Bankruptcy

PHH Mortgage Corporation v. Rodney Johnson Sr, S.D. Texas

The lack of transparency in certain court cases in the Southern District Federal Court, Houston Div’n has been ratcheted up in recent months.

PHH Mortg. Corp. v. Johnson, Civil Action 4:20-cv-01968 (S.D. Tex. Sep. 23, 2021)

Judge Charles Eskridge affirms the sale of the Johnson’s investment property for $600k as granted by Bankruptcy Judge Marvin Isgur who called PHH Mortgage Corp. and their foreclosure mill lawyers ‘despicable’ for their fraud and perjury on the court.

REPUBLISHED: OCT 9, 2021

EXTRACT FROM TRANSCRIPT REPORT, RE TRIAL ON MONDAY, 27 APRIL, 2020

 THE COURT (JUDGE ISGUR):

“I didn’t get any motion to allow you to vary from the proof of claim form.

I got a motion to allow you to amend the proof of claim to something that is
FALSE.

That’s despicable. It’s denied.

The motion to sell is approved. Thank you.”

OPINION AND ORDER AFFIRMING THE JUDGMENT OF THE BANKRUPTCY COURT

Hon. Charles Eskridge

Appellant PHH Mortgage Corporation appeals from an order of the United States Bankruptcy Court allowing the sale of a residential property free and clear under 11 USC § 363(f), upon finding that it would satisfy all estate debts. Dkt 6.

The decision of the bankruptcy court is affirmed.

1. Background

Appellee Rodney Johnson, Sr is the Chapter 13 debtor in the underlying bankruptcy proceeding. He owns a residential property located along the Brays Bayou one mile southwest of the University of Houston.

His mortgage was originally with GreenPoint Mortgage Funding, Inc. GreenPoint later assigned the deed of trust to PHH.

See ROA 663-91 (deed of trust).

Johnson subsequently defaulted on the mortgage.

He filed a voluntary Chapter 13 bankruptcy petition in August 2019 after the property was set for a foreclosure sale.

See ROA 15-109.

PHH filed a proof of claim on October 15, 2019, asserting a total amount owed of $412, 825.11.

See ROA 654-58.

The proof of claim noted that a debt for that amount was secured by the subject property.

PHH purported to reserve a right to amend its proof of claim.

ROA 658.

Johnson filed a Chapter 13 plan on October 24, 2019.

ROA 114-27.

He proposed to pay all his debts in full over the life of the plan, including that owed to PHH.

The plan listed the market value of the property as $1,000,000.

And it listed the debt to PHH as $412, 825.11 – the same amount PHH asserted in its proof of claim. ROA 121.

Johnson filed an amended plan on December 2, 2019 that proposed to fully pay PHH’s claim from the proceeds of a sale of the subject property.

ROA 160-77.

He also that day filed an emergency motion under 11 USC § 363(f) requesting permission to sell the real property free and clear of liens, claims, and encumbrances.

ROA 141-44.

He explained that he had received an offer of $550, 000 for the property from Troy L. Marsaw.

ROA 146-57 (sales contract).

This sum, Johnson explained, would allow him to repay PHH the amount stated in its proof of claim, as well as all other creditors.

No party objected to the emergency motion, which the bankruptcy court granted on December 3, 2019.

ROA 178.

PHH also stated no objection to the plan. The bankruptcy court confirmed the plan on December 27, 2019.

ROA 179.

Johnson then requested a payoff statement from PHH in order to close the sale.

But PHH filed an amended proof of claim on January 20, 2020, this time asserting an amount owed of $939,465.80.

ROA 729-50.

Johnson objected to the amended claim and moved a second time under Section 363(f) to sell the property free and clear on an emergency basis.

ROA 180-83, 187-96.

This time, PHH objected, generally asserting that the sale constituted bad faith and improper self-dealing based on a scheme between Johnson and Marsaw.

ROA 215-20.

The bankruptcy court heard argument on the motion to sell on March 13, 2020.

ROA 1065-1108.

PHH primarily contended that the motion should be denied because – contrary to Johnson’s assertions – the sale wouldn’t satisfy all estate debts. This contention was based on the proposed sale yielding $600, 000 (well below the listed market value of $1, 000, 000), where its amended claim (if allowed) was for $939, 465.80.

