USDC, Central District of California;
USDC, Eastern District of California
200 Spectrum Center Drive, Suite 1650, Irvine, CA 92618
Stephen is an experienced transactional attorney and commercial litigator focused on real estate and financial services. His transactional services include complex loan transactions, loan and asset purchases, bank participation agreements, loan workouts, and commercial real estate transactions, including acquisitions, dispositions, commercial leases, and easements. Representing banks, mortgage lenders, real estate developers, land owners, and title insurance companies in litigation, Stephen is experienced in all phases of litigation, from pre-trial motions, written discovery and depositions, jury and court trials, and binding arbitration, mediation, informal settlement negotiations, and appeals. He has prosecuted and defended claims regarding real estate-secured, construction and commercial loans, title to real estate, lien-priority disputes, foreclosures, easement disputes, bank fraud, lender liability, trade secrets, commercial contracts, unfair competition, and the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO).
- Financial litigation: Obtained a reversal on appeal of the trial court’s judgment in a protracted litigation matter involving two banks that participated in a large construction loan in Los Angeles County. The judgment granted one of the bank’s rescission of the parties’ participation agreement and awarded over $2 million in restitution and attorneys’ fees and costs. After reversal, the participation agreement was no longer rescinded, and the client was awarded attorneys’ fees of approximately $1 million.
- Insurance business litigation: Successfully defended a large title insurance company and its employee in an action brought by a competitor for breach of contract, misappropriation of trade secrets, interference, and unfair business practices. Over more than two years of contentious litigation and a lengthy jury trial, the clients defeated all of the plaintiff’s claims alleged against them, which requested injunctive relief and damages in excess of $250 million. The clients also prevailed on a cross-claim for breach of contract and were awarded damages, attorneys’ fees and costs in excess of $1 million.
- Real Estate finance litigation and bankruptcy: Successfully prosecuted claims of a large regional bank against its borrower and guarantors, foreclosed and liquidated the real property collateral, and settled all outstanding claims. The client had financed a sizeable hotel and condominium project in Northern California. After the collapse of the California real estate market, the project stalled and the borrower failed to repay the substantial amounts borrowed. Despite the filing of bankruptcy by the borrower and guarantors, the defendant unsuccessfully pursued lender liability claims against the bank.
- Easement: Secured a court victory in favor of a developer after substantial discovery and trial, a judgement upheld by the Appellate Court with the client awarded substantial attorneys’ fees. The client was thus allowed to complete a residential development in Los Angeles County, interrupted due to a landowner neighboring the development claiming a dirt road was a prescriptive easement, who then unsuccessfully sued to enforce these claims. After substantial discovery and trial, the court awarded judgment in favor of the developer. The Appellate Court subsequently upheld the trial court’s judgment and awarded the developer client substantial attorneys’ fees, which resulted in allowing the client to complete the development of the property.
- Foreclosure: Successfully represented a large regional bank headquartered in California in the foreclosure and liquidation of collateral and obtained a deficiency judgement against a borrower that defaulted on a loan secured by a gas station and convenience store, subsequently refusing to cooperate.
- Finance litigation: Prevailed on a motion for summary judgment early in litigation, securing a substantial judgment and over $80,000 in attorneys’ fees for a residential lender, a judgment subsequently upheld by the Appellate Court, when the lender suffered substantial losses on liens it purchased from a mortgage brokerage that were improperly underwritten.
- Collection and Tort Action: Negotiated a favorable settlement for a Southern California community bank following aggressive discovery and the filing of a strong motion for summary judgment, after a borrower defaulted on its loans and a third party took over the borrower’s business, including the bank’s collateral.
- Complex Groundwater Adjudication: Secured an award of substantial groundwater production rights for a landowner in a complex lawsuit that adjudicated the groundwater rights of thousands of parties in Southern California.
- Fraud and Conversion Action: Won a judgement in favor of a large regional bank without having to incur the expense of trial by first successfully attacking the plaintiffs’ complaint and subsequently obtaining an order for summary judgment of the plaintiffs’ remaining claims. The client had foreclosed on a development in Central California and the landowners sued the bank for fraud, conversion, breach of contract and wrongful foreclosure.
- Agreement: Expedited the closing of a loan for a participant lender in a $105 million construction loan on a multifamily development in Newport Beach, less than one week after the participants were identified and committed to the transaction.
- Litigation: Saved a mortgage brokerage substantial litigation expenses and exposure by negotiating a nominal settlement early in litigation, after numerous California residents were allegedly defrauded by investing in a sham Colorado real estate development. They had filed a lawsuit in federal court against all involved parties, including the mortgage brokerage that financed the investment. The plaintiffs alleged numerous tortious causes of action against the mortgage brokerage, including claims under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO).
- Title Claim: Quickly obtained judgement by filing a lawsuit for client title and other related claims for a commercial landowner allowing property to be sold in Southern California. The client had learned, after entering a contract to sell her land, that she was not a record owner.
- Construction & Commercial Loans: Obtained numerous multi-million-dollar recoveries by summary judgment on behalf of financial services clients in collection actions regarding construction and commercial loans.
- JD, McGeorge School of Law, University of the Pacific, 2006
- BA, California State University Los Angeles (“Exceptional Student Athlete” Award for combined excellence in academics and athletics), 2002
- Co-author. “California Appellate Court Invalidates the Ability to Obtain Default Interest on Loans That Have Not Matured,” January 31, 2023.
- Author. “How to Avoid Ponzi Purgatory – Careful Diligence Helps Banks Stay Away from Schemers,” American Banking Association Journal, July 1, 2014.
- Author. “Bank Liability Varies Depending on Cyber Crime Details,” RMA Journal, October 1, 2013.
- Author. “Cyber Crime: Bank Liability for Third Party ‘Hacking’ Losses,” RMA Orange County Newsletter, October 1, 2013.
- Author. “When DAPTs Protect Assets, Lenders Must be Wary,” RMA Journal, September 1, 2013.
- Author. “Court Upholds Powerful Tool for California Creditors Against Guarantors,” California Land Title Association’s Hot Sheet, July 1, 2010.
- Author. “Lenders Strive to Maximize Recovery,” Western Banking, March 1, 2010.
- Orange County Bar Association
- Los Angeles County Bar Association
- NCAA/Intercollegiate baseball team, former member