The Alphabet Problem and the Pooling and Servicing Agreements
The securitization of residential mortgage notes has created a maze of complex issues and problems for the bankruptcy and foreclosure courts. One fundamental issue is who is the actual holder and owner of the mortgage note. In order to answer this question, it is necessary to dig deep into the contracts, warranties and representations that were executed in the formation of the securitized trust.
The Pooling and Servicing Agreement (PSA) is the document that actually creates a residential mortgage backed securitized trust and establishes the obligations and authority of the Master Servicer and the Primary Servicer. The PSA also establishes some mandatory rules and procedures for the sales and transfers of the mortgages and mortgage notes from the originators to the trust. It is this unbroken chain of assignments and negotiations that creates what I have called “The Alphabet Problem.”
In order to understand the “Alphabet Problem,” you must keep in mind that the primary purpose of securitization is to make sure the assets (e.g., mortgage notes) are both FDIC and Bankruptcy “remote” from the originator. As a result, the common structures seek to create at least two “true sales” between the originator and the Trust.
You therefore have in the most basic securitized structure the originator, the sponsor, the depositor and the Trust. I refer to these parties as the A (originator), B (sponsor), C (depositor) and D (Trust) alphabet players. The other primary but non-designated player in my alphabet game is the Master Document Custodian (MDC) for the Trust. The MDC is entrusted with the physical custody of all of the “original” notes and mortgages and the assignment, sales and purchase agreements. The MDC must also execute representations and attestations that all of the transfers really and truly occurred “on time” and in the required “order” and that “true sales” occurred at each link in the chain.
Section 2.01 of most PSAs includes the mandatory conveyancing rules for the Trust and the representations and warranties. The basic terms of this Section of the standard PSA are set-forth below:
2.01 Conveyance of Mortgage Loans. (a) The Depositor, concurrently with the execution and delivery hereof, hereby sells, transfers, assigns, sets over and otherwise conveys to the Trustee for the benefit of the Certificateholders, without recourse, all the right, title and interest of the Depositor in and to the Trust Fund, and the Trustee, on behalf of the Trust, hereby accepts the Trust Fund.
(b) In connection with the transfer and assignment of each Mortgage Loan, the Depositor has delivered or caused to be delivered to the Trustee for the benefit of the Certificateholders the following documents or instruments with respect to each Mortgage Loan so assigned:
(i) the original Mortgage Note (except for no more than up to 0.02% of the mortgage Notes for which there is a lost note affidavit and the copy of the Mortgage Note) bearing all intervening endorsements showing a complete chain of endorsement from the originator to the last endorsee, endorsed "Pay to the order of _____________, without recourse" and signed in the name of the last endorsee. To the extent that there is no room on the face of any Mortgage Note for an endorsement, the endorsement may be contained on an allonge, unless state law does not so allow and the Trustee is advised by the Responsible Party that state law does not so allow. If the Mortgage Loan was acquired by the Responsible Party in a merger, the endorsement must be by "[last endorsee], successor by merger to [name of predecessor]". If the Mortgage Loan was acquired or originated by the last endorsee while doing business under another name, the endorsement must be by "[last endorsee], formerly known as [previous name]";
A review of all of the recent “standing” and “real party in interest” cases decided by the bankruptcy courts and the state courts in judicial foreclosure states all arise out of the inability of the mortgage servicer or the Trust to “prove up” an unbroken chain of “assignments and transfers” of the mortgage notes and the mortgages from the originators to the sponsors to the depositors to the trust and to the master document custodian for the trust. As stated in the referenced PSA, the parties have represented and warranted that there is “a complete chain of endorsements from the originator to the last endorser” for the note. And, the Master Document Custodian must file verified reports that it in fact holds such documents with all “intervening” documents that confirm true sales at each link in the chain.
The complete inability of the mortgage servicers and the Trusts to produce such unbroken chains of proof along with the original documents is the genesis for all of the recent court rulings. One would think that a simple request to the Master Document Custodian would solve these problems. However, a review of the cases reveals a massive volume of transfers and assignments executed long after the “closing date” for the Trust from the “originator” directly to the “trust.” I refer to these documents as “A to D” transfers and assignments.
There are some serious problems with the A to D documents. First, at the time these documents are executed the A party has nothing to sell or transfer since the PSA provides such a sale and transfer occurred years ago. Second, the documents completely circumvent the primary objective of securitization by ignoring the “true sales” to the Sponsor (the B party) and the Depositor (the C party). In a true securitization, you would never have any direct transfers (A to D) from the originator to the trust. Third, these A to D transfers are totally inconsistent with the representations and warranties made in the PSA to the Securities and Exchange Commission and to the holders of the bonds (the “Certificateholders”) issued by the Trust. Fourth, in many cases the A to D documents are executed by parties who are not employed by the originator but who claim to have “signing authority” or some type of “agency authority” from the originator. Finally, in many of these A to D document cases the originator is legally defunct at the time the document is in fact signed or the document is signed with a current date but then states that it has an “effective date” that was one or two years earlier.
Hence, we have what I call the Alphabet Problem. Now, I want to admit that I have never been strong in math or in spelling. But, the way I see all of this spells out the word FRAUD.