Securitization for Lawyers

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The CONCEPT of securitization does not contemplate an increase in violations of lending laws passed by States or the Federal government. Far from it. The CONCEPT anticipated a decrease in risk, loss and liability for violations of TILA, RESPA or state deceptive lending laws. The assumption was that the strictly regulated stable managed funds (like pensions), insurers, and guarantors would ADD to the protections to investors as lenders and homeowners as borrowers. That it didn’t work that way is the elephant in the living room. It shows that the concept was not followed, the written instruments reveal a sneaky intent to undermine the concept. The practices of the industry violated everything — the lending laws, investment restrictions, and the securitization documents themselves. — Neil F Garfield, Livinglies.me

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“Securitization” is a word that provokes many emotional reactions ranging from hatred to frustration. Beliefs run the range from the idea that securitization is evil to the idea that it is irrelevant. Taking the “irrelevant” reaction first, I would say that comes from ignorance and frustration. To look at a stack of Documents, each executed with varying formalities, and each being facially valid and then call them all irrelevant is simply burying your head in the sand. On the other hand, calling securitization evil is equivalent to rejecting capitalism. So let’s look at securitization dispassionately.

First of all “securitization” merely refers to a concept that has been in operation for hundreds of years, perhaps thousands of years if you look into the details of commerce and investment. In our recent history it started with “joint stock companies” that financed sailing expeditions for goods and services. Instead of one person or one company taking all the risk that one ship might not come back, or come back with nothing, investors could spread their investment dollars by buying shares in a “joint stock company” that invested their money in multiple sailing ventures. So if some ship came in loaded with goods it would more than offset the ships that sunk, were pirated, or that lost their cargo. Diversifying risk produced more reliable profits and virtually eliminated the possibility of financial ruin because of the tragedies the befell a single cargo ship.

Every stock certificate or corporate or even government bond is the product of securitization. In our capitalist society, securitization is essential to attract investment capital and therefore growth. For investors it is a way of participating in the risk and rewards of companies run by officers and directors who present a believable vision of success. Investors can invest in one company alone, but most, thanks to capitalism and securitization, are able to invest in many companies and many government issued bonds. In all cases, each stock certificate or bond certificate is a “derivative” — i.e., it DERIVES ITS VALUE from the economic value of the company or government that issued that stock certificate or bond certificate.

In other words, securitization is a vehicle for diversification of investment. Instead of one “all or nothing” investment, the investors gets to spread the risk over multiple companies and governments. The investor can do this in one of two ways — either manage his own investments buying and selling stocks and bonds, or investing in one or more managed funds run by professional managers buying and selling stocks and bonds. Securitization of debt has all the elements of diversification and is essential to the free flow of commerce in a capitalistic economy.

Preview Questions:

  • What happens if the money from investors is NOT put in the company or given to the government?
  • What happens if the certificates are NOT delivered back to investors?
  • What happens if the company that issued the stock never existed or were not used as an investment vehicle as promised to investors?
  • What happens to “profits” that are reported by brokers who used investor money in ways never contemplated, expected or accepted by investors?
  • Who is accountable under laws governing the business of the IPO entity (i.e., the REMIC Trust in our context).
  • Who are the victims of misbehavior of intermediaries?
  • Who bears the risk of loss caused by misbehavior of intermediaries?
  • What are the legal questions and issues that arise when the joint stock company is essentially an instrument of fraud? (See Madoff, Drier etc. where the “business” was actually collecting money from lenders and investors which was used to pay prior investors the expected return).

In order to purchase a security deriving its value from mortgage loans, you could diversify by buying fractional shares of specific loans you like (a new and interesting business that is internet driven) or you could go the traditional route — buying fractional shares in multiple companies who are buying loans in bulk. The share certificates you get derive their value from the value of the IPO issuer of the shares (a REMIC Trust, usually). Like any company, the REMIC Trust derives its value from the value of its business. And the REMIC business derives its value from the quality of the loan originations and loan acquisitions. Fulfillment of the perceived value is derived from effective servicing and enforcement of the loans.

All investments in all companies and all government issued bonds or other securities are derivatives simply because they derive their value from something described on the certificate. With a stock certificate, the value is derived from a company whose name appears on the certificate. That tells you which company you invested your money. The number of shares tells you how many shares you get. The indenture to the stock certificate or bond certificate describes the voting rights, rights to  distributions of income, and rights to distribution of the company is sold or liquidated. But this assumes that the company or government entity actually exists and is actually doing business as described in the IPO prospectus and subscription agreement.

The basic element of value and legal rights in such instruments is that there must be a company doing business in the name of the company who is shown on the share certificates — i.e., there must be actual financial transactions by the named parties that produce value for shareholders in the IPO entity, and the holders of certificates must have a right to receive those benefits. The securitization of a company through an IPO that offers securities to investors offer one additional legal fiction that is universally enforced — limited liability. Limited liability refers to the fact that the investment is at risk (if the company or REMIC fails) but the investor can’t lose more than he or she invested.

Translated to securitization of debt, there must be a transaction that is an actual loan of money that is not merely presumed, but which is real. That loan, like a stock certificate, must describe the actual debtor and the actual creditor. An investor does not intentionally buy a share of loans that were purchased from people who did not make any loans or conduct any lending business in which they were the source of lending.

