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Mortmage Meltdown: C. Florida Court Opts For “Rubber Stamp Method” In Effort To Bulldoze Undefended Foreclosures Thru Legal System, Despite Myriad Of Paperwork Errors

May 21, 2009

In Sarasota, Florida, the Sarasota Herald Tribune reports:

  • Starting Friday, hundreds of people could lose their property each month in foreclosure hearings scheduled to take less than two minutes. Often called a “rocket docket,” the streamlined foreclosure court can schedule up to 250 cases per day, sending properties to auction in cases where the owners never showed up to defend themselves.
  • Speeding those cases through the court system will help unclog a glut of foreclosure cases, allowing civil judges to focus on cases where homeowners are fighting to save their property, as well as the other lawsuits they normally oversee. [...] “I don’t want to have these undefended cases stacking up,” 12th Circuit Chief Judge Lee Haworth said. “It just seemed to be the right thing to do.”

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  • Foreclosure defense attorneys, who have seen case after case where lawyers representing banks are giving false statements in court, worry that some homeowners will slip through the cracks and lose property they should not. [...] A retired attorney living in Sarasota, whose study of 180 Sarasota County cases found only one in four had complete paperwork, said the fast docket leaves less time to catch those kinds of mistakes. “There is no check, no screen, to make sure the most obvious, egregious errors are corrected,” Richard Kessler said. “It’s not a hearing, it’s a hanging.”
  • Haworth said the system puts the burden on the person being foreclosed on to point out any flaws there may be in the case against them. “If they decide for whatever reason they choose not to defend it, then they are defaulted,” he said.

For more, see Two minutes, and home goes away.

For story update, see ‘Rocket docket’ for foreclosures begins.

For posts that reference the failure of mortgage lenders and their attorneys to file the proper paperwork when bringing foreclosure actions, Go Here, Go Here, Go Here, Go Here, Go Here, Go Here, and Go Here.

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Foreclosure Fraud: MERS Jammed In Attempt To Foreclose In 27 Cases; Not A Real Party In Interest, Lacked Standing, Failed To Produce Note, Says Nevada Bankruptcy Judge

May 21, 2009

In Las Vegas, Nevada, Las Vegas Business Press reports:

  • A Las Vegas bankruptcy judge has dealt a blow to an obscure but critical piece of the mortgage enforcement machinery that could slow foreclosures. After a rare hearing in front of three judges last year that initially encompassed 27 cases, U.S. Bankruptcy Court Judge Linda Riegle has ruled that the Mortgage Electronic Registration System (MERS) could not represent lenders seeking to foreclose on delinquent homeowners already in bankruptcy unless it could produce the actual loan note. This goes to the heart of how home lending has evolved over the past two decades, with a loan rarely staying on the books of the originator but often being sold several times to other institutions or investment groups. As a result, producing a loan document is far more complex than opening a drawer in a filing cabinet.

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  • Riegle’s ruling not only parsed federal and state law but at least implicitly rapped MERS on the knuckles for its practices. For example, she noted that MERS acted as the attorney on several loans in Las Vegas even after they were transferred to non-MERS members. She also rejected the argument that lenders who belong to MERS and designated it to be their legal representative should be good enough for the court. Without the loan papers, she concluded, MERS’ terms and conditions for its members do not give it any rights to foreclose under Nevada law.” To reverse an old adage,” she wrote, “if it doesn’t walk like a duck, talk like a duck and quack like a duck, then it’s not a duck.”

For more, see Judge’s ruling deals blow to national mortgage servicer.

For the judge’s ruling, see In re Mitchell.

For posts that reference the failure of mortgage lenders and their attorneys to file the proper paperwork when bringing foreclosure actions, Go Here, Go Here, Go Here, Go Here, Go Here, Go Here, and Go Here. E

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Foreclosure Defense: Obama Administration Big Shots On The War On Foreclosure Rescue, Loan Modification Scams

April 14, 2009

U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner, Attorney General Eric Holder, and Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Shaun Donovan issued a joint press release last week on combating foreclosure rescue and loan modification scams:

  • [I]n a major step [last] week, the Department of the Treasury, the Department of Justice, the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Federal Trade Commission announced a new joint effort that cuts across federal and state governments and the private sector to combat foreclosure rescue scams. Led by the Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, this effort creates an advanced targeting process to streamline investigations and prosecutions and provides financial institutions with a new advisory to spot and report questionable loan modification schemes.
  • For American homeowners, this means that fraudulent companies will be shut down more quickly; companies that otherwise would have gone unnoticed will be identified and investigated; and the government’s ability to identify and prosecute anyone involved in mortgage rescue scams will be bolstered.

For more, see Crackdown on fraud.

See also, The Washington Post: ‘We Will Find You and We Will Punish You’:

  • There was tough talk out of Washington [last week] aimed at loan-modification scammers. Attorney General Eric Holder had this message for people and companies ripping off homeowners on the verge of foreclosure: “If you prey on vulnerable homeowners with fraudulent mortgage schemes, or discriminate against borrowers, we will find you and we will punish you.”

