Monday, May 25, 2015

Collection: Pre Default Waiver of Notice of Sale is Void

    In the case Woodward v. Resource Bank, from the Circuit Court, City of Virginia Beach, the Virginia Supreme Court reviewed provisions in a promissory note that provided for the debtors' waiver of notice of the default sale of the collateral securing the loan. In Woodward, a married couple operated a gas station and convenience store in Portsmouth and desired to expand. The couple obtained the financing necessary to purchase a store in Virginia Beach (the Pavilion Store) from a bank. In doing so the couple executed a note for $80,000.00 which was secured by a second deed of trust on their home, as well as with security interests in the inventory and equipment at the Pavilion Store. Later the couple decided to purchase a third store in Virginia Beach. They obtained financing from the same bank by executing a note in the amount of $90,900.00, and by signing a security agreement which granted the bank a security interest in the equipment and inventory of all three stores. The bank required the principal shareholders of the corporation to sign a guaranty for $45,000.00 of the $90,900.00 note. The guarantee agreement stated that the liability of the guarantors would not be affected by "any failure to ... give any required notices" by the bank.
     The couple defaulted on the note and the bank demanded that the guarantors honor their respective guaranties. Thereafter, the bank sold the collateral securing the notes without formal notice. The collateral was sold at prices far below the stated value. The shareholders argued that they were entitled to notice of the sale, notwithstanding that they had signed pre-default waivers of notice, because they were "debtors" within the meaning of Virginia Code §8.9-105(1)(d) and §8.9-504(3). The Virginia Beach Circuit Court agreed with the bank that the waivers precluded the necessity of giving notice, but the Virginia Supreme Court ruled that since the shareholders were "debtors" within the meaning of the statutes, they were entitled to notice of the disposition of the collateral. Applying the plain language of Virginia Code §8.9-504(3), the Virginia Supreme Court held that the notice provision contained therein may not be waived before the occurrence of a default.
     The Virginia Supreme Court further ruled that a rebuttable presumption arose that the value of the collateral that the bank sold equaled the amount of the debt because the bank failed to give notice to the guarantors, and because the sale was thus "commercially-unreasonable". Virginia Code §8.9-504(3) requires that every aspect of the disposition of collateral, including "the method, manner, time, place and terms must be commercially reasonable". Because the bank failed to rebut this presumption by putting on evidence to the contrary, the Court ruled that the indebtedness was extinguished, and the creditor was precluded from further collection.
     The lesson of Woodward is simple: always obtain a legal opinion regarding sales of reclaimed security, and always follow the requirements of the applicable statutes.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Foreclosure: Sale Price and Delays in Sale

     The trustee is under a duty to “use all reasonable diligence to obtain the best price.”
     If the trustee determines that in order to fulfill his fiduciary duty to realize the highest price for the property, a recess is necessary, he or she should recess the sale. Arguably, the recess is within the scope of the discretion afforded trustees in the conduct of the foreclosure sale. For example, if a bidder who previously advised the trustee of his interest in bidding on the property is delayed, the trustee, in his discretion, may recess the sale to a later hour on the same day to allow the bidder to attend the sale. If the trustee fails to accommodate the bidder and the property is sold for a price less than the bidder was willing to pay, the trustee may have breached his duty to “use all reasonable diligence to obtain the best price.” A decision by the trustee to recess the sale, however, should not impair the sale by making it impossible or impracticable for the bidders to appear and bid at the recessed sale.
     The postponement of a foreclosure sale to a different day is not a recess and is governed by statute. Virginia Code §55-59.1(D) provides that the trustee, in his discretion, may postpone the sale to a different day, and no new or additional “notice” must be given. Presumably, the “notice” referred to in this section is notice of the postponement. The trustee needs only to announce at the sale that it has been postponed. §55-59.2(D) provides that if the sale is postponed, the trustee must advertise the “new” sale in the same manner as the original advertisement. Read in conjunction, these sections require the trustee who postpones the foreclosure to re-advertise the sale in the same manner as the original sale was advertised. Although the secured obligation will not need to be accelerated again, all other aspects of the foreclosure must be completed. Effectively, a postponed sale is a new sale in which the trustee must complete all acts that he or she completed in the first sale.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Real Estate: Using Mechanic's Liens to Secure an Interest in Real Estate

