Wells Fargo Top Mortgage Lender for the Fourth Consecutive Quarter, Thetruthaboutmortgage.com


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Wells Fargo was the top residential mortgage lender for the fourth consecutive quarter, according to MortgageStats.com.

The San Francisco-based bank and mortgage lender grabbed nearly a quarter (23.13 percent) of total market share with $102.8 billion in loan origination volume during the third quarter.

The company bested its year-ago total of $97.9 billion and crushed the $83 billion originated in the second quarter, thanks in part to the record low mortgage rates on offer, which sparkedrefinance demand.

Bank of America came in a distant second with $74 billion and 16.66 percent market share – Chase originated about half of that, with $42.7 billion and 9.60 percent market share.

Their volume was nearly identical to the volume seen a quarter earlier, but 25 percent lower than that seen a year ago.

Rounding out the top five were CitiMortgage and Ally Bank/Residential Capital (GMAC) with $20.3 billion and $20.2 billion, respectively.

The pair saw market share of just over nine percent combined.

So the five largest mortgage lenders accounted for nearly 60 percent of all loan origination volume.

Quicken Loans was the biggest gainer in the top 10, with an 88 percent increase seen from the third quarter of 2009.

SunTrust Bank was the biggest loser year-over-year, chalking a 34 percent decline.

Take a look at the top 10 mortgage lenders in the third quarter of 2010:

 

GMAC Foreclosures Included Treehouses, Forts, Crystalair.com


HORSHAM, Penn. (CAP) – Internal memos and other documents covertly obtained by CAP News show that mortgage company GMAC‘s questionable foreclosure practices included not only the so-called “robo-signing” of tens of thousands of foreclosures on single family dwellings, but also children’s treehouses, public outhouses and in one case, an 8-year-old German Shepherd‘s dog house.

“We’ve only audited less than one percent of GMAC’s September filings and already we’ve found so much fraudulent activity it would make Bernie Madoff roll over in his grave,” said Penn. State Attorney General Tom Corbett. “You know, if he were dead.”

Corbett said his office uncovered one situation where a Philadelphia girl was told by her mother to go clean up her Barbies before dinner but upon arriving in the living room found the front door to her Barbie Pink World 3-Story Dream Townhouse locked and all the furniture strewn across the living room floor. “And to make matters worse, her Ken had run off with her best friend’s Barbie,” added Corbett.

Other scenarios played out similarly. A Scranton man who asked not to be identified said his son came running into the house crying one Saturday because he tried to climb into his treehouse only to find that another boy he didn’t know was playing Matchbox cars there. Numerous attempts to bribe the boy with candy failed to get him to emerge from the treehouse.

“And now my kid’s inside just sitting on the couch watching TV,” said the father. “If he becomes lazy and obese because of this, I’m gonna sue.”

GMAC isn’t alone. Both Citigroup and Bank Of America have also come under fire for signing documents without fully reviewing them, which somehow extended beyond foreclosures to include other loan approvals, faked autographs on sports memorabilia, and a permission slip for one office worker’s child’s school field trip to Fred’s Museum Of Science.

“Totally fraudulent – that science museum has been closed for months,” said Mass. Attorney General Martha Coakley. “And I’m pursuing a case against Super Duper Foreclosures, Inc. too. Something’s just not right about that.”

Other state attorneys general are joining the fight with Corbett and vowing to put an end to the unscrupulous foreclosures, “if it’s the last thing we do” – which for many of the Democratic incumbents seeking re-election this fall, it may be.

“What we need is a hard-target foreclosure check of every gas station, residence, warehouse, farmhouse, henhouse, outhouse and doghouse in the area,” said Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller. “Every duplicitous foreclosure means one less vote for me. Go get ’em!”

Pundits note that President Obama has been noticeably absent from any of the foreclosure brouhaha, but administration sources say he’s still dealing with the long-term fallout from when the White House was foreclosed on President Bush in 2007. He also has reportedly stationed secret service agents inside the fort on Sasha and Malia’s play structure to ensure the first family “doesn’t fall victim to a middle-class problem.”

