FUCK YOU OBAMA. THE IMBECILE SCUMBAG PRESIDENT

This is for telling people they’re deadbeats. YOU GOT YOUR HOUSE PAID BY THE SAME SCUMBAG THAT BOMBED PLACES IN THE 60’S. SCUMBAG BANK, CHASE, ALSO CLEARED ANOTHER HOME. WHO’S THE DEADBEAT NOW, IMBECILE?

WHAT DID WE EXPECT FROM AN INEXPERIENCED ILLEGAL ALIEN?

Oct. 18, 2010 — Foreclosures In Missouri Wayne Godsey, KMBC President And General Manager

HOW MUCH $ IS THIS SCUMBAG AG GETTING PAID BY THE BANKSTERS?

POSTED: 7:27 pm CDT October 18, 2010


KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster made the right call when he chose not to interfere with home foreclosures in the state. 

Koster’s decision was in response to a request from Kansas City Mayor Mark Funkhouser and a group called Communities Creating Opportunities. 

It is sad to see anyone lose their home, particularly when it’s the result of a lost job or other unfortunate circumstances. But many people simply paid too much for homes, thinking that values could only increase. 

Some lenders like Bank of America and Chase have voluntarily suspended foreclosures in order to review internal procedures. If faulty practices exist, they say they’ll correct them. 

But a government-dictated moratorium is a bad idea, just like the government lending policies that created the mortgage crisis. If individuals can’t pay their mortgages, foreclosures are necessary to stabilize the real estate market, for the benefit of homeowners and lenders alike.

 

SCUMBAG WELLS FARGO TO BE FOCUS OF OHIO FORECLOSURE FRAUD PROBE

 

Posted by Foreclosure Fraud on October 28, 2010 ·

“These people think they can play by a different set of rules.”

~

“It’s not just individuals who signed flawed affidavits. It’s a business model designed on fraud.”

~

Bloomberg

WELLS FARGO TO BE FOCUS OF OHIO FORECLOSURE PROBE

Wells Fargo & Co. will be a focus of an investigation into foreclosure practices, Ohio Attorney GeneralRichard Cordray told Bloomberg Television after the lender said it found flaws in court documents.

Wells Fargo said yesterday that it would submit supplemental affidavits to courts in about 55,000 foreclosure proceedings after finding some statements “did not strictly adhere to the required procedures.”

“These people think they can play by a different set of rules,” Cordray said in an interview today on Bloomberg Television’s “InBusiness with Margaret Brennan.” “It’s not just individuals who signed flawed affidavits. It’s a business model designed on fraud.”

Teri Schrettenbrunner, a spokeswoman for San Francisco- based Wells Fargo, said in an e-mail that none of the paperwork problems have led to foreclosures that shouldn’t have otherwise occurred and the problems aren’t related to the quality of loan data.

“We have chosen to submit supplemental affidavits out of an abundance of caution,” she said. “We intend to be responsive to General Cordray’s inquiries and look forward to addressing his concerns.”

Head over to Bloomberg to read more with video here…

No widespread problem here, right Wells?

 

VIDEO – SHERIFF TOM DART, EXPLAINING EXACTLY WHY HE WON’T ENFORCE FORECLOSURE EVICTIONS

Posted by Foreclosure Fraud on October 21, 2010 ·

Sheriff Tom Dart

“This is not the lotto… this isn’t something where we’re rolling the dice and saying, possibly this has been done legally. Maybe it hasn’t but in the meantime, you and your children go find someplace else to live, plenty of homeless shelters out there. We can’t do that.”

AND SO IT BEGINS – CHICAGO SHERIFF SAYS NO TO ENFORCING FORECLOSURES

The sheriff for Cook County, Illinois, which includes the city of Chicago, said on Tuesday he will not enforce foreclosure evictions for Bank of America Corp, JPMorgan Chase and Co. and GMAC Mortgage/Ally Financial until they prove those foreclosures were handled “properly and legally.”

Bank of America, the largest U.S. mortgage servicer, and GMAC, on Monday both announced rollbacks from their foreclosure moratoriums.

The announcement by Cook County Sheriff Thomas Dart comes after weeks of damaging accusations of shoddy paperwork that may have caused some people to be illegally evicted from their homes.

“I can’t possibly be expected to evict people from their homes when the banks themselves can’t say for sure everything was done properly,” Dart said in the statement.

“I need some kind of assurance that we aren’t evicting families based on fraudulent behavior by the banks. Until that happens, I can’t in good conscience keep carrying out evictions involving these banks,” he added.

Or as Denniger puts it…

Here’s a message to all the County Sheriff’s: Tell the banks to **** off!

The sheriff for Cook County, Illinois, which includes the city of Chicago, said on Tuesday he will not enforce foreclosure evictions for Bank of America Corp, JPMorgan Chase and Co. and GMAC Mortgage/Ally Financial until they prove those foreclosures were handled “properly and legally.”