See ROA 121 (property value), 1101-02 (bankruptcy court noting sale to be below market value), 934-36 (PHH argument on amended claim).

PHH also argued that the proposed sale of the property to Marsaw constituted a sale to an insider.

ROA 1086-87.

The bankruptcy court excluded certain exhibits offered by PHH that purported to show Johnson’s relationship with Marsaw.

It also didn’t allow PHH to question Johnson and Marsaw about their relationship.

ROA 1085-88, 1100-01.

The bankruptcy court explained that the prohibition on self-dealing doesn’t apply if all debts are to be paid in full, while also determining that any evidence of self-dealing was relevant only if the amended proof of claim was allowed.

ROA 1086-88. And it set further hearing on whether to allow the amendment.

ROA 1101-04.

That later hearing took place on April 27, 2020.

ROA 1024- 64.

The amended proof of claim on its face didn’t disclose that any payments had been made over the course of the loan or after default, nor was there any other information such as accrued interest claimed to be due.

ROA 729-45.

Johnson called PHH’s designated corporate representative to testify as to the preparation and filing of the amended proof of claim.

ROA 1030.

Questioning concerned whether the figure listed in the amended claim accounted for mortgage payments PHH received from 2009 to 2019.

In short, it didn’t.

ROA 1038-40, 1050-54.

PHH’s corporate representative also testified that PHH had in fact received payments during that period.

ROA 1050.

The bankruptcy court disallowed the amended proof of claim, explaining that the failure to account for such payments meant that it was “palpably false.”

ROA 1059, 1062-63.

The bankruptcy court concluded by stating, “I got a motion to allow you to amend the proof of claim to something that is false. That’s despicable. It’s denied. The motion to sell is approved.”

ROA 1063.

PHH timely appealed. Dkt 1.

2. Legal standard

Federal district courts have jurisdiction to hear appeals from final judgments or orders of the bankruptcy courts. 28 USC § 158(a)(1). A district court functions as an appellate court when reviewing the decision of a bankruptcy court as to a core proceeding, and so applies the same standard of review as would a federal appellate court.

See In re Webb, 954 F.2d 1102, 1103-04 (5th Cir 1992).

Findings of fact are thus reviewed for clear error, while conclusions of law and mixed questions of fact and law are reviewed de novo.

In re Seven Seas Petroleum Inc, 522 F.3d 575, 583 (5th Cir 2008); see also Fed R Bankr P 8013.

But matters within the discretion of a bankruptcy court are reviewed only for abuse of discretion.

In re Gandy, 299 F.3d 489, 494 (5th Cir 2002).

A bankruptcy court abuses its discretion when it applies an improper legal standard or bases its decision on clearly erroneous findings of fact.

In re Crager, 691 F.3d 671, 675 (5th Cir 2012).

And on review of purported abuse of discretion, the district court “may affirm if there are grounds in the record to support the judgment, even if those grounds were not relied upon” by the bankruptcy court.

In re Green Hills Development Co, 741 F.3d 651, 656 & n 17 (5th Cir 2014) (citations omitted).

Whether to allow a claimant to file an amended proof of claim is a decision within the discretion of the bankruptcy court.

In re Kolstad, 928 F.2d 171, 175 (5th Cir 1991).

So is a decision by the bankruptcy court to exclude evidence at hearing.

In re Repine, 536 F.3d 512, 518 (5th Cir 2008).

FULL RECORD ON APPEAL SHOWING

Upon review, LIT found that multiple foreclosure mills have worked on this case over the years and billed work, including Barrett Daffin (BDF Law Group).

Furthermore, the increase in the settlement figure to clear the debt claimed by PHH Ocwen from $413k to $950k (as per the false and perjured affidavit of known foreclosure mill Mackie Wolf) and based on a property est. value of $1 million provides further proof of how corrupt this organization is, including the entourage of foreclosure mill lawyers.

3. Analysis

PHH raises four issues on appeal:

o First, whether the bankruptcy court applied an incorrect standard for consideration of Johnson’s motion to sell;
o Second, whether the bankruptcy court applied an incorrect standard for consideration of Johnson’s objection to the amended proof of claim;
o Third, whether the bankruptcy court properly declined to allow PHH to question Johnson and Marsaw about certain aspects of their relationship and history of transactions; and o Fourth, whether the bankruptcy court properly excluded or denied consideration of evidence concerning certain aspects of the relationship and history of transactions between Johnson and Marsaw.
Dkt 6 at 13-16.

