Justia U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Banking
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A mortgage company, Approved Mortgage Corporation, initiated two wire transfers, but the instructions for the transactions were altered by a third party. The funds were transferred to Truist Bank, which deposited the funds into an account it had previously flagged as suspicious. The funds were then withdrawn in the form of cashier’s checks. Approved Mortgage sued Truist, seeking damages in the amount of the transfers. The company asserted two claims under the Indiana Uniform Commercial Code (UCC), which governs the rights, duties, and liabilities of banks and their customers with respect to electronic funds transfers, and a common law negligence claim.The district court dismissed the UCC claims due to lack of privity between Approved Mortgage and Truist, and dismissed the negligence claim as preempted by the UCC. The court held that the UCC does not establish an independent remedy and must be read with another section of the UCC, which entitles a sender to a refund only from the bank which received its payment.On appeal, the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the UCC claims, agreeing with the lower court that the UCC does not establish an independent remedy and must be read with another section of the UCC. However, the appellate court reversed the dismissal of the negligence claim, holding that to the extent the negligence claim arises from Truist’s issuance of the cashier’s checks after Truist credited the funds to the suspicious account, the claim is not preempted by the UCC. The case was remanded to the district court for further proceedings. View "Approved Mortgage Corporation v. Truist Bank" on Justia Law

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The defendant, Christopher Johnson, was indicted and pleaded guilty to wire fraud and aggravated identity theft after purchasing stolen credit card data and using it to produce counterfeit cards. The district court, when calculating the loss under U.S.S.G. § 2B1.1, deferred to the guidelines commentary and assessed a $500 minimum loss for each card. Johnson argued that the guidelines commentary was not entitled to deference as an interpretation of § 2B1.1, citing the Supreme Court's decision in Kisor v. Wilkie.The district court denied Johnson's objection, holding that the term "loss" in the context of § 2B1.1 was genuinely ambiguous and that the minimum loss amount was a reasonable interpretation of that term. The court also stated that even without deferring to the guidelines commentary, it would still have assessed a loss of $500 per card. Johnson was sentenced to 58 months' imprisonment: 34 months for wire fraud and the mandatory 24 months for aggravated identity theft.On appeal to the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, Johnson challenged the district court's deference to the guidelines commentary. The court, however, affirmed the judgment of the district court. The court held that the Supreme Court's decision in Kisor v. Wilkie did not disturb the Supreme Court’s holding in Stinson v. United States that guidelines commentary is “authoritative unless it violates the Constitution or a federal statute, or is inconsistent with, or a plainly erroneous reading of” the guideline it interprets. The court concluded that the guidelines commentary assessing $500 minimum loss per credit card therefore remains binding under Stinson. View "USA v. Johnson" on Justia Law

Posted in: Banking, Criminal Law
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The case revolves around Lee Hofmann, who controlled multiple businesses, including Games Management and International Supply. Games Management borrowed approximately $2.7 million from Citizens Equity First Credit Union (the Lender), with Hofmann guaranteeing payment. When Games Management defaulted and Hofmann failed to honor his guarantee, the Lender obtained a judgment against Hofmann. In 2013, Hofmann arranged for International Supply to pay the Lender $1.72 million. By 2015, International Supply was in bankruptcy, and a trustee was appointed to distribute its assets to creditors.The bankruptcy court held a trial, during which expert witnesses disagreed on whether International Supply was solvent in 2013. The Trustee's expert testified that it was insolvent under two of three methods of assessing solvency, while the Lender's expert testified that it was solvent under all three methods. The bankruptcy judge concluded that International Supply was insolvent in August 2013 and directed the Lender to pay $1.72 million plus interest to the Trustee. The district court affirmed this decision.The case was then brought before the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit. The Lender argued that the only legally permissible approach to defining solvency is the balance-sheet test. However, the court disagreed, stating that the Illinois legislation does not support this view. The court also noted that the Lender had not previously argued for the balance-sheet test to be the exclusive approach, which constituted a forfeiture. The court concluded that the bankruptcy judge was entitled to use multiple methods to determine solvency. The court affirmed the district court's decision, requiring the Lender to pay $1.72 million plus interest to the Trustee. View "Stone v. Citizens Equity First Credit Union" on Justia Law

