Monday, March 26, 2012

foreclosure - HAMP - no pre-emption of state law claims - 7th Cir.

Wigod v. Wells Fargo Ban - 7th Cir. - March 7, 2012

We are asked in this appeal to determine whether Lori Wigod has stated claims under Illinois law against her home mortgage servicer for refusing to modify her loan pursuant to the federal Home Affordable Mortgage Program (HAMP). The U.S. Department of the Treasury implemented HAMP to help homeowners avoid foreclosure amidst the sharp decline in the nation’s housing market in 2008.

In 2009, Wells Fargo issued Wigod a four-month “trial” loan modification, under which it agreed to permanently modify the loan if she qualified under HAMP guidelines. Wigod alleges that she did qualify and that Wells Fargo refused to grant her a permanent modification. She brought this putative class action alleging violations of Illinois law under common-law contract and tort theories and under the Illinois Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Business Practices Act (ICFA).

The district court dismissed the complaint in its entirety under Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. . . . .The court reasoned that Wigod’s claims were premised on Wells Fargo’s obligations under HAMP, which does not confer a private federal right of action on borrowers to enforce its requirements. This appeal followed, and it presents two sets of issues.

The first set of issues concerns whether Wigod has stated viable claims under Illinois common law and the ICFA. We conclude that she has on four counts. Wigod alleges that Wells Fargo agreed to permanently modify her home loan, deliberately misled her into believing it would do so, and then refused to make good on its promise. These allegations support garden-variety claims for breach of contract or promissory estoppel. She has also plausibly alleged that Wells Fargo committed fraud under Illinois common law and engaged in unfair or deceptive business practices in violation of the ICFA. Wigod’s claims for negligent hiring or supervision and for negligent misrepresentation or concealment are not viable, however. They are barred by Illinois’s economic loss doctrine because she alleges only economic harms arising from a contractual relationship. Wigod’s claim for fraudulent concealment is also not actionable because she cannot show that Wells Fargo owed her a fiduciary or other duty of disclosure.

The second set of issues concerns whether these state-law claims are preempted or otherwise barred by federal law. We hold that they are not. HAMP and its enabling statute do not contain a federal right of action, but neither do they preempt otherwise viable statelaw claims. We accordingly reverse the judgment of the district court on the contract, promissory estoppel, fraudulent misrepresentation, and ICFA claims, and affirm its judgment on the negligence claims and fraudulent concealment claim.