Wells Fargo still trying to overturn certification in 14-year-old class action

By Legal News Line | Jun 11, 2015

EDWARDSVILLE, Ill. (Legal Newsline) - Wells Fargo is facing trial in an Illinois class action 14 years old and can’t gain appellate review on its own as it could in a case with shorter history.

A motion from the bank to reach appellate judges the old way, through circuit court order, remains pending before Madison County Circuit Judge Barbara Crowder.

The Illinois Supreme Court amended its class action rules in 2003, so defendants could directly petition for review of class certifications.

“If this case was filed now, or any time after 2003, Wells Fargo’s request for interlocutory appeal would not even be necessary,” Catherine Schroeder of St. Louis wrote for the bank in March.

She wrote that the current rule ensures review, “before devoting immeasurable amounts of time and resources necessary to prepare for a class action rules.”

Wells Fargo has tried for five years to overturn a class certification order that former circuit judge Daniel Stack signed on his last day at work, in 2010.

Fifth District appellate judges in Mount Vernon previously reversed a class certification order Stack signed in a separate case on the same date.

The suit against Wells Fargo started in 2001, with many defendants.

Lucco Brown law firm of Edwardsville filed the suit after nursing home developers defaulted on bond issues in Wisconsin, Indiana and Michigan.

Lucco Brown and associates at Ness Motley in South Carolina, now Motley Rice, sued developers, lawyers, accountants, and banks.

Wells Fargo defends itself as successor to the indenture trustee, Norwest Bank.

Most defendants resolved the claims as nine years passed, leaving Wells Fargo and three others on the hook when Stack certified the class.

Stack left behind a puzzle, for he separately granted summary judgment to Wells Fargo on its argument that Norwest played no role in the bond issues.

In 2011, after Stack retired, defendants moved for reconsideration.

Defendants asked the court to treat the case as dormant in 2012, but they brought it to a hearing before Circuit Judge Tom Chapman in 2013.

He took it under advisement and ordered more briefs.

Later that year, three defendants agreed to settle for a total of $525,000.

Chapman denied Wells Fargo’s motion for reconsideration last year, finding Stack’s orders “are not irremediably contradictory.”

He agreed with Stack that Illinois law should apply across 38 states, even though fewer than three percent of bond buyers lived in Illinois.

He wrote that there is an issue of fact as to whether Norwest Bank failed to enforce covenants requiring separation of accounts.

He wrote that there is an issue of fact as to whether Norwest notified borrowers of default events.

Chapman did not resolve Wells Fargo’s plea for appellate review, so the bank moved for clarification or a supplemental ruling.

Last September, Chief Judge Dave Hylla assigned Crowder to the case.

She held a hearing on the bank’s motion March 18, and took it under advisement.

She still has not approved the settlement agreements of the other three defendants.

Their lawyers assembled at the courthouse on May 28, to obtain final approval from Crowder, but she didn’t show up.

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