Archive for 'Bank of America'

Another article sent from Roger

 

Flawed Paperwork Aggravates a Foreclosure Crisis

By GRETCHEN MORGENSON
Published: October 3, 2010
 
As some of the nation’s largest lenders have conceded that their foreclosure procedures might have been improperly handled, lawsuits have revealed myriad missteps in crucial documents.
 
Jay LaPrete/Associated Press
Jennifer Brunner, the secretary of state of Ohio, has highlighted examples of what her office considers possible notary abuse.
The flawed practices that GMAC Mortgage, JPMorgan Chase and Bank of America have recently begun investigating are so prevalent, lawyers and legal experts say, that additional lenders and loan servicers are likely to halt foreclosure proceedings and may have to reconsider past evictions.
 
Problems emerging in courts across the nation are varied but all involve documents that must be submitted before foreclosures can proceed legally. Homeowners, lawyers and analysts have been citing such problems for the last few years, but it appears to have reached such intensity recently that banks are beginning to re-examine whether all of the foreclosure papers were prepared properly.
 
In some cases, documents have been signed by employees who say they have not verified crucial information like amounts owed by borrowers. Other problems involve questionable legal notarization of documents, in which, for example, the notarizations predate the actual preparation of documents — suggesting that signatures were never actually reviewed by a notary.
 
Other problems occurred when notarizations took place so far from where the documents were signed that it was highly unlikely that the notaries witnessed the signings, as the law requires.
 
On still other important documents, a single official’s name is signed in such radically different ways that some appear to be forgeries. Additional problems have emerged when multiple banks have all argued that they have the right to foreclose on the same property, a result of a murky trail of documentation and ownership.
 
There is no doubt that the enormous increase in foreclosures in recent years has strained the resources of lenders and their legal representatives, creating challenges that any institution might find overwhelming. According to the Mortgage Bankers Association, the percentage of loans that were delinquent by 90 days or more stood at 9.5 percent in the first quarter of 2010, up from 4 percent in the same period of 2008.
 
But analysts say that the wave of defaults still does not excuse lenders’ failures to meet their legal obligations before trying to remove defaulting borrowers from their homes.
 
“It reflects the hubris that as long as the money was going through the pipeline, these companies didn’t really have to make sure the documents were in order,” said Kathleen C. Engel, dean for intellectual life at Suffolk University Law School and an expert in mortgage law. “Suddenly they have a lot at stake, and playing fast and loose is going to be more costly than it was in the past.”
 
Attorneys general in at least six states, including Massachusetts, Iowa, Florida and Illinois, are investigating improper foreclosure practices. Last week, Jennifer Brunner, the secretary of state of Ohio, referred examples of what her office considers possible notary abuse by Chase Home Mortgage to federal prosecutors for investigation.
 
The implications are not yet clear for borrowers who have been evicted from their homes as a result of improper filings. But legal experts say that courts may impose sanctions on lenders or their representatives or may force banks to pay borrowers’ legal costs in these cases.
 
Judges may dismiss the foreclosures altogether, barring lenders from refiling and awarding the home to the borrower. That would create a loss for the lender or investor holding the note underlying the property. Almost certainly, lawyers say, lawsuits on behalf of borrowers will multiply.
 
In Florida, problems with foreclosure cases are especially acute. A recent sample of foreclosure cases in the 12th Judicial Circuit of Florida showed that 20 percent of those set for summary judgment involved deficient documents, according to chief judge Lee E. Haworth.
 
“We have sent repeated notices to law firms saying, ‘You are not following the rules, and if you don’t clean up your act, we are going to impose sanctions on you,’ ” Mr. Haworth said in an interview. “They say, ‘We’ll fix it, we’ll fix it, we’ll fix it.’ But they don’t.”
 
As a result, Mr. Haworth said, on Sept. 17, Harry Rapkin, a judge overseeing foreclosures in the district, dismissed 61 foreclosure cases. The plaintiffs can refile but they need to pay new filing fees, Mr. Haworth said.
 
The byzantine mortgage securitization process that helped inflate the housing bubble allowed home loans to change hands so many times before they were eventually pooled and sold to investors that it is now extremely difficult to track exactly which lenders have claims to a home.
 
Many lenders or loan servicers that begin the foreclosure process after a borrower defaults do not produce documentation proving that they have the legal right to foreclosure, known as standing.
 
As a substitute, the banks usually present affidavits attesting to ownership of the note signed by an employee of a legal services firm acting as an agent for the lender or loan servicer. Such affidavits allow foreclosures to proceed, but because they are often dubiously prepared, many questions have arisen about their validity.
 
Although lawyers for troubled borrowers have contended for years that banks in many cases have not properly documented their rights to foreclose, the issue erupted in mid-September when GMAC said it was halting foreclosure proceedings in 23 states because of problems with its legal practices. The move by GMAC followed testimony by an employee who signed affidavits for the lender; he said that he executed 400 of them each day without reading them or verifying that the information in them was correct.
 
JPMorgan Chase and Bank of America followed with similar announcements.
 
