FELDMAN et al v. FEDERAL DEPOSIT INSURANCE CORPORATION
MEMORANDUM OPINION in support of 22 Order GRANTING 19 defendant's motion to dismiss and DENYING AS MOOT defendant's motion to strike the jury demand. Signed by Judge Ellen S. Huvelle on December 21, 2016. (lcesh1)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA
as Chapter 7 Trustee of the Estate of
Image Masters, Inc., et al.,
FEDERAL DEPOSIT INSURANCE
as Receiver for Washington Mutual Bank, )
Civil Action No. 09-2152 (ESH)
This matter concerns mortgage payments that six bankrupt businesses made to a failed
bank in connection with a Ponzi scheme. Plaintiff Lynn Feldman, Chapter 7 Trustee of the
estates of the businesses, filed this lawsuit against the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation
(“FDIC”), as receiver for the bank, to avoid and recover approximately $11,894,719.17 in
transfers Feldman alleges the bank knew or should have known were fraudulent. (Am. Compl.
¶¶ 49–53, ECF No. 18.)
The FDIC moves the Court to dismiss the amended complaint on multiple grounds: lack
of subject matter jurisdiction under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1), failure to state a
claim upon which relief can be granted under Rule 12(b)(6), failure to plead facts with sufficient
particularity under Rule 9(b), and failure to join required parties under Rule 12(b)(7). (Def.’s
Mot., Sept. 1, 2016, at 2–3, ECF No. 19). The FDIC further requests that the Court strike
Feldman’s demand for a jury trial. (Id. at 28.)
Upon consideration of the pleadings and for the reasons that follow, the FDIC’s motion
to dismiss will be granted. Because the Court finds that it does not have jurisdiction, it need not
address the FDIC’s other arguments in favor of dismissal or its argument that the jury demand
should be stricken.
The FDIC challenges this Court’s jurisdiction on administrative-exhaustion grounds, and
for similar reasons, it argues that Feldman’s claim is time-barred. The sequence of events
leading up to the lawsuit is therefore relevant to the disposition of the motion.
Wesley Snyder was the sole owner and operator of Image Masters, Inc., and five other
businesses through which Snyder perpetuated a multi-million dollar Ponzi scheme from 1988 to
2007. (Am. Compl. ¶¶ 5, 10, 44.) As part of the illegal scheme, Snyder convinced homeowners
with existing mortgages to take out new, larger mortgages and give the proceeds of the
refinancing to Snyder. (Id. ¶ 20.)1 Snyder did not use the proceeds of refinancing to make
investments or to immediately pay down the principal on the new mortgages, as the homeowners
believed he would. (Id. ¶ 21.) Instead, Snyder used the money to perpetuate his scheme,
ultimately stealing tens of millions of dollars from more than 800 homeowners. (Id. ¶¶ 23–24,
44.) Washington Mutual Bank was one of the banks that extended new mortgages to the victims
of Snyder’s scheme. (Id. ¶ 12.)
The victims would make monthly payments to Synder’s businesses in amounts less
than were actually due to the banks. (Am. Compl. ¶ 23.) Synder would send payments to the
banks, making up the shortfall with proceeds from new victims’ mortgage refinancing. (Id.
¶ 24.) Neither Snyder nor his businesses had any contractual relationship with the banks, and
they did not appear on the banks’ records. (See id. ¶ 26.)
On September 18, 2007, after the Ponzi scheme collapsed, Snyder’s business entities
each filed a voluntary petition for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. (Id. ¶ 2.)2 Feldman was appointed as
interim Chapter 7 Trustee of the estates of Snyder’s businesses on September 19, 2007, the day
after they filed for bankruptcy. (Id. ¶ 3.)3
On September 25, 2008, over a year after Feldman became the Chapter 7 Trustee, the
Office of Thrift Supervision closed Washington Mutual and appointed the FDIC as receiver
pursuant to the Financial Institutions Reform, Recovery, and Enforcement Act (“FIRREA”),
Pub. L. No. 101-83, 103 Stat. 183 (1989) (codified in various sections of Title 12 of the U.S.
