You Can Use This As a Template for How I Would Respond in a Discovery Dispute — Especially with Wells Fargo, Fannie Mae and Wachovia as the Originator

In a dispute between the attorney for the homeowner and the attorney for the alleged “lender”, there are a number of devices that are nearly universally applied across the country in order to ridicule and defeat the homeowner. The more you are aware of them, the better you will be prepared to deal with them.

Opposing counsel is instructed to accomplish several things (winning being the last of the things on his or her menu). First, the idea is to undermine the confidence of the homeowner and to undermine the confidence of the lawyer for the homeowner in any defense to the foreclosure. They do this by several tricks.

The main one is offering cash for keys. This says “You know we will win and you don’t have a chance, so get out now and we will pay you a couple of thousand dollars.” By doing that, they give the impression that the case has been evaluated and that the offer is somewhere within the realm of reasonability given the probable outcome. It isn’t and all my cases start this way — especially the ones where the judgment was entered for the homeowner.

The next one is offering modification which is basically saying “OK, if you recognize this transaction as real, we will offer you different terms.” The initial offer of different terms is virtually no change at all in the original terms but it gives hope that there will be a breather between now and when they return to foreclosure mode. It is about as attractive to the homeowner as the cash-for keys deal.

If you stick to your guns the offers will improve; most homeowners end up not resisting an offer that they think gives them enough relief that it isn’t worth proving or revealing that there is absolutely no corroborating evidence in the form of testimony on person knowledge, documents or receipts that support the apparent facial validity fo the documents being used to fabricate a claim against the homeowner on a non-existent loan account receivable.

Just be aware that acceptance of any offer in most instances is doing business with a thief in exchange for returning stolen property. From the point of view of the thief, he or she worked hard for that property and is entitled to compensation for the work performed. Anything less than that is a loss and if given the chance they will even sue for it. None of that is law but anyone can use legal process, even to make false claims. Such claims are deemed true unless properly contested.

So in a situation where the case is almost over the lawyer representing the homeowner is still hammering away at enforcing discovery.

The opposing lawyer is characterizing the effort as a desperate attempt to escape a legitimate debt and a using the lawyer and the homeowner of vexatious litigation —- i.e., using legal process improperly to gain an undeserved legal advantage. in other words, the attorney for the financial industry is accusing the homeowner, who has virtually no resources, of doing exactly what the foreclosure lawyer has done is continuing to do because he or she has the full backing of companies with infinitely deep pockets.

Discovery has been served and the response was objection and motions for protection. The homeowner’s lawyer filed a motion to compel compliance with the rules of discovery. The foreclosure lawyer filed a response saying that the homeowner was trying to relitigate the case, in a desperate attempt to avoid the inevitable loss of possession of the property using vexatious litigation strategies.

Here are my notes, with some edits:

I see several issues with the response filed by opposing counsel.
  1. I doubt that counsel has any written or oral authority to represent Fannie Mae that was granted by Fannie Mae.
    1. Fannie Mae would not hire the law firm unless they were making the direct rerpesentation ot the lawyer that they were in fact the owner of the properrty which title had been legally acquired. Since Fannie knows taht its name is being used in vexastious litigation against homeowners that reuslt in forecloure sales wherein the money proceeds are never paid to Fannie {same as REMIC trustees}, it would not make such a declaration and it would therefore never directly hire the law firm.
    2. And if push came to shove, I am virtually certain that anything represented in court to have been on behalf of Fannie Mae would be subject to Fannie claims of plausible deniability.
    3. But it is extremely difficult to raise this issue and get any traction directly. If there is a mediation Conference you may have an opportunity to ask about authority and then file a motion for sanctions for failure to appear. But I don’t think that this is possible at this stage in litigation.
  2. There is a growing national use of the attempt to squelch challenges by accusing the homeowner of vexatious litigation. These are actually being taken seriously by judges who are anxious to move cases off their docket. You need to be very careful about this issue. There is a recent case where the vexatious litigation issue was defeated by the homeowner without the assistance of counsel in California. But there are plenty of cases out there and which judges referred to a vexatious litigant which in all cases means a homeowner or the lawyer for the homeowner. Vexatious is anotehr word for annoying, so you need to reframe that. This idea exists because  of the presumption that the conclusion is already known and is inevitable. That conclusion is based upon a faulty and erroneous understanding of financial innovation from Wall Street that occurred 25 years ago.
  3. The pleadings filed by opposing counsel follow the playbook for the nation. It contains a recitation of facts or implied facts that only exist because of legal presumption arising from the apparent facial validity of documents that are uncorroborated, together with the effect of the presumptive validity of court orders that have previously been entered.
    1. Although we should always be careful about picking our battles, we should never accept or even suggest that we are accepting or ignoring the recitation of facts that are untrue and unsubstantiated.
  4. The first thing you need to deal with is that you are entitled to discovery and the discovery is intended to reveal rather than obscure relevant issues. But it is opposing cousnel’s instruction to obscure and refuse to reveal anything. As usual they will accuse the hoemowner of doing exactly what they are doing.
    1. It might be worthwhile to articulate that the defense narrative is based upon in-depth investigation, research, and analysis from experts in the securitization of debt — And that they have expressed the definite opinion that nearly everything assumed by opposing counsel in his opposition to the motion to compel discovery is not only uncorroborated but also untrue.
  5. The entire case presented against the homeowner rests completely on uncorroborated presumptions regarding the existence and transfer of an alleged obligation owed by the homeowner to Wells Fargo bank and then Fannie Mae.
  6. While there is ample evidence of a merger between Wells Fargo Bank and Wachovia, the originator of the transaction with the homeowner, there is no evidence whatsoever that Wachovia ever transferred any interest and the transaction that had been conducted with the defendant homeowner.
  7. The fact that there has been a merger does not mean that we know the terms of the merger or that anything relating to the defendant homeowner was included in the terms of the merger.
  8. There is nothing corroborating the presumption that Wachovia was the owner of a loan account receivable on accounting ledgers owned and maintained by Wachovia at the time of the merger, much less that Wachovia intended a transfer of ownership of the loan account to Wells Fargo bank.
  9. Indeed, the experts report that it is a common practice of Wells Fargo bank to assert its ownership over the loan account at the beginning of a foreclosure action and then to admit later that it is only a servicer.
  10. But its role as a servicer is also uncorroborated and probably untrue. The fact that it produces reports does not mean the data or the report was generated as a result of receipts and disbursements by Wells Fargo bank to or from any debtor or creditor.
  11. And obviously if Wells Fargo employees did not actually receive and disburse money relating to a loan account receivalbe, they could not have recorded such receipts or disbursements with personal knowledge. These are the issues that are being explored by the demand for discovery.
  12. If the defendant homeowners defense narrative is correct, then the fact that she had lost in litigation, is merely an assertion of conclusions previously reached by a court that had been misled by counsel.
  13. Opposing counsel seeks to argue that the defendant homeowner is not entitled to any answers because of the production of documents. But those are the precise documents that defendants experts assert as memorializing nonexistent transactions. Defendant hoemowner is merely testing them through disvovery. If they are not true they should never have been presented and a fraud has been committed upon the court. The foreclosure porocess, sale and now demand for possession must be dimsissed and vacated as the may be.
    1. The unwillingness of opposing cousnel to provide a direct response to direct discovery demands is a tacit admission that counsel is unable or unwilling to provide corroboration that transctions supposedly emorialized on the documents presented to the court and relied upon by the court
  14. Opposing counsel keeps referring to a “mortgage loan” when he should be referring to mortgage documents. Defendant homeowner admits to executing mortgage documents, but now, based upon factual investigation and research, denies the existence of a loan account at any time material to these proceedings.
    1. Opposing counsel seems to be aware of the problem and is attempting to curate by constantly referring to “the mortgage loan” rather than “The mortgage documents.”
  15. Experts for the defendant homeowner have revealed that Wachovia was primarily engaged in the origination of transactions with homeowners and perspective on motors for the exclusive purpose of supplying data to investment banks for the sale of securities. In this process, the loan account was retired because it was paid off contemporaneously with the closing of the transaction with the defendant homeowner.
