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Court takes action in two business cases

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court has clarified how restitution must be computed in mortgage fraud cases, and has agreed to decide what kind of explanation local officials must provide when denying an application to build a cell phone tower.

The justices in a unanimous decision Monday said that restitution to a bank that has been defrauded must be calculated based on the value of property when it is actually sold, and not the earlier date on which the bank forecloses on the property.

The case involved a fraudulent loan application for the purchase of two houses in Wisconsin for $470,000. The two banks foreclosed on the mortgages in 2006, but only sold the homes later for $280,000 after the real estate market collapsed.

The high court ruled that the amount of restitution is offset by the sale price the banks received, and not the higher price they were worth when the banks foreclosed.

In a separate case Monday, the court agreed to hear an appeal from T-Mobile South, which claims the city of Roswell, Georgia, did not adequately justify its refusal to allow construction of a 108-foot tall cell tower.

Federal law requires denial of a cell phone tower permit to be “in writing” and supported by substantial evidence. The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals held that Roswell satisfied that requirement by issuing a general denial letter and a transcript of hearings.

T-Mobile says the written decision must include the specific reason for denial. The company wants the high court to resolve a split in circuits on the issue.

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