While there are provisions in the law that can make a promissory note payable to anyone who is holding it, there is no allowance for enforcing a non-existent loan except in the event that the purchaser is a “Holder in Due Course.” The HDC can enforce both the note and mortgage because he has satisfied both Article 3 and Article 9 of the Uniform Commercial Code. The Pooling and Servicing Agreements of REMIC Trusts require compliance with the UCC, and other state and federal laws regarding originating or acquiring residential mortgage loans.

In short, the PSA requires that the Trust become a Holder in Due Course in order for the Trustee of the Trust to accept the loan as part of the pool owned by the Trust on behalf of the Trust Beneficiaries who have received a “certificate” of fractional ownership in the Trust. Anything less than HDC status is unacceptable. And if you were the investor you would want nothing less. You would want loans that cannot be defended on the basis of violation of lending laws and practices.

The loan, as described in the origination documents, must actually exist. A stock certificate names the company that is doing business. The loan describes the debtor and creditor. Any failure to describe the the debtor or creditor with precision, results in a failure of the loan contract, and the documents emerging from such a “closing” are worthless. If you want to buy a share of IBM you don’t buy a share of Itty Bitty Machines, Inc., which was just recently incorporated with its assets consisting of a desk and a chair. The name on the certificate or other legal document is extremely important.

In loan documents, the only exception to the “value” proposition in the event of the absence of an actual loan is another legal fiction designed to promote the free flow of commerce. It is called “Holder in Due Course.” The loan IS enforceable in the absence of an actual loan between the parties on the loan documents, if a third party innocent purchases the loan documents for value in good faith and without knowledge of the borrower’s defense of failure of consideration (he didn’t get the loan from the creditor named on the note and mortgage).  This is a legislative decision made by virtually all states — if you sign papers, you are taking the risk that your promises will be enforced against you even if your counterpart breached the loan contract from the start. The risk falls on the maker of the note who can sue the loan originator for misusing his signature but cannot bring all potential defenses to enforcement by the Holder in Due Course.

Florida Example:

673.3021 Holder in due course.

(1) Subject to subsection (3) and s. 673.1061(4), the term “holder in due course” means the holder of an instrument if:

(a) The instrument when issued or negotiated to the holder does not bear such apparent evidence of forgery or alteration or is not otherwise so irregular or incomplete as to call into question its authenticity; and
(b) The holder took the instrument:

1. For value;
2. In good faith;
3. Without notice that the instrument is overdue or has been dishonored or that there is an uncured default with respect to payment of another instrument issued as part of the same series;
4. Without notice that the instrument contains an unauthorized signature or has been altered;
5. Without notice of any claim to the instrument described in s. 673.3061; and
6. Without notice that any party has a defense or claim in recoupment described in s. 673.3051(1).
673.3061 Claims to an instrument.A person taking an instrument, other than a person having rights of a holder in due course, is subject to a claim of a property or possessory right in the instrument or its proceeds, including a claim to rescind a negotiation and to recover the instrument or its proceeds. A person having rights of a holder in due course takes free of the claim to the instrument.
This means that Except for HDC status, the maker of the note has a right to reclaim possession of the note or to rescind the transaction against any party who has no rights to claim it is a creditor or has rights to represent a creditor. The absence of a claim of HDC status tells a long story of fraud and intrigue.
673.3051 Defenses and claims in recoupment.

(1) Except as stated in subsection (2), the right to enforce the obligation of a party to pay an instrument is subject to:

(a) A defense of the obligor based on:

1. Infancy of the obligor to the extent it is a defense to a simple contract;
2. Duress, lack of legal capacity, or illegality of the transaction which, under other law, nullifies the obligation of the obligor;
3. Fraud that induced the obligor to sign the instrument with neither knowledge nor reasonable opportunity to learn of its character or its essential terms;
This means that if the “originator” did not loan the money and/or failed to perform underwriting tests for the viability of the loan, and gave the borrower false impressions about the viability of the loan, there is a Florida statutory right of rescission as well as a claim to reclaim the closing documents before they get into the hands of an innocent purchaser for value in good faith with no knowledge of the borrower’s defenses.

 

In the securitization of loans, the object has been to create entities with preferred tax status that are remote from the origination or purchase of the loan transactions. In other words, the REMIC Trusts are intended to be Holders in Due Course. The business of the REMIC Trust is to originate or acquire loans by payment of value, in good faith and without knowledge of the borrower’s defenses. Done correctly, appropriate market forces will apply, risks are reduced for both borrower and lenders, and benefits emerge for both sides of the single transaction between the investors who put up the money and the homeowners who received the benefit of the loan.

It is referred to as a single transaction using doctrines developed in tax law and other commercial cases. Every transaction, when you think about it, is composed of numerous actions, reactions and documents. If we treated each part as a separate transaction with no relationship to the other transactions there would be no connection between even the original lender and the borrower, much less where multiple assignments were involved. In simple terms, the single transaction doctrine basically asks one essential question — if it wasn’t for the investors putting up the money (directly or through an entity that issued an IPO) would the transaction have occurred? And the corollary is but for the borrower, would the investors have been putting up that money?  The answer is obvious in connection with mortgage loans. No business would have been conducted but for the investors advancing money and the homeowners taking it.