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In this case, the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit addressed a dispute involving the owners of two parcels of real estate in Chicago who contended that banks tried to collect notes and mortgages that belonged to different financial institutions. The state judiciary had ruled that the banks were entitled to foreclose on both parcels, but the properties had not yet been sold and no final judgments defining the debt were in place. The plaintiffs attempted to initiate federal litigation under the holding of Exxon Mobil Corp. v. Saudi Basic Industries Corp., arguing that their case was still pending. However, the district court dismissed the case, citing the Rooker-Feldman doctrine, which states that only the Supreme Court of the United States can review the judgments of state courts in civil suits.The Appeals court held that the application of the Rooker-Feldman doctrine was incorrect in this case because the foreclosure litigation in Illinois was not yet "final". According to the court, the foreclosure process in Illinois continues until the property is sold, the sale is confirmed, and the court either enters a deficiency judgment or distributes the surplus. Since these steps had not occurred, the plaintiffs had not yet "lost the war", and thus parallel state and federal litigation could be pursued as per Exxon Mobil Corp. v. Saudi Basic Industries Corp.However, by the time the district court dismissed this suit, the state litigation about one parcel was over because a sale had occurred and been confirmed, and by the time the Appeals court heard oral argument that was true for the second parcel as well. The Appeals court stated that Illinois law forbids sequential litigation about the same claim even when the plaintiff in the second case offers novel arguments. The court found that the plaintiffs could have presented their constitutional arguments in the state court system and were not free to shift what is effectively an appellate argument to a different judicial system.The court also noted that Joel Chupack, the lead defendant, was the trial judge in the state case and was not a party to either state case. He did not claim the benefit of preclusion. Judge Chupack was found to be entitled to absolute immunity from damages, as he acted in a judicial capacity.The judgment of the district court was modified to reflect a dismissal with prejudice rather than a dismissal for lack of jurisdiction, and as so modified it was affirmed. View "Bryant v. Chupack" on Justia Law

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In this case, the defendant, Patrick Thompson, was convicted of making false statements about his loans to financial institutions. Thompson took out three loans from a bank totaling $219,000. After the bank failed, its receiver, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), and a loan servicer, Planet Home, attempted to recoup the money owed by Thompson. However, Thompson disputed the loan balance, insisting that he had only borrowed $110,000. He was subsequently charged with and convicted of making false statements to influence the FDIC and a mortgage lending business, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1014.On appeal, Thompson argued that his statements were not “false” under § 1014 because they were literally true, and that the jury lacked sufficient evidence to convict him. He also claimed that the government constructively amended the indictment and that the district court lacked the authority to order him to pay restitution to the FDIC.The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit rejected Thompson's arguments and affirmed the lower court's judgment. The court held that under its precedent, § 1014 criminalizes misleading representations, and Thompson's statements were misleading. The court also found that there was sufficient evidence to support Thompson's conviction and that the indictment was not constructively amended. Finally, the court held that the district court properly awarded restitution to the FDIC, as the FDIC had suffered a financial loss as a direct and proximate result of Thompson's false statements. View "USA v. Thompson" on Justia Law

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Pacilio and Bases were senior traders on the precious metals trading desk at Bank of America. While working together in 2010-2011, and at times separately before and after that period, they engaged in “spoofing” to manipulate the prices of precious metals using an electronic trading platform, that allows traders to place buy or sell orders on certain numbers of futures contracts at a set price. It is assumed that every order is bona fide and placed with “intent to transact.” Spoofing consists of placing a (typically) large order, on one side of the market with intent to trade, and placing a spoof order, fully visible but not intended to be traded, on the other side. The spoof order pushes the market price to benefit the other order, allowing the trader to get the desired price. The spoof order is canceled before it can be filled.Pacilio and Bases challenged the constitutionality of their convictions for wire fraud affecting a financial institution and related charges, the sufficiency of the evidence, and evidentiary rulings relating to testimony about the Exchange’s and bank prohibitions on spoofing to support the government’s implied misrepresentation theory. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. The defendants had sufficient notice that their spoofing scheme was prohibited by law. View "United States v. Bases" on Justia Law

