Message to Homeowners Who Have Won Their Cases — Your Demands are Too Low

SETTLEMENT NEGOTIATIONS: WHEN THE HOMEOWNER WINS IN LITIGATION, in every case the banks pay amazing amounts of money to the homeowner (and their lawyer) in order to get agreement on sweeping the case under the rug. Homeowners and their lawyers must realize that the settlement value of their case may be worth 1000 times the judgment value of the case.

This asymmetry in settlement negotiations escapes most but not all winning homeowners. It gets especially urgent when the banks made the wrong decision and appealed an unfavorable decision only to find that they not only lost one case, but many thousands as a result of that one case.

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THIS ARTICLE IS NOT A LEGAL OPINION UPON WHICH YOU CAN RELY IN ANY INDIVIDUAL CASE. HIRE A LAWYER.
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The banks will do anything to sweep bad results under the rug. And that includes eliminating adverse appellate opinions and trial court opinions.
This is a common practice by them — to wipe out any trace that the entire mortgage scheme (and therefore the entire foreclosure scheme) was a scam. Their strategy makes sense for them. By offering you incentives they get the opinion wiped from the face of the earth. Hence hundreds of thousands of other homeowners who might have contested foreclosure walk away in defeat.

As Charles Marshall has repeatedly said, the settlement should reflect a compromise between the value perceived by the Plaintiff and the value perceived by the Defendant. In this case, the value to the banks is perceived as global — i.e., the impact it will have on currently contested foreclosures and the impact it will have on people who might not otherwise contest the foreclosure. That is the multiplier.

The leverage for the homeowner is commonly perceived — even by the lawyers — as the value of the case at bar. But the true leverage is based upon the cost to the banks generally if the decision stands and God forbid other decisions cite to it with approval. The entire “securitization” scheme would unravel. Wrapping your mind around the discrepancy is key to maximizing the settlement value.

Your case might only involve a $300k mortgage, but that one mortgage has effectively been sold many times, perhaps dozens of times when you include claims of securitization of derivative products (securitization on securitization). Hence your one mortgage loan, based upon fraudulent practices that violated various deceptive lending statutes, sits at the bottom of a house of cars larger than you can imagine. So, for example, you see $300k in value whereas the opposition sees it as potentially $6 million in direct cost that must somehow be hidden in yet another fraudulent cover-up (“resecuritization”).

But it doesn’t stop there. When you win your case it serves as a beacon for many thousands of homeowners — thus presenting a threat of unraveling the epic scope of fraudulent claims of securitization. This “value” is difficult to estimate, much less compute. But if you use an arbitrary number like 10,000 other homeowners will take the case to heart and litigate on those principles and assume that half of them successfully present the case in court citing your case as authority, the cost would easily be in range of $1 Billion.

The banks will do anything to distract you from the essential truth of what I have said here. And part of their strategy is always to propose a settlement that is so low it undermines the confidence of both the homeowners and their lawyer. Or they will offer a “modification” that makes no real difference in the bogus economics of the loan. It makes the $1 Billion seem like a fantasy but it isn’t.  Of course settlement value is not going to equal the bank’s risk factor ($1 Billion) but it is based on their perception of the likelihood of that risk crashing in on them.

Thus the give and take of negotiations depend upon how hard the homeowner is willing to push. And it must be kept in mind that at some point (far below $1 Billion) the banks would rather take the hurt of whatever your case brings than let it be known that a homeowner with a $300k mortgage became obscenely rich by exposing the fraudulent nature of the entire consumer mortgage and debt market.

Getting Your Goals Set on the Right Conclusions

For further information please call 954-495-9867 or 520-405-1688.

This for general information only and NOT an opinion on your case.
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I was responding to a client about the goals in opposing the wrongful foreclosures. These are hard to write or say. It might seem to be a contradiction in terms to walk away with a waiver of deficiency or some other “Settlement” or “Modification” with a party whom you know (but may not be able to prove) is false party with fake papers.

You might believe there might be as much as $50,000 in equity if and when repairs are made. My concern is that we don’t get pulled into reverse logic here. If the house is barely break-even without the repairs, then it could be wise to pursue short-sale or modification.  The real question is how much will it really cost to make the required repairs and where would you get the money from?

This is where most lay people put the cart before the horse. Equity in the home is not a matter for speculation, nor should it be calculated from a starting point of “after repairs.”

If you are looking for the pretenders to pay you damages sufficient to pay for the repairs and for them to give up on the foreclosure, it would be a mistake to assume that is going to happen without full scale litigation for wrongful foreclosure seeking money damages. That would require a lot of money in fees, costs and other expenses. You should determine whether  you have any appetite for that.

If you did have the money for repairs, then it would seem that you would have made the repairs and then sold the house, taking your equity and paying off whoever is claiming to own the loan, even if they don’t. If you don’t have the repair money, that leaves the only source of money to fix the house as the parties who wish to foreclose on it.

I have never seen them  agree to anything like that for one simple reason: They are not interested in either the house or the money. They want a foreclosure judgment and sale — that is the only path that will give them some protection against accusations of stolen money and stolen homes.

 

Since the goal of your opposition is NOT to break-even or minimize damages on the loan itself, and since their real goal is more closely related to off-record transactions in which your loan was sold multiple times, they obviously are not going to make it easier for you to save the home, save the equity, and especially [not] save the loan. They want the loan to fail not succeed. They want the foreclosure sale.

 

Now the anger and frustration nationwide with all forms of institutions flows in large part from the simple fact that we all know that the banks committed serious fraud and other illegal acts in creating these loans. We all know that there was nothing but pretense and presumption in transferring these loans and steering loans to foreclosure — rather than a workout where the original loan investments were protected, and of course foreclosure with fabricated, forged, back-dated documentation that included notes and sometimes mortgages — even if they were rescinded.

“We all know” is insufficient to prove a case or a defense. The courts have added to the problem by restricting discovery, restricting evidence on the basis that the off-record transactions (even in discovery) are irrelevant, that the money trail for the subject loan is irrelevant, and then entering orders and judgments consistent with the conclusion that might be stated as follows: “Judgment is entered in favor of the one with the most paper even if the paper does not speak the truth.”

 

My tentative conclusion, if all of my presumptions are correct, is that in situations where this analysis is relevant, on an individual basis, as a life decision, the only real goal might be to walk away without a deficiency judgment and leave it at that. Any other course of action in litigation will lead to a judgment in the trial court that statistically speaking is going to be against the homeowner, leaving the issues to be decided on appeal. That is process that will likely take at least one year and probably 2 years to complete.
From my perch of course I want all notes and mortgages to be contested if there are any claims of securitization or sale. And the proof of concept is already established — those who truly litigate all the way down to trial, have a much better chance to see a much better result than those who simply walk away. But that costs money, time and energy. And that is why I often tell lawyers and homeowners that the only right decision is what the homeowner decides to do and is willing to pay for.

Fannie and Freddie Slammed by Massachusetts AG

Martha Coakley gets it. Read her letter. Being a politician she does not say that the abstract fear of strategic defaults on all loans across the board is absurd. Well, actually she does say it. Principal reductions and ending patently illegal policies preventing homeowners from buying back their own property at auction are at the center of the solution to the foreclosure mess along with one more thing: things will change when we get the answer to the question IF THESE POLICIES HURT LENDERS, INVESTORS AND BORROWERS, WHY WOULD ANYONE LISTEN TO A THIRD PARTY WHO BENEFITS?

fhfa-letter-051414

As the new head of the Federal Agency administrating Fannie and Freddie, Watts, replacing DeMarco, signals a major change in policy and regulations. The question is whether he means it. There is no doubt at the White House that the economy will continue to be dragged down by foreclosures. Their answer to the problem lies in modifications with “principal reductions” and loosening some standards for lending and securitization.

While the modification policies should be changed, this isn’t enough. Modification has been used as a tool of Wall Street to lure unwary borrowers into the illusion of immediate relief only to be faced with terms that are worse than the borrowers had before when underwriting was virtually nonexistent — albeit with some fees and other “skin in the game” restrictions that could slow up some of the continuing securitization fraud.

The issue is still the same and the fear is still there — will the entire system collapse if we stop putting the full brunt of the foreclosure mess on the backs of unsophisticated homeowners who were induced to buy loan products that were filled with false pretenses, false assumptions and nonexistent review, verification and other underwriting procedures.

At this point, considering the rampant appraisal fraud, homeowners should be given an opportunity to regain equity and have some skin in the game — as opposed to the all or nothing proposition they are fighting in court with complete strangers to their transactions 000 alleged by parties relying on evidentiary presumptions rather than real facts of each transaction.

In 2007 I proposed amnesty for everyone and that everyone share in the the losses from civil and perhaps criminal fraud caused by the banks taking money from investors and applying it to loans that were guaranteed to fail and then scaring government into thinking that the world would end if they were called on this predatory and illegal practice on the basis of being too big too fail.

Too big to fail is a myth. First, the banks can’t collapse because they are cash rich off shore. Trillions were siphoned out of pension funds, taxpayers and insurers and guarantors taking so much money that the federal reserve had to engage in various schemes of direct and disguised quantitative easing (like buying mortgage bonds that were worthless at 100% of par value). The losses claimed by the banks were also fictional.

At this point everyone at the levers of power knows the truth. The trusts were never funded and the trusts never acquired the loans. This places the investors in the position of being undifferentiated and unattached creditors for loans they funded but were never  given proper documentation in the form of notes payable tot he investors and mortgages pledging collateral to the investors, leaving them as unsecured creditors.

But now the government is committed financially to a policy of continuing fraud started by the banks which is the same thing that is happening in court. The issue is not whether a deadbeat homeowner will get a free house (that is a choice presented by the banks in a false set of presumptions). despite the dire straits of investors in worthless and fraudulent mortgage bonds, homeowners are mostly willing to offer new notes and new mortgages that reflect economic reality. No, those deadbeats are nothing of the sort. They are hard working, play by the rules people who simply want a fair deal and they are willing to shoulder the loss forced on them by the banks.

Want to test it out? Call us about our AMGAR project — 7 years in the making — in which we call the bluff of the banks. It takes money, but the investors are starting to line up to help, and the homeowners with independent assets to offer the money rather than the foreclosure are racking up wins in case after case. Watch the banks back peddle as they reject the money in favor of their much needed foreclosure judgment and sale so they can report the loan was a bust — and therefore the money the banks received in servicer payments to the investors, insurance tot he banks, guarantees and other proceed from other obligors won’t need to be paid back.

And if played properly, the tax revenue due from the banks for violations of the REMIC provisions, part of which will fall on investors who fail to make their case against the broker dealers who sold them that mortgage crap, will more than offset the lack of revenue on Federal and State levels. All they need to do is give up on too big to fail and give up on thinking that killing the middle class is a good idea because the burden must fall somewhere. In fraud, the burden falls on the perpetrators not the victims although it is rare that restitution ever equals the loss. Virtually every foreclosure is merely the court’s complicity in the continuing fraud.

Remember the playbook of the bank attorneys into undermine your confidence until the very last second when they submit their voluntary dismissal in court. Call their bluff, offer the money based upon YOUR terms or the terms of an investor who is willing to make the commitment. Your terms require proof of ownership and proof of balance after credits for third party payments. you will find they don’t own the loan and the balance of the loan has already been paid down or paid off entirely.

Don’t just file motions to enforce discovery. File motions with affidavits from forensic analysts that explain why you need what you are asking for. You’ll get the order. And as soon as you get the order, the offers of settlement will start pouring in.

For information and further assistance please call 520-405-1688 or 954-495-9867. We provide help and guidance to professionals that know foreclosure defense, foreclosure offense, modifications, short-sales, Hardest Hit Funds and other Federal, State and private programs. Remember to ask about AMGAR. It is time to strike back. Let the other side start feeling the pain.

see http://www.nytimes.com/2014/05/14/business/Melvin-Watt-shifts-course-on-fannie-mae-and-freddie-mac.html?ref=business&_r=0

 

BONY Objections to Discovery Rejected

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It has been my contention all along that these cases ought to end in the discovery process with some sort of settlement — money damages, modification, short-sale, hardest hit fund programs etc. But the only way the homeowner can get honest terms is if they present a credible threat to the party seeking foreclosure. That threat is obvious when the Judge issues an order compelling discovery to proceed and rejecting arguments for protective orders, (over-burdensome, relevance etc.). It is a rare bird that a relevance objection to discovery will be sustained.

Once the order is entered and the homeowner is free to inquire about all the mechanics of transfer of her loan, the opposition is faced with revelations like those which have recently been discovered with the Wells Fargo manual that apparently is an instruction manual on how to commit document fraud — or the Urban Lending Solutions and Bank of America revelations about how banks have scripted and coerced their employees to guide homeowners into foreclosure so that questions of the real owner of the debt and the real balance of the debt never get to be scrutinized. Or, as we have seen repeatedly, what is revealed is that the party seeking a foreclosure sale as “creditor” or pretender lender is actually a complete stranger to the transaction — meaning they have no ties i to any transaction record, and no privity through any chain of documentation.

Attorneys and homeowners should take note that there are thousands upon thousands of cases being settled under seal of confidentiality. You don’t hear about those because of the confidentiality agreement. Thus what you DO hear about is the tangle of litigation as things heat up and probably the number of times the homeowner is mowed down on the rocket docket. This causes most people to conclude that what we hear about is the rule and that the settlements are the exception. I obviously do not have precise figures. But I do have comparisons from surveys I have taken periodically. I can say with certainty that the number of settlements, short-sales and modifications that are meaningful to the homeowner is rising fast.

