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May 31, 2010

May 31, 2010

On Friday afternoon, May 28, 2010, an Arizona state court entered a restraining order cancelling a June 1, 2010 Trustee’s Sale of the borrower’s home which sale had been scheduled by Defendants MERS, Aurora Loan Servicing, and Quality Loan Service. The borrower presented evidence that the Notice of Trustee’s Sale prepared by Defendant QLS was fraudulent, as it claimed that the “current beneficiary” was Defendant Aurora when in fact the purported MERS assignment to Aurora did not occur until one month after the Notice of Trustee’s Sale was generated.

The borrower also cited to the Court the recent decision of the Arizona Bankruptcy Court in the matter of In Re Weisbrod, in which the Bankruptcy Court essentially stripped MERS of its purported authority and which case cites the In Re Sheridan decision from the Idaho Bankruptcy Court and others. The Weisbrod decision has been hailed as a rejection of the Blau and Cervantes pro-MERS decisions from 2009, and is in line and consistent with the findings of the Supreme Courts of Kansas, Nebraska, and Arkansas; the states courts of Vermont, Missouri, and South Carolina; and the Bankruptcy Courts of Idaho and Nevada which have dissected the purported expansion of MERS’ alleged “authority” in mortgages and Deeds of Trust where MERS on the one hand attempts to confine itself to “only a nominee” but later attempts to anoint itself with the power to assign mortgages and notes and institute or further foreclosures. The great majority of the courts are finally starting to see though MERS’ facade and relegate MERS to what it really is: nothing more than an entity which tracks the transfer of mortgages.

The borrower is represented by Jeff Barnes, Esq., who prepared the litigation and memorandum of law, and local Arizona counsel Lynn Keeling, Esq. who obtained the restraining order.

Jeff Barnes, Esq.,

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May 27, 2010

May 27, 2010

In an extremely significant ruling, a Florida Circuit Judge today dismissed a residential foreclosure Complaint filed by the Bank of New York as trustee for a securitized mortgage loan trust for failure to comply with the Supreme Court of Florida Order amending the Rules of Civil Procedure to require that all residential mortgage foreclosure Complaints be verified and as the Plaintiff also failed to properly allege the chain of title from the original lender to the foreclosing Plaintiff as required by recent Florida case law. The Supreme Court of Florida rule amendment and the recent case law requiring proof of chain of title in order to be able to foreclose were both previously reported on this website.

The original lender was Taylor Bean & Whitaker, which failed and was taken over by the government for fraudulent lending practices. There was no assignment or other evidence showing how the loan went from TBW to the Bank of New York. The Complaint was filed on February 12, 2010, the day after the effective date of the Supreme Court Order requiring verification of all residential foreclosure Complaints.

The ruling is extremely significant, as it ratifies the effect of the Supreme Court Order requiring that ALL residential mortgage foreclosure complaints filed in Florida after February 11, 2010 be verified and that such Complaints also allege the proper chain of title of the note and mortgage from the original lender to the foreclosing Plaintiff, and that if the Complaint does not do both, the Complaint is subject to dismissal.

The borrower is represented by Jeff Barnes, Esq., who filed the Motion to Dismiss and argued the matter at a hearing this morning.

Jeff Barnes, Esq.,


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Foreclosure Offense: Consumer Advocate Calls For Ban Against Upfront Fees For Loan Mod Help Or Any Comp Unless Mortgage Workout Actually Helps Distressed Homeowners

July 14, 2009

The Cleveland Plain Dealer reports:

  • The National Consumer Law Center [NCLC] is calling for a ban on advance fees for loan modification help and a federal rule that no one can charge homeowners fees unless the loan modification actually helps homeowners avoid foreclosure. The NCLC’s report was released [Friday], just ahead of the Federal Trade Commission’s deadline for comments on whether the agency should take steps to declare some loan modification practices unfair and deceptive.

For more, see Consumer law group urges FTC to save homeowners from foreclosure rescue scams.

