Careful what you say in “Hardship Letter”

Modifications are tricky. They are trickier than you think. First of all the offer is made by a company who has no right to act as “servicer” or to change the terms of your contract. By changing the apparent lender or creditor to the named servicer, the agreement is probably tricking you into accepting a virtual creditor in lieu of a real one.

But the most important trick is that what they are really looking for is a direct or tacit acknowledgement of the status and ownership of the debt. So if you say that this “servicer” did something or that “lender” did that, you are admitting that the company who presents itself as servicer is inf act an authorized entity to administer, collection and enforce your loan.

And if you refer to a “Lender” you are directly  or tacitly admitting that a creditor exists and they own the loan and that raises the the almost irrebuttable presumption that the “lender” has suffered financial injury as a direct and proximate result of your “failure” to pay.

Not paying is not a failure to pay, a delinquency or a default if the party demanding payment had no right to do so. So if you admit the default in your “hardship” letter you are putting yourself into the position of defending against compelling arguments that you waived any right to deny the default or the rights of the parties to enforce the debt, note or mortgage.

I recognize that there is the factor of coercion and intimidation in executing a modification (just to stop the threat of foreclosure, regardless of whether it is legal or not). But the question is whether the entire process of modification is a legally recognizable event.

If the offer comes from someone who has no ownership or authority to represent the owner of the underlying obligation then the offer is a legal nullity. But if it is accepted then there is a possibility that the homeowner might be deemed to have waived defenses. Also if the beneficiary of the agreement and the payments made would go to a party who does not own a loan account then the agreement has been procured by misrepresentation or implied misrepresentations.

Proper pursuit of discovery demands will most often result in an offer of settlement and modification that is simply too good to refuse. The reason is that your opposition  has no answers to your question that would not constitute an admission of civil or even criminal liability.

Neil F Garfield, MBA, JD, 73, is a Florida licensed trial attorney since 1977. He has received multiple academic and achievement awards in business and law. He is a former investment banker, securities broker, securities analyst, and financial analyst.

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Pretender Mender: Foreclosure Crisis Continues to Rise Despite Obama Team Reports

Despite various “reports” from the Obama Administration and writers in the fields of real estate, mortgages and finance, the crisis is still looming as the main drag on the economy. Besides the fact that complete strangers are “getting the house” after multiple payments were received negating any claim of default, it is difficult to obtain financing for a new purchase for the millions of families who have been victims of the mortgage PONZI scheme. In addition, people are finding out that these intermediaries who received an improper stamp of approval from the courts are now pursuing deficiency judgments against people who cooperated or lost the foreclosure litigation. And now we have delinquency rates rising on mortgages that in all probability should never be enforced. And servicers are still pursuing strategies to lure or push homeowners into foreclosure.

For more information on foreclosure offense, expert witness consultations and foreclosure defense please call 954-495-9867 or 520-405-1688. We offer litigation support in all 50 states to attorneys. We refer new clients without a referral fee or co-counsel fee unless we are retained for litigation support. Bankruptcy lawyers take note: Don’t be too quick admit the loan exists nor that a default occurred and especially don’t admit the loan is secured. FREE INFORMATION, ARTICLES AND FORMS CAN BE FOUND ON LEFT SIDE OF THE BLOG. Consultations available by appointment in person, by Skype and by phone.


Most people simply allowed the foreclosure to happen. Many even cleaned the home before leaving the keys on the kitchen counter. They never lifted a finger in defense. As predicted many times on this blog and in my appearances, it isn’t over. We are in the fifth inning of a nine inning game.

Losing homes that have sometimes been in the family for many generations results in a sharp decline in household wealth leaving the homeowner with virtually no offset to the household debt. Even if the family has recovered in terms of producing at least a meager income that would support a down-sized home, they cannot get a mortgage because of a policy of not allowing mortgage financing to anyone who has a foreclosure on their record within the past three years.

