Bankruptcy Dollar Amount and Form Changes that May Affect You

Adjustments to certain dollar amounts in the Bankruptcy Code may affect your decision and strategy to either file a bankruptcy or in defending certain actions filed against you or your company. The automatic adjustments to the dollar amounts in various provisions of the Bankruptcy Code, 11 U.S.C. 101 et seq. went into effect on April 1, 2013. You may access the official forms by clicking the following link to the United States Courts:

www.uscourts.gov/…/BankruptcyFormsPendingChanges.aspx

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First ADA ATM Accessibility Class Action Lawsuit Is Filed in Atlanta

Pittsburgh-based law firm, Carlson Lynch, responsible for the filing of over 100 nearly identical Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) ATM class action lawsuits in federal district courts in Pennsylvania and Texas since March 2012, filed in federal district court in Atlanta last week the first of what are likely to be many ADA ATM accessibility class action lawsuits against Atlanta-area banks. If the plaintiff and plaintiff’s law firm follow the same strategy that was used in Pennsylvania and Texas, it is anticipated that a number of virtually identical class action lawsuits will be filed by against Atlanta-area banks, and banks throughout Georgia, over the course of the next several days and weeks.

Click here to read more about the more salient ADA ATM requirements.

CFPB Issues Warning to Mortgage Servicers

On February 11, 2013, in response to the increased volume of mortgage servicing transfers and the potential impact of these transfers on consumers, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) issued a bulletin to mortgage servicers, both banks and nonbanks, advising them of their legal obligations to protect consumers during loan transfers. The bulletin indicates that the CFPB is particularly concerned about lost paperwork during transfers, service interruptions when loans are transferred during the loss mitigation process, and wrongful foreclosures.

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Revised Common Level Ratio for Philadelphia May Result in Tax Refund

Every year, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania State Tax Equalization Board (“STEB”) establishes a common level ratio (“CLR”) of assessed value to market value of real estate for each of Pennsylvania’s 67 counties for the prior calendar year, which are to be issued by the July 1 effective date. In 2012, however, the CLR for Philadelphia was not established until December, and published in early January 2013- prior to that time, the previous year’s CLR of 25.2% was used. The recently published CLR for Philadelphia, effective July 1, 2012 through June 30, 2013, is 30.6%.

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CFPB Considers Regulating Retirement Investment Industry

Bloomberg has reported that the U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which was established by the 2010 Dodd-Frank Act, is considering whether to assert itself into the regulation of the consumer retirement investment business. Its chairman, Richard Cordray, is quoted as saying “That’s one of the things we’ve been exploring and are interested in in terms of whether and what authority we have”. Institutions, including Fidelity Investments, the Vanguard Group, JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Charles Schwab Corp., hold more than $19 trillion in retirement assets, such as IRA and 401K accounts. The retirement investment industry is already heavily regulated by the S.E.C. and the Department of Labor. Since its establishment in 2011, the Bureau has focused its regulatory purview on consumer financial products like mortgages and credit cards.

ATM Accessibility Class Action Lawsuits In Pennsylvania Show No Signs of Slowing Down

Pittsburgh-based law firm Carlson Lynch has now filed sixty-eight Americans with Disability Act (“ADA”) ATM class action lawsuits in Pennsylvania Federal District Courts against banks operating in Pennsylvania and surrounding states, and it does not appear that the filings are going to stop anytime soon.

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Dual ATM Fee Notice Requirement Repealed

On Thursday, December 20, 2012, a week after the U.S. Senate passed H.R. 4367, a bill eliminating the requirement that ATM operators post a fee notice on the ATM equipment, President Obama signed the bill into law. Banks, credit unions, and ATM industry groups, many of whom viewed the fee notice requirements as a source of frivolous lawsuits against ATM owners and operators, worked to push the legislation through Congress. While the new law eliminates the requirement that ATM operators post notice of fees on the actual equipment, fee notices are still required to be posted on the ATM screen or provided on a paper noticed issued by the machine. What remains unclear is the effect the new law will have on fee notice lawsuits that were pending prior to the repeal of the old fee notice requirements. The defendants in those pending matters are hopeful that the courts will consider the change in the law in their overall consideration of the cases.

Guaranty Holders May Face Shorter Time Period to Bring Action

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has agreed to hear an appeal in Osprey Portfolio, LLC v. Izett, on the issue of the applicable statute of limitations for a loan guaranty that is signed under seal. In Osprey, the lender argued that a guaranty is an “instrument” which, if signed under seal, is governed by a 20-year statute of limitations pursuant to 42 Pa. C.S. 5529. The guarantor argued that a guaranty is merely a “contract” which is governed by a four-year statute of limitations pursuant to 42 Pa. C.S. 5525.

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Priority of Open-End Mortgages Over Mechanics’ Liens Limited

In Commerce Bank/Harrisburg, N.A. v. Kessler, 2012 WL 1610139 (Pa. Super. 2012), the Superior Court of Pennsylvania recently ruled on two issues of first impression: whether the amended version of the Mechanics Lien Law (“MLL”), 49 P.S. 1101, et seq., applies to contracts entered into prior to its January 1, 2007 effective date, and when a mechanics lien will have priority over an open-end mortgage.

The first issue addressed by the Court in Kessler applies to a limited number of loans- those for which contracts were entered into and visible commencement of work occurred prior to the January 1, 2007 effective date of the amended MLL, but the lien obtained after January 1, 2007. On this issue, the Court held that the applicable law was the amended MLL, since it was the law in effect at the time the contractors’ lien was filed; the law in place when construction began and the contract was entered into was not applied.

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