Adam Levitin on Backdating: A Pattern of Conduct at Ocwen and Other Players in the Foreclosure Frenzy

see also http://themreport.com/news/government/01-13-2015/california-moving-suspend-ocwens-mortgage-license

Adam Levitin has definitely established himself as one of the more respected figures in analyzing and commenting on mortgage and foreclosure practices. In this article below, he reveals the fraudulent nature of even the most benign looking foreclosures. Various parties, including Ocwen which he cites in particular, regularly backdated denials of modification and backdated ownership paperwork.

His emphasis is on the pattern of conduct dating back many years which continues unabated despite administrative findings of wrongdoing, and settlements in which they agreed to correct these practices. If you look at Select Portfolio Servicing, formerly Fairfield Capital, (and now owned by Credit Suisse) you will see that they were guilty of fraudulent servicing practices as far back as 2003.In a recent case where Patrick Giunta and I represented the homeowners the court found that there was no authority of the servicer and no loan transfer to the alleged Trust. The Judge specifically expressed her displeasure with the obvious indications of backdating and fabrication of endorsements, assignments and the attempt at using Powers of Attorney that were a fabricated work-around

Levitin is right in his conclusion. And I would add that any “presumption” rebuttable or otherwise, should not be allowed regarding any paperwork that is produced by these players. Levitin should be a regular read for those of you who are following this evolving mess.

http://www.creditslips.org/creditslips/

Corporate Recidivism? Ocwen’s Charter Problems

posted by Adam Levitin
Last month mortgage servicer Ocwen (that’s NewCo backwards) was mauled by the NY State Department of Financial Services. Now the California Department of Corporations is seeking to revoke Ocwen’s license to do business in that state.
Here’s the thing that is often forgotten: this ain’t the first time! Ocwen used to be a federal thrift. In 2005, however, Ocwen “voluntarily” surrendered its thrift charter in the face of predatory lending/servicing investigation. And here we are, a decade later. What’s changed? By the NY and California allegations, not much. In other words, we’re looking at a potential case of corporate recidivism. I’ll refrain from commenting on the merits of the allegations, but there should be zero tolerance for corporate recidivism.
While I’m at it, a word about the substance of the NY allegations and remedy. NYDFS accused Ocwen of backdating loan modification denial letters to borrowers facing foreclosure (and thereby depriving the borrowers of a chance to timely appeal the denial). Sadly, this isn’t the first time backdating has reared its head in the servicing business. Remember how the robo-signing story broke? A GM/Ally employee named Jeffrey Stephan stated in a deposition that he personally signed some 10,000 foreclosure affidavits a month. That was the story that the media glommed onto. But the 10,000 affidavits/month was an unexpected deposition by-product. The real issue uncovered in that deposition was that GM/Ally had been backdating foreclosure documents to show that it had standing at the time it filed foreclosure suits, despite not actually being the noteholder and mortgagee until a subsequent date. Loans were supposedly transferred on Christmas Day, Easter, New Year’s Day, etc. So it would seem that backdating may not be an isolated problem to Ocwen. Lastly, it’s worth comparing the NYDFS remedy with the National Mortgage Settlement. NYSDFS got $150 million in “hard dollar” loan mods (not mods paid for on investors’ dime). Ocwen is subject to an independent monitor’s supervision for three years and cannot acquire any more mortgage servicing rights (MSRs). And, Ocwen’s Chairman must resign and two additional independent board members must be added.
In contrast, the National Mortgage Settlement (NMS) was largely based on “soft dollar” mods, rather than real borrower relief. It did come with an independent monitor, but the NMS monitor isn’t able to be in the banks’ face the way the Ocwen monitor can. The NMS didn’t limit acquisition of MSRs. And it didn’t touch existing bank management or board structure. Put it this way: if the federal government and state AGs had as much spine as Ben Lawsky, Mssrs. Dimon, Moynihan, and Stumpf would be looking for new jobs (or enjoying their retirement). Of course, Ocwen is a scrappy, non-bank, non-SIFI. So it doesn’t enjoy the kid glove treatment.
The NYDFS Ocwen settlement sets out a new potential paradigm for mass consumer financial abuse settlements: real money, serious monitoring, and heave-ho to the old management. If senior management thinks that their job security is at risk for consumer abuse, they might well be more proactive at preventing it in the first place.

Ocwen Settlement with NY AG Could Spell Doom for Servicers

For further information please call 954-495-9867 or 520-405-1688

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The new settlement with New York’s Department of Financial Services calls for resignation of the Chairman (Erbey), payment of a $100 million fine, Payment of $50 million in restitution to borrowers who were wrongfully foreclosed, and a set of rules requiring Ocwen to help borrowers avoid foreclosure. Schneiderman, Attorney General, was prosecuting the case aggressively. This will add to the growing list of questions from judges over rotating servicers and trustees, servicing practices, robo-signing, forgery, fabrication of documents and the refusal of the foreclosing party to simply show the funding for the loan and the consideration paid for the acquisition of the loan.

