Tag Archive: Catherine Cortez Masto

Nov 17 2011

Nevada AG Indicts Title Company Officers

Nevada Attorney General Catherine Cotez Masto has filed a 606 count criminal indictment against two title company employees for for supervising the filing of tens of thousands of fraudulent documents in a robo-signing scheme. This is the statement from Masto’s office (pdf):

   The Office of the Nevada Attorney General announced today that the Clark County grand jury has returned a 606 count indictment against two title officers, Gary Trafford and Gerri Sheppard, who directed and supervised a robo-signing scheme which resulted in the filing of tens of thousands of fraudulent documents with the Clark County Recorder’s Office between 2005 and 2008.

   According to the indictment, defendant Gary Trafford, a California resident, is charged with 102 counts of offering false instruments for recording (category C felony); false certification on certain instruments (category D felony); and notarization of the signature of a person not in the presence of a notary public (a gross misdemeanor). The indictment charges d efendant Gerri Sheppard, also a California resident, with 100 counts of offering false instruments for recording (category C felony); false certification on certain instruments (category D felony); and notarization of the signature of a person not in the presence of a notary public (a gross misdemeanor).

   “The grand jury found probable cause that there was a robo-signing scheme which resulted in the filing of tens of thousands of fraudulent documents with the Clark County Recorder’s Office between 2005 and 2008,”said Chief Deputy Attorney General John Kelleher.

   The indictment alleges that both defendants directed the fraudulent notarization and filing of documents which were used to initiate foreclosure on local homeowners.

   The State alleges that these documents, referred to as Notices of Default, or “NODs”, were prepared locally. The State alleges that the defendants directed employees under their supervision, to forge their names on foreclosure documents, then notarize the signatures they just forged, thereby fraudulently attesting that the defendants actually signed the documents, which was untrue and in violation of State law. The defendants then allegedly directed the employees under their supervision to file the fraudulent documents with the Clark County Recorder’s office, to be used to start foreclosures on homes throughout the County.

   The indictment alleges that these crimes were done in secret in order to avoid detection. The fraudulent NODs were allegedly forged locally to allow them to be filed at the Clark County Recorder’s office on the same day they were prepared.

Although the two Lender Processing Services employees, Gary Trafford and Gerri Sheppard, are deemed to be little fish there is speculation the Ms. Masto is using this as a hook to an go after the whales. Yves Smith at naked capitalism:

   That strongly suggests that Masto is, as we suggested earlier, using these indictments as a wedge to go after much broader abuses in the servicing industry. LPS’s biggest business is its Default Services Group, which both managed the operations of foreclosure mills (people with knowledge of LPS charge that the firm even kicks out certain standard form documents for foreclosure mill attorneys to file) and also often acted as the arms and legs of servicers in other arenas (for instance, managing, or more accurately, mismanaging property seized in foreclosure).

   LPS has always taken the position that anything it did was at the direction of and with the full knowledge of the servicers. If Masto is shrewd, her objective will be to audit LPSs’ software, since that will demonstrate pattern and practice, and it will be impossible for servicers to deny that processes embodied in ongoing, routinized activities were unknown to them.

David Dayen at FDL agrees that this may well be the first step in getting the higher ups who made, and are still, making a fortune on foreclosures:

LPS hasn’t been indicted, but you can see where this is going. We know enough now to know that this casual forgery and document fraud was official policy for the company. Indictments of Trafford and Sheppard will almost certainly not end there. Everyone who worked for LPS in Nevada will be culpable. [..]

The fact that they are LPS employees also suggests this is just a first step. This could be a way to get at the software that LPS uses to create documents, which would prove pattern and practice. LPS was central to the entire robo-signing scheme across foreclosure mill law firms and mortgage servicers. And they consistently maintain that they worked at the direction of the servicers and with their full knowledge. So that ropes in the servicers as well.

This is a very important indictment, and it shows how methodical Masto has been about going after widespread industry abuse. It’s only just beginning, but bravo for her.

