Why Fabrications? Why Forgeries?

In an increasing number of foreclosure cases, homeowners are going head to head with the lawyers who file claims on behalf of entities on the basis of fabricated and/or forged instruments that in many cases were also recorded in county records. Lawyers like Dan Khwaja in Illinois are getting clearer and clearer about it. They hire experts who understand exactly how the notes are mechanically created and the endorsements are not real signatures.

The key question is why would the notes have been fabricated and forged when there actually was a closing and a note was actually signed? We’re talking about the financial industry whose reputation depends upon safeguarding all signed documents. If they didn’t safeguard the documents and instead destroyed them or “lost” them, why was that allowed to happen?

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Let us help you plan for trial and draft your foreclosure defense strategy, discovery requests and defense narrative: 202-838-6345. Ask for a Consult or check us out on www.lendinglies.com. Order a PDR BASIC to have us review and comment on your notice of TILA Rescission or similar document.
I provide advice and consultation to many people and lawyers so they can spot the key required elements of a scam — in and out of court. If you have a deal you want skimmed for red flags order the Consult and fill out the REGISTRATION FORM.
A few hundred dollars well spent is worth a lifetime of financial ruin.
PLEASE FILL OUT AND SUBMIT OUR FREE REGISTRATION FORM WITHOUT ANY OBLIGATION. OUR PRIVACY POLICY IS THAT WE DON’T USE THE FORM EXCEPT TO SPEAK WITH YOU OR PERFORM WORK FOR YOU. THE INFORMATION ON THE FORMS ARE NOT SOLD NOR LICENSED IN ANY MANNER, SHAPE OR FORM. NO EXCEPTIONS.
Get a Consult and TERA (Title & Encumbrances Analysis and & Report) 202-838-6345 or 954-451-1230. The TERA replaces and greatly enhances the former COTA (Chain of Title Analysis, including a one page summary of Title History and Gaps).
THIS ARTICLE IS NOT A LEGAL OPINION UPON WHICH YOU CAN RELY IN ANY INDIVIDUAL CASE. HIRE A LAWYER.
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So we have a case in Illinois where lawyers filed a judicial foreclosure on behalf of Bank of New York/Mellon (BONY) as trustee (i.e. representative of) “holders” of certificates. The lawyers attach a copy of a note and indorsements. Khwaja hired an expert who found quite definitively that the note and the endorsements were all fabricated (forged). Khwaja has filed a motion for summary judgment.

Here is my analysis:

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The lawyers who filed the claim have a serious problem. If they cannot convince the judge that they have no need to respond they are dead in the water. They must either pay someone to commit perjury or seek to amend with an actual original note. In view of prior studies that show that most (or at least half) of all notes were “lost or destroyed” immediately following the “closing” combined with your expert on hand, coming up with the original note is not an option.
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And that brings us to the question of “why?” If there really was a closing at which the borrower signed documents, why do they need fabricated documents? To me, the answer is simple. In order to sell the same loan multiple times they needed to convert from actual to imaged documents. The actual one had to disappear. And the handful of megabanks who had a virtual monopoly on tens of millions of mortgage transactions made it “custom and practice” to use images rather than actual documents. [This practice has spilled over to property sale contracts where neither party gets an original].
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And we have the additional issue which is presented by the foreclosure complaint. It says that BONY appears on behalf of the holders of certificates. The simple question is “so what?”
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Being holders of certificates means nothing. It leaves out any assertion that the holders of the certificates are owners of the certificates, or anything that might identify those “holders”. So the proceeds of foreclosure could then go to whoever was chosen by the parties actually pulling the strings.
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They are asking the court to fill in the blanks. They want the court to draw an inference without ever stating the fact to be inferred, to wit: the holders of the certificates are owners of the certificates who are therefore owners of the debt, note and mortgage. There simply is no such allegation nor any exhibit indicating that is true. The reason is that it is not true.
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So who is really the Plaintiff? Supposedly not BONY who is appearing in a representative capacity.
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If “sanctions” were applied against the “Plaintiff” BONY would claim it is not the actual party and that the unidentified “holders” of certificates are the proper party or perhaps an implied trust.
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So then is it the certificate holders, represented by BONY? But they don’t have any right, title or interest to the subject debt, note or mortgage. The prospectus and certificate indentures make that abundantly clear in most cases.
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Examining what happens after a foreclosure is “successful” provides clues. Neither BONY nor any certificate holder ever receives the actual money from the proceeds of the purported sale of the property.
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So who does?
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As the one party with actual control over the loan receivable, the investment bank that created the “securitization” scheme is the only party that comes close to being an actual creditor. But here is their problem: that loan receivable has been sold multiple times. This not only leaves them with no claim to the debt, but a surplus of funds over and above the amount due on what was the loan receivable. It’s basic accounting and bookkeeping. And if that were not true the banks would not be doing it.
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So in the real world it is the investment bank that gets the proceeds of a foreclosure sale. But they do it as the “Master Servicer” of an implied (and nonexistent) trust. The money simply disappears.
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In order to get away with selling the debt multiple times they had to make each sale a non recourse sale. And they did that. So the buyers of the debt, note and mortgage had no actual legal title to the debt, note and mortgage and no recourse to the borrower to collect on the unpaid debt.
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THAT leaves NOBODY as owner of a debt that has probably been extinguished and reveals the paper issued to buyers/investors as essentially the issuance of cash equivalent instruments (also known as currency). And THAT is the reason the banks, after  two decades of this nonsense, have yet to come to court and simply say “here is proof of our funding of the origination or purchase of the debt, note and mortgage.”
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If they did, they would be admitting to lying in millions of foreclosure cases over at least a 15 year period of time. Their scheme effectively concentrated the risk of loss on investors and borrowers while literally retaining all the benefits of supposed loan transactions for the sole benefit of the intermediaries, who then leveraged loans multiple times.
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This translates as follows: the money taken from investors is an unsecured liability of the investment bank. To be sure that has a value — but not a value derived from loans to homeowners. THAT value was taken by the investment bank who cashed in on it already.
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Note: For certain second tier investment bankers there were transition periods in which they were at actual risk. Examples include Lehman and Bear Stearns. But the top tier was able to sell forward on the certificates and never commit a single dime of their own money into the securitization scheme even in transition. But by pointing to Lehman and Bear Stearns they were able to convince policy makers that they were in the same position. This produced the “bailout” which was essentially the payment of even more money for losses that did not exist.
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In an odd twist of irony, Wells Fargo was the only party (2009) that admitted to no loss but was forced to take bailout money so that other “less fortunate” parties would not be singled out as weak institutions.
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In truth the AIG bailout and similar bailouts were merely payments of extra profits to Goldman Sachs and some other players, leaving investors and borrowers stranded with nearly worthless investments and collapsed markets for both homes, whose prices had been inflated by over 100% over value, and a nonexistent market for the bogus certificates that the Fed chose to revive by its purchasing program of “mortgage bonds” that were neither bonds nor backed by mortgages.
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Despite the complexity of all this, on a certain level most people understand that the banks caused the misery of the meltdown and profited from it.  They also understand that it is still happening. The failure of government to deal appropriately with the existential threat posed by the megabanks clearly played into and perhaps caused the social unrest around the world in the form of “populist” movements. And until governments deal with this issue head-on, people will be looking for political candidates who show that they are willing to take a wrecking ball to the banks and anyone who is protecting them.
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In the meanwhile, an increasing number of homeowners (again) are walking away from homes in the mistaken belief that they have an unpaid debt to the party named as the claimant against them.

Facially Invalid Recorded Documents

The view proffered by the banks would require them to accept declarations of fact from potential borrowers without any indicia of truth or reliability. It is opposite to the manner in which they do business. Currently they have it both ways, to wit: for purposes of borrowing you must submit documents that are facially valid without reference to external evidence and which can be easily confirmed but for purposes of foreclosure, none of those conditions apply. 