    1. If the loan account was not retired in a securitization process then defendant homeowner concedes that the foreclosure was properly executed. But if it was retired then the foreclosure was not properly executed.
    2. The supposed presence of Fannie Mae gives rise to the presumption that the transction is and was always subject to claims arising out the issuance of securities, d epsite the fact that such securiteis offered now ownership in any alleged liability, obligation or debt owned by the homeowner.
      1. There is no evidence that Fannie ever paid value in exchange for ownership of the underlying obligation as requried by statute as a condition precedent to enforcement. This is also required for jurisdicition (see below).
  16. The discovery demanded by the defendant homeowner seeks to clarify this issue. If in fact the alleged obligation was purchased and sold on the secondary market or otherwise subject to a transaction in which no loan account survived on an accounting ledger of any company, it follows that nobody suffered any financial loss arising from ownership of such an account, despite various attempts to collect money from the defendant homeowner.
  17. Such a true fact pattern defeats the constitutional requirement for case and controversy and the jurisdiction of any court to hear the case much less dedicate anything. It also follows that no party claiming to represent or implying representation of a creditor owning the nonexistent loan account, could have any authority to declare any default, nor any authority to claim the right to administer, collect or enforce any alleged obligation arising from the nonexistent loan account.
  18. Opposing counsel is correct when he refers to the desperation of defendant homeowner. She is anxious to retain possession and to regain title to a homestead that was putatively taken based upon false and misleading representations made to her and the court. Anyone faced with losing their homestead or their property and their lifestyle would be desperate to foil the attempt. It is up tot he court to rasie cofndience that if the attemopt succeeds it will be to pay a party who will receive the proceeds of forced sale and then apply those sums to reduce the loan account receivable. This is not the case at bar.
  19. Defendant homeowner merely seeks answers to the most relevant questions that could possibly exist in a foreclosure action. Was there an existing loan account receivable maintained on the ledger of Wells Fargo bank or Fannie Mae at the time that the default was declared and the action for Foreclosure was commenced? If the answer is no, then the court was misled and entered orders and judgments that are voidable or subject to being reconsidered and vacated. If the answer is yes, then the dispute is over.
  20. Opposing counsel is concealing his contempt for court process by clever wording accusing and characterizing the attempts by the defendant homeowner to reveal the ruth as repeated attempts by the defendant homeowner to relitigate the case based on the same facts. This is not true.
    1. Defendant homeowner wants to reveal that there were no corroborated facts presented in support of the claims against her and that in fact no such facts could have been presented because they did not exist.
    2. She seeks to determine the nature and status of the transaction that was originated in 2006, and the claims arising from implied transfers that were never documented but are presently argued before this court.
    3. Not even teh merger agreement has been proffered (much less ordered and accepted) into evidence nor any testimony or affidavit from any witness with personal knowledge that the alleged merger effectively and intentionally transferred the ownership of the subject alleged transaction balance (i.e., the loan account receivable) from Wachovia to Wells Fargo.
  21. Opposing counsel absolutely refuses to simply say or even argue that Wells Fargo was the creditor who owned the loan account receivable or that FNMA had any financial interest in the transaction as owner of the transaction conducted with the defendant homeowner in 2006.
  22. Dodging the question does not make the question wrong. Nor does it imply that that answer is obvious. Opposing counsel is arguing a narrative that has no corroboration in any evidence consisting of testimony from any competent witness with personal knowledge, or any document that can survive any scrutiny when tested for validity as to representations of a transaction such as purchase and sale of the alleged underlying obligation as required by Article 9 §203 of the Uniform Commercial Code adopted verbatim under state statutes.
  23. The alleged possession of the promissory note is in fact, as opposing counsel has argued consistently, sufficient to obtain a money judgment on the note.
    1. It is also sufficient for the court to infer that the holder of the note is the owner of the underlying obligation for purposes of pleading in a foreclosure action.
    2. But in the proof of the matters asserted, it does not rise to the level of a prima facie case establishing such ownership when the court conducts a final hearing on the evidence.
      1. Possession of the note is an exception to the rule that the holder may obtain judgment without any financial loss to the note holder being stated or proven.
      2. In such cases, it is enough to establish that the maker of the note failed to make a scheduled payment.
    3. But the Article 3 UCC exception does not remove the basic underlying Article 9-203 condition precedent to enforcing a security isntrument (mortgage). The mortgage may not be enforced without paying value for the underlying obligation. The protection of homestead rights is inviolate and may (under current law) only be subject to forfeit in the event that the owner of the underlying obligation is the complaining party.
      1. In the case at bar, the complaining party neither (a) alleges nor proves such ownership of the underlying obligation nor (b) alleges or proves that anyone is or was a holder in due course — which would mean by definition that it had paid value for the underlying obligation (or at least the note)
      2. The legislature has spoken and this court has been led to believe that the statute has been satisfied. Upon solid information and belief nobody who has been represented as being the complaining party either did or could have satisfied the condition precedent in state law adopted Article 9 §203 UCC. This was concealed from the court and from the homeowner. If it isn’t true then no judgment, no sale, and no demand for possession should be granted.