To add insult to injury, the banks posing as lenders in the 6 million+ foreclosures are now filing deficiency judgments to continue the illusion that the title is clear and the judgment of foreclosure was valid. People faced with these suits are now in the position of having failed to litigate the validity of the mortgage or foreclosure. But all is not lost. A deficiency judgment is presumptively valid, but in the litigation the former homeowners can send out discovery requests to determine ownership and balance of the alleged debt. Whether judges will allow that discovery is something yet to be seen. But the risk to those companies filing deficiency judgments is that the aggressive litigators defending the deficiency actions might well be able to peak under the hood of the steam roller that produced the foreclosure in the first instance.

What they will find is that there is an absence of actual transactions supporting the loans, assignments, endorsements etc. that were used to get the Court to presume that the documents were valid — i.e., that absent proof from the borrower, the rebuttable assumption of validity of the documents that refer to such transactions forces the homeowner to assume a burden of proof based upon facts that are in the sole care, custody and control of the pretender lender. If the former homeowner can do what they should have done in the first place, they will open up Pandora’s box. The loan on paper was not backed by a transaction where the “lender” loaned any money. The assignment was not backed by a purchase transaction of the loan. And even where there was a transfer for value, the “assignment turns out to be merely an offer that neither trust nor trustee of the REMIC trust was allowed to accept.

All evidence, despite narratives to the contrary, shows that not only have foreclosures not abated, they are rising. Delinquencies are rising, indicating a whole new wave of foreclosures on their way — probably after the November elections.

Bank of America to Pay $108 Million in Countrywide Case


FTC v Countrywide Home Loans Incand BAC Home Loans ServicingConsent Judgment Order 20100607

Editor’s Comment: This “tip of the iceberg”  is important for a number of reasons. You should be alerted to the fact that this was an industry-wide practice. The fees tacked on illegally during delinquency or foreclosure make the notice of default, notice of sale, foreclosure all predicated upon fatally defective information. It also shows one of the many ways the investors in MBS are being routinely ripped off, penny by penny, so that there “investment” is reduced to zero.
There also were many “feeder” loan originators that were really fronts for Countrywide. I think Quicken Loans for example was one of them. Quicken is very difficult to trace down on securitization information although we have some info on it. In this context, what is important, is that Quicken, like other feeder originators was following the template and methods of procedure given to them by CW.Of course Countrywide was a feeder to many securities underwriters including Merrill Lynch which is also now Bank of America.

Sometimes they got a little creative on their own. Quicken for example adds an appraisal fee to a SECOND APPRAISAL COMPANY which just happens to be owned by them. Besides the probability of a TILA violation, this specifically makes the named lender at closing responsible for the bad appraisal. It’s not a matter for legal argument. It is factual. So if you bought a house for $650,000, the appraisal which you relied upon was $670,000 and the house was really worth under $500,000 they could be liable for not only fraudulent appraisal but also for the “benefit of the bargain” in contract.

Among the excessive fees that were charged were the points and interest rates charged for “no-doc” loans. The premise is that they had a greater risk for a no-doc loan but that they were still using underwriting procedures that conformed to industry standards. In fact, the loans were being automatically set up for approval in accordance with the requirements of the underwriter of Mortgage Backed Securities which had already been sold to investors. So there was no underwriting process and they would have approved the same loan with a full doc loan (the contents of which would have been ignored). Thus thee extra points and higher interest rate paid were exorbitant because you were being charged for something that didn’t exist, to wit: underwriting.
June 7, 2010

Bank of America to Pay $108 Million in Countrywide Case


WASHINGTON (AP) — Bank of America will pay $108 million to settle federal charges that Countrywide Financial Corporation, which it acquired nearly two years ago, collected outsized fees from about 200,000 borrowers facing foreclosure.

The Federal Trade Commission announced the settlement Monday and said the money would be used to reimburse borrowers.

Bank of America purchased Countrywide in July 2008. FTC officials emphasized the actions in the case took place before the acquisition.

The bank said it agreed to the settlement “to avoid the expense and distraction associated with litigating the case,” which also resolves litigation by bankruptcy trustees. “The settlement allows us to put all of these matters behind us,” the company said.

Countrywide hit the borrowers who were behind on their mortgages with fees of several thousand dollars at times, the agency said. The fees were for services like property inspections and landscaping.

Countrywide created subsidiaries to hire vendors, which marked up the price for such services, the agency said. The company “earned substantial profits by funneling default-related services through subsidiaries that it created solely to generate revenue,” the agency said in a news release.