As has been reported, despite the meager attempts at an agreement to settle this and exonerate the banks of any wrong doing by several other Attorney Generals, the robo-signing continues:

   Reuters reviewed records of individual county clerk offices in five states — Florida, Massachusetts, New York, and North and South Carolina — with searchable online databases. Reuters also examined hundreds of documents from court case files, some obtained online and others provided by attorneys.

   The searches found more than 1,000 mortgage assignments that for multiple reasons appear questionable: promissory notes missing required endorsements or bearing faulty ones; and “complaints” (the legal documents that launch foreclosure suits) that appear to contain multiple incorrect facts.

   These are practices that the 14 banks and other loan servicers said had occurred only on a small scale and were halted more than six months ago. [..]

   Reuters reviewed records of individual county clerk offices in five states — Florida, Massachusetts, New York, and North and South Carolina — with searchable online databases. Reuters also examined hundreds of documents from court case files, some obtained online and others provided by attorneys.

   The searches found more than 1,000 mortgage assignments that for multiple reasons appear questionable: promissory notes missing required endorsements or bearing faulty ones; and “complaints” (the legal documents that launch foreclosure suits) that appear to contain multiple incorrect facts.

   These are practices that the 14 banks and other loan servicers said had occurred only on a small scale and were halted more than six months ago.

Meanwhile, as Yves Smith pointed out this Summer, the bankers continue to lie to congress that they have stopped the practice:

We’ve heard numerous bank executives swear piously before Congressional hearings that those “paperwork problems” that led major servicers to halt or slow foreclosures on a widespread basis last year were “mistakes”. That was already a really big lies, since “mistake” means the practice was not deliberate and was presumably isolated, when in fact robosigning was a widespread, institutionalized practice.

14 major servicers then swore in consent orders earlier this year that they’d stop doing all that bad stuff. But with compliance weak (the banks get to hire the overseers!), they appear to have decided they don’t need to change their ways all that much. Indeed, the record of consent orders is underwhelming; for instance, both Nevada and Arizona are suing Countrywide for violations of past agreements.

Meanwhile the Obama Justice Department continues to try to sweep this massive fraud under the rug.

Yes, bravo, Ms. Masto.

Nevada Robosigning Indicment 11-16-11

Sep 22 2011

Another Attorney General Joins Foreclosure Fraud Investigation

There have been a couple of new developments in the foreclosure fraud investigation that was initiated by New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. The coalition of state AG’s who want a real criminal investigation and oppose the 50 state settlement proposal of Iowa AG Tom Miller has grown by one with Kentucky’s AG Jack Conway adding name. From David Dayen at FireDogLake:

The latest AG to stand with Schneiderman and against the attempts to whitewash the fraud of the big banks is Kentucky AG Jack Conway. He is up for re-election this year, and is known nationally by virtue of his unsuccessful challenge to Rand Paul for Senate in 2010. Conway, in conjunction with the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, sent an email to supporters aligning himself with Schneiderman.

   The same Wall Street banks whose irresponsible actions led to our nation’s economic collapse are now pressuring all 50 states to give them legal immunity. The banks want to block any criminal or civil accountability for actions that have yet to be investigated.

   Attorneys General from Delaware, Minnesota, Nevada and New York have been fighting back. Today, I want to make a clear statement in support of Wall Street accountability and against immunity for banks – and I ask you to join me on this statement:

   “Today’s economic crisis was caused by Wall Street acting improperly. Every American has paid the price – with families losing their homes, investors losing their money, and many Americans losing their jobs. There should be absolutely no criminal or civil immunity given to banks for activity that has not yet been investigated.”

Several things are important here. Kentucky didn’t really have a big housing bubble – Conway is supporting this on principle, rather than in service to a wide swath of dispossessed and struggling borrowers who are victims of fraud. Second, he writes this in the context of an election which has tightened up minimally. So he obviously finds this to be a winning issue on the campaign trail. Third, it would be tempting to just ignore a proposed settlement that isn’t going to happen. Conway sees political advantage in stamping on this process, which is already flailing.

