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Lack of Standing is an Affirmative Defense

Appellant Robert J. Stoltz prevailed against Aurora Loan Servicing and Nationstar Mortgage in Florida’s Second District Court of Appeals. Honorable Judge Daniel R. Monaco reversed the final foreclosure judgment ruling that the plaintiff’s failure to prove standing at the inception of the suit was fatal (see Dickson v. Roseville Props., LLC, 40 Fla. L. Weekly D2520 (Fla. 2d DCA Nov. 6, 2015- quoting, “For better or for worse, it is settled that it is not enough for the plaintiff to prove that it has standing when the case is tried; it must also prove that it had standing when the complaint was filed.”).

 
Nationstar Mortgage had filed suit against homeowner, Robert Stoltz, and a different servicer named Aurora Loan Servicing was substituted as plaintiff prior to the trial. In the lower court the servicer claimed they were the holder of the note, not that they were foreclosing on behalf of a holder. Stoltz raised the question of standing at inception by pleading lack of standing as an affirmative defense in his amended answer.

 
Standing at inception of a lawsuit is required in Florida. The present servicer was required to prove at trial that the original servicer (the one that filed to foreclose) held the note at the time the case was filed (see: Russell v. Aurora Loan Servs., LLC, 163 So. 3d 639, 642 (Fla. 2d DCA 2015)).

 
During the trial, the present servicer attempted to achieve this burden by presenting a note bearing an undated indorsement in blank. An indorsement in blank is considered legally sufficient to prove that the person in possession of the note is a holder and has standing to proceed at trial (see: Focht v. Wells Fargo Bank, N.A., 124 So. 3d 308, 310 (Fla. 2d DCA 2013).

 

However, the indorsement in this case was undated and was not attached to the original complaint, and therefore was insufficient to prove that the original servicer held the note at the inception of the case. Without additional evidence that the original servicer actually possessed the Note at the inception of the case- the case should have been dismissed (see: Sorrell v. U.S. Bank Nat’l Ass’n, 41 Fla. L. Weekly D847 (Fla. 2d DCA Apr. 6, 2016)).

 
The current servicer’s only evidence of standing presented was the testimony of its corporate representative. The testimony of this representative failed to establish that the original servicer held the note when the case was filed. Therefore, the current servicer could not prove standing at inception. The borrower’s motion for involuntary dismissal should have been honored in this case (see Russell, 163 So. 3d at 643; May v. PHH Mortg. Corp., 150 So. 3d 247, 249 (Fla. 2d DCA 2014)).

 
The court took into consideration that the operative complaint attached a copy of an
assignment purporting to transfer both the note and mortgage to the original servicer priorto the date suit was originally filed. That document may have proven that the first
servicer had standing at inception (see: Focht, 124 So. 3d at 310 (“A plaintiff who is not
the original lender may establish standing to foreclose a mortgage loan by submitting a
note with a blank or special endorsement, an assignment of the note, or an affidavit
otherwise proving the plaintiff’s status as the holder of the note.”). However, the current servicer, failed to admit this document into evidence during trial.

 
On Appeal, the servicers did not argue and failed to cite any authority that the assignment was sufficient to support the judgment when standing is contested during trial (see: Beaumont v. Bank of N.Y. Mellon, 81 So. 3d 553, 555 n.2 (Fla. 5th DCA 2012)- a copy of an assignment of a note in the court file was not competent evidence where it was never authenticated and offered into evidence). The final judgment was reversed and the case remanded back to the trial court with directions to enter an order of involuntary dismissal. With Florida’s lack of a statute of limitations on foreclosures, the servicer will likely have ample time to “correct” their deficiencies and errors and attempt to foreclose again ad nauseum.

 

STOLTZ-v-AURORA-LOAN-SERVICES-LLC(1)
Congratulations to attorney Nicole R. Moskowitz of Neustein Law Group, Aventura representing Appellant Robert Stoltz.

How Much Did Banks Pay For The 2008 Financial Crisis? Fines And Settlements Of Over $160 Billion In Past 8 Years

BREAK THE BANKS VAULT2
So for an average of $20 Billion per year, the mega banks received an infinite supply of forever stamps — “forever” in the sense that they committed epic fraud and are still doing it. I believe this will be regarded as the most historic blunder in American history committed by three consecutive and diametrically opposed Presidential Administrations with the legislative branches of government and the judicial branch of government complicit or at least falling into the party line. In the end Clinton, Bush#2, and Obama all made the same mistake — thinking that market forces would keep the country and the world safe from the financial equivalent of thermonuclear war.
–THE FOLLOWING ARTICLE IS NOT A LEGAL OPINION UPON WHICH YOU CAN RELY IN ANY INDIVIDUAL CASE. HIRE A LAWYER.–
In return the Federal Reserve and the US Treasury “bailed out” banks that were “too big to fail” — in a total amount that will probably never be known but which most economist and financial analysts agree is in the neighborhood of over $5 trillion, plus allowing the mega banks to keep more than $10 trillion they stole from investors. The bitter irony is that this plan sucked all the juice out of our economy, household wealth and the ability of consumers to spend — which is responsible for 70% of our Gross Domestic Product.

Even more ironic is that the ‘bailout” was not a bailout.” It was extortionate. The banks had no losses. They were SELLING bonds so they couldn’t have suffered a loss from devaluation of the bonds. They were funding loans with investor money so they couldn’t have had losses from loan defaults. And they were writing mortgage documents for loans that did not exist. What they risked losing was future profits they would make if somehow there was someone  with money (i.e., the U.S. Government) who would shore up the unfortunate patsies who wrote insurance on completely worthless bonds, and who were indirectly insuring against defaults on loans that the mega banks had already planned to fail because they were not funding those loans.

