal claims must appear on the face of plaintiff’s well-pleaded complaint. Tingey v. Pixley-Richards West, Inc., 953 F.2d 1124, 1129 (9th Cir. 1992).” Lyons v. Alaska Teamsters Emplr. Serv. Corp., 188 F.3d 1170, 1171 (9th Cir. 1999). A separate article considers removal under CAFA (Class Action Fairness Act of 2005).

In federal court, Rule 23 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure governs class actions. Federal courts examine the numerosity, commonality, and typicality of the plaintiff’s claims. The courts also consider whether separate lawsuits would create a risk of inconsistent adjudications that would require the defendant comply with incompatible directions. In state court, however, California Code of Civil Procedure section 382 governs class actions. The “community of interest” requirement for class certification in state court consists of three factors: (1) predominant common questions of law or fact; (2) class representatives with claims or defenses typical of the class; and (3) class representatives who can adequately represent the class. While the standards may appear to be substantively identical, they are quite different in practice. In my opinion, the federal law governing class actions is much better developed than California state law. It is also my opinion that a corporate defendant is well served to remove a case to federal court whenever possible.

Once removed, the federal court may, in its discretion, adjudicate the entire case, including state claims that could not be adjudicated under the federal court’s original jurisdiction. 28 U.S.C. § 1441(c). Removal is proper even if the plaintiff’ federal claim is meritless, see Barraclough v. ADP Auto. Claims Services, 818 F. Supp. 1310, 1312 (N.D. Cal. 1993), and removal is proper even if the relief the plaintiff seeks is unavailable under the federal claim, see Caterpillar Inc. v. Williams, 482 U.S. 386, 391, n.4 (1987).

With respect to RESPA claims, RESPA requires a lender to provide a HUD-1 or HUD-1A settlement statement to “clearly itemize all charges imposed upon the Borrower,” and that this settlement statement is required by 12 U.S.C. § 2603(a). A lender is required also to provide borrowers with “a Good Faith Estimate” (the “GFE”) to include “estimates of the amounts or ranges of all settlement costs likely to be incurred at the closing,” and the GFE is required by 12 U.S.C. § 2604(c) and Regulation X, 24 C.F.R. section 3500.7(a). Thus, if the Complaint alleges that the lender surprised borrowers with additional closing costs, then the basis of the lawsuit is an alleged violation of federal law: if the lender had disclosed properly all closing costs as required by RESPA and Regulation X, then the plaintiff would not have been injured.

RESPA/TILA Class Actions Uncategorized



Federal Court versus State Court Jurisdiction: Defense Of Class Action Claims Alleging RESPA Violations Part II

May 23, 2006 | By: Michael J. Hassen

Defending Class Action Claims Alleging RESPA Violations

Part II Federal Court versus State Court Jurisdiction

Even though RESPA is a federal statute, many class action lawsuits against lenders alleging RESPA violations are filed in state court. Defending class action RESPA claims requires a careful analysis of the specific statute(s) at issue, as this will dictate whether the action may be removed to federal court. While RESPA grants concurrent jurisdiction to state courts as to certain matters, Congress expressly limited concurrent jurisdiction to those sections of RESPA governed only by sections 2605, 2607 and 2608. 12 U.S.C. § 2614. Otherwise, federal jurisdiction is exclusive.

That Congress afforded state courts concurrent jurisdiction only over certain portions of RESPA and retained exclusive federal court jurisdiction over the balance of RESPA is not unique. For example, as the Ninth Circuit has held, “Bankruptcy courts have exclusive jurisdiction over nondischargeability actions brought pursuant to 11 U.S.C. § 523(a)(2), (4), (6) and (15),” Rein v. Providian Fin. Corp., 270 F.3d 895, 904 (9th Cir. 2001) (citations omitted) (italics added), but “Bankruptcy courts and state courts have concurrent jurisdiction over all [other] nondischargeability actions,” id., at n.15 (italics added). “For example, there is concurrent state and federal jurisdiction over § 523(a)(5) nondischargeability actions,” id., at 904 n.15 (citations omitted) (italics added), but a creditor could not seek relief from stay and pursue in state court a nondischargeability claim “with regard to its § 523(a)(2) claims because state courts lack jurisdiction to adjudicate § 523(a)(2) actions,” id., at 904 (italics added).

Plaintiffs’ alleged violations of 12 U.S.C. sections 2603 and 2604 must be heard in federal court because state courts lack jurisdiction to consider them. To hold otherwise would be to conclude that Congress idly specified limitations in 12 U.S.C. § 2614 on the scope of concurrent jurisdiction when it intended that no such limitations exist.

RESPA/TILA Class Actions Uncategorized



Overview of Statute and Summary of Jurisdiction: Defense Of Class Action Claims Alleging RESPA Violations Part I

May 22, 2006 | By: Michael J. Hassen

Defending Class Action Claims Alleging RESPA Violations Part I Overview of Statute and Summary of Jurisdiction Many lenders have had to defend themselves against class actions alleging violations of RESPA. In simplest terms, the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (“RESPA”), 12 U.S.C. sections 2601 et seq., and Regulation X (24 C.F.R. sections 3500 et seq.) governs disclosures to borrowers of the closing costs associated with residential loan transactions. RESPA is a “consumer protection” statute, enacted in 1974 to protect borrowers whose loans will be secured by a mortgage against one-to-four family residential property.

RESPA/TILA Class Actions Uncategorized



Hardy v. Regions Mortgage Class Action Defense Case: Eleventh Circuit Holds No Private Right Of Action Under RESPA

May 20, 2006 | By: Michael J. Hassen

District Court Properly Granted Defense Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings in Class Action Because no Private Right of Action Exists Under Federal Real Estate Settlement Practices Act (RESPA) Eleventh Circuit Holds On May 26, 2006, the Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit affirmed a judgment entered on a motion for judgment on the pleadings in a putative class action alleging RESPA (Real Estate Settlement Practices Act) violations on the ground that no private right of action exists under Section 10 of RESPA.

Class Action Court Decisions RESPA/TILA Class Actions Uncategorized