As part of the the scheme of “securitization fail” (see Adam Levitin) banks, servicers and third party vendors have been creating, fabricating and executing documents that are not facially valid nor do they comply with industry standards or even common sense. But once recorded judges take them “at face value” by assuming that somehow the document makes sense, when it clearly does not comport with law or logic. Defenders of foreclosure act at their peril when they fail to attack the facial validity of the documents upon which the foreclosure claims rely.

In a recent article written by Dale Whitman for the ABA he states the following “Conclusion. The recording system is archaic and fraught with the potential for yielding wrong conclusions. Conversion by many recording jurisdictions to computer-based electronic indexes has been helpful, but most of the legally problematic flaws continue to exist. Title insurance has been invaluable in making the weight of the recording system bearable, but it adds a further layer of complexity as buyers try to understand the limitations of their title policies. It seems unlikely that major changes will occur, so it is essential that real estate lawyers understand the peculiarities and limitations of our present system.” (e.s.)

As he points out recording is not required to make a document valid, but once it is recorded the document takes on a life of its own. It also presents numerous trapdoors and pitfalls that should be analyzed before answering the initiation of a foreclosure proceeding with any action on behalf of the homeowner including the motion to dismiss in judicial states, the answer, affirmative defenses and the Petition for TRO or lawsuit for wrongful foreclosure.

see what you didn_t know about recording acts_whitman (2).authcheckdam

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Let us help you plan for trial and draft your foreclosure defense strategy, discovery requests and defense narrative: 202-838-6345. Ask for a Consult or check us out on www.lendinglies.com. Order a PDR BASIC to have us review and comment on your notice of TILA Rescission or similar document.
I provide advice and consultation to many people and lawyers so they can spot the key required elements of a scam — in and out of court. If you have a deal you want skimmed for red flags order the Consult and fill out the REGISTRATION FORM.
A few hundred dollars well spent is worth a lifetime of financial ruin.
PLEASE FILL OUT AND SUBMIT OUR FREE REGISTRATION FORM WITHOUT ANY OBLIGATION. OUR PRIVACY POLICY IS THAT WE DON’T USE THE FORM EXCEPT TO SPEAK WITH YOU OR PERFORM WORK FOR YOU. THE INFORMATION ON THE FORMS ARE NOT SOLD NOR LICENSED IN ANY MANNER, SHAPE OR FORM. NO EXCEPTIONS.
Get a Consult and TERA (Title & Encumbrances Analysis and & Report) 202-838-6345 or 954-451-1230. The TERA replaces and greatly enhances the former COTA (Chain of Title Analysis, including a one page summary of Title History and Gaps).
THIS ARTICLE IS NOT A LEGAL OPINION UPON WHICH YOU CAN RELY IN ANY INDIVIDUAL CASE. HIRE A LAWYER.
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Common sense tells you that for a document to mean anything it must say enough that a reasonable person would be able to confidently draw meaning from it. Analyzing the facial validity of documents used in foreclosure reveals a pattern of misrepresenting the facial validity and misdirecting judges into NOT looking closely at the documents from which they are making assumptions and thence to legal conclusions that bind homeowners into proving matters beyond their control.

I proffer here an analysis that I just completed (our TERA report) as an example.

  1. We have already seen documentary proof that BONY Mellon does not receive the proceeds of the sale of property subject to the power of sale in a nonjudicial state or the forced sale in a judicial state. There are many reasons for this.
  2. Analysis of the facial validity of the use of various names and descriptions reveals the absence of an actual party, unless extrinsic “parole) evidence is added. Hence the documents upon which the above language relies does not support facial validity.
  3. BONY Mellon is said to be the “successor to JP Morgan Chase.” It is not and never has been a successor to JPMorgan Chase. There is nothing in the public domain to support that assertion. There is no instrument attached and no description of any transaction in which, as to this subject property and loan, we can ascertain how BONY Mellon became the successor to JPM Morgan Chase. Hence the documents in which BONY Mellon appears are not facially valid and are defective in terms of proof of title. This could be corrected by affidavit or any process that is allowed in the state where the property is located but it hasn’t been done on record, and there is no evidence to suggest that it has been done but is not recorded. The usual and acceptable manner of phrasing such a succession, if it were true, would be “as successor to JP Morgan Chase pursuant to that certain agreement of transfer by and between JPMorgan Chase (and /or other parties) and BONY Mellon dated July 6, 200X.” The absence of such description leaves the reader to pursue extrinsic or parole evidence to determine if the succession is documented and if so whether that documentation is facially valid. This is all absent.
  4. The succession suggests that it is in the role of trustee. There is no instrument attached and no description of any transaction in which, as to this subject property and loan, we can ascertain how BONY Mellon became the successor Trustee to JPM Morgan Chase. Hence the documents in which BONY Mellon appears as trustee are not facially valid and are defective in terms of proof of title. This could be corrected by affidavit or any process that is allowed in the state where the property is located but it hasn’t been done on record, and there is no evidence to suggest that it has been done but is not recorded. The usual and acceptable manner of phrasing such a succession, if it were true, would be “as successor to JP Morgan Chase, trustee pursuant to that certain agreement of transfer by and between JPMorgan Chase (and /or other parties) and BONY Mellon dated July 6, 200X.” The absence of such description leaves the reader to pursue extrinsic or parole evidence to determine if the succession is documented and if so whether the documentation is facially valid. This is all absent. The absence of a description of a specific trust and trust instrument is yet another factor that renders the instrument facially invalid, but theoretically correctible.
  5. This leads to a further question of extrinsic evidence being required. Other than by the use of parole evidence (outside the information contained on the document itself) the reader cannot ascertain the existence or description of a specific trust organized and existing under the laws of any jurisdiction. In addition, the issue of a transfer or change of trustees of a trust, if one can be found, is not supported by language such as “pursuant to the provisions of the trust agreement dated the 3rd day of May, 200Y in which the trust named ‘Structured Asset Mortgage Investment II, Inc. Bear Stearns ALT-A Trust’ was created under the laws of the State of New York”. Without such reference the facial validity of the instruments remains invalid although theoretically correctible. Without the knowledge of the legal existence of the trust being confirmable by public record, there is no support for the implied trust. Without support for the implied trust and the trust agreement creating it, there is no obvious support for how trustees could exist or be changed. Without support on the face of the instruments for how trustees of a trust could be changed, the description of the change of trustees is merely a declaration that is not supported by anything on the face of the document.
  6. JPMorgan is implied to have been the trustee of the potentially nonexistent trust. Once again the implied assertion leaves the reader to determine if the trust was created pursuant to the laws of any jurisdiction, and if JPMorgan was named as trustee for the trust.
  7. In either event both BONY Mellon and JPMorgan are described to be acting in a representative capacity on behalf of “holders… of pass through certificates” and not as “trustees” of any “trust.” The certificates are identified as Mortgage Pass Through Certificates Series 2004-12. The reference to being a “trustee” and the implied representation of the holders of certificates would be acceptable if the “holders” were described as beneficiaries. The extrinsic evidence often shows that such holders are not beneficiaries. This leads to the question of how and why there is representation of the holders, apart from the alleged trust, Is the representation implied from the trust agreement that is not described? Is the representation the result of some other trust or agency agreement? It is not possible to ascertain the answers to these vital questions without resort to extrinsic evidence, thus making the instruments relying upon such language, facially invalid.

Every state has statutory requirements for an instrument to be facially valid. A deed between Donald Duck and Mickey Mouse as Grantor and Grantee respectively would not be facially valid because both the grantor nor the grantee are fictitious names of cartoon characters and unless used as a egla fictitious name for an actual entity doing business under that name the document could not be corrected to become a valid document suitable for recording.

Yet county recorders are allowing the recordation of millions of documents across the country with exactly that defect. By allowing such documents to be recorded they are lending support to the legal presumption that Donald and Mickey are real people with rights to transfer interests in real property and even foreclose on real property. At the end of the chain of written documents someone holds paper that is recorded but based upon a chain of title with two large gaps in it — Donald and Mickey, and by the time the foreclosure occurs probably Minnie Mouse as well (or maybe Fannie or Freddie whose names are being used, just like the “REMIC trustees”, but who have no part in any transaction involving the subject loan).