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Neil F Garfield, MBA, JD, 74, is a Florida licensed trial and appellate attorney since 1977. He has received multiple academic and achievement awards in business, accounting and law. He is a former investment banker, securities broker, securities analyst, and financial analyst.

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4th DCA Florida: Exploding the Merger Myth

Achieving standing via merger also requires that the surviving entity prove that it “acquired all of [the absorbed entity’s] assets, including [the] note and mortgage, by virtue of the merger.”Fiorito v. JP Morgan Chase Bank, Nat’l Ass’n, 174 So. 3d 519, 521 (Fla. 4th DCA 2015).


Finally the courts are turning back to the simple rules of law that always applied until the era of false claims of securitization. Hopefully this decision will be persuasive authority in all jurisdictions. As stated in other cases, the banks can’t continue to operate using multiple choice assertions. Either their entity is real or it isn’t. Either they acquired the loan or they didn’t — and the fact that there was a merger does NOTHING for them in asserting transfer of the loan. They must show that the subject loan was in fact acquired by the surviving entity in the merger. This was always the law before and now we are simply turning back to it.

World Savings Bank Loans Were Securitized Before Wachovia Merger

World Savings Bank  was acquired by Wachovia Bank  which in turn was acquired by Wells Fargo.  We have previously reported here that we had no information regarding the actual securitization of loans had been originated by World Savings Bank.  Now we have that information. And in a case of the right hand not aware of the left hand it turns out the source is our very own senior securitization analyst — Dan Edstrom, who operates DTC Systems (shown as watermark on documents shown below).

The original opinion that I had written about was that virtually all of the loans originated by world savings bank were eventually securitized either by World Savings Bank directly,  or by Wachovia Bank after it acquired WSB, or by Wells Fargo bank after it acquired Wachovia Bank.  I am now more sure than ever that this is correct. Despite the public assurances during the mortgage meltdown WSB was in fact acting solely as an originator and not as a lender in many transactions. Many other transactions in which they were technically the lender were actually closed in anticipation of sale into the secondary market for securitization.

If you look at the link below, you will be able to see part of the information that has been sent to me. Apparently Foreclosure Hamlet has been ahead of me on this issue since some of the screenshots show that they are from that blog site. This opens the door to a whole set of cases in which Wells Fargo is insisting that it is the current creditor when in fact the loan was securitized and sold into what appeared to be a REMIC trust. of course it still remains an issue as to whether or not the money taken from investors for the purchase of mortgage bonds ever made it into the trust; so it remains an issue as to whether or not the trust is the creditor or the investors are the creditor.

Thus it remains an issue as to whether or not any of the alleged securitization participants can claim authority to act on behalf of the “trust beneficiaries” when the actual status of the entity (the trust) was ignored by those parties. It might be that they can only claim apparent authority as opposed to legal authority since the documents that were given to the investors show a structure that is very different from what was done in  the real world.

World Savings Bank REMICs

Comment from Dan Edstrom:

These docs are mostly from DTC Systems.  We have been reporting on this since at least October 2010.  DTC Systems does Securitization Reverse Engineering and Failure Analysis for attempted World Savings securitizations and they are also included in the LivingLies combo’s where your client had a World Savings loan.  We have the names of all (or most) of the REMICs.  In a judicial foreclosure case in the mid-west a Wells Fargo expert (a former World Savings Bank employee) testified that the loan was pledged to a World Savings REMIC, but was “unpledged” when the homeowner was behind on the loan.  This is why we see several World Savings promissory notes with an endorsement to The Bank of New York on the back but they are stamped “Cancelled”.

Which is very interesting because the PSA states that the loans will be endorsed to the trustee (without recourse and showing an unbroken chain of endorsements (and/or certificates of corporate succession) from the originator thereof to the Person endorsing ti to the Trustee AND an original assignment to Trustee or a copy of such assignment.
So they seem to have the FORM of without recourse but the SUBSTANCE of the transaction is recourse?  What is the purpose of such ambiguity?  Or is it only ambiguous now in light of the mortgage meltdown and the related handling, such as that discussed (unsafe and unsound handling) in the OCC Cease and Desist Consent Order against Wells Fargo and others?
Also note this law from CA which I have yet to see brought up in a case like this (it seems that it is highly probable this same law exists in most states):
CA Civ. Code 1058
Redelivering a grant of real property to the grantor, or canceling it, does not operate to retransfer the title.
The expert testified that it was a pledge and that World Savings (and thus Wells Fargo) owned both the loan and the REMIC.


