All items from Tough Times for Lenders

I have found this to be true over and over again.  Maybe it’s just my line of work.
Grump Cat
Part of my regular practice is being called in by the transactional lawyers (paper pushers) as they paper up a new loan or re-fi.  My job in those situations is to give my thoughts on what will happen should the worst occur (eg, default, receivership, bankruptcy, lawsuit, etc.) and how to minimize the risks to the lender.
Often times, identifying potential fraudulent transfer exposure on the front end is of concern when the lender creates some type of relationship with a non-borrower affiliate or insider of the borrower. The usual situation is a guarantor, but other situations exist such as payment from a non-borrower affiliate.  A recent 5th Circuit case discusses such a situation.
The Background – Skip this if you are Familiar with Fraudulent Transfers
There are a few types of “fraudulent transfers” under both federal and state law.  Generally speaking, however, a fraudulent transfer occurs in two ways:



Posted 3 days 3 hours ago

I’m back. Back to blogging. Home here at L360.
The Return of the Prodigal Son Painting by Bartholome Esteban Murillo National Gallery of Art (Washington, D.C.) The Return of the Prodigal Son
Painting by Bartholome Esteban Murillo
National Gallery of Art (Washington, D.C.)
Several years ago, Kevin O’Keefe or Tom Mighell (one of them) commented that the majority of legal blogs last less than a year. Clearly, I’m one of them on quiting. It just took me longer to quit.
I stopped regularly blogging after 4 years (from September, 2008 until October 2012), and after over 420 blog entries. Always focusing on commercial finance, I started blogging on distressed debt topics (under the “ToughTimesForLenders” blog name).  As the economy (kind of) recovered, the blog became “Lenders360blog” in order to cover “positive” finance topics. Finally, technology was added since it is an operational pillar for all commercial lenders.



Posted 1 week 2 days ago

Last week Regions Bank sued Comerica Bank seeking a declaration that Regions is not liable to Comerica in connection with their $53MM syndicate loan to a plant nursery that went very wrong.  Regions Bank v. Comerica Bank, civil action 3:14-cv-3607, pending in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Texas.
In short:

  • The two banks loaned $53MM (total) to the plant nursery based on allegedly massively fraudulent inventory numbers.
  • The nursery filed bankruptcy and basically everyone apparently got sued for the alleged fraud.
  • Comerica allegedly has been threatening Regions with a lawsuit for misrepresentation or fraud for talking them into the syndicate.
  • Rather than wait for the lawsuit, Regions filed its declaratory judgment action.
  • In the lawsuit, Regions asserts that Comerica contractually waived any reliance on facts or representations that Regions provided to Comerica.  Thus, argues Regions, Regions cannot be liable to Comerica on account of Comerica relying on any information Regions forwarded to Comerica about the borrower.

There are a number of issues related to the lawsuit that are worthy of analysis.  (There are also a number of one-liners about money not growing on trees).  However, as the case is only a week old it provides a good avenue to illustrate the two levels of reliance waivers in Texas.



Posted 1 week 5 days ago

If you’re the bank’s attorney, the answer is always going to be the Cayman Islands.  Nothing against Odessa, they just don’t have much of a beach.
But, if you are the bank, chances are you would rather be local if you need to sue.  In the recent Fifth Circuit case Monkton Insurance Services v. Ritter, case 13-50941, the Fifth Circuit agreed with Cayman Island bank Butterfield Bank (Cayman) Ltd. that a lawsuit against the bank needed to be filed in the islands.
In the Monkton case, William Ritter formed a Cayman Island insurance company which was managed by the Cayman Island management company, Monkton.  David Self was the Monkton employee that was in charge of managing the insurance company.  Presumably, the insurance company was conducting legitimate business and performing reasonably well, because it had about $500K in its Butterfield Bank account which Self, allegedly, made off with.
Allegedly, Self forged Ritter’s signatures.  Ritter was somewhat upset and demanded repayment, which Self paid by (again, allegedly) simply taking funds from other clients’ accounts.  Lawsuits ensued.
Whereas Ritter lived in Odessa, Texas, Monkton sued Ritter for return of the cash that Self had paid to Ritter personally.  Ritter then filed a third-party lawsuit against Butterfield Bank in Odessa (as part of the Monkton lawsuit).  Basically, Ritter was claiming lender liability for failure to spot the forged withdrawal documents.