For NCLC’s report, see DESPERATE HOMEOWNERS: Loan Mod Scammers Step In When Loan Servicers Refuse To Provide Help

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Foreclosure Defense: Bankruptcy Judge Hammers Mass. Money Lender Accused Of Predatory Practices By Piling Up Loan Charges, Wrestling Property Ownership Away From Borrowers

July 6, 2009

In Worcester, Massachusetts, the Worcester Telegram & Gazette reports:

  • A loan repayment demanded at gunpoint, effective interest rates exceeding 41 percent and a near decade-long litany of coercion and strong-arm tactics left two borrowers “between the proverbial rock and a hard place,” according to a federal judge’s ruling that comes down hard on a controversial Marlboro lending firm and its president.
  • U.S. Bankruptcy Court Judge Joel B. Rosenthal’s decision last week in favor of two corporations controlled by area real estate developers David D. Depietri of Southboro and Robert Depietri Jr. of Worcester marked the first time complaints against LBM Financial LLC and its owner, Marcello M. Mallegni, were aired in a trial and ruled upon by a judge. In his decision, Judge Rosenthal declared that LBM and Mr. Mallegni used a variety of “unscrupulous, to say the least” tactics to ensnare the Depietri brothers’ corporations, 201 Forest Street LLC and 219 Forest Street LLC, into a cycle of ever-increasing default interest and late fees.


  • The ruling had been anxiously awaited by those who have filed more than a dozen state and federal lawsuits that accuse LBM and people associated with it of using similar tactics — including loan sharking, racketeering, extortion and fraud — in transactions they had with the firm.(1) The underlying intent of LBM and its principals, the lawsuits allege, was to wrest control of development projects through foreclosure, or, at the very least, force delays to run up the cost of those loans by piling on fees, penalties and default interest rates.(2)This is exactly what they did to me,” said Barnstable developer Robert M. Bradley, who has a pending federal racketeering lawsuit against LBM, Mr. Mallegni and others. His experiences, he added, “absolutely mirror those made in this case, only tenfold.”

For more, see ‘Unscrupulous’ loan tactics cited (LBM Financial and owner Mallegni fined $1.1M).

For Judge Rosenthal’s recent ruling in this matter, see 219 Forest Street LLC et al v. LBM Financial, LLC et al (6-30-2009).

Go here for Judge Rosenthal’s April 8, 2009 ruling resulting in the discharge of one of the mortgages in this case pursuant to the application of Massachusetts “Obsolete Mortgages Statute” - M.G.L. ch 260, section 33.

Go here for other posts on accusations of strong arm money lending practices made against these “hard money” lenders.

(1) According to the story, many of the state and federal lawsuits filed against Mr. Mallegni and LBM also name David G. “Duddie” Massad, chairman and primary owner of Commerce Bank, as a defendant.

(2) An earlier Worcester Telegram & Gazette story (see Strong-arm tactics are alleged - LBM Financial target of complaints) reports, in the following excerpt, how LBM Financial routinely dodges the application of the Massachusetts criminal usury statute in lending transactions by availing itself of a huge loophole in the state’s law that allows a lender to charge more than the maximum interest rate, provided that it notifies the state attorney general in writing ahead of time about it (see M.G.L. Chapter 271: Section 49(d). Criminal usury). Keep in mind that actually obtaining approval to make these loans from the state attorney general (or any other government authority, for that matter) is not necessary; you merely have to let the AG’s office know, in writing, that you’re going to do so.

The state usury law dating back to the 1970s ostensibly caps the maximum legal interest rate at 20 percent, but also allows lenders to charge higher rates if they notify the state attorney general’s office in writing. LBM filed notifications announcing its intention to charge interest rates above the usury limit on loans in 1997, 2000, 2002, 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2008, according to records on file at the attorney general’s office. The one- or two-page notification letters, signed by Mr. Mallegni, don’t say exactly how far above the usury limit the company intended to set its interest rates. “All that the statute requires is that if a business is going to lend above a certain rate, they must file with this office,” said Melissa Sherman, a spokeswoman for Attorney General Martha Coakley. “We do approve these, but serve more as a depository for such notices.”

