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“Evergreen Clause”—The Danger of Automatic Renewal

The inclusion of automatic renewal (or “evergreen”) clauses in true leases has been a fairly common practice from time immemorial. It is included in most company leasing contracts, whether "fair market value," 10%options, or even $1.00 (Yes, companies will continue payments if not notified and there have been several cases where the residual is $1.00)

There is no question that these clauses provide important protections to the lessor to obtain their residual. If the lessee has no intent to renew, the lessor has in interest in knowing it before the end of the term so that he can start planning for remarketing or some other disposition of the equipment.

However, the question of whether a lessee should be reminded by the lessor of the notice deadline in plenty of time for the lessee to react is an entirely different question. These states have statutes requiring commercial equipment lessors to provide a written notice – a fair warning – before the notice deadline date arrives:

This is an unofficial list:
Louisiana
New York
Rhode Island
Texas
Wisconsin

Most of the abuses occur in the small-ticket world. Larger lessees often overlook the notification clause in the contract or do not have “tickler” systems to remind them. Consider the corner dry-cleaner. He signs up for a five year lease in 2014. Does he mark it 90 days before the expiration in his computer calendar for 2019, or more important, did he overlook this as the residual is 10% or a $1.00. And the more apt question is: What possible interest does a lessor have in not voluntarily reminding its customer of the notice deadline – unless it’s to create a chance that the lessee will slip up and get trapped in a renewal it does not want?


 

Companies who utilize Evergreen Clauses
for Extra Lease Payments

These companies use language in their lease documents regarding purchase options to confuse, perhaps to deceive, resulting in an automatic continuation for an additional twelve months of payments. Often they win transactions with lower monthly payments as the lessee does not carefully read and prepare for the end-of-lease notification requirement (many are on ACH payments).

Several have continuation of payments and the requirement of replacing the equipment for a new lease. Leasing News has had complaints involving companies who invoke the twelve months on a $1.00 purchase option, as well as on an Equipment Finance Agreements.

Several have appeared in Leasing News "Complaints" Bulletin Board:
http://www.leasingnews.org/bulletin_board.htm

Additionally, Tom McCurnin has written often about Evergreen Clause court cases involving these companies.
http://www.leasingnews.org/Conscious-Top%20Stories/leasing_cases.html 

Two of the companies on this list do a lot of copier leasing, where it is reported manufacturers are now getting a piece of auto-renewals and as well as insisting that they be in the lease as a condition of the business. Leasing News has heard from a very reliable source that some copier manufacturers also give dealers 4-5 months’ notice of a discontinued model and agree to sell it to the dealer at 40% of list price, on the condition that the captive finance division not receive the business. Also buried in the contract on one is a one month rental return fee including an inspection fee at the location specified by lessor and at lessee’s return expense (often not the local dealer who supplied the copier).

Advice for Broker or Lessor
Dealing with a Company that Uses Evergreen Clauses
http://leasingnews.org/archives/Nov2013/11_18.htm#advice


ACC Capital, Midvale, Utah
Balboa Capital, Irvine, California
De Lage Landen, Wayne, Pennsylvania
IFC Credit, Morton Grove, Illinois
Jules and Associates, Los Angeles, California
LEAF Financial Group
, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Marlin Business Leasing, Mount Laurel, New Jersey
Marquette Equipment Finance, Midvale, Utah
Mazuma Capital Corporation, Draper, Utah
Onset Financial, South Jordan, Utah
Pacific Western Equipment Finance, Cottonwood Heights, Utah
Republic Bank, Bountiful, Utah
Tetra Financial Group, Salt Lake City, Utah

ACC Capital, Midvale, Utah---This company is no longer in business, although its portfolio is being wound down, according to its owner Loni Lowder; the receivables are being collected by creditors. Lowder today is an employee, manager, Stalwart Contract Finance, Salt Lake City, Utah. All Evergreen Clause complaints have not been satisfied, but were when the company was active.


Balboa Capital, Irvine, California---This company had its first Bulletin Board Complaint in 2006. While a new president stated this was no longer the practice, recent bulletin Board Complaints demonstrate the practice continues.
http://leasingnews.org/archives/Dec2012/12_10.htm#bbc
http://leasingnews.org/archives/Mar2013/3_22.htm#bbc

De Lage Landen, Wayne, Pennsylvania -- $34,560 in lease payments were collected illegally, although the lease contract had an Evergreen clause that if the lessee did not notify in 90 days before expiration, the payments would continue. It appears this went on for almost three years. The purchase option was 10%.

