You might not know VendorScape but it sure knows you

In a somewhat startling admission by CoreLogic, we now have an admission of many facts that might not have otherwise surfaced but for intensive and aggressive, persistent Discovery. I am not publishing the entire letter from them for privacy reasons. But it is worth mentioning that the letter was sent, after careful legal analysis, as a response to a complaint to the Federal Consumer Financial Protection Board — organized by Elizabeth Warren under the Obama administration. The response was (a) mandatory and (b) subject to charges of lying to a Federal agency.

The problem faced by CoreLogic was that on the one hand it IS and was the central repository of all data and electronic records for most residential loans in the United States. The main IT platform running several systems is called VendorScape which is owned, maintained and operated by CoreLogic pursuant to instructions from Black Knight (and perhaps others) who are serving the interests of investment banks who have no legally recognized interest in any of the alleged “loan accounts”.

But they don’t want the government or the public to know any of that because they are designating nominees to serve or pose as “servicers” who can be thrown under the bus at any that that foul play is actually addressed instead of settled (see 50 state settlement).

So here is what they said

Interesting.

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And here is how it breaks down (legal analysis):
  1. VendorScape exists although they deny it is currently accessed through CoreLogic
  2. VendorScape is an “electronic case management system.” Taken in context with customs and practices in the industry in addition to simple logic, it is THE case management system and it is electronic which means that anyone with login credentials can get into it.
  3. VendorScape output consists of the following:
    1. centralized electronic workplace
    2. storage of “documents” — i.e., images not the original documents because they are not a records custodian for anyone. As the centralized place for “storage” it is VendorScape that is the source server from which all records are produced in printed reports that are merely generated from what is in VendorScape regardless of who added or deleted or changed anything.
    3. initiate workflows “defined by our clients”. This is odd wording.
      1. They appear to be saying that clients access the system and are simply using it as an IT platform to conduct business of the client.
      2. But VendorScape initiates workflows, which means that they have admitted that whoever is actually running VendorScape is making the decisions on when and how to initiate any action.
      3. Since the entire purpose of this system is preparation for foreclosure, the only logical conclusion is that it is a system to initiate foreclosures, notices of default, notice of delinquency etc. based upon human decision-making or automated decision making initiated by humans that control VendorScape.
      4. They will of course say otherwise and that seems to be what they are trying to say — that the client determines the definitions and circumstances of workflows.
      5. But dig a little deeper and you will find that the “client” has no right to make such decisions and that the decision is labelled as the decision of a client (e.g. Ocwen) by permission from Ocwen, who is not actually allowed to make such decisions and does not make such decisions. 
      6. So the reference to the  Client making such decisions is circular allowing anyone to say that it was CoreLogic or  VendorScape who made the decision (thus avoiding liability for Ocwen et al) OR to say that it was Ocwen, as they do in this letter.
  4. They admit that CoreLogic is the party who owns and maintains the storage and functions of the VendorScape system while at the same time implying that they have no connection with VendorScape.
  5. They assert that the data is owned by the clients. This is a common trick.
    1. The data is not owned by the clients because it doesn’t consist of any entries or proprietary information placed in the system by the client.
    2. The information or data is placed there mostly through automated systems controlled by Black Knight but operated by CoreLogic.
    3. Nominal “Servicers” (Ocwen e.g.), who are the “clients” actually have no way of knowing anything about a homeowner account until after it is placed in the system by third parties.
    4. This is why servicer records should not be admitted into evidence as exceptions (business records) to the hearsay rule.
    5. The deadly mistake by many lawyers in court is the failure to timely object to lack of foundation, best evidence and hearsay.
      1. A timely objection is one that is raised at the same time the admission of evidence is being considered by the court.
      2. Waiting until the end of questioning is spitting in the wind. It is already in evidence by that point.
      3. And the second mistake is that after the objection is sustained, the failure to move the court to strike the offending testimony and exhibits. That failure is equivalent to a waiver of the objection, thus leaving the offending testimony or exhibits in evidence.
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Neil F Garfield, MBA, JD, 73, is a Florida licensed trial attorney since 1977. He has received multiple academic and achievement awards in business and law. He is a former investment banker, securities broker, securities analyst, and financial analyst.
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A Document labeled “Assignment of Mortgage” Does Not Prove the Sale of the “Loan”

Too many lawyers and pro se litigants look at the title to a document and don’t know what else to do with it. They accept as true that a document is what is stated. That is one of the many trapdoors the banks have laid for us.

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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 “title” to a document is a statement of fact that may or may not be true. The title used is for the convenience of the party who drafted it. In our analysis we do not assume or accept that any  document is what is stated as the title or anywhere else in the document.
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The fact that a document is entitled “Assignment of Mortgage” does not mean that in reality there is either a valid mortgage or that a valid debt, note or mortgage was sold in any transaction.
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Nor does the existence of the document mean that the signatures are authentic and authorized or even that the named entities or signatories actually exist as legal “‘persons.'”
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The admission of such a document into evidence normally proves only that the document exists. While the existence of the document might raise assumptions or even legal presumptions, the document itself is not proof of any statements of fact or issues referred to in the wording of the document.
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Such statements would normally be regarded or should be regarded as hearsay and excluded from evidence unless someone with personal knowledge, under oath, had personal knowledge for their five sense and recalled events that were tied to the execution of the document.
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Objections must be timely raised or the objection is waived. Hence, if opposing counsel refers to wording in the document, that wording is hearsay but must be barred by (a) an objection at the moment the wording is the subject of a question to a witness and (b) the court sustaining the objection in the absence of a proper foundation for the admission of what is or ought to be recognized as excluded hearsay evidence.