In my opinion, the more aggressive the homeowner is in pursuing discovery, the higher the likelihood of winning the case or settling on terms that are truly satisfactory to the homeowner. Sitting back and waiting to see if the other side does something has been somewhat successful in the past but it results in a waiver of defenses that if vigorously pursued would or could result in showing the absence of a default, the presence of third party payments lowering the current payments due, the principal balance and the dollar amount of interest owed. If you don’t do that then your entire case rests upon the skill of the attorney in cross examining a witness and then disqualifying or challenging the testimony or documents submitted. Waiting to the last minute substantially diminishes the likelihood of a favorable outcome.

What is interesting in the case below is that the bank is opposing the notices of deposition based upon lack of personal knowledge. I would have pressed them to define what they mean by personal knowledge to use it against them later. But in any event, the Judge correctly stated that none of the objections raised by BONY were valid and that their claims regarding the proper procedure to set the depositions were also bogus.

tentative ruling 3-17-14

It is FACT not THEORY: Money Trail is a Trail of Facts; Paper Trail is a Trail of Lies

Neil F Garfield, July 1, 2013: Modification “experts” are criticizing what they see on this site. It gives them the willies to think that they are participating in a fraud or enabling a fraud when they modify a loan with someone who doesn’t own it. So lately they are saying that the articles here have been discredited in court decisions (not true) and that the “theories” described here lack credibility.

What we are talking about here is facts, not theory. Either the foreclosing party, modifying party, or party accepting the short sale owns the note or not — and the FACTS lead wherever they bring us, namely, that if they didn’t pay for the funding of the origination of the loan, they didn’t pay for the acquisition of the loan, and that they didn’t acquire servicing rights to the loan, the lack of standing (legal doctrine, not theory) is complete. The non-ability to submit a credit bid at auction is complete (state statutes, not theory). The liability for slander of title, abuse of process, fraud, forgery, and fabrication of documents describing non-existent transactions needs to be proven, and the damages must also be proven. But with a dismissal or judgment for borrower, the liability part of the case is fairly easy.

Whether you are buying, selling, refinancing, short-selling, modifying or in any way settling or resolving issues with a mortgage loan you do so at your own risk. Banks that offer refinancing are either part of the securitization scheme and are kicking the liability can down the road or they are ignorant of the risk elements of title and liability for a loan that is subject to securitization claims.

If you want to criticize, go ahead and do it. But all people need to know is they can ask the questions in litigation and get the answers and the facts are whatever they are — there is either a cancelled check or wire transfer receipt or there is nothing. If you want to know if it is hot outside, just stick your head out a window, if reading the thermometer is too theoretical for you.

It is often true that the borrower admitted the debt, the note, the mortgage and the default. The trial judge had no choice and neither did the appellate court. These cases come from the inexperience of the pro se litigant or the lawyer who has not researched all of the material.

Don’t get caught in a spitting match about my “theories” versus the rulings of some courts. This is all a work in progress and there are going to be conflict in rulings. One state may appear to give one set of rulings another state may seem just the opposite. the point is that if you are doing good lawyering you are following the facts wherever they take you. And what we are saying is that the money trail does not support the paper trail that the banks have fabricated forged or proffered.

For example: Go to eFANNIE site. They are boasting about funding even before allocating your whole loan commitment or MBS pool, so you can maximize your execution. TRANSLATION: we’ll give you the money before you have to come up with it in real time. The investors put up the money,then the loan applications are solicited, then the money is funded with investor money, then the originator reports the loan closing and assigns it without a paper assignment to the next party in the paper train (securitization) usually the aggregator who assigns them without an actual assignment to the CDO manager at the investment bank that created the mortgage bonds and sold them through a “third party” which was owned or controlled by the investment bank. The paper trail neither reflects nor follows the money trail.

Full Deposition of Angela Edwards “Robo-Verifier” as Servicer for the Plaintiff for Verification of Foreclosure Complaint
http://www.zerohedge.com/contributed/2013-06-28/full-deposition-angela-edwards-“robo-verifier”-servicer-plaintiff-verificatio

 

 

Sales by Insiders AT BOA — RATS JUMPING SHIP? THE MARKET TRADERS ARE TAKING POSITIONS FOR A DEATH SPIRAL BY BOA: Somebody knows something… Rats are jumping ship  http://wallstcheatsheet.com/stocks/bank-of-american-corp-director-sells-580k-shares-and-4-insider-sales-to-note.html/?a=viewall

COURTS CAN RETURN PARTIES TO THEIR ORIGINAL POSITION: this would apply to cases where there is no default – through the “stop payment” script and through those who were actually paying. The Court can return the parties to the original position and wipe out arrears and fees.

INVESTIGATION: BOA TRIES SELLING OFF SERVICING RIGHTS TO AVOID LIABILITY (Remember just because they SAY they sold it doesn’t mean they did. We have seen several instances where BOA announced the loan or servicing rights or both were sold off but they were not and BOA ended up being the one “approving” the short-sale or modification).: GREEN TREE SERVICING AND BANK OF AMERICA

Short Sales Rising Sharply

Whether it is just battle fatigue or simply good business sense, homeowners are looking at short sales, getting cash for keys and trying to get relocation fees to move. The banks are loosening up their standards for short-sales because failure to do so clearly reveals their malevolent intent to steal homes that they could not otherwise get if the judicial system starts operating properly.

That more and more judges are starting to scrutinize the documents and the actual transfer of money from one party to another, it is becoming increasingly apparent that the documents are for a transaction that is non-existent and that the loan is not supported by any documents — because the loan came from a third party with no connection to the loan originator.

Then comes the horrific problem with title which at some point will need to be addressed much as Florida did with the Murphy Act. Title must be reset because at this point there is practically no such thing as clear title as result of the work done by Wall Street.

The title problem can easily be minimized with a signature from the homeowner which is what is required in a short-sale, as opposed to a robo-signature from an unauthroized person signing a deed for the bank in an REO sale.

The last problem is that at the end of this year forgiveness of debt becomes taxable, which is bad for short sales after December 31, 2012. So the rush is on to get them done — but that is probably premature because the law will probably be extended by the lame duck congress after the elections. Everybody seems to want the extension.

See congress working on extension of tax exemption at Rain City Guide Blog by Craig

Zillow Raises Estimate Again: 16 Million Homes Underwater

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Editor’s Comment:

This is why I am re-starting my seminar tours. The information out there is disinformation and in this case sellers don’t realize how badly they have been screwed until they are walking toward the closing table. The “underwater” phenomenon represents a vast market inventory shadow that is not being counted by anyone — which is why my estimates of market activity and prices are so much lower than what you hear from everyone else. So far I have been right every year.

Zillow is at least making an effort. It is sharpening the definition of “underwater.” We have been saying for years that the number of homes “underwater” is both rising and vastly underestimated. The reason I knew was that just by putting pencil to paper and using all the factors that measure the amount of money one might get as proceeds from the sale of a home, the average PROCEEDS from the sale of residential property was substantially below the average VALUES that were being used. Zillow has now entered the world of reality by adding all the relevant mortgages and not just the last one allocated to that property.

Once upon a time when you sold a house you received a check for the proceeds of the sale. It was always lower than what you expected because of expenses and charges that you incurred and after you deducted the expenses that didn’t appear on the HUD 1 Settlement Statement (money that you spent preparing the house for sale).

Now the situation is different. Instead of getting a check, many if not most homeowners must bring a check if they want to sell their home. Most homeowners, in other words, must pay money out of their pocket if they want to sell their home. In some cases, the bank will allow a short-sale where they will accept a payoff less than the amount they say is owed, but even then, the hapless homeowner will still be unable to recover his down payment, all the money he put into the house in furnishings and improvements, and all the principal payments made on a house that was intentionally overvalued, using inflated appraisals that would  leave the homeowner screwed.  

When they start looking at “Seller’s Proceeds” from the standpoint of a real HUD 1 settlement sttements, the figure will be even lower than the current Zillow estimate. The disconnect between “prices”, “home values” and “proceeds” has never been greater. The question of whether or not a home is underwater is determined by proceeds of sale — without regard to price or value. Being underwater means to answer a question: “How much money will the seller need to spend in order to sell the property with free and clear title.”

Forgetting the whole issue of title corruption caused by the use of MERS which further affects prices, values and proceeds, the amount of money required from the seller in order to sell his/her home is nothing short of sticker shock and the fact remains that a majority of the people affected do not know what has happened to their wealth. They do not understand the extent to which they suffered damage by Wall Street schemes. And of course they don’t know that there is something they can do about it — like any rational businessman instead of the deadbeat bottom-feeders  portrayed by bank mythology.

Once all factors (other than MERS) are taken into consideration, the Zillow numbers will change again to more than 20 million homes and will probably reach 25 million homes that are really underwater, most of which are hopeless because values and prices will never get enough lift, even with inflation, to make up the difference between what they must pay as sellers to get out of the deal and what they can get from buyers who are willing to buy the home. Add the MERS’ factors in, now that title questions we raised 4 years ago are being considered, and it is possible that many homes cannot ever be sold at any price. Where the levels of “securitization” are limited to only 1, then perhaps it is possible to sell the property but not without spending more money to clear title. 

Nearly 16M Homes Are Now Underwater

by THE KCM CREW

Zillow just reported that their data shows nearly 16 million homes in this country are now in a negative equity position where the house is worth less than the mortgages on the home. This number is dramatically higher than the approximate 11 million reported by other entities. Why the huge difference? Zillow professes to take into consideration ALL loans on the property not just the most recent loan (purchase or refinance).

The key findings in the study:

▪       Nearly one-third (31.4 percent) of U.S. homeowners with mortgages – or 15.7 million – were underwater on their mortgage.

▪       A slower pace of foreclosures after the robo-signing issues of 2010 contributed to slower progress in working down negative equity. Foreclosures cause homes to come out of negative equity when a bank or third party takes ownership.

▪       Nine in 10 homeowners continue to make their mortgage and home loan payments on time, with just 10.1 percent of underwater homeowners more than 90 days delinquent.

▪       Nearly 40 percent of underwater homeowners, or 12.4 percent of all homeowners with a mortgage, owe between 1 and 20 percent more than their home is worth.

▪       An additional 21 percent of underwater homeowners, or 6.6 percent of all homeowners with a mortgage, owe between 21 and 40 percent more than their home is worth.

▪       About 2.4 million, or 4.7 percent of all homeowners with mortgages owe more than double what their home is worth.

How can negative equity impact the housing market? In the report, Zillow Chief Economist Stan Humphries explains:

“Not only does negative equity tie many to their homes, by making homeowners unable to move when they may want to, but if economic growth slows and unemployment rises, more homeowners will be unable to make timely mortgage payments, increasing delinquency rates and eventually foreclosures.”

Case Shiller: House Prices fall to new post-bubble lows in March NSA

by CalculatedRisk

S&P/Case-Shiller released the monthly Home Price Indices for March (a 3 month average of January, February and March).

This release includes prices for 20 individual cities, two composite indices (for 10 cities and 20 cities) and the National index.

Note: Case-Shiller reports NSA, I use the SA data.

From S&P: Pace of Decline in Home Prices Moderates as the First Quarter of 2012 Ends, According to the S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price Indices

Data through March 2012, released today by S&P Indices for its S&P/CaseShiller Home Price Indices … showed that all three headline composites ended the first quarter of 2012 at new post-crisis lows. The national composite fell by 2.0% in the first quarter of 2012 and was down 1.9% versus the first quarter of 2011. The 10- and 20-City Composites posted respective annual returns of -2.8% and -2.6% in March 2012. Month-over-month, their changes were minimal; average home prices in the 10-City Composite fell by 0.1% compared to February and the 20-City remained basically unchanged in March over February. However, with these latest data, all three composites still posted their lowest levels since the housing crisis began in mid-2006.

“While there has been improvement in some regions, housing prices have not turned,” says David M. Blitzer, Chairman of the Index Committee at S&P Indices. “This month’s report saw all three composites and five cities hit new lows. However, with last month’s report nine cities hit new lows. Further, about half as many cities, seven, experienced falling prices this month compared to 16 last time.”

Case-Shiller House Prices Indices

Click on graph for larger image.

The first graph shows the nominal seasonally adjusted Composite 10 and Composite 20 indices (the Composite 20 was started in January 2000).

The Composite 10 index is off 34.1% from the peak, and up 0.2% in March (SA). The Composite 10 is at a new post bubble low Not Seasonally Adjusted.

The Composite 20 index is off 33.8% from the peak, and up 0.2% (SA) from March. The Composite 20 is also at a new post-bubble low NSA.

Case-Shiller House Prices Indices

The second graph shows the Year over year change in both indices.

The Composite 10 SA is down 2.8% compared to March 2011.

The Composite 20 SA is down 2.6% compared to March 2011. This was a smaller year-over-year decline for both indexes than in February.

The third graph shows the price declines from the peak for each city included in S&P/Case-Shiller indices.

Case-Shiller Price Declines

Prices increased (SA) in 15 of the 20 Case-Shiller cities in March seasonally adjusted (12 cities increased NSA). Prices in Las Vegas are off 61.5% from the peak, and prices in Dallas only off 6.7% from the peak.

The NSA indexes are at new post-bubble lows – and the NSA indexes will continue to decline in March (this report was for the three months ending in February). I’ll have more on prices later

Bribery or Business as Usual?

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Editor’s Comment and Analysis:

There is only one way this isn’t an outright bribe that should land the senator in jail — and that is proving that he received nothing of value. Stories abound in the media about haircut rates given to members of government particularly by Countrywide, now owned by Bank of America. Now we see it on the way down where others go through hoops and ladders to get a modification of short-sale but members of Congress get special treatment.