Imagine that: A lawman who understands that The Bill of Rights actually applies to the people!

The 5th Amendment, specifically: You may not be deprived of liberty or property without due process of law.

“Robosigned” documents violate that right.  So does perjury in court proceedings.

“I need some kind of assurance that we aren’t evicting families based on fraudulent behavior by the banks. Until that happens, I can’t in good conscience keep carrying out evictions involving these banks,” he added.

Now that’s even better.  Will Sheriff Dart extend this all the way back to the origination of these loans, their pooling into securities, and questions about whether or not they were in fact sold more than once, rendering the person who claims to be foreclosing not necessarily the real party at interest?

What if the note has been bifurcated and nobody has a right to foreclose? Sue to collect, yes.  Foreclose, maybe not.

Let’s see lawmen and lawwomen all across this nation refuse to accede to the banksters demands until they prove that the law was complied with – up and down the line.

Sheriffs are elected officials.

The elections are coming.

We the people must demand that each and every Sheriff standing for election take a position on this – will you stop enforcing foreclosures NOW and continue to do so until the banks prove that each and every one is 100% legal, including all required transfers and endorsements, from origination to eviction?

Scumbag Judge needs your help..

If someone has a picture of Erin “culo” Cullaro, please send to us for posting.. Thanks


BOUT TIME – AG’S OFFICE REPRIMANDS ERIN CULLARO FOR “FORECLOSURE MILL” WORK

ANOTHER SCUMBAG P.O.S INVESTIGATED. ERIN “CULO” CULLARO OF THE FLORIDA DEFAULT LAW CRIMINALS..

Posted by Foreclosure Fraud on October 21, 2010 ·

AG’S OFFICE REPRIMANDS ITS ATTORNEY FOR “FORECLOSURE MILL” WORK

By SHANNON BEHNKEN | The Tampa Tribune

TAMPA – The Florida Attorney General’s Office has reprimanded one its attorneys for notarizing documents for one of the “foreclosure mills” the office is investigating. Erin Cullaro, an assistant attorney general for the office’s Economic Crimes Division in Tampa, is a former employee of Tampa-based Florida Default Law Group.

The Attorney General is investigating the firm, along with three other Florida firms, for what “appears to be fabricating and/or presenting false and misleading documents in foreclosure cases.”

Cullaro was given permission from the Attorney General’s Office in April 2008 for dual employment, allowing her to notarize law firm documents for 15 minutes three days a week.

But, according to the written reprimand, Cullaro failed to renew the application into the new fiscal year, “which would have altered the {Attorney General’s Office } to your continued outside employment and accurately reflected the time commitment involved.”

In addition, the reprimand says, “your continued dual employment created an appearance of impropriety” because the attorney general’s office was inquiring into the practices of foreclosure law firms. The reprimand states that Cullaro’s says she quit her notary role before the formal investigation begun. Even so, she could ultimately lose her job, according to the reprimand. Tom Ice of Ice Legal in West Palm Beach represents homeowners in foreclosure and wants to question Cullaro about documents she signed in some of his cases. Her signature varies drastically and court documents assert she signed off on documents while out of town on business with the attorney general’s office.

Court documents reviewed by the Tribune show Erin Cullaro’s signature varied from a full, cursive signature to a squiggly “E.” When she signed the reprimand letter, she used the “E.”

You can check out the rest of the story here…

For those who do not the story behind the Cullaro’s, it is a must see link…

LINK – SCANDALOUS – SUBSTANTIATED ALLEGATIONS OF FORECLOSURE FRAUD THAT IMPLICATES THE FLORIDA ATTORNEY GENERAL’S OFFICE AND THE FLORIDA DEFAULT LAW GROUP

Posted by Foreclosure Fraud on March 26, 2010 ·

Pay attention all! We have been sitting on this information for some time now due to ongoing investigations but since the cat is out of the bag here we go… Over at  Matt Weidner’s Blog He reports on the transcript and motion from a hearing held in a Volusia County Courtroom from Ice Legal. Bombshell- … Read more

 

Florida’s Kangaroo Foreclosure Courts: SCUMBAG Judges Denying Due Process on Behalf of Banks

IMBECILE JUDGE, LAWRENCE SCHWARTZ


Florida is ground zero of the foreclosure crisis. In addition to being one of the epicenters of the housing meltdown, it has also become the jurisdiction where local lawyers have been the most effective overall in unearthing how servicers and foreclosure mills have engaged in widespread document fabrications and use of improper affidavits to foreclose.

This abuse of contracts and legal procedures matters because the courts are the last bastion of defense of the individual. Even libertarians, who keenly oppose government mission creep, give courts an elevated role as a protector of rights.