The agency also alleged that Countrywide made false claims to borrowers in bankruptcy about the amount owed or the size of their loans and failed to tell those borrowers about fees or other charges.

Credit Default Swaps Defined and Explained

Editor’s Comments: Everyone now has heard of credit default swaps but very few people understand what they mean and fewer still understand their importance in connection with the securitization of residential mortgage loans and other types of loans.The importance of understanding the operation of a CDS contract in the context of foreclosure defense cannot be understated.

In summary, a CDS is insurance even though it is defined as not being insurance by Federal Law. In fact, Federal Law allows these instruments to be traded as unregulated securities and treats them as though they were not securities.

Anyone can buy a CDS. In the securitization of loans, anybody can “bet” against a derivative security ( like mortgage backed bonds) by purchasing a CDS. FURTHER THEY CAN PURCHASE MULTIPLE BETS (CDS) AGAINST THE SAME SECURITY. In the mortgage meltdown, Goldman and other insiders created the mortgage backed bonds to fail — collecting a commission and profit in the process — and using the proceeds of sales of mortgage backed securities to purchase CDS contracts for themselves. So they were betting against the value of the security they had just sold to investors. The investors (pension funds, sovereign wealth funds etc.) of course knew nothing of this practice until long after they had purchased the bonds.

The bonds were represented to be “backed” by mortgage loans that collectively received a Triple AAA rating from the rating agencies who were obviously in acting in concert with the investment bankers who issued and sold the bonds. There were also other contracts that were purchased using the proceeds of the sale of the bonds that performed the same function — i.e., when the bonds were downgraded or failed, there was a payoff to the lucky investment banker who issued them or the lucky “trader” or bought the insurance or CDS. Sometimes the proceeds were used to pacify the investors and sometimes they were not.

The significance of this in foreclosure defense, is that while the investors were getting bonds for their investment, the bonds incorporated the mortgage loans, which is another way of saying that the investors were funding the loans through a series of steps starting with their purchase of mortgage backed bonds. Thus it was the investor who was the ONLY creditor in the transaction that funded a homeowner’s loan (at least initially before bailouts and payoffs of insurance and proceeds of CDS contracts).

The other item of significance is that the securities did not need to actually fail for the CDS to pay off. That is precisely why AIG got into an argument with Goldman Sachs that eventually led to the bailout. All that was needed was for the issuer or some other “trustworthy” source to downgrade the value of the bonds or announce that a substantial number of the loans in the pool were in danger of default, and that was enough to claim payment on the CDS contract.

The translation of that is that even if your loan was paid up or only slightly behind, someone was getting paid on a CDS contract in which a series of mortgage backed bonds were marked down in value. This payment was received by the investment banker who was the central figure in the securitization chain. And, as stated above, sometimes these proceeds were shared with investors and sometimes they were not — which is why identification of the creditor and getting a complete accounting is so important.

But the issue goes deeper than that. The investment banker was acting as the agent or conduit for both the actual creditor “investor) who was lending the money and the debtor (borrower or homeowner) who was borrowing the money. Therefore the payment of proceeds in a CDS may have accomplished one or more of the following:

  1. Cure of any default by the debtor as far as the creditor was concerned, since the investor or its agent received the money.
  2. Satisfaction through payment of all or part of the borrower’s obligation.
  3. Obfuscation of the real accounting for the money that exchanged hands
  4. Payment of an excess amount above the amount owed by the debtor which might be a liability to the debtor under TILA, a liability to the investor, or both, plus treble damages, rescission rights, and attorneys fees.
  5. Opening the door for non-creditors to step into the shoes of the actual creditor who has been paid, and claim that the debtor’s non-payment created a default even though the creditor or his agents is holding money paid on the obligation that either cures the default, satisfies the obligation in full, creates excess proceeds which under the note and applicable law should be returned to the debtor.
  6. Creates an opportunity for some party to get a “free house.” In the current environment nearly all of the houses obtained without investment or funding of one dime is going to these intermediaries whom I have dubbed pretender lenders. Note that the financial services industry has taken control of the narrative and framed it such that homeowners are claiming a free home when they borrowed money fair and square. But at least homeowners have put SOME money into the deal through payments, down payments, or lending their credit to these dubious transactions. The free house, as things now stand is going to parties who never invested a penny in the funding of the home and who stand to lose nothing if denied the right to foreclose.

