Attorneys in ANZ class action suit file for settlement
Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — Close to 300 adjustable mortgage loans made by ANZ Guam Inc.’s bank branches in American Samoa — ANZ Amerika Samoa Bank — are included in a Settlement Agreement filed this week at the federal court in Guam, which would need to approve the settlement, following a lawsuit by three local residents.
The class action complaint was filed Mar. 21, 2018 by local residents Ronald Parker, Fa’afetai Parker, and Tualagi Gaoteote. Plaintiffs allege that ANZ fails to provide homeowners with accurate periodic statements, fails to provide adequate notice when it changes the interest rates on adjustable rate mortgages, and charges excessive late fees.
In a joint motion filed two weeks ago, the parties — through their respective attorneys — informed the court that they “have now reached an agreement to settle this class action” lawsuit.
On Wednesday in Guam (Tuesday in American Samoa), the parties filed the Stipulation and Settlement Agreement — subject to court approval — in which ANZ denies the allegations in the lawsuit. However, the parties wish to avoid the costs associated with further litigation, and have agreed to a full, complete and final settlement on the terms and conditions outlined in the Agreement.
The document explains that attorney for plaintiffs had investigated the facts relating to the claims alleged in the complaint and the attorney, along with the defendant’s counsel have engaged in good faith arms’ length negotiations which have resulted in the settlement agreement.
Based upon their investigation and taking into account the sharply contested issues involved, plaintiffs’ counsel have concluded that the risks, uncertainly, and costs of further prosecution of the complaint including the likelihood of appeals, when compared to the benefits to be received pursuant to this Agreement, strongly support a settlement with ANZ, according to the filings.
Plaintiffs’ have concluded that the settlement agreement “is fair, reasonable, adequate, and in the best interests of the Settlement Class,” the filing states.
Among the provisions of the 26-page Stipulation and Agreement document, is that the Parties agreed that the Settlement Class in this lawsuit, should be:
• All persons who, as of Mar. 21, 2018 were borrowers on an adjustable rate residential mortgage loan secured by real property in American Samoa, with ANZ Guam Inc., branches in American Samoa.
Another provision states that, there are 290 adjustable mortgage loans covered by the agreement — referred to as Covered Mortgage Loans. “This represents the number of adjustable mortgage loans issued by ANZ and secured by real property in American Samoa as of Mar. 21, 2018,” the provision said, adding that the agreement does not apply to ANZ Guam Inc., borrowers in Guam.
The agreement also provides detailed information on the Settlement Payment, in which ANZ agrees to make a payment of $1,500 for each of the Covered Mortgage Loans. Additionally, there will be one payment only per Loan regardless of how many borrowers are on the loan.
And the payment shall be paid within sixty-days of the “Effective Date” which means the latter of the following:
• the expiration date of the time for filing or notice of any appeal from the Final Approval Order of the court, with respect to the Settlement, if no appeal is filed; or
• in the event that a motion for reconsideration, an appeal or other effort to obtain review of the Final Approval Order is filed, the Effective Date is the date on which such reconsideration, appeal, or review has been finally concluded and no longer subject for review — whether by appeal, and petitions for rehearing.
Other provisions of the agreement explain how the $1,500 settlement is paid. For example, Settlement Class members with existing mortgage loan balances with ANZ as of the Effective Date shall receive the $1,500 for each Loan payment by a credit to the mortgage loan account. And the $1,500 credit is applied first to outstanding late fees, then to outstanding interest, then to billed escrow charges and then to outstanding principal.
Another provision explains the process if the Settlement Class member no longer have an outstanding balances of the loan, in which case a check is issued.
Under the agreement, ANZ also promised to made changes to its practices. For example, plaintiffs alleged that ANZ improperly calculated late fees for Covered Mortgages, which had associated escrow accounts.
In response to this allegation, the agreement said ANZ has since refunded excessive late fees charges from 2015 to 2020 totaling $33,889 and the calculation of late fees for borrowers has since been corrected.
ATTORNEY FEES AND COSTS
According to the agreement, the attorney representing the Class Action members may move the court for an award for reasonable attorneys’ fees, expenses and costs incurred in this Action — referred to as Fee Award — to be paid by ANZ in the amount not to exceed $250,000. ANZ said it will not oppose the Fee Award provided that it’s not more than $250,000.
Furthermore, plaintiffs may apply to the court for a service award of up to $7,500 for Ronald and Fa’afetai Parker collectively, and $7,500 to Tualagi Gaoteote for their services as the Class Representatives in this action. ANZ says it takes no position on this issue.
There’s no indication on court records as to when the presiding federal judge, will make a decision on the agreement.