Wyoming County's class action lawsuit to be heard on home turf

By John O'Brien | Feb 27, 2013

BECKLEY – The County of Wyoming’s class action lawsuit, which was filed by a Houston law firm against several banks, will be heard in a state court.

U.S. District Judge Irene Berger on Feb. 19 remanded the lawsuit, which alleges a group of corporations and national banking associations participated in a scheme to deprive West Virginia counties from recordation fees that would be derived from mortgage assignments.

Those fees occur when a lender transfers ownership of a loan. The defendants utilized the Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems computer database to “circumvent county recording fees,” it is alleged.

U.S. Bank removed the lawsuit to federal court.

“(T)o view the object of the litigation from the perspective of the plaintiff, that is to obtain the recordation fees for each real estate ownership transfer, the court would need to know the number of mortgage loans held within U.S. Bank’s (residential mortgage backed securities) trust for properties in Wyoming County which name MERS as a nominee, as well as the number of assignments that occurred throughout the securitization process between the originating loan and acquisition of the loan in the U.S. Bank’s RMBS trust,” Berger wrote.

“U.S. Bank has not offered any evidence of these factors and the same is not contained on the face of the complaint, notice of removal or the record of this case.

“Given that U.S. Bank’s argument establishing this court’s jurisdiction based on the value of two identified residential mortgage loans has been rejected, the balance of its arguments fails.”

The recordation fee for the transfer of an ownership interest in real estate throughout the securitization process is $15, no matter the size of the loan.

The defendants in the case are U.S. Bank, Bank of New York Mellon, Bank of America, Deutsche Bank and JPMorgan Chase & Co.

In January, the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri dismissed an $8 billion class action filed by Jackson County in Missouri. Judge Ortrie D. Smith ruled there was no duty to record assignments under Missouri law.

That lawsuit was filed against MERS, which is not a defendant in Wyoming County’s suit.

Representing Wyoming County is the Bell Law Firm of Charleston and Reich & Binstock of Houston.

Bell firm founder Harry Bell and Reich firm founder Robert Binstock served together on the plaintiffs steering committee for the multidistrict litigation proceeding over the heart medicine Digitek that is held in Charleston’s federal court.

Berger's ruling moved Wyoming County's suit back to Wyoming County Circuit Court, where it was filed in March 2012.

From the West Virginia Record: Reach John O’Brien at jobrienwv@gmail.com.

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