Answering two questions resolves all four of these issues.

Was the bankruptcy court within its discretion to deny PHH leave to amend its proof of claim?

It was-and that answer resolves the second issue above.

Does Section 363 of the Bankruptcy Code prohibit self-dealing if the proposed transaction will satisfy all debts of the estate?

It doesn’t – and given that the bankruptcy court permissibly disallowed the amended claim, that answer resolves the first, third, and fourth issues above.

a. Amended proof of claim

Was the bankruptcy court within its discretion to deny PHH leave to amend its proof of claim?

Federal Rule of Bankruptcy Procedure 7015 pertains to amended and supplemental pleadings and states that Rule 15 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure “applies in adversary proceedings.”

And so the standard for whether to allow an amended proof of claim is the same as that for whether to allow, for instance, an amended complaint. Matter of Schwager, 121 F.3d 177, 186 (5th Cir 1997).

Courts thus consider various equitable factors when determining whether to allow an amended claim, including undue delay, bad faith, repeated failure to cure deficiencies, undue prejudice to the opposing party, and the futility of the amendment.

See In re iHeartMedia Inc, 2019 WL 1590546, *3 (Bankr S.D. Tex) (citations omitted); see also Torch Liquidating Trust v Stockstill, 561 F.3d 377, 391 (5th Cir 2009) (citation omitted) (stating same factors as to Rule 15).

As to futility, an amended proof of claim is futile if it doesn’t comply with applicable law.

A proof of claim must at a minimum follow Federal Rule of Bankruptcy Procedure 3001(a), which provides that a proof of claim must “conform substantially to the appropriate Official Form.”

Official Form 10 in turn requires that a proof of claim consist of “(1) a creditor’s name and address, (2) basis for claim, (3) date debt incurred, (4) amount of claim, (5) classification of claim, and (6) supporting documents.”

See In re Armstrong, 320 BR 97, 103-04 (Bankr ND Tex 2005).

The burden is on the creditor to provide a sufficient proof of claim and supporting evidence.

See In re North Bay General Hospital, 404 BR 443, 464 (Bankr S.D. Tex 2009) (citations omitted).

And the supporting documents must also substantiate the amount of the debt claimed.

See In re DePugh, 409 BR 84, 107-08 (Bankr S.D. Tex 2009); In re Armstrong, 320 BR at 105-06.

As to proofs of claim for mortgage claims in particular, bankruptcy courts typically require a loan history detailing payments made by the debtor.

For example, see In re Bryant, 600 BR 533, 537 (Bankr ND Tex 2019); In re Armistead, 2012 WL 3202964, *1 (Bankr S.D. Tex).

As one bankruptcy court explains, “A complete and accurate payment history is critical to substantiate the amount of a mortgage creditor’s claim.”

In re Bowen, 619 BR 135, 139 (Bankr D S.C. 2020).

It appeared at the April 27th hearing that the amended proof of claim proposed by PHH asserted a total amount owed as if no mortgage payments had been made from 2009 to 2019.

ROA 729-45 (amended claim), 1057-63 (hearing transcript).

But the PHH corporate representative directly confirmed on questioning by the bankruptcy court that payments had indeed been received during this time.

ROA 1050.

That concession meant that the debt asserted in the amended claim was (at the very least) inaccurate. Indeed, the bankruptcy court found it to be “palpably false” and denied leave to make the amendment on that basis.

ROA 1062.

That conclusion flowed directly from evidence and testimony before the bankruptcy court. It was thus within its discretion to disallow the amended proof of claim.

No abuse of discretion appears concerning PPH’s second issue on appeal.

b. Purported self-dealing

Does Section 363 of the Bankruptcy Code prohibit self-dealing if the proposed transaction will satisfy all debts of the estate?

“Section 363 of the Bankruptcy Code governs the sale, use, or lease of property of the estate, allowing the trustee to sell ‘property of the estate,’ other than in the ordinary course of business.”

Matter of VCR I LLC, 922 F.3d 323, 326 (5th Cir 2019), quoting In re Moore, 608 F.3d 253, 257 (5th Cir 2010).