How the Banks Played With Investor Money, Made Money and Claimed a Loss


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Editor’s Comment and Analysis: The passage below is taken from the PSA and Prospectus of a Wachovia “securitization” offering. Most of the documentation from most of the investment banks have the same or similar language since the same group of law firms wrote the boiler plate for all of them. I might add that I have a confidential source that some lawyers refused to participate and actually quit their jobs claiming that the scheme was illegal and probably criminal.

This is why Deny and Discover is so powerful. When you dig down you see that things are not as they  appear or are represented and what you thought was true, is not true. Both borrowers and investors in bogus mortgage bonds were the subject of a sting initiated by the banks on the premise that nobody would actually read and analyze these documents before investing and the borrowers being ignorant of the existence of such documents could not possibly pose a threat.

If you read the passages below carefully you can see how the banks took money from investors, made loans with part of the money, kept the rest, and then claimed losses causing insurance companies, credit default swap counterparties and the Federal government to bail out the banks when it was the investors and the borrowers who were the actual parties losing money.

The “seller” of the mortgage is actually given the right to retain title so they will have an insurable interest and something to sell, even though they are actually holding “title” for the investment pool. The passages below reveal the exposure to both investors and borrowers as a result of this practice and how the investors ended up with unenforceable mortgages and notes, and the homeowners ended up with defective title, and the county recorders offices had their system of recording forever corrupted by the illicit practice under cover of hidden disclosures that enabled the banks to pull off the largest economic crime in human history.

INSIDER TRADING: What they have not answered to is whether the bets against the very same bonds they were selling were violations of insider trading. They knew what they were going to do with the bonds and they knew the rate of defaults would skyrocket as the true terms of the fabricated notes started to kick in.

If the securitization plan was actually legal instead of being a lethal scheme, they would not have a statement and the investors, if they had seen it would not have agreed to such terms. The recordation of the mortgages and delivery of the notes would have been required as per the laws of most states. They would not have reserved the right to NOT record the mortgage which by their own admission could result in the investors priority position being diminished to zero, which is exactly what I have been saying for years.

Who in their right mind would agree to turn over $100 million to an investment bank from a managed fund that is required by law to virtually eliminate risk by investing in only the highest grade investments, when the prospectus says “security holders could lose the right to future payments of principal and interest to the extent that those rights are not otherwise enforceable in favor of the indenture trustee under the applicable mortgage documents.?”

PRACTICE HINT: Don’t stop drilling in discovery and make sure you or an analyst reads the documentation. There is a lot of material buried in that stack of print that supports the allegation that the lenders were pretenders and that the loan never made it into the pool. Provisions like the ones below allow the investment banks to trade the loans as if they were their own. Imagine if you bought 100 shares of stock and the broker started trading the stock in his own name — wouldn’t you have something to say about that? Imagine further that the broker borrowed money using the stock and created a loss which he now tells you is your loss.

From a 2002 Wachovia Home Equity 424B5 filing:

Non-Recordation of Assignments; Possession of Mortgages                        

     Subject to the conditions described in the servicing agreement, the seller will not be required to record assignments of the mortgages to the  indenture trustee in the real property records of the states in which the     related mortgaged properties are located. The seller will retain record title to the mortgages on behalf of the indenture trustee and the security holders.     

Although the recordation of the assignments of those mortgages in favor of the indenture trustee is not necessary to effect a transfer of the mortgage loans to the indenture trustee, if the seller were to sell, assign, satisfy or discharge any of those mortgage loans prior to recording the related assignment in favor of the indenture trustee, the other parties to the sale, assignment, satisfaction or discharge may have rights superior to those of the indenture trustee.

In some states, including Florida and Maryland, in the absence of     recordation of the assignments of the mortgages, the transfer to the indenture trustee of the mortgage loans may not be effective against certain creditors or purchasers from the seller or a trustee in bankruptcy thereof. If those other parties, creditors or purchasers have rights to the mortgage loans that are superior to those of the indenture trustee, security holders could lose the right to future payments of principal and interest to the extent that those rights are not otherwise enforceable in favor of the indenture trustee under the applicable mortgage documents.

DOJ Probes Wells Fargo: Unravelling the Scam Piece by Piece

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Editor’s Comment and Analysis: For those, like myself, frustrated with the pace of the investigation, we must remember that the convoluted manner in which money and documents were handled was intended to obscure the PONZI scheme at the root of the securitization scam and false claims based upon securitization.

