More Foreclosure Mischief: Bankruptcy Hijackings
Yves Smith, Naked Capitalism
Tuesday, February 21, 2012
One of the common complaints from banks that the concerns raised by borrowers over robosigning are mere “paperwork” problems, that everyone who is foreclosed on deserved it, and no one was really hurt. That is patently false, as there have been an embarrassing number of instances where someone with no mortgage was foreclosed on, as well all too many cases of servicer-driven foreclosures. And that’s before we get to damage to property records.
Attorney Timothy Fong called our attention to a below the radar form of chicanery that is predictable when you have nonjudicial foreclosure with no significant oversight and agents who lack incentives to do a good job.
So get this: the procedures are so bad that totally bogus documents can be created and slipped into the bankruptcy of an innocent victim to stop foreclosure sales. Even worse, the servicer, who OUGHT to know better, treats this person in BK who suddenly materialized out of nowhere from his perspective as a real owner and hits him with a motion for relief of stay so they can take a house from him that he never owned. And the foreclosure mill lawyers don’t question this because more motions of relief of stay means more fees.
If this example wasn’t such a serious indictment of our system, it would serve as a black comedy in bureaucratic incompetence.
Quelle Surprise! Servicers Rip Off Investors as Well as Homeowners
Yves Smith, Naked Capitalism
Tuesday, February 21, 2012
We’ve been giving examples off and on about how servicers scam borrowers. Examples include impermissibly deducting fees before applying payments to interest and principal; force placed insurance, inflated prices on and excessive frequency of broker price opinions, and in altogether too many cases, treating payments that are on time as late. What many observers fail to appreciate is that these are tantamount to scamming investors. If a borrower goes into default, any bogus charges will be deducted from the sale of the house, and hence come out of investors’ hides.
Lisa Epstein of Foreclosure Hamlet is a mortgage document maven and has been looking extensively at investor reports and compared them to court documents and has found serious discrepancies. Her research shows that servicers are not only taking advantage of borrowers but are also scamming investors.
Investors have told me they’ve seen signs of even more gross abuses, such as servicers treating fees as credit losses. But this sort of remark in a way shows investors suffer from the same agency problems as servicers, who have no reason to do a good job but instead are motivated to game a complex system of fees. Institutional investors are running other people’s money and therefore have no incentive to crack down on miscreant servicers (they feel it is not their job, plus if any one investor were to take this issue on, the rest of the industry would free ride on his work).
So no wonder we only have isolated and very dedicated individuals chipping away at this looting. Everyone else appears to be part of the problem.
John O’Brien: Mortgage Settlement Fails to Address Banking Criminal Enterprise
John L. O’Brien of the Southern Essex District Registry of Deeds – Salem, MA, Naked Capitalism
Wednesday, February 22, 2012
When you enter my registry you see a sign that reads “The deeds tell the story.” Before the big banks took it upon themselves to corrupt the land recordation system, the deeds used to tell a happy story, one in which people purchased a home and lived “the American Dream.” Today, however they tell a different story one of greed, fraud, and forgery. By now everyone in Massachusetts knows what I have been doing over the past two years to expose and stop the schemes by the Mortgage Electronic Recording Systems, Inc. and their shareholder banks. The accuracy and integrity of the land records in my registry are of the upmost importance to me.
Just this past week the Attorney Generals of this country said they will enter into a deal with the 5 largest banks who have agreed to stop robo-signing, provide principal reductions of between 20 to 25 thousand dollars to a million underwater homeowners. This amount will in no way solve the housing crisis that we are faced with nor even begin to turn our economy around. In addition, the settlement suggests that approximately 750,000 people who have had their homes taken by foreclosure using fraudulent documents will receive a check for $2,000. As Yves Smith has said, “that amount is the new penalty for forgery.” This is merely a slap on the wrists to these lenders. It is my opinion that this deal has been crafted for the banks and by the banks. It is not in the best interest of the consumer, the homeowner, or the taxpayer. Simply put, I do not trust these lenders who have flooded my registry with over 32,000 fraudulent documents to do the right thing. Those homeowners who now have a corrupted title are looking for answers. This deal gives them none. The illegal activity by the banks is nothing shy of a criminal enterprise, where they crossed state lines using the United States Postal Service to deliver the instruments that were fraudulent and contained forgeries.