Given the success that local attorneys are having (it has reached the point where the state attorney general’s office has opened an investigation into three so-called foreclosure mills operating in the state), pushback by the mortgage industrial complex was inevitable. The old saw about “best government money can buy” now looks to apply to the courts, the one area most people assume to be relatively free from tampering by well funded interests.

The New York Times did report on this development, but its account was such a pale version of what is happening on the ground as to give readers a distorted picture.

These new foreclosure-only courts are special creations of the Florida legislature, funded separately from the usual court system. They are manned by retired judges, which means in many cases they are not familiar with real estate law.

But perhaps most important, the explicit objective of these courts is to clear up the backlog. And that is coming to pass not by the Legislature having thrown enough resources at the problem (that is, having greatly enlarged court capacity to process more cases in parallel) but by pushing for faster resolution. The problem is that an accelerated process runs roughshod over due process and allows banks to foreclose when they may not be the right party, or worse, when the foreclosure is the result of servicing error.

Let’s look at one example of banana republic faux justice in the US, via a speech by foreclosure court Judge Roger Colton to his court on how the day was going to go. It’s simply breathtaking. He says that if the bank is foreclosing, he’s not going to consider any evidence that the foreclosure is in error (servicing errors, plaintiff can’t provide proof it owns the note, which means it might not be the right party and procedurally, means it lacks standing to take action). He says he has already heard everything, there is a lot of unemployment in the area; he is going to schedule a court date, but that is merely a deadline for negotiation. In other words, he makes it abundantly clear he has no interest in hearing evidence. When he gets to seeing a defendant after his speech to the court (p. 13), he rubber stamps what the bank wants without even considering the evidence. And apparently his entire day went like that. The summary from an attorney who was representing a client before him that day:

On 8/30, I had a Summary Judgment Foreclosure hearing on Palm Beach County’s “Rocket Docket”. The judge spoke for 14 minutes to the crowd, of mostly pro se defendants, about how they should just agree to the summary judgment and the plaintiffs, (whose attorneys (Shapiro & Fishman had a dedicated courtroom and to whom he referred to as “my attorneys”) would be gracious (Ha!) enough to allow them to stay in their homes for 120 days if needed (even though the statute says he only has to give them 30). When it came to hearing arguments which were fully briefed and provided to the court (pursuant to the instructions of the Divisions head judge) he only allowed 30-60 seconds for argument, failed to read any of the papers, failed to review the plaintiff’s foreclosure package,flatly ignored the Affidavit filed in Opposition, ignored my plea for a trial, signed the judgment and dismissed me. I never was permitted to even read the proposed judgment or to examine the “newly discovered” allonge which Shapiro’s counsel said I had no right to see.

Newly discovered allonges (separate documents with endorsements on them) are fakes; this is the new preferred method of document fabrication. Per the UCC (Uniform Commercial Code), an allonge is to be used ONLY when all the space that could be used for endorsement of a note has been used up. That means margins and the reverse side. And when an allonge is employed, it has to be so firmly attached to the original as to constitute a single document. Hence, no way can it travel separately and suddenly be discovered if it were legitimate.

If you think this case is isolated, here are some reports via e-mail courtesy Lisa Epstein, who runs ForclosureHamlet. The first is from Miami-Dade (emphasis theirs):

I went with a family member to court in attempts to stop a foreclosure sale….we were there sitting in court waiting….I heard this judge take on other cases….Regardless of their issue this judge just kept on denying every motion that he was hearing. Not even taking the time not even a minute or a second to even glance at the documents these poor homeowners were bringing to him.

People were telling him that they have been approved and/or were being considered for a modification under HAMP and that they were there to ask to have the sale of their home stopped because apparently the plaintiffs attorneys were not aware of this information. As you may all know, most of these attorneys DO NOT maintain constant contact with their clients, therefore servicers even though they may place in their system for a sale to be postponed based on loss mitigation approval, still, it doesn’t reach their attorneys in time to actually stop the sale. So homeowners are being told by the servicers to actually try and contact the attorneys because they are not able to. Unbelievable but true….

Once the homeowner left the court room the judge asked… “what is this HAMP that these people keep claiming they are approved for?” mannnnn I said to myself… “this judge must have been pulled from retirement from another part of this world, and to get put on the stand to make these decisions… the courts must really be desperate for not even taking the time to even educate them about the huge issue at hand with these foreclosures and modifications and fraudulent documents etc…. then after denying a few more cases in less than 2 minutes he said… “WOW… and i got paid to do this everyday 5 days a week?… this is easy.”

There’s is actually much more of the same, multiple instances with particulars, with the judge clearly operating from the presumption that the borrowers were all deadbeats and the sale would go forward.