The only way this could be considered nothing of value is if the banks that gave this favor knew that they didn’t lend the money, didn’t purchase the loan and didn’t have a dime in the deal. They can prove it but they won’t because the fallout would be that there are no loans in print and that there are no perfected mortgage loans. The consequence is that there can be no foreclosures. And it would mean that the values carried on the books of these banks are eihter overstated or entirely fictiouos. The general consensus is that capital requirments for the banks should be higher. But what if the capital they are reporting doesn’t exist?

We are seeing practically everyday how Congress is bought off by the Banks and yet we do nothing. How can you expect to be taken seriously by the executive branch and the judicial branch of goveornment charged with enforcing the laws? If you are doing nothing and complaining, it’s time to get off the couch and do something with the Occupy Movement or your own private war with the banks. If you are not complaining, you should be — because this tsunami is about to hit the front door of your house too whether you are making the payments or not.

The power of the new aristocracy in American and European politics is felt around the globe. People are suffering in the U.S., Ireland, France, Spain, Italy, Greece and other places because the smaller banks in all those countries got taken to the cleaners by huge conglomerate Wall Street Banks. Ireland is reporting foreclosures and defaults at record rates. It was fraud with an effect far greater than any other act of domestic or international terrorism. And it isn’t just about money either. Suicides, domestic violence ending in death and mental illness are pandemic. And nobody cares about the little guy because the little guy is just fuel for the endless appetite of Wall Street. 

If Obama rreally wants to galvanize the electorate, he must be proactive on the fierce urgency of NOW! Those were his words when he was a candidate and he owes us action because that urgency was felt in 2008 and is a vice around everyone’s neck now.

JPMorgan Chase & the Senator’s Short Sale:

It’s Hypocritical –But Is It Corrupt?

By Richard (RJ) Eskow

There’s a lot we have yet to learn about the story of Sen. Mike Lee, Tea Party Republican of Utah, and America’s largest bank. But we already know something’s very, very wrong:

Why is it that most Americans can’t get a principal reduction from Chase or any other bank, but JPMorgan Chase was so very flexible with a sitting member of the United States Senate?

The hypocrisy from Sen. Lee and JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon overfloweth. But does the Case of the Senator’s Short Sale rise to the level of full-blown corruption? We won’t know until we get some answers.

People should be demanding those answers now.

When Jamie Met Mike

It’s not a pretty picture: In one corner is the Senator who wants to strike down Federal child labor laws and offer American residency to any non-citizen who buys a home with cash. In the other is the bank whose CEO said that the best way to relieve the crushing burden of debt on homeowners is by seizing their homes.

“Giving debt relief to people that really need it,” said Dimon, “that’s what foreclosure is.” That comment is Dickensian in its insensitivity – and Dimon’s bank offered real relief to the Senator from Utah.

The story of the short sale on Sen. Mike Lee’s home broke broke shortly not long after the world learned that JPM lost billions of dollars through trading that might have been illegal, and about which it certainly misled investors.

A Senator who doesn’t believe in child labor laws, and a crime-plagued bank that was just plunged into a trading scandal after losing billions in the London markets.

Why, they were practically made for one another.

Here in the Real World

This was also the week we learned from Zillow, one of the nation’s leading real estate data companies, that there are far more underwater homeowners than previously thought. Zillow collated all the information on home loans, including second mortgages, in order to develop this larger and more accurate number.

The new estimated amount of negative equity – money owed to the banks for non-existent home value – is $1.2 trillion.

Zillow found that nearly 16 million homeowners, representing roughly a third of all homes with a mortgage, were “underwater” (meaning they owe more than the home is now worth). That’s about 50 percent more than had been previously believed. Many of these homeowners are desperate for principal reduction, which would allow them to get back on their feet.

Banks can reduce the amount owed to reflect the current value of the house, which would lower monthly payments for many struggling homeowners. Another option is the “short sale,” in which the bank lets them sell the house for its current value and walk away. That would allow many of them to relocate in search of work.

But the banks, along with their allies in Washington DC, have been fighting principal reduction and resisting any attempts to increase the number of short sales. They remain out of reach for most struggling homeowners.

Mike’s Deal

But Mike Lee didn’t have that problem. Lee was elected to the Senate after buying his luxury home in Alpine, Utah at the height of the real estate boom. JPMorgan Chase agreed to a short sale, and it sold for nearly $400,000 less than the price Lee paid for it four years ago.

Sen. Lee says that he made a down payment on the home, although he hasn’t said how much was involved. But if he paid 15 percent down and put it $150,000, for example, then the Senator from Utah was just allowed to walk away from a quarter of a million dollars in debt obligations to JPMorgan Chase.

Let’s see: A troubled bank gives a sitting member of the United States Senate an advantageous deal worth hundreds of thousands of dollars? You’d think a story like that would get a little more attention than it has so far.

The Right’s Outrageous Hypocrisy

We haven’t seen this much hypocrisy in the real estate world since the Mortgage Bankers Association walked away from loans on its own headquarters even as its CEO, John Courson, was lecturing Americans their “legal obligation” and the terrible “message they would send” by walking away from their mortgages.

Then he did a short sale on the MBA’s headquarters. It sold for a reported $41 million, just three years after the MBA – those captains of real estate – paid $74 million for it.

The MBA calls itself “the voice of the mortgage banking industry.”

The hypocrisy may be even greater in this case. Sen. Mike Lee is a member in good standing of the Tea Party, a movement which began on the floor of Chicago Mercantile Exchange as a protest against the idea that the government might help underwater homeowners, even though many of the angry traders had enriched themselves thanks to government bailouts.

When their ringleader mentioned households struggling with negative equity, these first members of the Tea Party broke into a chant: “Losers! Losers! Losers!”

Mike Lee’s Outrageous Hypocrisy

Which gets us to Mike Lee. Lee accepted a handout of JPMorgan Chase after voting to end unemployment for jobless Americans. Lee also argued against Federal child labor laws, although he did acknowledge that child labor is “reprehensible.”

How big a hypocrite is Mike Lee? His website (which, curiously enough, went down as we wrote these words) says he believes “the federal government’s out-of-control spending has evolved into a major threat to our economic prosperity and job creation” and that he came to Washington to, among other things, “properly manage our finances”. Lee’s website also scolds Congress because, he says, it “cannot live within its means.”

As Ed McMahon used to say, “Write your own joke.”

Needless to say, Lee also advocates drastic cuts to Social Security and Medicare while pushing lower taxes for the wealthy – and plumping for exactly the same kind of deregulation which let bankers to run amok and wreck the economy in 2008 by doing things like … well, like what JPMorgan Chase just did in London.

“Give Me Your Wired, Your Wealthy, Your Upper Classes Yearning to Buy Cheap”

Lee has also co-sponsored a bill with Chuck Schumer, the Democratic Senator from Wall Street New York, that would grant US residency to foreigners who purchase a home worth at least $500,000 – as long as they paid cash.

The Lee/Schumer bill would be a big boon to US banks – banks, in fact, like JPMorgan Chase. If it passes, the Statue of Liberty may need to be reshaped so that Lady Liberty is holding a book of real estate listings in her right hand while wearing a hat that reads “Million Dollar Sellers’ Club.”

Mike Lee’s bill would also have propped up the luxury home market, offering a big financial boost to people who are struggling to hold to the equity they’ve put into high-end homes, people like … well, like Mike Lee.

Jamie Dimon’s Outrageous Hypocrisy

Then there’s Jamie Dimon, who spoke for his fellow bankers during negotiations that led up to the very cushy $25 billion settlement that let banks like his off the hook for widespread lawbreaking in their foreclosure fraud crime wave.

“Yeah,” Dimon said of principal reductions for homeowners like Sen. Lee, “that’s off the table.”

Dimon’s been resisting global solutions to the negative equity problems for years. He said in 2010 that he preferred to make decisions about homeowners on a “loan by loan” basis.

The Rich Are Different – They Have More Mortgage Relief

“The rich are different,” wrote F. Scott Fitzgerald, and (in a quote often misattributed to Ernest Hemingway) literary critic Mary Colum observed that ” the only difference between the rich and other people is that the rich have more money.”

And they apparently find it a lot easier to walk away from their underwater homes.There’s been a dramatic increase in short sales lately, and the evidence suggests that most of the deals have been going to luxury homeowners. Among other things, this trend toward high-end short sales the lie to the popular idea that bankers and their allies don’t want to “reward the underserving,” since hedge fund traders who overestimated next year’s bonus are clearly less deserving than working families who purchased a modest home for themselves.

Nevertheless, that’s where most of the debt relief seems to be going: to the wealthy, and not to the middle class.

Guess that’s what happens when loan officers working for Dimon and other Wall Street CEOs handle these matters on a “loan by loan” basis.

Immoral Logic

While this “loan by loan” approach lacks morality, there’s some financial logic to it. Banks typically have a lot more money at risk in an underwater luxury home than they do in more modest houses. A short sale provides them with a way to clear things up, recoup what they can, and get their books in a little more order than before. That’s why JPMorgan Chase has been offering selected borrowers up to $35,000 to accept short sales. You can bet they’re not offering that deal to middle class families.

There are other reasons to offer short sales to the wealthy: JPM, like all big banks, is pursuing very-high-end banking clients more aggressively than ever. That’s where the profits are. So why alienate a high-value client when they may offer you the opportunity to recoup losses elsewhere?

(“Sorry to interrupt, Mr. Dimon, but it’s London calling.”)

Corruption Or Not: The Questions

Both the bank and the Senator need to answer some questions about this deal. Here’s what the public deserves to know:

Could the writedown on the home’s value be considered an in-kind gift to a sitting Senator?

If so, then we have a very real scandal on our hands. But we don’t know enough to answer that question yet.

What are JPMorgan Chase’s procedures for deciding who receives mortgage relief and who doesn’t?

Dimon may prefer to handle these matters on a “loan by loan” basis, but there must be guidelines that bank officers can follow. And presumably they’ve been written down somewhere. Were they followed in Mike Lee’s case?

Who was involved in the decision to offer this deal to Mike Lee?

Offering mortgage relief to a sitting Senator is, to borrow a phrase, “a big elfin’ deal.” A mid-level bank officer isn’t likely to handle a case like this without taking it up the chain of command. So who made the final decision on Mike Lee’s mortgage?

It wouldn’t be unheard of if a a sensitive matter like this one was escalated to all the way to the company’s most senior executive – especially if that executive has eliminated any checks on his power, much less any independent input from shareholders, by serving as both the Chair(man) of the Board and the CEO.

In this, as in so many of JPM’s scandals, the question must be asked: What did Jamie know, and when did he know it?

Is Mike Lee a “Friend of Jamie”?

Which raises a related question: Is there is a formal or informal list of people for whom JPM employees are directed to give preferential treatment?

Everybody remembers the scandal that surrounded Sen. Chris Dodd when it was learned that his mortgage was given favorable treatment by Countrywide – even though the Senator apparently knew nothing about it at the time. The world soon learned then that Countrywide had a VIP program called “Friends of Angelo,” named for CEO Angelo Mozilo, and those who were on the list got special treatment.

Is there a “Friends of Jamie” list at JPMorgan Chase – and is Mike Lee’s name on it?

Were there any discussions between the bank’s executives and the Senator regarding the foreign home buyer’s bill or any other legislation that affected Wall Street?

Until this question is answered the issue of a possible quid pro quo will hang over both the Senator and JPMorgan Chase.

Seriously, guys – this doesn’t look good.

Was MERS used to evade state taxes and recording requirements on Sen. Lee’s home? 

JPMorgan Chase funded, and was an active participant, in the “MERS” program which was used, among other things, to bypass local taxes and legal requirements for recording titles.

As we wrote when we reviewed hundreds of internal MERS documents, MERS was instrumental in allowing banks to bundle and sell mortgage-backed securities in a way that led directly to the financial crisis of 2008. It also helped bankers artificially inflate real estate prices, encourage homeowners to take out loans at bubble prices, and then leave them holding the note (as underwater homeowners) after the collapse of national real estate values that they had artificially pumped up.

“Today’s Wall Street Corruption Fun Fact”: MERS was operated by the Mortgage Bankers Association – the same group of real estate geniuses who lost $30 million on a single building in three years, then gave a little lecture on morality to the homeowners they’d been so instrumental in shafting.

Q&A

I was also asked some very reasonable questions by a policy advocacy group. Here they are, with my answers:

If this happened to the average American, would they be able to walk away from the mortgage as well?

If by “average American” you mean “most homeowners,” then the answer is: No. Although short sales are on the rise, most underwater homeowners have not been given the option of going through a short sale. Mike Lee was. The question is, why?

Will Mike Lee’s credit rating be adversely affected?

This is a very important question. The credit rating industry serves banks, not consumers, and it operates at their beck and call.

The answer to this question depends on how JPM handled the paperwork. Many (and probably most) homeowners involved in a short sale take a hit to their credit rating. If Lee did not, it smacks of special treatment.

Given the fact that it was JPMorgan who financed the loss, does that mean, indirectly through the bailout, that the taxpayers paid for Lee’s mortgage write-off?

That gets tricky – but in a moral sense, you could certainly say that.

Short Selling Democracy

There’s no question that this deal is hypocritical and ugly, and that it reflects much of what’s still broken about both our politics and Wall Street. Is it a scandal? Without these answers we can’t know. This was either a case of the special treatment that is so often reserved for the wealthy, or it’s something even worse: influence peddling and political corruption.

it’s time for JPMorgan Chase and Sen. Mike Lee to come clean about this deal. If they did nothing wrong, they have nothing to hide. Either way the public’s entitled to some answers.