So neither “derivative” nor “securitization” is a dirty word. Nor is it some nefarious scheme from people from the dark side — in theory. Every REMIC Trust is the issuer in an initial public offering known as an “IPO” in investment circles. A company can do an IPO on its own where it takes the money and issues the shares or it can go through a broker who solicits investors, takes the money, delivers the money to the REMIC Trust and then delivers the Trust certificates to the investors.

Done properly, there are great benefits to everyone involved — lenders, borrowers, brokers, mortgage brokers, etc. And if “securitization” of mortgage debt had been done as described above, there would not have been a flood of money that increased prices of real property to more than twice the value of the land and buildings. Securitization of debt is meant to provide greater liquidity and lower risk to lenders based upon appropriate underwriting of each loan. Much of the investment came from stable managed funds which are strictly regulated on the risks they are allowed in managing the funds of pensioners, retirement accounts, etc.

By reducing the risk, the cost of the loans could be reduced to borrowers and the profits in creating loans would be higher. If that was what had been written in the securitization plan written by the major brokers on Wall Street, the mortgage crisis could not have happened. And if the actual practices on Wall Street had conformed at least to what they had written, the impact would have been vastly reduced. Instead, in most cases, securitization was used as the sizzle on a steak that did not exist. Investors advanced money, rating companies offered Triple AAA ratings, insurers offered insurance, guarantors guarantees loans and shares in REMIC trusts that had no possibility of achieving any value.

Today’s article was about the way the IPO securitization of residential loans was conceived and should have worked. Tomorrow we will look at the way the REMIC IPO was actually written and how the concept of securitization necessarily included layers of different companies.

RESCISSION REVIVED BY 9TH CIRCUIT COURT OF APPEALS

Hat tip to Ken McLeod and to Ron Ryan who argued endlessly that the former ruling was wrong in Arizona. Ron Ryan is a good lawyer and Ken McLeod is a good investigator. Both have years of experience investigating, analyzing and fighting illegal foreclosures.

Courts are catching on and as I have predicted, the ultimate determination of the merits of foreclosure cases are largely going to turn on the application of the Truth in Lending Act (TILA) and the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (RESPA). Previously this same court held that tender of the money was required to rescind a transaction — the exact opposite of what the Federal statutes and regulations required. Now, correcting its prior error, the court says that a cause of action and defense exists by pleading rescission. Any document indicating the intent to rescind is sufficient.

The purpose of the TILA provision was to put the burden on the lender to prove that they had complied with all aspects of TILA in providing adequate disclosure and otherwise performing those acts required for a valid closing. If the defense is that the loan contract was not completed because of lack of consideration or other violations of TILA or RESPA, then the appropriate action is to send a rescission letter. It then falls on the “lender” to file an action within 20 days to object to the rescission or return all money paid by the borrower and to file a satisfaction of mortgage along with returning the canceled note. And since the allegation of no consideration leaves nothing to be tendered “back”, there is no impediment to going forward with discovery.

This forces “lenders” to essentially file a judicial foreclosure suit and prove they made the loan, they have the right paperwork and made the right disclosures. Table funded loans are going to give them a problem since Reg Z says that any pattern of conduct with table-funded loans is “predatory per se,” it is hard to imagine that this decision won’t stop the “lenders” dead in their tracks.

The requirement of tender assumed that the “lender” had actually made the loan and was the source of funds. Now the Courts are starting to realize that there was a switch at closing with the borrower and very likely a switch at closing with the real lenders — the investors who thought they were buying valuable mortgage bonds. With the borrowers the closing agent took money from an undisclosed party and then had the borrower sign documents in favor of another party. With the investors, the investment bank took money from the investors and instead of funding the trust, used the money and the documents from closing as though it were their own.

Hence the need to fabricate endorsements, assignments etc. If the “securitization” of the loan had taken place there would be a chain of monetary transactions leading up to the ultimate transfer to the trust who would have issued payment for the loan. There would have been no need to fabricate, forge, or robosign documents and certainly no loss of loans due to destruction or misplacement, because the documents would have been forwarded to the named Depository.

The result was that the burden was placed on borrowers with the least access to the real information on the loan and an easy path of defense to the party with the most access to the real facts of the loans and alleged transfers of the loan. TILA was meant to level the playing field. If the borrower invoked rescission without right, then there were consequences. This law was passed to prevent predatory lenders escaping the consequences of illegal actions simply because they had greater resources, sophistication and factual knowledge.

Be careful here. There are several types of rescission — 3 Day, 3 Year and common law. Consult with an attorney who is licensed to practice in the jurisdiction in which your property is located.

For more information call 954-495-9867 or 520-405-1688

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Merritt v. Countrywide Financial Corp.