Why is this important: it reflects an administrative finding that Ocwen has been wrongfully foreclosing on people from 2009 to the present. And it directs money and other assistance to homeowners who find themselves tangled in the complex web of deceit that we call securitization (Adam Levitin calls it “securitization fail” because the loans never actually made it into the trust — because the proceeds of sale of mortgage bonds were never given to the trust by the investment bank who sold them).

The fine is a fraction of what it should be and the amount set aside for victims of wrongful foreclosure is pathetic. And it basically leaves the completed foreclosures to stand even though it is obvious that Ocwen was following the directive “We are in the business of foreclosure, not modification). And while the settlement requires Ocwen to provide the complete loan file on request it fails to state what happens if they don’t and perhaps more importantly it fails to give details of what must be in that loan file even though they are widely known. Specifically, the completed loan file would show wire transfer receipts and wire transfer instructions from a party who was acting as a conduit for the investor money — a party unrelated to the REMIC Trust and not tied to the investors by contract.

Another key provision requires Ocwen to provide a detailed explanation of why and how a request for workout or modification was denied.

But remember this is one state. If all 50 states demanded the same results, based upon the New York findings there could be a global fine of $5 Billion and restitution ($2.5 Billion) for U.S. homeowners who are victims of wrongful foreclosure in the amount of $2.5 billion. And if you add the other servicers who have been doing exactly the same thing as Ocwen, the amounts increase geometrically.

A key provision of the settlement is continued monitoring. So if there is an issue with a foreclosure of a mortgage serviced by Ocwen, a complaint to the office of the attorney general or the office of the New York Department of Financial Services will help — perhaps even if you are not a resident of the state of New York.

One obvious concession to the banks is the reference to the onboarding process. In allowing Ocwen to purchase servicing rights (MSR) the reference is vague as to defining “onboarding.” This phrase is often being used in Court to avoid producing real records and real testimony from real companies who were real servicers. Judges, seeing only what is in front of them, are forced to rule that the records of the new “servicer” are business records within the exception provided under the hearsay rule in most states.

PRACTICE POINTER FOR LAWYERS: If you fail to argue that the business record must contain entries made at or near the time of the transaction, you will most likely end up with records from a “new” party who is not a servicer but whose records contain the alleged records of other servicers. I don’t see how the onboarding process could ever be accepted in lieu of records and testimony from companies who actually did servicing of the account — i.e., receipt of payments from the borrower and remittance to the creditors.

Here are some salient quotes from the article:

ATLANTA, Dec. 22, 2014 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Ocwen Financial Corporation (OCN) (“Ocwen”) today announced that it has reached a comprehensive settlement with the New York Department of Financial Services (“DFS”) related to the agency’s recent investigation.

“We are pleased to have reached a comprehensive settlement with the DFS and will act promptly to comply with the terms,” said CEO Ronald Faris. “We believe this agreement is in the best interests of our shareholders, employees, borrowers and mortgage investors. We will continue to cooperate with the DFS in the implementation of the terms of this settlement which we believe will allow Ocwen to continue to focus on what we do best — helping homeowners.”

Under the terms of the settlement, Ocwen will pay a civil monetary penalty of $100 million to the DFS by December 31, 2014, which will be used by the State of New York for housing, foreclosure relief and community redevelopment programs. The Company will also pay $50 million as restitution to current and former New York borrowers who had foreclosure actions filed against them by Ocwen between January 2009 and December 19, 2014. As previously communicated in the third quarter of 2014, Ocwen recorded a charge of $100 million to increase its legal reserves in anticipation of a potential settlement with the DFS. Ocwen will record an additional $50 million charge in its fourth quarter 2014 financial statements to reflect the final settlement amount.

…. founder William C. Erbey will step down from his position as Executive Chairman of Ocwen, effective January 16, 2015. Barry Wish, a current director of Ocwen, will assume the role of Non-Executive Chairman on that date.

Ocwen has also agreed to non-monetary provisions relating to New York borrower assistance measures, a monitor-led oversight of Ocwen’s operations, interactions with related parties and certain corporate governance measures. MSR acquisitions will be subject to Ocwen meeting specified benchmarks as well as DFS approval.

A summary of the settlement terms is below.

Settlement Summary of Monetary Provisions

  • Ocwen will pay a civil monetary penalty of $100 million to the DFS by December 31, 2014, which will be used by the State of New York for housing, foreclosure relief and community redevelopment programs.
  • Ocwen will also pay $50 million as restitution to current and former New York borrowers in the form of $10,000 to each borrower whose home was foreclosed upon by Ocwen between January 2009 and December 19, 2014, with the balance distributed equally among borrowers who had foreclosure actions filed, but not completed, by Ocwen between January 2009 and December 19, 2014.