In no instance, as far as I can tell, did any of the major policy decisions emerge from a discussion about what was good for the country, which is to say what is good for the common man, woman and child. Adding insult to injury, the people we elected and their appointees who said they knew what was going on, didn’t have a clue. True enough we don’t elect people who are experts in everything, but we do entrust them with the authority and the mandate to find out what they need to know before they do anything.

Incredibly all three administrations and all the Congresses and state legislatures functioned off of cliff notes and 30 minute meetings that consisted of Wall Street people selling the idea of de-regulation on an industry that had repeatedly proven it was untrustworthy and still allowed to promote themselves as banks you can trust. I count 6 times in American History that banks forced us into depression or deep recessions — all caused by pernicious schemes that were too bad to ever succeed. But it was worth it for the big banks because they made far more money than they ever had to give back.

Even more incredible is that it would appear that the two major candidates for the next administration will not change a thing. And THAT is why the vast majority of the American people don’t think either one of them will be good for the country. As long as they start from the assumption that protecting the banks is the same thing as protecting the financial system, which is the same as protecting the American populace. This assumption is patently wrong. Protecting the banks is enabling them to continue their fraudulent behavior which strikes at the unimportant people — i.e., most of the people who live and work in the United States.

 

 7,000 Community Banks, Savings and Loans, and Credit Unions can weather the storm if the Mega-Banks face consequences for their
crimes against the American people.
The real answer is to start with the proposition that the only correct action is one that is good for the country — which means that all people who live and work here would receive some benefit from the action taken. If that means taking the mega banks down, so be it. There are over 7,000 community banks, savings and loans, and credit unions in this country that all use the exact same IT backbone used by the mega banks.

There is nothing that the mega banks do that cannot be exactly duplicated by all those smaller 7,000 banks. In fact, the smaller banks are geographically closer to borrowers, make better loans and have fewer defaults. As for ATM card access, credit cards etc, any bank can become a co-branded issuer using that existing IT platform and the gateway organizations that control it — if the mega banks were forced to comply with the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision stating that access to the internet is and should be treated as a utility.

Starting with the premise that what is good for the common man/woman/child is good for the country, policy would head toward clawback of trillions of dollars across the globe and being able to pay reparations to the dozens of countries who were virtually destroyed by acts of global financial terrorism. It would also lead to the global recognition that the so-called loans were not loans.

Those transactions fell into a gray unsecured area of finance the law in which the homeowner (erroneously called the borrower) received money that came from a party who did not know that they were being cheated. The liability exists — that the homeowner must pay the that portion of the money that was received from specific “investors” (victims) but there is no loan contract where the party funding the transaction and the person taking the money have no agreement and no knowledge of the existence of the other.

Add to that that none of the intermediaries have any contractual authority to do what they did — directly fund loans out of money from pension funds et al — and you have one thing left on the plate, to wit: an unsecured liability that arises only in the event that the injured party(ies) (investors) make an equitable claim against the homeowner (e.g. unjust enrichment).

The idea that only the homeowner should pay for losses on this scheme is absurd and the idea that the banks can continue to sell their “rights” to servicer advances that were not advanced by the servicer but rather out of the investors’ money is absurd on steroids. If that doesn’t motivate anyone, think about this: I know for a fact that all the top Wall Street bankers are laughing nervously at how stupid we are and restating the old adage “Nobody ever lost money by underestimating the stupidity of the American people.” The only reason they are nervous is that they know that all good things come to an end. Jamie Dimon likes to remind people in the first minute of any conversation that he speaks to the very top of political power in this country. Maybe we should give him someone else to talk to.

Discovery: Your BlackKnight in Shining Armor?

http://www.bkfs.com/RealEC/DivisionInformation/SettlementAgents/ClosingInsightSettlementAgents/Pages/default.aspx

THE FOLLOWING ARTICLE IS NOT A LEGAL OPINION UPON WHICH YOU CAN RELY IN ANY INDIVIDUAL CASE. HIRE A LAWYER.

Maybe it is time to drill down a little deeper into ways to obtain Discovery. The same company that brought us the DOCX line of “original” fabricated documents has created a software platform used by the mega banks to streamline closings. Closing Insight and its predecessors (I think Chase uses its own version of this platform) could provide information on the real facts of each “closing”. Discovery requests should be directed to access the information on the platform which is now owned and operated by LPS/BlackKnight.

 
Note that most loans over the mortgage meltdown period that are still in existence were refi’s and not original loans. Most lawyers and judges presume that the closing paid off the old loan. But this is often not the case. Since the party on the prior “mortgage” and “note” was simply a conduit, they would not have received a penny from the new closing with the “borrower.” The reason for this is simple: they never had a dime of their own money in the loan nor were they in a contractual relationship with anyone who did have money in the deal. Hence they would not have received any money since the source of both deals was a dynamic dark pool of money where “trust” money was commingled in a way that made it impossible or nearly impossible to trace any specific investor to any specific loan deal.

 
Add all that up and you get (1) a satisfaction of mortgage from a non-mortgagee and (2) no consideration for the signing of the loan documents and (3) withholding that information from the “borrower” who in fact borrowed no money from the “refinance” of his prior “loan.” This means to me that the loan documents should never have been signed or delivered much less recorded. It also means that the current loan documents (and possibly the previous loan documents) are VOID and thus subject to an action for a Quiet Title action.