What makes it even more shameless is a collection agency was involved after payments stopped, but wait, it gets worse: the lessee has settled with the funder and the funder's collection agency, but the lessor, who sold the lease to the funder, De Lage Landen (DLL,) remains in the suit as being party, or “in collusion,” with the Evergreen clause collection matter. The fact is the lessor was not directly involved in the collection of payments or received any remuneration, as well as the suit continues, now solely against the lessor.
http://leasingnews.org/archives/Nov2013/11_18.htm#dll

IFC Credit, Morton Grove, Illinois---This company is in bankruptcy, appeared many times in the Leasing News Bulletin Board prior to filing bankruptcy, but engaged in Evergreen Clauses, and unfortunately a recent example is a complaint to the trustee, stemming from M&T Bank lease assignment expiring and notify the lessee that they did not notify about the residual, which was a $1.00. This has happened many times with other banks who have taken over the IFC Credit Corporation portfolio. Calls and letters to the trustee and attorneys have gone unanswered.

Jules and Associates, Los Angeles, California--- Jules and Associates, Los Angeles, California---A repeat customer, who notified Jules and Associates on a lease, but was not before the 180 day expiration, so Jules and Associates instead of the 1% due for the residual ($2,308.79) charged six more payments or $40,463.94, and if 1% is not paid in this time, they will be subject to another three months.
http://leasingnews.org/archives/Aug2011/8_29.htm#jules

LEAF Financial Group, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania---It appears this company is in a more wind down phase, moving its operation of LEAF Commercial Credit with basically the same management. There have been complaints about the Evergreen Clause, including one this year for an Equipment Finance Agreement!

Marlin Business Leasing, Mount Laurel, New Jersey---The actual SEC filings state the profit earned from Evergreen Clause, primarily from copier leases. Bulletin Board Complaints have been received about this practice in addition to the SEC financial statement filings. (9) Marlin Response to posting


Marquette Equipment Finance, Midvale, Utah --- According to Dorran Sampson, Vice-President/Broker Relations: "Marquette Equipment Finance does not offer an Evergreen product. Our master lease provides for extensions but is negotiated at the schedule level. Notice periods are also negotiated at the schedule level and vary depending on the Lessee’s needs."

When the company was bought and became Pacific Western Equipment Finance (a division of Pacific Western Bank) he maintained the same position. It was noted his old company was still on the list, and a request of his "master lease" was made.

"Our docs are the same as when we were with Marquette. Because we’re public now, it is very difficult to get documents released."

I asked him if he could send to a broker wanting to do business with him, "Sorry, can’t forward to you or your brokerage."

A search of PACER, a national index for U.S. district, bankruptcy and appellate courts brought up a number of Marquette cases, and the first one hit pay dirt: Merchants & Farmers Bank, a Mississippi Corporation versus Marquette Equipment Finance and Applied Financial. It was a similar case and while "dismissed with prejudice" (6), it had the arguments regarding the purchase option and a copy of the complete contract with a similar PPR as with Mazuma Capital:

"(g) Lessee's Options at End of Initial Period. At the end of the Initial Period of any Lease, Lessee shall, provided at least one-hundred-eighty (180) days prior written notice is received by Lessor from Lessee via certified mail, do one of the following: (1) purchase the Property for a price to be determined by Lessor and Lessee, (2) extend the Lease for twelve (12) additional months at the rate specified on the respective Schedule, or (3) return the Property to Lessor at Lessee's expense to a destination within the continental United States specified by Lessor and terminate the Schedule; provided, however, that for option (3) to apply, all accrued but unpaid late charges, interest, taxes, penalties, and any and all other sums due and owing under the Schedule must first be paid in full, the provisions of Sections 6(c) and (d) and 7(c) hereof must be specifically complied with, and Lessee must enter into a new Schedule with Lessor to lease Property which replaces the Property listed on the old Schedule. With respect to options (1) and (3), each party shall have the right in its absolute and sole discretion to accept or reject any terms of purchase or of any new Schedule, as applicable. In the event Lessor and Lessee have not agreed to either option (1) or (3) by the end of the Initial Period or if Lessee fails to give written notice of its option via certified mail at least one-hundred-eighty (180) days prior to the termination of the Initial Period, then option (2) shall apply at the end of the Initial Period. At the end of the extension period provided for in option (2) above, the Lease shall continue in effect at the rate specified in the respective Schedule for successive periods of six (6) months each subject to termination at the end of any such successive six-month renewal period by either Lessor or Lessee giving to the other party at least ninety (90) days prior written notice of termination."