Back to Real Property 101.

  1. Who is the grantor? If that cannot be readily determined from the face of the instrument the instrument is facially invalid.
  2. Who is the grantee? If that cannot be readily determined from the face of the instrument the instrument is facially invalid.
  3. What is the effective date of transfer? If that cannot be readily determined from the face of the instrument the instrument is facially invalid.
  4. What is being transferred? If that cannot be readily determined from the face of the instrument the instrument is facially invalid — or, in the case of a mortgage or beneficial interest in a deed of trust if the instrument declares a transfer but without the underlying debt, the instrument is facially invalid and unenforceable both because of state statutes regarding facial validity and the UCC Article 9 requiring value to be paid (see above linked article).
  5. What is the legal description of the property affected? If that cannot be readily determined from the face of the instrument the instrument is facially invalid.

An instrument that is not facially valid should be returned by the recording office with notes specifying what needs to be corrected. This vital step is being overlooked on all documents relating to foreclosures. If rules, laws and procedures were followed with regard to such documents there would not be any foreclosure or, if the corrections could actually be made, there would be no defense. It is in the valley between those two notions that all foreclosures based on “successors” are based.

By overlooking the obvious lack of clarity on the face of the documents county recorders keep creating a vacuum that the banks are only too happy to fill with MERS — an IT platform that is the opposite of tamper-proof allowing virtually anyone with a login and password to create the illusion of authority where none existed before. Hence the use of MERS and other systems to give depth to the illusion of facial validity.

The conclusion is that documents containing the language described above should not have been recorded.  The county recorder should have rejected such documents as being facially invalid, requiring additional documents to be attached, if they existed.

Such language is a substantial deviation from custom and practice as well as common sense and logic.  Custom and practice of the same banks that are listed in the language described above requires that they not accept such language without the additional documentation and confirmation of facts that are declared on the face of the instrument.  Common sense dictates that the reason why such custom and practice exists is that most fraudulent schemes involve written instruments in which various declarations are made that are untrue or lack support.  For purposes of recording, any declaration on the face of the instrument that requires the attachment or description of documents that are readily available in the public domain would be unacceptable, much as, for example, a deed without a signature.  The property must be described with precision (or later corrected by affidavit), the grantor must be described with precision (or later corrected) and the grantee must be described with precision (or later corrected).  Without the required corrections, the documents are facially invalid.

For purposes of case analysis, the absence of facially valid documents, even though they were improperly recorded, negates the potential use of legal presumptions arising from the facial validity of documents.  Therefore such documents should be rejected without proper foundation in connection with the use of such documents for any purpose, and the attempt to introduce such documents into evidence in any court or administrative proceeding.

In the case currently under analysis, this means that the proceedings in which the property was allegedly foreclosed, were themselves all improper and based upon invalid terms.  Whether this renders the proceedings void or voidable depends upon case law and interpretations of constitutional due process.

However it is safe to say that based upon the above analysis, it is obvious that all such documents including the deed upon foreclosure are defective in several material respects.  Therefore, our conclusion is that the current title chain in the county records regarding this property is at best clouded.  The procedures for correcting clouded title vary from state to state and are subject to both federal and state laws.  Individual research on each case in each state is required before taking any action.

The view proffered by the banks would require them to accept declarations of fact from potential borrowers without any indicia of truth or reliability. It is opposite to the manner in which they do business. Currently they have it both ways, to wit: for purposes of borrowing you must submit documents that are facially valid without reference to external evidence and which can be easily confirmed but for purposes of foreclosure, none of those conditions apply. 

 

The Truth Keeps Coming: When Will Courts Become Believers?

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The selection of an attorney is an important decision  and should only be made after you have interviewed licensed attorneys familiar with investment banking, securities, property law, consumer law, mortgages, foreclosures, and collection procedures. This site is dedicated to providing those services directly or indirectly through attorneys seeking guidance or assistance in representing consumers and homeowners. We are available to any lawyer seeking assistance anywhere in the country, U.S. possessions and territories. Neil Garfield is a licensed member of the Florida Bar and is qualified to appear as an expert witness or litigator in in several states including the district of Columbia. The information on this blog is general information and should NEVER be considered to be advice on one specific case. Consultation with a licensed attorney is required in this highly complex field.

Editor’s Comments and Practice Suggestions: On the heels of AG Eric Holder’s shocking admission that he withheld prosecution of the banks and their executives because of the perceived risk to the economy, we have confirmation and new data showing the incredible arrogance of the investment banks in breaking the law, deceiving clients and everyone around them, and covering it up with fabricated, forged paperwork. And they continue to do so because they perceive themselves as untouchable.

Practitioners should be wary of leading with defenses fueled by deceptions in the paperwork and instead rely first on the money trail. Once the money trail is established, each part of it can be described as part of a single transaction between the investors and the homeowners in which all other parties are intermediaries. Then and only then do you go to the documentation proffered by the opposition and show the obvious discrepancies between the named parties on the documents of record and the actual parties to the transaction, between the express repayment provisions of the promissory note and the express repayment provisions of the bond sold to investors.

Practitioners should make sure they are up to speed on the latest news in the public domain and the latest developments in lawsuits between the investment banks, investors and guarantors like the FHA who have rejected loans as not conforming to the requirements of the securitization documents and are demanding payment from Chase and others for lying about the loans in order to receive 100 cents on the dollar while the actual loss was incurred by the investors and the government sponsored guarantors.

Another case of the banks getting the money to cover losses they never had because at all times they were mostly dealing with third party money in funding or purchasing mortgages. It was never their own money at risk.

Three “deals” are now under close scrutiny by the government and by knowledgeable foreclosure defense lawyers. For years, Chase, OneWest and BofA have taken the position that they somehow became the owner of mortgage loans because they acquired a combo of WAMU and Bear Stearns (Chase), IndyMac (OneWest), and a combo of Countrywide and Merrill Lynch (BofA).

None of it was ever true. The deals are wrapped in secrecy and even sealed documents but the truth is coming out anyway and is plain to see on some records in the public domain as can be easily seen on the FDIC site under the Freedom of Information Act “library.”

The naked truth is that the “acquiring” firms have very complex deals on those mortgage loans that the acquiring firm chooses to assert ownership or authority. It is  a pick and choose type of scenario which is neither backed up by documentation nor consideration.

We have previously reported that the actual person who served as FDIC receiver in the WAMU case reported to me that there was no assignment of loans from WAMU, from the WAMU bankruptcy estate, or the FDIC. “if you are looking for an assignment of those loans, you are not going to find it because there was no assignment.” The same person had “accidentally” signed an affidavit that Chase used widely across the country stating that Chase was the owner of the loans by operation of law, which is the position that Chase took in litigation over wrongful foreclosures. Chase and the receiver now take the position that their prior position was unsupportable. So what happens to all those foreclosures where the assertions of Chase were presumed true?

Now Chase wants to disavow their assumption of all liabilities regarding WAMU and Bear Stearns because it sees what I see — huge liabilities emerging from those “portfolios” of foreclosed properties that were foreclosed and sold at auction to non-creditors who submitted credit bids.

You might also remember that we reported that in the Purchase and Assumption Agreement with the FDIC, wherein Chase was acquiring certain operations of WAMU, not including the loans, the consideration was expressly stated as zero and that the bid price from Chase happened to be a little lower than their share of the tax refund to WAMU, making the deal a “negative consideration” deal — i.e., Chase was being paid to acquire the depository assets of WAMU. Residential loans were not the only receivables on the books of WAMU and the FDIC receiver said that no accounting was ever done to figure out what was being sold to Chase.

Each of the deals above was complicated by the creation of entities (Maiden Lane LLCs) to create an “off balance sheet” liability for the toxic loans and bonds that had been traded around as if they were real.

Nobody ever thought to check whether the notes and mortgages recorded the correct facts in their content as to the cash transaction between the borrower and the originator. They didn’t, which is why the investors and the FDIC both now assert that not only were the loans not subject to underwriting rules compatible with industry standards, but that the documents themselves were not capable of enforcement because the wrong payee is named with different terms of repayment to the investors than what those lenders thought they were buying.

