Your web-browser is very outdated, and as such, this website may not display properly. Please consider upgrading to a modern, faster and more secure browser. Click here to do so.
By Ross KerberBOSTON, Oct 18 (Reuters) - A developer who acquired property in a faulty transfer cannot sue the original owner, Massachusetts’ highest court ruled on Tuesday, the second time it has sided with a homeowner in a high-profile housing case this year.The decision by the state’s Supreme Judicial Court turned on technical reasons and left the developer facing the prospect of suing banks and title companies that had left him with faulty documentation, rather than the original homeowner who had been foreclosed upon.The result could make it easier for individuals to fend off financial companies in similar cases elsewhere, said an attorney who had argued against the developer’s case.”The banks are the ones that violated the law, so why should homeowners have to pay for the violations?” said Max Weinstein, an attorney and Harvard Law School lecturer who had filed a friend-of-the-court brief on behalf of the homeowner.Housing industry executives had previously warned a ruling against the developer, Francis Bevilacqua, could destabilize the real-estate finance system.Bevilacqua’s attorney, Jeffrey Loeb, said he was disappointed the court did not accept parts of his argument, but pleased with a section of the ruling in which the judges reaffirmed that even a flawed foreclosure deed could “operate as an assignment of the mortgage itself.”The result, he said, “gives Fran Bevilacqua and people in his position the right to re-foreclose.”Loeb said he has not had a chance to discuss the ruling with Bevilacqua or to decide their next course of action.SECOND CASE FOR COURTIn January, the state’s highest court voided the seizure of two homes by Wells Fargo & Co and US Bancorp after they failed to show they held titles at the time of the foreclosures.Issues of foreclosures done without proper documentation have flared up nationwide as banks and regulators grapple with the aftermath of the housing boom and the loose oversight that accompanied it.In this case, banks and mortgage companies had lined up behind the developer, while state officials and housing activists had cited his claims as examples of a flawed system.The matter began when US Bancorp transferred to Bevilacqua the title for a building in Haverhill, Massachusetts, a suburb north of Boston. He turned it into four condominiums.In a bid to establish clear title, Bevilacqua sued the previous owner who had been foreclosed upon. But a lower court ruled that Bevilacqua did not hold title to the property and said his lawsuit would be better directed at those that gave him the faulty title.The original owner and defendant in the suit, Pablo Rodriguez, has not appeared at hearings or filed motions in the case.The Supreme Judicial Court upheld the lower court ruling dismissing Bevilacqua’s lawsuit, but left the door open for him to refile his lawsuit in a different form.The case in the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts is Francis J. Bevilacqua III vs. Pablo Rodriguez, SJC-10880.
Readings below 50 mean more builders view market conditions as poor than favorable. The index has not been above 50 since April 2006.”This latest boost in builder confidence is a good sign that some pockets of recovery are starting to emerge across the country, as extremely favorable interest rates and prices catch consumers’ attention,” NAHB chief economist David Crowe said in a statement.Even so, builders are being squeezed by rising materials costs and low home prices due to the glut of foreclosed homes, Crowe said.A gauge of single family home sales rose to 18 from 14, which was also the highest level since May 2010. The gauge of sales expectations in the next six months climbed to 24 from 17, the highest since March.