9th circuit opinion Issued July 16, 2014

Summary: Plaintiffs filed suit against Countrywide and others involved in their residential mortgage, alleging violations of numerous federal statutes. The district court dismissed the claims with prejudice and plaintiffs appealed. The court held that plaintiffs can state a claim for rescission under the Truth in Lending Act (TILA), 15 U.S.C. 1601 et seq., without pleading that they have tendered, or that they have the ability to tender, the value of their loan; only at the summary judgment stage may a court order the statutory sequence altered and require tender before rescission – and then only on a case-by-case basis; and, therefore, the court reversed the district court’s dismissal of plaintiffs’ rescission claim and remanded for further proceedings. The court held that, although the limitations period in the Real Estate Settlement Practices Act (RESPA), 12 U.S.C. 2614, ordinarily runs from the date of the alleged RESPA violation, the doctrine of equitable tolling may, in the appropriate circumstances, suspend the limitations period until the borrower discovers or had reasonable opportunity to discover the violation; just as for TILA claims, district courts may evaluate RESPA claims case-by-case; and, therefore, in this case, the court vacated the dismissal of plaintiffs’ Section 8 of RESPA claims on limitations grounds and remanded for reconsideration.

Merritt v Countryside 9th circuit 09-17678-2014-07-16

 

Unconscionable and Negligent Conduct in Loan Modification Practices

JOIN US EVERY THURSDAY AT 6PM Eastern time on The Neil Garfield Show. We will discuss the Stenberger decision and other important developments affecting consumers, borrowers and banks. We had 561 listeners so far who were on the air with us or who downloaded the show. Thank you — that is a good start for our first show. And thank you Patrick Giunta, Esq. (Broward County Attorney) as our first guest. For more information call 954-495-9867.

In the case of Wane v. Loan Corp. the 11th Circuit struck down the borrower’s attempt to rescind. The reasoning in that case had to do with whether the originator was the real lender. I think, based upon my review of that and other cases, that the facts were not totally known and perhaps could have been and then included in the pleading. It is one thing to say that you don’t think the originator actually paid for the loan. It is quite another to say that a third party did actually pay for the loan and failed to get the note and mortgage or deed of trust executed properly to protect the real source of funds. In order to do that you might need the copy of the wire transfer receipt and wire transfer instructions and potentially a forensic report showing the path of “securitization” which probably never happened.

The importance of the Steinberger decision (see prior post) is that it reverts back to simple doctrines of law rather the complexity and resistance in the courts to apply the clear wording in the Truth in Lending Act. The act says that any statement indicating the desire to rescind within the time limits set forth in the statute is sufficient to nullify the mortgage or deed of trust by operation of law unless the alleged creditor/lender files an action within the prescribed time limits. It is a good law and it covers a lot of the abuses that we see in the legal battleground. But Judges are refusing to apply it. And that includes Appellate courts including the 9th Circuit that wrote into the statute the requirement that the money be tendered “back to the creditor” in order for the rescission to have any legal effect.

The 9th Circuit obviously is saying the they refuse to abide by the statute. The tender back to the creditor need only be a statement that the homeowner is prepared to execute a note and mortgage in favor of the real lender. To tender the money “back” to the originator is to assume they made the loan, which ordinarily was not the case. The courts are getting educated but they are not at the point where they “get it.”

But with the Steinberger decision we can get similar results without battling the rescission issue that so far is encountering nothing but resistance. That case manifestly agrees that a borrower can challenge the authority of those who are claiming money from him or her and that if there are problems with the mortgage, the foreclosure or the modification program in which the borrower was lured into actions that caused the borrower harm, there are damages for the “lender” to pay. The recent Wells Fargo decision posted a few days ago said the same thing. The logic behind that applies to the closing as well.

So lawyers should start thinking about more basic common law doctrines and use the statutes as corroboration for the common law cause of action rather than the other way around. Predatory practices under TILA can be alleged under doctrines of unconscionability and negligence. Title issues, “real lender” issues can be attacked using common law negligence.

Remember that the common allegation of the “lenders” is that they are “holders” — not that they are holders in due course which would require them to show that they paid value for the note and that they have the right to enforce it and collect because the money is actually owed to them. The “holders” are subject to claims detailed in the Steinberger decision without reference to TILA, RESPA or any of the other claims that the courts are resisting. As holders they are subject to all claims and defenses of the borrower. And remember as well that it is a mistake to assume that the mortgage or deed of trust is governed by Article 3 of the UCC. Security instruments are only governed by Article 9 and they must be purchased for value for a party to be able to enforce them.

All of this is predicated on real facts that you can prove. So you need forensic research and analysis. The more specific you are in your allegations, the more difficult it will be for the trial court to throw your claims and defenses out of court because they are hypothetical or too speculative.

Question: who do we sue? Answer: I think the usual suspects — originator, servicers, broker dealer, etc. but also the closing agent.

Rescission Returns in 3rd Circuit Opinion

Forbes has taken notice. There is a shift toward borrowers in mortgage litigation. The decision points back to the origination of the loan. This decision follows a similar decision in the 4th circuit. It all comes down to what actually happened at closing? And we don’t actually know if the decision to allow rescission indefinitely on second mortgages will extend to the first mortgage if it is all part of the same transaction. The result of rescission is that all payments of every kind must be returned to the borrower plus interest and attorney fees and potentially treble damages. All payments mean closing costs, fees, costs, expenses, principal interest, escrow and anything else. If the “lender” doesn’t do that the mortgage lien is expressly invalidated by operation of law, which is the same as being subject to a recorded satisfaction of mortgage. TILA is back!! — at least until the Supreme Court gets to weigh in on this ongoing dispute.