Code). (Def.’s Mot. at 10; see Am. Compl. ¶ 7.) The FDIC set December 30, 2008, as the
deadline for filing administrative claims in the receivership and published notices of the
receivership and claims deadline in the Wall Street Journal on October 1, 2008, and October 31,
2008. (See Def.’s Mot., Ex. A.).
On October 8, 2008, less than two weeks after Washington Mutual closed, Feldman sent
a letter addressed to Mr. David Schneider, President of Washington Mutual Home Loan, Inc., to
“advise Washington Mutual of her . . . claims.” (Am. Compl. ¶ 54.) Feldman did not receive a
response to her letter from the former bank or from the FDIC. (See id. ¶¶ 54–55.)
Just under ten months after sending the letter to Schneider, Feldman filed a proof of claim
with the FDIC, as receiver for Washington Mutual, on August 3, 2009. (Id. ¶ 55.) On or about
September 18, 2009, the FDIC sent a letter to Feldman, which she received on September 24,
2009, disallowing the claim as untimely. (See id. ¶ 56.) Finally, on November 16, 2009,
Snyder pleaded guilty to mail fraud in the Middle District of Pennsylvania. (Am.
Compl. ¶ 45.)
Feldman became the permanent Trustee on November 27, 2007. (Am. Compl. ¶ 3 n.1.)
Feldman brought this action against the FDIC, seeking review of the FDIC’s decision to disallow
her claims. (Id. ¶¶ 49–53.)4
STANDARD OF REVIEW
The FDIC has moved, inter alia, to dismiss for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction. When
presented with a motion to dismiss on jurisdictional and other grounds, courts should first
consider the Rule 12(b)(1) jurisdictional challenge. See Loughlin v. United States, 393 F.3d 155,
170 (D.C. Cir. 2004) (“The federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction, and they lack the
power to presume the existence of jurisdiction in order to dispose of a case on any other
grounds.” (quoting Tuck v. Pan American Health Organization, 668 F.2d 547, 549 (D.C. Cir.
1981))); United States ex rel. Settlemire v. Dist. of Columbia, 198 F.3d 913, 920–21 (D.C. Cir.
1999) (citation omitted) (declining to issue a ruling on the merits after holding the court lacked
A jurisdictional challenge under Rule 12(b)(1) may be either facial or factual. “If a
defendant mounts a ‘facial’ challenge to the legal sufficiency of the plaintiff's jurisdictional
allegations, the court must accept as true the allegations in the complaint and consider the factual
allegations of the complaint in the light most favorable to the non-moving party.” Erby v. United
States, 424 F. Supp. 2d 180, 182 (D.D.C. 2006) (citing I.T. Consultants, Inc. v. Pakistan, 351
F.3d 1184, 1188 (D.C. Cir. 2003)). In a factual challenge, “the court may not deny the motion to
dismiss merely by assuming the truth of the facts alleged by the plaintiff and disputed by the
defendant.” Phoenix Consulting Inc. v. Republic of Angola, 216 F.3d 36, 40 (D.C. Cir. 2000). It
On February 22, 2010, the Court granted Feldman’s unopposed motion to stay the case
pending the disposition of a related matter in the United States District Court for the Eastern
District of Pennsylvania. On May 3, 2016, the Court granted Feldman’s unopposed motion to
lift the stay.
must “go beyond the pleadings and resolve any disputed issues of fact the resolution of which is
necessary to a ruling upon the motion to dismiss.” Id.
Where, as here, the moving party has raised a factual challenge, “the plaintiff bears the
burden of establishing the factual predicates of jurisdiction by a preponderance of the evidence.”
See Erby, 424 F. Supp. 2d at 182 (citing Lujan v. Defenders of Wildlife, 504 U.S. 555, 561
(1992)). “While the district court may consider materials outside the pleadings in deciding
whether to grant a motion to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction, the court must still accept all of the
factual allegations in [the] complaint as true.” Jerome Stevens Pharm., Inc. v. FDA, 402 F.3d
1249, 1253 (D.C. Cir. 2005) (citations and quotation marks omitted) (alteration in original).