“Who knew when we bailed out those people who couldn’t afford their mortgages a year and a half ago that they’d all end up in foreclosure now,” said Obama. “Not me, that’s for sure. Funny how it worked out like that.”

Timothy Geithner forecloses on the moratorium debate, Dean Baker, Guardian


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Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner is good at telling fairy tales. Geithner first became known to the general public in September of 2008. Back then, he was head of the New York Federal Reserve Board. He was part of the triumvirate, along with Federal Reserve Board chairman Ben Bernanke and then Treasury secretary Henry Paulson, who told congress that it had to pass the Tarp or the economy would collapse.

This was an effective fairytale, since congress quickly handed over $700bn to lend to the banks with few questions asked. Of course, the economy was not about to collapse, just the major Wall Street banks. To prevent the collapse of the banks, congress could have given the money – but with the sort of conditions that would ensure the financial sector would never be the same. Alternatively, it could have allowed the collapse, and then rushed in with the liquidity to bring the financial system back to life.

But the Geithner fairytale did the trick. Terrified members of congress tripped over each other to make sure that they got the money to the banks as quickly as possible.

Now, Geithner has a new fairytale. This time, it is that if the government imposes a foreclosure moratorium, it will lead to chaos in the housing market and jeopardise the health of the recovery.

For the gullible, which includes most of the Washington policy elite, this assertion is probably sufficient to quash any interest in a foreclosure moratorium. But those capable of thinking for themselves may ask how Geithner could have reached this conclusion.

The point of a foreclosure moratorium would be to ensure that proper procedures are being followed. We know that this is not the case at present. There have been several outstanding stories in the media about law firms that specialise in filing documents for short-order foreclosures. They hire anyone they can find to sign legal documents assuring that the papers have been properly reviewed and are in order.

In some cases, this has led to the wrong house being foreclosed. People who are current on their mortgage – or who, in one case, did not even have a mortgage – have been foreclosed by this process. The more common problem would be the assignment of improper fees and penalties to mortgage holders. Or, in many cases, foreclosures have probably occurred where the servicer did not actually possess the necessary legal documents.

A moratorium would give regulators the time needed to review servicers’ processes and ensure that they have a system in place that follows the law and will not be subject to abuse. This is the same logic as the Obama administration used when it imposed a moratorium on deepsea drilling following the BP oil spill.

No one can seriously dispute that there is a real problem. Three of the largest servicers, Bank of America, JP Morgan and Ally Financial have already imposed their own moratorium to get their procedures in order. This is just a question of whether we should have regulators oversee the process or “trust the banks”.

If the argument for a moratorium is straightforward, it is difficult to see any basis for Geithner’s disaster fairytale. If there were a moratorium in place for two to four months, then banks would stop adding to their inventory of foreclosed properties.

But most banks already have a huge inventory of unsold properties. Presumably, they would just sell homes out of this inventory. This “shadow inventory” of foreclosed homes that were being held off the market has been widely talked about by real estate analysts for at least two years. It is difficult to see the harm if it stops growing for a period of time.

Of course, it actually was Obama administration policy to try to slow the process of foreclosure. This has repeatedly been given as a main purpose of its Hamp programme, the idea being that this would give the housing market more time to settle down. Now, we have Geithner issuing warnings of Armageddon if a foreclosure moratorium slows down the foreclosure process.

It doesn’t make sense to both push a policy intended to slow the foreclosure process and then oppose a policy precisely because it would slow the process. While this is clearly inconsistent, there has been a consistent pattern to Geithner’s positions throughout this crisis.

Support for the Tarp, support for Hamp and opposition to a foreclosure moratorium are all positions that benefit the Wall Street banks. I’m just saying.

 

 

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/cifamerica/2010/oct/18/mortgage-arrears-banking

Boiler Rooms, Foreclosure Mills: The Story of America’s Mortgage Industry, by Blacklistednews.com


The news about the nation’s foreclosure scandal has been coming fast and furious, driven by tales of backdated documentsfalse affidavits and “rocket dockets” that push families into the street. A former employee with one of the nation’s largest lenderstestifies that he signed off on 400 foreclosure documents a day without reading them or verifying the information in them was correct.