FROM WIKIPEDIA —–The article below comes from

A credit default swap (CDS) is a swap contract in which the buyer of the CDS makes a series of payments to the seller and, in exchange, receives a payoff if a credit instrument (typically a bond or loan) undergoes a defined ‘Credit Event‘, often described as a default (fails to pay). However the contract typically construes a Credit Event as being not only ‘Failure to Pay’ but also can be triggered by the ‘Reference Credit’ undergoing restructuring, bankruptcy, or even (much less common) by having its credit rating downgraded.

CDS contracts have been compared with insurance, because the buyer pays a premium and, in return, receives a sum of money if one of the events specified in the contract occurs. However, there are a number of differences between CDS and insurance, for example:

  • The buyer of a CDS does not need to own the underlying security or other form of credit exposure; in fact the buyer does not even have to suffer a loss from the default event.[1][2][3][4] In contrast, to purchase insurance, the insured is generally expected to have an insurable interest such as owning a debt obligation;
  • the seller need not be a regulated entity;
  • the seller is not required to maintain any reserves to pay off buyers, although major CDS dealers are subject to bank capital requirements;
  • insurers manage risk primarily by setting loss reserves based on the Law of large numbers, while dealers in CDS manage risk primarily by means of offsetting CDS (hedging) with other dealers and transactions in underlying bond markets;
  • in the United States CDS contracts are generally subject to mark to market accounting, introducing income statement and balance sheet volatility that would not be present in an insurance contract;
  • Hedge accounting may not be available under US Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP) unless the requirements of FAS 133 are met. In practice this rarely happens.

However the most important difference between CDS and Insurance is simply that an insurance contract provides an indemnity against the losses actually suffered by the policy holder, whereas the CDS provides an equal payout to all holders, calculated using an agreed, market-wide method.

There are also important differences in the approaches used to pricing. The cost of insurance is based on actuarial analysis. CDSs are derivatives whose cost is determined using financial models and by arbitrage relationships with other credit market instruments such as loans and bonds from the same ‘Reference Entity’ to which the CDS contract refers.

Insurance contracts require the disclosure of all risks involved. CDSs have no such requirement, and, as we have seen in the recent past, many of the risks are unknown or unknowable. Most significantly, unlike insurance companies, sellers of CDSs are not required to maintain any capital reserves to guarantee payment of claims. In that respect, a CDS is insurance that insures nothing.

SELF-DEALING Part 1: Goldman Scheme Revealed

The problem is not that the mortgages are in default. The problem is that the investment banks are in default of their obligations to investors and homeowners. Until Government and the Courts realize this simple fact, they will never untangle the debris caused by the illusion of a crash. If that day ever comes, more than 80% of our problems will vanish.”

“Legally, the ONLY way these mortgages could be viewed as being delinquent or in default is if we add a SECOND or THIRD party to the transaction each of whom is entitled to FULL payment. Sound impossible? That is exactly how millions of foreclosures have already been done and ratified by courts and judges over whose eyes the wool is so thick they err on the side of “blind” and forget about “justice.”

Editor’s Note: The article below shortens the analysis required to follow what really was going on. In simple terms, Goldman created toxic waste and sold it as gold. Goldman then bet that it was toxic waste, which was no “bet” since they knew for sure. When it turned out to be toxic waste, they collected on the bet. So they collected twice — first when they sold it to investors, and second when they collected on the “insurance.”

The investors were hung out to dry, along with the borrowers. Both lost the full value of their investment (measured in cash and/or property or liability), and both were left with potential greater liability than their investment if they pursued legal relief.

The point now being raised in the media is the realization of what we said 2 years ago — they had to CREATE toxic waste that would not suddenly convert to a performing loan.

Like the Broadway production or the movie, The Producers, if the loans started performing, then the accounting would show that the investment banks had only used a small percentage of the proceeds of sale from mortgage backed bonds to actually fund mortgages.

