Crossroads Investors, L.P. v. Federal National Mortgage Association, 041416 CAAPP3, C072585

Docket Nº:C072585
Opinion Judge:NICHOLSON, Acting P. J.
Party Name:CROSSROADS INVESTORS, L.P., Plaintiff and Respondent, v. FEDERAL NATIONAL MORTGAGE ASSOCIATION, Defendant and Appellant.
Attorney:Buchalter Nemer, Jeffrey S. Wruble, Efrat M. Cogan, and Oren Bitan for Defendant and Appellant. Law Offices of Melinda Jane Steuer and Melinda Jane Steuer for Plaintiff and Respondent.
Judge Panel:We concur: ROBIE, J., DUARTE, J.
Case Date:April 14, 2016
Court:California Court of Appeals
SUMMARY

In 2005, Crossroads Investors, L.P. borrowed $9 million subject to a promissory note. The note was secured by a deed of trust recorded against an apartment building Crossroads owned in Woodland. Defendant Federal National Mortgage Association (Fannie Mae) was the beneficiary of the deed. The note imposed on Crossroads a prepayment premium should Crossroads pay the unpaid principal before the note’s maturity date or should Crossroads default and Fannie Mae accelerate the loan. Crossroads defaulted on the note in late... (see full summary)

 
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CROSSROADS INVESTORS, L.P., Plaintiff and Respondent,

v.

FEDERAL NATIONAL MORTGAGE ASSOCIATION, Defendant and Appellant.

C072585

California Court of Appeals, Third District, Yolo

April 14, 2016

APPEAL from a judgment of the Superior Court of Yolo County, No. CV CV 12-1067 Daniel P. Maguire, Judge.

Buchalter Nemer, Jeffrey S. Wruble, Efrat M. Cogan, and Oren Bitan for Defendant and Appellant.

Law Offices of Melinda Jane Steuer and Melinda Jane Steuer for Plaintiff and Respondent.

NICHOLSON, Acting P. J.

This appeal challenges the trial court’s denial of defendant’s special motion to strike the complaint under Code of Civil Procedure section 425.16, otherwise known as the anti-SLAPP statute.1 Defendant Federal National Mortgage Association (Fannie Mae) initiated nonjudicial foreclosure proceedings against property owned by plaintiff Crossroads Investors, L.P. (Crossroads), but Crossroads filed for bankruptcy protection, staying the proceedings. Fannie Mae sold the property after it was granted relief from the bankruptcy stay. Crossroads then sued Fannie Mae for wrongful foreclosure, breach of contract, fraud, and other tort and contract actions. Fannie Mae filed an anti-SLAPP motion, contending the actions on which Crossroads based its complaint were Fannie Mae’s statements in its papers filed in the bankruptcy proceeding. The trial court disagreed and denied the motion.

We affirm the trial court’s order. The principal thrust of Crossroads’ action was to recover for violations of state nonjudicial foreclosure law, not for any exercise of speech or petition rights by Fannie Mae. Even if protected activity was not merely incidental to the unprotected activity, Crossroads established a prima facie case showing it was likely to succeed on its causes of action.

FACTS

In 2005, Crossroads borrowed $9 million subject to a promissory note. The note was secured by a deed of trust recorded against an apartment building Crossroads owned in Woodland. Defendant Fannie Mae was the beneficiary of the deed.

The note imposed on Crossroads a prepayment premium (sometimes referred to as yield maintenance) should Crossroads pay the unpaid principal before the note’s maturity date or should Crossroads default and Fannie Mae accelerate the loan.

Crossroads defaulted on the note in late 2010 by failing to make the required payments. Fannie Mae served Crossroads with a notice of default, and it accelerated the loan. In February 2011, Fannie Mae initiated nonjudicial foreclosure proceedings by recording a notice of default against the property. The notice stated Crossroads owed in arrears nearly $287, 000 as of December 30, 2010.

As required by Civil Code section 2924c (Section 2924c), the notice of default informed Crossroads it could reinstate the loan by tendering the amount it owed to bring its payments current no later than five business days before the date Fannie Mae intended to sell the property. It informed Crossroads that after the expiration of that time period, the only way to stop the foreclosure was to pay off the loan. It also informed Crossroads it could learn how much it owed either by submitting a written request for a written itemization or by contacting Fannie Mae’s trustee. It provided the trustee’s address and phone number.