 
None of this means that there is not some liability for repayment of the party(ies) who DID have money in the deal in which they could plead to get repayment of their money. But two things are true: (1) the statute of limitations has probably run on most of those liabilities and (2) the injured party would need to know they are injured. Since the borrower clearly does not know the identity of the injured party, the borrower cannot be said to be guilty of creating a situation where the debt is diminished or nullified. And since the injured party(ies) don’t even know they are injured, much less how or in relation to what deal, they are prevented from stepping forward to claim their due.

 
Once upon a time such schemes would be cleared up by courts very quickly. Back then they understood that foreclosure was a drastic remedy that should not be taken lightly. But today the erroneous presumption that the borrower received money (presumed even by the borrower) leads courts to bend and break laws, rules and regulations such that any claiming bank or servicer will win regardless of whether they are in fact a creditor and regardless of whether or not they have any actual authority to represent the other victims of this scheme — the investors.

 
PRACTICE NOTE: It is necessary to be very aggressive and very well prepared to argue for discovery on these closings. The Judge arrives with the assumption in mind that what happened back then is none of your business and already established. Potentially an affidavit from a forensic analyst or expert witness might assist in discovery litigation. The problem with waiting on the affidavit or declaration until trial is that the expert can only offer an opinion without corroboration. If discovery has been fought and won, the expert’s opinion will be nearly self-evident. If discovery has been fought and lost, it should provide very strong grounds for appeal.

California’s New Gieseke Decision-A New Playing Field Emerges Post-Yvanova

 

Charles Marshallby Charles Marshall, Esquire

Gieseke Remand Order 5 20 16 from 9th Circuit

THE FOLLOWING ARTICLE IS NOT A LEGAL OPINION UPON WHICH YOU CAN RELY IN ANY INDIVIDUAL CASE. HIRE A LAWYER.
On the heels of Sciarratta v. US Bank, in the wake of Keshtgar v. US Bank, under the umbrella of Yvanova v. New Century Mortgage, comes now a unifying decision which applies at a base level at least these California Supreme Court and appellate decisions to the non-judicial firmament throughout the Greater West, that of Gieseke v. Bank of America.

Gieseke is a 9th Circuit decision, thus making itself persuasive if not controlling law in California and 9th Circuit states outside California, including Oregon, Washington, Montana, Idaho, Nevada, Arizona, Alaska, and Hawaii. While it is not mandatory for 9th Circuit Fed Courts in these states to follow Gieseke, due to the causes of action at issue being primarily state-based property claims as opposed to Fed-based claims, the persuasive authority of Gieseke will doubtless be useful and may prove to be compelling in many a future non-judicial foreclosure case in which the ‘borrower’ (never concede even, nay especially, fundamental terms in case pleading) is the Plaintiff.

It is also important to keep in mind that Federal authority is not controlling in a state litigation matter. Nevertheless, the persuasiveness of Fed to State and State to Fed authority must be acknowledged and understood among foreclosure litigants.

One of the reasons Glaski v. Bank of America failed largely to get traction until revived by Yvanova, is that even though it was controlling authority in the 5th Appellate District of California, and very much persuasive authority elsewhere in California, California’s Fed Courts tamped this brave and groundbreaking decision down from an oak to a stump, in a matter of months, following its publication in August of 2013.

Now with Gieseke, the entire 9th Circuit has greatly amplified the already-dramatic impact of Yvanova and its progeny Keshtgar and Sciarratta. Indeed, the way the Gieseke decision came to be is an event of great moment for this long-time foreclosure warrior-attorney. The underlying Gieseke case, which I had filed in the Northern District of California Fed Court on behalf of my clients back in late 2013, and appealed many months ago, was set for oral argument on July 5, 2016 before the 9th Circuit.

The Clerk of the 9th Circuit Court issued an order-to-show-cause (OTS) on May 2, 2016 with the breathtaking directive to the institutional defendants in the case, including Bank of America, to wit: why shouldn’t we the 9th Circuit simply remand this case summarily, in light of the Yvanova decision.

The institutional defendants had their best appellate firm at the ready, Severson Werson, and put forward a shallow but superficially credible case. I ‘marshalled’ (you’ll forgive the pun) my extensive network of resources, putting forward my considerably more credible Neil Garfield-inspired and ready arguments, and awaited the decision which just came down May 20: Gieseke Appellants win summarily, without even having to go to oral argument, which hearing was vacated upon the remand of the case to District Court, where it is to be reconsidered in light of Yvanova and Keshtgar.

Keep in mind that while Yvanova and Sciarratta are both post-auction cases, Keshtgar, and now Gieseke, are pre-auction, post-NOD cases. Which means at this point in California, through the California Supreme Court and now the 9th Circuit, all post-NOD lawsuits will have at least persuasive authority battering the opposition from the moment of filing. Strategically for once, Californians litigating non-judicial foreclosure matters have real options in choosing venue.

Where the focus of a case is directed to wrongful foreclosure and quiet title, state courts may be the better venue, since Yvanova and Keshtgar are controlling authority in all State Courts at this point. On the other hand, where rescission is an important cause of action in a compliant, a Federal venue using Gieseke for non-rescission state-based claims litigated in the same Federal venue may be the best way to frame a case.