I will continue to pursue my request for Federal and State grand juries to be impaneled to hold the CEO’s of these banks liable for the crimes that have been committed under their watch. The only thing missing in this illegal scheme that MERS and the big banks came up with was a gun and a mask. I will continue to expose this fraud and work everyday to make sure that the taxpayers are fully reimbursed for the over $44 million dollars in lost recording fees in my district alone by institutions who still believe fees are “for thee but not for me.” A message needs to be sent to these banks that they may think that you are too big to fail but they are not too big to go to jail.
Yes, Virginia, Foreclosure Is Theft
Author: L. Randall Wray, EconoMonitor
February 22nd, 2012
There’s a lot of pushback anytime someone points the finger at banks. As I’ve argued for a couple of years now, virtually all recent foreclosures really amount to theft. The banks have no legal standing to take homes. They created the MERS monster, which destroyed the chain of title and “lost” all the documents. That is why the mortgage servicers hire robo-signers to forge new ones. Yet, 4 years into the crisis, almost no one wants to admit the truth. Foreclosure in the US is theft-as practiced it is almost always illegal. Yet, the servicers are now ramping up foreclosures after they bought out the state attorneys general under pressure from the Eric Holder at the White House.
Audit Reveals 84% of San Francisco Foreclosures Violated Law
David Wallechinsky, Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov
Tuesday, February 21, 2012
City officials requested the audit that examined 382 randomly chosen foreclosures that occurred from January 2009 through October 2011. The findings revealed that 84% of the files involved “what appear to be one or more clear violations of law.” The violations included not giving homeowners warning that they were in default on their loans (6%), not giving homeowners adequate legal warning their property was being sold (10%), backdating of documents (59%) and transfers of loans by entities that had no business doing so (45%).
Another disturbing discovery related to the Mortgage Electronic Registry System (MERS). In 1995 the bigger banks created MERS as a privately owned electronic system for registering mortgage sales that was supposed to replace local county recording. In the words of the New York Attorney General’s Office, they did so “to allow financial institutions to evade local county recording fees, avoid the hassle and paperwork of publicly recording mortgage transfers, and facilitate the rapid sale and securitization of mortgages.” The San Francisco audit found that in 58% of cases, the loan beneficiary listed on the deed of sale was different from the one listed in the MERS database.
Audit Uncovers Extensive Flaws in Foreclosures
By GRETCHEN MORGENSON, The New York Times
Published: February 15, 2012
(T)he detailed and comprehensive nature of the San Francisco findings suggest how pervasive foreclosure irregularities may be across the nation.
The depth of the problem raises questions about whether at least some foreclosures should be considered void, Mr. Ting said. “We’re not saying that every consumer should not have been foreclosed on or every lender is a bad actor, but there are significant and troubling issues,” he said.
California has been among the states hurt the most by the mortgage crisis. Because its laws, like those of 29 other states, do not require a judge to oversee foreclosures, the conduct of banks in the process is rarely scrutinized. Mr. Ting said his report was the first rigorous analysis of foreclosure improprieties in California and that it cast doubt on the validity of almost every foreclosure it examined.
“Clearly, we need to set up a process where lenders are following every part of the law,” Mr. Ting said in the interview. “It is very apparent that the system is broken from many different vantage points.”
The report contradicted the contentions of many banks that foreclosure improprieties did little harm because the borrowers were behind on their mortgages and should have been evicted anyway. “We can deduce from the public evidence,” the report noted, “that there are indeed legitimate victims in the mortgage crisis. Whether these homeowners are systematically being deprived of legal safeguards and due process rights is an important question.”