Archive for August, 2019

For the benefit of all stakeholders – Pushing the Needle Forward on Business as a Force for Good.

August 22, 2019 Leave a comment

Good afternoon, all. I hope you all have been enjoying the summer. I took this photo this morning as the sun was rising over downtown Grand Rapids.

Just a few days ago Business Roundtable announced the release of a new Statement on the Purpose of a Corporation signed by 181 CEOs who commit to lead their companies for the benefit of all stakeholders – customers, employees, suppliers, communities and shareholders.”

Thanks to Jeff Van Winkle for bringing this to my attention. You can check out the link to the Business Roundtable webiste and the announcement:

It is exciting to see the general acknowledgment and support for the idea that business exists for a purpose more than simply profit.

This is not a new thing, particularly in West Michigan.

West Michigan is truly a unique place where business and philanthropy intersect unlike any other place.  Giving of time, talents and treasure to worthy causes is embedded in the culture of this community.

We know of many businesses that have established core mission statements of social good as something beyond profit for quite some time. I look to Cascade Engineering, as one example. Check out the Blog of Fred Keller, Founder of Cascade – titled “Purpose & Profit”

Some groups are skeptical that this statement will lead to any real change – case in point Corporate America Says “Sorry” via @npquarterly

However, I am hopeful that this statement pushes the ball forward on business for good in the State of Michigan.


Last year the State House tantalized social entrepreneurs, once again, with the possibility of benefit corporations (“Bcorps”) becoming a viable legal option to do business in the State of Michigan.

House Bills 5867, 5868 & 5869 were introduced on April 24, 2018, that would allow BCorps to be formed under Michigan Law.

There was never any movement on those bills and they died in committee.

Back almost two years ago the legislature proposed similar legislation which also died in committee (are you recognizing a pattern?). For a review of the Former BCorp Bills, the House Fiscal Agency issued a Fiscal Analysis, check it out here. 

The Analysis provides good background on what the legislation would do. This is helpful for those who are not overly familiar with BCorps in general.

Education on the “why” for BCorps.

Interested groups and local politicians have been educating the public on why BCorp laws would be a good thing for our state.

State Rep Hank Vaupe gave a discussion to a local chamber group on B-Corps two Septembers ago:

As Rep. Vaupe indicated “benefit corporations provide an opportunity for businesses to use the markets, rather than traditional charity giving, to advance their philanthropic missions.”

Michigan is behind the ball.

Over the last several years Michigan legislators have repeatedly introduced BCorp legislation – to no avail.

Check out this handout from Rep Barnett almost 10 years ago in support of the BCorp legislation he proposed in September 2010.

I found particularly interesting the very last section – it provides some comment on why some Michigan businesses may have been averse to the introduction of BCorp legislation. Feel free to read it and reach your own conclusions.

Michigan now ranks as one of the vast minority of states that has not enacted benefit corporation legislation.

Check out the Benefit Corporation website for a state by state legislative analysis.

I hope Michigan can continue to make progress and recognize business as a force for good.

Questions? Comments?

Connect with me on Twitter: @JeshuaTLauka

Michigan Legal Update for Real Estate Investors: What Happens to a Surplus after Foreclosure Sale?

August 6, 2019 Leave a comment

Summer is going fast.

I read a  Court of Appeals decision that prompted me to write on the topic concerning real estate investors.

The market to purchase distressed real estate has become extremely competitive since 2008-09. Having multiple real estate investors bidding on properties can cause some serious problems. 

Some lenders/investors have tried some creative methods of recovery and made some interesting legal arguments in order to  maximize their profit at or after foreclosure sales. Complex legal issues can arise in a competitive market when there is money to be made.

For clients of mine that purchase investment real estate at foreclosure – an interesting situation can come up:

  1. Purchaser at foreclosure knows the bidding is competitive – is the highest bidder – overbids due to competitive bids.
  2. Purchaser, in order to “pocket” the overbid (and to extinguish the mortgagor’s right of redemption) – purchases the homeowner (mortgagor’s) interest via quitclaim deed prior to foreclosure and thereafter.
  3. The Sheriff conducting the sale receives and deposits the surplus with the County Treasurer.
  4. Purchaser seeks from the County Treasurer the overbid amount after the foreclosed debt is satisfied.

Facts of May 21 Decision in BAER CO v Specialized Loan Services

That’s presumably what the Plaintiff, purchaser expected to happen in this case.