Feldman invokes FIRREA as the basis of federal jurisdiction in this case. (See Am.
Compl. ¶ 1 (citing 12 U.S.C. § 1821(d)(6)).) The FDIC argues that this Court is deprived of
jurisdiction because, by not filing a timely claim with the FDIC, Feldman failed to exhaust the
administrative remedies available to her.5 Feldman contends that her failure to file a claim by
the FDIC’s deadline is excused by the late-filed claims exception, 12 U.S.C. § 1821(d)(5)(C)(ii),
and that she therefore fully complied with FIRREA’s administrative-claims process. The Court
THE FIRREA CLAIMS PROCESS IS JURISDICTIONAL.
As “courts of limited subject-matter jurisdiction,” federal courts have “the power to
decide only those cases over which Congress grants jurisdiction.” Al-Zahrani v. Rodriguez, 669
F.3d 315, 317 (D.C. Cir. 2012) (citing Micei Int'l v. Dep't of Commerce, 613 F.3d 1147, 1151
The FDIC also argues that the claims are statutorily time-barred. See infra Part III.
(D.C. Cir. 2010)). Under FIRREA, Congress has circumscribed federal jurisdiction over claims
against failed banks that are in receivership with the FDIC. See 12 U.S.C . § 1821(d)(13)(D); id.
§ 1821(d)(6). In Freeman v. FDIC, the D.C. Circuit explained that “where a claimant has . . .
failed to initiate an administrative claim within the filing period, the claimant necessarily forfeits
any right to pursue a claim against the failed institution’s assets in any court.” 56 F.3d 1394,
1400 (D.C. Cir. 1995) (quoting Marquis v. FDIC, 965 F.2d 1148, 1151–52 (1st Cir. 1992)).
Subject to one relevant exception, FIRREA provides that
no court shall have jurisdiction over—
(i) any claim or action for payment from, or any action seeking a
determination of rights with respect to, the assets of any depository institution for
which the Corporation has been appointed receiver, including assets which the
Corporation may acquire from itself as such receiver; or
(ii) any claim relating to any act or omission of such institution or the
Corporation as receiver.
12 U.S.C . § 1821(d)(13)(D). Notwithstanding § 1821(d)(13)(D), “[u]nder § 1821(d)(6) both the
United States District Court for the District of Columbia and the district court for the district
where the financial institution has its principal place of business have jurisdiction to review de
novo claims filed with, and processed by, the FDIC under its administrative claims process.”
Freeman, 56 F.3d at 1400 (citation omitted). Thus, as a prerequisite to judicial review, a
claimant must first exhaust the administrative remedies available to her under FIRREA by filing
an administrative claim with the FDIC. Id. at 1399.
FIRREA empowers the FDIC to decide “claims [against the assets of failed banks held by
the FDIC as receiver] under a process established by statute and FDIC regulations.” Id. (citing
12 U.S.C. §§ 1821(d)(3)(A), 1821(d)(4)). In order to initiate the administrative-claims process,
the FDIC must “publish a notice ‘to the depository institution’s creditors’” and “mail a ‘similar’
notice to ‘any creditor shown on the institution’s books.’” Id. (quoting 12 U.S.C.
§§ 1821(d)(3)(B), 1821(d)(3)(C)). The notice must “specify a date by which claims must be
presented, not less than 90 days after publication.” Id. (citing 12 U.S.C. § 1821(d)(3)(B)).
Once a claim is filed with the FDIC, the FDIC has 180 days to allow or disallow the
claim. Id. (citing 12 U.S.C. § 1821(d)(5)(A)). If the claim is disallowed, the claimant may seek
review of the decision in district court by filing an action within 60 days of the issuance of the
FDIC’s decision. Id. at 1400 (citing 12 U.S.C. § 1821(d)(6)). If the FDIC does not issue a
decision within 180 days, a claimant may still seek review by filing an action within 60 days of
the expiration of the 180-day time period. Id. (citing 12 U.S.C. § 1821(d)(6)).