Remember, Federal authority is persuasive, not mandatory, when applied to state claims. On the other hand, the breakthrough case of Jesinoski v. Countrywide Home Loans is controlling authority throughout the US on the issue of rescission (always a Fed-based issue vis a vis the TILA Federal law), as the decision came out of the US Supreme Court.

One might reasonably anticipate at this juncture to wonder what might one expect in light of the above cases, in trying to move a given plaintiff’s foreclosure case forward. Here follows a primer: For starters, from case inception, when facing a sale date, TROs will be much more readily granted. Be mindful that the standard applied to granting a preliminary or permanent restraining order, and derivatively a TRO, is whether the movant for an injunction is likely to prevail on the merits in the litigation at issue.

Before Yvanova, getting TROs in foreclosure-related matters was fraught with difficulty, though still doable in a number of cases, depending upon the district, the court, etc, although winning the preliminary injunction hearing to follow was another matter typically. With Keshtgar and Gieseke (pre-auction holdings), a TRO and preliminary injunction movant is likely to find getting the relief requested is much more straightforward and readily available. Also take note that TROs and their kindred hearings are much more easily brought, procedurally, in state courts, as opposed to Federal courts, at least in California.

As a still-relatively new lawsuit moves forward in the new dispensation of our post-Yvanova foreclosure world, plaintiffs will likely face as before, a surfeit of demurrer filings from the usual-suspect institutional servicers and sales trustees, such as Chase and Quality Loan Service Corp. Do not be feint of heart. New playing field, to which our opposition will have trouble adjusting much more than our side will. The new field largely benefits us, and will doubtless delimit and one hopes eventually demoralize our opposition. Can’t wait for the role reversal.

If California courts, state or Federal, are working properly, demurrers in this new litigation climate should routinely be overruled where the proper causes of action are pled, such as wrongful foreclosure, various Homeowner Bill of Rights statutory sections such as California Civil Code 2924.17 and 2923.55, and quiet title—this latter cause of action I believe will see a great revival with our side finally getting standing to present our arguments.

Equally important in this new terrain, is of course to plead void not voidable, when it comes to addressing the broken chain of assignments, the front-dating, back-dating, and robo-signing associated with same assignments.

Expect to see many motions for summary judgment, and the occasional judgment on the pleadings, from our not-so-friendly and often ruthless defendants, who will resort to these at present little-used devices to try and get out of a case they are no longer able to exit via a demurrer.

So yes, be heartened as a plaintiff when you see the opposition file an Answer as opposed to a demurrer (State level) or motion to dismiss (Fed). Do be cautious though, as a motion for summary judgment may soon follow.

Which brings us to discovery: This aspect of our litigation will grow dramatically, as our cases move to trial, instead of being snuffed in a proverbial litigation crib. More about the useful tool of discovery in a future blog post. Also on deck for a future blog post: Trial practice in our foreclosure cases, and appellate practice.

____________________________________________________________

California-licensed attorney Charles T. Marshall (CA Bar # 176091) earned his Juris Doctorate in 1992 from the University of San Diego School of Law. His practice includes Foreclosure Relief, Civil Litigation, Bankruptcy, Immigration, Estate Planning and all facets of Personal Financial Management.

Charles Marshall can be contacted at:

415 Laurel Street, Suite 405 San Diego CA 92101 US
+1.530.888.9600
Charles@MarshallLawCa.com

Website:  http://www.marshalllawca.com/home.html

 

 

The Strategic Warfare of Mortgage “Servicing”

By William Hudson
You can choose your sexual orientation and even your ethnicity but you can’t change your loan servicer. Mortage “servicing” is the ultimate misnomer. Modern loan servicing has nothing to do with service but instead provides a “disservice” in order to boost profits or engineer a default if at all possible. Being forced to contract with a sketchy loan servicer is like being forced to stay married to a spouse who lies, cheats and steals all your money.

 
The servicer’s job is to collect payments and manage the day to day operations of the loan, but servicers have taken on the new role of “default engineer” and “disinformation agent”. The servicers have found a new way of increasing profits and it is at the expense of a customer who has no choice in regards to who services their mortgage.

 
It is likely that the servicing rights to your loan were sold to either  the lowest bidder, or Pirates-R-Us Loan Servicing who purchased the note at a fire sale for pennies on the dollar with the knowledge that your loan had some major defect. It is even possible that your loan servicer is not a servicer at all but is pretending that they are forwarding your payments to the true owner when instead they are keeping your monthly payments for their own enrichment (and there is no creditor).

 
The typical tools servicers use to create a deliberate default include:
• providing disinformation or conflicting information to the homeowner
• failing to follow through with agreements (modifications or repayment)
• misapplying funds/refusing to take payments
• weeks spent trying to correct an issue (phone transferitis followed by disconnect)
• failure to answer QWR or failure to provide requested answers
• failure to acknowledge rescission
• backdating denial letters so homeowners don’t have sufficient time to challenge the              modification  denial
• forced-place insurance
• assign servicing rights to new servicer
• dual-tracking while modification is under consideration or borrower is in compliance
• revoking modification when homeowner is compliant (no opportunity to appeal)
• bankruptcy payment issues (misapplication of payments pre and post-bankruptcy)
• fabricating document to create the appearance of holder status
• misrepresenting status of relationship to loan
• Fabrication, forgery and other tactics to “perfect” the appearance of holder status

 
All of these activities serve to confuse the homeowner and require significant amounts of time and frustration to resolve as days, weeks and sometimes months are spent on trying to correct the situation (during work hours).   On a regular basis Servicers now participate in calculated fraud in order to create a default. The unsuspecting homeowner can be lulled by their servicer into practices that will increase the chances of foreclosure.