TILA requires only a clear statement and communication that the borrower wishes to rescind the transaction. The statute is clear that the burden shifts to the “lender” to either agree to rescission or sue to disqualify the rescission that must be supported by allegations and proof that the lender violated disclosure requirements at the time of origination of the loan. To be sure, there is a loophole created by the courts — that the rescinding borrower have the money to give back to the lender. But that is exactly what is going to cause the problem for Foreclosers. If the borrower can show some credible source of funds, the “lender” is screwed — because the lender is not the party who was named on the note and mortgage.

So the offer of the money will immediately cause an inquiry and discovery into the question who actually was the lender? We certainly don’t want to give the rescission money to the named party on the note and mortgage when the source of funds was a party with no legal relationship to the named “lender.” The facts will show that the mortgage lien was never perfected —and that therefore rescission under TILA is potentially unnecessary.

Either way, the debt turns up unsecured and can be discharged in bankruptcy. The problem for Wall Street is how they will explain to investors why the investors were not identified as the lenders in each closing. The answer is that Wall Street Banks wanted to use those loans as “assets” they could trade, insure, hedge and even sell contrary to the prospectus and PSA shown to pension Funds and other investors who advanced funds to investment banks as “payment” for mortgage bonds underwritten by those banks.

When the limelight is focused on the original closing, Pandora’s box will open for the bankers. It will show that they never used the money from investors to buy bonds issued by a REMIC trust. It will show the trusts to be unfunded. It will show the unfunded trusts never bought or funded the loans. It will show that the disclosure requirements and the reason for TILA (borrowers’ choices in the marketplace) were regularly violated.

That in turn will lead to the inquiry as to the balance of the loan that is now due. Rescission means giving back what you received. But what if, by operation of law, you have already given back some or all of the money? The investment banker will be hard pressed to describe itself as anything but the agent of the lender investors. As agent, it received payments from insurance, hedges and sales to the Federal Reserve. How will the Wall Street Banks explain why those payments should not be applied to reduce the account receivable of the investor lenders? How many times should the lender be paid on the same debt?

Remember that there is no issue of subrogation, contribution or other claims against the borrower here. They were expressly waived in the contracts for insurance and credit default swaps. Hence the payments should equitably be applied to the benefit of the investors whose money was used to start the false securitization scheme under false pretenses. Once the investors are paid or considered paid because their agents received the money from third party co-obligors, what is left for the borrowers to pay? Will the court order the borrower to pay “back” a lender who never made the loan?

Dreamli Zs 6:22pm Sep 28

http://www.forbes.com/sites/danielfisher/2013/02/07/court-decision-gives-borrowers-an-ace-in-the-hole-lenders-a-headache/

Court Decision Gives Lenders A Headache, Borrowers An Ace In The Hole
http://www.forbes.com
A court ruling gives borrowers an unlimited deadline for rescinding second mortgages

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Editor’s Comment: 

Thanks to Home Preservation Network for alerting us to John Griffith’s Statement before the Congressional Progressive Caucus U.S. House of Representatives.  See his statement below.  

People who know the systemic flaws caused by Wall Street are getting closer to the microphone. The Banks are hoping it is too late — but I don’t think we are even close to the point where the blame shifts solidly to their illegal activities. The testimony is clear, well-balanced, and based on facts. 

On the high costs of foreclosure John Griffith proves the point that there is an “invisible hand” pushing homes into foreclosure when they should be settled modified under HAMP. There can be no doubt nor any need for interpretation — even the smiliest analysis shows that investors would be better off accepting modification proposals to a huge degree. Yet most people, especially those that fail to add tacit procuration language in their proposal and who fail to include an economic analysis, submit proposals that provide proceeds to investors that are at least 50% higher than the projected return from foreclosure. And that is the most liberal estimate. Think about all those tens of thousands of homes being bull-dozed. What return did the investor get on those?

That is why we now include a HAMP analysis in support of proposals as part of our forensic analysis. We were given the idea by Martin Andelman (Mandelman Matters). When we performed the analysis the results were startling and clearly showed, as some judges around the country have pointed out, that the HAMP loan modification proposals were NOT considered. In those cases where the burden if proof was placed on the pretender lender, it was clear that they never had any intention other than foreclosure. Upon findings like that, the cases settled just like every case where the pretender loses the battle on discovery.

Despite clear predictions of increased strategic defaults based upon data that shows that strategic defaults are increasing at an exponential level, the Bank narrative is that if they let homeowners modify mortgages, it will hurt the Market and encourage more deadbeats to do the same. The risk of strategic defaults comes not from people delinquent in their payments but from businesspeople who look at the principal due, see no hope that the value of the home will rise substantially for decades, and see that the home is worth less than half the mortgage claimed. No reasonable business person would maintain the status quo. 