Settlement Summary of Non-Monetary Provisions

Borrower Assistance

Beginning 60 days after December 19, 2014, and for two years, Ocwen will:

  • Provide upon request by a New York borrower a complete loan file at no cost to the borrower;
  • Provide every New York borrower who is denied a loan modification, short sale or deed-in-lieu of foreclosure with a detailed explanation of how this determination was reached;
  • Provide one free credit report per year, at Ocwen’s expense, to any New York borrower on request if Ocwen made a negative report to any credit agency from January 1, 2010, and Ocwen will make staff available for borrowers to inquire about their credit reporting, dedicating resources necessary to investigate such inquiries and correct any errors.

Operations Monitor

  • The DFS will appoint an independent Operations Monitor to review and assess the adequacy and effectiveness of Ocwen’s operations. The Operations Monitor’s term will extend for two years from its engagement, and the DFS may extend the engagement another 12 months at its sole discretion.
  • The Operations Monitor will recommend and oversee implementation of corrections and establish progress benchmarks when it identifies weaknesses.
  • The Operations Monitor will report periodically on its findings and progress. The currently existing monitor will remain in place for at least three months and then for a short transitional period to facilitate an effective transition to the Operations Monitor.

Related Companies

  • The Operations Monitor will review and approve Ocwen’s benchmark pricing and performance studies semi-annually with respect to all fees or expenses charged to New York borrowers by any related party.
  • Ocwen will not share any common officers or employees with any related party and will not share risk, internal audit or vendor oversight functions with any related party.
  • Any Ocwen employee, officer or director owning more than $200,000 equity ownership in any related party will be recused from negotiating or voting to approve a transaction with the related party in which the employee, officer or director has such equity ownership, or any transaction that indirectly benefits such related party, if the transaction involves $120,000 or more in revenue or expense.

Corporate Governance

  • Ocwen will add two independent directors who will be appointed after consultation with the Monitor and who will not own equity in any related party.
  • As of January 16, 2015, Bill Erbey will step down as an officer and director of Ocwen, as well as from the boards of Ocwen’s related companies.
  • The Operations Monitor will review Ocwen’s current committees of the Board of Directors and will consult with the Board relating to the committees. This will include determining which decisions should be committed to independent directors’ oversight, such as approval of transactions with related parties, transactions to acquire mortgage servicing rights, sub-servicing rights or otherwise to increase the number of serviced loans and new relationships with third-party vendors.
  • The Board will work closely with the Operations Monitor to identify operations issues and ensure that they are addressed. The Board will consult with the Operations Monitor to determine whether any member of senior management should be terminated or whether additional officers should be retained to achieve the goals of complying with this Consent Order.

MSR Purchases

  • Ocwen may acquire MSRs upon (a) meeting benchmarks specified by the Operations Monitor relating to Ocwen’s onboarding process for newly acquired MSRs and its ability to adequately service newly acquired MSRs and its existing loan portfolio, and (b) the DFS’s approval, not to be unreasonably withheld.
  • These benchmarks will address the compliance plan, a plan to resolve record-keeping and borrower communication issues, the reasonableness of fees and expenses in the servicing operations, development of risk controls for the onboarding process and development of a written onboarding plan assessing potential risks and deficiencies in the onboarding process.

Fannie and Freddie Slammed by Massachusetts AG

Martha Coakley gets it. Read her letter. Being a politician she does not say that the abstract fear of strategic defaults on all loans across the board is absurd. Well, actually she does say it. Principal reductions and ending patently illegal policies preventing homeowners from buying back their own property at auction are at the center of the solution to the foreclosure mess along with one more thing: things will change when we get the answer to the question IF THESE POLICIES HURT LENDERS, INVESTORS AND BORROWERS, WHY WOULD ANYONE LISTEN TO A THIRD PARTY WHO BENEFITS?

fhfa-letter-051414

As the new head of the Federal Agency administrating Fannie and Freddie, Watts, replacing DeMarco, signals a major change in policy and regulations. The question is whether he means it. There is no doubt at the White House that the economy will continue to be dragged down by foreclosures. Their answer to the problem lies in modifications with “principal reductions” and loosening some standards for lending and securitization.

While the modification policies should be changed, this isn’t enough. Modification has been used as a tool of Wall Street to lure unwary borrowers into the illusion of immediate relief only to be faced with terms that are worse than the borrowers had before when underwriting was virtually nonexistent — albeit with some fees and other “skin in the game” restrictions that could slow up some of the continuing securitization fraud.

The issue is still the same and the fear is still there — will the entire system collapse if we stop putting the full brunt of the foreclosure mess on the backs of unsophisticated homeowners who were induced to buy loan products that were filled with false pretenses, false assumptions and nonexistent review, verification and other underwriting procedures.

At this point, considering the rampant appraisal fraud, homeowners should be given an opportunity to regain equity and have some skin in the game — as opposed to the all or nothing proposition they are fighting in court with complete strangers to their transactions 000 alleged by parties relying on evidentiary presumptions rather than real facts of each transaction.