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In a suit filed in 2014 under the Fair Housing Act, 42 U.S.C. 3601–19, Cook County claimed that the banks made credit too readily available to some borrowers, who defaulted, and then foreclosed on the loans in a way that injured the County. The County alleged the banks targeted potential minority borrowers for unchecked or improper credit approval decisions, which allowed them to receive loans they could not afford; discretionary application of surcharge of additional points, fees, and other credit and servicing costs above otherwise objective risk-based financing rates; higher cost loan products; and undisclosed inflation of appraisal values to support inflated loan amounts. When many of the borrowers could not repay, the County asserts, it had to deal with vacant properties and lost tax revenue and transfer fees.The Seventh Circuit affirmed summary judgment for the defendants. Entertaining suits to recover damages for any foreseeable result of an FHA violation would risk “massive and complex damages litigation.” Proximate cause under the FHA requires “some direct relation between the injury asserted and the injurious conduct alleged.” Cook County seeks a remedy for effects far beyond “the first step.” The directly injured parties are the borrowers, who lost both housing and money. The banks are secondary losers. The County is at best a tertiary loser; its injury derives from the injuries to the borrowers and banks. View "County of Cook v. Bank of America Corp." on Justia Law

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Consolidated suits claimed that many firms in the broiler-chicken business formed a cartel. Third-party discovery in that ongoing suit turned up evidence that Rabobank, a lender to several broiler-chicken producers, urged at least two of them to cut production. Some plaintiffs added Rabobank as an additional defendant.The Seventh Circuit affirmed the dismissal of those claims. The Sherman Act, 15 U.S.C. 1, bans combinations and conspiracies in restraint of trade and does not reach unilateral action. Here, all the plaintiffs allege is that Rabobank tried to protect its interests through unilateral action. The complaint does not allege that Rabobank served as a conduit for the producers’ agreement, helped them coordinate their production and catch cheaters, or even knew that the producers were coordinating among themselves. A flurry of emails among managers and other employees at Rabobank observing that lower output and higher prices in the broiler-chicken market would improve the bank’s chance of collecting its loans and a pair of emails from the head of Rabobank’s poultry-lending section, to executives at two producers indicated nothing but unilateral action. The intra-Rabobank emails could not have promoted or facilitated cooperation among producers and the two messages only reminded the producers that as long as demand curves slope downward, lower output implies higher prices. Advice differs from agreement. View "Amory Investments LLC v. Utrecht-America Holdings, Inc." on Justia Law

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On O’Sucha’s death, the property, in a land trust, was to be divided equally among her four children, including Lesko. In 2009, Lesko caused her mother to make her the sole beneficiary upon O’Sucha’s 2010 death and to grant her sole power of direction over the trust. Her siblings sued Lesko in state court for undue influence. While an appeal was pending, Lesko sought a loan from Howard Bank, using the property as collateral. Because of Lesko’s poor credit and the state court decision, Howard approved a loan only when Lesko transferred ownership of the property to her daughter, Amorous. Amorous later conveyed a mortgage to Howard, securing a $130,000 loan, which Howard recorded.On remand, the Illinois court entered a money judgment against Lesko and declared a constructive trust; it later conveyed all interests of Amorous and Lesko to the plaintiffs, who unsuccessfully demanded that Howard release the mortgage.Plaintiffs sued Howard in federal court, then sold the property for $700,000, and paid the mortgage balance. Howard unsuccessfully sought to dismiss the case. In an amended complaint, the plaintiffs asserted slander of title and unjust enrichment. The Seventh Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the case. Howard held a valid mortgage and did not publish a falsity by recording it. Howard was not required to release the mortgage and did not continue to publish a falsity, nor did it unjustly retain a benefit by not releasing the mortgage. View "Guerrero v. Bank" on Justia Law

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Frazier obtained a home mortgage loan for which Dovenmuehle served as sub-servicer. Beginning in October 2015, Frazier failed to make her monthly payments. Frazier successfully negotiated and settled her debt through a short sale of her home, which closed in January 2016. Frazier was later denied a new mortgage loan because her Equifax credit report reflected late payments on her previous mortgage in months following the short sale. She disputed the information to several credit reporting agencies. To confirm the accuracy of its records, Equifax sent Dovenmuehle four Automated Consumer Dispute Verification forms in 2019-2020. Frazier contends the amended codes Dovenmuehle gave Equifax for Pay Rate and Account History were inaccurate, pointing to how Equifax interpreted and reported the amended data in her credit reports.Frazier sued under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, 15 U.S.C. 1681, claiming that Dovenmuehle failed to conduct a reasonable investigation of disputed data and provided false and misleading information to credit reporting agencies. She relied on evidence about persisting inaccuracies in Equifax’s credit reports produced using the amended data. The district court granted Dovenmuehle summary judgment. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. Given the full record, no reasonable jury could find that Dovenmuehle provided patently incorrect or materially misleading information. View "Frazier v. Dovenmuehle Mortgage, Inc." on Justia Law

Posted in: Banking, Consumer Law