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  • Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac Update Servicing Guides

    Lending

    On October 11, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac announced updates to their respective Servicing Guides.

    Fannie Mae. Servicing Guide Announcement SVC-2017-09 highlights recent updates to the Servicing Guide, including topics related to the management of electronic transactions such as: (i) confirmation that sellers and servicers may originate, service, and modify loans using electronic records (electronic promissory notes require special approval); (ii) streamlined language clarifying requirements for the accuracy of information in electronic records; (iii) specification that paper records are not required for recorded mortgages and deeds of trust; (iv) clarification that all electronic signatures must comply with ESIGN, UETA, and other applicable laws; and (v) the removal of requirements for document custodians from the Servicing Guide that were duplicative of requirements set forth in Fannie Mae’s Requirements for Document Custodians. Additional updates address changes made to the reimbursement of foreclosure sale publication costs for costs incurred on or after January 1, 2018, and specific guidance for servicers pertaining to mortgage liens (to be implemented by December 1, 2017).

    Freddie Mac. Freddie Mac issued Bulletin 2017-22 announcing servicing updates concerning (i) modifications to imminent default evaluation and process requirements (jointly developed with Fannie Mae) that will take effect July 1, 2018; and (ii) provisions under the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) related to compliance time frames for servicers when responding to, or submitting requests for, interest rate reductions, along with updates that take effect February 1, 2018, concerning Guide Exhibit 71 used by servicers to report eligible SCRA interest rate subsidized loans. The updates also eliminate the manual property condition certificate process and modify time frame requirements for cancelling property insurance policies on real estate owned properties.

    Lending Agency Rule-Making & Guidance Fannie Mae Freddie Mac Mortgage Servicing Electronic Signatures ESIGN UETA SCRA

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  • Texas Appeals Court Cites Khoury, Dismisses Trial Court’s Summary Judgment Under UETA

    Courts

    On October 3, a three-judge panel of a Texas Court of Appeals reversed and remanded, while affirming in part, a trial court’s decision concerning an alleged breach of contract over a $230 million sale agreement. On appeal were three issues, including a challenge to the grounds on which the trial court granted summary judgement under the Uniform Electronic Transactions Act (UETA). The trial court concluded that the “parties did not agree to conduct business electronically and that the alleged contract did not contain a valid electronic signature.” But the panel reversed the decision, holding that an agreement between parties to conduct transactions by electronic means “need not be explicit” under UETA, and finding that the parties’ email negotiations constituted “at least some evidence that the parties agreed to conduct some of their transactions electronically.” and The panel also cited their earlier decision in Khoury v. Tomlinson, that was previously discussed in InfoBytes, to address the question of whether the emails between the two parties were signed electronically. Khoury ruled that an email satisfied the writing requirement because it was an electronic record, and that the header, which included a “from” field constituted as a signature because that field served the same “authenticating function” as a signature block. Consequently, because there was “at least some evidence that the relevant emails were signed as defined in UETA,” the trial court in this matter erred in granting summary judgment.

    Further, because the panel found that there still remain questions regarding whether the parties actually formed an agreement concerning the sale of assets, the panel stated they were unable to determine “as a matter of law, under the particular facts of this case, whether such a contract is illusory.” Thus, the trial court erred in granting summary judgment on these grounds as well.

    The remainder of the trial court’s judgments were affirmed, and the case was remanded for further proceedings consistent with the opinion.

    Courts Appellate Digital Commerce Electronic Signatures UETA

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  • UNCITRAL Adopts Legal Framework for Electronic Records Use

    FinTech

    On July 13 the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL) adopted the Model Law on Electronic Transferable Records (MLETR). If broadly enacted by nations, the MLETR would provide uniform legal framework for the use of electronic records in connection with transferable records—including bills of lading, bills of exchange, promissory notes and warehouse receipts. By establishing uniform standards under which electronic records of such documents may be the equivalent to paper, the MLETR has the potential to streamline international commerce and provide a higher level of security over paper documents. The model law, among other things, addresses standards for establishing control of an electronic record as the equivalent of possession of a paper instrument, as well as guidance for establishing the reliability of systems and methods used for the generation and transfer of such records. Like the UETA and ESIGN in the United States, the MLETR is meant to be technology-neutral and is designed to work within the framework of existing laws governing transferable records. The full text of the final MLETR and an accompanying Explanatory Note (akin to official comments) will be available here.