In 2007 I proposed amnesty for everyone and that everyone share in the the losses from civil and perhaps criminal fraud caused by the banks taking money from investors and applying it to loans that were guaranteed to fail and then scaring government into thinking that the world would end if they were called on this predatory and illegal practice on the basis of being too big too fail.

Too big to fail is a myth. First, the banks can’t collapse because they are cash rich off shore. Trillions were siphoned out of pension funds, taxpayers and insurers and guarantors taking so much money that the federal reserve had to engage in various schemes of direct and disguised quantitative easing (like buying mortgage bonds that were worthless at 100% of par value). The losses claimed by the banks were also fictional.

At this point everyone at the levers of power knows the truth. The trusts were never funded and the trusts never acquired the loans. This places the investors in the position of being undifferentiated and unattached creditors for loans they funded but were never  given proper documentation in the form of notes payable tot he investors and mortgages pledging collateral to the investors, leaving them as unsecured creditors.

But now the government is committed financially to a policy of continuing fraud started by the banks which is the same thing that is happening in court. The issue is not whether a deadbeat homeowner will get a free house (that is a choice presented by the banks in a false set of presumptions). despite the dire straits of investors in worthless and fraudulent mortgage bonds, homeowners are mostly willing to offer new notes and new mortgages that reflect economic reality. No, those deadbeats are nothing of the sort. They are hard working, play by the rules people who simply want a fair deal and they are willing to shoulder the loss forced on them by the banks.

Want to test it out? Call us about our AMGAR project — 7 years in the making — in which we call the bluff of the banks. It takes money, but the investors are starting to line up to help, and the homeowners with independent assets to offer the money rather than the foreclosure are racking up wins in case after case. Watch the banks back peddle as they reject the money in favor of their much needed foreclosure judgment and sale so they can report the loan was a bust — and therefore the money the banks received in servicer payments to the investors, insurance tot he banks, guarantees and other proceed from other obligors won’t need to be paid back.

And if played properly, the tax revenue due from the banks for violations of the REMIC provisions, part of which will fall on investors who fail to make their case against the broker dealers who sold them that mortgage crap, will more than offset the lack of revenue on Federal and State levels. All they need to do is give up on too big to fail and give up on thinking that killing the middle class is a good idea because the burden must fall somewhere. In fraud, the burden falls on the perpetrators not the victims although it is rare that restitution ever equals the loss. Virtually every foreclosure is merely the court’s complicity in the continuing fraud.

Remember the playbook of the bank attorneys into undermine your confidence until the very last second when they submit their voluntary dismissal in court. Call their bluff, offer the money based upon YOUR terms or the terms of an investor who is willing to make the commitment. Your terms require proof of ownership and proof of balance after credits for third party payments. you will find they don’t own the loan and the balance of the loan has already been paid down or paid off entirely.

Don’t just file motions to enforce discovery. File motions with affidavits from forensic analysts that explain why you need what you are asking for. You’ll get the order. And as soon as you get the order, the offers of settlement will start pouring in.

For information and further assistance please call 520-405-1688 or 954-495-9867. We provide help and guidance to professionals that know foreclosure defense, foreclosure offense, modifications, short-sales, Hardest Hit Funds and other Federal, State and private programs. Remember to ask about AMGAR. It is time to strike back. Let the other side start feeling the pain.

see http://www.nytimes.com/2014/05/14/business/Melvin-Watt-shifts-course-on-fannie-mae-and-freddie-mac.html?ref=business&_r=0

 

National Honesty Day? America’s Book of Lies

Today is National Honesty Day. While it should be a celebration of how honest we have been the other 364 days of the year, it is rather a day of reflection on how dishonest we have been. Perhaps today could be a day in which we say we will at least be honest today about everything we say or do. But that isn’t likely. Today I focus on the economy and the housing crisis. Yes despite the corruption of financial journalism in which we are told of improvements, our economy — led by the housing markets — is still sputtering. It will continue to do so until we confront the truth about housing, and in particular foreclosures. Tennessee, Virginia and other states continue to lead the way in a downward spiral leading to the lowest rate of home ownership since the 1990’s with no bottom in sight.

Here are a few of the many articles pointing out the reality of our situation contrasted with the absence of articles in financial journalism directed at outright corruption on Wall Street where the players continue to pursue illicit, fraudulent and harmful schemes against our society performing acts that can and do get jail time for anyone else who plays that game.

It isn’t just that they escaping jail time. The jailing of bankers would take a couple of thousand people off the street that would otherwise be doing harm to us.

The main point is that we know they are doing the wrong thing in foreclosing on property they don’t own using “balances” the borrower doesn’t owe; we know they effectively stole the money from the investors who thought they were buying mortgage bonds, we know they effectively stole the title protection and documents that should have been executed in favor of the real source of funds, we know they received multiple payments from third parties and we know they are getting twin benefits from foreclosures that (a) should not be legally allowed and (b) only compound the damages to investors and homeowners.

The bottom line: Until we address wrongful foreclosures, the housing market, which has always led the economy, will continue to sputter, flatline or crash again. Transferring wealth from the middle class to the banks is a recipe for disaster whether it is legal or illegal. In this case it plainly illegal in most cases.