Such a sale “requires notice and a hearing and is subject to court approval and must be supported by an articulated business justification, good business judgment, or sound business reasons.”

Matter of VCR I LLC, 922 F.3d 323, 326 (5th Cir 2019), quoting In re Moore, 608 F.3d 253, 263 (5th Cir 2010), in turn citing In re Continental Air Lines Inc, 780 F.2d 1223, 1226 (5th Cir 1986).

And a property may be sold free and clear of all other interests under Section 363(f) if five enumerated conditions are met-none of which PHH challenges on appeal.

See In re Continental Air Lines, 780 F.2d at 1226.

PHH nonetheless asserts that a “decision to sell Property under Section 363 must not be based on self-interest or self-dealing and must be in good faith”- even if the proposed sale would satisfy all estate debts.

Dkt 6 at 13.

It cites in support only In re Southern Manufacturing Group LLC, 2016 WL 3344787 (Bankr D SC).

But the court there – in a context where “all parties with an interest in the Assets have consented to the sale” – observed only generally the noncontroversial proposition that the sale decision mustn’t be compromised by “self interest or self dealing.”

Id. at *2.

Such statement plainly wasn’t a holding applicable to the issue at hand.

And no decision of the Fifth Circuit or any of its district or bankruptcy courts appears to support the proposition that a creditor may object to a sale of property free and clear on the basis of self-dealing where the proposed sale will satisfy all estate debts.

There also appears to be no decision (including In re Southern Manufacturing) overturning such a sale because of self-dealing where that sale satisfied all estate debts.

The reason seems obvious enough.

The central concern is that any such sale be in the “best interest” of the estate.

See In re ASARCO LLC, 650 F.3d 593, 603 (5th Cir 2011).

And the “payment of all claims is the quintessential definition of what is in the best interest of any bankruptcy estate.”

In re 9 Houston LLC, 578 BR 600, 611 (Bankr S.D. Tex 2017), citing In re Sasso, 572 BR 331, 338 (Bankr D NM 2017).

A transaction that will pay all claims is thus necessarily one based on good business judgment. An assertion of self-dealing of the sort presented here is beside the point.

The inquiry is, in some ways, akin to the injury-in-fact component of the constitutional-standing analysis.

For example, see Lujan v Defenders of Wildlife, 504 U.S. 555, 563-64 (1992).

Or better, perhaps, in sporting terms – no harm, no foul. And clearly, PHH isn’t considered injured here (and so has no basis to object to the proposed sale) unless its amended claim is allowed.

It has already been determined that the bankruptcy court was within its discretion to disallow the amended proof of claim.

This means that the bankruptcy court was also well within its discretion to allow the sale, to not allow PHH to question Johnson and Marsaw on their relationship, and to exclude PHH’s evidence on that relationship.

The bankruptcy court was within its discretion concerning PPH’s first, third, and fourth issues on appeal.

4. Conclusion

The appeal by PHH Mortgage Corporation has been fully considered on review of the record in light of governing authority.

Dkt 6.

The bankruptcy court didn’t abuse its discretion as to the challenged order allowing sale of the subject property.

The judgment of the bankruptcy court is affirmed.

Of all the court case listings, the foreclosure complaints, bank and nonbank complaints do not detail the parties and the judges on courtlistener.com these days – when referring to S.D. Texas federal court. It’s duly noted y’all are hiding public information again – willfully.

LIT UPDATES

JUL 29, 2021

Briefs submitted and last docket #15 is still the latest in the case (Appellants reply brief, May 6, 2021).

MAR 23, 2021

Response deadline was today, Tues 23rd March by Johnson but there’s a motion for an extn of time submitted on March 22 which is percolating at time of checking (7.30 pm cst).

Order granted to transmission of appeal record on Apr. 23, 2021. (Doc 14).

PHH Mortgage Corporation (4:20-cv-01968)

District Court, S.D. Texas

This should be styled PHH Mortgage Corporation v. Rodney Johnson Snr and the Judge should be named, aka Charles Eskridge.

MAR 20, 2021

ORDER DENYING MOTION TO DISMISS

The motion by Appellee Rodney Johnson Sr to dismiss the bankruptcy appeal by Appellant PHH Mortgage Corporation as moot is denied. Dkt 4.