None of us saw anything this complex and after devoting 6 years of life to unraveling this mess I am still learning more each day , even with an extensive background on Wall Street and even with my experience with bond trading, investment banking and related matters.

So first they are going after the low-hanging fruit, which is the obvious misrepresentations to the investors who actually comprise most of the same people who were foreclosed. It was pension funds and retirement accounts managed directly or indirectly by the Wall Street banks that bought these bogus “mortgage-backed” bonds. Those same funds are now underfunded and headed for another bailout fight with the Congress.

The problem is that DOJ is still looking at documents and representations when they should be probing the actual movement of money. It is there that they will find the holy grail of prosecutable crimes. The money just didn’t go the way the banks said it would. The banks took trading profits out of the money before it even landed in an account which incidentally was never titled in the name of the REMIC that issued the fake mortgage bonds backed by loans that did not exist in the “the pool.”

Nonetheless I am encouraged that DOJ is chipping away at this, and getting their feet wet, as they get to understand what was really happening, to wit: a simple PONZI scheme in which the deal would fold as soon as there were no more investments by investors.

This simple core was covered by multiple layers of false documentation, robo-signed documents and other transmissions with disclaimers, such that there would be plausible deniability. In the end it is nothing different than Madoff, Drier or other schemes that have landed many titans in prison for the rest of their lives — unless they died before serving their sentence.

I’m an optimist: I still believe that in the end, these banksters will be brought to  justice for real crimes they committed or were directing through their position in the institutions they supposedly represented. The end result is going to be an overhaul of banking like we have not seen before perhaps in all of U.S. history.

The fact remains that the assets on the balance sheets of these banks are (a) overstated by assets that are either non existent or overvalued and (b) understated by the amount of money they parked off-shore in “off balance sheet transactions.”

In the end, which I predict could still be five years away or more, the large banks will have disappeared and the banking industry will return to the usual marketplace of large, medium and small banks, each easily subject to regulation and audits.

How the staggering toll exacted from the middle class will be handled is another story. Nobody in power wants to give the ordinary guy money even if he was defrauded. But unless they give restitution to the pension funds and homeowners, the economy will continue to drag and lag behind where it should be.

Wells Fargo Wachovia Unit Faces Probe Over Mortgage Practices


Nov 6 (Reuters) – The government’s investigation of mortgage-related practices at Wells Fargo & Co includes the making and packaging of home loans by its Wachovia unit, the bank said in a filing Tuesday.

The No. 4 U.S. bank by assets disclosed in February that it may face federal enforcement action related to mortgage-backed securities deals leading to the financial crisis.

In Tuesday’s quarterly securities filing, Wells Fargo reiterated that it’s being investigated for whether it properly disclosed in offering documents the risks associated with its mortgage-backed securities.

The bank also said the government is investigating whether Wells Fargo complied with applicable laws, regulations and documentation requirements relating to mortgage originations and securitizations, including those at Wachovia.

San Francisco-based Wells Fargo acquired Wachovia at the peak of the financial crisis in 2008 as losses in the Charlotte, North Carolina-based bank’s mortgage portfolio ballooned.

Mortgages packaged into securities for investors during the housing boom still haunt big banks years later. Banks have been accused of failing to ensure the quality of the loans and for misrepresenting their risk to investors.

In January, the Obama administration set up a special task force to investigate practices related to mortgage-backed securities at banks.

In the group’s first action, New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman last month filed a civil suit against JPMorgan Chase & Co for alleged fraud at Bear Stearns, which JPMorgan bought at the government’s request in 2008.

OCC Issuing Alert to Consumers About Independent Foreclosure Reviews


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The OCC is rolling out its first public service announcements to alert consumers about the Independent Foreclosure Review announced by it, the Fed, and the OTS in early November.  The campaign follows the distribution of over 4 million letters to potentially eligible borrowers which include forms for submitting requests and instructions on how to use them.

The public service materials include a feature story and two 30-second radio spots in English and Spanish.  These will be distributed to 7,000 small newspapers and 6,500 radio stations throughout the U.S. The announcements inform consumers of the specifics of the program which lets borrowers who faced foreclosure during 2009 or 2010 request reviews of their cases if they believe errors in the procedures used by servicers pursuing foreclosure actions caused them to suffer financial loss. 