This message comes from Hillsborough County:

As I previously noted, when I attended court, many many cases were missing the note and mortgage. Many of these were located later but they definately did not meet the deadline for 20 days ahead and the question is–is anyone reviewing these for fraud? My assessment is that court staff are too buried and have no training in this. I literally saw pile after pile of cases moving through the system like a Burger King window. Legitimately, the court staff can say they are overwhelmed….One could ask, how do you have a summary judgment without the note and mortgage????? I do not feel that what I witnessed was something done on purpose to hurt the homeowner. instead, I feel that the judges believe that the homeowners have not met their obligations and they still haven’t “gotten it” that lawyers could blatantly lie to the court and present false documents. But I honestly did not feel as I observed that there is some horrible conspiracy taking place. It’s more like the judges are bending over too much to assist their “work partners”, i.e., the attorneys handling the cases, to pull their cases together.

Further confirmation of the e-mailed reports comes from Mark Stopa, a Florida attorney:

When do judges decide who wins a foreclosure case? Do they evaluate each case on the merits? Or do judges see “foreclosure case” and automatically decide, in their minds, that the bank is going to win (but refrain from announcing such until entry of final judgment)? In other words, is the outcome of these cases predetermined by some judges? …

My experience yesterday, though, as outlined in this Motion to DQ Judge, makes me wonder, not about myself, but about the thousands of cases in Florida where homeowners don’t have an attorney. I strongly encourage you to read the entire Motion to DQ Judge, as it’s a matter of public record, but here’s the cliff notes version.

On August 19, 2010 at 9:30, a summary judgment hearing was set on a mass-motion calendar. My clients were pro se until just a few days prior, so the documents I filed in opposition to summary judgment had not yet made it into the Court file yet. As such, the Judge thought my clients were pro se. At or before 8:15 a.m. on August 19, 2010, the Judge entered conformed copies of a Final Judgment of foreclosure even though the summary judgment hearing was not scheduled until 9:30 a.m. that day. That’s worth repeating:

The judge entered a Final Judgment of foreclosure more than an hour BEFORE the scheduled hearing.….

At 9:30, when the hearing began, I voiced my concern about this to the Judge. She was obviously caught off guard, but it quickly became apparent to me that her “procedure” is to make conformed copies of the Final Judgment, to be mailed to the parties, prior to the hearing (and to send out those copies to all parties immediately upon conclusion of the hearing). Essentially, she’s already made up her mind before the hearing, is holding the gavel in the air, and is ready to throw it down as soon as the hearing starts.

Moreover in Florida, the public is being barred from observing these trials. In Duval County, Palm Beach County, and Hillsborough County (and this is not a full list), police are refusing entry, claiming safety issues (overcrowding) when lawyers and defendants report there are plenty of open seats. The First Amendment Foundation has urged concerned parties to write letters of protest to judges denying access, including camera access. That battle has not yet been escalated.

Contrast this rubber-stamping of these cases with the statement of the Florida attorney general: ““We’ve had so many complaints that I am confident there is a great deal of fraud here.” Representative Alan Grayson has asked the Florida to halt all foreclosures in the state pending the outcome of the investigation of the state attorney general, since 80% of the foreclosures are undertaken by three of the four foreclosure mills under scrutiny.

But don’t hold your breath. Even though the Supreme Court is preparing a response to Grayson’s, the Chief Justice, Charles Canady, is very much a corporate Republican. In other words, doing the right thing will no doubt be deemed to be too inconvenient.

Battle Lines Forming in Clash Over Foreclosures

By GRETCHEN MORGENSON and ANDREW MARTIN

About a month after Washington Mutual Bank made a multimillion-dollar mortgage loan on a mountain home near Santa Barbara, Calif., a crucial piece of paperwork disappeared.

But bank officials were unperturbed. After conducting a “due and diligent search,” an assistant vice president simply drew up an affidavit stating that the paperwork — a promissory note committing the borrower to repay the mortgage — could not be found, according to court documents.

The handling of that lost note in 2006 was hardly unusual. Mortgage documents of all sorts were treated in an almost lackadaisical way during the dizzying mortgage lending spree from 2005 through 2007, according to court documents, analysts and interviews.

Now those missing and possibly fraudulent documents are at the center of a potentially seismic legal clash that pits big lenders against homeowners and their advocates concerned that the lenders’ rush to foreclose flouts private property rights.

That clash — expected to be played out in courtrooms across the country and scrutinized by law enforcement officials investigating possible wrongdoing by big lenders — leaped to the forefront of the mortgage crisis this week as big lenders began lifting their freezes on foreclosures and insisted the worst was behind them.

Federal officials meeting in Washington on Wednesday indicated that a government review of the problems would not be complete until the end of the year.

In short, the legal disagreement amounts to whether banks can rely on flawed documentation to repossess homes.

While even critics of the big lenders acknowledge that the vast majority of foreclosures involve homeowners who have not paid their mortgages, they argue that the borrowers are entitled to due legal process.