The first option is to purchase the equipment for a price to be determined by Lessor and Lessee and requires a certified letter 180 days prior. This sounds like a fair market purchase option, but the “price to be determined” language means that the Lessor can set any price it wants. This option is illusory in my opinion.

The second option is to continue the lease for an additional 12 months, the “Evergreen” period. No notice of this provision is given to the lessee either in advance of signing or prior to exercising this option. Republic Bank purchases these 12 month extensions in advance of their exercise. How would the bank know that the lessee is going to exercise this option, unless everyone knows it is the only practical option for the lessee to exercise? Republic Bank President Boyd Lindquist confirmed in a telephone call that he “buys” these extensions from Mazuma and has for quite some time.

The third option is to return the equipment, but the clause is draped with the condition that the lessee has to re-lease identical equipment for a similar term. It also has 180 day certified letter requirement, and applies to the second option of 12 months, but also has the clause of an automatic six month option. So what is the point of exercising this option? At the end of this re-lease, there would be the same three identical options, so the lessee would be required to re-lease and re-lease. It’s just like Groundhog Day.

Leasing News is working on obtaining information on other companies so named to add to the list, including follow-up on the master lease for Pacific Western Equipment Finance. If you have a copy, please send and will keep your name “off the record.”

((7) See for Copy of Filing, including contract.)

Mazuma Capital Corp, Draper, Utah Several routie "end of lease agreements, as alleged in Unified Container and Anderson Dairy (1) "8. The basic scheme involves the inclusion of a purchase, renewal, return (“PRR”) provision in the lease. The lessor assures the customer they will be able to purchase the equipment at the end of the initial term in the lease for a reasonable or nominal price. Often, the lessor promises the equipment can be purchased at a fixed percentage of the total amount financed. However, at the end of the initial lease term, the lessor refuses to honor the agreed upon purchase price or negotiate in good faith regarding a purchase price, but instead, insists the lease automatically renews for an additional term (usually twelve months).

9. The inclusion of the purchase and return options in the lease are entirely illusory and intended only to give the customer the false impression that it can exercise any of the three options at the end of the initial lease term, when in fact, the lessor will only allow an automatic renewal at the end of the initial lease term.) There are other exhibits. This case was settled "out of court."
    (page 3)

H. Jared Belnap, past President & CEO, Mazuma Capital Corp., takes exception on beingon the Evergreen list. His full letter and Leasing News Response is at (5).

Onset Financial, South Jordan, Utah --- Onset contract, which contained:

“(Section 20:
n. Lessee's Options at Maturity of Base Period. At the maturity of the Base Period of any Lease, Lessee shall, provided at least one hundred fifty (150) days prior written notice is received by Lessor from Lessee via certified mail, do one of the following: (1) purchase the Property for a price to be determined by Lessor end Lessee, (2) renew the Lease for twelve (12) additional months at the rate specified on the respective Schedule, or (3) terminate the Schedule and return the Properly to Lessor at Lessee's expense to a destination within the continental United States specified by Lessor; provided, however, that for option (3) to apply, all accrued but unpaid late charges, interest, taxes, penalties, and any and all other sums due and owing under the Schedule must first be paid in full, the provisions of Sections 8f, 8g and 7d hereof must be specifically complied with, and Lessee must enter into a new Schedule with Lessor to lease Property which replaces the Property listed on the old Schedule. With respect to options (1) and (3), each party shall have the right in its absolute and sole discretion to accept or reject any terms of purchase or of any new Schedule, as applicable. In the event Lessor end Lessee have not agreed to either option (1) or (3) by the maturity of the Base Period, or if Lessee fails to give written notice of Its option via certified mail at least one hundred fifty (150) days prior to the maturity of the Base Period, or if an Event of Default has occurred under any Lease, then option (2) shall apply at the maturity of the Base Period. At the maturity of the renewal period provided for In option (2) above, the Lease shall continue in effect at the rate specified in the respective Schedule for successive periods of six (6) months each subject to termination at the maturity of any such successive six-month renewal period by either Lessor or Lessee giving to the other party at best thirty (30) days prior written notice of termination." (3)

((8) See for Copy of Onset Contract with PPR purchase option.


Pacific Western Equipment Finance, Cottonwood Heights, Utah

Dorran Sampson, then Vice-President/Broker Relations, Marquette Equipment Finance, now Vice President Broker Relations Pacific Western Equipment Finance told Leasing News when the company was bought and became Pacific Western Equipment Finance (a division of Pacific Western Bank) they maintained the same position as Marquette.

