Navigating LOST COMMUNICATION With “Servicers” Who Are in Reality Merely Steering You Into Foreclosure

The main point is that borrowers must calibrate their thinking. Debtors are not dealing with anyone who wants to collect payments. They are dealing with someone who wants a foreclosure so they can steal the proceeds. The forced sale of the house generates revenue that is distributed to several players involved in the foreclosure effort and several players involved in the REO sale and eviction.

The rest of the money goes to the securities brokerage firm (investment bank) where there is no loan receivable account against which to credit the deposit. In short, while labeled as various vaguely described transactions, the substance of the deposit is that it is revenue even if it is not declared as such for tax purposes.

Against this backdrop a common complaint I receive is that borrowers are in good faith attempting to make payments or send documents requested by the “servicer” only to find that they are unable to do so or that the documents were lost. So they ask me what to do next.

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RULE #1: STOP CALLING THEM “THE BANK.” THEY ARE MOST LIKELY NOT THE BANK — AND THEY DO NOT EVEN QUALIFY AS SERVICERS IN MOST INSTANCES. THINK OF THEM AS SCAM ARTISTS WHO HAVE GAINED YOUR CONFIDENCE (I.E. CON MEN) TO PREVENT YOU FROM INQUIRING ABOUT WHO SHOULD BE RECEIVING YOUR PAYMENTS OR THE PROCEEDS OF A FORECLOSURE SALE. 

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Technically you are most likely NOT dealing with anyone who qualifies as a creditor nor even a debt collector, who could only be functioning on authority from an actual creditor. So theoretically you would be well within your legal rights to simply not pay money to a party who is not entitled to receive them.
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Reality is different from theory. While in past times anyone attempting to collect, process or enforce a debt would be required to disclose everything about their ownership, agency or authority, today virtually everyone presumes that any such party has legal status. Because of that presumption, refusing to make payments as demanded is fraught with the risk that (1) the pretender lender will declare you to be in default and (2) start enforcement proceedings against you based upon fabricated but nonetheless facially valid documentation.
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So my usual and primary advice is to refrain from any action or inaction that puts you in a worse position than the one you find yourself. And I always recommend at least consulting with local counsel before deciding on any course of action.
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That usually means you make the payments.
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The only other alternative is to file a lawsuit in which you ask to deposit the funds in the court registry because you want to make the payments but you don’t believe the party demanding those payments has any actual legal right to do so.
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INTERPLEADER: An interesting twist on this type of pleading could be that you file your lawsuit, asking for attorney fees, and name both the servicer demanding payment and the investment bank (securities brokerage firm(s)) that is/are most likely behind the securitization scheme. This would be an interpleader lawsuit that basically says I have this money, it is for a debt I owe, Party A demands it, but I think Party B might be the one to whom it is owed. I have no assurance from Party A that the money would be given to Party B or any other entity that has paid for the debt and is therefore entitled to receive the proceeds of my payments. I don’t care who gets it. I just want to know who to pay. 
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In a further twist (which could negate your right to receive attorney fees) such an action could also include a count for disgorgement if the court finds that the party demanding payment was not entitled to receive it. That could mean return or deposit of all money ever received by the parties named as respondents in the interpleader action.

Generally, disgorgement is a form of “[r]estitution measured by the defendant’s wrongful gain.” Restatement (Third) of Restitution and Unjust Enrichment § 51, Comment a, p. 204 (2010) (Restatement (Third)). Disgorgement requires that the defendant give up “those gains … properly attributable to the defendant’s interference with the claimant’s legally protected rights.” Ibid . Beginning in the 1970’s, courts ordered disgorgement in SEC enforcement proceedings in order to “deprive … defendants of their profits in order to remove any monetary reward for violating” securities laws and to “protect the investing public by providing an effective deterrent to future violations.”Texas Gulf,312 F.Supp., at 92.

Kokesh v. Sec. & Exch. Comm’n, 137 S. Ct. 1635, 1640 (2017)

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Federal jurisdiction could apply.

Whereas statutory interpleader may be brought in the district where any claimant resides ( 28 U.S.C. § 1397), Rule interpleader based upon diversity of citizenship may be brought only in the district where all plaintiffs or all defendants reside ( 28 U.S.C. § 1391 (a)). And whereas statutory interpleader enables a plaintiff to employ nationwide service of process ( 28 U.S.C. § 2361), service of process under Rule 22 is confined to that provided in Rule 4. See generally 3 Moore, Federal Practice ¶ 22.04.

State Farm Fire Cas. Co. v. Tashire, 386 U.S. 523, 530 n.3 (1967)

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In all events any attempts at communication or payment that are frustrated by the party demanding that payment should be documented by U.S. Postal Service, Certified Mail, return receipt requested — because your attempts will be denied. The robowitness or affiant on an affidavit will say there is no record of such attempts. LIke the above, an interim measure would be to pay the money into a trust account administered by an attorney or some other legally recognized escrow agent.
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I have seen many judges ask the borrower who relates this story what they did with the money after it was refused. If there answer is that they spent it, the judge often construes that as undermining the credibility of the borrower’s testimony. But if the borrower says it was paid into escrow where it still remains most judges regard that in a light favorable to the borrower and it raises their antagonism toward the lawyers and the servicer who are now presumed to have screwed things up even if they were actually entitled to collect, process or enforce the debt.
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PRACTICE NOTE: While actual tender of actual payment certainly bars any legal enforcement action to collect the tendered payment, it does not render the entire lien unenforceable. BUT if the notice of default and end of month statements show an amount due that should have been reduced by the amount of the tendered payment then the notice of default and subsequent notice of sale or lawsuit could be defective. And if the refusal to accept payment was part of a larger scheme to steer the borrower into foreclosure, that i sone building block in a case for illegal, fraudulent and/or wrongful foreclosure. 
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Beware of the proof requirements against a court bias that the borrower was probably trying to game the system. We all know that it is the other side gaming the system but the court presumes otherwise, partly because it is legally required to do so based upon the facial validity of the documents presented — even if they are fabricated. For that reason I frequently suggest attempts at payment or delivery of documents in person at a branch or regional office, witnesses to such attempts, photos, and even video, where it is legal to do so. Signs posted to the effect that there is video surveillance might suffice as permission to record. Check with local counsel.
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In addition, in litigation you can demand copies of recordings made at particular locations and/or times. The response will be they don’t have that recording but if you can get a judge to require them to produce the recordings on either side of the time frame in which the contact occurred, they will likely retreat because the absence of the video or audio recording will speak volumes about their conduct.

One Response

  1. Court denied me putting payments into escrow while litigation continued. The reason was that they feared a foreclosure would be successful if I stopped making payments. So became stuck paying high rate for well over a decade while litigation continued – with very limited discovery (note the case did not begin with mortgage but escalated into it). At appeal level now. The court never made any decision on merits, but, rather, dismissed on grounds that should easily be overturned on appellate level. But, the problem is — what does the appellate court do? Remand us back to district court for another 15 years of abuse? The appeal will shortly be filed and will send to Neil.

    Happy New Year to all.

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