Wednesday, October 13, 2010

More on American Mortgage Foreclosure Fraud

CNBC's Diana Olick comments on the underlying legal concern emerging with the exposure of widespread American mortgage foreclosure fraud, and it's not good:
There has been plenty of pontificating over the ramifications of foreclosure freezes on troubled borrowers, foreclosure buyers and the larger housing market, not to mention lawsuits, investor losses and bank write downs. There has been precious little talk of what the real legal issues are behind the robosigning scandal. Yes, you can't/shouldn't sign documents you never read, but that's just the tip of the iceberg. The real issue is ownership of these loans and who has the right to foreclose. By the way, despite various comments from the Obama administration, foreclosures are governed by state law. There is no real federal jurisdiction.

A source of mine pointed me to a recent conference call Citigroup [C 4.24 0.06 (+1.44%) ] had with investors/clients. It featured Adam Levitin, a Georgetown University Law professor who specializes in, among many other financial regulatory issues, mortgage finance. Levitin says the documentation problems involved in the mortgage mess have the potential "to cloud title on not just foreclosed mortgages but on performing mortgages."

As bad as that is, this Associated Press report throws even more salt on the wound:
In an effort to rush through thousands of home foreclosures since 2007, financial institutions and their mortgage servicing departments hired hair stylists, Walmart floor workers and people who had worked on assembly lines and installed them in "foreclosure expert" jobs with no formal training, a Florida lawyer says.
In depositions released Tuesday, many of those workers testified that they barely knew what a mortgage was. Some couldn't define the word "affidavit." Others didn't know what a complaint was, or even what was meant by personal property. Most troubling, several said they knew they were lying when they signed the foreclosure affidavits and that they agreed with the defense lawyers' accusations about document fraud.
- Garry J. Wise, Toronto
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