The parameters for determining eligibility are explained and borrowers are directed to a starting point for their requests.  Over 20 of the largest servicing companies are mandated to offer and process the reviews:  America’s Servicing Company, Aurora Loan Services, Bank of America, Beneficial, Chase, Citibank, CitiFinancial, Citi Mortgage, Country-Wide, EMC, EverBank/Everhome, Freedom Financial, GMAC Mortgage, HFC, HSBC, IndyMac Mortgage Ser vices, MetLife Bank, National City, PNC, Sovereign Bank, Sun-Trust Mortgage, U.S. Bank, Wachovia, Washington Mutual, and Wells Fargo.

Principal Reduction: A Step Forward by BofA, Wells Fargo

Editor’s Note: Better late than never. It is a step in the right direction, but 30% reduction is not likely to do the job, and waiting for mortgages to become delinquent is simply kicking the can down the road.

The political argument of a “gift” to these homeowners is bogus. They are legally entitled to the reduction because they were defrauded by false appraisals and predatory loan practices — fueled by the simple fact that the worse the loan the more money Wall Street made. For every $1,000,000 Wall Street took from investors/creditors they only funded around $650,000 in mortgages. If the borrowers performed — i.e., made their payments, Wall Street would have had to explain why they only had 2/3 of the investment to give back to the creditor in principal. If it failed, they made no explanation and made extra money on credit default swap bets against the mortgage.

For every loan that is subject to principal reduction, there is an investor who is absorbing the loss. Yet the new mortgage is in favor of the the same parties owning and operating investment banks that created the original fraud on investors and homeowners. THIS IS NO GIFT. IT IS JUSTICE.


New York Times

Policy makers have been hoping the housing market would improve before any significant principal reduction program was needed. But with the market faltering again, those wishes seem to have been in vain.

Substantial pressure came from Massachusetts, which won a significant suit last year against Fremont Investment and Loan, a subprime lender. The Supreme Judicial Court ruled that some of Fremont’s loans were “presumptively unfair.” That gave the state a legal precedent to pursue Countrywide.
The threat of a stick may be helping banks to realize that principal write-downs are in their ultimate self-interest. The Bank of America program was announced simultaneously with the news that the lender had reached a settlement with the state of Massachusetts over claims of predatory lending.

The percentage of modifications that included some type of principal reduction more than quadrupled in the first nine months of last year, to 13.2 percent from 3.1 percent, according to regulators.

Wells Fargo, for instance, said it had cut $2.6 billion off the amount owed on 50,000 severely troubled loans it acquired when it bought Wachovia.

March 24, 2010

Bank of America to Reduce Mortgage Balances


Bank of America said on Wednesday that it would begin forgiving some mortgage debt in an effort to keep distressed borrowers from losing their homes.

The program, while limited in scope and available by invitation only, signals a significant shift in efforts to deal with the millions of homeowners who are facing foreclosure. It comes as banks are being urged by the White House, members of Congress and community groups to do more to stem the tide.

The Obama administration is also studying whether to provide more help to people who owe more on their mortgages than their homes are worth.

Bank of America’s program may increase the pressure on other big banks to offer more help for delinquent borrowers, while potentially angering homeowners who have kept up their payments and are not getting such aid.

As the housing market shows signs of possibly entering another downturn, worries about foreclosure are growing. With the volume of sales falling, prices are sliding again. When the gap increases between the size of a mortgage and the value that the home could fetch in a sale, owners tend to give up.

Cutting the size of the debt over a period of years, however, might encourage people to stick around. That could save homes from foreclosure and stabilize neighborhoods.

“Banks are willing to take some losses now to avoid much greater losses later if the housing market continues to spiral, and that’s a sea change from where they were a year ago,” said Howard Glaser, a housing consultant in Washington and former government regulator.

The threat of a stick may be helping banks to realize that principal write-downs are in their ultimate self-interest. The Bank of America program was announced simultaneously with the news that the lender had reached a settlement with the state of Massachusetts over claims of predatory lending.

The program is aimed at borrowers who received subprime or other high-risk loans from Countrywide Financial, the biggest and one of the most aggressive lenders during the housing boom. Bank of America bought Countrywide in 2008.

Bank of America officials said the maximum reduction would be 30 percent of the value of the loan. They said the program would work this way: A borrower might owe, say, $250,000 on a house whose value has fallen to $200,000. Fifty thousand dollars of that balance would be moved into a special interest-free account.

As long as the owner continued to make payments on the $200,000, $10,000 in the special account would be forgiven each year until either the balance was zero or the housing market had recovered and the borrower once again had positive equity.

“Modifications are better than foreclosure,” Jack Schakett, a Bank of America executive, said in a media briefing. “The time has come to test this kind of program.”