"Our docs are the same as when we were with Marquette. Because we’re public now, it is very difficult to get documents released."

I asked him if he could send to a broker wanting to do business with him, "Sorry, can’t forward to you or your brokerage.

Leasing News has obtained a copy of a Pacific Western Equipment Finance agreement, and confirms the same procedures as their former company Marquette utilized:

“14. LESSEE’S OPTIONS AT END OF INITIAL PERIOD.

At the end of the Initial Period of any Lease, Lessee shall, provided at least one-hundred-eighty (180) days prior written notice is received by Lessor from Lessee via certified mail, do one of the following: (1) purchase the Property for a price to be determined by Lessor and Lessee, (2) extend the Lease for twelve (12) additional months at the rate specified on the respective Schedule, or (3) return the Property to Lessor at Lessee’s expense to a destination within the continental United States specified by Lessor and terminate the Schedule; provided, however, that for option (3) to apply, all accrued but unpaid late charges, interest, taxes, penalties, and any and all other sums due and owing under the Schedule must first be paid in full, the provisions of Sections 6(c) and (d) and 7(c) hereof must be specifically complied with, and Lessee must enter into a new Schedule with Lessor to lease Property which replaces the Property listed on the old Schedule. With respect to options (1) and (3), each party shall have the right in its absolute and sole discretion to accept or reject any terms of purchase or of any new Schedule, as applicable. IN THE EVENT LESSOR AND LESSEE HAVE NOT AGREED TO EITHER OPTION (1) OR (3) BY THE END OF THE INITIAL PERIOD OR IF LESSEE FAILS TO GIVE WRITTEN NOTICE OF ITS OPTION VIA CERTIFIED MAIL AT LEAST ONE-HUNDRED-EIGHTY (180) DAYS PRIOR TO THE TERMINATION OF THE INITIAL PERIOD, THEN OPTION (2) SHALL APPLY AT THE END OF THE INITIAL PERIOD. At the end of the extension period provided for in option (2) above, the Lease shall continue in effect at the rate specified in the respective Schedule for successive periods of six (6) months each subject to termination at the end of any such successive six (6) month renewal period by either Lessor or Lessee giving to the other party at least thirty (30) days prior written notice of termination” (10) (Also see Marquette listing)

(10) http://leasingnews.org/PDF/PacificWesternEquipmentFinance.pdf

Pacific Western Bank Responds to Evergreen Non-Notification
http://leasingnews.org/archives/Mar2013/3_28.htm#pacwest

Republic Bank, Bountiful, Utah Purchases and participates in extended Evergreen clause agreements.

They are legal in all states, except four states require advance notification be given to the lessee regarding termination of the lease and its residual (Four states: New York Rhode Island, Texas, Illinois (In Illinois, Consumer law, but may affect commercial, especially a proprietorship, partnership or personal guarantee)"

Tetra Financial Group, Salt Lake City, Utah Several routine "end of lease agreements, as alleged in Unified Container and Anderson Dairy (1)

“22. Mazuma Capital is associated with Republic Bank and obtains financing for its leases containing PRR provisions from Republic Bank.

23. Like what took place at Amplicon, Inc., the PRR scheme utilized by Matrix, Applied Financial, LLC, Mazuma Capital, Tetra Financial Group, LLC and others has begun to be exposed through litigation and negative press. See Deseret News (2) articles attached hereto as Exhibits B (2) and C. (3)”

Here is a case where New York courts threw out the Evergreen Clause as not legal in New York, even though venue appears to be Utah. (4))

(1) 36 main pdf
http://leasingnews.org/PDF/36main.pdf

(2) Deseret News
http://leasingnews.org/PDF/DeseretNewsarticle.pdf

(3) Exhibit C
http://leasingnews.org/PDF/ExhibitCDeseret.pdf

(4) Salon Management case
http://leasingnews.org/PDF/SalonManagement.pdf

(5) Mazuma Takes Exception on Being on Evergreen List
http://leasingnews.org/archives/Jul2012/7_30.htm#mazuma

(6) Order to Dismiss with Prejudice
http://leasingnews.org/PDF/Marquette_order_dismiss.pdf

(7) Copy of filing, including contract
http://leasingnews.org/PDF/Maquette.pdf

(8) Copy of Onset Contract with PPR purchase option
http://leasingnews.org/PDF/OnsetContract.pdf


(9) Marlin Response to posting.
http://leasingnews.org/archives/Jul2012/7_13.htm#response

 

Companies who notify lessee in advance of lease expiration
http://www.leasingnews.org/Pages/lease_expiration.html