 
Over the past several months, the Lending Lies team has seen a disturbing trend of servicers taking advantage of people who are elderly, obviously mentally incapacitated, and economically vulnerable. Servicers are now aware of who the best victims are and who to pursue with impunity. The elderly who are on fixed incomes are particularly vulnerable, single mothers who are burdened by work and raising children on their own appear to be targets, and we have seen more and more mature single women with few assets except for their homes being given incorrect information to deliberately force them into arrears (many of these women acquired real estate through divorce or a spouse’s death- and are told they have no survivor rights and the bank refuses to accept payment). These people lack the financial resources to obtain legal assistance, and often are so beaten-down emotionally they have no ability to fight back.

 
The servicer’s current weapon of choice continues to be the loan modification offer, when the bank has no intention of granting one. During the loan modification process, paper work will be destroyed, customer service reps will claim to not have received paperwork, and the homeowner will be caught in an endless phone transfer loop (followed by an abrupt disconnect of the call in which the homeowner will be forced to start all over). After months of this nearly futile run-around the bank will claim the homeowner doesn’t qualify for a modification- but will then fail to provide a reason for the modification denial or an opportunity to appeal the servicer’s decision (last week Ocwen was sanctioned by the National Mortgage Settlement for this metric violation). Another tactic is to dual-track the customer (proceed with foreclosure while homeowner is in negotiations for a modification).

 
Unfortunately almost all homeowners are at the mercy of the party who acquires the servicing rights to their Note- and if the homeowner has the misfortunate of their loan being acquired by Ocwen, Nationwide, Bank of America, JPMorgan-Chase, CitiMortgage or Bank of America- the homeowner is almost assured that if they miss one payment during the life of their loan or have some other issue- there will be hell to pay and the bank will make it as difficult as possible to correct the issue.

 

 

Without effective counsel, the homeowner is literally at the servicer’s mercy.
Part of the servicer’s modus operandi is emotional warfare. First of all, mortgage issues are complex and most homeowners have no comprehension of what is going on except for what they are told by low-level employees at the banks that are literally practicing law without a license when speaking to homeowners. By keeping the victim confused, on edge, unable to receive concise answers and other gaslighting techniques- they can exponentially increase default odds in their favor. Most homeowners will follow the directions of their loan servicers without question- and are taken advantage by their naiveté and willingness to comply with the servicer’s demands. It is unconscionable that a loan servicer with a conflict of interest is able to advise vulnerable homeowners about saving their home when the servicer has very clear goals of foreclosure.

 
Over the past nine years, servicers have learned how to “perfect” their default model to ensure foreclosures occur. Now that it is well known that the servicers forge signatures, falsify notarizations, and fabricate documents, the banks have now reverted to “Plan B”. If paperwork they forged and altered over the past six years is a known liability, lenders are now resorting to “lost note” strategies so they can try to start over with a “clean” slate. Once they have convinced the court the note was lost and claim plausible deniability they can use a lost note affidavit to try and correct any earlier issues or oversights that occurred when sloppy fabrication and forgeries were used. The banks can then recreate their foreclosure “storyline”  in order to “perfect” their standing. Don’t be fooled by this tactic.

 
The homeowner’s chance of saving their homes are compromised when their own servicer behaves in predatory ways. Servicers are well aware of how to create a default and who to best target for their crime. The National Mortgage Settlement has proven impotent to stop loan servicers from continuing with their deceptive tactics. Society’s most vulnerable are victimized and have no hope of fighting back against these abusive servicer crime-syndicates with deep pockets, political allies and the courts in their corner. Welcome to the new America.

Held Hostage by a Home: The Devastation of Foreclosure

held hostage2

Held Hostage by a Home

By Anonymous

Depending on reader response- this column may become an ongoing Sunday feature on LivingLies. Let us know what you think.
______________________________________________________________________
Although Neil Garfield eloquently describes the legal dynamics of foreclosure, there is also a human battle waged in millions of homes nationwide that remains hidden behind walls of shame, fear and anger. Families are torn apart by the stress and uncertainty that financial burdens bring. A home, no matter how modest or grand, is a foundation of family life- and when it is torn away by companies without legal standing to do so- the pain is compounded because of the injustice.

 
Most families who fall behind on their debts, do not do so deliberately. Usually financial debt is caused by job loss, illness, divorce, or simply being induced into obtaining more credit than the family can service-by companies who carry no risk (due to securitization). Most families would embrace the opportunity to have one second chance to pay back any outstanding balance on their home and make good on their debts-but loan servicers have no incentive to work with the homeowner.

 
Unfortunately, the way the mortgage industry works, it is no longer beneficial for the servicer to service your loan- when they can foreclose instead. A huge financial windfall awaits a servicer that can engineer a default. Instead of receiving approximately .125% of the monthly payment, the servicer is entitled to keep all fees, late interest, and other default charges (and the entire proceeds if they are collecting on behalf of a trust that does not exist). Until loan servicing issues are addressed, servicers will continue their predatory tactics to push homeowners into foreclosure. I should know because I am the victim of a predatory servicer. This is my story.