FIRREA directs the FDIC to disallow any untimely claim and provides that, subject to
certain exceptions, “such disallowance shall be final.” 12 U.S.C. § 1821(d)(5)(C)(i). An
exception for late-filed claims applies if “‘the claimant did not receive notice of the appointment
of the receiver in time to file such claim before such date’; in that case, a late-filed claim ‘may be
considered by the receiver,’ provided the claim is ‘filed in time to permit payment.’” Freeman,
56 F.3d at 1399 (quoting 12 U.S.C. § 1821(d)(5)(C)(ii)).
Here, the FDIC set December 30, 2008, as the deadline for administrative claims. The
FDIC complied with its statutory notice requirements when it published notices of the
receivership and deadline in the Wall Street Journal on October 1, 2008, and October 31, 2008.
(See Def.’s Mot., Ex. A.)6 Feldman did not file an administrative claim with the FDIC until
August 3, 2009, over seven months after the deadline set by the FDIC. (See Am. Compl. ¶ 55.)
Feldman’s claim therefore “shall be disallowed and such disallowance shall be final” unless the
Given the nature of the Ponzi scheme, the former business entities that Feldman
represents were not “creditor[s] shown on the institution’s books” at the time the notice was
published, and they were therefore not entitled to notice by mail under 12 U.S.C.
above-quoted exception applies to excuse Feldman’s failure to submit a timely claim. See 12
U.S.C. § 1821(d)(5)(C)(i).
THE LATE-FILED CLAIMS EXCEPTION DOES NOT APPLY.
Feldman does not dispute that she submitted her claim after the filing deadline. Rather,
she argues that she nevertheless exhausted FIRREA’s administrative remedies because her claim
is covered by the statutory exception for late-filed claims, 12 U.S.C. § 1821(d)(5)(C)(ii). (Pl.’s
Opp. at 8.)
Section 1821(d)(5)(C)(ii) provides an exception to FIRREA’s general rule that untimely
claims “shall be disallowed and such disallowance shall be final.” 12 U.S.C. § 1821(d)(5)(C)(i).
The FDIC may consider a late-filed claim if “(I) the claimant did not receive notice of the
appointment of the receiver in time to file such claim before such date; and (II) such claim is
filed in time to permit payment of such claim.” Id. § 1821(d)(5)(C)(ii). In arguing that the latefiled claims exception applies, Feldman contends that (1) she was entitled to notice by mail, (2)
she received no notice of the receivership, and (3) she submitted a claim to the FDIC in time to
permit payment. (Pl.’s Opp. at 8.)
Specifically, Feldman claims that the October 8, 2008 letter she sent to Washington
Mutual Home Loans, Inc., made her an identifiable claimant whom the FDIC was statutorily
required to notify of the receivership through a mailing within 30 days. (Id. (citing 12 U.S.C.
§ 1821(d)(3)(C)(ii)).) The FDIC argues that Feldman received the only notice to which she was
entitled: publication of the receivership. Thus, in the FDIC’s view, Feldman received adequate
notice, and her late-filed claim is unreviewable. The Court agrees with the FDIC that Feldman
has not satisfied the late-filed claims exception and thus has filed to file a timely claim with the
FDIC and has “forfeit[ed] any right to pursue a claim against the failed institution’s assets in any
court.” See Freeman, 56 F.3d at 1400.
First, Feldman was not entitled to notice by mail. Feldman was not a “creditor shown on
the institution’s books” when the FDIC became receiver of Washington Mutual on September
25, 2008. See 12 U.S.C. § 1821(d)(3)(C). Nor do Feldman’s allegations, presumed to be true at
this stage of the litigation, demonstrate that the FDIC discovered that Feldman was a claimant,
such that the FDIC was statutorily required to mail her notice within 30 days of that discovery.
See id. § 1821(d)(3)(C)(ii). Feldman’s October 8, 2008 letter, addressed to Mr. David Schneider,
President of Washington Mutual Home Loan, Inc., was sent after Washington Mutual closed on
September 25, 2008. Schneider was no longer an executive with the bank. Indeed, as
Washington Mutual no longer existed, the bank could not be “advised” of Feldman’s claims.