Johnson first argues that the appeal seeks reversal of the order of the bankruptcy court that approved the sale of his home.

And so, he says, such posture is deemed moot by 11 USC 363(m). Id at 5–7. But an appellant may seek reversal of a sale order notwithstanding § 363(m) where, for instance, it challenges whether the purchase was made in good faith. For example, see In re BNP Petroleum Corp, 642 F Appx 429, 434 (5th Cir 2016), citing In re TMT Procurement Corp, 396 F3d 632, 638 (5th Cir 2005).

PHH raises such challenge here. See Dkt 6 at 13, citing ROA 1087–88.

Mootness does not apply.

Johnson also argues that PHH failed to challenge on appeal the denial by the bankruptcy court of its motion to amend its proof of claim.

He also argues in the alternative that PHH is precluded from raising this issue by the order of the bankruptcy court that confirmed the second bankruptcy plan. See Dkt 4 at 7–8.

This is meritless.

The record clearly shows that the bankruptcy judge denied the motion to amend the proof of claim because he thought amendment improper—not because PHH was precluded from seeking amendment. See ROA 1062–63.

Johnson fails to explain or cite authority why a prior order precludes PHH from challenging a later, independent one. And PHH plainly asserts this issue on appeal. See Dkt 5 at 3–4; Dkt 6 at 14–15.

The motion to dismiss by Appellee Rodney Johnson Sr is DENIED. Dkt 4.

Johnson is reminded that he must file his response brief within thirty days of entry of this order, being March 24, 2021. Dkt 8.

SO ORDERED.

Signed on February 23, 2021, at Houston, Texas.

 

 

 

Hon. Charles Eskridge
United States District Judge

PHH Mortgage Corporation and the Anti-Consumer Agency CFPB’s Relationship is Undoubtedly Incestuous

Here’s proof that Wall Street has controlled and conspired with the US Govt in the Greatest Theft of Citizens Homes in American History.

Dissenting Second Circuit Appeals Judge Joseph Bianco Slams PHH Mortgage’s Sanction Outcome

The bankruptcy court levied substantial financial penalties on PHH to convey a message that they must not violate court orders repeatedly.

PHH Mortgage’s Obstructionism Crushed by Judge Doris Pryor’s Ruling for Intervenors

Intervenor Plaintiffs seek to modify the protective order so that they can access materials produced by Ocwen in this case – granted.

U.S. District Court
SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF TEXAS (Houston)
CIVIL DOCKET FOR CASE #: 4:20-cv-01968

PHH Mortgage Corporation
Assigned to: Judge Charles Eskridge

Case in other court:  SDTX Bankruptcy, 19-34397

Cause: 28:0158 Notice of Appeal re Bankruptcy Matter (BA)

Date Filed: 06/04/2020
Date Terminated: 09/23/2021
Jury Demand: None
Nature of Suit: 422 Bankruptcy Appeal (801)
Jurisdiction: Federal Question
In Re
Rodney Johnson, Sr. represented by Reese W Baker
Baker Associates
950 Echo Lane
Ste 200
Houston, TX 77024
713-869-9200
Fax: 713-869-9100
Email: courtdocs@bakerassociates.net
LEAD ATTORNEY
ATTORNEY TO BE NOTICED
Appellant
PHH Mortgage Corporation
as mortgage servicer for HSBC Bank USA, National Association, as trustee for Deutsche Alt-A Securities Inc. Mortgage Loan Trust, Mortgage PassThrough Certificates Series 2007-1.
represented by Michael John Burns
Bonial & Associates PC
14841 Dallas Pkwy
Ste 425
Dallas, TX 75254
972-643-6600
Email: michael.burns@bonialpc.com
LEAD ATTORNEY
ATTORNEY TO BE NOTICED
V.
Appellee
Rodney Johnson, Sr. represented by Reese W Baker
(See above for address)
LEAD ATTORNEY
ATTORNEY TO BE NOTICED

 