And despite the planted articles paid for by the banks, we still have over 700,000 foreclosures to go in the next year and over 9,000,000 homeowners who are so deep underwater that their situation is a clear and present danger of “strategic default” on claims that are both untrue and unfair.

Here is a sampling of corroborative evidence for my conclusions:

Senator Elizabeth Warren’s Candid Take on the Foreclosure Crisis

There it was: The Treasury foreclosure program was intended to foam the runway to protect against a crash landing by the banks. Millions of people were getting tossed out on the street, but the secretary of the Treasury believed the government’s most important job was to provide a soft landing for the tender fannies of the banks.”

Lynn Symoniak is Thwarted by Government as She Pursues Other Banks for the Same Thing She Proved Before

Government prosecutors who relied on a Florida whistleblower’s evidence to win foreclosure fraud settlements with major banks two years ago are declining to help her pursue identical claims against a second set of large financial institutions.

Lynn Szymoniak first found proof that millions of American foreclosures were based on faulty and falsified documents while fighting her own foreclosure. Her three-year legal fight helped uncover the fact that banks were “robosigning” documents — hiring people to forge signatures and backdate legal paperwork the firms needed in order to foreclose on people’s homes — as a routine practice. Court papers that were unsealed last summer show that the fraudulent practices Szymoniak discovered affect trillions of dollars worth of mortgages.

More than 700,000 Foreclosures Expected Over Next Year

How Bank Watchdogs Killed Our Last Chance At Justice For Foreclosure Victims

The results are in. The award for the sorriest chapter of the great American foreclosure crisis goes to the Independent Foreclosure Review, a billion-dollar sinkhole that produced nothing but heartache for aggrieved homeowners, and a big black eye for regulators.

The foreclosure review was supposed to uncover abuses in how the mortgage industry coped with the epic wave of foreclosures that swept the U.S. in the aftermath of the housing crash. In a deal with the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency and the Federal Reserve, more than a dozen companies, including major banks, agreed to hire independent auditors to comb through loan files, identify errors and award just compensation to people who’d been abused in the foreclosure process.

But in January 2013, amid mounting evidence that the entire process was compromised by bank interference and government mismanagement, regulators abruptly shut the program down. They replaced it with a nearly $10 billion legal settlement that satisfied almost no one. Borrowers received paltry payouts, with sums determined by the very banks they accused of making their lives hell.

Investigation Stalled and Diverted as to Bank Fraud Against Investors and Homeowners

The Government Accountability Office released the results of its study of the Independent Foreclosure Review, conducted by the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency and the Federal Reserve in 2011 and 2012, and the results show that the foreclosure process is lacking in oversight and transparency.

According to the GAO review, which can be read in full here, the OCC and Fed signed consent orders with 16 mortgage servicers in 2011 and 2012 that required the servicers to hire consultants to review foreclosure files for efforts and remediate harm to borrowers.

In 2013, regulators amended the consent orders for all but one servicer, ending the file reviews and requiring servicers to provide $3.9 billion in cash payments to about 4.4 million borrowers and $6 billion in foreclosure prevention actions, such as loan modifications. The list of impacted mortgage servicers can be found here, as well as any updates. It should be noted that the entire process faced controversy before, as critics called the IFR cumbersome and costly.

Banks Profit from Suicides of Their Officers and Employees

After a recent rash of mysterious apparent suicides shook the financial world, researchers are scrambling to find answers about what really is the reason behind these multiple deaths. Some observers have now come to a rather shocking conclusion.

Wall Street on Parade bloggers Pam and Russ Martens wrote this week that something seems awry regarding the bank-owned life insurance (BOLI) policies held by JPMorgan Chase.

Four of the biggest banks on Wall Street combined hold over $680 billion in BOLI policies, the bloggers reported, but JPMorgan held around $17.9 billion in BOLI assets at the end of last year to Citigroup’s comparably meager $8.8 billion.

Government Cover-Up to Protect the Banks and Screw Homeowners and Investors

A new government report suggests that errors made by banks and their agents during foreclosures might have been significantly higher than was previously believed when regulators halted a national review of the banks’ mortgage servicing operations.

When banking regulators decided to end the independent foreclosure review last year, most banks had not completed the examinations of their mortgage modification and foreclosure practices.

At the time, the regulators — the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency and the Federal Reserve — found that lengthy reviews by bank-hired consultants were delaying compensation getting to borrowers who had suffered through improper modifications and other problems.

But the decision to cut short the review left regulators with limited information about actual harm to borrowers when they negotiated a $10 billion settlement as part of agreements with 15 banks, according to a draft of a report by the Government Accountability Office reviewed by The New York Times.

The report shows, for example, that an unidentified bank had an error rate of about 24 percent. This bank had completed far more reviews of borrowers’ files than a group of 11 banks involved the deal, suggesting that if other banks had looked over more of their records, additional errors might have been discovered.

