MCA Company Wins Case After Judge Actually Reads the Contract

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CourtroomAn explosive New York Supreme Court decision in December against a merchant cash advance company just lost some of its bite, thanks to a decision handed down by the Honorable Catherine M. Bartlett in Orange County.

By all accounts, plaintiff Merchant Funding Services, LLC (“MFS”) had reason to be worried when Long Island attorney Amos Weinberg appeared on behalf of defendants Micromanos Corporation and Atsumassa Tochisako. MFS and Weinberg squared off last year in an almost identical case when Weinberg represented a company named Volunteer Pharmacy, Inc. There, a Westchester County judge decided the agreement in question to be criminally usurious on its face, leaving no question of fact for a trier of fact to resolve. According to court records, Weinberg has been relying on that decision to bolster his legal arguments against other MCA agreements ever since.

But up in Orange County, less than an hour northwest of Westchester, the court there sided in favor of MFS on Thursday, even after being briefed on the Volunteer Pharmacy decision.

Defendants, citing Merchant Funding Services, LLC v. Volunteer Pharmacy Inc., 44 NYS3d 876 (Sup. Ct. Westchester. 2016), assert that a plenary action is not required in the circumstances of this case because the Secured Merchant Agreement is, on its face and as a matter of law, a criminally usurious loan. However, Defendants’ position is grounded on a dubious misreading of the Agreement.

Micromanos, like Volunteer Pharmacy, was seeking to vacate the confession of judgment entered against them by way of a motion rather than by filing an entirely new lawsuit.

Here, the judge not only rejected that the confession of judgment be vacated but she also admonished Micromanos for misleading the court over the actual wording of the contract in order to serve their argument.

The agreement on its face provided for MFS’s purchase of 15% of Micromanos’ future receipts until such time as the sum of $224,250 has been paid. Paragraph 1.8 of the Agreement recited the parties’ understanding – directly contrary to Defendants’ claims herein – that (1) MFS’ purchase price was being tendered in exchange for the specified amount of Micromanos’ future receipts, (2) that such purchase price “is not intended to be, nor shall it be construed as a loan from MFS to Merchant”, and (3) that payment by Micromanos to MFS “shall be conditioned upon Merchant’s sale of products and services and the payment therefore by Merchant’s customers…”

These provisions not withstanding, Defendants contend that the Addendum altered the essential nature of the Agreement by requiring a Daily Payment of $2,995.00 on pain of default, thereby eliminating any element of risk or contingency in the amount or timing of payment to MFS, and converting the Agreement into a criminally usurious loan bearing interest at the rate of 167% per annum. Not so. The Addendum expressly provided that the $2,995.00 Daily Payment was only “a good-faith approximation of the Specified Percentage” of 15% of Micromanos’ receipts, and that Micromanos was entitled to request a month-end reconciliation to ensure that the cumulative monthly payment did not exceed 15% of Micromanos’ receipts. Defendants’ contention that MFS was entitled under the Addendum to the $2,995.00 Daily Payment without being obliged to offer Micromanos a month-end reconciliation is founded on an incomplete and palpably misleading quotation of paragraph “d” of the Addendum.

According to Defendants, paragraph “d” states:

“The Merchant specifically acknowledges that ***the potential reconciliation*** [is] being provided to the Merchant as a courtesy, and MFS is under no obligation to provide same”.

As noted above, paragraph “d” actually states:

“The Merchant specifically acknowledges that: (I) the Daily Payment and the potential reconciliation discussed above are being provided to the Merchant as a courtesy, and that MFS is under no obligation to provide same, and (ii) if the Merchant fails to furnish the requested documentation within five (5) business days following the end of a calendar month, then MFS shall not effectuate the reconciliation discussed above.”

The Defendants’ omission fundamentally alters the meaning of paragraph “d”. Contrary to Defendants’ assertion, the gist of paragraph “d” is that the institution of the fixed Daily Payment plus month-end reconciliation mechanism as a substitute for Micromanos’ daily payment of 15% of its actual receipts was a non-obligatory courtesy. Paragraph “d” plainly does not enable MFS to require a $2,995.00 Daily Payment while concomitantly refusing Micromanos’ request for a reconciliation.

Defendants further contention that the Agreement as a matter of law eliminated all risk of hazard of nonpayment by placing Micromanos in default upon any material adverse change in its financial condition is not borne out by the language of the Agreement. Under Paragraphs 2.1 and 3.1 of the Agreement, Micromanos’ failure to report a material adverse change in its financial condition, not the adverse change itself, was defined as an event of default.

Therefore, the Secured Merchant Agreement is not on its face and as a matter of law a criminally usurious loan. Consequently, Defendants have failed to establish an exception to the general requirement that relief from a judgment entered against them upon the filing of an affidavit of confession of judgment must be sought by way of a separate plenary action.

It is therefore ORDERED, that Defendants’ motion is denied.

Alarmingly, court documents show that Micromanos attorney Amos Weinberg is relying on the same “incomplete and palpably misleading quotation” in other cases involving other merchant cash advance contracts to serve his arguments. Fortunately, in this case, the Honorable Catherine M. Bartlett compared his quotation of the contract to the actual language of the contract and saw they didn’t match up. While a decision from the Supreme Court in Orange County doesn’t mean that the matter is settled for good in New York State, it does potentially put the decision that arose from Volunteer Pharmacy on very shaky ground.

Merchant Funding Services, LLC v. Micromanos Corporation d/b/a Micromanos and Astsumassa Tochisako can be found in the New York Supreme Court under index number: EF000598-2017

Last modified: May 7, 2017
Sean Murray

Category: Industry News, Legal Briefs

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