The case for principal reductions (corrections) is made clear by the one simple fact that the homes are not worth and never were worth the value of the used in true loans. The failure of the financial industry to perform simple, long-standing underwriting duties — like verifying the value of the collateral created a risk for the “lenders” (whoever they are) that did not exist and was present without any input from the borrower who was relying on the same appraisals that the Banks intentionally cooked up so they could move the money and earn their fees.

Many people are suggesting paths forward. Those that are serious and not just positioning in an election year, recognize that the station becomes more muddled each day, the false foreclosures on fatally defective documents must stop, but that the buying and selling and refinancing of properties presents still more problems and risks. In the end the solution must hold the perpetrators to account and deliver relief to homeowners who have an opportunity to maintain possession and ownership of their homes and who may have the right to recapture fraudulently foreclosed homes with illegal evictions. The homes have been stolen. It is time to catch the thief, return the purse and seize the property of the thief to recapture ill-gotten gains.

Statement of John Griffith Policy Analyst Center for American Progress Action Fund

Before

The Congressional Progressive Caucus U.S. House of Representatives

Hearing On

Turning the Tide: Preventing More Foreclosures and Holding Wrong-Doers Accountable

Good afternoon Co-Chairman Grijalva, Co-Chairman Ellison, and members of the caucus. I am John Griffith, an Economic Policy Analyst at the Center for American Progress Action Fund, where my work focuses on housing policy.

It is an honor to be here today to discuss ways to soften the blow of the ongoing foreclosure crisis. It’s clear that lenders, investors, and policymakers—particularly the government-controlled mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac—must do all they can to avoid another wave of costly and economy-crushing foreclosures. Today I will discuss why principal reduction—lowering the amount the borrower actually owes on a loan in exchange for a higher likelihood of repayment—is a critical tool in that effort.

Specifically, I will discuss the following:

1      First, the high cost of foreclosure. Foreclosure is typically the worst outcome for every party involved, since it results in extraordinarily high costs to borrowers, lenders, and investors, not to mention the carry-on effects for the surrounding community.

2      Second, the economic case for principal reduction. Research shows that equity is an important predictor of default. Since principal reduction is the only way to permanently improve a struggling borrower’s equity position, it is often the most effective way to help a deeply underwater borrower avoid foreclosure.

3      Third, the business case for Fannie and Freddie to embrace principal reduction. By refusing to offer write-downs on the loans they own or guarantee, Fannie, Freddie, and their regulator, the Federal Housing Finance Agency, or FHFA, are significantly lagging behind the private sector. And FHFA’s own analysis shows that it can be a money-saver: Principal reductions would save the enterprises about $10 billion compared to doing nothing, and $1.7 billion compared to alternative foreclosure mitigation tools, according to data released earlier this month.

4      Fourth, a possible path forward. In a recent report my former colleague Jordan Eizenga and I propose a principal-reduction pilot at Fannie and Freddie that focuses on deeply underwater borrowers facing long-term economic hardships. The pilot would include special rules to maximize returns to Fannie, Freddie, and the taxpayers supporting them without creating skewed incentives for borrowers.

Fifth, a bit of perspective. To adequately meet the challenge before us, any principal-reduction initiative must be part of a multipronged

To read John Griffith’s entire testimony go to: http://www.americanprogressaction.org/issues/2012/04/pdf/griffith_testimony.pdf


National Notary Association Takes Up Robosigning

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Editor’s Comment: 

National Notary Association to take Up Issue of  Forgery, Robosigning and attesting to authority in corporate capacity.  Arizona’s Ken Bennett, Secretary of State, is among the officials leading the charge on this issue.

Notary Trade Group: Foreclosure Fraud Crisis Highlights Need For Legal, Trusted, Ethical Notarizations

Posted: 21 Apr 2012 09:07 PM PDT

The National Notary Association recently announced:

§ With the foreclosure ‘robo-signing’ crisis and the National Mortgage Settlement sending shockwaves through America’s mortgage industry, three nationally prominent Secretaries of State will convene a special Keynote Panel at the National Notary Association’s 34th Annual Conference this June to discuss the growing demand for trusted, legal notarizations, and what Notaries need to do to increase public protections and reduce liability risks.

§ Secretaries of State Elaine Marshall of North Carolina, Beth Chapman of Alabama, and Ken Bennett of Arizona are at the forefront of developments transforming the role of Notaries Public. Their insights will be a highlight of Conference 2012 — especially in light of mounting nationwide concerns over notarial compliance and risk management.

§ We are pleased that these three influential Secretaries — all of whom are among the top minds in notarial issues — will join us to address the nation’s Notaries and their employers during this critical time,” said NNA President and Chief Executive Officer Thomas A. Heymann.

§ The foreclosure crisis put the spotlight squarely on the high value of legal and ethical notarizations. These Secretaries will provide their perspectives on what needs to be done to strengthen the notarial process and avoid these types of financial crises.”

For more, see Secretaries of State to Address Notary Compliance, Liability, Consumer Protection Following National Mortgage Settlement(Distinguished State Leaders Will Convene Keynote Panel at the National Notary Association’s 2012 Conference in San Diego).

LPS: So We Fabricated and Forged Documents… So what? Here’s what!!