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Foreclosure Offense: NY AG Scores Big Win As Supremes Reverse Lower Courts, Give Go-Ahead To States To Pursue Probes Of National Banks For Lending Discrimination

June 30, 2009

The Wall Street Journal reports:

  • In a surprise win for state regulators over the banking industry, a divided U.S. Supreme Court on Monday gave New York prosecutors the green light to investigate national banks for lending discrimination. The high court, in a 5-4 opinion by Justice Antonin Scalia, said federal banking regulations didn’t pre-empt the ability of states to enforce their own fair-lending laws.
  • The ruling was a win for the New York attorney general’s office, which had been seeking to investigate the banks’ residential real-estate lending practices since 2005.(1) Scalia said New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo couldn’t issue executive subpoenas to the banks but could bring enforcement actions against them in court. The decision was a surprise because decades of U.S. Supreme Court rulings have favored federal banking regulation at the expense of state regulation. [...] Cuomo said the ruling “reaffirms the vital role state attorneys general play in protecting consumers from illegal and improper practices by our country’s biggest and most powerful banks.”


  • The divided ruling didn’t split along the court’s normal ideological lines. Justice Clarence Thomas, whose views often align with Scalia’s, wrote the court’s dissent.(2)


  • All of the other 49 states backed New York in the case, saying they have historically had the power to enforce consumer-protection laws against national banks. That power, the states said, was particularly important now because of the widespread mortgage abuses that contributed to the nation’s economic crisis.

For the whole story, see US High Court: States Can Probe Natl Bank Lending (subscription required; if no subscription, try here, then click link for the story).

For the court’s ruling, see Cuomo v. Clearing House Assn., L.L.C., Docket # 08-453 (June 29, 2009).

(1) According to the story, former New York Attorney General and Governor Eliot Spitzer launched the probe, saying mortgage data showed black and Hispanic borrowers received a larger percentage of high-interest home loans than white borrowers. Spitzer asked several banks, including Wells Fargo & Co., JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Citigroup Inc., to voluntarily produce non-public information about their mortgage-lending practices in New York. In response, the federal Office of the Comptroller of the Currency and a consortium of national banks each sued to block Spitzer’s investigation.

(2) Justice Scalia was actually the swing vote in this ruling, aligning himself with Justices Stevens, Souter, Ginzburg, and Breyer, the four justices on the court widely considered to be politically “left of center”. DiscriminationPredatoryLendingAlpha

For the whole story, see US High Court: States Can Probe Natl Bank Lending (subscription required; if no subscription, try here, then click link for the story).

For the court’s ruling, see Cuomo v. Clearing House Assn., L.L.C., Docket # 08-453 (June 29, 2009).

(1) According to the story, former New York Attorney General and Governor Eliot Spitzer launched the probe, saying mortgage data showed black and Hispanic borrowers received a larger percentage of high-interest home loans than white borrowers. Spitzer asked several banks, including Wells Fargo & Co., JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Citigroup Inc., to voluntarily produce non-public information about their mortgage-lending practices in New York. In response, the federal Office of the Comptroller of the Currency and a consortium of national banks each sued to block Spitzer’s investigation.

(2) Justice Scalia was actually the swing vote in this ruling, aligning himself with Justices Stevens, Souter, Ginzburg, and Breyer, the four justices on the court widely considered to be politically “left of center”.

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Mortgage Meltdown: “Entire Industry Is A Scam,” Says NY AG As Subpoenas Go Out To 14 Loan Modification Firms; “Intent To Sue” Sent To Another

June 11, 2009

Bloomberg News reports:

  • New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo subpoenaed 14 loan-modification companies and plans to sue [another] as part of a probe of the “foreclosure rescue” industry.(1) [...] “Many of these companies charge upfront fees which are specifically prohibited by law,” Cuomo said in a conference call. “Sometimes homeowners even end up paying a higher cost after one of these companies gets involved.” Cuomo said that in many ways the “entire industry is a scam” because the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development provides assistance to struggling homeowners for free.