    Fintech ESIGN UNCITRAL Electronic Records MLETR UETA

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  • Texas Appeals Court Holds Email From: Line to be a Valid Electronic Signature Under State's Uniform Electronic Transactions Act (UETA)

    Courts

    On December 22, in an unpublished decision, a Texas Court of Appeals held that an email exchange constituted an executed contract between two individuals under the state’s enactment of the Uniform Electronic Transactions Act (UETA). Khoury v. Tomlinson, No. 01-16-00006-CV (Tex. App. Dec. 22, 2016). The dispute involved an email sent from Appellant to Appellee, which outlined terms of an agreement to repay investment funds. Appellee responded to the email, stating "We are in agreement," but did not type his name or include a signature block at the end of his message. A jury found that an electronic contract was formed by this exchange, but the trial court granted the Appellee’s motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict on the basis that the electronic contract violated the state statute of frauds. On appeal, the Appellant invoked the UETA, arguing that the email satisfied the writing requirement of the statute of frauds because it was an electronic record and that the header, which included a “From:” field bearing the Appellee’s name, constituted Appellee’s signature because that field serves the same “authenticating function” as a signature block. The appellate court agreed that the email was an electronic record sufficient to satisfy the writing requirement in the statute of frauds.

    Courts Digital Commerce Electronic Signatures UETA Payments

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  • Florida Fourth District Court of Appeals Rules in Bank's Favor in Foreclosure Action Based on an eNote

    FinTech

    On April 20, a Florida District Court of Appeals issued an opinion affirming a lower court’s final judgment in favor of a bank (Bank) in a foreclosure action against borrowers who signed a mortgage note electronically (eNote). Rivera v. Wells Fargo Bank, N.A., No. 4D14-2273 (Fla. App. April 20, 2016). In the proceedings below, the Bank had presented a sworn certificate of authentication which articulated, among other things, the Bank’s role as servicer of the eNote for Fannie Mae, and describing the Bank’s practices and systems used for the receipt and storage of authoritative copies of electronic records and for protecting electronic records against alteration. The Bank also provided evidence from the same system records and the records of MERSCORP, Inc., as provided for in the terms of the eNote itself, showing that the eNote was last transferred to Fannie Mae and that the authoritative copy of the eNote was maintained in the Bank’s systems as Fannie Mae’s custodian. On appeal, the borrowers challenged the adequacy of the Bank’s demonstration that the eNote had properly transferred to Fannie Mae, thus challenging the Bank’s standing to enforce the eNote and foreclose the mortgage as Fannie Mae’s authorized representative. Applying the Florida enactment of the Uniform Electronic Transaction Act (UETA) and relying on the evidence provided in the certificate of authentication, the court held that the Bank presented competent evidence proving that Fannie Mae owned the eNote and had authorized the Bank to pursue the foreclosure. The court noted that under the UETA, the person with control of a “transferable record” has the same rights as a holder and went on to hold that the eNote is a "transferable record" within the meaning of the UETA because it is an electronic record that would be a note if it were in writing, and its issuer expressly agreed on its face that it was a transferable record. The court observed that the Bank established that its records system stored the eNote in “such a manner that a single authoritative copy of the e-note exists which is unique, identifiable, and unalterable” and that the “authoritative copy, introduced into evidence by the [B]ank as Fannie Mae's designated custodian, identified Fannie Mae as the entity to which the transferable record was most recently transferred.” The court concluded that because the Bank proved that Fannie Mae had control of the eNote, and that the Bank was Fannie Mae's designated custodian, the Bank had standing to foreclose and affirmed the judgment of the lower court.