OK LAWYERS, STEP UP TO THIS ONE — It is literally a no- brainer

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Editor’s Comment: The very same people who so ardently want us to remain strong and fight wars of dubious foundation are the ones who vote against those who serve our country. Here is a story of a guy who was being shot at and foreclosed at the same time — a blatant violation of Federal Law and good sense. When I practiced in Florida, it was standard procedure if we filed suit to state that the defendant is not a member of the armed forces of the United States. Why? Because we don’t sue people that are protecting our country with their life and limb.

It IS that simple, and if the banks are still doing this after having been caught several times, fined a number of times and sanctioned and number of times, then it is time to take the Bank’s charter away. Nothing could undermine the defense and sovereignty of our country more than to have soldiers on the battlefield worrying about their families being thrown out onto the street.

One woman’s story:

My husband was on active duty predeployment training orders from 29 May 2011 to 28 August 2011 and again 15 October 2011 to 22 November 2011. He was pulled off the actual deployment roster for the deployment date of 6 December 2011 due to the suspension of his security clearance because of the servicer reporting derogatory to his credit bureau (after stating they would make the correction). We spoke with the JAG and they stated those periods of service are protected as well as nine months after per the SCRA 50 USC section 533.

We have been advised that a foreclosure proceeding initiated within that 9 month period is not valid per the SCRA. I have informed the servicer via phone and they stated their legal department is saying they are permitted to foreclose. They sent a letter stating the same. I am currently working on an Emergency Ex Parte Application for TRO and Preliminary Injunction to file in federal court within the next week. It is a complicated process.

The servicer has never reported this VA loan in default and the VA has no information. That is in Violation of VA guidelines and title 38. They have additionally violated Ca Civil Code 2323.5. They NEVER sent a single written document prior to filing NOD 2/3/2012. They never made a phone call. They ignored all our previous calls and letter. All contact with the servicer has been initiated by us, never by them. This was a brokered deal. We dealt with Golden Empire Mortgage. They offered the CalHFA down payment assistance program in conjunction with their “loan” (and I use that term loosely). What we did not know was that on the backside of the deal they were fishing for an investor.

Over the past two years CalHFA has stated on numerous occasions they do not own the 1st trust deed. Guild (the servicer) says they do. I have a letter dated two weeks after closing of the loan saying the “servicing” was sold to CalHFA. Then a week later another letter stating the “servicing” was sold to Guild. Two conflicting letters saying two different things. The DOT and Note are filed with the county listing Golden Empire Mortgage as the Lender, North American Title as the Trustee and good old MERS as the Nominee beneficiary.

There is no endorsement or alonge anywhere in the filing of the county records. We signed documents 5/8/2008 and filings were made 5/13/2008. After two years of circles with Guild and CalHFA two RESPA requests were denied and I was constantly being told “the investor, the VA and our legal department” are reviewing the file to see how to apply the deferrment as allowed by California law and to compute taxes and impound we would need to pay during that period. Months of communications back in forth in 2009 and they never did a thing. Many calls to CalHFA with the same result. We don;t own it, call Guild, we only have interest in the silent 2nd.

All of a sudden in December 2011 an Assignment of DOT was filed by Guild from Golden Empire to CalHFA signed by Phona Kaninau, Asst Secretary MERS, filed 12/13/2011. om 2/3/2012 Guild filed a Cancellation of NOD from the filing they made in 2009 signed by Rhona Kaninau, Sr. VP of Guild. on the same date Guild filed a substitution of trustee naming Guild Admin Corp as the new trustee and Golden Empire as the old trustee, but on out DOT filed 5/13/2008 it lists North American Title as the Trustee. First off how can Rhona work for two different companies.

Essentially there is no fair dealing in any of this. Guild is acting on behalf of MERS, the servicing side of their company, and now as the trustee. How is that allowed? Doesn;t a trustee exist to ensure all parties interests are looked out for? It makes no sense to me how that can be happening. On the assignment I believe there is a HUGE flaw… it states ….assigns, and transfers to: CalHFA all beneficial interest…..executed by Joshua as Trustor, to Golden Empire as Trustee, and Recordeed….. how can you have two “to’s” .. shouldn’t after Trustor it say FROM???? Is that a fatal flaw???

And then looking at the Substitution it states “Whereas the undersigned present Beneficiary under said Deed of Trust” (which on the DOT at that time would show MERS but on the flawed assignment says Golden Empire was the trustee), it then goes on the say “Therefore the undersigned hereby substitutes GUILD ADMIN CORP” and it is signed “Guild Mortgage Company, as agent for CalHFA”, signed by Rhona Kaninau (same person who signed the assignment as a MERS Asst Secretary). I mean is this seriously legal??? Would a federal judge look at this and see how convoluted it all is?

I appreciate the offer of the securitization discount but in out current economic situation and having to pay $350 to file a federal case we just can’t afford it right now. I hope you will keep that offer open. Will this report cover tracking down a mortgage allegedly backed by CalHFA bonds? This is their claim.

Thank you so much for your assistance. This is overwhelming. Do you have any attorneys here in Southern California you world with I might be able to talk to about what they would charge us for a case like this?

Now They See the Light — 40% of Homes Underwater

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Editor’s Comment:

They were using figures like 12% or 18% but I kept saying that when you take all the figures together and just add them up, the number is much higher than that. So as it turns out, it is even higher than I thought because they are still not taking into consideration ALL the factors and expenses involved in selling a home, not the least of which is the vast discount one must endure from the intentionally inflated appraisals.

With this number of people whose homes are worth far less than the loans that were underwritten and supposedly approved using industry standards by “lenders” who weren’t lenders but who the FCPB now says will be treated as lenders, the biggest problem facing the marketplace is how are we going to keep these people in their homes — not how do we do a short-sale. And the seconcd biggest problem, which dovetails with Brown’s push for legislation to break up the large banks, is how can we permit these banks to maintain figures on the balance sheet that shows assets based upon completely unrealistic figures on homes where they do not even own the loan?

Or to put it another way. How crazy is this going to get before someone hits the reset the button and says OK from now on we are going to deal with truth, justice and the American way?

With no demographic challenges driving up prices or demand for new housing, and with no demand from homeowners seeking refinancing, why were there so many loans? The answer is easy if you look at the facts. Wall Street had come up with a way to get trillions of dollars in investment capital from the biggest managed funds in the world — the mortgage bond and all the derivatives and exotic baggage that went with it. 

So they put the money in Superfund accounts and funded loans taking care of that pesky paperwork later. They funded loans and approved loans from non-existent borrowers who had not even applied yet. As soon as the application was filled out, the wire transfer to the closing agent occurred (ever wonder why they were so reluctant to change closing agents for the convenience of the parties?).

The instructions were clear — get the signature on some paperwork even if it is faked, fraudulent, forged and completely outside industry standards but make it look right. I have this information from insiders who were directly involved in the structuring and handling of the money and the false securitization chain that was used to cover up illegal lending and the huge fees that were taken out of the superfund before any lending took place. THAT explains how these banks are bigger than ever while the world’s economies are shrinking.

The money came straight down from the investor pool that included ALL the investors over a period of time that were later broker up into groups and the  issued digital or paper certificates of mortgage bonds. So the money came from a trust-type account for the investors, making the investors the actual lenders and the investors collectively part of a huge partnership dwarfing the size of any “trust” or “REMIC”. At one point there was over $2 trillion in unallocated funds looking for a loan to be attached to the money. They couldn’t do it legally or practically.

The only way this could be accomplished is if the borrowers thought the deal was so cheap that they were giving the money away and that the value of their home had so increased in value that it was safe to use some of the equity for investment purposes of other expenses. So they invented more than 400 loans products successfully misrepresenting and obscuring the fact that the resets on loans went to monthly payments that exceeded the gross income of the household based upon a loan that was funded based upon a false and inflated appraisal that could not and did not sustain itself even for a period of weeks in many cases. The banks were supposedly too big to fail. The loans were realistically too big to succeed.

Now Wall Street is threatening to foreclose on anyone who walks from this deal. I say that anyone who doesn’t walk from that deal is putting their future at risk. So the big shadow inventory that will keep prices below home values and drive them still further into the abyss is from those private owners who will either walk away, do a short-sale or fight it out with the pretender lenders. When these people realize that there are ways to reacquire their property in foreclosure with cash bids that are valid while the credit bid of the pretender lender is invlaid, they will have achieved the only logical answer to the nation’s problems — principal correction and the benefit of the bargain they were promised, with the banks — not the taxpayers — taking the loss.

The easiest way to move these tremendous sums of money was to make it look like it was cheap and at the same time make certain that they had an arguable claim to enforce the debt when the fake payments turned into real payments. SO they created false and frauduelnt paperwork at closing stating that the payee on teh note was the lender and that the secured party was somehow invovled in the transaction when there was no transaction with the payee at all and the security instrumente was securing the faithful performance of a false document — the note. Meanwhile the investor lenders were left without any documentation with the borrowers leaving them with only common law claims that were unsecured. That is when the robosigning and forgery and fraudulent declarations with false attestations from notaries came into play. They had to make it look like there was a real deal, knowing that if everything “looked” in order most judges would let it pass and it worked.

Now we have (courtesy of the cloak of MERS and robosigning, forgery etc.) a completely corrupted and suspect chain of title on over 20 million homes half of which are underwater — meaning that unless the owner expects the market to rise substantially within a reasonable period of time, they will walk. And we all know how much effort the banks and realtors are putting into telling us that the market has bottomed out and is now headed up. It’s a lie. It’s a damned living lie.

One in Three Mortgage Holders Still Underwater

By John W. Schoen, Senior Producer

Got that sinking feeling? Amid signs that the U.S. housing market is finally rising from a long slumber, real estate Web site Zillow reports that homeowners are still under water.

Nearly 16 million homeowners owed more on their mortgages than their home was worth in the first quarter, or nearly one-third of U.S. homeowners with mortgages. That’s a $1.2 trillion hole in the collective home equity of American households.

Despite the temptation to just walk away and mail back the keys, nine of 10 underwater borrowers are making their mortgage and home loan payments on time. Only 10 percent are more than 90 days delinquent.

Still, “negative equity” will continue to weigh on the housing market – and the broader economy – because it sidelines so many potential home buyers. It also puts millions of owners at greater risk of losing their home if the economic recovery stalls, according to Zillow’s chief economist, Stan Humphries.

“If economic growth slows and unemployment rises, more homeowners will be unable to make timely mortgage payments, increasing delinquency rates and eventually foreclosures,” he said.

For now, the recent bottoming out in home prices seems to be stabilizing the impact of negative equity; the number of underwater homeowners held steady from the fourth quarter of last year and fell slightly from a year ago.

Real estate market conditions vary widely across the country, as does the depth of trouble homeowners find themselves in. Nearly 40 percent of homeowners with a mortgage owe between 1 and 20 percent more than their home is worth. But 15 percent – approximately 2.4 million – owe more than double their home’s market value.

Nevada homeowners have been hardest hit, where two-thirds of all homeowners with a mortgage are underwater. Arizona, with 52 percent, Georgia (46.8 percent), Florida (46.3 percent) and Michigan (41.7 percent) also have high percentages of homeowners with negative equity.

Turnabout is Fair Play:

The Depressing Rise of People Robbing Banks to Pay the Bills

Despite inflation decreasing their value, bank robberies are on the rise in the United States. According to the FBI, in the third quarter of 2010, banks reported 1,325 bank robberies, burglaries, or other larcenies, an increase of more than 200 crimes from the same quarter in 2009. America isn’t the easiest place to succeed financially these days, a predicament that’s finding more and more people doing desperate things to obtain money. Robbing banks is nothing new, of course; it’s been a popular crime for anyone looking to get quick cash practically since America began. But the face and nature of robbers is changing. These days, the once glamorous sheen of bank robberies is wearing away, exposing a far sadder and ugly reality: Today’s bank robbers are just trying to keep their heads above water.

Bonnie and Clyde, Pretty Boy Floyd, Baby Face Nelson—time was that bank robbers had cool names and widespread celebrity. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Jesse James, and John Dillinger were even the subjects of big, fawning Hollywood films glorifying their thievery. But times have changed.

In Mississippi this week, a man walked into a bank and handed a teller a note demanding money, according to broadcast news reporter Brittany Weiss. The man got away with a paltry $1,600 before proceeding to run errands around town to pay his bills and write checks to people to whom he owed money. He was hanging out with his mom when police finally found him. Three weeks before the Mississippi fiasco, a woman named Gwendolyn Cunningham robbed a bank in Fresno and fled in her car. Minutes later, police spotted Cunningham’s car in front of downtown Fresno’s Pacific Gas and Electric Building. Inside, she was trying to pay her gas bill.

The list goes on: In October 2011, a Phoenix-area man stole $2,300 to pay bills and make his alimony payments. In early 2010, an elderly man on Social Security started robbing banks in an effort to avoid foreclosure on the house he and his wife had lived in for two decades. In January 2011, a 46-year-old Ohio woman robbed a bank to pay past-due bills. And in February of this year, a  Pennsylvania woman with no teeth confessed to robbing a bank to pay for dentures. “I’m very sorry for what I did and I know God is going to punish me for it,” she said at her arraignment. Yet perhaps none of this compares to the man who, in June 2011, robbed a bank of $1 just so he could be taken to prison and get medical care he couldn’t afford.

None of this is to say that a life of crime is admirable or courageous, and though there is no way to accurately quantify it, there are probably still many bank robbers who steal just because they like the thrill of money for nothing. But there’s quite a dichotomy between the bank robbers of early America, with their romantic escapades and exciting lifestyles, and the people following in their footsteps today: broke citizens with no jobs, no savings, no teeth, and few options.