So, as we point out in the articles coming out today, Goldman and others inserted a provision that we pointed out 2 years ago wherein Goldman would declare the toxicity of the asset, thus forcing the market into a downward spiral. This gave them double the security and peace of mind they needed to know that the market would definitely crash. (It was actually Bear Stearns and Lehman who first invoked this provision).

The significance of this for homeowners is that in order to accomplish the goal of creating toxic loans that could not perform under any circumstances, a chain of securitization had to evolve in which homeowners would be induced to purchase the loan product under the mistaken impression it was a safe investment based upon representations of the “underwriter,” “appraiser” etc. This was a mirror of what was done to the pension funds who bought the pools of loan product under the mistaken impression that it was a safe investment based upon the representations of the underwriter, ratings agency etc.

This means that the securitization chain was created with the deliberate intent to create bad loans that would end up in “default” and in foreclosure. The only two real parties in interest — pension fund and homeowner were the only ones that actually lost money. Some investment banks also lost money if they were not in on the game.

The taxpayers bailed out the only parties who did NOT lose money, which explains the large bonuses while the economy is in “crisis.”

The mortgages and notes of “borrowers” were paid off several times over, as were the investments of the pension funds. The problem is not that the mortgages are in default. The problem is that the investment banks are in default of their obligations to investors and homeowners. Until Government and the Courts realize this simple fact, they will never untangle the debris caused by the illusion of a crash. If that day ever comes, more than 80% of our problems will vanish.

“Legally, the ONLY way these mortgages could be viewed as being delinquent or in default is if we add a SECOND or THIRD party to the transaction each of whom is entitled to FULL payment. Sound impossible? That is exactly how millions of foreclosures have already been done and ratified by courts and judges over whose yes the wool is so thick they err on the side of “blind” and forget about “justice.”

The ONLY way to peel away the layers over the eyes of government and the courts is to attack through discovery, contested factual issues and the requirements of proof.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

“Body Count From Goldman Actions Crosses Into Criminal Territory”

By Thomas Adams, at Paykin Krieg and Adams, LLP, and a former managing director at Ambac and FGIC.

Readers may have noticed Janet Tavakoli’s recent article at Huffington Post on Goldman Sachs and AIG. While much of it covers territory that Yves and I already wrote about previously, Ms. Tavakoli stops short of telling the whole story. While she is very knowledgeable of this market, perhaps she is unaware of the full extent of the wrongdoings Goldman committed by getting themselves paid on the AIG bailout. The Federal Reserve and the Treasury aided and abetted Goldman Sachs in committing financial and ethical crimes at an astounding level.

She notes, accurately, that Goldman used AIG to hedge its bet on CDO’s, either for itself with the Abacus deals, or for its clients, with the Davis Square deal. Had AIG failed, Goldman would have been on the hook for the losses: to execute the CDO with synthetic mortgage bonds, Goldman went “long” the CDS and then turned around and went “short” with AIG, effectively taking the risk of the mortgage bonds defaulting and then transferring it to AIG.

But Ms. Tavakoli fails to note that the collapse of the CDO bonds and the collapse of AIG were a deliberate strategy by Goldman.

To realize on their bet against the housing market, Goldman needed the CDO bonds to collapse in value, which would cause AIG to be downgraded and lead to AIG posting collateral and Goldman getting paid for their bet. I am confident that Goldman Sachs did not reveal to AIG that they were betting on the housing market collapse.

To help hasten the housing market collapse, Goldman ran a huge mortgage lending and issuance program with low quality loans virtually designed to fail, including dozens of deals backed by completely toxic non-prime second lien loans (these loans help pump up the housing bubble and let borrower’s suck the equity out of their homes).

In soliciting AIG’s insurance for the CDOs, Goldman was not disclosing that the transaction was highly speculative. Goldman was offering AAA, or even super AAA bonds. Goldman designed and sold these bonds and purchased a rating from the rating agencies that represented the risk to be AAA. In fact, the bonds did not provide real protection, despite their AAA rating, and when the housing market turned down, the AAA CDO bonds collapsed in value exactly as they were designed to do.