Although the company has been criticized by some for its opaqueness and complicated structure, its stock has risen 2.8 percent since the beginning of July, the strongest issue in the Toronto Stock Exchange’s financials sector, which has fallen nearly 10 percent over the same period.Since mid-2006, Toronto’s benchmark S&P/TSX composite index has risen just over 10 percent, while Fairfax stock has nearly quadrupled. Analysts say its go-to status should last as long as the recent market volatility continues.”Fairfax’s strong balance sheet, steady underwriting performance, and defensively positioned investment portfolio… combine to make Fairfax a solid defensive pick through the ongoing market turmoil,” said Jeff Fenwick, an analyst a Cormark Securities.Fenwick has a “buy” recommendation on the stock and a C$460 target for its price in a year’s time. The stock closed at C$396.47 on Wednesday.While technically a property and casualty insurer, the Canadian company is better known for its investment portfolio, run by founder and Chief Executive Prem Watsa, who has been described by some as “Canada’s Warren Buffett” because of the way he played the 2008 crisis.”It’s the great-man theory of stocks. You’re betting on Prem Watsa, and the rest of the company’s completely opaque,” said David Baskin, portfolio manager and president of Baskin Financial Services in Toronto.2008 INVESTMENT GAINSAs the equity market crumbled in late 2008, Fairfax notched a $2.7 billion investment gain on the year, due to equity hedges and the use of credit default swaps as a bet against the U.S. housing market. Watsa then removed the equity hedges and rode the market higher through 2009.In late 2010 and early 2011, as equity prices were rushing to multiyear highs, Watsa was again sounding the alarm on markets, due to concerns about financial system debt. He hedged 100 percent of the Fairfax’s stock portfolio in mid-2010.The move forced Fairfax to take a loss in the fourth quarter of 2010, but has paid dividends in 2011 as markets have retrenched.The company recorded net gains on investments of $119.6 million in the second quarter of 2011 even as equity markets sold off during the period, and investors have kept the stock close to decade highs.CIBC World Markets analyst Paul Holden, who has a C$450 a share target on Fairfax, said he expects its third-quarter results to benefit from the company’s large U.S. bond holdings.”U.S. bond yields have come down significantly over the last quarter, so we expect them to book a large gain,” he said.Meanwhile, Watsa has kept up his habit of surprising the market with his moves, diving into the heart of the European debt crisis with the purchase of a 9 percent stake in struggling Bank of Ireland, one of a number of acquisitions Fairfax has made as many others in the market have retrenched.”It certainly shows he’s a contrarian investor,” said Todd Johnson, a portfolio manager at BCV Asset Management in Winnipeg, which holds Fairfax bonds.Johnson said the investment was “a long-term investment in Ireland, and a eventual recovery in the economy and in banking.”Fenwick believes Fairfax may leverage its strong financial position — the company has a cash position of more than $1.1 billion — to make more acquisitions of companies whose shares are trading at depressed levels.($1=$1.02 Canadian)
Olkiluoto 3, Finland’s fifth nuclear reactor, has been hit by repeated delays and ballooning costs. The 1,600 megawatt plant was originally scheduled to start operations in 2009 and TVO had said last year it will start in 2013.TVO said its plant supplier, a consortium originally formed by Areva SA and Siemens AG (SIEGn.DE), had informed it of delays in building the reactor’s automation system and in installing piping and electrical systems.TVO and Areva-Siemens have disagreed over who is responsible for the delays, taking a dispute over payment to the International Chamber of Commerce. Siemens has withdrawn from the consortium.Areva has blamed TVO’s “inertia” in validating technical documents before passing them to the Finnish nuclear safety authority. But it has also encountered engineering issues.The reactor is the first of its kind, with a double containment building, a compartment isolating the molten core, six back-up diesel generators and four back-up cooling systems which Areva says would have withstood the earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan’s Fukushima plant in March.TVO said it wants an updated project schedule.”The plant supplier is responsible for the time schedule. TVO is continuing to provide support to the plant supplier to complete the project as soon as possible without compromising safety and quality,” TVO’s project director Jouni Silvennoinen said in a statement.
Apple is seeking a temporary ban on sales of Samsung Galaxy 10.1 tablets, citing infringement of its touch-screen technology patent, pending a full determination of the patent dispute.Apple says Samsung’s Galaxy line of mobile phones and tablets “slavishly” copied its iPhone and iPad and has launched an international legal battle which is expected to hurt growth at one of Samsung’s fastest-growing businesses.Samsung, whose Galaxy gadgets are seen as a major threat to Apple’s devices, rejects the claims.