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Mortgage Meltdown: More Mortgage Lending Insiders Blow The Whistle On Shady Subprime Loan Practices

March 23, 2009

Dateline NBC ran a story last night in which it:

  • [G]ets to the bottom of how bad loans and greed wrecked the U.S. economy in this hour-long investigation. Hear from Countrywide insiders and whistleblowers who have never spoken publicly before.

For the story, see ‘If you had a pulse, we give you a loan’ (Inside the fiasco that led to the mortgage mess and Countrywide’s collapse) (read story) (watch video).

Go here for Dateline NBC home page.

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Foreclosure Offense: Watch Out For Loan Modification Scams Using Forged Documents Simulating The Letterhead Of Lenders, Government Agencies

March 16, 2009

From the Office of the California Attorney General:

  • California Attorney General Edmund G. Brown Jr. [Thursday] warned that scam artists have “sunk to a new low” and have used the forged letterhead of major lenders to con worried Californians into paying thousands of dollars for non-existent loan modification services.
  • Scam artists have sunk to a new low and are using the forged letterhead of lenders to con worried Californians into handing over their hard-earned money,” Attorney General Brown said. “Californians should be deeply skeptical of anyone who demands money up front and makes extravagant promises that they can save their home.”

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  • [Thursday]’s warning comes on the heels of the arrest Wednesday of Anna Santos, 22, of North Hills - a key player in a loan modification scam using forged letterhead - on charges of money-laundering, conspiracy, and four-counts of grand theft. Ms. Santos joined with members of the defunct First Gov loan modification ring in a separate criminal enterprise with a disturbing twist. They used forged mail and envelopes that appeared to be from victims’ lenders.
  • Ms. Santos obtained a fictitious business permit through the City of Los Angeles for “Payment Processing Department.” She opened several bank accounts and two post office boxes under that name. She and other members of the ring mailed flyers that appeared to be from victims’ lenders or a government entity. The flyer used a large, bold header that read “Final Notice” and advised homeowners that they qualified for a special program to save their home from foreclosure.

For more, see Brown Warns Homeowners that Scam Artists are Using Forged Letterhead of Lenders to Con Californians.

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Foreclosure Offense: Miami Foreclosure Sale Set Aside As Lender Is Unable To Produce The Proper Paperwork Proving The Right To Enforce The Note

March 16, 2009

In Miami, Florida, The New York Times reports:

  • [O]n Feb. 11, a circuit court judge in Miami-Dade County in Florida set aside a judgment against Ana L. Fernandez, a borrower whose home had been foreclosed and repurchased on Jan. 21 by Chevy Chase Bank, the institution claiming to hold the note. But the bank had been unable to produce evidence that the original lender had assigned the note, which was in the amount of $225,000, to Chevy Chase.
  • With the sale set aside, Ms. Fernandez remains in the home. “We believe this loan was never assigned,” said Ray Garcia, the lawyer in Miami who represented the borrower. Now, he said, it is up to whoever can produce the underlying note to litigate the case. The statute of limitations on such a matter runs for five years, he said.(1)

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  • Mr. Garcia has another case in which a borrower tried to sell his home but could not because the note underlying a $60,000 second mortgage cannot be found. The statute of limitations on the matter will expire in October, he said, and if the note holder has not come forward by then, the borrower will be free of his obligation on the second mortgage.

For the story, see Fair Game: Guess What Got Lost in the Loan Pool?

Go here for the court order setting aside the foreclosure judgment.

For posts that reference the failure of mortgage lenders and their attorneys to file the proper paperwork when bringing foreclosure actions, Go Here, Go Here, Go Here, Go Here, Go Here, and Go Here.

(1) Sec. 95.11(2)(c), 95.281(1)(a), Florida Statutes.

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Foreclosure Halt: Fannie Mae Extends Eviction Suspension Through March 31

March 11, 2009

Fannie Mae announces:

  • Fannie Mae [Friday] announced it is extending the suspension of all eviction proceedings through March 31, 2009 as the company implements the Home Affordable Refinance and Home Affordable Modification initiatives as part of the Obama Administration’s Making Home Affordable program.
  • The company has also issued special foreclosure sale requirements in response to the Making Home Affordable program. A foreclosure sale may not occur on any Fannie Mae loan until the loan servicer verifies that the borrower is ineligible for a Home Affordable Modification and all other foreclosure prevention alternatives have been exhausted.

Source: Fannie Mae Extends Eviction Suspension Through March 31.

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Foreclosure Defense: Freddie Suspends Foreclosures On Mortgages Qualified For Obama Modification Plan; Will Enter Landlord Business; Halts Evictions Thru April 1

March 9, 2009

In McLean, Virginia, Freddie Mac announced this week:

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March 4 press release:

  • Freddie Mac [...] announced it is suspending foreclosure sales on mortgages eligible for the Home Affordable Modification Program announced [...] as part of the Obama Administration’s Making Home Affordable plan. [...] Specifically, Freddie Mac will instruct its servicers not to complete a foreclosure sale on a mortgage eligible for the Home Affordable Modification program unless they completed their effort to contact the borrower and either the borrower did not respond or lacked the capacity or willingness to participate in the Home Affordable Modification program or any other Freddie Mac workout program.