For the story, see Cuomo Subpoenas 14 Loan Modifiers, Plans Lawsuit.

See also: New York AG press release, see Cuomo Announces Intent To Sue ‘Amerimod’ Loan Modification Company In Investigation Of Foreclosure Rescue Scams Targeting Homeowners Nationwide (Long Island-Based American Modification Agency Charged Illegal Up-Front Fees and Used Deceptive Marketing to Target Homeowners Facing Foreclosure; Cuomo Also Issues Subpoenas to Fourteen Other Loan Modification Companies Across the Country in Nationwide Investigation).

(1) According to the NY AG’s office, it has served a notice of intent to sue on American Modification Agency, Inc. (“Amerimod”) and its owner and President Salvatore Pane, Jr., accusing the company of charging illegal upfront fees and using false advertising to reel in struggling homeowners. Amerimod is headquartered in Uniondale, NY and claims to operate in all 50 states, servicing thousands of consumers nationwide.

Cuomo has also issued subpoenas to fourteen loan modification companies: American Home Recovery Corporation; CloseMore Financial Corporation; Elite Results Group, Inc.; FLM Law Center LLP, a/k/a Federal Loan Modification Law Center and Federal Loan Modification; Hometown U.S.A., Inc.; Global Modifications, Inc. a/k/a The Law Office of Brett Margolin, P.C.; Loan Modification Affiliate Exchange, Ltd, a/k/a LoanMAE; Nationwide Modification Agency, Inc.; NMA Legal Services, P.C.; Northeast Mortgage Services; People’s First Financial, Inc.; Raymond Lewis & Fitch, Inc.; Settled For Less, Inc.; and the Law Depot, Inc. a/k/a the Loss Mitigation Legal Network.

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Subprime Peddlers at it Again: Countrywide Vets Look To Score Big Profits Buying, Fixing, Reselling Bad Loans

June 11, 2009

The San Francisco Chronicle reports:

  • Can folks who made millions peddling subprime loans use that same Midas touch to mint money from the housing market downturn? Former top executives from Countrywide Financial, once the nation’s largest mortgage firm and a poster child for loose lending standards, have launched a company to buy distressed mortgages from banks and the government at a discount, modify the loans so borrowers can afford them and pocket the profits from reselling them.


  • The fact that some architects of subprime lending now hope to profit from the crisis spawned by the practice doesn’t sit well with many. “It is sort of like the arsonist who sets fire to the house and then buys up the charred remains and resells it,” Margot Saunders of the National Consumer Law Center in Washington told the New York Times. Times columnist Gail Collins was more graphic. “It’s like Jeffrey Dahmer selling body parts to a clinic,” she wrote.
  • Ironically, PennyMac’s approach could benefit struggling homeowners, which has consumer advocates offering cautious compliments. Most banks and investors who own mortgages still seem to find foreclosure preferable to so-called workout solutions; homeowners continue to report that their pleas for loan modifications fall on deaf ears. But PennyMac’s business model is predicated on trying to keep people in their homes.
  • Since PennyMac plans to buy toxic loans at pennies on the dollar - and is buying whole mortgages, not ones sliced and diced into securities owned by multiple investors - it has the liberty to slash homeowners’ monthly payments and even the principal they owe.


  • PennyMac’s “model suggests the great promise of an aggressive modification strategy; creating win-win opportunities for borrowers and investors,” said Paul Leonard, director of the California office in Oakland for the Center for Responsible Lending. Still, he added: “It’s hard to overlook the fact that these are Countrywide veterans who no doubt contributed to some of the sophisticated schemes to sell bad loans to borrowers and make great profits, who are now finding profitable ways of fixing those loans.”

For more, see Former subprime lenders stand to profit again.