 
I am being held hostage by my home. The red brick and mortar of the quintessential American home has become my prison. For the past seven years I have had the rope of the commercial code truss my freedom, happiness, career and dreams. The blindfold has been removed but I still can’t trust what I see- banks that operate like organized crime syndicates supported by courts that refuse to acknowledge the fraud. I have been gagged and silenced by a bank, as my story, like millions of others goes unheard. Hopefully, the ability to warn others what a bank is capable of- will be cathartic.

 
What most people don’t understand before taking on foreclosure is that unless you have unlimited wealth, you will be taken hostage during litigation. The Notices of Default filed against you will keep you from repurchasing a different house, will destroy your credit, may prevent you from obtaining employment, may cause creditors to rescind credit extended, and may exhaust all of your savings and retirement. Your neighbors will likely shun you and your “friends” may distance themselves from you. Your opportunities to rebuild and recover from a financial setback will be compromised. I won’t even get into the emotional costs (divorce, volatile home environment, stressed parenting). Rarely is a case settled at the trial level. Most cases that should be settled with two or three years may go on for a decade or so if you continue to battle on.

 
Eight years ago, If I had been told what my future would hold if I dared to challenge my loan servicer- I would have held a block party for the bank and handed them the keys to the house. My greatest regret in life is that I decided to hold the bank accountable for reneging on my loan modification. It has cost me my life savings, my health, my marriage, and worst of all- instead of enjoying the childhoods of my children- I have spent every day depressed and anxious while battling a soul-less banking cartel with unlimited financial resources and power. My children have no idea who I am, or who I was before my life became a war game and I took up the position of General. In fact, I have no idea who I am outside of being held hostage by my home.

 
Why don’t I walk away? Surely losing 13 years of my life would be better than another decade? Because I am a fool. Because I have sacrificed and lost almost everything- to quit would be even worse than to go down defeated. There becomes a point in time- when you can’t turn back. For 13 years I have spent over 200k in order to receive an answer to one very simple question: WHO OWNS MY NOTE???? My servicer and the courts believe I have no right to an answer.

 
There are thousands of unconscionable foreclosure stories in America- that are unfathomably egregious and completely unnecessary- mine included. I had the ability and desire to pay the bank any amount they requested. I only wanted to sell my home and move on with my life. However, the bank did not want payment- they wanted the house. Neil Garfield has stated that the reason the banks want the foreclosure more than they want payment is because not only does the bank profit handsomely from a foreclosure, but it allows them to neatly tie up the fraud and seal the deal. Once a home is foreclosed upon- rarely does the homeowner sue for wrongful foreclosure.

 
The ordeal of foreclosure is by design, created by banks to cause the maximum amount of damage- both financially and emotionally. There is absolutely no good faith that arises when the bank can profit from a foreclosure. I have often wondered how people who work in the foreclosure industry sleep at night. Ayn Rand thought about these people also and wrote in Atlas Shrugs, “The man who lies to the world, is the world’s slave from then on…There are no white lies, there is only the blackest of destruction, and a white lie is the blackest of all.” To live knowing you have destroyed the lives of families and committed moral crimes in order to receive a paltry paycheck, would be a worse hell than even I have faced.

 
Last week the Center of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that the suicide rates for middle-age whites jumped an alarming 40 percent from 1999 to 2010. The suicide rate for both younger and older Americans remained virtually unchanged, however, the rate spiked for those in middle age (35 to 64 years old) with a 28 percent increase from 1999 to 2010. According to the CDC, there were more than 38,000 suicides in 2010 making it the tenth leading cause of death in America overall. Among African Americans, Hispanics and even the oldest white Americans, death rates have continued to fall. What could be responsible for this drastic change in suicide demographics?

 
The middle-class suicide spike began with the onset of the tech bubble implosion where middle-class families saw their retirement funds evaporate. Locked into company 401ks where the funds are illiquid, many 401ks don’t allow the ability to place stop-losses. A stop-loss is an order that is placed, usually on a stock, to sell when the price declines to a certain level. So while the wealthy and knowledgeable were able to stop some of the bleed, mid-level employees in company-sponsored retirement programs were disproportionately impacted.

 
By 2008 the middle class found themselves mired in home loans that were unaffordable, in houses where they owed more than the home was worth, and subjected to a volatile job market and economy. In effect, the middle class died in 2008 and has not rebounded.  Consider the way life has changed since 2001. We are under surveillance all day, we pay a disproportionate amount of our income to taxes that go to support wars and programs most of us do not want, the economy is rigged in favor of the wealthy, and the cost of living has skyrocketed while wages remain flat. Most people in this demographic went to college, both partners work full-time jobs, and are responsible for raising their own children while caring for aging parents on limited incomes.

 

 

When you face foreclosure or bankruptcy this often pushes people over the tipping point. This was not the life that most middle-class people contemplated and are ill equipped to deal with. The middle class bought into the premise if you go to college and work hard you will gain financial security- not knowing the system was rigged. These individuals were also typically raised in middle class homes and were unprepared for the financial struggles not typically equated with the middle class.

 
“It’s a loss of hope, a loss of expectations of progress from one generation to the next,” said Angus Deaton, a Nobel Prize–winning economist who had studied the data. The middle class is not only being financially impacted by the economy but the strain on the middle class is psychological. The study noted that white women between 25 and 55 have been dying at accelerating rates over the past decade, a spike in mortality not seen since the AIDS epidemic in the early 1980s. According to recent studies of death certificates, the trend is worse for women in the middle of the United States, even worse in rural areas, and worst of all for those in the lower middle class. Drug and alcohol overdose rates for working-age white women have quadrupled. Suicides are up by as much as 50 percent.