But these three large lenders are not the only companies employing people who have failed to verify crucial aspects of a foreclosure case, court documents show.
 
Last May, Herman John Kennerty, a loan administration manager in the default document group of Wells Fargo Mortgage, testified to lawyers representing a troubled borrower that he typically signed 50 to 150 foreclosure documents a day. In that case, in King County Superior Court in Seattle, he also stated that he did not independently verify the information to which he was attesting.
 
Wells Fargo did not respond to requests for comment.
 
In other cases, judges are finding that banks’ claims of standing in a foreclosure case can conflict with other evidence.
 
Last Thursday, Paul F. Isaacs, a judge in Bourbon County Circuit Court in Kentucky, reversed a ruling he had made in August giving Bank of New York Mellon the right to foreclose on a couple’s home. According to court filings, Mr. Isaacs had relied on the bank’s documentation that it said showed it held the note underlying the property in a trust. But after the borrowers supplied evidence indicating that the note may in fact reside in a different trust, the judge reversed himself. The court will revisit the matter soon.
 
Bank of New York said it was reviewing the ruling and could not comment.
 
Another problematic case involves a foreclosure action taken by Deutsche Bank against a borrower in the Bronx in New York. The bank says it has the right to foreclose because the mortgage was assigned to it on Oct. 15, 2009.
 
But according to court filings made by David B. Shaev, a lawyer at Shaev & Fleischman who represents the borrower, the assignment to Deutsche Bank is riddled with problems. First, the company that Deutsche said had assigned it the mortgage, the Sand Canyon Corporation, no longer had any rights to the underlying property when the transfer was supposed to have occurred.
 
Additional questions have arisen over the signature verifying an assignment of the mortgage. Court documents show that Tywanna Thomas, assistant vice president of American Home Mortgage Servicing, assigned the mortgage from Sand Canyon to Deutsche Bank in October 2009. On assignments of mortgages in other cases, Ms. Thomas’s signatures differ so wildly that it appears that three people signed the documents using Ms. Thomas’s name.
 
Given the differences in the signatures, Mr. Shaev filed court papers last July contending that the assignment is a sham, “prepared to create an appearance of a creditor as a real party in interest/standing, when in fact it is likely that the chain of title required in these matters was not performed, lost or both.”
 
Mr. Shaev also asked the judge overseeing the case, Shelley C. Chapman, to order Ms. Thomas to appear to answer questions the lawyer has raised.
 
John Gallagher, a spokesman for Deutsche Bank, which is trustee for the securitization that holds the note in this case, said companies servicing mortgage loans engaged the law firms that oversee foreclosure proceedings. “Loan servicers are obligated to adhere to all legal requirements,” he said, “and Deutsche Bank, as trustee, has consistently informed servicers that they are required to execute these actions in a proper and timely manner.”
 
Reached by phone on Saturday, Ms. Thomas declined to comment.
 
The United States Trustee, a unit of the Justice Department, is also weighing in on dubious court documents filed by lenders. Last January, it supported a request by Silvia Nuer, a borrower in foreclosure in the Bronx, for sanctions against JPMorgan Chase.
 
In testimony, a lawyer for Chase conceded that a law firm that had previously represented the bank, the Steven J. Baum firm of Buffalo, had filed inaccurate documents as it sought to take over the property from Ms. Nuer.
 
The Chase lawyer told a judge last January that his predecessors had combed through the chain of title on the property and could not find a proper assignment. The firm found “something didn’t happen that needed to be fixed,” he explained, and then, according to court documents, it prepared inaccurate documents to fill in the gaps.
 
The Baum firm did not return calls to comment.
 
A lawyer for the United States Trustee said that the Nuer case “does not represent an isolated example of misconduct by Chase in the Southern District of New York.”
 
Chase declined to comment.
 
“The servicers have it in their control to get the right documents and do this properly, but it is so much cheaper to run it through a foreclosure mill,” said Linda M. Tirelli, a lawyer in White Plains who represents Ms. Nuer in the case against Chase. “This is not about getting a free house for my client. It’s about a level playing field. If I submitted false documents like this to the court, I’d have my license handed to me.”
 
Link to Article
http://www.nytimes.com/2010/10/04/business/04mortgage.html

Gold Member Roger Taylor emailed me this article in the New York Times.

This is huge and will greatly affect the real estate market across America.

Chew on this a bit, not only will this slow down and halt foreclosures creating a massive stockpile of defaults, but there will also be many other critical issues for both homeowners and investors alike.

For Example:

Title Companies will stop writing title insurance. Old Republic has already announced it will not insure any properties having a GMAC mortgage.

Investors and Homeowners alike, who have already purchased "bank owned" real estate or HUD properties, may find themselves with a toxic property because it may have an unmarketable title due to all of the huge lenders and law firms having openly admitted falsifying documents during the foreclosure process.