Ex-employees of a law firm that serves as a “foreclosure mill” for major lenders describe a workplace where speed — not accuracy or justice — trumps all. “Somebody would get a 76-day foreclosure,” one recalled, “and then someone else would say, ‘Oh, I can beat that!’”

Shocking stuff. But surprising? Not for anyone who’s been tracking the recent history of the mortgage machine. Just about every corner of the America’s mortgage industry has been blemished by significant levels of fraud over the past decade.

On the front end of the process, for example, many mortgage pros used “boiler room” salesmanship to peddle loans to borrowers who didn’t understand what they were getting and couldn’t afford their loans in the long run. To make these deals go through, some workers forged borrowers’ signatures on key documents, pressured real estate appraisers to inflate home values, and created fake W-2 tax forms that exaggerated loan applicants’ earnings.

At Ameriquest Mortgage, one of the companies I focus on in my new book about the subprime mortgage debacle, The Monster, this sort of cut-and-paste document production was so common employees joked that the work was being done in “The Lab” or the “Art Department.”

Here’s a snippet from the book, from a passage about Stephen Kuhn, a young Ameriquest salesman who eventually became distraught about the things he had to do to earn his living:

The pressure to produce began to get to Kuhn. After he became a branch manager, he saw a bigger picture of how Ameriquest was treating its customers. Many nights, he had to drink a twelve-pack of beer to get to sleep. He asked for a demotion. He wanted to go back to being a salesman.

Even that didn’t work for him. He felt trapped. To hang on to his job, he had to put borrowers in deals that sank them deeper into ruin. One of his customers was a veterinarian who was having tax problems. The IRS was threatening to close down his business. Kuhn arranged a loan for the veterinarian that “had no benefit whatsoever. It was a terrible loan.” Another customer was a small businessman, the owner of a Chinese restaurant. Kuhn put the man into a stated-income loan that raised his payments by $200 a month, even though he was struggling to keep up on his existing mortgage. “He was desperate,” Kuhn said. “So I was told to take advantage of him.” Kuhn said a supervisor ordered him to cut and paste documents to make the loan go through, telling him, “It’s a three-hundred-thousand-dollar loan. Get it done.” The borrower was facing foreclosure on his existing mortgage, so Kuhn forged his mortgage history so it looked like he’d never been late on his mortgage.

By the summer of 2003 Kuhn couldn’t take it anymore. He told his manager he was having trouble dealing with things, because he thought Ameriquest’s rates, fees, and business ethics were terrible. Soon after, on a day when Kuhn was out sick, his manager left him a cell phone message telling him it would be in everyone’s best interest if Kuhn and Ameriquest parted ways. Kuhn called back and asked why he was being fired. The only answer the manager would give him, Kuhn said, was, “I think you know.”

Stephen Kuhn was far from alone, at Ameriquest and other lenders around the country.

As the Center for Public Integrity documented in its 2009 report, Economic Meltdown: The Subprime 25, many of the largest financial institutions in America were key players in the subprime market — and many of them had to make payments to settle claims of widespread lending abuses.

Little was done to stop the bad practices when they were happening. Former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan would later explain to CBS’ 60 Minutes: “While I was aware a lot of these practices were going on, I had no notion of how significant they had become until very late. I didn’t really get it until very late in 2005 and 2006.” The Fed took no action even when it became aware of the problems, he said, because “it’s very difficult for banking regulators to deal with that.”

With federal officials pushing a soft approach to policing the mortgage market, it was left to the states to do what they could to try and rein in the worst practices. A coalition of state authorities dug into Ameriquest’s tactics, eventually forcing the company to agree to a $325 million loan-fraud settlement.

Now that a fresh scandal has emerged in the mortgage industry, the states are once again taking the lead in confronting the problem. At least seven states are investigating questionable foreclosures.

