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Court rules on post-merger bank foreclosure rights

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The Indiana Court of Appeals ruled that a federal statute provides the authority for a bank that survives after a merger to enforce the promissory note and mortgage established by a predecessor bank.

In CFS, LLC and Charles Blackwelder v. Bank of America, Successor in Interest to LaSalle Bank Midwest National Association, No. 29A02-1105-MF-436, the Indiana Court of Appeals affirmed a ruling by Hamilton Circuit Judge Paul Felix that granted summary judgment in favor of Bank of America.

The case involves a promissory note and construction mortgage that CFS obtained in June 2007 in exchange for a $982,500 loan from LaSalle Bank Midwest National Association. Christopher Blackwelder executed a personal guaranty of the debt, but in August 2004 Bank of America – which had merged with and was a successor-in-interest to LaSalle – filed a mortgage foreclosure complaint alleging the loan was in default. CFS admitted to the debt but asserted it didn’t have any knowledge of the merger or Bank of America’s role as successor and right to collect the balance.

Bank of America moved for summary judgment on grounds that it had merged and had the authority to collect the debt or foreclose, and after a December 2010 hearing the trial judge took the matter under advisement. He initially declined summary judgment after the bank couldn’t provide any caselaw authority proving a successor-in-interest is sufficient to prove ownership, but he later granted summary judgment when Bank of America filed a motion to correct error that cited a federal statute providing that authority.

The bank cited 12 U.S.C. § 215a(e) that outlines the corporate existence of each merging bank and how all rights, franchises and interests of the individual merging banks are transferred to the successor merged bank without any deed or other transfer being needed.

Although the bank referenced a copy of the merger certificate and no factual dispute existed that a merger had occurred, Bank of America didn’t include a copy of that merger certificate. The trial court granted its judgment of foreclosure and decree of sale in the bank’s favor in April 2011. Appealing, CFS alleged the trial court granted summary judgment only after improperly considering “new evidence” about that federal statute.

The Court of Appeals ruled that Bank of America didn’t have to attach a copy of the merger when there was no factual dispute it had happened, and that the federal statute wasn’t “new evidence” presented to the trial court. The appellate panel found that no genuine issue of material fact existed about the merger and that summary judgment was properly granted to Bank of America.

 

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