Homeowners in default, by the masses, will be filing all kinds of action demanding lenders produce all of the original and real documents involving their mortgage. Keep in mind, a California bankruptcy court has already ruled that "MERS" is NOT sufficient proof of ownership of notes and mortgages. In other words, the lender who claims to own the note and mortgage, must be able to produce the original promissory note and documents. (Notes and mortgages were sliced, diced, and chopped up and sold on the secondary market using MERS without any concern for the physical documents themselves. 

Stay Tuned…

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Bank of America to Freeze Foreclosure Cases

By DAVID STREITFELD
Published: October 1, 2010 in NYT
 
Bank of America, the country’s largest mortgage lender by assets, said on Friday that it was reviewing documents in all foreclosure cases now in court to evaluate if there were errors.
 
It is the third major lender in the last two weeks to freeze foreclosures in the 23 states where the process is controlled by courts.
 
But Bank of America went further than the first two lenders, GMAC Mortgage and JPMorgan Chase, which have said they will amend paperwork only in cases they think were improperly done. So far, that has amounted to only a handful of cases.
 
Bank of America, in an e-mailed statement, said it would “amend all affidavits in foreclosure cases that have not yet gone to judgment.”
 
That could mean tens of thousands of foreclosure cases would be in limbo for months or, if the consumers in default hire lawyers, years.
 
Spokesmen for the bank said that they were uncertain how many cases the lender currently had in court. They provided no timeline or explanation for the freeze, saying only that the bank planned to eventually resubmit all the cases.
 
The moratorium is likely to further fuel the uproar over the foreclosure tactics of the big lenders, which continued to have political ramifications on Friday.
 
Before Bank of America’s announcement, Richard Blumenthal, the Connecticut attorney general, asked judges in his state to put a halt to all foreclosures for 60 days. Connecticut is one of the 23 states where foreclosure is a judicial matter. Others include Illinois, Florida, New Jersey and New York.
 
Mr. Blumenthal, who is running for senator in Connecticut, said the freeze “should stop a foreclosure steamroller based on defective documents and enable effective remedies.”
 
California’s attorney general, Jerry Brown, said that Chase should stop any foreclosures in the state until it proved that it was following the law. Mr. Brown, who is a candidate for governor, earlier made the same demand of GMAC.
 
In California, lenders generally pursue foreclosures outside of the court system, so they are presumably still proceeding with evictions. Chase declined to say whether it would comply with Mr. Brown’s comments.
 
Chase said this week that it had frozen 56,000 foreclosure cases. GMAC, which is largely owned by the Treasury after receiving $17 billion in federal bailout money to prevent its collapse, has repeatedly declined to say how many cases it is halting.
 
The nation’s two other major lenders, Citi and Wells Fargo, have issued statements maintaining they have no problems with their cases.
 
The problem for all the lenders that have announced moratoriums stems directly from their attempt to deal with an unprecedented number of foreclosures.
 
According to LPS Applied Analytics, a mortgage data firm, 2 million households are in foreclosure. Another 2.37 million households are seriously delinquent and waiting for their lender to take action.
 
Sometimes these loans are still owned by the lender but often, the banks are merely the loan servicer acting on behalf of the owner. Many of the loans are owned by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the mortgage holding companies now controlled by the Treasury. In other cases the loans have been sold to private investment pools.
 
Confronted with so many cases, the lenders tried to process them on a wholesale basis, with the goal of avoiding the expense of a full trial and instead getting summary judgments.
 
The tool for doing this was the so-called robo-signers, in which midlevel bank executives would sign thousands of affidavits a month attesting that they had personal knowledge that the facts of the case were as presented. The affidavits were prepared by lawyers who were paid a flat fee, which also placed a premium on volume.
 
When defense lawyers started deposing these robo-signers, they acknowledged that they could not possibly have knowledge of all the cases. The banks say this is a technicality and they will refile the proper affidavits. The defense lawyers say the practice calls the cases, and indeed the entire process, into question.
 
Thomas Lawler, a housing economist, said the current mess was predictable and probably inevitable. Lenders made their money by making loans and then simply and efficiently servicing them by collecting the checks every month. They were never prepared to deal with the labor-intensive problems of delinquency and foreclosure.
 
“However, the foreclosure crisis is now almost three years old, and not having staffed up sufficiently to deal with the problems with inadequate staffing borders on criminal,” Mr. Lawler said. “I mean, jeepers, look at the unemployment rate; how hard would it have been to hire more folks?”
 
Mark Stopa, a Florida lawyer who represents defaulting homeowners, said the magnitude of the current troubles depends on how title insurance companies react. If those firms begin to shy away from insuring foreclosed properties because they think those properties are vulnerable to claims, he said, the entire housing market could suffer.
 
“Judges have to force banks to do foreclosures correctly,” Mr. Stopa said. But he noted that would require a significant increase in staff. “I’ll believe it when I see it,” he said.
 
Stocks of the major title insurance companies dropped on Friday amid concern that their business would suffer as a result of the foreclosure freezes. Fidelity National Financial fell more than 4 percent, while First American Financial dropped 3 percent.
 
One firm, Old Republic National Title, said this week it would not issue policies on GMAC foreclosures until further notice.

 

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