Monday, October 27, 2014


As I attend a mandatory settlement conference this morning, I am reminded that the Appellate Division, Second Department recently ruled that a mortgagee's conduct in evaluating a borrower's loan modification application should be judged using the "totality of the circumstances" standard to determine whether the mortgagee negotiated in good faith during mandatory foreclosure settlement conferences. Applying that standard in US Bank N.A. v. Sarmiento, 2014 NY Slip Op 05533 (2d Dep't July 30, 2014), the Appellate Division affirmed a lower court's holding that a foreclosing plaintiff failed to negotiate in good faith, stating in part:

"Therefore, we hold that the issue of whether a party failed to negotiate in "good faith" within the meaning of CPLR 3408(f) should be determined by considering whether the totality of the circumstances demonstrates that the party's conduct did not constitute a meaningful effort at reaching a resolution. We reject the plaintiff's contention that, in order to establish a party's lack of good faith pursuant to CPLR 3408(f), there must be a showing of gross disregard of, or conscious or knowing indifference to, another's rights. Such a determination would permit a party to obfuscate, delay, and prevent CPLR 3408 settlement negotiations by acting negligently, but just short of deliberately, e.g., by carelessly providing misinformation and contradictory responses to inquiries, and by losing documentation. Our determination is consistent with the purpose of the statute, which provides that parties must negotiate in "good faith" in an effort to resolve the action, and that such resolution could include, "if possible," a loan modification (CPLR 3408[f]; see Wells Fargo Bank, N.A. v Meyers, 108 AD3d at 11, 18, 20, 23; Wells Fargo Bank, N.A. v Van Dyke, 101 AD3d 638 [the defendants did not demonstrate that the plaintiff failed to act in good faith because nothing in CPLR 3408 requires a plaintiff to make the exact settlement offer desired by the defendants]; HSBC Bank USA v McKenna, 37 Misc 3d 885 [Sup Ct, Kings County] [the plaintiff failed to act in good faith based upon, inter alia, a referee's finding that the plaintiff rejected an all-cash short sale offer]).

Where a plaintiff fails to expeditiously review submitted financial information, sends inconsistent and contradictory communications, and denies requests for a loan modification without adequate grounds, or, conversely, where a defendant fails to provide requested financial information or provides incomplete or misleading financial information, such conduct could constitute the failure to negotiate in good faith to reach a mutually agreeable resolution."

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