The stealing rebel types we all came to love after reading the Robin Hood story are gone. Today the robbers are just trying to pay their gas bills. There will be no movies for them.

Short Sale No Protection Against Bank

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Editor’s Comment:

As if on queue this story appears. I have been warning buyers of short sales that they face strong headwinds in maintaining ownership of the house, keeping possession, and the general fact that buying a short sale probably is buying into litigation now or later.

This guy is a true innocent buyer without any real notice of the problems he was buying into. His realtor obviously didn’t tell him because the realtor’s compensation is based upon the sale closing. The title agent didn’t tell him for the same reason. And the bank selected as the ” designated hitter” to receive money and execute papers showing the old mortgage was satisfied and the foreclosure was over probably didn’t even know who to call or why because, like the originator at the original closing on the loan, was just a fee for service “satisfied” instead of a fee for service originator.

So the designated forecloser keeps proceeding — and in this case apparently foreclosed on the house without the new short sale buyer knowing a thing about it, evicted the tenants, which now included the shortsale buyer, and then broke in, removed all the personal belongings leaving this guy with a lawsuit for trespass and the loss of his furniture and personal belongings.

This will continue until we accept and act upon the fact that the foreclosures and the would-be originators of foreclosures have no right to even be at the table — same as when the old old loan was created.

KC Man Sues Bank Over Foreclosure Error

Claim: JPMorgan Chase Changed Locks, Seized New Owner’s Property

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — A Kansas City man is taking on banking giant JPMorgan Chase, accusing the company of something that he said would have landed anyone else in handcuffs.

Allan Danforth bought a house in a short sale in fall 2010. JPMorgan Chase held the previous owner’s mortgage. Danforth said two months later, without notice, the bank changed the locks and hauled away $25,000 worth of furniture, appliances and family heirlooms.

“I had to bust in through the basement window here,” Danforth said, pointing to the house that he was forced to break into more than 18 months ago.

He said JPMorgan Chase’s contractor, Safeguard Properties, ignored “No Trespassing” signs on the garage, changed the locks on his home and cleaned it out two months after he paid cash for the property.

“It was basically stuff that was 150 years of family history,” Danforth said. “I feel violated and I felt like the house wasn’t even safe to go into for a while.”

Danforth said Safeguard Properties could find his family heirlooms. He said JPMorgan Chase just gave him a runaround.

“They’re the big bank and they don’t care,” he said.

“It’s a wrong built upon wrongs,” said attorney Tony Stein.

He said it’s a wrongful foreclosure.

“We fully intend to go into court and have a Jackson County jury try to decide the eventual outcome of this case in the only language JPMorgan Chase understands,” Stein said. “The language of money.”

In his lawsuit, Stein accuses JPMorgan Chase of theft, trespassing and reckless indifference.

Jackson County court records show that on Sept. 9, the previous homeowners transferred the house to Danforth. The bank signed off 12 days later.

“For the very company to release their deed of trust and thereby release all their rights against this property, and then two months later, send in a company to clean this thing out? You’ll have to ask them why they’d do something like that,” Stein said. “It defies logic.”

Danforth and his attorney said the bank has ignored their letters. When KMBC investigated the case, a spokeswoman for JPMorgan Chase had a response.

“We made a paperwork mistake when the property was sold, which resulted in our service partner changing the locks and winterizing the property to ensure its security,” the statement said.

The company did not comment how it plans to settle the dispute.

“I’m not the first one. I will not be the last, unfortunately,” Danforth said.

He said he has installed a security system in case of another “paperwork mistake.”

“If it were you or I doing it, we’d be sitting in jail right now,” Danforth said. “Why isn’t JPMorgan in jail?”

Safeguard Properties deferred comment to the bank.

Danforth’s lawsuit is before the Jackson County Court and claims actual damages in excess of $25,000. Under law, Stein said members of Danforth’s family could be entitled to recover as much as $1.5 million in punitive damages.

Danforth’s copies of important documents were inside the house and were taken by Safeguard Properties. Experts said in case of a fire or burglary, it’s a good idea to have copies of important documents in a digital form or a safety deposit box.


Don’t leave or enter short sale home without quiet title and adequate title insurance.

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U.S. home short sales surpass foreclosure deals for first time

Editor’s Comment: 

Well of course short sales will be higher than REO sales. REO sales of foreclosed property where the bank or its agent owns the property presents a virtually impossible situation with respect to title. The odds are rising every day that a homeowner is going to sue, reverse the eviction, reverse the foreclosure, get title free of the mortgage and note and have the right to exclusive possession. We are getting reports of this across the country. While the banks are trying to keep a stiff upper lip about it all they are in a state of panic (!) because of the loss of ill-gotten gains they thought they had in the bag and (2) because this loss must now be written down on their balance sheet which means that their capital reserves must be correspondingly increased. Where will they get the money?

 SO REO sales are going to be increasingly problematic.

But in a short sale it is the actual homeowner who signs the deed. That eliminates a wild card that is totally out of the control of the banks. The balance of the problem is that the satisfaction of the old mortgage is being executed by parties who have no ownership of the loan nor any agency authority to represent the true creditors (in most cases). But if the short-sale goes thorugh the new buyer can file a quiet title action for a few hundred dollars in fees and a couple of hundred dollars in court costs, and get a judge to sign off on all title claims. To paraphrase American Express’ “don’t leave home without it” It is the best interest of both the old homeowner who could be subject to liability a second time if the real creditor wakes up and in the interest of the new buyer who doesn’t want to lose his home to the claims of some creditor who can actually prove a case. So don’t leave or enter a short-sale home with quiet title — and a REAL title insurance policy that does not exclude claims arising from supposed securitization of the loan.

U.S. home short sales surpass foreclosure deals for first time                                        New Mexico Business Weekly

In a sign that banks are becoming more willing to sell houses for less than the amount that is owed on them, the number of U.S. home short sales surpassed foreclosure deals for the first time, Bloomberg reports, citing Lender Processing Services Inc.

Short sales accounted for 23.9 percent of home purchases in January, the most recent month available, compared with 19.7 percent for sales of foreclosed homes, data compiled by the company show. A year earlier, 16.3 percent of transactions were short sales and 24.9 percent involved foreclosures.

The three largest banks in New Mexico are Wells Fargo, Bank of America and U.S. Bancorp    , respectively.

Why the Banks Are Paying You to Sign the Deed in a Shortsale

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“The bottom line is that the value of a homeowner’s signature is going up and might be the best investment in existence. The walls are closing in on trillions of dollars in real estate that could be the subject of summary proceedings repatriating the property to their rightful owners using the most basic principles of property law.” — Neil F Garfield, livinglies.me

It isn’t just hype. Law firms like the one shown below are realizing that there really is money in servicing homeowners who are underwater. But lawyers should also beware of this offer. Think about it. What economic reason would there be to pay a distressed homeowner to enter into a short-sale? If they really thought they had the right to foreclose and/or collect on the promissory note they are using, the last thing they would do is pay a person who is  already delinquent in their payments.

The banks have realized that in a short sale they don’t sign the deed — that job goes to the homeowner who is usually giving a warranty that title is all fine and dandy. The pretender lender is not doing the lying; they are getting the homeowner to do their lying. All that is fine if there was only one owner of the property or one prior mortgagee who is joining in the transaction and registering the appropriate releases, satisfactions and warranties.

If a third party or prior owner makes a claim against title, the pretender lender has succeeded in placing another layer between them and claimants who want title vested or re-vested as a result of wrongful, illegal foreclosures — or wrongful or illegal satisfactions (release and reconveyance). They now have a stronger argument about why the “chain of title” while imperfect, should not be disturbed because of the transactions that were in the public records and notice to the world.

If you are buying one of these short-sales or other REO property, take a good long look at the title policy they are offering and make sure you get advice of competent legal counsel — because most of the new “replacement” policies have language that excludes risks associated with the chain of title being mangled by securitization or claims arising out of securitization. So if you buy, you are getting naked paperwork that may or may not be ratified later — or could be the target of a wave a repatriating property to their rightful owners because the foreclosures are and were wrongful. With no title insurance proceeds you could be out of a lot of money and still have a liability if you financed the purchase.

I’ve heard some talk of the statute of limitations being applied against claims of repatriating property. I don’t know of any statute of limitations on defects in the title chain but there might be some on theft, fraud and adverse possession that could provide some cover for the older mortgages. That alone could be an interesting question. Imagine representing the bank and arguing “yes your honor, we admit that we stole this property and illegally evicted the owner. However, under the statute of limitations I have shown you, the homeowner has no cause of action because it is barred by the expiration of time.”

THAT is where civil rights violations should be alleged in Federal courts. If the states failed to safeguard the rights of homeowners in their procedures for foreclosures then the civil rights of the homeowners may well be the last and only claim the homeowner can make even after it is admitted that the foreclosures are wrongful and illegal.

The lesson here is stop waiting to see what happens. Get on your horse and have your bags packed with as much proof as you can and start your actions now. At this point, you need to show that the general policies resulted in wrongful, illegal foreclosures with “strangers” taking title to property on which they loaned no money and never financed or purchased the property; and then show that those policies that have been the subject so many studies, orders, decrees, fines, penalties, settlements etc. are the same same policies that were used in your case.

Remember, the burden of proof shifts when you cross the line of establishing a prima facie case. At that point the pretender is dead in the water unless they still have more rabbits in that hat.

BANKS PAYING HOMEOWNERS TO AVOID FORECLOSURES

by Harold Shepley & Associates, LLC, see www.jdsra.com

Banks, anxious to move troubled mortgages off their books, have started offering cash incentives to homeowners to sell their properties for less than what they owe – typically called a “short sale.”

In the past, banks have balked or dragged their feet at short sales. However, lately, they have decided that short sales are more advantageous than foreclosures, which can take a year or more to process. Additionally, banks take about 15% less of a loss on a short sale than they do on a foreclosure.

Some banks are now offering cash incentives to homeowners to have them sell their homes at a loss—sometimes up to $35,000. Experts believe that banks just want to get rid of bad loans. They can often afford to forgive the debt and offer incentives yet still make a profit, because they usually purchase the loan from another bank at a discount.

For a bank, approving a short sale can cut a year or more off the process of unloading a home and its accompanying loan. A short sale takes about 123 days on average. On the other hand, it takes nearly a year to foreclose on a home and then another 175 days to re-sell the property.

Allowing your home to go into foreclosure is may not be your only option. Every situation is different. For a in depth look at your situation you should contact a full service debt relief law firm like Harold Shepley & Associates that can answer any questions you may have about debt relief, mortgage modification, and short sales.

Do You Stop Paying While You Pursue Short-Sale or Modification?

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EDITOR’S NOTE: I usually tell people not to do anything that automatically puts them in a worse position than when they started, so that is usually taken to mean that you should keep paying. The question of strategic default in a short-sale or modification situation is different than the simple strategic default. The simple one is a walk-away proposition, perhaps after staying rent free for months or even years if you put up a fight. The short-sale or modification issue is more complex.

On the one hand you want to show good faith and maintain your credit rating and on the other you want the other side motivated to accept your proposition. Since they are not inclined to accept any settlement without foreclosure (the economics provide that incentive) most people I interviewed are suggesting that stopping payment is the only way to get their attention. The following article is as  good as any in discussing the issue.

Pros and cons of paying mortgage during short sale

REThink Real Estate

By Tara-Nicholle Nelson, Monday, November 28, 2011.

Inman News™

Q: We just got multiple offers on my “vacation” house listed as a short sale. And so far, we have begged and borrowed to keep our mortgage current so our credit scores will be less bruised. But now that our house is in contract, do I continue to pay the mortgage? Our debt exceeds our income due to job and benefit loss.

Here’s my bigger concern: Since we are current, I don’t want the bank to reject the offers just because we have been current, although our financial papers will prove that our debt exceeds our income. –Cindy

A: There are a number of schools of thought and approaches to deciding whether to continue making your mortgage payments while you’re selling your home on a short sale, and your ultimate decision will require you to weigh a number of factors and see where your personal calculus of your own values and interests comes out:

Legal: Legally speaking, you have an obligation to pay your mortgage and property taxes as long as you own your home. While you might very well make the decision not to for a number of reasons (see below), it’s important to keep the legal contract you made to pay especially your mortgage in mind, as some lenders make efforts to reserve the right to come after you later for the deficiency (i.e., the difference between the sale price of your home and your mortgage balance). For this reason, it’s not a bad idea to have a local real estate attorney involved in your short-sale transaction, to help you negotiate a complete release of liability for the mortgage.

Article continues below

The moral/ethical perspective: Morally and ethically, some homeowners view themselves as having an obligation in line with their legal commitment to pay all these items. Others look at the various factors beyond their control that have forced them to short-sale their home, like the decline in property values and the weak employment market, and have made a decision that their personal moral imperative weighs in favor of protecting their family finances and children’s education funds. In that vein, some make the conscious decision to stop paying once they’re in a short-sale situation or on a clear path to foreclosure.

Financial/business: Once you know 100 percent that you’ll be divesting of your home in some way, shape or form, continued investments in the property can seem to easily fall into the “throwing good money after bad” bucket, looking at the situation from a strictly business and financial perspective. There is also a strong sentiment among many real estate professionals that if you keep your mortgage current, while applying for a short sale or loan modification of any sort, you decrease the chances that your lender will approve of the sale.

The theory goes that if you are current on your payments, you can’t possibly have the level of hardship you must claim (and the lender must believe you have) for them to agree to waive the deficiency amount and release you from the mortgage.