In other words, the investors and the the government sponsored guarantee organizations are both asserting the same theory, cause of action and facts that borrowers are asserting when they defend the foreclosure. This has been misinterpreted as an attempt by borrowers to get a free house. In point of fact, most borrowers simply don’t want to lose their homes and most of them are willing to enter into modifications and settlements with proceeds far superior to what the investor gets on foreclosure.

Borrowers admit receiving money, but not from the originator or any of the participants in what turned out to be a false chain of securitization which existed only on paper. The Borrowers had no knowledge nor even access to the knowledge that they were actually entering into a loan transaction with a stranger to the documents presented at the loan “closing.” This pattern of table funded loans is branded by the Truth in Lending Act and Reg Z as “predatory per se.” The coincidence of the money being received by the closing date was a reasonable basis for assuming that the originator was not play-acting, but rather actually acting as lender and underwriter of the loan, which they were certainly not.

The deals cut by Chase, OneWest and BofA are models of confusion and shared losses with the FDIC and other investors who participated in the Maiden Lane excursion. The actual creditor is definitely not Chase, OneWest nor BofA. Bank of America formed two corporations that merely served as distractions — Red Oak Merger Corp and BAC Home Loans and abandoned both after several foreclosures were successfully concluded by BAC, which owned nothing.

As we have previously shown, if the mortgage securitization scheme had been a real financial tool to reduce risk and increase lending, the REMIC trust would have ended up on the note and mortgage, on record in the office of the County Recorder. There would have been no need to establish MERS or any other private database in which trades were made and “trading profits” were booked in order to siphon off a large chunk of the money advanced by investors.

The transferring of paper does not create a transaction wherein a loan is proven or established in law or in fact. There must be an actual transaction in which money exchanged hands. In most cases (nearly all) the actual transaction in which money exchanged hands was between the borrower and an undisclosed third party entity.

This third party entity was inserted by the investment bankers so that the investment bank could claim ownership (when legally the loans already were owned by the investors) and an insurable interest in the loans and bonds that were supposedly backed by the loans. This way the banks could assert their right to proceeds of sale, insurance, and credit default swaps leaving their investor clients out in the cold and denying the borrowers the right to claim a reduction in the liability for their loan.

In litigation, every effort should be made to force the opposition to prove that the investor money was deposited into the a trust account for the REMIC trust and that the REMIC trust actually paid for the loans. Actually what you will be doing is forcing an accounting that shows that the REMIC was never funded and was never the buyer of the loans. Hence nobody in the false securitization chain had any ownership of the debt leading to the inevitable conclusion that for them the note was unenforceable and the mortgage was a nullity for lack of consideration and a lack of a meeting of the minds.

Once you get to the accounting from the Trustee of the Trust, the Master Servicer and the subservicer, you will uncover trades that involve representations of the investment bank that they owned the loans and in fact the mortgage bonds which were clearly pre-sold to investors before the first application for loan was ever received.

Thus persistent borrowers who litigate for the actual truth will track the money and then show that the cash transactions differ from the documented transactions and that the documented transactions lacked consideration. The only way out for the banks is to claim that they embraced this convoluted route as agents for the investors, but then that still means that money received in federal bailouts, insurance and credit default swaps would reduce the receivable of the actual creditors (investors) and thus reduce the amount payable by the actual borrowers (homeowners).

The unwillingness of the Department of Justice to enforce long standing laws regarding fraud and deceit, identity theft and other crimes, tends to create an atmosphere of impunity a round the banks and a presumption that the borrowers are merely technical objections of a certain number of documents not having all their T’s crossed and I’s dotted.

From a public policy perspective, one would have to concede that protecting the banks did nothing for liquidity in the marketplace and nothing for the credit markets in particular. Holder’s position, which I guess is also Obama’s position, is that it is better to allow average Americans to sink into poverty than to hold the banks and bankers accountable for their white collar crimes.

Legally, if the prosecutions ensued and the cases were proven, restitution would be ordered based not on some back-room deal but on approval of the Court. Restitution would clawback much of the capital of the mega banks who are holding that money by virtue of illegal transactions. And restitution would provide the only stimulus to the economy that would be fundamentally sound. Investors and borrowers would both share in the recovery of at least part of the wealth lost to the banks during the mortgage maelstrom.

I have no doubt that the same defects will appear in auto loans, student loans and other forms of consumer loans especially including credit card loans. The real objection of the banks is that after all this effort of stealing the money and the homes they might be forced to give it all back. The banks perceive that as a “loss.” I perceive it as simple justice applied every day in the courtrooms of America.

JPM: The Washington Mutual Story
http://www.ritholtz.com/blog/2013/03/jpm-wamu/

Bear Stearns, JPMorgan Chase, and Maiden Lane LLC
http://www.federalreserve.gov/newsevents/reform_bearstearns.htm

Mistakenly Released Documents Reveal Goldman Sachs Screwed IPO Clients
http://news.firedoglake.com/2013/03/12/mistakenly-released-documents-reveal-goldman-sachs-screwed-ipo-clients/

DELAY Is the Name of the Game

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Editor’s Notes:  

It comes as no surprise that BofA, now the unproud owner of Countrywide, would repeatedly appeal a judgment in which a moral man tried to avoid moral hazard at Countrywide and was fired for it. Corporations do that all the time to gain the advantage of achieving a smaller settlement or to dissuade others from doing the same thing. I feel appalled that this guy in Gretchen’s story is still waiting for his compensation and that if BofA has its way, he will be deprived of it altogether. BofA of coruse says that when they acquired CW there just wasn’t a job left for him. Bullcrap:

“But a juror in the case rejected this argument. “There was no doubt in my mind that the guys at Countrywide had not only done something wrong legally and ethically, but they weren’t very bright about it,” said that juror, Sam Usher, a former human resources executive at General Motors who spoke recently about the officials who testified. “If somebody in an organization is a whistle-blower, then you not only treat him with respect, you also make sure that whatever he was concerned about gets taken care of. These folks went in the other direction.” (e.s., see full article below and link).

“These folks went in the other direction” is an understatement. And while most of the media is stepping back from foreclosure stories except for reporting the numbers, this story brings back the raw, mean, lawless intent of Countrywide and other leaders of the securitization scam. Let me first remind you that for the most part, the “securitization” never occurred. Any loan declared to be part of a pool that was “securitized” or otherwise transferred into the pool is a damn lie. Very few people understand how that even COULD be true, much less believe that it is an accurate statement. But it is true. There was no securitization in most cases.

If a loan was securitized it would have been underwritten by a bona fide lender and then sold to an aggregator, and from there sold to a REMIC “trust” or special purpose vehicle. Certificates of ownership of the loan together with a promise to pay the owner of the loan a sum of money with interest would have been issued to qualified investors like pension funds and other institutional investors upon which our society depends for social services and a safety net (which in the case of pension funds is largely funded by the workers themselves). Of course the investors would have paid the investment banker for those loans including a small fee for brokering the transaction. And everyone lives happily ever after because Tinker Bell certified the transactions.

So if the loan was securitized, then both the document trail and the money trail would show that the loan was properly owned and funded by the “lender,”, the lender assigned the loan in exchange for payment from the aggregator and the aggregator assigned the loan in exchange for payment into the pool (REMIC, trust, or whatever you want to call it). The problem for the banks is that none of that happened in most cases. And their solution to that problem, instead of acting like trustworthy banks, is to delay and fabricate and forge and intimidate. (PRACTICE NOTE: THESE ARE THE DOCUMENTS AND PROOF OF PAYMENT YOU WANT IN DISCOVERY)

The real story is that the loan was not underwritten by a bona fide lender whose role involved any risk of loss on the loan. In fact, in most cases there was no financial transaction between the lender named on the note and mortgage and the borrower. The financial transaction actually occurred between the borrower and an undifferentiated commingled group of investors who THOUGHT they were buying into REMICs but whose money was used for anything BUT the REMICs. Their money was in an account far from the securitization chain described above controlled by an investment bank who was taking “trading profits” and fees out of the money as though it was their own private piggy bank.