Her letter therefore could not have, as required by statute, put the FDIC on notice that Feldman
had a claim against Washington Mutual. (See Am. Compl. ¶ 54.)7 And, the only notice that the
Feldman cites to Elmco Properties, Inc. v. Second National Federal Savings Ass’n, 94
F.3d 914 (4th Cir. 1996), and Iberiabank v. Coconut 41, LLC, 2011 WL 4807701 (M.D. Fla. Oct.
11, 2011), for the proposition that her October 8, 2008 letter to Washington Mutual triggered the
FDIC’s obligation to mail her notice. (Pl.’s Opp. at 9.) With facts distinct from those here, those
cases are inapposite.
The claimant in Elmco mailed a letter to the bank from which it sought a refund before
the bank closed. Id. at 918. At the time the claimant mailed the letter, the Resolution Trust
Company (“RTC”), which later became receiver of the bank, was acting as conservator of the
bank. Of pivotal importance, after becoming receiver for the bank, the RTC responded to
Elmco’s letter in writing to address what RTC referred to as Elmco’s “claim for a refund.” Id.
Thus, in Elmco, unlike this case, it was “clear on the record” that the receiver for the failed bank
knew of Elmco’s claims and its address. Id. at 921.
Iberiabank is also different than this case. In Iberiabank, the claimant asserted claims
against the failed bank and served process on the vice-president of the failed bank after the FDIC
had taken over as receiver. 2011 WL 4807701, at *4. It was clear that the FDIC learned of the
claimant and its claim when the FDIC filed a motion to dismiss in the lawsuit, not just when the
vice-president of failed bank was served. Id. “The lack of written notice from [the receiver],
FDIC was required to provide Feldman and other claimants in her position was through
publication. See 12 U.S.C. § 1821(d)(3)(B).8
Second, Feldman’s allegation that she did not receive notice of the receivership is
unavailing. As a preliminary matter, Feldman fails to carry her burden of demonstrating the
factual predicates needed to invoke the late-filed claims exception. See Erby, 424 F. Supp. 2d at
182 (citing Lujan, 504 U.S. at 561). Feldman does not allege that she lacked actual knowledge
of the receivership or administrative-claims deadline. (See Am. Compl. ¶¶ 54–56.). Nor does
she allege the specific date on which she learned of the receivership, which might demonstrate
that she was not able to file a claim before the deadline. (See id.) Rather, Feldman merely
alleges that the FDIC failed to provide her with notice by mail. (See id.) Thus, Feldman did not
meet her burden to demonstrate the existence of jurisdiction by a preponderance of the evidence.
See Alkasabi v. Washington Mut. Bank, F.A. et al., 31 F. Supp. 3d 101, 108 (D.D.C. 2014).
Further, Feldman received adequate notice of the receivership by virtue of the FDIC’s
publications. See id. Given the fact that Washington Mutual’s closing was “the largest bank
failure in U.S. history” and was “widely publicized in 2008,” Feldman was on inquiry notice of
the receivership. See id. As a self-professed “experienced bankruptcy trustee who is eminently
familiar with how claim-filing bar dates operate,” Feldman’s failure to file a timely claim cannot
coupled with the [receiver’s] participation in the judicial proceedings, establishe[d] that the
[receiver] ha[d] elected to proceed in a judicial forum and not administratively.” Id. at *5.
Even if Feldman were entitled to notice by mail, the FDIC’s failure to mail the notice
would not excuse Feldman’s failure to file a timely claim. See Freeman, 56 F.3d at 1402 (“Even
if the [claimants] never received the required § 1821(d)(3)(C) notice, however, they were still
obliged to exhaust their administrative remedies as a condition of obtaining access to the district
Given that Feldman’s claim does not fit within the statutory exception for late-filed
claims, her failure to exhaust FIRREA’s administrative remedies deprives this Court of
jurisdiction, see Freeman, 56 F.3d at 1402, and the FDICs’ disallowance of her claim therefore
“shall be final,” see 12 U.S.C. § 1821(d)(5)(C)(i).