I’ve seen very mixed feelings on this in the real estate industry; on this point specifically, you should definitely talk with your listing agent and your local attorney, and take their advice into account — they might have worked with this bank in the past and be able to shed light on how staying current or falling behind may affect the success prospects of your short sale application.

Credit/ability to buy again: Right now, you are probably fixated on getting out from under this onerous debt, as virtually every homeowner in your situation is as a matter of course. But I’ve worked with a number of folks through this entire experience of going upside down, losing a home through a foreclosure or short sale and financial recovery, and I know that before too terribly long, you could very well be looking to buy a home again. Just be aware that most lenders will impose a two- to three-year waiting period after you have a short sale, if you were in default on your mortgage at the time the short sale closed (sometimes the waiting period is as long as seven years, depending on what type of loan you’re trying to use to buy your new home).

However, if you do not default on your loan and are able to get your lender to green-light your short sale, you can qualify for an FHA mortgage immediately. I don’t know your personal situation, and it’s been my experience that the majority of homeowners who have a financial hardship severe enough to even attempt a short sale need a couple of years to get back on their feet, but if you think you’ll want to buy another home anytime sooner than two years from now, you’ll need to stay current on this mortgage.

Just as there are many factors your bank will weigh in determining whether to allow your short sale to close, and on what terms, you have a lot of considerations to weigh in deciding whether to continue making your mortgage payments while you await their decision. I can’t urge you strongly enough to include your real estate agent and an attorney in your decision-making process.

Tara-Nicholle Nelson is author of “The Savvy Woman’s Homebuying Handbook” and “Trillion Dollar Women: Use Your Power to Make Buying and Remodeling Decisions.” Tara is also the Consumer Ambassador and Educator for real estate listings search site Trulia.com. Ask her a real estate question online or visit her website, www.rethinkrealestate.com.

E

 

BOA Reversing: Cash for Keys up to $20,000

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Bank of America Offering Cash for Keys
Posted on October 11, 2011 by Mark Stopa
http://www.stayinmyhome.com/blog/?p=1819Saturday’s St. Pete

Times had an interesting article about how Bank of America is offering cash to homeowners who are delinquent on their mortgage payments. http://www.tampabay.com/news/business/realestate/article1195778.ece
Instead of pushing for foreclosure, BOA is offering cash in exchange for the homeowners consenting to the home being sold to a third party for less than the amount owed, i.e. a short sale.

In an industry littered with horror stories and negativity, this is good news. If you’re skeptical, don’t be – this is a natural consequence of foreclosure defense attorneys like Stopa Law Firm making it difficult for banks to foreclose through the court process. In other words, take a second look at my website, written in early 2008, including this sentence:

If your bank cannot win its foreclosure lawsuit against you quickly (because you are fighting for yourself and defending your rights), it may be willing to negotiate with you in ways that it otherwise wouldn’t…

I foresaw resolutions like this years ago. It only makes sense. If foreclosure defense attorneys are continuing to make it difficult for banks to win in court, and the court systems are so clogged that cases are moving slowly, it makes perfect sense for banks to try to find a way to avoid the court process and resolve these disputes in other ways. Giving homeowners facing foreclosure cash payments in exchange for them consenting to a short sale is an obvious solution for the banks. It’s a “win” for both sides – the bank gets the property sold and the homeowner gets money to move elsewhere.

As the article suggests, I’m sure this solution won’t work for all homeowners. For instance, the article notes that BOA isn’t intending to waive a deficiency judgment in all cases. That’s ridiculous – it doesn’t help to put a few grand in your pocket if the bank can get a judgment against you far in excess of that amount. This why we all need to keep fighting. The more difficult we make it for the banks to foreclose, the more inclined they’ll be to give homeowners a fair resolution. And make no mistake, that’s what’s happening here – the banks don’t care about being fair to homeowners; they care only about avoiding the time and expense associated with foreclosure lawsuits.

Here’s the article. …

Bank of America is offering up to $20,000 to select Florida homeowners willing to agree to a short sale instead of entering foreclosure.

To sweeten the deal further, the nation’s largest lender will consider waiving the deficiency on the loan, which allows homeowners to sell the house for less then they owe without having to make up the difference to the bank. It can save homeowners thousands of dollars.

Not every Bank of America customer in Florida will be eligible for the program, which pays a minimum cash incentive of $5,000. It’s targeted toward home­owners who cannot afford their mortgages.

To quality, the short sales must be submitted for bank approval by Nov. 30 and must close by Aug. 31. Sales already under contract are not eligible; neither are properties outside of Florida.

This is a “test-and-learn” program being rolled out only in Florida because of the higher foreclosure rates than other parts of the country, said Christina Beyer Toth, a Tampa-based spokeswoman.

Florida is seen as a viable market to gauge short-sale response when presenting home­owners with relocation assistance, she said. If successful, the plan could expand to other states.

The bank notified select Florida real estate agents this week about the offer.

“It will get a lot of people off the fence about wanting to sell their home,” said Steve Capen of Keller Williams Realty in St. Petersburg. “This makes sense.”

What’s in it for Bank of America? It saves attorney fees, court costs and property taxes by avoiding foreclosure. It also speeds the process of getting bad loans off its books and gets the properties back on the market faster.

Capen, who specializes in short sales, plans to heavily market the offer to clients. But he cautioned that homeowners shouldn’t get overly excited because many of these plans have restrictions.

“It will only help a fraction of the people,” he said.

Homeowners get the cash after the short-sale deal closes. A caveat: Homeowners might have to pay income taxes related to the deficiency waiver and the cash payout.

The cash payouts give home­owners a reason not to trash their homes or strip them bare before moving out. When houses enter foreclosure, home­owners can essentially live for free until banks take possession at the end of the court process, which takes an average of nearly two years in Florida.

Attorney Chris Boss of Yesner & Boss said the deficiency waiver will enable homeowners to buy a house without filing bankruptcy or waiting three years from when foreclosures become final.

“It’s a chance to get away from the house with some money in your pocket,” Boss said. “This is good for the economy.”

Other national lenders started similar programs.

Late last year, JPMorgan Chase began giving homeowners $10,000 to $20,000 and waived losses on the mortgage. The bank still suffers a loss in the process, but generally speaking, sale prices on short-sale homes are higher than foreclosed homes.

Real estate experts and economists have said the housing market cannot fully recover until the millions of distressed mortgages are removed from the system.

Mark Stopa

http://www.stayinmyhome.comThis entry was posted in Main. Bookmark the permalink.

Modification: Banks (US Bank and Wells’ ASC) Meet Their Match in Tennesee Judge Jeffrey Atherton

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This might well be the smoking gun that proves, with the actions of the banks and servicers, that they have no actual interest in the debt when they foreclose and that they are acting against the interest of both the creditor and the debtor by intermediating themselves into a process in which they should be considered a disinterested party who is not a stakeholder. Judges and policy makers are looking at the numbers. In virtually every other kind of litigation, the matter is settled during litigation”

It has been obvious that the banks and servicers have been using the obligation “to consider” as a license not to consider and therefore not approve a modification, short-sale or other mediation or settlement. They are, as their own employee reported being told by a superior, in the foreclosure business, not the modification business.

The reason they are in the foreclosure business is that in foreclosure they reap large rewards, whereas in modification, short-sale or other settlement or mediation, they receive only normal fees, which they deem to be far too small for the immense opportunity they see laid out before them.

The investors having abandoned the claim, the banks and servicers are having a feeding frenzy on the $7 trillion already lost in homeowner equity and the additional loss of another like amount. It is hard to resist, I know. But after all, if you are stealing, you should resist temptation. If you can’t do the time then don’t do the crime.

Judge Barnes here fences very well with the banks. They sought to dismiss a claim from a borrower that they had failed to consider the modification. They probably did what many borrowers are now doing — performing calculations that show clearly the benefit to the creditor in accepting the modification proposal as being far more valuable to the creditor over waiting for the proceeds of foreclosure.

The borrower filed a claim alleging negligence in that the proposal for HAMP modification was never considered and that therefore the bank and servicer had failed to meet the standard of care required in implementing HAMP, a Federal program in which banks received the consideration of money from TARP in exchange for their promise to consider modifications of loans.

It was of course assumed that once forced to the bargaining table the banks and servicers would immediately set out to bargain for something that had a value in excess of foreclosure, right? But that is not what happened and Judges all over the country are starting to take notice of this, as borrowers bring more and more proof into court that clearly shows a large difference in the the lower value of foreclosure compared tot he much higher value of modification, short-sale, settlement etc.

This might well be the smoking gun that proves, with the actions of the banks and servicers, that they have no actual interest in the debt when they foreclose and that they are acting against the interest of both the creditor and the debtor by intermediating themselves into a process in which they should be considered a disinterested party who is not a stakeholder. Judges and policy makers are looking at the numbers. In virtually every other kind of litigation, the matter is settled during litigation and the case does not go to court for trial. Here there have been no trials because the banks, up till now, had convinced judges that the issue was simple: the borrower didn’t pay. Summary Judgment was usually granted. When it wasn’t granted, the bank or servicer quickly reversed its position and settled on very favorable, but confidential terms, with the borrower.

I have personally heard several Judges express comments about the “haphazardness” of the granting of modifications and expressing their doubt as to what went into the process of “considering” a loan for modification. Those of us on the front line know this: the banks and servicers don’t consider loans for modifications, they only pretend to do so, just like the original loan was a pretender sitting at the closing table not actually making the loan, the actual creditor is not in court  making claims against the homeowner, and banks and servicers are dubbed pretender lenders or non-creditors because that is what they are. The whole thing is made of of sham parties and representations or fabricated documents establishing an elaborate ruse.

In denying the motion to dismiss Judge Barnes essentially said that in a court of equity, the Judge is required to fashion a remedy if the pecuniary gain of one side is procured with unclean hands. He parses words as well as they do — saying that the borrower might not have an actual private cause of action under HAMP, but that given the duties imposed on banks and servicers by HAMP, they could be negligent in their processing of applications for modifications — especially if it turns out that they are not considering them at all and just moving papers around to create a show for the Court.

TITLE ISSUES ERUPT BETWEEN THE GIANTS OF THE INDUSTRY

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EDITOR’S NOTE: As we turn the corner and enter a new inning in the “game” of securitization, the real issues are starting to erupt as the players get nasty with each other and not just with homeowners. As pointed out to me recently by a pro se litigant with experience in the real estate industry (Dan Earl), nobody can actually issue a warranty deed without incurring substantial exposure to liability and litigation. And anyone who who accepts such a deed does so at their peril — IF there was a loan anywhere in the chain of title that was or is subject to claims of securitization or sale into the secondary market.

In recognition of this monumental problem, Freddie Mac is experimenting with throwing the burden onto title agents, closing agents and even real estate brokers demanding that they execute affidavits attesting to facts that they probably don’t know anything about. The result is an uproar. Without the affidavit, the transaction doesn’t close. That means fees are not earned by these agents.  So Freddie is essentially blackmailing these people into covering tracks and continuing the policy of plausible deniability.

This ploy can’t work. Those who insure the agents won’t cover liability on the affidavits. In fact, the title policies already issued are not going to be honored if the question of title comes up and it relates to securitization of any loan in the chain of title. The title companies are going to claim that the lien was not perfected, the title representations were untrue and that they did not assume risks that were undisclosed — i.e., the same argument that is being made for homeowners as to whether the mortgage has been perfected as a lien.

Eventually, there does not seem to be any way out of this mess except the path of honesty and application of existing law. The result will force a recalibration of the value of the mortgages, the mortgage bonds and the interests of all concerned. But that is exactly what is required to stop the housing industry from continuing its free fall, dragging the rest of the economy down with it. The simple fact is that the essential details of the closing were not disclosed to the borrower or the title carrier. In fact, they were misrepresented. Whether you call it fraud or negligence, the result is that title is corrupted and needs to be corrected.

The question remains: who do you want to save — the country or the banks?

Agents hold on to your wallets as this could cost you big time!  This is just too big and important to let one blog article suffice.  And developments on this are occurring quickly.  The problem was pointed out in my re-blog Freddie Mac Short Sale Addendum – Item #13 – I DON’T THINK SO!!  on September 9, 2011.

On September 3rd there had been a telephone conference call between ALTA (American Land Title Association) staff in Washington, DC and Freddie Mac’s Short Sale team to specifically discuss the addendum reproduced in Freddie Mac Short Sale Addendum – Item #13 – I DON’T THINK SO!! .  No resolution was then reached and as of today, none has been presented.

According to the below emailed alert to certain ALTA members (including our title underwriter), the problem with the document goes much further than even reported in my earlier blog article.  ALTA points out that (1) the document requires closing and escrow agents to certify information that is not available to them; (2) the document places a negligent misrepresentation standard on the escrow / closing agent that requires the escrow / closing agent to use reasonable efforts to determine if the transaction is arm’s length – without setting forth what those reasonable efforts would or could be; and (3) the document requires that the document be signed by the escrow / closing agent individually, without corporate protection, meaning that if there is a loss because of fraud or misrepresentation by any party to the transaction, the agent could be fully and personally liable. SINCE REAL ESTATE AGENTS ALSO SIGN THIS DOCUMENT, THE SAME LIABILITY AND RISK AFFECTS THEM AS WELL.

I am checking with my E&O carrier to see if they will cover such a claim.  If they don’t, then I cannot risk my own capital and family wealth for the meager fees of a short sale closing, and I suspect anyone who actually realizes what this document does, also will not close such a sale.