Goldman never wanted these CDOs to succeed – their bet depended on them failing. This is why they used AIG as their insurer – AIG posted collateral, which enabled Goldman to still get paid even when AIG inevitably got downgraded for taking on such toxic deals.

Goldman needed AIG’s insurance to complete this bet and get them off risk for the CDO they created

Hedge fund manager John Paulson and others used the same strategy. Goldman’s bet was risky because they depended on AIG being solvent in order to get paid. Other parties who made similar betters, but relied on the other bond insurers to pay them off ended up getting hurt when the bond insurers got downgraded and the trade did not pay off, as well.

Months before AIG received its bailout, Goldman was well aware of the risk that insurers would pay less the full amount of the CDOs – Goldman was advising FGIC in its restructuring efforts and FGIC negotiated a CDO commutation for ten cents on the dollar. Goldman mitigated the risk of downgrade by dealing exclusively with AIG, which was required to post collateral in the event of a downgrade.

Goldman also misled shareholders and investors by proclaiming that they were not exposed to toxic CDOs because they were hedged with AIG, even as the bond insurers (AIG’s direct competitors in the CDO market), were getting downgraded.

It is bad enough that the creators and sellers of the CDOs, such as Goldman, BlackRock and TCW, have not been held to account for selling worthless bonds while representing them to be of AAA quality. Most of these influential power brokers have succeeded in blaming the victim (investors and insurers who believed their lies about the quality of the bonds) for the financial crisis to distract from their own questionable activities.

Goldman goes quite a few steps further into despicable territory with their other actions and the body count from Goldman’s actions is so enormous that it crosses over into criminal territory, morally and legally, by getting taxpayer money for their predation.

Goldman made a huge bet that the housing market would collapse. They profited, on paper, from the tremendous pain suffered by homeowners, investors and taxpayers across the country, they helped make it worse. Their bet only succeeded because they were able to force the government into bailing out AIG.

In addition, the Federal Reserve and the Treasury, by helping Goldman Sachs to profit from homeowner and investor losses, conceal their misrepresentations to shareholders, destroy insurers by stuffing them with toxic bonds that they marketed as AAA, and escape from the consequences of making a risky bet, committed a grave injustice and, very likely, financial crimes. Since the bailout, they have actively concealed their actions and mislead the public. Goldman, the Fed and the Treasury should be investigated for fraud, securities law violations and misappropriation of taxpayer funds. Based on what I have laid out here, I am confident that they will find ample evidence.

Update 12/23, 1:00 PM: Yves here. Some readers in comments are dismissing this post as mere Goldman bashing, when its behavior was far more pernicious. I was remiss in not adding a critical bit of Tom’s argument, which he provided in a separate post:

While the sub-prime deals and CDOs were obviously going bad, an argument was made by many people at the time that the aggressive mark downs by AIG accelerated the death spiral for the market.

It is pretty clear, here and elsewhere, that Goldman was the one that initiated the mark downs of collateral value. It would be interesting to explore this all the way through. Though not discussed in this article, Goldman shorted subprime through the Abacus deals, and perhaps elsewhere. this gave them an incentive to force mark downs. the intermediation deals described in the article, combined with AIG’s collateral posting, gave them another incentive to be aggressive with mark downs. they were acting like they wanted to grab the money before anyone else could get their hands on it. this would have raised some issues in an AIGFP bankruptcy. (note – Hank Greenberg suggested that this was going on in his October 2008 testimony but there was a chorus of attacks on him for being a crook and unreliable, thanks to his problems with Spitzer.)

So here we have the pattern:

1. Goldman creates or sells $23 billion (or more) of CDOs and stuffs them into AIG.

2. Goldman proclaims to the world they have no exposure to CDOs and warns that banks and insurers with CDO exposure will get downgraded.

3. Goldman initiates the mark downs of CDOs with AIG and others, accelerating the market’s downward spiral.

4. Huge mark to market losses lead insurer and bank credit to freeze, short term markets to lock up, ABCP to collapse.

5. AIG posts as much collateral as it has to Goldman, who has more aggressively marked down the exposure.

6. Bond insurers are downgraded, banks begin commutations with them.

7. AIG fails, Fed steps in, Goldman gets bailed out at par.

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