     In prior editions of Creditor News (you can view these at we have been discussing the benefits of using real estate to improve creditors’ positions. As I have emphasized, properly securing debts through real estate could make the difference between collecting the funds and incurring a loss. In this blog, we will begin a review of the benefits of using mechanic’s liens to aid in the collection of your debt.
     Virginia Code §43-3 et. seq. provides for special procedures for the collection of unpaid bills related to work performed on, or products supplied for, real estate. §43-3 A states:
      “All persons performing labor or furnishing materials of the value of $150 or more … for the construction, removal, repair or improvement of any building or structure permanently annexed to the freehold … shall have a lien, if perfected as hereinafter provided, upon such building or structure, and so much land therewith as shall be necessary for the convenient use and enjoyment thereof … subject to the provisions of § 43-20. But when the claim is for repairs or improvements to existing structures only, no lien shall attach to the property repaired or improved unless such repairs or improvements were ordered or authorized by the owner, or his agent.”
     Virginia Code §43-3 B provides for special rules regarding condominiums.
     Virginia Code §§43-4, 43-7 and 43-9 provide for the perfection of the lien by general contractors, subcontractors, and laborers and suppliers. We will explore this more in another blog.
     We have experienced attorneys and staff who can examine title, file mechanic’s liens, and litigate to enforce the same.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Bankruptcy: Dischargeability of Debt - False Financial Statement in Chapter 7 Case

     Judge Tice, United States Bankruptcy Court in Richmond, denied discharge of a debt in a Chapter 7 case. The case was Global Express Money Orders, Inc. v. Davis. In Davis, the debtor previously had a convenience store that sold the creditor’s money orders through the store. The debtor still owed the creditor ($71,168.55) for some of these money orders. At issue was the debtor’s financial statement provided to the creditor at the commencement of the business between them. 
     The Court found that the debtor’s financial statement was materially false. In fact, at trial the debtor did not seriously question the inaccuracy of the statement. Rather, he tried to distance himself from its preparation and delivery to the creditor. In the financial statement the debtor provided false information as to cash in a checking account, the value of his personal residence and a beach condominium, the value of his equity in certain investments, value of mutual funds and an expected federal tax refund.
     The Court further found that the creditor required the personal financial statement of debtors as a condition precedent of the business arrangement; that the debtor, with intent to deceive, published the materially false financial statement and caused it to be delivered to the creditor; and that in contracting with the creditor and allowing the entity to incur substantial indebtedness, the creditor reasonably relied upon materially false asset entries in the financial statement, which debt was indemnified by the debtor personally.
     The Court rejected the debtor’s argument that the creditor failed to prove that he prepared the financial statement and authorized its delivery, i.e., publication with intent to deceive, to the creditor. The Court determined that the evidence showed that in the debtor’s presence and with his knowledge, the financial statement was delivered to the creditor by an (unknown) employee of the debtor’s business. The Court ruled that this evidence was sufficient to require some better explanation from the debtor than he provided. The Court stated that it did not believe the debtor’s evasive testimony that he was too busy to be bothered, and knew nothing about the contents of the financial statement or the circumstances surrounding its delivery to the creditor. The Court determined that at the very least, the debtor recklessly allowed his financial statement to be used by the creditor for its consideration of the business transaction, and his reckless indifference was sufficient to satisfy the publication with intent to deceive element of Bankruptcy Code §523(a)(2)(B).
     As to damages, the debtor argued that the loss of payment of the trust balance due was not damage or loss resulting from his publication of the false financial statement, as required by the statute. Rather, the debtor stated that the loss resulted from the failure of store employees to separate money order sales. Moreover, according to the debtor, his stores were not generating enough revenue to pay the current liabilities, and there was no evidence that he personally took funds or caused the shortage. However, the Court found it ironic that the debtor could argue that it was his employees who failed to comply with the trust agreement requirement for segregating trust fund receipts of the creditor. The debtor agreed to indemnify the creditor for his business’s indebtedness under the trust agreement, and his inability to make good on the indemnity was a direct result of his financial problems and ensuing bankruptcy. Although the Court stated that causation was not a necessary or proper element of the false financial statement issue, the Court simply found that the debtor’s false financial statement was a proximate cause of the loss.