    Fannie Mae Electronic Signatures UETA Electronic Records

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  • Minnesota Appellate Court Holds Email Signature Not Necessarily Evidence Of Intent To Sign Attachments

    FinTech

    On June 2, the Minnesota Court of Appeals held that under the Uniform Electronic Transaction Act (UETA), an electronic signature in an email message does not necessarily evidence intent to electronically sign an attached document, and that whether the sender has electronically signed the attachment is dependent on certain facts and circumstances. SN4, LLC v. Anchor Bank, No. A13-1566, 2014 WL 2441343 (Minn. Ct. App., Jun. 2, 2014). A multifamily real estate purchaser sued a bank after negotiations between the parties over the sale of two properties held by the bank fell through. The purchaser claimed that the bank breached its contract by refusing to sell at a price the purchaser claims was established through a series of emails between the parties. The trial court rejected the buyers’ argument that the bank electronically subscribed to the agreement under the UETA and held that the purported agreement did not satisfy the statute of frauds because only the buyers subscribed to it. The appeals court affirmed, holding that under UETA each transaction must be examined to determine whether the parties agreed to conduct the transaction by electronic means. Here, the court held, there was no express or implied agreement between the parties that the bank would electronically sign the agreement. Further, the court held that even assuming the parties agreed to conduct the transaction electronically, the bank did not electronically sign the agreement. The court explained that “whether a sender has electronically signed an attached document depends on the circumstances, including whether the attached document itself contains the sender’s electronic signature and whether the attached document is intended to be a draft or final version.” In this case, the purported agreement the buyers sought to enforce was attached to an electronically signed email, but the signature lines in the attached agreement lacked the bank’s handwritten or electronic signature. The court added that the subject email and subsequent emails indicated that neither party considered the agreement to be final.

    Electronic Signatures UETA

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  • Virginia Publishes Electronic Notarization Standard

    FinTech

    On January 21, the Virginia Secretary of the Commonwealth released the Virginia Electronic Notarization Assurance Standard. Citing challenges faced by notaries to “preserve and strengthen the role of the notary in the rapidly emerging digital economy and to ensure reliability and cross-border recognition of notarized electronic documents in a global economy,” the standards are intended to support transition of notaries in Virginia to performing electronic notarizations that have the same legal effect as traditional notarizations. They set forth registration and performance requirements, electronic signature and seal requirements, online notarization procedures, and notarized electronic document requirements. According to the Secretary, the Virginia standards (i) reflect the National Association of Secretaries of State Electronic Notarization Standard for Document Security; (ii) incorporate aspects of standards previously adopted by seven other states; and (iii) are consistent with the federal ESIGN Act, the UETA, and the Uniform Real Property Electronic Recording Act.

    ESIGN Electronic Signatures UETA Notary

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  • Michigan Appellate Court Affirms Validity of Electronic Signature Under UETA

    FinTech

    Recently, the Michigan Court of Appeals affirmed summary judgment in favor of a defendant insurance company seeking to dispose of a challenge to an electronic signature executed by a policyholder. Zulkiewski v. Am. Gen. Life Ins. Co., No. 299025, 2012 WL 2126068 (Mich. Ct. App. Jun. 12, 2012). In this case, shortly before a life insurance policy holder died, the beneficiary information on his policy was changed through the insurance company’s online account management service. The former beneficiaries challenged the new beneficiary designation, arguing that although the Uniform Electronic Transactions Act (UETA) permits an electronic signature, to validate the authenticity of such a signature the insurance company must prove the efficacy of its security procedures. On appeal, the court held that the trial court did not err when it relied on evidence provided by the insurance company showing the extent of the personal information required to change the beneficiary, combined with an affidavit that the new beneficiary did not change the beneficiary designation. The court further explained that the appellants misread the relevant portions of the UETA when they argued that the lower court improperly accepted the insurance company’s assertions that its security procedures were “adequate to prevent deception by an imposter.”  The court explained that the insurance company need not prove the efficacy of its online security procedures to authenticate a customer’s signature since under the UETA doing so is merely one method by which to show attribution.

    Electronic Signatures UETA

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