With real estate, however, things don’t always go how you expect.

This case is helpful, because it provides some guidance to an area of the law that isn’t used very often and there simply isn’t a lot of case law about: what happens to surplus funds after foreclosure and who is entitled to those funds?

This case arises out of the foreclosure sale of property located in Grand Rapids, Michigan (the property). The original property owner took out a mortgage on the property, and he died approximately eleven years later. The mortgage was assigned to respondent SLS, and in the meantime, petitioner BAERE purchased the property via quit claim deed from the original property owner’s son. The mortgage eventually fell into default, whereupon respondent initiated a foreclosure by advertisement. As of the day of the foreclosure sale, the amount of the indebtedness on the mortgage was $51,915.75. Respondent made an initial bid of $20,300. The successful bidder, non-party RDG New Homes, LLC, bid $50,000. with $162,497.12 remaining owed. Id.

After the proceeds from the sale of the Property to Purchaser satisfied the first mortgage the Sheriff received and deposited the $77,490.54 in surplus funds with the St. Clair County Treasurer.

Purchaser filed a document with the Treasurer, “document titled “Verified Claim for Turn-Over of Proceeds of Sale.” seeking payment of the $77,490.54 surplus funds.

Defendant, the junior mortgage servicer, filed a competing document titled “Verified Claim for Surplus Proceeds of Sale

The result was that the funds were turned over to the Circuit Court for the proper disposition. The Court found Defendant, as junior mortgage holder, the proper party. Plaintiff appealed. A few interesting points to discuss came out of this case.


There are a couple of particular laws that come into play here:

I. Full Credit Bid

One general one to be aware of – the Full Credit Bid Rule – it basically stands for the proposition that: “An overbid at a Sheriff’s sale extinguishes the entire debt.” Pulleyblank v. Cape, 179 Mich.App. 690, 446 N.W.2d 345 (1989) (per curiam).

Practically speaking, if the bank bid the entire amount that was owed, regardless of whether or not the fair market value of the property is worth less than what is owed, the bank cannot come after the borrower for a deficiency.

II. MCL 600.3252 – Surplus Funds After Foreclosure. 

That statute states in relevant part:

If after any sale of real estate…there shall remain in the hands of the officer…making the sale, any surplus money after satisfying the mortgage on which the real estate was sold, and payment of the costs and expenses of the foreclosure and sale, the surplus shall be paid over by the officer…to the mortgagor…or assigns, unless at the time of the sale, or before the surplus shall be so paid over, some claimant or claimants, shall file with the person so making the sale, a claim…in which case the person so making the sale, shall forthwith upon receiving the claim, pay the surplus to, and file the written claim with the clerk of the circuit court of the county in which the sale is so made…

So, the mortgagor is entitled to receive the funds from the Sheriff – or if sent to the Court, an interested party making a “claim” to the funds may make a claim to the Court.

“The statute allows both (1) parties who filed a “claim” with the person making the sale, and (2) any person or persons interested in the surplus, to apply to the circuit court for distribution of the surplus funds after a foreclosure sale.” Id. page 10.

a. Mortgagor – “demand” v.s “claim” – all the same?

One of the primary issues on appeal concerns whether the Purchaser’s filing qualified as a “demand” or as a “claim” under MCL 600.3252. Plaintiff filed with the Treasurer a  document and did not use the word “demand.”

The Court held that, “because plaintiff conveyed to the Treasurer its assertion of its right to disbursement of the surplus funds, we conclude that plaintiff made a “demand” for purposes of MCL 600.3252.” Id. page 7

b.  Mortgagor’s demand needs to be “immediately” paid?

Purchaser argued that the Sheriff should have paid “immediately upon demand” and disregarded the junior mortgage holder. Basically a “you snooze you lose” argument.

The Court was not convinced, holding:

“Although plaintiff makes a valid point that an obligation to make payment “on demand”
generally requires immediacy, the specific facts of this case support the trial court’s ruling that the Treasurer was justified in delaying payment for seven days while it conducted its due diligence in evaluating plaintiff’s filing.” Id. Page 10.

In summary – if you are a Purchaser at foreclosure and have obtained the “mortgagor’s” rights – be careful to search the title for competing claims to that money.

You can’t rely on the fact that you immediately demand the funds to ultimately entitle you to them.

Questions? Comments?


Twitter: @JeshuaTLauka