FELDMAN’S CLAIMS ARE STATUTORILY TIME-BARRED.
The FDIC argues in the alternative that Feldman’s claims are time-barred by the
Bankruptcy Code’s statutory limitations, 11 U.S.C. § 546. (Def.’s Mot. at 15.) Feldman
responds that her claim filed with the FDIC on August 3, 2009, tolled the statute of limitations.
(Pl.’s Opp. at 11 (citing 12 U.S.C. § 1821(d)(5)(F)(i)).) Even if the Court had jurisdiction over
this matter, Feldman’s untimely claim with the FDIC would be insufficient to toll the statute of
limitations. Her claims would therefore also be time-barred.
Feldman predicates her claims for relief on the Bankruptcy Code, 11 U.S.C. §§ 544
(Counts I and II), 547 (Counts III and IV), 548 (Count V), & 550 (Count VI). (See Am. Compl.
at 12–16.) Sections 544, 547, and 548 are subject to the Bankruptcy Code’s statute of
limitations, which runs “2 years after the entry of the order of relief.” 11 U.S.C. § 546(a).9
Under 11 U.S.C. § 301, voluntarily filing bankruptcy constitutes an “order for relief,” effective
on the petition date, in this case September 18, 2007. Thus, Feldman’s claim would have had to
Section 546(a) provides:
An action or proceeding under section 544, 545, 547, 548, or 553 of this title may
not be commenced after the earlier of—
(1) the later of—
(A) 2 years after the entry of the order for relief; or
(B) 1 year after the appointment or election of the first trustee
under section 702, 1104, 1163, 1202, or 1302 of this title if such
appointment or such election occurs before the expiration of the
period specified in subparagraph (A); or
(2) the time the case is closed or dismissed.
have been filed by September 18, 2009 to satisfy the requirements of § 546. Feldman’s claim,
filed on November 16, 2009, plainly falls outside of the two-year time period. Nevertheless,
Feldman contends that her August 3, 2009 proof of claim filed with the FDIC served to toll the
limitations period pursuant to 12 U.S.C. § 1821(d)(5)(F)(i).10
FIRREA provides that “[f]or purposes of any applicable statute of limitations, the filing
of a claim with the receiver shall constitute a commencement of an action.” 12 U.S.C.
§ 1821(d)(5)(F)(i). As correctly argued by the FDIC, the “filing of a claim with the receiver” for
purposes of tolling the statute of limitations would only be effective if the claim were timely
filed. See Nikols v. FDIC, 9 F. Supp. 2d 137, 142 (D. Conn. 1998). Unless Feldman’s failure to
comply with FIRREA’s administrative-claims process were excused—which, as discussed
above, it was not– she did not “file a claim with the receiver” sufficient to toll the Bankruptcy
Code’s limitations period.
Feldman’s claim under the Bankruptcy Code § 550 is not explicitly subject to the
limitations period in § 546. However, a claim under § 550 is only viable if there has been an
avoidance under one of the other sections of the Bankruptcy Code. See 11 U.S.C. § 550(a)
(“[T]o the extent that a transfer is avoided under section 544, 545, 547, 548, 549, 553(b),
or 724(a) of this title, the trustee may recover, for the benefit of the estate, the property
As the Court finds Feldman’s untimely claim would not have been effective to toll the
statute of limitations, it need not determine whether the Bankruptcy Code’s limitations period is
a jurisdictional bar that would not be subject to tolling.
transferred, or, if the court so orders, the value of such property.”) Thus, Feldman’s § 550 cause
of action fails without a viable claim under §§ 544, 547, or 548.
Accordingly, the FDIC’s motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction is
granted. The Court therefore need not address defendant’s alternative arguments for dismissal,
or its argument that the jury demand should be stricken. A separate Order accompanies this
/s/ Ellen Segal Huvelle
ELLEN SEGAL HUVELLE
United States District Judge
Date: December 21, 2016
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