Wrongful Foreclosure Rate at least 24%: Wrongful or Fraudulent?

The report shows, for example, that an unidentified bank had an error rate of about 24 percent. This bank had completed far more reviews of borrowers’ files than a group of 11 banks involved the deal, suggesting that if other banks had looked over more of their records, additional errors might have been discovered.

http://www.marketpulse.com/20140430/u-s-housing-recovery-struggles/

http://www.csmonitor.com/Business/Latest-News-Wires/2014/0429/Home-buying-loses-allure-ownership-rate-lowest-since-1995

http://www.opednews.com/articles/It-s-Good–no–Great-to-by-William-K-Black–Bank-Failure_Bank-Failures_Bankers_Banking-140430-322.html

[DISHONEST EUPHEMISMS: The context of this WSJ story is the broader series of betrayals of homeowners by the regulators and prosecutors led initially by Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and his infamous “foam the runways” comment in which he admitted and urged that programs “sold” as benefitting distressed homeowners be used instead to aid the banks (more precisely, the bank CEOs) whose frauds caused the crisis.  The WSJ article deals with one of the several settlements with the banks that “service” home mortgages and foreclose on them.  Private attorneys first obtained the evidence that the servicers were engaged in massive foreclosure fraud involving knowingly filing hundreds of thousands of false affidavits under (non) penalty of perjury.  As a senior former AUSA said publicly at the INET conference a few weeks ago about these cases — they were slam dunk prosecutions.  But you know what happened; no senior banker or bank was prosecuted.  No banker was sued civilly by the government.  No banker had to pay back his bonus that he “earned” through fraud.

 

 

LOAN MODIFICATIONS

Modifications are like a dirty word in the marketplace. Frustration, chicanery, luring borrowers into default, and crating modifications that are bound to fail so that the banks can get that ever precious foreclosure sale. But there is another side to it, as our guest writer David Abellard points out below.

And while I think the entire mortgage foreclosure thing is a complete sham, it is nonetheless true that homeowners want a a modification far more often than just getting a “free home.” Most of us understand that litigation is about preventing the banks from getting a “free home” — which is to say not just any home, but the home that a family resides in.

Litigation also provides the homeowner with presenting a credible threat, especially if they are after discovery on the money trail. So it is impossible to say how much litigation is necessary to get the best terms, or even if the homeowner SHOULD litigate, because much of that has more to do with personal decisions than the likelihood of success in litigation.

There is also a point I want to make to people who are not sophisticated in finance. An interest rate that is far under market rates IS the equivalent of a principal reduction. If you want to learn more about this, Google “present value” and “future value.” If you stay in the home for the duration of the loan, the impact gets larger and larger. But if you are staying in the home for only a short while then reducing the interest rate won’t do much without an actual principal reduction. As pointed out in prior broadcasts and articles here on livinglies, make sure whoever you are talking to about modification, short-sale or any other settlement is aware of two things:

  1. There are hidden programs throughout the country that provide direct financial assistance to those who want to bring their loan current or who need a reduction in principal. The “expert” you are hiring had better know about them or you might turn down a deal that would otherwise be acceptable.
  2. Get a court order approving the modification as a settlement. Submit an agreed order that expressly refers tot he legal description of the property, the fact that the homeowner is the owner in fee simple absolute — by name — and that the holder of the mortgage and note is identified by name. The order should approve the settlement even if the the settlement agreement is confidential and even if the settlement agreement is not attached to the order.
  3. Snatch and Grab: Many of the banks are still secretly scripting their customer service people to lure you into a default with the promise of a modification, even accepting trial payments, and then foreclosing anyway. The courts are not amused and they are getting banged by this practice — but only where the homeowner brings it up loudly.
  4. People ask me “should I stop paying?” The answer is universally that you don’t want to put yourself in a worse position than the one in which you are already stuck. Voluntary nonpayment is only for those who are pursuing strategies based upon strategic default. If the bank tells you to fall behind by 90 days, don’t believe it — it’s a trap. At best they are trying to steer you into an in house modification where the interest rates and payments are higher than in HAMP, HARP or other programs that do NOT require you to be i default for modification, no matter what anyone tells you.

But modifying the mortgage is a legitimate way of ending your problem as long as you take the necessary steps to protect your title. Thus I am inviting people to write in about modification. David Abellard sketches the modification process below:

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Loan Modification Information

Most homeowners have lost faith in loan modifications. Lenders have been alleged to routinely used the process to trick unsuspected homeowners into agreeing to consent judgment in pending foreclosure cases. The skepticism of some is understandable. However, the foreclosure landscape has shifted a bit in favor of the homeowners. The new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau recently promulgated rules that make loan modification more effective.