For any of you that think this is negotiable, here is a response I got today when I told a Bank of America negotiator on a Freddie Mac loan that I can’t sign if the E&O won’t cover the claim. “Thank you for letting me know.  Without the document we cannot proceed with the short sale and must decline the file.  How long do you think it will take for your E & O carrier to make a decision as to allow you to sign the document?  I cannot have any outstanding files, so should I decline the file at this time or do you think this is something that can be checked on quickly?

Fraud is a big problem with some markets of distressed property and I have written about it in several articles – often times with flipsters phoo phooing the concept as being fraud: SHORT SALE FLIP – QUESTIONABLE METHODSShort Sales and Title Insurance – Critical Look at Hybrid Closing SchemesIS SHORT SALE FLIPPING CRIMINAL ACTIVITY?.

ALTA is looking for examples where the Addendum is causing hardship to borrowers and consumers.  If you have any please send the information to Steve Gottheim, Legislative and Regulatory Counsel to ALTA at steve@alta.org.

Here is the information transmitted by ALTA:

ALTA Meets With Freddie Mac Short Sale Team About Troublesome Addendums
On Friday, ALTA staff held a conference call with members of Freddie Mac’s Short Sale team about the industry’s concerns over new short sale addendums. These addendums are intended to help prevent short sale fraud (which is on the rise) by requiring all of the parties involved in the transaction to sign an affidavit attesting that it is a true arms-length transaction.

The addendums present three concerns for the industry. First, the affidavit requires a closing or escrow agent to certify information that is not available to them, in particular whether the transaction is arms length. The relationship between the buyer and seller may not be evident from the public record information or their identification documents. Second, the affidavit places a negligent misrepresentation standard on the escrow agent. Unlike a “to the best of my knowledge standard” a negligence standard requires the escrow agent to use the reasonable efforts of an ordinary person to determine whether the transaction is arms length. Instead of laying out clearly what the escrow agent must do to release themselves from liability, the escrow agent is at risk of liability if fraud is discovered after signing the affidavit. Lastly, the affidavit requires the escrow agent to sign the transaction in a personal capacity as well as in a corporate capacity. Thus if fraud is discovered, then Freddie or the servicer can go after the escrow agent’s personal property and monies in addition to going after the corporation.

Before signing any of these addendums, ALTA suggests escrow agents reach out to their attorneys to discuss the legal risks and whether the agent has the authority to sign the document. It might also be good practice to review your companies E & O insurance policy to determine whether these addendums are within the scope of that policy.

While the short sale team expressed sympathy for the title industry’s concerns and were open to discussing potential solutions, Freddie’s general counsel is not keen on removing the requirement all together unless the problem becomes a bigger issue. Over the next few weeks, ALTA staff will be working with interested parties to develop potential solutions. If you would like to learn more or have any comments please contact ALTA’s Legislative and Regulatory Counsel Steve Gottheim at steve@alta.org

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Copyright 2011 Richard P. Zaretsky, Esq.

Be sure to contact your own attorney for your state laws, and always consult your own attorney on any legal decision you need to make.  This article is for information purposes and is not specific advice to any one reader.

Richard Zaretsky, Esq., RICHARD P. ZARETSKY P.A. ATTORNEYS AT LAW, 1655 PALM BEACH LAKES BLVD, SUITE 900, WEST PALM BEACH, FLORIDA 33401, PHONE 561 689 6660   RPZ99@Florida-Counsel.comFLORIDA BAR BOARD CERTIFIED IN REAL ESTATE LAW – We assist Brokers and Sellers with Short Sales and Modifications and Consult with Brokers and Sellers Nationwide!  Shortsales@Florida-Counsel.com  New Website www.Florida-Counsel.com

See our easy to understand articles at:

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HOMES BEING SOLD TWICE BY BANKS

COMBO Title and Securitization Search, Report, Documents, Analysis & Commentary COMBO Title and Securitization Search, Report, Documents, Analysis & Commentary

EDITOR’S NOTE: This is exactly the result you can expect when you allow anyone to play the part of the creditor and submit a “credit bid” (no money at auction) or selling the house on a short-sale, pretending that they can execute a satisfaction of mortgage when they can’t. And this is exactly the problem that is going to get increasingly complex as the title records are revealed to have just as many problem — in fact exactly as many problems as the foreclosure and mortgage problems in so-called securitized loans that were never actually documented and securitized.

Contrary to what you will hear elsewhere, this is neither an isolated instance nor a situation that can distinguished from ALL the other foreclosures, sales, auctions, etc. stemming from the table-funded loans violating TILA, violating RESPA, violating the securities laws, based upon appraisal fraud, and using dummy entities as “bankruptcy remote” vehicles to ACT as creditors.

If your loan was the subject of a securitization attempt, whether successful or not, it is my de finite opinion to all lawyers that you look at the issue of clouded title, defective title and unmarketable title. I don’t think there is a title company in existence, unless it is owned or controlled by the pretender lenders, that will issue a title policy on any of the tens of millions of properties that were subject to so-called loan or possibly security transactions. You can check it out for yourself.

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Stern’s foreclosure mistake leads two to buy same house

Paperwork error complicates home sale, raises questions about process

By Diane C. Lade and Doreen Hemlock, Sun Sentinel5:00 p.m. EST, December 4, 2010

    fl-home-sold-twice-1204-20101203

Real estate investor Marjorie Oster was pleased when she snagged what looked like a good deal through a Miami-Dade County foreclosure court auction: a four-bedroom house in Cutler Bay, with a swimming pool, for about $95,000.

But when her husband drove by the next day to check on the property, he saw “someone cleaning the pool, a lawn service cutting the grass and a note it was being tented for termites,” said Oster, a Miami resident who has been in real estate for 15 years.

It turns out the house she thought she had purchased had been sold in a short sale the week before to someone else — Osberto Jimenez, a 40-year-old Cuban-born truck driver. The law firm handling the foreclosure for the lender mishandled the paperwork and never canceled the auction sale.

“So we both own the same house and I’m frustrated as hell,” said Oster. “Someone screwed up.”

New attorneys representing CitiMortgage say that “someone” was David Stern’s beleagured law office, which originally represented the lender. Citi ultimately pulled the case from Stern’s offices and gave it to Shapiro and Fishman, another large South Florida foreclosure firm that represents banks and loan servicers.

Both law offices, along with two others, are under investigation by the Florida Attorney General. They’re accused of engaging in shoddy pratices, including fabricating documents. Shapiro and Fishman has defended its practices and said it did nothing wrong. Jeffrey Tew, the attorney representing Stern, declined to comment.

Stern, who at one point claimed he processed 20 percent of the state’s foreclosures through a staff of more than 1,000, has been forced to lay off the vast majority of his employees as his biggest clients continue to abandon him. Citi spokesman Mark Rodgers declined to comment specifically on the Cutler Bay double sale, but said the company stopped referring new foreclosures to Stern in September and now has removed all of its business from the firm.

Federal lawmakers, listening to testimony at a Senate Banking Committee hearing this week, said ongoing and widespread problems with loan servicing and foreclosures indicated a “significant weakness” in the entire system. Attorneys general in 50 states continue to investigate reports of servicers and foreclosure firms like Stern’s “robo-signing” hundreds of thousands of affidavits without reviewing them.

“We are seeing more instances of mistakes being made,” said Darryl Wilson, a professor and real estate expert at Stetson University‘s College of Law. “That’s why you keep seeing moratoriums [on foreclosures] coming up.”

At Wednesday’s Senate hearings, some federal regulators urged mortgage guarantors Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to suspend foreclosure proceedings while homeowners looked for new mortgages or tried to work out loan modifications.

In the situation with the Cutler Bay house, attorney Leora B. Freire, with Shapiro and Fishman, said Stern’s office didn’t notify the courts to take the house out of the foreclosure auction after the short sale had been processed.

Oster and Citi reached an agreement Wednesday, Freire said, vacating Oster’s sale, which allows Jimenez to keep the house. Oster said she would be refunded her money, paid some interest, and have her legal fees covered.

Documents show Oster bought the property for cash on Oct. 6 and received a certificate of title. Seven days earlier, Jimenez executed a warranty deed and took out a $123,000 mortgage in a short sale approved by CitiMortgage and the previous owners.

The tsumani of negative news about Stern’s operation had Oster fearing she never would see her money again. She said she contacted the office numerous times for more than a month, but attorneys either would never return her calls or couldn’t tell her what had happened to her payment.

“I just wanted out because it was David Stern’s firm,” she said.

Mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, who comprised the majority of Stern’s referrals, pulled all of their cases from the firm over the past two months. Shapiro and Fishman, however, remain on Fannie’s referral list.

Darryl Wilson, a professor and real estate expert at Stetson University’s College of Law, said that while selling the same house twice was “quite strange,” it does happen – and increasingly more so lately, as lenders, attorneys and the courts scramble to push a huge number of foreclosures through the pipeline. “There needs to be a lot more diligence and patience in dealing with these cases,” he said.

While there is no specific statute addressing double sales, Wilson said basic common law suggests that the first person buying the property would have the first rights to it. But the outcome could vary according to the specifics in each case, Wilson said.

Jimenez, who came from Cuba five years ago, said he always assumed he would get to keep his home because he bought it first. He already has started renovating the kitchen, and has decorated the front yard with holiday lights.

“I knew things would get resolved. I did everything legal,” he said.

Diane Lade can be reached at dlade@SunSentinel.com or 954-356-4295.

Wrongful Foreclosure Hits Cash Short-Sale Buyers Too: What? Ask Bank of America!

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“Here is a simpler explanation: the financial services industry is throwing more paper at the system than it can handle. So they are getting away with “representations” rather than solid evidence and proof. If Judges would require at least a copy of the title report, this case would not have occurred — at least not in its current form. Of course THAT requirement would mean that they were looking at the facts, the chain of title and other things that borrowers and their attorneys have been screaming about for years. And the self-serving false affidavits would be tested by actual requirements of proof rather than the current presumptions that Judges are using to clear their calendars.”

EDITOR’S COMMENT: It’s really very simple. This case is not a “mistake”, it is a fatal flaw in the country’s judicial system and a fatal flaw in the country’s property title system. We can kick the can down the road or deal with it.

If this case does not prove to Fort Lauderdale lawyers that there is gold in these wrongful foreclosures (which is virtually every single foreclosure that has ever been started or concluded in the last 9 years) then shame on them for depriving their families of the  riches and luxuries that the owners of the foreclosure mills currently under criminal investigation have enjoyed from their yachts, jets and other perks. Let me put it this way, lawyers, would you rather make $10,000 from a PI case or $100,000 from each wrongful foreclosure case? Do I need to draw you a picture?

This man paid cash and bought the house on a short-sale. The satisfaction of mortgage was recorded and ignored because it is less expensive to use a credit report than to pull down the traditional title report before foreclosure. The satisfaction was a nullity anyway since the party who signed it had no authority to do so and the company for whom the satisfaction of mortgage was signed was not the mortgagee. But the deed was valid transferring title to the new owner. THIS IS WHY YOU NEED the COMBO TITLE AND SECURITIZATION ANALYSIS 6 MONTH SUBSCRIPTION INCLUDES MEMBERSHIP.

So BOA through its brand new BAC (after acquiring Countrywide) forecloses on the house as though the OLD OWNER still owned it and as if the mortgage was a valid encumbrance, and as if the note was evidence of an obligation that was outstanding. They even submitted the same tired false affidavits that caused GMAC to suspend foreclosures.

It is obvious but needs to be stated that ANYONE in the law firm and any person who signed papers in connection with the mortgage that was foreclosed had no personal knowledge of anything because if they did they would have known that the house was sold for cash and that there was no mortgage, even on paper. It is even more obvious that nobody is actually doing their job — not the servicers, not the foreclosure mills, not even the Judges. If they did, there wouldn’t be any foreclosures. But then the billions being made on the new “industry” of foreclosures would stop and that would make some very wealthy people unhappy — especially if they now have to give that back as damages for wrongful foreclosure.

Here is the rub. The old owner does not own it anymore because the old owner signed a deed. But the original mortgage of record is clouded because it is still there and nobody with authority has signed anything to remove it. So now the new owner, who paid cash, must file a quiet title action and maybe a slander of title action, wrongful foreclosure action etc for damages, all because in the magic world of “securitization” the paper doesn’t move, the loan is not securitized, the pool doesn’t own it, the loan was table funded, and there was no valid encumbrance, even though the mortgage was recorded.

Here is a simpler explanation: the financial services industry is throwing more paper at the system than it can handle. So they are getting away with “representations” rather than solid evidence and proof. If Judges would require at least a copy of the title report, this case would not have occurred — at least not in its current form. Of course THAT requirement would mean that they were looking at the facts, the chain of title and other things that borrowers and their attorneys have been screaming about for years. And the self-serving false affidavits would be tested by actual requirements of proof rather than the current presumptions that Judges are using to clear their calendars.

see Man Pays Cash, BOA forecloses and Sells the Property

Foreclosure Wave Hits Cash Buyers, Too

with 29 comments

By James Kwak

Since most of you probably read Calculated Risk, you’ve probably seen the Sun Sentinel story of the man in Florida who paid cash for a house–and still lost it in a foreclosure. Not only that, but he bought the house in a short sale in December 2009, the foreclosure sale happened in July 2010, and only then did he learn about the foreclosure proceeding.

Even after that,

“Grodensky said he spent months trying to figure out what happened, but said his questions to Bank of America and to the law firm Florida Default Law Group that handled the foreclosure have not been answered. Florida Default Law Group could not be reached for comment, despite several attempts by phone and e-mail. . . .

“It wasn’t until last week, when Grodensky brought his problem to the attention of the Sun Sentinel, that it began to be resolved.”

