In the wake of massive foreclosure fraud, attorneys general in all 50 states have launched a probe into problems with documents used in foreclosures. In response, Yahoo Finance! reports States’ Probe of Foreclosures Could Force Reforms
A joint investigation by every state and the District of Columbia could force mortgage companies to settle allegations that they used flawed documents to foreclose on hundreds of thousands of homeowners.
It could take months, at least, for any settlement to be reached. But legal experts say lenders could be forced to accept an independent monitor to ensure they follow state foreclosure laws. The banks could also be subject to financial penalties and be forced to pay some people whose foreclosures were improperly handled.
For banks, “the most efficient way for them to get out from under this to settle across the board,” said Kathleen Engel, a law professor at Suffolk University in Boston.
A key question is whether state investigators can persuade bank employees to divulge some of the industry’s secrets, said Ray Brescia, an Albany Law School professor who has tracked the mortgage crisis. Some mortgage company workers could have a powerful incentive to do so rather than face criminal charges, he noted.
“It’s quite possible that there will be insiders who come forward to reveal the inner workings of these “boiler room” foreclosure mills, which likely won’t be good for the banks,” Brescia said.
A lawsuit that Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray filed this month against GMAC Mortgage and Ally Financial could preview things to come around the country.
Cordray’s lawsuit seeks to halt potentially illegal foreclosure practices. It also asks that a judge stop sales of any foreclosed homes involving paperwork filed by a GMAC employee who signed hundreds of faulty documents. And it aims to toss out foreclosure judgments on homes that haven’t yet sold.
The Ohio lawsuit also seeks damages for consumers and civil penalties of $25,000 for each separate violation. If similar cases were brought in all 50 states, it could total billions of dollars in damages and fines for lenders and others involved in foreclosures.
The allegations raise the possibility that foreclosure proceedings nationwide could be subject to legal challenge. More than 2.5 million homes have been lost to foreclosure since the recession started in December 2007, according to RealtyTrac Inc.
Florida’s Rocket Docket Grinds to a Halt
Please consider Florida’s 30-Second Foreclosure Dash Hits Fraud Wall
Home to more foreclosures than 47 U.S. states, Florida sought to clear out its backlog with a system of special court hearings that dispensed with cases quickly, sometimes in less than a minute.
Homeowners like Nicole West now threaten to slow that system, Florida’s so-called rocket docket, to a crawl. West, who has been fighting to save her Jensen Beach house from foreclosure, has leveled a new allegation in her three-year battle: the entire process is based on fraud.
West said her case is rife with the kind of flawed mortgage documents that have caused lenders including Bank of America Corp. and JPMorgan Chase & Co. to stop the process of foreclosures and evictions across the country. The banks said they are investigating homeowner charges like West’s that signatures were forged and documents were backdated.
Florida has the third-highest foreclosure rate in the U.S. behind Nevada and Arizona. One in every 34 housing units — double the U.S. average — was in the foreclosure process or bank-owned as of Sept. 1, data vendor RealtyTrac Inc. said.
Florida’s legislature appropriated $9.6 million this year to pay semi-retired judges and case managers to clear the backlog of foreclosures. Some judges have been churning through cases at a rapid clip, such as those last week in Tampa who considered dozens of foreclosures per day, sometimes in as little as 30 seconds.
The goal is to clear 62 percent of the backlog by next July, according to Craig Waters, a spokesman for the Florida Supreme Court. J. Thomas McGrady, chief judge of Florida’s Sixth Judicial Circuit, said he once thought that was achievable. Now that Charlotte, North Carolina-based Bank of America, New York- based JPMorgan and Detroit-based Ally Financial Inc. have put the brakes on foreclosures or evictions to look for irregularities, he said he’s “very doubtful” his courts can resolve that many cases. The circuit, which covers the area around Clearwater and St. Petersburg, has a backlog of 33,000 foreclosure cases, he said.
“All of a sudden all of these issues pop up with the lenders,” McGrady said in an interview at his Clearwater office. “It’s going to slow down the whole process because there will be more backlog. We’re still getting 1,000 cases a month.”
At the Clearwater court, lenders as of yesterday had canceled more than half of the 84 hearings to approve foreclosures that were scheduled for today, according to Ron Stuart, a court spokesman. Half of the 110 hearings originally set to take place tomorrow were canceled as well.
Emotions Run High
Without a doubt there is massive foreclosure fraud. In case you missed it please see
- Bank of America Halts Evictions Nationwide; Senator Reid Calls for More Suspensions
- Unclear Titles Will Sideline Buyers of Foreclosed Properties for Many Months
Get a Grip on Reality
Fraudulent foreclosure or not, it is high time people get a grip on reality.
The simple fact of the matter is that anyone in default should be foreclosed on. Those hoping to win a house free and clear because of bad foreclosure practices have another thing coming.
Here’s the deal. You don’t pay your mortgage, you deserve to lose your home.
It is as simple as that, and it is unfortunate that robo-fraud has delayed the foreclosure process. Too many are attempting to game the system, blaming others for their own stupid mistakes.
Mike “Mish” Shedlock
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