Banks “have essentially sidestepped 400 years of property law in the United States,” said Rebel A. Cole, a professor of finance and real estate at DePaul University. “There are so many questionable aspects to this thing it’s scary.”

Others are more sanguine about the dispute.

Joseph R. Mason, a finance professor who holds the Louisiana Bankers Association chair at Louisiana State University, said that concerns about proper foreclosure documentation were overblown. At the end of the day, he said, even if the banks botched the paperwork, homeowners who didn’t make their mortgage payments still needed to be held accountable.

“You borrowed money,” he said. “You are obligated to repay it.”

After freezing most foreclosures, Bank of America, the largest consumer bank in the country, said this week that it would soon resume foreclosures in about half of the country because it was confident that the cases had been properly documented.GMAC Mortgage said it was also proceeding with foreclosures, on a case-by-case basis.

While some other banks have also suggested they can wrap up faulty foreclosures in a matter of weeks, some judges, lawyers for homeowners and real estate experts like Mr. Cole expect the courts to be inundated with challenges to the banks’ actions.

“This is ultimately going to have to be resolved by the 50 state supreme courts who have jurisdiction for property law,” Professor Cole predicted.

Defaulting homeowners in states like Florida, among the hardest hit by foreclosures, are already showing up in bigger numbers this week to challenge repossessions. And judges in some states have halted or delayed foreclosures because of improper documentation. Court cases are likely to hinge on whether judges believe that banks properly fulfilled their legal obligations during the mortgage boom — and in the subsequent rush to expedite foreclosures.

The country’s mortgage lenders contend that any problems that might be identified are technical and will not change the fact that they have the right to foreclose en masse.

“We did a thorough review of the process, and we found the facts underlying the decision to foreclose have been accurate,” Barbara J. Desoer, president of Bank of America Home Loans, said earlier this week. “We paused while we were doing that, and now we’re moving forward.”

Some analysts are not sure that banks can proceed so freely. Katherine M. Porter, a visiting law professor at Harvard University and an expert on consumer credit law, said that lenders were wrong to minimize problems with the legal documentation.

“The misbehavior is clear: they lied to the courts,” she said. “The fact that they are saying no one was harmed, they are missing the point. They did actual harm to the court system, to the rule of law. We don’t say, ‘You can perjure yourself on the stand because the jury will come to the right verdict anyway.’ That’s what they are saying.”

Robert Willens, a tax expert, said that documentation issues had created potentially severe tax problems for investors in mortgage securities and that “there is enough of a question here that the courts might well have to resolve the issue.”

As the legal system begins sorting through the competing claims, one thing is not in dispute: the pell-mell origination of mortgage loans during the real estate boom and the patchwork of financial machinery and documentation that supported it were created with speed and profits in mind, and with little attention to detail.

Once the foreclosure wheels started turning, said analysts, practices became even shoddier.

For example, the foreclosure business often got so busy at the Plantation, Fla., law offices of David J. Stern — and so many documents had to be signed so banks could evict people from their homes — that a supervisor sometimes was too tired to write her own name.

When that happened, Cheryl Samons, the supervisor at the firm, who typically signed about 1,000 documents a day, just let someone else sign for her, court papers show.

“Cheryl would give certain paralegals rights to sign her name, because most of the time she was very tired, exhausted from signing her name numerous times per day,” said Kelly Scott, a Stern employee, in a deposition that the Florida attorney general released on Monday. A lawyer representing the law firm said Ms. Samons would not comment.

Bill McCollum, Florida’s attorney general, is investigating possible abuses at the Stern firm, a major foreclosure mill in the state, involving false or fabricated loan documents, calling into question the foreclosures the firm set in motion on behalf of banks.

That problem extends far beyond Florida.

As lenders and Wall Street firms bundled thousands of mortgage loans into securities so they could be sold quickly, efficiently and lucratively to legions of investors, slipshod practices took hold among lenders and their representatives, former employees of these operations say.

Banks routinely failed to record each link in the chain of documents that demonstrate ownership of a note and a property, according to court documents, analysts and interviews. When problems arose, executives and managers at lenders and loan servicers sometimes patched such holes by issuing affidavits meant to prove control of a mortgage.

In Broward County, Fla., alone, more than 1,700 affidavits were filed in the last two years attesting to lost notes, according to Legalprise, a legal services company that tracks foreclosure data.

When many mortgage loans went bad in the last few years, lenders outsourced crucial tasks like verifying the amount a borrower owed or determining which institution had a right to foreclose.

Now investors who bought mortgage trusts — investment vehicles composed of mortgages — are wondering if the loans inside them were recorded properly. If not, tax advantages of the trusts could be wiped out, leaving mortgage securities investors with significant tax bills.

For years, lenders bringing foreclosure cases commonly did not have to demonstrate proof of ownership of the note. Consumer advocates and consumer lawyers have complained about the practice, to little avail.

