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Findling v. United States

United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division

March 29, 2018

DAVID FINDLING, in his Capacity as State-Court Appointed Receiver, Plaintiff,
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, DAVID W. THURSFIELD, and LINDA J. THURSFIELD, Defendants.

          OPINION AND ORDER DENYING DEFENDANT UNITED STATES' MOTION TO DISMISS [DOC. 12] AND GRANTING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR AUTHORITY TO DEPOSIT FUNDS [DOC. 21]

          GEORGE CARAM STEEH, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         This matter comes before the court on defendant United States' motion to dismiss and plaintiff Receiver David Findling's motion for approval of bond or to deposit funds with the court. The court held an in-chambers conference with the parties on March 26, 2018, during which time all parties informed the court they would waive oral argument on the motions and rely on the arguments in their briefs.

         FACTUAL BACKGROUND

         On April 16, 2005, a Judgment of Divorce was entered by the Oakland County Circuit Court between David Thursfield (“David”) and his former wife, Linda Thursfield (“Linda”). A property Settlement Agreement divided the parties' marital property. David has more than one retirement benefit plan through his former employment with Ford Motor Company. One is qualified under the Employment Retirement Income Security Act (“ERISA”) (the “Qualified Plan”) and another one is not qualified under ERISA (the “Non-Qualified Plan”). The Settlement Agreement provided that both retirement plans were to be divided between the parties equally.

         On January 15, 2015, David was in default of the Judgment of Divorce and the Circuit Court appointed David Findling as Receiver. David and Linda entered into a Settlement Agreement on August 4, 2015 which was incorporated and merged into their Judgment of Divorce. The Settlement Agreement provided that Linda receive David's 50% interest in the Qualified and Non-Qualified Plans effective May 1, 2015. This meant that Linda now received 100% of David's Ford U.S. Pension. David retained his Ford U.K. Pension. In addition, Linda was awarded a Money Judgment for $4, 118, 911.89 and was entitled to a lien.

         David's interest in the Non-Qualified Plan could not be divided by a qualified domestic relations order. Therefore, 100% of the monthly payments from the Non-Qualified Plan (“Pension Payment”) are remitted to the Receiver. From February 2016 to April 2017, each Pension Payment was collected by the Receiver and in turn remitted to Linda.

         On April 4, 2017, the United States served a Notice of Levy (“2017 Levy”) on the Receiver for tax liability owed by David. IRS Officer Teresita Lopez told the Receiver a Notice of Federal Tax Lien (“NFTL”) had been perfected against David in the amount of $146, 075.99 for his 2009 taxes. Because David resided in Spain, the NFTL was recorded in the District of Columbia on May 25, 2016.

         After the Money Judgment was entered in 2015, Linda recorded a UCC-1 in Oakland County, Michigan to perfect her lien (“Linda's Lien”). When Linda's lawyers learned of the NFTL, Linda re-recorded her UCC-1 in the District of Columbia on June 1, 2017. Thereafter, the United States recorded a second NFTL on August 18, 2017.

         On September 26, 2017, the Receiver wrote a letter to Officer Lopez outlining numerous issues:

- The Receiver's personal liability under 31 USC §3713(b);
- Whether the Receiver was required to marshal David's Ford U.K. Pension under the marshaling doctrine;
- The necessity of releasing the Receiver from liability due to both the obligations under the 2017 Levy and the NFTL should he remit payment to Linda;
- Whether the Pension payments from the Non-Qualified Plan are property of David or Linda; and
- Does the United States have lien priority over Linda and if so is it for $146, ...

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