A Manhattan federal jury reached the verdict on Friday in the longstanding suit by borrowers whose mortgages were owned or serviced by HomEq Serving or the lender whose loans it was established to manage, the now-defunct The Money Store.
Plaintiff Joseph Mazzei and a class of borrowers alleged that The Money Store and HomEq improperly charged late fees after the lenders had accelerated homeowners' mortgage loans, so no further monthly payments were actually due. They also claimed that these late fees were prohibited under the terms of the standard loan agreement and violated state laws.
"The Money Store and HomEq charged improper late fees to homeowners and borrowers struggling with default," said Moshe Horn, of Seeger Weiss LLP who represented the Mazzei, after the jury verdict. "The jury sent a strong message to banks that they must abide by the agreements they make and be transparent and honest in their dealings with borrowers, particularly when those borrowers are trying their best to make their mortgage payments and stay in their family homes."
Horn and counsel Christopher Van de Kieft, along with Paul Grobman of the Law Offices of Paul Grobman, and Neal DeYoung and H. Rajan Sharma of Sharma & DeYoung LLP, represented homeowner Mazzei and borrowers in the case.
John Koeltl, United States District Judge for the Southern District of New York, presided over the trial, which lasted ten days. Judge Koeltl had certified the class action for trial in December 2012.
Horn and Van de Kieft of Seeger Weiss served as trial counsel in the case. Grobman, DeYoung and Sharma represented the plaintiffs throughout the pre-trial litigation, which lasted several years.
Homeowners, who sued in 2001, had sought to recoup about $629 million for alleged overcharges and interest.
U.S. homeowners suing mortgage companies once owned by Wells Fargo won a $54.8 million class action lawsuit over excessive late fees.