Lenders and their servicers could face serious penalty for not complying with the federal regulations that went into effect January 10, 2014. If a loan is modified, the new payment will be based on the household income; which is generally 31% of the household monthly gross income. Loans on a primary residence as well as non-owner residence can be modified.  There are several loan modification programs. The Home Affordable Modification Program (“HAMP”) is a government  program that has been extended until 12/31/15.  If a homeowner does not qualify for HAMP, or the investor doesn’t participate in the HAMP program, banks and servicers also offer internal private modification programs as an alternative.  Loan modifications are primarily designed to create an affordable payment plan for the homeowner based on their current income; it does not create equity by reducing the principle balance of a loan based on current property value.

There are mainly three ways a loan can be modified to create an affordable payment:
1) reduction of interest rate;
2) extension of loan term;
3) waiver or deferment of principle balance.

Regardless of what someone may tell you, applying for a loan modification does not guarantee that you will receive one, nor can anyone guarantee specific results.
Normally, the homeowner will have to complete a trial period which usually last 3 months before the modification becomes final.  Applying for a loan modification under certain circumstances may stop the court from entering a final judgment or selling the property while the modification application is being reviewed.  The application process can be daunting and intimidating. There are some law firms which concentrate on loan modification. They can become a very effective interface between the lender and the borrower and facilitate the process.

David Abellard at The Law Office of Paul A. Krasker, P.A.
Office: 561.328.2268,  or 877-332-1965 ext 194
Email: dabellard@kraskerlaw.com,

 

BONY Objections to Discovery Rejected

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It has been my contention all along that these cases ought to end in the discovery process with some sort of settlement — money damages, modification, short-sale, hardest hit fund programs etc. But the only way the homeowner can get honest terms is if they present a credible threat to the party seeking foreclosure. That threat is obvious when the Judge issues an order compelling discovery to proceed and rejecting arguments for protective orders, (over-burdensome, relevance etc.). It is a rare bird that a relevance objection to discovery will be sustained.

Once the order is entered and the homeowner is free to inquire about all the mechanics of transfer of her loan, the opposition is faced with revelations like those which have recently been discovered with the Wells Fargo manual that apparently is an instruction manual on how to commit document fraud — or the Urban Lending Solutions and Bank of America revelations about how banks have scripted and coerced their employees to guide homeowners into foreclosure so that questions of the real owner of the debt and the real balance of the debt never get to be scrutinized. Or, as we have seen repeatedly, what is revealed is that the party seeking a foreclosure sale as “creditor” or pretender lender is actually a complete stranger to the transaction — meaning they have no ties i to any transaction record, and no privity through any chain of documentation.

Attorneys and homeowners should take note that there are thousands upon thousands of cases being settled under seal of confidentiality. You don’t hear about those because of the confidentiality agreement. Thus what you DO hear about is the tangle of litigation as things heat up and probably the number of times the homeowner is mowed down on the rocket docket. This causes most people to conclude that what we hear about is the rule and that the settlements are the exception. I obviously do not have precise figures. But I do have comparisons from surveys I have taken periodically. I can say with certainty that the number of settlements, short-sales and modifications that are meaningful to the homeowner is rising fast.

In my opinion, the more aggressive the homeowner is in pursuing discovery, the higher the likelihood of winning the case or settling on terms that are truly satisfactory to the homeowner. Sitting back and waiting to see if the other side does something has been somewhat successful in the past but it results in a waiver of defenses that if vigorously pursued would or could result in showing the absence of a default, the presence of third party payments lowering the current payments due, the principal balance and the dollar amount of interest owed. If you don’t do that then your entire case rests upon the skill of the attorney in cross examining a witness and then disqualifying or challenging the testimony or documents submitted. Waiting to the last minute substantially diminishes the likelihood of a favorable outcome.

What is interesting in the case below is that the bank is opposing the notices of deposition based upon lack of personal knowledge. I would have pressed them to define what they mean by personal knowledge to use it against them later. But in any event, the Judge correctly stated that none of the objections raised by BONY were valid and that their claims regarding the proper procedure to set the depositions were also bogus.

tentative ruling 3-17-14

The Devil Is In the Details: Summary of Issues

Editor’s note: in preparing a complex motion for the court in several related cases I ended up writing the following which I would like to share with my readers. As you can see, the issues that were once thought to be simple and susceptible to rocket docket determination are in fact complex civil cases involving issues that are anything but simple.

This is a guide and general information. DO NOT USE THIS IF YOU ARE NOT A LICENSED ATTORNEY. THESE ISSUES ARE BOTH PROCEDURALLY AND SUBSTANTIVELY ABOVE THE AVERAGE KNOWLEDGE OF A LAYMAN. CONSULT WITH AN ATTORNEY LICENSED IN THE GEOGRAPHICAL AREA IN WHICH THE PROPERTY IS LOCATED.

If you are seeking litigation support or referrals to attorneys or representation please call 520-405-1688.

SUMMARY OF ISSUES TO BE CONSIDERED

 

1)   Whether a self proclaimed or actual Trustee for a REMIC Trust is empowered to bring a foreclosure action or any action to enforce the note and mortgage contrary to the terms of the Trust document — i.e., the Pooling and Servicing Agreement (PSA) — which New York and Delaware law declare to be actions that are VOID not VOIDABLE; specifically if the Trust document names a different trustee or empowers only the servicer to bring enforcement actions against borrowers.