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Fla 4th DCA Provides Short Lesson on Business Records Exception to Hearsay Rule

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It is interesting that the ruling comes from a condo lien case rather than the hot topic of securitized mortgages. But the rules are the same and in this opinion the Court gives the reader a lesson on hearsay, objections, preservation of issues for appeal, and exceptions to hearsay. As a prelude, evidence is properly admitted into the record if it is unopposed. So you must object if you don’t want it in. If you don’t object, you are cooked.

When an objection is properly AND TIMELY raised it specifies what exactly you are challenging and why. Trustworthiness, Credibility and authenticity are at the heart of all evidence questions. The court will tend to allow the evidence if it determines that it has some “probative value” which is to say it might be concluded that a fact is true based on this evidence. But since courts are composed of human beings there are some boundaries to issues of hearsay and exceptions that have been set by both common law and statutes so that the litigator knows what he is entitled to expect from the court as to rulings on his own evidence or that of his opponent.

Business records are hearsay and therefore excluded from evidence if an objection is made. If an objection is made and properly framed, then the burden shifts to the other side (the proponent of the “information” being tendered as evidence) to explain why the records are not hearsay (that is impossible with business records) or why there is an applicable exception.

The guiding principle behind the rules are that evidence should be admitted if it is trustworthy. If the records come from an independent third party who could care less who wins the lawsuit, the chances are that the judge will be liberal in applying the rules. If the the records come from one of the parties in litigation then the possibility or probability of it being self serving and potentially prepared for litigation rise and the judge is supposed to apply the rules very strictly.

In this case the judge did what judges are doing across the country. The Judge erred. He applied a lenient standard to records that were clearly coming from a party with a stake in the outcome and which could have been fabricated for the purposes of litigation and which relied on the work of other parties without any knowledge of the timing of the entries that were made, the knowledge of the person making the entries, and the documents or events upon which the the outside person relied. Therefore it was unlikely that the business records could be admitted without a very tight foundation from a credible witness.

The Judge admitted the records after extremely dubious testimony and obvious evidence that there was a personal fight going on as well as a bribery or theft claim between a group of unit owners and the association’s board. The appellate court reversed. That means the unit owners win the case even though judgment was entered for the association against the unit owners by the trial court. By the way, the defense, as I have suggested in foreclosure defense cases, was payment.

 

The unit owners had made a large prepayment that had not been carried forward. The receipt was acknowledged but somehow, like the foreclosure cases go, the judge felt it was OK to foreclose the association’s lien even though there was unrefuted evidence that the association had indeed received a huge amount of money for no other purpose than to offset the amount of monthly dues and special assessments.

Note on page 4 the Court says “Because the condo owners’ attorney did not object to the ledgers on the ground that they were untrustworthy, this issue is not preserved. The lack of foundation, however, was argued and preserved.” In my seminars and books I have always stressed that objections must be timely, precise and well-focused preferably with back up in case law. And I generally refer people to Trial Objections by Dombroff, a small book that is worth its weight in gold.

Note that in this condo case the association’s attorney was at least smart enough to put the records custodian on the witness stand. Getting business records into evidence without the records custodian ought to be very difficult. In the lone arena of foreclosure litigation, the courts have veered out of bounds because they think they know how the case should end.

“Magic words” do not suffice. The witness must know that the records are trustworthy and how and why they are trustworthy.

Now in foreclosure litigation it gets even crazier. The party on the stand has some title that more or less clearly shows that the title was invented to have him or her testify in court. Strike one. Like the case reported here, the party lacked personal knowledge that is a prerequisite for any witness to testify about anything — it is called competence of the witness. Strike two.

And after the witness has committed to saying she saw all of the records, ask her about he payments that went out, not the payments that were received. After all, she represents the servicer who collects and then forwards the money, right? Who did the servicer forward the money to? Where are the records of that? Has she seen them? Why not? So she has not seen all the records of the servicer, has she? And what did she do to corroborate that the creditors’ books show the same figures in the account receivable or if extraneous third party transactions have resulted in a reduction or increase of the account receivable as it relates to the subject loan? So she doesn’t know if the balance due on the servicer’s books is actually the same balance due shown on the creditor’s books?

That is the part the opposing side doesn’t want to see. By opening the door to payments out to the creditor, you are now tracing the money trail. By showing that there was deception on the part of the servicer, the records are untrustworthy.  Strike 3.

http://www.4dca.org/opinions/August%202013/08-28-13/4D12-3363.12-3364.op.pdf

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