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IT’S ALL ABOUT THE MONEY, STUPID!

Editor’s Analysis: This is the moment I have been waiting for. After years of saying the documents were real, they admit, in the face of a mountain of irrefutable evidence, that the documents were not real, but that as a convenience they should still be allowed to use them. Besides the obvious criminality and slander of tile and all sorts of other things that are attendant to these practices, there is a certain internal logic to their assertion and you should not dismiss it without thinking about it. Otherwise you will be left with your jaw hanging open wondering how an admitted criminal gets to keep the spoils of illegal activities.

I have been pounding on this subject for weeks because I could see in the motions being filed by banks and servicers that they had changed course and were now pursuing a new strategy that plays on the simple logic that you took a loan, you signed a note, you didn’t make the payments as stated in the note — everything else is window dressing and for the various parties in securitization to sort amongst themselves.

All foreclosure actions are actually, when they boil them down, just collection actions. It is about money owed. So far, the arguments that have worked have been those occasions where the conduct of the Bank has been so egregious that the Judge wasn’t going to let them have the money or the house even if they stood on their heads.

But to coordinate an attack on these foreclosures, you need to defeat the presumption that the collection effort is simple, that the homeowner didn’t pay a debt that was due, and that the arguments concerning the forged, fabricated, fraudulent documents are paperwork issues that can be taken up with law enforcement or civil suits between the various undefined participants in the non-existent securitization chain.

Now we have LPS admitting false assignments. The question that must be both asked and answered by you because you have enough data and expert opinions to raise the material fact that there was a reason why the false paperwork was fabricated and forged and it wasn’t because of volume. Start with the fact that they didn’t have any problem getting the paperwork signed they wanted in the more than 100 million mortgage transactions “closed” during this mortgage meltdown period. Volume doesn’t explain it.

Your first assertion should be payment and waiver because the creditor who loaned the money got paid and waived any remainder. You use the Securitization and title report from a credible expert who can back up what you are saying. That gets you past the motions to dismiss and into discovery, where these cases are won.

Your assertion should be that the paperwork was fabricated because there was no transaction to support the contents of any of the assignments. And from that you launch the basic attack on the loan closing itself. First, following the above line of reasoning, they used the same tactics to create false paperwork at closing that identified neither the lender (contrary to the requirements of TILA and state lending statutes), nor ALL of the terms of the transaction, as contained in the prospectus and PSA given to investors.

But let us be clear. There are only two ways you can get out of a debt: (1) payment and (2) waiver. There isn’t any other way so stop imagining that some forgery in the documents is going to give you the house. It won’t. But if you can show payment or waiver or both, then you have a material issue of fact that completely or at least partially depletes the presumption of the Judge that you simply don’t want to pay a legitimate debt from a loan you now regret.

Why are the terms of the securitization documentation important?

  1. Because it was the investor who came up with the money and it was the borrower who took it. The money transaction was between the investors and the homeowners, with everyone else an intermediary or conduit.
  2. It is ONLY the securitization documents that provide power or authority for the servicer or trustee to act as servicer or trustee of the mortgage backed security pool.
  3. If the deal was between the investor who put up the money and the homeowner who took it, where are the documents between the investor and the homeowner? They can only exist if we connect the closing documents with the homeowner with the closing documents with the investor. 
  4. But if the transfer or assignment documents were defective, faulty, forged and fabricated, as well as fraudulent attempts to transfer bad loans into pools that investors said they would only accept good loans, then the there is nothing in the REMIC, there is no trust, there is no trustee of the pool and the servicer has authority to service nothing. 
  5. That breaks the connection between the so-called closing documents with the homeowner and the so-called closing documents with the investor. No connection means no nexus. No nexus means the investors have a claim arising from the fact that they loaned money but they don’t get the benefit of a secured loan and they especially don’t get anything unless THEY make the claim.
  6. If the investors choose not to make the claim for collection or foreclosure, there is nothing anywhere in any law that allows an interloper to insert himself into the process and say that if the investor doesn’t want it, I’ll take it.
  7. Your position should address the reality: appraisal fraud, deceptive lending practices, violations of TILA all contributed to the acceptance of a faulty loan product. But that isn’t why your client doesn’t owe the money. Your client does owe the money, but it has been paid to the creditor and the balance has been waived in the insurance and credit default swap contracts as well as the the Federal bailouts.
  8. The source of funding has been paid in whole or in part, they received the monthly payments even while they declared a default against your client homeowner, and they waived any right to pursue the rest from homeowners because they wish to avoid the exposure to defenses and affirmative defenses that the homeowner will  bring in the mortgage origination process.
  9. The failure to identify the true creditor contrary to the requirements of law and the failure to describe in the note and mortgage the full terms of the loans creates a fatal defect when applied to THIS case on its facts, which you will be able to prove if you are allowed to proceed in discovery.
  10. Allowing interlopers into the process to pretend as though they were the mortgage lenders or successors leaves the homeowner with nobody to sue for offset, and no defenses to raise against a party who had nothing to do with either the investor or the homeowner in the closing with the investor wherein mortgage bonds were purchased, and the closing with the homeowner in which a portion of the funds collected were used to fund a loan to the homeowner.