Date Filed # Docket Text
06/04/2020 1 Clerks Notice of Filing of an Appeal from an Order of the Bankruptcy Court. On 6/3/2020, PHH Mortgage Corporation filed a notice of appeal. The appeal has been assigned to U.S. District Judge Charles Eskridge, Civil Action 4:20-cv-1968. Parties notified, filed. (Attachments: # 1 Notice of Appeal)(ShoshanaArnow, 4) (Entered: 06/04/2020)
07/22/2020 2 Bankruptcy Record on Appeal. The attached documents represent all designated items to be included as the Record on Appeal in this matter, filed.(ShoshanaArnow, 4) (Entered: 07/22/2020)
07/22/2020 3 Notice of Docketing an Appeal under Bankruptcy Rule 8018. On 7/22/2020, the appeal was transmitted to the U.S. District Court, assigned Judge Charles Eskridge, Civil Action 4:20-cv-1968. All appellate filings must now be made in the United States District Court with the civil action caption and case number. Parties notified, filed.(ShoshanaArnow, 4) (Entered: 07/22/2020)
07/29/2020 4 MOTION to Dismiss Appeal by Rodney Johnson, Sr, filed. Motion Docket Date 8/19/2020. (Attachments: # 1 Proposed Order, # 2 Exhibit, # 3 Exhibit, # 4 Exhibit)(Baker, Reese) (Entered: 07/29/2020)
08/10/2020 5 OBJECTIONS to 4 MOTION to Dismiss Appeal , filed by PHH Mortgage Corporation. (Attachments: # 1 Proposed Order)(Burns, Michael) (Entered: 08/10/2020)
08/21/2020 6 Appellant’s BRIEF by PHH Mortgage Corporation, filed.(Burns, Michael) (Entered: 08/21/2020)
08/25/2020 7 Unopposed MOTION for Extension of Time Appellee Brief by Rodney Johnson, Sr, filed. Motion Docket Date 9/15/2020. (Attachments: # 1 Proposed Order)(Baker, Reese) (Entered: 08/25/2020)
08/25/2020 8 ORDER granting 7 Motion for Extension of Time. Appellee has 30 days after this Court rules on the motion to dismiss to file his appellee brief in this appeal.(Signed by Judge Charles Eskridge) Parties notified.(jengonzalez, 4) (Entered: 08/25/2020)
02/23/2021 9 ORDER DENYING MOTION TO DISMISS denying 4 Motion to Dismiss.(Signed by Judge Charles Eskridge) Parties notified.(jengonzalez, 4) (Entered: 02/23/2021)
03/22/2021 10 MOTION for Extension of Time Appellee Brief by Rodney Johnson, Sr, filed. Motion Docket Date 4/12/2021. (Attachments: # 1 Proposed Order)(Baker, Reese) (Entered: 03/22/2021)
03/26/2021 11 ORDER granting 10 Motion for Extension of Time. Appellee Brief due by 04/23/2021.(Signed by Judge Charles Eskridge) Parties notified.(jengonzalez, 4) (Entered: 03/29/2021)
04/20/2021 12 Agreed MOTION Appellee Motion to Complete the Transmission of the Designated Record on Appeal by Rodney Johnson, Sr, filed. Motion Docket Date 5/11/2021. (Attachments: # 1 Proposed Order)(Baker, Reese) (Entered: 04/20/2021)
04/22/2021 13 Appellee’s BRIEF by Rodney Johnson, Sr, filed.(Baker, Reese) (Entered: 04/22/2021)
04/23/2021 14 ORDER granting 12 Agreed MOTION Appellee Motion to Complete the Transmission of the Designated Record on Appeal. (Signed by Judge Charles Eskridge) Parties notified.(jengonzalez, 4) (Entered: 04/23/2021)
05/06/2021 15 Appellant’s REPLY BRIEF by PHH Mortgage Corporation, filed.(Burns, Michael) (Entered: 05/06/2021)
09/23/2021 16 OPINION AND ORDER AFFIRMING THE JUDGMENT OF THE BANKRUPTCY COURT re: The appeal by PHH Mortgage Corporation has been fully considered on review of the record in light of governing authority. Dkt 6. The bankruptcy court didn’t abuse its discretion as to the challenged order allowing sale of the subject property. The judgment of the bankruptcy court is AFFIRMED.(Signed by Judge Charles Eskridge) Parties notified.(jengonzalez, 4) (Entered: 09/23/2021)
PHH Mortgage Corporation v. Rodney Johnson Sr, S.D. Texas
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