 
According to the Federal Reserve, 47 percent of those who responded to a recent survey said they are living so close to financial ruin that they couldn’t come up with $400 to meet an emergency, not without first borrowing the money or selling something. Almost half of all Americans are fighting a losing battle to keep their heads above water.

 
This situation was the subject of a paradigm shifting article in the May issue of Atlantic magazine, “The Secret Shame of the Middle Class,” that was written by Neal Gabler, a well-known book author and film critic. Gabler reveals that despite his successful career, impressive resume and outward appearance of prosperity, he is financially insolvent and must often “juggle creditors to make it through the week.”
The writer attempts to provide reasons for the crisis. He lists predatory credit card companies, the ever-rising cost of living, wage stagnation, poor decision-making, bad luck and a national plague of financial illiteracy. But one cash depleting issue Gabler overlooks is taxation — and the fact that the middle class that pays almost 50% of their income to some type of tax- while the wealthy are able to exploit the system and pay very little if any tax.

 
Rising health-care costs, job insecurity, climbing foreclosures, and rising energy costs are decimating the middle class. The middle class American now “leases” their lives and most will have no assets to show upon their deaths. They are tenants in their own homes (read your Mortgage- you are a tenant), lease their cars, and are dependent on their employer who is likely facing financial troubles of their own. The housing markets are starting to look a lot like they did in 2007 (except there are more renters now). It is easy to see why the middle class that provides the support for both upper and lower classes is at its breaking point.

 
Signs of Big Trouble
Families with no savings, piles of credit card debt, and mortgages on homes they should not have been qualified for coupled with flat-lining incomes, low-paying jobs, skyrocketing health-care costs and exorbitant college costs are in dire straits. Wall Street banks with complicit buy-ins from the courts and law enforcement have created an untenable situation where the middle class has nowhere to turn. The banks prey on the vulnerability of people who suffered a temporary setback but are doing everything in their power to correct the situation in good faith. Homeowners are a small obstacle to big banks with unlimited financial resources who retain the best attorneys in the country to defend their predatory and illegal schemes.

 

 

It is evident that the government and courts are either unable or unwilling to rein in the powerful banks. Home ownership has dropped to its lowest rate since 1967, and one in every three American families is dealing with a debt collector. One more major recession and the suicide rates will further skyrocket. Without the middle class who is going to take care of the lower classes? The middle class is fighting for its life- and when all else fails apparently they take their own lives.

 
People are angry, people are desperate and people want solutions. If the middle class really wants to do something to stop this downward trajectory- the first thing to do would be to close your accounts with the major banks that service loans (Wells Fargo, CitiMortgage, Bank of America). If able, refinance your home with a credit union who holds your mortgage in-house and does not securitize loans. The middle class could effectively starve the beast that oppresses them if they would unite.

 
There are economic indicators that the housing market is reverting back to the 2007 lending policies that were the norm prior to the bubble that popped in 2008. Many banks are offering zero-down loans while Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have lowered their loan qualifications in an attempt to spur on the lower and middle class housing market. The banks are resorting to desperate tactics as homebuyers have stopped purchasing. There can be no doubt that those who have lived through a foreclosure or the foreclosure of a family member will ever trust a big bank again. I know that personally, I will NEVER borrow from a big bank again.

 
The suicide report showed a marked increase in mortality of middle-aged white non-Hispanic men and women in the United States between 1999 and 2013 was unique to the United States; no other rich country saw a similar event. Self-reported declines in health, mental health, and ability to conduct activities of daily living, and increases in chronic pain and inability to work, as well as clinically measured deteriorations in liver function, all point to growing distress in this population. Research confirms that this situation is due to economic causes and life quality deterioration. All indications show that economic conditions are even worsening for the middle class.

 
It is noteworthy that other countries have had similar financial problems that mirror the United States, however, the suicide rates and middle-class morbidity have not increased in any other developed country but the United States. The American capitalist machine is feeding off the hopes and dreams of the middle class and yet the middle class is unable to obtain any relief through government agencies or access due process within the courts. This reality is impacting the lives of millions of Americans who deserve much better.

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The graph is shocking. And for obvious reasons I’m very interested in the mortality of white Americans in the 45-54 age range since I am in this class. If anyone knows about the costs of fighting an unlawful foreclosure it is me. I have filed three bankruptcies during 13 years of ongoing litigation to save my home (despite simply wanting to sell the home that I no longer resided in and cash out my equity). The bank has also filed at least 9 Notices of Default (destroying my ability to obtain credit for over a decade) and illegally foreclosed on me once (in violation of an automatic stay). I have spent every single discretionary dollar I have had believing that the courts would honor the rule of law. I was so confident when I set out to settle the illegal acts by my servicer that I naively believed the situation would be remedied within a year (when it could still take up to another decade to settle this issue).

 
I was raised in a white upper-middle class family. Your credit score was considered as important as your IQ and success was measured by your position and income. However, by 2001 I found out it doesn’t matter how successful you are- if you are dependent on an employer- it can all be snatched out of your hands (I was fired while on an approved medical leave from a large pharmaceutical company just to add irony). Unable to replace my high salary I fell into financial arrears. I lost my friends, my social standing, my ability to obtain credit, and my ability to rebuild. Even more tragically, the stress decimated my family and destroyed my marriage. I have never recovered. I hope that I don’t become one of these statistics but there are no guarantees I won’t.