But a decision in October 2007 by Judge Christopher A. Boyko of the Federal District Court in northern Ohio to toss out 14 foreclosure cases put lenders on notice. Judge Boyko ruled that the entities trying to seize properties had not proved that they actually owned the notes, and he blasted the banks for worrying “less about jurisdictional requirements and more about maximizing returns.”

He also said that lenders “seem to adopt the attitude that since they have been doing this for so long, unchallenged, this practice equates with legal compliance.” Now that their practices were “put to the test, their weak legal arguments compel the court to stop them at the gate,” the judge ruled.

Yet aside from the actions of a few random judges, little was done to force lenders to change their practices or slow things down. Since March 2009, more than 300,000 property owners a month have received foreclosure notices or lost their home in a foreclosure, according to RealtyTrac, which tracks foreclosure listings.

What finally prompted a re-examination of the foreclosure wave was the disclosure in court documents over the last several months of so-called robo-signers, employees like Ms. Samons of the Stern law firm in Florida who signed affidavits so quickly that they could not possibly have verified the information in the document under review.

Lenders and their representatives have sought to minimize the significance of robo-signing and, while acknowledging legal lapses in how they documented loans, have argued that foreclosures should proceed anyway. After all, the lenders say, the homeowners owe the money.

People who have worked at loan servicers for many years, who requested anonymity to protect their jobs, said robo-signing and other questionable foreclosure practices emanated from one goal: to increase efficiency and therefore profits. That rush, they say, allowed for the shoddy documentation that is expected to become evidence for homeowners in the coming court battles.

For example, years ago when banks made loans, they typically stored promissory notes in their vaults.

But the advent of securitization, in which loans are bundled and sold to investors, required that loan documents move quickly from one purchaser to another. Big banks servicing these loans began in 2002 to automate their systems, according to a former executive for a top servicer who requested anonymity because of a confidentiality agreement.

First to go was the use of actual people to determine who should be liable to a foreclosure action. They were replaced by computers that identified delinquent borrowers and automatically sent them letters saying they were in default. Inexperienced clerical workers often entered incorrect mortgage information into the computer programs, the former executive said, and borrowers rarely caught the errors.

Other record-keeping problems that are likely to become fodder for court battles involve endorsements, a process that occurs when notes are transferred and validated with a stamp to identify the institution that bought it. Eager to cut costs, most institutions left the notes blank, with no endorsements at all.

Problems are also likely to arise in court involving whether those who signed documents required in foreclosures actually had the authority to do so — or if the documents themselves are even authentic.

For example, Frederick B. Tygart, a circuit court judge overseeing a foreclosure case in Duval County, Fla., recently ruled that agents representing Deutsche Bankrelied on documents that “must have been counterfeited.” He stopped the foreclosure. Deutsche Bank had no comment on Wednesday.

Cynthia Veintemillas, the lawyer representing the borrower in the case, Patrick Jeffs, said the paperwork surrounding her client’s foreclosure was riddled with problems.

“Everybody knows the banks screwed up and loaned out money to people who couldn’t pay it back,” she said. “Why are people surprised that they don’t know what they are doing here either?”

Meanwhile, another judge on Wednesday indicated that the courts would not simply sign off on the banks’ documentation. Jonathan Lippman, the chief judge of New York’s courts, ordered lawyers to verify the validity of all foreclosure paperwork.

“We cannot allow the courts in New York State to stand by idly and be party to what we now know is a deeply flawed process, especially when that process involves basic human needs — such as a family home — during this period of economic crisis,” Judge Lippman said in a statement.

 

Foreclosures Profit Some Equity Firms

CAN I BORROW YOUR LAW LICENSE SCUMBAG?

By BARRY MEIER

With a surge in lawsuits against law firms specializing in foreclosures, a case in Mississippi is casting light on another aspect of the mortgage mess — the connection between Wall Street private equity firms and those law firms, often known as foreclosure mills.

The lawsuit on behalf of homeowners claims that Great Hill Partners, a private equity firm, has benefited from what the lawsuit calls an illegal fee-splitting arrangement between Prommis Solutions and several of the busiest foreclosure law firms it controls. Great Hills is the biggest stakeholder in Prommis, a company that acts as a middleman between mortgage servicers and law firms.

A lawyer for Prommis rejected that claim, and officials of Great Hill Partners did not respond to inquiries. But a review of public filings, company news releases and other public statements shows that several private equity firms or entities they control have stakes in the business operations of some of the busiest foreclosure law firms in New York, California, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia and Texas.

Some of those law firms — like the offices of David J. Stern of Plantation, Fla., and Steven J. Baum of Amherst, N.Y. — are among those that are either under scrutiny by law enforcement officials or face actions by homeowners contending that they used inaccurate or fraudulent mortgage-related documents. Both lawyers have denied any wrongdoing, and neither has been charged with a crime.