That was the original notion behind the government’s own modification program, which was intended to help millions of borrowers. It has actually resulted in permanently modified loans for fewer than 200,000 homeowners.

The government program, which emphasizes reductions in interest rates but not in principal owed, was strongly criticized on Wednesday by the inspector general of the Troubled Asset Relief Program for overpromising and underdelivering.

“The program will not be a long-term success if large amounts of borrowers simply redefault and end up facing foreclosure anyway,” the inspector general, Neil M. Barofsky, wrote in his report. One possible reason is that even if they get mortgage help, many borrowers are still loaded down by other kinds of debt like credit cards.

Bank of America said its new program would initially help about 45,000 Countrywide borrowers — a fraction of the 1.2 million Bank of America homeowners who are in default. The total amount of principal reduced, it estimated, would be $3 billion.

The bank said it would reach out to delinquent borrowers whose mortgage balance was at least 20 percent greater than the value of the house. These people would then have to demonstrate a hardship like a loss of income.

These requirements will, the bank hopes, restrain any notion that it is offering easy bailouts to those who might otherwise be able to pay. “The customers who will get this offer really can’t afford their mortgage,” Mr. Schakett said.

Early reaction to the program was mixed.

“It is certainly a step in the right direction,” said Alan M. White, an assistant professor at Valparaiso University School of Law who has studied the government’s modification program.

But Steve Walsh, a mortgage broker in Scottsdale, Ariz., who said he had just abandoned his house and several rental properties, called the program “another Band-Aid. It probably would not have prevented me from walking away.”

Even before Bank of America’s announcement, reducing loan balances was growing in favor as a strategy to deal with the housing mess. The percentage of modifications that included some type of principal reduction more than quadrupled in the first nine months of last year, to 13.2 percent from 3.1 percent, according to regulators.

Few of these mortgages were owned by the government or private investors, however. Banks tended to cut principal only on mortgages they owned directly. Wells Fargo, for instance, said it had cut $2.6 billion off the amount owed on 50,000 severely troubled loans it acquired when it bought Wachovia.

Bank of America said it would be offering principal reduction for several types of exotic loans. Some of the eligible loans are held in the bank’s portfolio, but the program will also apply to some loans owned by investors for which Bank of America is merely the manager.

The bank developed the program partly because of “pressure from everyone,” Mr. Schakett said. Even the investors who owned the loans were saying “maybe we should be doing more,” he said.

Substantial pressure came from Massachusetts, which won a significant suit last year against Fremont Investment and Loan, a subprime lender. The Supreme Judicial Court ruled that some of Fremont’s loans were “presumptively unfair.” That gave the state a legal precedent to pursue Countrywide.

“We were prepared to bring suit against Bank of America if we had not been able to reach this remedy today, which we have been looking for for a long time,” said the Massachusetts attorney general, Martha Coakley.

Bank of America agreed to a settlement on Wednesday with Ms. Coakley that included a $4.1 million payment to the state.

Reducing principal is widely endorsed, in theory, as a cure for foreclosures. The trouble is, no one wants to absorb the costs.

When the administration announced a housing assistance program in the five hardest-hit states last month, officials explicitly opened the door to principal forgiveness. Despite reservations expressed by the Treasury, the White House and Housing and Urban Development officials have continued to study debt forgiveness in areas with lots of so-called underwater homes, according to two people with knowledge of the matter.

On a national scale, such a program risks a political firestorm if the banks are unable to finance all the losses themselves. Regulators like the comptroller of the currency and the Federal Reserve have been focused on maintaining the banks’ capital levels, which could be hurt by large-scale debt forgiveness.

“You have to be very careful not to design a program that would change people’s fundamental behavior across the country in a destabilizing way or would be widely perceived as unfair to people who are continuing to pay,” Michael S. Barr, an assistant secretary of the Treasury, said early this year.

Policy makers have been hoping the housing market would improve before any significant principal reduction program was needed. But with the market faltering again, those wishes seem to have been in vain.

Bank of America’s announcement came within hours of a fresh report that underscored the renewed weakness. Sales and prices are dropping, leaving even more homeowners underwater.

Sales of new homes fell in February to their lowest point since the figures were first collected in 1963, the Commerce Department said. Sales are about a quarter of what they were in 2003, before the housing boom began in earnest.

“It’s shocking,” said Brad Hunter, an analyst with the market researcher Metrostudy. “No one would ever have imagined it would go this low.”

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