The “assignment” (sometimes erroneously referred to as an allonge or endorsement) was offered and accepted between the named lender (who was not the real lender) and the mortgage aggregator WITHOUT PAYMENT. The assignment says “for value received” but the value was received by the borrower and the investment bank and so there was no payment by the aggregator for an assignment from a “lender” that wasn’t the lender anyway and who never had one penny in the deal, nor any legal right to declare that they were the owner of the loan.

The “aggregator” was a fictitious entity meant to deceive any inquiring eyes. My eyes were inquiring and for a long while I believed in the existence of the aggregator — but then I was late on getting the real scoop on Santa and tooth fairy too. But it misdirects the attention of the audience like any illusionist. Meanwhile various “affiliates of the investment bank are busy creating “exotic instruments” that make believe that the bank owns the loan and thus has the power to sell it, when in fact we all know that the investors own the note but even they don’t quite understand how they own the note — a fact complicated by the fact that the “aggregator” was a fiction and the money came from a Superfund escrow account in which ALL the money from ALL the investors was commingled and the moment of funding of each loan was a different moment in the SuperFund account because money was coming and going and so were investors. This is what enabled the banks to (a) sell something they didn’t own (they called it selling forward, but it wasn’t selling forward, it was fraud) (b) sell it over and over again, by calling the “exotic instrument” something else, changing a few pieces of information about the loan data and presto!, Bear Stearns had “leveraged” the loan 42 times.

Translation: They sold something they didn’t have 42 times. And the risk of loss was that if someone in the chain of sales ever demanded delivery, they needed to go out and buy the loans which they figured was a sure thing because in all probability the loans were not worth the paper they were written on and in the open market, they could be purchased for pennies while Bear Stearns et al was selling the loans 42 times over at 100 cents on the dollar.

The last “assignment” for “value received” into the “pool” also had similar problems. First, the aggregator was a fictitious entity, second there was no value paid, and third they had already sold the loan 42 times. Add to that the assignment simply never took place to either the aggregator or the pool unless there was litigation and you have a real mess on your hands, which is where distraction and delay and illusion and raw intimidation come into play — all present in the case of one Michael Winston, a former executive at Countrywide Financial.

The repeated sales of the loans, the repeated collection of insurance for losses that never occurred, and repeated collection of proceeds of credit default swaps (a/k/a sales with a different name) means quite simply that the loan was paid in full from the start and that there is no balance due and probably never was any balance due and even if there was a balance due it was never due to the people who are now foreclosing. So why are they foreclosing? Because if they get to complete a foreclosure it completes the illusion that the investors were owed the money from the borrower instead of the bank that stole their money in the first place. So they pursue foreclosures while their PR machines grind out the illusion of modifications and mediation and short-sales. Nobody is getting good title or a title policy worth the paper it is written upon, but who cares?

He Felled a Giant, but He Can’t Collect

By GRETCHEN MORGENSON

“TAKING on corporate Goliaths for their wrongdoing should not be so daunting.”

That’s the view of Michael Winston, a former executive at Countrywide Financial, the subprime lending machine that was swallowed up by Bank of America in 2008. Mr. Winston won a wrongful-dismissal and retaliation case against the company in February 2011, but is still waiting to receive his $3.8 million award. Bank of America is fighting back and has appealed the jury verdict twice.

After hearing a month of testimony from a parade of top Countrywide officials, including the company’s founder, Angelo Mozilo, a California state jury sided with Mr. Winston. An executive with decades of expertise in management strategy, he contended that he was pushed out for, among other things, refusing to follow questionable orders from his superiors.

But for the last year and a quarter, Mr. Winston, 61, has been in legal limbo. Bank of America lost one appeal in the court that heard the case and has filed another that is pending in state appellate court.

Mr. Winston, meanwhile, has been unable to find work that is commensurate with his experience. “The devastation caused by Countrywide to me, my family, my team, the work force, customers, shareholders, taxpayers and citizens around the world is incalculable,” he said.

Before joining Countrywide, Mr. Winston held high-powered strategy posts at Motorola, McDonnell Douglas and Lockheed. He was global head of worldwide leadership and organizational strategy at Merrill Lynch in New York but resigned from that post in 2003 to care for his parents, who were terminally ill.

At Countrywide, he said, one of his problems was his refusal in fall 2006 to misrepresent the company’s corporate governance practices to analysts at Moody’s Investors Service. The ratings agency had expressed concerns about succession planning at Countrywide and other governance issues that the company hoped to allay.

Mr. Winston says a Countrywide executive asked him to write a report outlining Countrywide’s extensive succession planning for use by Moody’s. He refused, noting that he had no knowledge of any such plan. The company began to diminish his duties and department shortly thereafter. He was dismissed after Bank of America took over Countrywide.

Of course, it is not unusual for big corporate defendants to appeal jury awards. Bank of America argues in its court filings that the jury erred because Mr. Winston’s battles with his Countrywide superiors had nothing to do with his dismissal. Bank officials testified that he was let go because there was no job for him at the acquiring company.

“We believe that the jury’s finding of liability on the single claim of wrongful termination in retaliation is not supported by any evidence, let alone ‘substantial evidence’ as is required by law,” a Bank of America spokesman said.

In court filings, the bank also said that the jury appeared to be “swayed by emotion and prejudice, focusing on unsubstantiated and unsupported statements by plaintiff and his counsel slandering Countrywide and its executives.”

But a juror in the case rejected this argument. “There was no doubt in my mind that the guys at Countrywide had not only done something wrong legally and ethically, but they weren’t very bright about it,” said that juror, Sam Usher, a former human resources executive at General Motors who spoke recently about the officials who testified. “If somebody in an organization is a whistle-blower, then you not only treat him with respect, you also make sure that whatever he was concerned about gets taken care of. These folks went in the other direction.”

The credibility of all testimony in the case was central to jurors’ deliberations, Mr. Usher said. Instructions to the jury went into great detail on this point, advising them that they were “the sole and exclusive judges of the believability of the witnesses and the weight to be given the testimony of each witness.” The instructions added: “A witness, who is willfully false in one material part of his or her testimony, is to be distrusted in others.”

Mr. Usher said that those who testified against Mr. Winston “didn’t have a lot of credibility.”

That’s putting it mildly, said Charles T. Mathews, a former prosecutor in the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office who represented Mr. Winston. He said he was so disturbed by what he characterized as persistent perjury by various Countrywide officials that he forwarded annotated copies of court transcripts to Steve Cooley, the Los Angeles district attorney, for possible investigation.

“We won a multimillion-dollar verdict against Countrywide, but it sticks in my guts that they lied through their teeth and continue to escape accountability,” Mr. Mathews wrote to Mr. Cooley, urging him to investigate.

Whether perjury or not, the testimony ran into withering challenges.

Countrywide’s top human resources executive testified that Mr. Winston was a problematic employee and not a team player. But a performance evaluation she had written shortly before the company started to reduce his duties was produced in the case. It said Mr. Winston had “done well to build relationships with key members of senior management and continues to do so.”

The evaluation went on: “Michael strives to be a team player,” and “is absolutely focused on process improvement in his areas and has been working tirelessly to do so since he’s been on board.”

Mr. Mathews also contends that Mr. Mozilo, in a rare courtroom appearance, misrepresented his views of Mr. Winston. First, Mr. Mozilo testified that he did not know Mr. Winston, even though testimony and documents showed that he had attended presentations with him, personally given Mr. Winston a pair of Countrywide cuff links and told another employee that Mr. Winston’s leadership programs were “exactly what Countrywide needs.”

Mr. Mozilo’s testimony that he was unimpressed with Mr. Winston and his work was also refuted by another Countrywide executive who said that Mr. Mozilo was enthusiastic enough about Mr. Winston’s programs to suggest that he present them to the company’s board.