The influence, if any, that private investors are having on the practices of the foreclosure mills is not clear. But the issue is likely to be examined in coming months in lawsuits like the one in Mississippi and as a nationwide task force of state attorneys general start their inquiry into the accuracy of mortgage documents.

To maximize investment returns, private equity firms often squeeze down costs in the operations they acquire. And some legal experts suggest that could be a factor in the quality of legal documents generated by foreclosure mills.

“The concern is that you are pushing production down to least-cost producer,” said Susan Carle, a professor at American University Washington College of Law.

Tom Miller, the Iowa attorney general who is heading up the task force investigating questionable document practices, said he was not aware that private equity firms had acquired some foreclosure-related operations. While there is no law against such purchases, Mr. Miller said the issue could prove significant because it expanded the possibilities of where and how the foreclosure system failed.

“If this is happening, this is something we are concerned about and would want to find out more about it,” Mr. Miller said in a telephone interview.

The investors involved in foreclosure mills include a publicly traded investment fund, Ares Capital, as well as other midsized and small buyout firms like Great Hill Partners.

The involvement of private equity firms in the legal industry is not new. But their involvement with foreclosure mills appears to have started about five years ago, just as the housing market was starting to collapse and the number of foreclosure procedures was beginning to boom.

The relationship between the Wall Street specialists and a law firm appears to work like this: A private equity firm, in a transaction worth tens of millions of dollars, buys a wide range of services used by the law firm, like its accounting, computer data, document processing and title search departments. Then, a subsidiary of that private equity firm or an entity it controls makes money by providing those services back to that law firm or other businesses for a fee.

For example, about three years ago, Tailwind Capital, a private equity firm in Manhattan, acquired many of the business-related operations of a law firm near Buffalo run by Mr. Baum, which does one of the highest volumes of foreclosures in New York State. Soon afterward, the fund bought similar operations from one of Connecticut’s biggest foreclosure law firms, Hunt Leibert Jacobson of Hartford.

Ares Capital, which financed the move, is also now a co-investor in those assets, which are held in a Tailwind unit called Pillar Processing, a public filing indicates.

Similarly, a private equity firm in San Francisco, FTV Capital spearheaded a $27 million investment in 2007 in an entity that buys law firm business operations and then uses them to provide services back to firms specializing in “foreclosure, bankruptcy and eviction,” according to a news release issued by the firm.

“We have been keenly focused on the mortgage-default services space,” the buyout fund stated in a 2007 news release. “The space is important to our strategic investors which represent six of the top 10 mortgage investors/servicers.”

In an e-mail, a spokeswoman for FTV Capital said that company officials were not available for comment.

Law firms receive a relatively low fee from companies that service home loans, say about $1,200 a case for handling a foreclosure-related proceeding. But those fees can translate into big profits for lawyers and their private equity partners when tens of thousands of foreclosures are involved. The law firms and the private equity firms have structured these deals with an eye toward avoiding legal statutes and ethical rules like those that bar fee-splitting between lawyers and nonlawyers.

But that relationship has been challenged in the Mississippi lawsuit against Prommis and Great Hill Partners.

Another company, Lender Processing Services, is also accused in the lawsuit of illegally splitting fees with foreclosure law firms; it also denies doing so.

The roots of Prommis, based in Atlanta, trace back to 2006 when the company acquired the back-office operations of McCalla Raymer, one of the country’s biggest foreclosure law firms. Great Hill Partners states on its Web site that it was interested in the acquisition because it reflected a way for it to profit from the housing downturn.

In subsequent years, Prommis expanded its operations nationwide by buying the back-office operations of other major foreclosure law firms, according to a recentSecurities and Exchange Commission filing made by the company in connection with a planned initial stock offering.

According to that June filing, Prommis now generates revenue by providing services like document processing to the same law firms that handle nearly all of the foreclosures initiated by the loan servicers with whom Prommis works.

In a telephone interview, Prommis’s general counsel, Richard J. Volentine Jr., said that the company did not split fees with its affiliated law firms and that those fees were paid directly to those firms by the loan servicers.

In its S.E.C. filing, Prommis alerted potential investors that it could face challenges from bar associations, prosecutors or homeowners that its relationship with its law firms constituted the “unauthorized practice of law” or involved “impermissible fee sharing” arrangements.

Prommis also stated in that filing that any steps that slowed the pace of foreclosures, like government programs that helped homeowners renegotiate loans, would hurt its revenue.

Julie Creswell contributed reporting.

 

Time for Some New Stress Tests for {SCUMBAG}Banks

By SIMON JOHNSON
Today's Economist

Simon Johnson, the former chief economist at the International Monetary Fund, is a co-author of “13 Bankers.”