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June 2, 2009

Although we have published prior articles on this subject on this blog, we continue to receive calls from borrowers who have been told by others that they should “file bankruptcy to stop a foreclosure”. In fact, an attorney who I sought to establish a local counsel relationship with in another state e-mailed me yesterday asking “has your client considered filing bankruptcy to stop the foreclosure?” Once again, as we have stated before and as provided by applicable Bankruptcy law, filing Bankruptcy does not, repeat does not, “stop” foreclosure. It only temporary postpones the process.

Pursuant to 11 USC sec. 362(a), an “automatic stay” is imposed on all proceedings against the person filing bankruptcy when the Bankruptcy petition is filed. This would include any attempted foreclosure, which may be in the form of a foreclosure lawsuit (in a “judicial” foreclosure state) or a scheduled Trustee’s sale (in “non-judicial” foreclosure states). As such, when a person files bankruptcy, any foreclosure proceeding is temporarily halted (but is not permanently “stopped”).

There is a provision in the Bankruptcy laws which permit the foreclosing party to obtain what is called “relief from stay” by the filing of a simple Motion in the Bankruptcy which, when granted (which such Motions almost always are) permits the foreclosing party to resume the foreclosure process outside of the Bankruptcy. As such, the borrower is now left with both (a) having to defend the foreclosure anyway, and (b) all of the consequences of a Bankruptcy (including long-term consequences to the borrower’s creditworthiness, having to surrender credit cards, etc.).

As such, we do not advise clients to “file bankruptcy to avoid foreclosure” because filing bankruptcy does not permanently stop foreclosure nor does it “make the foreclosure go away”. In fact, for most borrowers (whose only real issue is the foreclosure), filing bankruptcy may simply complicate matters and leave the borrower in a worse position than if they simply defended the foreclosure.

Jeff Barnes, Esq.


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Mortgage Meltdown: Wells Whistleblowers Call Lending Practices “Riding The Stagecoach To Hell” In Testimony Admitting To Targeting Blacks In Baltimore City Lawsuit

June 2, 2009

In Baltimore, Maryland, The Daily Record reports:

  • The city of Baltimore has beefed up its groundbreaking racial discrimination lawsuit against Wells Fargo with sometimes shocking testimony from a pair of the megabank’s former subprime-loan officers. The two whistleblowers claim their co-workers targeted black ZIP codes and churches, used software to “translate” marketing materials into African-American vernacular, and referred to subprime loans in minority communities as “ghetto loans” and to borrowers as “mud people.”
  • Their declarations were attached to an amended complaint filed Monday in U.S. District Court in Baltimore. The loan officers, who worked for Wells Fargo in the Baltimore-Washington area from the late 1990s until 2007, also alleged bank employees deceptively steered prime borrowers into subprime loans for their own financial benefit and joked that they were “riding the stagecoach to Hell.”
  • The city also filed declarations from four city residents who live near Wells Fargo’s foreclosed properties. They complained of squatters, rats and burst pipes, all of which have required attention from some city department. It cites 10 studies, including one specific to Baltimore, which studied reverse-redlining in black neighborhoods; and updated the foreclosure data to include the first part of 2009.

For more, see Ex-workers allege race-based loan approach at Wells Fargo.

Go here, Go here, and Go here for other posts on alleged discrimination in real estate transactions.

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foreclosure defense: New Housing Law Protects Tenants Nationwide Against Being Blindsided By Surprise Foreclosure Evictions

May 26, 2009

The Associated Press reports:

  • Buried in a housing law signed [last] week by President Barack Obama are protections that will help thousands of renters stay in their homes — at least for awhile — after their landlord has been foreclosed on.
  • The law allows tenants to remain in their foreclosed rentals through the end of their lease and then 90 days after that before being forced to vacate by the lender. Renters without leases will have 90 days, a significant improvement over what most received before: almost no notice at all. “Until this law was enacted, there had been no national protections for any of these households,” said Linda Couch, deputy director at the National Low Income Housing Coalition. “This gives renters time to adjust their lives.”

For more, see Law protects renters from foreclosure evictions.

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