In April 2011, Crossroads entered into a contract to sell the property to Ezralow Company, LLC (Ezralow) for $10.95 million. A few weeks later, Crossroads and Ezralow proposed to Fannie Mae that Ezralow would assume Crossroads’ obligations and pay off the loan on Fannie Mae’s agreeing to waive the prepayment premium. Fannie Mae refused to waive the prepayment premium and rejected the proposal.

On June 24, 2011, Fannie Mae recorded a notice of trustee’s sale against the property. The notice stated a sale date for the property had been set for July 19, 2011. It also stated the total unpaid amount of Crossroad’s obligations was estimated at more than $10.5 million.

On July 18, 2011, the day before the property was scheduled to be sold, Crossroads filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection to protect its interest in the property. In its petition, Crossroads asserted it owed Fannie Mae $8.7 million.

On the following day, July 19, Crossroads entered into an amended contract to sell the property to Ezralow. This contract again conditioned Ezralow’s obligation to purchase the property on Fannie Mae’s agreeing to waive the prepayment premium. It also sought to limit the interest rate Fannie Mae could charge Ezralow. These terms were to be included in Crossroad’s bankruptcy reorganization plan and were subject to the bankruptcy court’s approval.

While the bankruptcy action was pending from July 2011 to May 2012, Crossroads verbally informed Fannie Mae many times it was ready, willing, and able to cure the default or pay the loan in full. It also verbally asked Fannie Mae many times for a complete accounting of the amount required to cure the default or pay off the loan. Fannie Mae refused to accept Crossroads’ tenders. It also provided no response to Crossroads’ requests for an accounting.2

Although it opposed the prepayment premium, Crossroads informed Fannie Mae that if the bankruptcy court determined Fannie Mae was entitled to the prepayment premium, Crossroads would pay Fannie Mae’s claim in full upon the close of escrow of the sale to Ezralow.

The issue of whether Fannie Mae was entitled to recover the prepayment premium as part of its bankruptcy claim was litigated in the bankruptcy proceeding. Fannie Mae filed a claim with the bankruptcy court in the amount of $10.45 million, which included payment of the prepayment premium. In its disclosure statements, Crossroads proposed to reorganize its debt based on the July 2011 amended contract to sell the property to Ezralow but without paying the prepayment premium to Fannie Mae.3 Fannie Mae objected to the disclosure statements in part because they did not call for Crossroads to pay the prepayment premium. The bankruptcy court denied approving Crossroad’s first three disclosure statements.

Crossroads objected to Fannie Mae’s inclusion of the prepayment premium in its claim. However, the bankruptcy court ruled Fannie Mae was entitled to claim the prepayment premium in the bankruptcy proceeding.4 In addition, the court granted Fannie Mae relief from the bankruptcy stay effective May 15, 2012, if Crossroads had not obtained confirmation of its reorganization plan by that date.

In February 2012, and after the trial court rejected Crossroad’s objection to the prepayment premium and granted relief from the stay, Crossroads served an interrogatory in the bankruptcy action on Fannie Mae that asked for the amount required “under state law” to cure the loan as of June 1, 2012. Fannie Mae responded in March 2012 by stating it could not provide an accurate response because the interrogatory sought an amount that was contingent upon future events; it would provide a response on June 1, 2012.

In April 2012, Crossroads filed its fourth disclosure statement. On the same day it also filed a motion to continue the stay. The bankruptcy court conditionally approved Crossroads’ latest disclosure statement subject to Crossroads’ taking action to correct certain deficiencies in the statement. However, the trial court denied the motion to continue the stay.

Fannie Mae’s relief from the bankruptcy stay became effective on May 15, 2012, as Crossroads had not obtained an approved reorganization plan by that date.

On May 17, 2012, Crossroad’s attorney, Kenrick Young, spoke with Fannie Mae’s attorney, Anthony Napolitano, and asked for a payoff amount to pay the loan in full. He also asked Napolitano if he would agree to notify Crossroads of any scheduled sale date a reasonable time prior to its occurrence. The parties dispute whether Napolitano agreed to this request. Because we must assume the pleadings are correct, for purposes of this motion, we assume Napolitano agreed to provide notice of a sale.

Later that day, Napolitano by email asked to inspect the property. Young responded by email that Crossroads wished to sell the property to Ezralow and pay Fannie Mae in full. He asked if Fannie Mae would agree to a consensual sale of the property to Ezralow on condition Fannie May received the amount it claimed in its amended bankruptcy claim. Young said Crossroads was looking at a July or early August 2012 close of escrow. Napolitano did not respond...

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