LPS Uses Bogus Florida IG Report on Firing of Foreclosure Fraud Investigators in Motion to Dismiss Nevada Lawsuit

By: David Dayen http://news.firedoglake.com/2012/01/31/lps-uses-bogus-florida-ig-report-on-firing-of-foreclosure-fraud-investigators-in-motion-to-dismiss-nevada-lawsuit/

We’re at T-minus four days for sign-ons to the foreclosure fraud settlement, and we know that Florida’s Pam Bondi is on board, despite pushback from advocates in her state, ground zero for the foreclosure crisis. There’s an interesting nugget buried in this article, though.

Bondi spokeswoman Jennifer Meale said in an email that their concerns are “misguided” because the settlement would provide a historic level of monetary relief and will overhaul the mortgage industry.

“Rather than engaging in political grandstanding, Attorney General Bondi is working hard to reach an agreement that gets Floridians substantial relief now and holds banks accountable for their misconduct,” Meale wrote.

The settlement is expected to provide $1,800 each for about 750,000 families across the country. It is a response to such practices as “robo-signing” by bank employees who often knew little or nothing about the mortgage documents they were hired to sign.

Nevada, New York, Delaware, New Hampshire and Massachusetts contend the deal isn’t strong enough because it would protect banks from future civil liability.

It will not, though, fully release them from future state criminal lawsuits.

Put aside Bondi’s dissembling for a second, and the idea that an $1,800 for the theft of your home represents “historic” relief. This lawyer in Utah called it what it is: “An arbitrary system of modifications administered by the same banks that knowingly perpetrated the fraud on the homeowner in the first place, and allowed to get off by paying $1800 for an illegal foreclosed home. That’s outrageous.”

But New Hampshire? That’s a new one. I know that Attorney General Michael Delaney has done some preliminary investigations of foreclosure practices in his state, and I know he was present at that meeting of 15 AGs looking for an alternative to the settlement. But Delaney has been pretty quiet overall. Since when is he listed among the holdouts?

That could just be bad information. And to be clear, liability isn’t the central issue anymore. But I don’t know how states like Massachusetts and Nevada, with active legislation against banks and document processors over the same conduct that would be released here, could possibly sign on to this deal.

There’s some news on that front. Lender Processing Services, which has been sued by Nevada for deceptive practices in generating false documents, sought to dismiss the complaint today in a filing with a state court.

The complaint by Nevada Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto fails to allege any document executed by subsidiaries was incorrect or caused any borrower financial harm, Lender Processing Services said in a statement today.

The state’s claims “are a collection of suppositions, legal conclusions and inflammatory labels,” the company said in the court filing. The document couldn’t be immediately verified in court records [...]

Nevada sued the company in December, claiming that it engaged in a pattern of “falsifying, forging and/or fraudulently executing” foreclosure documents, requiring employees to execute or notarize as many as 4,000 foreclosure- related documents a day, according to a statement from the attorney general. Lender Processing Services also demanded kickbacks from foreclosure firms, the office said.

Two interesting things here. First, LPS leans hard on the idea that borrowers weren’t harmed by the use of false documents. The implication here is that the borrower was delinquent anyway, so there’s no abuse going on. But the more important part of the motion to dismiss (copy at the link) comes when LPS makes the claim that robo-signing isn’t really a crime. It’s merely “signing of documents by an authorized agent,” says LPS, and that is permitted under Nevada law. Here’s one way they justify that (DocX is a subsidiary of LPS):

The State of Florida has reached an identical conclusion regarding DocX’s surrogate signed documents. Two assistant attorneys general involved in that state’s investigation of the mortgage crisis, including DocX, prepared an information power point presentation in which surrogate signing was characterized as “forgery.” The two attorneys were subsequently terminated for alleged fraud, deficient and improper investigatory practices which triggered a formal review by the Inspector General of Florida. In a recently issued official report, the propriety of the termination of the attorneys was confirmed, and specifically, the power point characterization of surrogate signing as “forgery” was determined to be unsupported by the legal definition of forgery.

Wow. So LPS used the whitewash IG report from Florida to justify the dismissal of their lawsuit in Nevada. And remember, LPS lobbyists more recently urged the Florida AG’s office to intervene on their behalf in a criminal case in Michigan. The connections between the Florida AG’s office and LPS just continue to grow.

This also happens to be BS. Pam Bondi made a recent motion in a Florida appeals court, as part of a case against the foreclosure mill David J. Stern, which stated, among other things, this:

The Attorney General’s motion asks the Fourth DCA to certify that its decision in Stern passes upon the following question of great public importance: whether the creation of invalid assignments of mortgages by a law firm and subsequent use of such documents by the firm in foreclosure litigation on behalf of the purported assignee is an unfair and deceptive trade practice which may be the subject of an investigation by the Office of the Attorney General.

This is a tacit acknowledgement of illegal assignments, which is functionally the opposite of what the IG report said. So of course LPS uses the latter in their Nevada case.

It’s completely insidious. And if the foreclosure fraud settlement goes through, LPS will surely point to that as another reason why they should be held harmless for their illegal conduct.

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