Asked about Mr. Mozilo’s testimony, David Siegel, a lawyer who represents him, said in an e-mail that there was no merit to the accusation that Mr. Mozilo was not truthful.

A spokeswoman for Mr. Cooley’s office confirmed last week that it had received the court transcripts and said that one of its prosecutors was reviewing them. She declined to comment further.

“God forbid our system continues to ignore these people and their acts,” Mr. Mathews said in an interview last week. “I am optimistic but the price of justice can be different depending on what your wallet says.”


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Editor’s Comment:

When I first suggested that securitization itself was a lie, my comments were greeted with disbelief and derision. No matter. When I see something I call it the way it is. The loans never left the launch pad, much less flew into a waiting pool of investor money. The whole thing was a scam and AG Biden of Đelaware and Schniedermann of New York are on to it.

The tip of the iceberg is that the note was not delivered to the investors. The gravitas of the situation is that the investors were never intended to get the note, the mortgage or any documentation except a check and a distribution report. The game was on.

First they (the investment banks) took money from the investors on the false pretenses that the bonds were real when anyone with 6 months experience on Wall street could tell you this was not a bond for lots of reasons, the most basic of which was that there was no borrower. The prospectus had no loans because there were no loans made yet. The banks certainly wouldn’ t take the risks posed by this toxic heap of loans, so they were waiting for the investors to get conned. Once they had the money then they figured out how to keep as much of it as possible before even looking for residential home borrowers. 

None of the requirements of the Internal Revenue Code on REMICS were followed, nor were the requirements of the pooling and servicing agreement. The facts are simple: the document trail as written never followed the actual trail of actual transactions in which money exchanged hands. And this was simply because the loan money came from the investors apart from the document trail. The actual transaction between homeowner borrower and investor lender was UNDOCUMENTED. And the actual trail of documents used in foreclosures all contain declarations of fact concerning transactions that never happened. 

The note is “evidence” of the debt, not the debt itself. If the investor lender loaned money to the homeowner borrower and neither one of them signed a single document acknowledging that transaction, there is still an obligation. The money from the investor lender is still a loan and even without documentation it is a loan that must be repaid. That bit of legal conclusion comes from common law. 

So if the note itself refers to a transaction in which ABC Lending loaned the money to the homeowner borrower it is referring to a transaction that does not now nor did it ever exist. That note is evidence of an obligation that does not exist. That note refers to a transaction that never happened. ABC Lending never loaned the homeowner borrower any money. And the terms of repayment intended by the securitization documents were never revealed to the homeowner buyer. Therefore the note with ABC Lending is evidence of a non-existent transaction that mistates the terms of repayment by leaving out the terms by which the investor lender would be repaid.

Thus the note is evidence of nothing and the mortgage securing the terms of the note is equally invalid. So the investors are suing the banks for leaving the lenders in the position of having an unsecured debt wherein even if they had collateral it would be declining in value like a stone dropping to the earth.

And as for why banks who knew better did it this way — follow the money. First they took an undisclosed yield spread premium out of the investor lender money. They squirreled most of that money through Bermuda which ” asserted” jurisdiction of the transaction for tax purposes and then waived the taxes. Then the bankers created false entities and “pools” that had nothing in them. Then the bankers took what was left of the investor lender money and funded loans upon request without any underwriting.

Then the bankers claimed they were losing money on defaults when the loss was that of the investor lenders. To add insult to injury the bankers had used some of the investor lender money to buy insurance, credit default swaps and create other credit enhancements where they — not the investor lender —- were the beneficiary of a payoff based on the default of mortgages or an “event” in which the nonexistent pool had to be marked down in value. When did that markdown occur? Only when the wholly owned wholly controlled subsidiary of the investment banker said so, speaking as the ” master servicer.”

So the truth is that the insurers and counterparties on CDS paid the bankers instead of the investor lenders. The same thing happened with the taxpayer bailout. The claims of bank losses were fake. Everyone lost money except, of course, the bankers.

So who owns the loan? The investor lenders. Who owns the note? Who cares, it was worth less when they started; but if anyone owns it it is most probably the originating “lender” ABC Lending. Who owns the mortgage? There is no mortgage. The mortgage agreement was written and executed by the borrower securing terms of payment that were neither disclosed nor real.

Bank Loan Bundling Investigated by Biden-Schneiderman: Mortgages

By David McLaughlin

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and Delaware’s Beau Biden are investigating banks for failing to package mortgages into bonds as advertised to investors, three months after a group of lenders struck a nationwide $25 billion settlement over foreclosure practices.

The states are pursuing allegations that some home loans weren’t correctly transferred into securitizations, undermining investors’ stakes in the mortgages, according to two people with knowledge of the probes. They’re also concerned about improper foreclosures on homeowners as result, said the people, who declined to be identified because they weren’t authorized to speak publicly. The probes prolong the fallout from the six-year housing bust that’s cost Bank of America Corp., JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPM) and other lenders more than $72 billion because of poor underwriting and shoddy foreclosures. It may also give ammunition to bondholders suing banks, said Isaac Gradman, an attorney and managing member of IMG Enterprises LLC, a mortgage-backed securities consulting firm.

“The attorneys general could create a lot of problems for the banks and for the trustees and for bondholders,” Gradman said. “I can’t imagine a better securities law claim than to say that you represented that these were mortgage-backed securities when in fact they were backed by nothing.”

Countrywide Faulted

Schneiderman said Bank of America Corp. (BAC)’s Countrywide Financial unit last year made errors in the way it packaged home loans into bonds, while investors have sued trustee banks, saying documentation lapses during mortgage securitizations can impair their ability to recover losses when homeowners default. Schneiderman didn’t sue Bank of America in connection with that criticism.

The Justice Department in January said it formed a group of federal officials and state attorneys general to investigate misconduct in the bundling of mortgage loans into securities. Schneiderman is co-chairman with officials from the Justice Department and the Securities and Exchange Commission.

The next month, five mortgage servicers — Bank of America Corp., Wells Fargo & Co. (WFC), Citigroup Inc. (C), JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Ally Financial Inc. (ALLY) — reached a $25 billion settlement with federal officials and 49 states. The deal pays for mortgage relief for homeowners while settling claims against the servicers over foreclosure abuses. It didn’t resolve all claims, leaving the lenders exposed to further investigations into their mortgage operations by state and federal officials.

Top Issuers

The New York and Delaware probes involve banks that assembled the securities and firms that act as trustees on behalf of investors in the debt, said one of the people and a third person familiar with the matter.

The top issuers of mortgage securities without government backing in 2005 included Bank of America’s Countrywide Financial unit, GMAC, Bear Stearns Cos. and Washington Mutual, according to trade publication Inside MBS & ABS. Total volume for the top 10 issuers was $672 billion. JPMorgan acquired Bear Stearns and Washington Mutual in 2008.

The sale of mortgages into the trusts that pool loans may be void if banks didn’t follow strict requirements for such transfers, Biden said in a lawsuit filed last year over a national mortgage database used by banks. The requirements for transferring documents were “frequently not complied with” and likely led to the failure to properly transfer loans “on a large scale,” Biden said in the complaint.

“Most of this was done under the cover of darkness and anything that shines a light on these practices is going to be good for investors,” Talcott Franklin, an attorney whose firm represents mortgage-bond investors, said about the state probes.

Critical to Investors

Proper document transfers are critical to investors because if there are defects, the trusts, which act on behalf of investors, can’t foreclose on borrowers when they default, leading to losses, said Beth Kaswan, an attorney whose firm, Scott + Scott LLP, represents pension funds that have sued Bank of New York Mellon Corp. (BK) and US Bancorp as bond trustees. The banks are accused of failing in their job to review loan files for missing and incomplete documents and ensure any problems were corrected, according to court filings.

“You have very significant losses in the trusts and very high delinquencies and foreclosures, and when you attempt to foreclose you can’t collect,” Kaswan said.

Laurence Platt, an attorney at K&L Gates LLP in Washington, disagreed that widespread problems exist with document transfers in securitization transactions that have impaired investors’ interests in mortgages.