2)   Whether a Trustee or Servicer may initiate actions or take legal positions that are contrary to the interests of the Trust Beneficiaries — in this case creating a liability for the Trust Beneficiaries for receipt of overpayments that are not credited to the account receivable from the Defendant Borrowers by their agents (the servicer and the alleged Trustee) and the creation of liability to LaSalle Bank or the Trust by virtue of questionable changes in Trustees.

3)   Whether US Bank is the Plaintiff or should be allowed to claim that it is the Trustee for the Plaintiff Trust. Without Amendment to the Complaint, US Bank seeks to be substituted as Plaintiff in lieu of Bank of America, as successor by merger with LaSalle Bank, trustee for the Plaintiff Trust according to the Trust Document (the Pooling and Servicing Agreement) Section 8.09.

a)    A sub-issue to this is whether Bank of America is actually is the successor by merger to LaSalle Bank or if CitiMortgage is the successor to LaSalle Bank, as Trustee of the Plaintiff Trust — there being conflicting submissions on the SEC.gov website on which it appears that CitiMortgage is the actual party with ownership of ABN AMRO and therefore LaSalle Bank its subsidiary.

b)   In addition, whether opposing counsel, who claims to represent U.S. Bank may be deemed attorney for the Trust if U.S. Bank is not the Trustee for the Trust.

i)     Whether opposing counsel’s interests are adverse to its purported client or the Trust or the Trust beneficiaries, particularly with respect to their recent push for turnover of rents despite full payment to creditors through non stop servicer advances.

4)   Whether any Trustee for the Trust can bring any enforcement action for the debt including foreclosure, assignment of rents or any other relief.

5)   Whether the documentation of a loan at the base of the tree of the assignments and transfers refers to any actual transaction in which the Payee on the note and the Mortgagee on the Mortgage.

a)    Or, as is alleged by Defendants, if the actual transaction occurred when a wire transfer was received by the closing agent at the loan closing with Defendant Borrowers from an entity that was a stranger to the documentation executed by Defendant Borrowers.

b)   Whether the debt arose by virtue of the receipt of money from a creditor or if it arose by execution of documentation, or both, resulting in double liability for a single loan and double payment.

6)   Whether the assignment of mortgage is void on its face as a fabrication because it refers to an event that occurred long after the date shown on the assignment.

7)   Whether the non-stop servicer advances in all of the cases involving these Defendants and U.S. Bank negates the default or the allegation of default by the Trust beneficiaries, the Trust or the Trustee, regardless of the identity of the Trustee.

a)    Whether a DEFAULT exists or ever existed where non stop servicer advances have been paid in full.

b)   Whether the creditor, under the debt obligation of the Defendant borrowers can be allowed to receive more than the amount due as principal , interest and expenses. In this case borrower payments, non stop servicer advances, insurance, credit default swap proceeds and other payments by co-obligors who paid without subrogation or expectation of receiving refunds from the Trust Beneficiaries.

c)    Whether a new debt arises by operation of law as a result of receipt of third party defendants in which a claim might be made by the party who advanced payment to the creditor, resulting in a decrease the account receivable and a corresponding decrease in the borrower’s account (loan) payable.

i)     Whether the new debt is secured by the recorded mortgage that the Plaintiff relies upon without the borrower executing a security instrument in which the real property is pledged as collateral for the advances by third parties.

8)   Whether turnover of rents can relate back to the original default, or default letter, effectively creating a final judgment for damages before evidence is in the court record.

9)   Whether the requirements of a demand letter to Defendants for turnover of rents can be waived by the trial Court, contrary to Florida Statutes.

a)    Whether equity demands that the turnover demand be denied in view of the fact that the actual creditors — the Trust Beneficiaries of the alleged Trust were paid in full up to and including the present time.

b)   Whether, as argued by opposing counsel, the notice of default letter sent to Defendant Borrowers is an acceptable substitute to a demand letter for turnover of the rents if the letter did not mention turnover of rents.

c)    Whether the notice of default letter and acceleration was valid or accurate in view of the servicer non-stop advances and receipt of other third party payments reducing the account receivable of the Trust beneficiaries (creditors).

i)     Whether there was a difference between the account status shown by the Servicer (chase and now SPS) and the account status actually shown by the creditor — the Trust Beneficiaries who were clearly paid in full.

10)         Whether the Plaintiff Trust waived the DUE ON SALE provision in the alleged Mortgage.

a)    Whether the Plaintiff can rely upon the due on sale provision in the mortgage to allege default without amendment to their pleadings.

11)         Whether sanctions should apply against opposing counsel for failure to disclose essential facts relating to the security of the alleged creditor.

Whether this (these cases) case should be treated off the “rocket docket” for foreclosures and transferred to general civil litigation for complex issues

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