How much damage to the financial system should we expect from what is now commonly called the foreclosure morass, the developing scandal involving document robo-signing (and robo-dockets), completely messed up mortgage paperwork and highly publicized inquiries into accusations of systematic and deliberate misbehavior by banks?

The damage to banks’ reputation is immeasurable. They have undermined property rights — the ability to establish clear title is a founding idea of the American republic. They have mistreated customers in a completely unacceptable manner. If people doubted the need for a new consumer protection agency dealing with financial products — and the importance of having a clear-thinking reformer like Elizabeth Warren at its head — they have presumably been silenced by recent events. (If you need to get up to speed on the basics of this issue, see this series of posts by Mike Konczal.)

But what is the cost in terms of additional likely losses to big banks? The likely size and nature of these are leading to exactly the kind of systemic risks that the Financial Stability Oversight Council was recently established to anticipate and deal with.

It is hard to know how the precise numbers for losses will end up; so much uncertainty remains about the basic parameters of the foreclosure problem. A lot of smart people are looking for ways to sue the big banks — in particular to force them to take back (at face value) securities that were issued based on some underlying degree of deception.

This is a fast-evolving situation in which every day brings potentially significant news, but our baseline view is that the losses are in the range of $50 billion to $100 billion — that is, these are “new” losses not yet recognized by banks. (Our downside possibility, with perhaps a 10 percent probability, is that the losses are much larger.) Most of this is so-called putbacks to the banks from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, meaning that the banks are forced to take back onto their books the underlying securities (and absorb the associated losses) if there was significant misrepresentation in the original documentation.

In almost all cases, these additional losses will remain an order of magnitude smaller than the trillions of dollars in credit losses that brought down the global financial system in 2008-9. Still, these latest losses are not helpful to confidence in big banks, and the continuing uncertainty, which is entirely the banks’ fault, will make their managements more cautious about extending new credit.

Capital is the buffer that banks hold against losses, and banks really do not want to raise more capital under current conditions. Their executives’ fear about potentially having insufficient capital will further undermine loan availability, even for creditworthy borrowers. This is exactly what the economic recovery does not need.

In addition, Bank of America is a particular worry, because its capital position is already precarious, and any downgrade by rating agencies will push it into dangerous territory. To the extent the market believes that the government does not stand fully or immediately behind Bank of America (a view expressed by Morgan Stanley analysts in a note this week), we should expect pressures reminiscent of fall 2008.

We also learned this week of sizable additional potential exposure from the lawsuit filed by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, Pimco and BlackRock — seeking to force Bank of America to buy back bad mortgages packaged into $47 billion of mortgage-backed securities issued by Countrywide.

The best approach would be a fresh set of stress tests, resulting in the requirement that Bank of America and perhaps other banks need to raise a specified dollar amount of capital (not hit a particular capital-asset ratio, as that would just result in further dumping of assets), and reassuring the market that other banks have sufficient capital, including under the augmented Basel III requirements. (For a primer on capital requirements and the thinking that underlies the approach we are recommending, see a post I wrote with Peter Boone on Oct. 7.)

Created by the Dodd-Frank financial regulatory act, the Financial Stability Oversight Council has plenty of power to order and organize such stress tests. In fact, because of the powers granted to the council under the Kanjorski Amendment, the country’s top regulators have a complete menu of choices available in terms of what they can require banks to do in order to reduce risks to the system (up to and including pre-emptively breaking up big troubled banks).

The foreclosure morass clearly poses systemic risk, both through its general effects on uncertainty about losses and because any manifest weakness at one big bank could spread — in some obvious ways and in some unanticipated ways — through the rest of the system.

In addition, the stress tests of 2009 (known as the Supervisory Capital Assessment Program) did not consider the possibility of large losses arising from the litigation now surrounding mortgage-backed securities. When Representative Brad Miller, Democrat of North Carolina, asked Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner about this at a House Financial Services Committee hearing on Sept. 22, the exchange went like this:

MILLER, asking about possible breach of contract in securitized mortgages: Was potential liability on these theories taken into account at all in the stress test? I mean, the securitizers, who presumably would be the defendants in any litigation, are the 19 biggest banks that got the stress tests. Was their potential liability taken into account at all in the stress tests a year ago?

GEITHNER: I don’t think so.

Mr. Geithner also said he would take this question up in more detail with his colleagues at the Federal Reserve, which administered the 2009 stress tests. The exchange can be heard in full online, with the Miller-Geithner exchange at about the 42-minute mark.

The only fair, reasonable, and safe way to handle this situation is to order a fresh round of stress tests for all systemically important financial institutions. The stress case should consider not just the current dismal macroeconomic prognosis (and the potential for another slip back into recession) but also the downside with regard to litigation losses.

If the Financial Stability Oversight Council refuses to act decisively in this regard, a vital piece of the Dodd-Frank financial reforms will have failed.