“There may be loan-level issues but there aren’t massive pattern and practice problems,” he said. “And even when there are potential loan-level issues, you have to look at state law because not all states require the same documents.”

Fixing Defects

Missing documents don’t have to prevent trusts from foreclosing on homes because the paperwork may not be necessary, according to Platt. Defects in the required documents can be fixed in some circumstances, he said. For example, a missing promissory note, in which a borrower commits to repay a loan, may not derail the process because there are laws governing lost notes that allow a lender to proceed with a foreclosure, he said.

A review by federal bank regulators last year found that mortgage servicers “generally had sufficient documentation” to demonstrate authority to foreclose on homes.

Schneiderman said in court papers last year that Countrywide failed to transfer complete loan documentation to trusts. BNY Mellon, the trustee for bondholders, misled investors to believe Countrywide had delivered complete files, the attorney general said.

Hindered Foreclosures

Errors in the transfer of documents “hampered” the ability of the trusts to foreclose and impaired the value of the securities backed by the loans, Schneiderman said.

“The failure to properly transfer possession of complete mortgage files has hindered numerous foreclosure proceedings and resulted in fraudulent activities,” the attorney general said in court documents.

Bank of America faced similar claims from Nevada Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto, who accused the Charlotte, North Carolina-based lender of conducting foreclosures without authority in its role as mortgage servicer due improper document transfers. In an amended complaint last year, Masto said Countrywide failed to deliver original mortgage notes to the trusts or provided notes with defects.

The lawsuit was settled as part of the national foreclosure settlement, Masto spokeswoman Jennifer Lopez said.

Bank of America spokesman Rick Simon declined to comment about the claims made by states and investors. BNY Mellon performed its duties as defined in the agreements governing the securitizations, spokesman Kevin Heine said.

“We believe that claims against the trustee are based on a misunderstanding of the limited role of the trustee in mortgage securitizations,” he said.

Biden, in his complaint over mortgage database MERS, cites a foreclosure by Deutsche Bank AG (DBK) as trustee in which the promissory note wasn’t delivered to the bank as required under an agreement governing the securitization. The office is concerned that such errors led to foreclosures by banks that lacked authority to seize homes, one of the people said.

Renee Calabro, spokeswoman for Frankfurt-based Deutsche Bank, declined to comment.

Investors have raised similar claims against banks. The Oklahoma Police Pension and Retirement System last year sued U.S. Bancorp as trustee for mortgage bonds sold by Bear Stearns. The bank “regularly disregarded” its duty as trustee to review loan files to ensure there were no missing or defective documents transferred to the trusts. The bank’s actions caused millions of dollars in losses on securities “that were not, in fact, legally collateralized by mortgage loans,” according to an amended complaint.

“Bondholders could have serious claims on their hands,” said Gradman. “You’re going to suffer a loss as bondholder if you can’t foreclose, if you can’t liquidate that property and recoup.”

Teri Charest, a spokeswoman for Minneapolis-based U.S. Bancorp (USB), said the bank isn’t liable and doesn’t know if any party is at fault in the structuring or administration of the transactions.

“If there was fault, this unhappy investor is seeking recompense from the wrong party,” she said. “We were not the sponsor, underwriter, custodian, servicer or administrator of this transaction.”

FRAUD: The Significance of the Game Changing FHFA Lawsuits

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FHFA ACCUSES BANKS OF FRAUD: THEY KNEW THEY WERE LYING

“FHFA has refrained from sugar coating the banks’ alleged conduct as mere inadvertence, negligence, or recklessness, as many plaintiffs have done thus far.  Instead, it has come right out and accused certain banks of out-and-out fraud.  In particular, FHFA has levied fraud claims against Countrywide (and BofA as successor-in-interest), Deutsche Bank, J.P. Morgan (including EMC, WaMu and Long Beach), Goldman Sachs, Merrill Lynch (including First Franklin as sponsor), and Morgan Stanley (including Credit Suisse as co-lead underwriter).  Besides showing that FHFA means business, these claims demonstrate that the agency has carefully reviewed the evidence before it and only wielded the sword of fraud against those banks that it felt actually were aware of their misrepresentations.”

It is no stretch to say that Friday, September 2 was the most significant day for mortgage crisis litigation since the onset of the crisis in 2007.  That Friday, the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA), as conservator for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, sued almost all of the world’s largest banks in 17 separate lawsuits, covering mortgage backed securities with original principal balances of roughly $200 billion.  Unless you’ve been hiking in the Andes over the last two weeks, you have probably heard about these suits in the mainstream media.  But here at the Subprime Shakeout, I like to dig a bit deeper.  The following is my take on the most interesting aspects of these voluminous complaints (all available here) from a mortgage litigation perspective.

Throwing the Book at U.S. Banks

The first thing that jumps out to me is the tenacity and aggressiveness with which FHFA presents its cases.  In my last post (Number 1 development), I noted that FHFA had just sued UBS over $4.5 billion in MBS.  While I noted that this signaled a shift in Washington’s “too-big-to-fail” attitude towards banks, my biggest question was whether the agency would show the same tenacity in going after major U.S. banks.  Well, it’s safe to say the agency has shown the same tenacity and then some.

FHFA has refrained from sugar coating the banks’ alleged conduct as mere inadvertence, negligence, or recklessness, as many plaintiffs have done thus far.  Instead, it has come right out and accused certain banks of out-and-out fraud.  In particular, FHFA has levied fraud claims against Countrywide (and BofA as successor-in-interest), Deutsche Bank, J.P. Morgan (including EMC, WaMu and Long Beach), Goldman Sachs, Merrill Lynch (including First Franklin as sponsor), and Morgan Stanley (including Credit Suisse as co-lead underwriter).  Besides showing that FHFA means business, these claims demonstrate that the agency has carefully reviewed the evidence before it and only wielded the sword of fraud against those banks that it felt actually were aware of their misrepresentations.

Further, FHFA has essentially used every bit of evidence at its disposal to paint an exhaustive picture of reckless lending and misleading conduct by the banks.  To support its claims, FHFA has drawn from such diverse sources as its own loan reviews, investigations by the SEC, congressional testimony, and the evidence presented in other lawsuits (including the bond insurer suits that were also brought by Quinn Emanuel).  Finally, where appropriate, FHFA has included successor-in-interest claims against banks such as Bank of America (as successor to Countrywide but, interestingly, not to Merrill Lynch) and J.P. Morgan (as successor to Bear Stearns and WaMu), which acquired potential liability based on its acquisition of other lenders or issuers and which have tried and may in the future try to avoid accepting those liabilities.    In short, FHFA has thrown the book at many of the nation’s largest banks.

FHFA has also taken the virtually unprecedented step of issuing a second press release after the filing of its lawsuits, in which it responds to the “media coverage” the suits have garnered.  In particular, FHFA seeks to dispel the notion that the sophistication of the investor has any bearing on the outcome of securities law claims – something that spokespersons for defendant banks have frequently argued in public statements about MBS lawsuits.  I tend to agree that this factor is not something that courts should or will take into account under the express language of the securities laws.

The agency’s press release also responds to suggestions that these suits will destabilize banks and disrupt economic recovery.  To this, FHFA responds, “the long-term stability and resilience of the nation’s financial system depends on investors being able to trust that the securities sold in this country adhere to applicable laws. We cannot overlook compliance with such requirements during periods of economic difficulty as they form the foundation for our nation’s financial system.”  Amen.

This response to the destabilization argument mirrors statements made by Rep. Brad Miller (D-N.C.), both in a letter urging these suits before they were filed and in a conference call praising the suits after their filing.  In particular, Miller has said that failing to pursue these claims would be “tantamount to another bailout” and akin to an “indirect subsidy” to the banking industry.  I agree with these statements – of paramount importance in restarting the U.S. housing market is restoring investor confidence, and this means respecting contract rights and the rule of law.   If investors are stuck with a bill for which they did not bargain, they will be reluctant to invest in U.S. housing securities in the future, increasing the costs of homeownership for prospective homeowners and/or taxpayers.

