Earlier this year, an article in the law firm Stroock, Stroock & Lavan's Subprime Task Force Special Bulletin(1)
contained a discussion on the 2008 California Federal Court decision in Monaco v. Bear Stearns Residential Mortgage Corp.(2)
which, it appears to me, illustrates a way how, in California and possibly other states having similar state laws, claims for damages on account of conduct that constitutes violations of the Federal Truth In Lending Act ("TILA") can be pursued even if the one-year TILA statute of limitations has expired
. A few excerpts from the article:
- In Monaco, a federal court in California found that standard option-ARM loan documents are “ambiguous,” potentially subjecting the lender to liability for trying to enforce the loan’s terms. Making matters more difficult for the lender, the court further held that the lender’s alleged violation of the federal Truth In Lending Act (“TILA”) could create liability under California’s Unfair Competition Law (“UCL”), which provides for greater penalties than allowed under TILA, even though the borrower’s TILA claim was barred by the statute of limitations.
- Plaintiffs [Monaco & others] seek to rescind their loans by reason of alleged violations of TILA, including failure to disclose the actual interest rate and negative amortization, and, using the alleged TILA violations as a predicate, demand damages and restitution under California’s UCL.
- Bear Stearns moved to dismiss the TILA claims on the grounds that plaintiffs were not entitled to have their loans rescinded because the option-ARMs were refinancings of prior loans and because TILA’s one-year statute of limitations had expired. Second, defendants moved to dismiss the UCL claims on the grounds that TILA preempts California’s UCL and will not permit plaintiffs to win damages and penalties not permitted under TILA.
- Although the California court agreed that plaintiffs could not use TILA to rescind their loans and the TILA claim was barred by the statute of limitations, it nevertheless rejected defendants’ preemption argument:
- A State law is inconsistent with TILA if it requires a creditor to make disclosures or take actions that contradict the requirements of the Federal law. Here, Plaintiffs’ second cause of action under the UCL is based solely on Defendants’ alleged TILA violations. Nowhere do Plaintiffs suggest that Defendants failed to make certain disclosures or take certain actions not encompassed by TILA. Plaintiffs invoke the UCL solely for the additional remedies offered thereunder. Additional penalties are not inconsistent with TILA, but merely provide greater protection to consumers. (Monaco, page 7, at lines 9 through 17).
- Thus, the UCL’s longer statute of limitations enabled the Monaco plaintiffs to pursue their otherwise time-barred TILA claim and to obtain penalties that would not be permitted under TILA.(3)
For more, see Courts Act to Protect Borrowers on Option-ARM and Subprime Loans.
For the court decision, see Monaco v. Bear Stearns Residential Mortgage Corp.
For those of you who are interested, the article also contains a discussion of another pro-borrower decision referred to in this blog earlier this year, the New York decision in LaSalle Bank, N.A. v Shearon, No. 100255/2007 (Sup. Ct. Richmond County, Jan. 28, 2008).
See The Stroock Public Service Project for more on the firm's service to pro bono matters, organizations and advocacy. The Public Service Project provides a broad array of legal assistance, with a special focus on underserved and under-resourced communities in New York City.
For other posts on homeowners using Federal & state consumer protection statutes to try and undo bad mortgage loans, Go Here, Go Here, and Go Here.(1) By Julia B. Strickland, a Partner in the Class Action/Financial Services Litigation Practice Group of Stroock & Stroock & Lavan LLP, and Curtis C. Mechling, a Partner in Stroock’s Litigation Practice Group, both of whom are members of Stroock’s Subprime Task Force.
(2) No. CV 07-05607 SJO (CTx) (U.S.D.C. Central District of California, Jan. 28, 2008).(3) My guess is that, if TILA violations can be used as a predicate for damages under state consumer protection laws of other states, a similar result could be reached in those other states. UndoMortgageLoans TILAdelta