In another development in Nevada, an attorney has filed criminal charges against Wells Fargo accusing the bank of forging loan documents:

In court papers filed this month in Clark County District Court, attorney Dave Crosby alleged bank employees committed forgery and fraud in making a $350,000 loan to a father of four who was unemployed at the time.

“They forged signatures, they backdated documents,” Crosby said. “We’ve got them cold.”

Crosby said the bank has presented two deeds of trust for the same property. One bears the signature of Olivia A. Todd, who on Jan. 27, 2010, was identified as an assistant secretary with MERS, Inc., a mortgage servicer from the Phoenix area and a co-defendant in the lawsuit.

But on Feb. 16, 2010, Todd’s signature appears on a second deed of trust, where she is identified as the firm’s president. Both assignments were notarized as authentic, Crosby said in court papers.

Crosby made his allegations in a request to have a judge review three failed mediations between him and his clients, Ryan and Mical Henderson of Las Vegas, and lawyers with Wells Fargo, formerly Wells Fargo Home Mortgage.

Buried deep in the story was this interesting note:

Nevada Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto is expected to file criminal charges against bank and title company employees, as well as notary publics, over allegations of robo signing.

The paltry deal of $20 billion by AG Miller that would let the banks off the hook for most civil and criminal liability seems hardly adequate when you really examine the scope of the fraud nation wide.  

Aug 31 2011

FDIC Objects to BoA Bailout & Files Suit

Well, well, this is getting juicy. The FDIC has filed a lawsuit objecting to the $8.5 billion bail out of the Bank of America:

The FDIC, the receiver for failed banks, owns securities covered by the settlement and said it doesn’t have enough information to evaluate the accord, according to a filing yesterday in federal court in Manhattan.

Under the agreement, Bank of America would pay $8.5 billion to resolve claims from investors in Countrywide Financial Corp. mortgage bonds. The settlement was negotiated with a group of institutional investors, including BlackRock Inc. (BLK) and Pacific Investment Management Co. LLC, and would apply to investors outside that group.

Bank of New York Mellon Corp. (BK), the trustee for the mortgage-securitization trusts covered by the agreement, has asked a New York state judge to approve the settlement in November. An investor group is trying to move the case to federal court, which Bank of New York opposes.

Investors that would be bound by the settlement, including American International Group Inc., have criticized the deal and Bank of New York’s role representing investors in the mortgage bonds. New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and Delaware Attorney General Beau Biden have sought to intervene in the case and asked the court to reject it.

The Nevada Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto has further upped the ante:

The attorney general of Nevada is accusing Bank of America of repeatedly violating a broad loan modification agreement it struck with state officials in October 2008 and is seeking to rip up the deal so that the state can proceed with a suit against the bank over allegations of deceptive lending, marketing and loan servicing practices.

In a complaint filed Tuesday in United States District Court in Reno, Catherine Cortez Masto, the Nevada attorney general, asked a judge for permission to end Nevada’s participation in the settlement agreement. This would allow her to sue the bank over what the complaint says were dubious practices uncovered by her office in an investigation that began in 2009.

In her filing, Ms. Masto contends that Bank of America raised interest rates on troubled borrowers when modifying their loans even though the bank had promised in the settlement to lower them. The bank also failed to provide loan modifications to qualified homeowners as required under the deal, improperly proceeded with foreclosures even as borrowers’ modification requests were pending and failed to meet the settlement’s 60-day requirement on granting new loan terms, instead allowing months and in some cases more than a year to go by with no resolution, the filing says.

The complaint says such practices violated an agreement Bank of America reached in the fall of 2008 with several states and later, in 2009, with Nevada, to settle lawsuits that accused its Countrywide unit of predatory lending. As the credit crisis grew, the settlement was heralded as a victory by state offices eager to help keep troubled borrowers in their homes and reduce their costs. Bank of America set aside $8.4 billion in the deal and agreed to help 400,000 troubled borrowers with loan modifications and other financial relief, such as lowering interest rates on mortgages.

I’ll bet you this has Obama and the remaining AG’s panties in a twist, since, according to rumors they were looking to settle this by Labor Day.

Here’s the link to the FDIC’s brief:

FDIC Objection to Bank of America Mortgage Settlement