You can find my recent analysis of Rep. Miller’s initial letter to FHFA here under Challenge No. 3.  The letter, which was sent in response to the proposed BofA/BoNY settlement of Countrywide put-back claims, appears to have had some influence.

Are Securities Claims the New Put-Backs?

The second thing that jumps out to me about these suits is that FHFA has entirely eschewed put-backs, or contractual claims, in favor of securities law, blue sky law, and tort claims.  This continues a trend that began with the FHLB lawsuits and continued through the recent filing by AIG of its $10 billion lawsuit against BofA/Countrywide of plaintiffs focusing on securities law claims when available.  Why are plaintiffs such as FHFA increasingly turning to securities law claims when put-backs would seem to benefit from more concrete evidence of liability?

One reason may be the procedural hurdles that investors face when pursuing rep and warranty put-backs or repurchases.  In general, they must have 25% of the voting rights for each deal on which they want to take action.  If they don’t have those rights on their own, they must band together with other bondholders to reach critical mass.  They must then petition the Trustee to take action.  If the Trustee refuses to help, the investor may then present repurchase demands on individual loans to the originator or issuer, but must provide that party with sufficient time to cure the defect or repurchase each loan before taking action.  Only if the investor overcomes these steps and the breaching party fails to cure or repurchase will the investor finally have standing to sue.

All of those steps notwithstanding, I have long argued that put-back claims are strong and valuable because once you overcome the initial procedural hurdles, it is a fairly straightforward task to prove whether an individual loan met or breached the proper underwriting guidelines and representations.  Recent statistical sampling rulings have also provided investors with a shortcut to establishing liability – instead of having to go loan-by-loan to prove that each challenged loan breached reps and warranties, investors may now use a statistically significant sample to establish the breach rate in an entire pool.

So, what led FHFA to abandon the put-back route in favor of filing securities law claims?  For one, the agency may not have 25% of the voting rights in all or even a majority of the deals in which it holds an interest.  And due to the unique status of the agency as conservator and the complex politics surrounding these lawsuits, it may not have wanted to band together with private investors to pursue its claims.

Another reason may be that the FHFA has had trouble obtaining loan files, as has been the case for many investors.  These files are usually necessary before even starting down the procedural path outlined above, and servicers have thus far been reluctant to turn these files over to investors.  But this is even less likely to be the limiting factor for FHFA.  With subpoena power that extends above and beyond that of the ordinary investor, the government agency may go directly to the servicers and demand these critical documents.  This they’ve already done, having sent 64 subpoenas to various market participants over a year ago.  While it’s not clear how much cooperation FHFA has received in this regard, the numerous references in its complaints to loan level reviews suggest that the agency has obtained a large number of loan files.  In fact, FHFA has stated that these lawsuits were the product of the subpoenas, so they must have uncovered a fair amount of valuable information.

Thus, the most likely reason for this shift in strategy is the advantage offered by the federal securities laws in terms of the available remedies.  With the put-back remedy, monetary damages are not available.  Instead, most Pooling and Servicing Agreements (PSAs) stipulate that the sole remedy for an incurable breach of reps and warranties is the repurchase or substitution of that defective loan.  Thus, any money shelled out by offending banks would flow into the Trust waterfall, to be divided amongst the bondholders based on seniority, rather than directly into the coffers of FHFA (and taxpayers).  Further, a plaintiff can only receive this remedy on the portion of loans it proves to be defective.  Thus, it cannot recover its losses on defaulted loans for which no defect can be shown.

In contrast, the securities law remedy provides the opportunity for a much broader recovery – and one that goes exclusively to the plaintiff (thus removing any potential freerider problems).  Should FHFA be able to prove that there was a material misrepresentation in a particular oral statement, offering document, or registration statement issued in connection with a Trust, it may be able to recover all of its losses on securities from that Trust.  Since a misrepresentation as to one Trust was likely repeated as to all of an issuers’ MBS offerings, that one misrepresentation can entitle FHFA to recover all of its losses on all certificates issued by that particular issuer.

The defendant may, however, reduce those damages by the amount of any loss that it can prove was caused by some factor other than its misrepresentation, but the burden of proof for this loss causation defense is on the defendant.  It is much more difficult for the defendant to prove that a loss was caused by some factor apart from its misrepresentation than to argue that the plaintiff hasn’t adequately proved causation, as it can with most tort claims.

Finally, any recovery is paid directly to the bondholder and not into the credit waterfall, meaning that it is not shared with other investors and not impacted by the class of certificate held by that bondholder.  This aspect alone makes these claims far more attractive for the party funding the litigation.  Though FHFA has not said exactly how much of the $200 billion in original principal balance of these notes it is seeking in its suits, one broker-dealer’s analysis has reached a best case scenario for FHFA of $60 billion flowing directly into its pockets.

There are other reasons, of course, that FHFA may have chosen this strategy.  Though the remedy appears to be the most important factor, securities law claims are also attractive because they may not require the plaintiff to present an in-depth review of loan-level information.  Such evidence would certainly bolster FHFA’s claims of misrepresentations with respect to loan-level representations in the offering materials (for example, as to LTV, owner occupancy or underwriting guidelines), but other claims may not require such proof.  For example, FHFA may be able to make out its claim that the ratings provided in the prospectus were misrepresented simply by showing that the issuer provided rating agencies with false data or did not provide rating agencies with its due diligence reports showing problems with the loans.  One state law judge has already bought this argument in an early securities law suit by the FHLB of Pittsburgh.  Being able to make out these claims without loan-level data reduces the plaintiff’s burden significantly.

Finally, keep in mind that simply because FHFA did not allege put-back claims does not foreclose it from doing so down the road.  Much as Ambac amended its complaint to include fraud claims against JP Morgan and EMC, FHFA could amend its claims later to include causes of action for contractual breach.  FHFA’s initial complaints were apparently filed at this time to ensure that they fell within the shorter statute of limitations for securities law and tort claims.  Contractual claims tend to have a longer statute of limitations and can be brought down the road without fear of them being time-barred (see interesting Subprime Shakeout guest post on statute of limitations concerns.

Predictions

Since everyone is eager to hear how all this will play out, I will leave you with a few predictions.  First, as I’ve predicted in the past, the involvement of the U.S. Government in mortgage litigation will certainly embolden other private litigants to file suit, both by providing political cover and by providing plaintiffs with a roadmap to recovery.  It also may spark shareholder suits based on the drop in stock prices suffered by many of these banks after statements in the media downplaying their mortgage exposure.

Second, as to these particular suits, many of the defendants likely will seek to escape the harsh glare of the litigation spotlight by settling quickly, especially if they have relatively little at stake (the one exception may be GE, which has stated that it will vigorously oppose the suit, though this may be little more than posturing).  The FHFA, in turn, is likely also eager to get some of these suits settled quickly, both so that it can show that the suits have merit with benchmark settlements and also so that it does not have to fight legal battles on 18 fronts simultaneously.  It will likely be willing to offer defendants a substantial discount against potential damages if they come to the table in short order.

Meanwhile, the banks with larger liability and a more precarious capital situation will be forced to fight these suits and hope to win some early battles to reduce the cost of settlement.  Due to the plaintiff-friendly nature of these claims, I doubt many will succeed in winning motions to dismiss that dispose entirely of any case, but they may obtain favorable evidentiary rulings or dismissals on successor-in-interest claims.  Still, they may not be able to settle quickly because the price tag, even with a substantial discount, will be too high.

On the other hand, trial on these cases would be a publicity nightmare for the big banks, not to mention putting them at risk a massive financial wallop from the jury (fraud claims carry with them the potential for punitive damages).  Thus, these cases will likely end up settling at some point down the road.  Whether that’s one year or four years from now is hard to say, but from what I’ve seen in mortgage litigation, I’d err on the side of assuming a longer time horizon for the largest banks with the most at stake.

Article taken from The Subprime Shakeout – www.subprimeshakeout.com
URL to article: the-government-giveth-and-it-taketh-away-the-significance-of-the-game-changing-fhfa-lawsuits.html

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