Foreclosure Defense: AG’s Hit Countrywide

They don’t have it all, but reading the complaint and getting copies of discovery and motions will help anyone contesting the foreclosure and of course, going further to the main target: HAVING THE MORTGAGE ENCUMBRANCE REMOVED FROM THE PROPERTY AND ELIMINATING LIABILITY ON THE NOTE.



Countrywide’s Pressures Mount

Three States File
Legal Actions;
Holders Clear Sale
June 26, 2008; Page A3

The legal and financial pressures on Countrywide Financial Corp. mounted Wednesday as officials in three states filed separate legal actions against the mortgage lender.

The actions, by the attorneys general of California and Illinois, and the Washington State Department of Financial Institutions, came on the same day that Countrywide shareholders voted to approve the sale of the company to Bank of America Corp. The all-stock transaction was valued at $4 billion when Bank of America agreed to buy Countrywide in January. But Bank of America shares have since slipped, and the value has fallen to about $2.8 billion. The transaction is scheduled to close on July 1.

The California action, filed in state court by Attorney General Edmund G. Brown Jr., alleges that Countrywide used “misleading marketing practices” to steer home buyers into “risky and costly loans” without regard to borrowers’ ability to pay. Mr. Brown alleges that Countrywide, based in Calabasas, Calif., was driven by an effort to boost the company’s market share and fill demand from Wall Street for loans that could be packaged into securities. The 46-page complaint also names Countrywide Chairman Angelo Mozilo and the company’s president, David Sambol.


Separately, the Washington State Department of Financial Institutions filed an administrative action against Countrywide alleging that the company engaged in discriminatory lending practices. Meanwhile, Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, as expected, filed a separate civil action in state court accusing Countrywide of “unfair and deceptive practices” in the sale of mortgage loans.

All states are seeking restitution for borrowers. If the states can persuade the courts to grant restitution, it “could be a staggering blow against Countrywide,” said Kurt Eggert, a law professor at the School of Law at Chapman University, in Orange, Calif. “Countrywide could be required to give back its profit on all those loans and conceivably give back houses on which it has foreclosed.”

A Countrywide spokesman didn’t respond to requests for comment. A Bank of America spokesman had no comment on the litigation Wednesday. But Bank of America Chairman and CEO Kenneth D. Lewis has said in the past that he believes the relatively low deal price gives plenty of cushion for potential damages, settlements and other litigation costs.

Litigation against Countrywide continues to pile up. In addition to the state cases, Countrywide and its top executives are under investigation by several federal agencies, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Securities and Exchange Commission, and are the subject of numerous lawsuits from employees, shareholders and borrowers.

Analysts have estimated that Bank of America could face more than $9 billion in write-downs related to Countrywide.

The California suit is particularly notable because of the scale of Countrywide’s business in the state. California, the nation’s biggest housing market, accounts for a disproportionately large share of delinquent home loans and Countrywide was one of the largest mortgage lenders in the state. California attorney general Brown said in an interview that “Countrywide certainly contributed substantially to the overall problems” in the mortgage market. As custodians of the company, he added, Messrs. Mozilo and Sambol “have the legal and moral responsibility to protect their borrowers and they ultimately failed.”

While subprime loans — or loans to borrowers with poor credit — have captured most headlines in recent years, the attorneys general appear equally concerned about so-called option adjustable-rate mortgages, a type of loan taken out largely by prime borrowers. Payment-option ARMs, as they are often called, allow borrowers to make a minimum payment that may not even cover the interest due. Gross profit margin on these loans was roughly 4%, compared with 2% for loans guaranteed by the Federal Housing Administration, according to the California complaint.

In addition, the California lawsuit alleges that Countrywide loosened its underwriting standards and then often granted exceptions to those looser standards. The company’s Structured Loan Desk in Plano, Texas, was “specifically set up by Countrywide, at the direction” of Messrs. Mozilo and Sambol, to grant underwriting exceptions, the lawsuit says. In 2006, it processed 15,000 to 20,000 loans a month, the lawsuit says.

The California and Illinois actions “are both aggressive lawsuits” in that they “assert a responsibility on the part of the lender to offer appropriate products to the homeowner” in addition to making more traditional claims that lenders made deceptive statements to borrowers, said Prentiss Cox, an associate professor of law at the University of Minnesota.

These suits “have a much greater chance of succeeding now than they would have a few years ago because everyone will understand the consequences” of the practices alleged in the lawsuits, he said. “Before, there was a presumption that these are large financial companies and they surely know what they are doing. No one assumes that anymore.”

Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal said he is likely to file a lawsuit as part of a second wave of civil actions brought by states against Countrywide. Among the issues Connecticut would allege is “falsely promising refinancing opportunities and lying to consumers about possible risks,” said Mr. Blumenthal. Attorneys general in Florida and Iowa also say they are weighing their options.

–Amir Efrati and Valerie Bauerlein contributed to this article.

Write to Ruth Simon at ruth.simon@wsj.com5

2 Responses

  1. Nice post. I think the best way to stop foreclosure is the produce-the-note strategy. I live in Tampa and know one person he helped, and it actually worked. This site has all the videos on the strategy. Watch all the videos here:

  2. Friday, the Judge OVERRULED a Motion for Summary Judgment Countrywide filed before even answering my Cross-Claim. Today, I filed Interrogatories & Request for Production of Documents. How can the principal on my loan keep going up as the payments go up. So far my principal has increased by $14,000.00 while I have made payments.

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