Posted 2 weeks 4 days ago

Believe it or not, when you (the good guy) accidently produce in discovery an internal memo which is subject to attorney-client privilege to the bad guys (the guys suing you), the bad guys might not give back all the copies.  And, if you are really unlucky, the bad guys will distribute it to other bad guys also suing you for similar reasons.  You might even litigate the issue to the Fifth Circuit court of appeals and win, but the cat will be out of the bag.
In the Fifth Circuit case Exxon Mobil v. Hill, No. 13-30830 the Court held that an internal memo discussing the radioactivity of material (and its harm) was subject to attorney-client privilege. The Court held that the nature of its creation precluded the need to provide the memo in discovery (even though people got very sick from the radiation).  However, the cautionary tale is that even though the plaintiff returned a copy, he did not return all copies of the memo that was accidently shared.  What ensured was years of litigation.
At the center of the case is a memo drafted by Exxon’s in-house counsel concerning whether to provide radioactivity test results (related to drilling pipe) to a potential contractual counter party who was offering to clean the drilling pipe as a contractor.  In the memo, the in-house counsel opines that Exxon should only provide the information specifically requested by the contractor and that Exxon would not provide the additional information which showed a significantly higher level or radioactivity.



Posted 2 weeks 4 days ago

Over the last few weeks, I’ve commented on the new version of the OCC’s Commercial Real Estate Lending Handbook (I give it a gentlemen’s C); and I listed a few legal topics that deserve some guidance from the OCC.
“Guidance” could even merely be a list of important topics (ending with a warning that the list is NOT an all-inclusive list).
I expect legal issues to be identified and put on the “check the box” list by the OCC  - with the banks expect to check the box.
The "Blank" List
 
Unfortunately, instead of leading the class by at least listing legal issues associated with risks in commercial real estate lending, the OCC implicitly affirms those banks that under value and under utilize legal counsel.  (Let’s resist the temptation to comment on “why” this takes place.)
Fortunately, some banks are very good at identifying and monitoring legal issues. Several of them do this by a simple two step process:



Posted 1 year 1 week ago

In an earlier posting, I reviewed the OCC’s new Commercial Real Estate Lending handbook .  The purpose of the handbook is to give parenting – I mean guidance – on risks inherent in commercial real estate lending.  On legal topics, the handbook takes a mind-boggling approach: it swings from legal light, to “I know it when I see it,” to neglect.   Even with this inconsistency, my main complaint with the handbook is that, with a few exceptions, it misses the opportunity to give bank examiners and lenders guidance on important legal topics.  Based on this, I give the handbook a gentleman’s C.  (One reader followed up with me, and gave it a D.) 
As we all know, guidance often comes in a list (starting with your first ”star chart” on the kitchen refrigerator). The OCC lending handbook needs a “star chart” on important legal topics.
 



Posted 1 year 2 weeks ago

Last month, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency published the Commercial Real Estate Lending handbook (August 2013).  The 128 page handbook gives guidance to bank examiners and bankers on risks inherent in commercial real estate (“CRE”) lending.  It replaces a 95 page version published in 1995 (and revised in 1998).
For this new school year and since commerical real estae lending is increasing in the “recovering” economy, I expected the OCC’s CRE lending handbook to grade-out with an “A+.”
Instead, it is a solid, gentleman’s “C.”

Make that a fraternity “C.”
Your Company is in this picture, too!



Posted 1 year 5 weeks ago

The July 2013 issue of the “Mortgage Banking” magazine focuses on the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (or “CFPB”).  The coverline  is this: “CFPB – A Powerful New Overseer.”
Why my interest in this issue and coverline?
In the past, commercial lenders (and their lawyers) blissfully ignored anything involving consumer lending.  We quickly distanced ourselves from any meeting involving discussions of consumer loan documentation, compliance audits, data collection (and access), and the byzantine consumer lending regulations.
Residential lending was . . . but not really . . . but really . . . the “other side” of the lending family.
This is changing.
The residential obsession (on rules, lending policies, data collection and compliance inquiries) will radically change commercial lending.  It is more than a shadow on the wall.

In every industry meeting attended by me in the past year, anticipating the impact of the CFPB upon commercial lending is a top-tier topic.  Although not a formal agenda item, the discussions are not “if” this will occur – the discussions are “when?”



Posted 1 year 15 weeks ago

In many cities, urban growth now fills the farmland that once surrounded Navy and Air Force airfields.  Real estate development and finance near Navy and Air Force runways, however, requires special attention to a special set of restrictions called “AICUZ.”  These Department of Defense regulations severely restrict land located near military runways.  It is easy to overlook (or overfly) them in your review of real estate title, because they sometimes are implemented as zoning restrictions – and typically not expressly listed in the real estate title commitment or report.
Think of AICUZ as “stealth” or hidden restrictions on the development and use of real property.
As an Air Force brat, I literally lived under the sights and sounds of the F-86 Sabre, the F-101 Vodoo, the F-4 Phantom and the B-52 Stratofortress, with an occasional U-2.



Posted 1 year 18 weeks ago