 
Fighting a foreclosure is ugly, ugly business. Unfortunately, in our society, litigation is reserved for those well enough off to fight back. The majority of low-income households have literally no hope of fighting back without competent and aggressive legal counsel (and legal counsel is expensive). Both middle and lower classes are extremely vulnerable to any fluctuation of the economy. A job loss can result in losing everything and purchasing a house you can’t afford further exacerbates your financial stress.

 
It appears the banks deliberately started giving out loans like candy to anyone with a pulse, knowing they would securitize these debts, keep the investors’ money meant to fund the loan, collect the monthly payments and then foreclose- while knowing very few in the lower and middle classes would be able to fight back. The researchers state they can only hypothesize why records of white middle class Americans are committing suicide in increasing numbers? Although my statistical skills are sub-par I can tell you exactly what is behind the statistics- the illusion of the American dream has been exposed and not one elected official is willing to do what is necessary to correct the situation while the elite are still able to milk the market while it climbs and crashes. This is a tragedy not seen since people jumped off of skyscrapers with the stock market crash in 1929- it is just more subtle and stealth.

 
One theory about what is causing rising mortality among whites is the “dashed expectations” hypothesis. According to Johns Hopkins University sociologist Andrew Cherlin, whites today are more pessimistic than their forebears about their opportunities to advance in life. They are also more pessimistic than their black and Hispanic contemporaries.

 
“The idea that today’s generations will do better than their parents’ generation is part of the American Dream. It has always been true until now,” Cherlin said. “It may still be true for college-educated Americans, but not for the high-school-educated people we used to call the working class.”  The demise of the middle class is broad in its effects, but it appears to be culminating in places that are particularly vulnerable — such as cities where the drinking water is polluted with lead for years, or a small city that saw its biggest manufacturer move overseas, or in a household destroyed by job loss and foreclosure. It’s no big mystery why the wounded middle class is turning to Trump and his anti-establishment rhetoric and hitting a nerve.

 
Things aren’t going to get better for sometime due to the apathy and disconnect of Washington and your elected officials. Before you pursue litigation please consider if you possess the endurance needed to fight a bank with unlimited sources. In almost every successful case- an Appeal will be necessary. Consider the evidence you possess- is it enough to defeat the servicer’s claims? Do you have the financial means to finish the fight? Can you detach enough from the outcome that when your due process rights are trampled and the banks resort to forgery to defeat you- you won’t fall apart?

 
As much as I hate to say this- most people who have viable cases end up in some type of modification or agreement. The costs become too high for most homeowners to endure. Sadly the judges are now unfazed by forgeries, falsified documents, and fraud on the court- and there is nothing unusual about dummied up documents (although the banks are committing felonies with impunity). It is up to the people who have the means and temperament to fight foreclosure to do so on behalf of those whose voices have been silenced. Going the distance also requires that you don’t give in and sign a confidentiality agreement. Precedents in favor of the homeowner are desperately needed.

 
Every case you have read on Living Lies was because an attorney and the client refused to give in and both incurred serious losses in order to prevail. In cases like these, both attorney and client looked under every rock and crevice for evidence, they studied every law, act and statute. There are few attorneys who are willing to stand up for the homeowner and take the case all the way to trial. These world-class attorneys have sometimes faced ridicule by their peers but can’t be deterred. South Florida has some of the best foreclosure attorneys in the country including Neil Garfield, Tom Ice, Patrick Giunta, James “Randy” Ackley, Matthew Weidner, Mark Stopa, Bruce Jacobs and others (please read the blogs of these attorneys). Through the professionalism, proficiency and passion of these attorneys- the judges are now becoming wise to court manipulation and the fraudulent deeds of the banks.

 
With the knowledge Neil Garfield has shared with his readers on Living Lies- YOU have a better chance of prevailing than most Americans do who rely solely on their attorneys to take care of every aspect of their case (attorneys simply do not have the time). Eric Mains wrote a blog for Living Lies entitled “Why your Foreclosure Attorney Just became Your Business Partner”. The post provides excellent information for people who are willing and able to take on their loan servicers.

 
There is no doubt that the banks must receive much harsher monetary penalties to dissuade them from engaging in criminal conduct. It is also time that the representatives of the banks and foreclosure mills they employ be criminally prosecuted for the destruction they have caused to millions of families by fabricating documents, deliberately deceiving homeowners (through disinformation, false modifications, refusal to accept payments) and intentionally setting homeowners up to fail.

 
My advice to anyone contemplating foreclosure would be to NEVER allow a bank to steal your happiness or harm your family- walk away.  If you decide to pursue litigation your eyes will be opened that the attorneys for the banks are no different than college-educated thugs and that the courts are owned and paid for by the big banks. This lesson in itself will completely shake your belief system to the core. I would recommend in most cases that you save your family, your sanity and your money and go fight a war you can win.

 
Not to discourage you- but I have now been held hostage for 13 years. I have no home (except the house that has sat empty during 6 years of litigation now), no retirement, no marriage and my physical health is now starting to suffer (my mental suffering endures). I have wasted the best years of my life fighting a heartless bank with unlimited power and unlimited resources- because I actually believed our judicial system guaranteed my due process rights (wrong).  My ONLY hope is that the judge overhearing my case can put his own biases aside, apply the rule of law- and allow a jury of my peers to hear what a bank hell-bent on orchestrating the theft of my home is capable of.

 
They haven’t stolen my home-yet, but they may have stolen my life.

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