Bank of America now says it will correct the error “at its own expense.” How gracious of them.

If the legal system simply allows Bank of America to correct errors, at cost and with ordinary damages, after they happen, this type of abuse will only get worse. There’s obviously no incentive for banks not to make mistakes, and as a result they will behave as aggressively as possible at every opportunity possible. Yes, this was probably incompetence, not malice, on the part of the bank. But if you don’t force companies to pay for the consequences of their incompetence, they will remain willfully incompetent, and the end result will be the same.

South Florida Sun-Sentinel.com

Lauderdale man’s home sold out from under him in foreclosure mistake

By Harriet Johnson Brackey, Sun Sentinel

2:15 PM EDT, September 23, 2010

When Jason Grodensky bought his modest Fort Lauderdale home in December, he paid cash. But seven months later, he was surprised to learn that Bank of America had foreclosed on the house, even though Grodensky did not have a mortgage.

Grodensky knew nothing about the foreclosure until July, when he learned that the title to his home had been transferred to a government-backed lender. “I feel like I’m hanging in the wind and I’m scared to death,” said Grodensky. “How did some attorney put through a foreclosure illegally?”

Bank of America has acknowledged the error and will correct it at its own expense, said spokeswoman Jumana Bauwens.

Grodensky’s story and other tales of foreclosure mistakes started popping up recently across South Florida. This week, GMAC Mortgage, one of the nation’s largest mortgage servicers and a major mortgage lender, told real estate agents to stop evicting residents and suspend sales of properties that had been taken from homeowners in foreclosure. The company said it might have to “correct” some of its foreclosures, but was not halting those in process.

In Florida courts, which have been swamped with foreclosure cases for several years, mistakes “happen all the time,” said foreclosure defense attorney Matt Weidner in St. Petersburg. “It’s just not getting reported.”

And the legal efforts required to resolve a foreclosure mistake are complicated. “Unwrapping it is like unwrapping Fort Knox,” said Carol Asbury, a Fort Lauderdale foreclosure attorney. “It’s very difficult.”

The process is under increasing scrutiny, as Florida’s court system struggles with the mountain of cases that have resulted from the housing crisis.

Grodensky said he spent months trying to figure out what happened but said his questions to Bank of America and to the law firm Florida Default Law Group that handled the foreclosure have not been answered. Florida Default Law Group could not be reached for comment, despite several attempts by phone and e-mail. Grodensky said he has filed a claim with his title insurance company, but that, too, has not resulted in any action.

It wasn’t until last week, when Grodensky brought his problem to the attention of the Sun Sentinel, that it began to be resolved.

“It looks like it was a mistake in communication between us and the attorneys handling the foreclosure,” said Bauwens.

Court records show Countrywide Home Loans filed a foreclosure case in Broward County civil court against the former owner of the home on Southwest 14th Street in 2008. Bank of America took over Countrywide at the end of that year.

The following year, Grodensky and his father Steven bought the house for cash as an investment property. Jason Grodensky’s brother Kenny Sloan lives in the house now. They negotiated a short sale, which means the lender agreed to accept less than the mortgage amount. Documents show the sale proceeds were wired to Bank of America. The sale was recorded in December 2009 at the Broward County Property Appraiser’s Office.

But in court, the foreclosure case continued, the records show. There was a motion to dismiss the case in July, followed the next day by a motion to re-open it. A court-ordered foreclosure sale took place July 15. The property appraiser’s office recorded the transfer of the title to Fannie Mae the same day.

Bauwens said the lender would go back to court to rescind the foreclosure sale.

Broward Chief Judge Victor Tobin, who set up the county court’s foreclosure system, said this is the first he’s heard of this type of mistake. “From the court’s point of view we have no way of knowing that someone sells a house unless they tell us,” said Tobin. “The bank would first have to tell the lawyers and the lawyers would presumably ask the court for an order dismissing the case.”

Tobin said the court system is under pressure to clear up its foreclosure backlog. This year, the state court system pumped $6 million into the effort, hiring more temporary judges and staffers.

Some say there’s too much effort aimed at simply disposing of the cases.

“The evidence doesn’t matter, the proof doesn’t matter, due process doesn’t matter,” said Asbury, the attorney. “The only thing that matters is that they get rid of these cases.”

Mindy Watson-Cintron of Century 21 Tenace Realty said she was unable to stop a foreclosure even though she had a willing buyer for a Coral Springs home last summer. Watson-Cintron had a letter from GMAC Mortgage, agreeing to sell the house in a short sale. The letter indicates the deal would be accepted through Aug. 20.

Watson-Cintron said she called, pleaded and even spent three hours one day in the lobby of the law offices of David Stern in Plantation trying to get someone to agree to put the foreclosure on hold. Stern’s office is one of the nation’s largest foreclosure firms and, Watson-Citron said, represented GMAC in the foreclosure case.

But the foreclosure continued. The lender took back the home and now has it listed for sale — at a lower price than Watson-Cintron’s buyer offered. “The bank’s not talking to the attorneys and the attorneys are not talking to the courts,” she said.

Stern could not be reached for comment despite several attempts by phone and e-mail to his office. A spokesman for GMAC Mortgage promised to look into the case.

Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum is investigating Stern’s firm, Florida Legal Default Group, based in Tampa, the Law Offices of Marshall C. Watson in Fort Lauderdale and Shapiro & Fishman, which has offices in Boca Raton. Officials have said the investigation centers on whether foreclosure documents submitted by these firms were false, misleading or inaccurate.

In announcing its decision this week to halt evictions and suspend sales in foreclosure cases, GMAC cited a deposition by Jeffrey Stephan in a Palm Beach foreclosure case in which Stephan said he did not verify all the documents and did not sign them all in the presence of a notary. Stephan said he signed as many as 10,000 documents a month.

Some foreclosure defense attorneys have questioned whether similar practices involve other lenders as they push huge numbers of foreclosures through the courts. In one South Florida foreclosure case, Chase Home Finance executive Beth Cottrell said in a deposition in May that her team of eight supervisors signs 18,000 documents a month. Chase’s spokesperson did not comment.

Harriet Johnson Brackey can be reached at hjbrackey@SunSentinel.com or 954-356-4614.

MEDIATIONS, MODIFICATIONS, SHORT-SALES AND SETTLEMENTS

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AUTHORITY AND AGENCY

In “Fair Game” Gretchen Morgenson continues to unravel the failing process of “saving homes” while the world ignores the simple truth that legally the homes are in no jeopardy but for the pranks and illusions created by the pretender lenders.

  • There is no valid foreclosure, auction, mediation, modification, short-sale, satisfaction of mortgage, release and re-conveyance, or even settlement with a party to whom the money is not owed and a party owning no rights under the security instrument (the mortgage or deed of trust).

It is all an illusion given reality by repetition not by truth. It is fraud ignored by courts who naturally find it far more likely that a deadbeat homeowner is trying to trick the court than a world class bank or someone pretending to be an agent of a world class bank. But in the end, whether title moves by foreclosure or any of the procedures mentioned above, there is no clear title. There is clouded, fatally defective title and a settlement with a party lacking any power to even be in the room.

This is why I have maintained that lawyers err when they do not aggressively (on the front end despite the rules requiring mediation etc.) insist on proof of authority to represent and proof of agency and proof that a decision-maker is in the room. If those elements are not satisfied, there can be deal — only the appearance of a deal.It is entirely possible that not even the lawyer has authority to represent and that the lawyer has conflicts of interest when you make the challenge. If a lawyer asserts he represents a party you have a right to demand proof of that. I’ve seen dozens of cases unravel at just that point.

The foreclosure mills play musical chairs but they are forgetting that this fraud on the court may come back and haunt them with liability, discipline and even criminal charges. They keep their options open until they absolutely are forced to name a pretender lender. That lawyer standing in the room has generally spoken to nobody other than a secretary in his own firm. he doesn’t know the client, or any representative of the client. He or she presumed to be authorized to represent the client because the file was given to him or her.

Think I am kidding. Try it out on Deutsch Bank or U.S. Bank or BONY-Mellon. Demand that the lawyer produce incontrovertible proof that their client knows the case even exists and that this lawyer represents them.

From what I am seeing, this interrupts the flow of plausible deniability. Nobody high up in the food chain wants to come in and say they have personal knowledge or that they have anything to do with these foreclosures. They just want their monthly fee for pretending to be Trustee over a pool that was never created, much less funded. They will try to use affidavits from people who know nothing and who are probably not even employed by the “client.” Even if they are employed a quick inquiry will reveal that the signatory lacks authority to hire legal counsel and has no personal knowledge of the case.

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September 18, 2010

When Mortgage Mediation Is a Gamble

By GRETCHEN MORGENSON

NEVADA — one of the states where home prices went stratospheric during the housing mania — is now reporting some of the nation’s most horrifying foreclosure figures. Last week, RealtyTrac said that 1 in every 84 households in the state had received a foreclosure notice in August, 4.5 times the national average.

To mitigate this continuing disaster, the Nevada Assembly created a foreclosure mediation program last year. Intended to help keep families in their homes, the program brings together troubled borrowers and their lenders to negotiate resolutions.

The program began on July 1, 2009, and in its first year, 8,738 requests for mediation were received and 4,212 completed, according to the state’s Administrative Office of the Courts. Some 668 borrowers gave up their homes and 445 were foreclosed upon in the period.

“We are the only state that requires the bank to do something — they must come to the table if the homeowner elects mediation,” said Verise V. Campbell, who administers the program. “We are now touted as the No. 1 foreclosure mediation program around the country. The program is working.”

During its first year, 2,590 cases — more than 60 percent of completed mediations — resulted in agreements between borrower and lender, Ms. Campbell said. But when asked how many actually wound up assisting homeowners through permanent loan modifications, she said her office did not track that figure.

Most of these agreements, say lawyers who have worked in Nevada’s program, were probably for temporary modifications like those that have frustrated borrowers elsewhere — you know, the kind of plan that lasts only three months until the bank decides that the borrower does not qualify for a permanent modification.

Clearly, the Nevada program is superior to the White House’s Home Affordable Modification Program, where borrowers have trouble even reaching lenders by phone. Forcing banks to meet with borrowers is definitely a good step.

But some mediators who have participated in the Nevada program and some lawyers who represent borrowers in it say it has flaws that may give the banks an advantage over borrowers.

Patrick James Martin, a lawyer in Reno who is a certified public accountant and an arbitrator for the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, was an early mediator in the program. In a recent letter to Nevada’s state court administrator, Mr. Martin expressed concern that the program favored lenders.

“I really felt the lenders didn’t have too much interest in having the program work,” Mr. Martin said in an interview. “A lawyer would show up for the lender with none of the documents required by the program. When they got into the mediation, they would call somebody in a bullpen someplace who had a computer handy and the borrower might or might not qualify for modification. No discussion, no negotiation.”

Mr. Martin said he no longer received cases to mediate.

Another experienced mediator, who declined to be identified because he feared reprisals, was removed from the system after he recommended sanctions for banks that did not meet their obligations under the program. These duties include showing up, bringing pertinent documents and having authority to negotiate with the borrower.

After this mediator made a petition for sanctions in a case this year, Ms. Campbell sent him and the other parties in the matter a letter saying that the recommendation was not a “valid Foreclosure Mediation Program document.” The letter, on Supreme Court of Nevada stationery, also stated that nothing in the law that established the mediation program “requires or permits a mediator to recommend specific sanctions.”

But the statute governing mediations in Nevada clearly specifies that if a lender does not participate in the mediation in good faith, by failing to appear, for example, “the mediator shall prepare and submit to the mediation administrator a petition and recommendation concerning the imposition of sanctions” against the lender. The court then has the power to issue sanctions, which can include forcing a loan modification.

Keith Tierney is a veteran real estate lawyer who was until recently a mediator in the program. He, too, stopped receiving mediation assignments after recommending sanctions against lenders in a number of cases. He said that a program official told him last week that he was no longer eligible because he issued a petition and recommendation for sanctions, even though that is what the law allows.

When asked why she believed that such recommendations were not allowed, Ms. Campbell said mediators who issued them were not following the program rules as interpreted by Nevada’s Supreme Court.

But Mr. Tierney said: “The statute trumps rules. Every attorney in the world knows that if a rule is in contradiction to a statute, the rule is null and void.”

Administering the program gives Ms. Campbell great power. She issues certificates allowing foreclosures to take place after mediations occur. And while she said such certificates were submitted only when mediators’ statements showed they should be, mistakes have happened.

ONE woman went through a mediation in which the lender didn’t provide necessary documents and the mediator noted it, according to legal documents. Under the rules, no certificate is supposed to be issued in such a circumstance, but shortly afterward, the borrower received notice of a trustee sale. Ms. Campbell’s office had issued a certificate allowing foreclosure; only by filing for bankruptcy could the borrower stop it.

Ms. Campbell said such problems were rare. The state doesn’t produce data that would allow her assertion to be verified.

Ms. Campbell is not a lawyer and is not a veteran of the housing or banking industries. Before overseeing the mediation program, she worked in the casino industry. She worked for a Chinese company developing a gambling property in Macau and was director of administration for the Cosmopolitan Resort and Casino in Las Vegas.

Ms. Campbell said that her position involved administrative duties, not legal insight, and that her experience overseeing large projects amply prepared her to manage the Nevada mediation program.

But David M. Crosby, the lawyer who represented the borrower whose case resulted in an erroneous foreclosure action, said significant questions remained about the program. Among them, he said, was the role that Ms. Campbell played in the process.

“Does she just do administrative stuff or does she make decisions?” he asked. “That doesn’t seem well decided.”


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