March 6 press release:

  • Freddie Mac [...] announced the official launch of its new REO Rental Initiative giving qualified tenants and former owners the option to lease their recently foreclosed properties on a month-to-month basis. The REO Rental Initiative will be managed by HomeSteps®, Freddie Mac’s national real estate unit, and implemented through several national property management firms.
  • Freddie Mac also announced it will continue to suspend all eviction actions until April 1, 2009 to ensure there is ample time for current occupants to learn about the options available to them under the new initiative.

Go here for the entire March 4 press release: Freddie Mac Stops Foreclosure Sales on Loans Eligible for New Obama Home Affordable Modification Program.

Go here for the entire March 6 press release: Freddie Mac Officially Launches REO Rental Initiative for Tenants Owner-Occupants After Foreclosure (Freddie Mac Continues Suspension of Evictions Through April 1, 2009).

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Foreclosure Mavericks: B’klyn Judge Slams Brakes On Another Foreclosure As “Standing-Lacking” Lender Fails To Prove Ownership Of Note, Right To Sue

February 24, 2009

In Brooklyn, New York, the New York Post reports:

  • Aquila Rose got a $475,000 mortgage from Fremont Investment & Loan for her Flatbush home in January 2007 and made exactly one payment before defaulting. When Fremont started a foreclosure action on Oct. 15 that year, it seemed like a slam dunk - like Rose would soon be forced from her East 35th Street home.
  • But Rose has not been foreclosed upon, according to court papers. Her case in Brooklyn state court is assigned to Justice Arthur M. Schack, one of a growing number of judges in the country creating a new front in the foreclosure epidemic by forcing banks and mortgage-service agents to prove they own the mortgage.
  • In Rose’s case, as in most mortgages, the lender, Fremont, sold the loan and, when pressed by Schack, couldn’t prove it owned the mortgage - therefore didn’t have the right to sue.(1) So Schack stopped the proceedings in its tracks.(2)

For the story, see HOW B’KLYN WOMAN KEPT HER HOME.

For Justice Shack’s decision, see Fremont Inv. & Loan v Rose, 2008 NY Slip Op 52409 [21 Misc 3d 1137 (December 2, 2008).

Justice Schack received an "honorable mention" in this recent New York Post article.

Go here for other posts referencing Justice Arthur M. Schack.

(1) According to the story, Fremont claimed, according to court papers, that it sold the loan to GRP Loan. But Schack wanted to know why Fremont and GRP share the same White Plains office. The judge was also curious why the GRP lawyer also represents Fremont in the transfer of ownership - and threatened to sanction the lawyer for an apparent conflict of interest. Schack gave GRP until Feb. 2 to come back to court and prove that it owned the mortgage. They never showed. Meanwhile, Rose continues to live in her house.

Apparently, Fremont and GRP have a similar office-sharing arrangement that Justice Schack uncovered and referred to in another foreclosure action involving a different lender. In his written decision in HSBC Bank USA, N.A. v Charlevagne, 2008 NY Slip Op 51652 [20 Misc 3d 1128]; (August 4, 2008), he found it curious that, according to court documents filed in a number of cases he has presided over, the financial behemoths HSBC Bank USA, N.A., Ocwen Loan Servicing, LLC, Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems, Inc., Deutsche Bank and Goldman Sachs all share the same office space at “the ever popular Suite 100” at 1661 Worthington Road, West Palm Beach, Florida 33409.

(2) For a list of links to over thirty of Justice Schack’s decisions denying foreclosure to foreclosing lenders who lacked standing to initiate the legal action, see Brooklyn Trial Judge Nixes “Rubber Stamp Method” Of Adjudicating Foreclosures; Lenders, Lawyers Lacking Legal Standing To Bring Actions Get Bounced. ThetaMi

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Foreclosure Offense: Wachovia Hit With Class Action Over Option ARMs; Suit Calls Mortgage A ‘Neutron Bomb That Will Kill All The People But Leave The Houses Standing’

February 23, 2009

In a Federal District Court somewhere in Illinois, The Madison County Record reports:

  • A class action lawsuit has been filed against three financial corporations, including banking giant Wachovia, alleging Illinois homebuyers were forced into negative amortization after the banks deceived them when they issued option adjustable rate mortgages. Lead class plaintiffs Michael and Jayme Brunkhorst claim the lenders and brokers that sold them an option ARM mortgage [...], touted the minimum payment and downplayed or failed to disclose the negative amortization that could result from making such payments, according to the suit filed Feb. 17 in U.S. District Court.

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  • Option ARM loans have been called ‘the riskiest and most complicated home loan product ever created‘ and have been termed a ‘neutron bomb’ that will kill all the people but leave the houses standing’ by an economist at the Ford Foundation,” the suit states.

For more, see Home owners file class action against Wachovia over option ARMs.

For other posts on homeowners using state & federal law to try and undo bad mortgage loans, Go Here, Go Here, and Go Here.

(1) Among other remedies, the Brunkhorsts and the putative class are asking the court grant equitable relief to restructure their loans through rate buy downs, principal reduction and conversion into conventional fixed rate loans.

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