On Wednesday, Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray sued Ally Financial Inc. and its GMAC Mortgage division, claiming that workers at the company had signed and filed false court documents in an effort to “increase its profits at the expense Ohio consumers and Ohio’s system of justice.” Cordray called the alleged misconduct the “tip of an iceberg of industrywide abuse of the foreclosure process.”

Now the question becomes: Will federal officials intervene — and, if so, how forcefully? Key members of Congress are pushing U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and current Fed Chair Ben Bernanke to investigate.

A spokesman for House Republican Leader John Boehner of Ohio says “it is imperative that we get all of the facts about this situation, and quickly.”

Congress and other powers in Washington failed to get the facts and act the first time around — when lenders were engaged in a frenzy of predatory lending. The foreclosure scandal is a second chance for lawmakers and bureaucrats to prove that they can ferret out the truth and take action.

 

After Foreclosure, a Focus on Title Insurance, Ron Lieber, Nytimes.com


When home buyers and people refinancing their mortgages first see the itemized estimate for all the closing costs and fees, the largest number is often for title insurance.

This moment is often profoundly irritating, mysterious and rushed — just like so much of the home-buying process. Lenders require buyers to have title insurance, but buyers are often not sure who picked the insurance company. And the buyers are so exhausted by the gauntlet they’ve already run that they’re not interested in spending any time learning more about the policies and shopping around for a better one.

Besides, does anyone actually know people who have had to collect on title insurance? It ultimately feels like a tax — an extortionate one at that — and not a protective measure.

But all of the sudden, the importance of title insurance is becoming crystal-clear. In recent weeks, big lenders likeGMAC Mortgage, JPMorgan Chase and Bank of Americahave halted many or all of their foreclosure proceedings in the wake of allegations of sloppiness, shortcuts or worse. And a potential nightmare situation has emerged that has spooked not only homeowners but lawyers, title insurance companies and their investors.

What would happen if scores of people who had lost their homes to foreclosure somehow persuaded a judge to overturn the proceedings? Could they somehow win back the rights to their homes, free and clear of any mortgage? But they may not be able to simply move back into their home at that point. Banks, after all, have turned around and sold some of those foreclosed homes to nice young families reaching out for a bit of the American dream. Would they simply be put out on the street? And then what?

The answer to that last question may depend on whether those new homeowners have title insurance, because people who buy a home without a mortgage can choose to go without a policy.

Title insurance covers you in case people turn up months or years after you buy your home saying that they, in fact, are the rightful owners of the house or the land, or at least had a stake in the transaction. (The insurance may cover you in other instances as well, relating to easements and other matters, but we’ll leave those aside for now.)

The insurance companies or their agents begin any transaction by running a title search, sifting through government filings related to the property. They do this before you buy a home or refinance your mortgage to help sort out any problems ahead of time and to reduce the risk of your filing a claim later.

But sometimes they miss things, and new issues can arise later.

For instance, the person doing the title search may not notice that a home equity loan is still outstanding or that a contracting firm filed a lien against the owner years ago. That could create problems for you later, when you try to sell the home.

Then there are the psychodramas that can ensue. The previous owner’s long-lost heirs or a previously unknown love child could show up, saying that they never agreed to the sale of the property. Or perhaps there was fraud against a seller who was elderly or had a mental disability, or forgery of an estranged spouse’s signature. It’s rare, but it happens, and when it does, your title insurance company is supposed to provide legal counsel or settle with whomever is making a claim.

Title insurance companies would like you believe that they are the good guys standing behind you. After all, you are the customer who owns the policy.

In fact, many of the title insurance companies are more concerned about the real estate agents, lawyers and lenders who can steer business their way. The title insurance companies are well aware that most people do not shop around for title insurance, even though it’s possible to do so — say through a Web site like entitledirect.com.

While the title insurers are not supposed to kick back money directly to companies or brokers that send business their way, various government investigations over the years have turned up all sorts of cozy dealings that make you shake your head in disgust.

But since you have to buy the insurance if you need a mortgage, there is not much you can do except hold your nose.

That’s what John Kovalick did in January when he bought a foreclosed house in Deltona, Fla., for $102,000 from Deutsche Bank. But in recent weeks, he’s seen the headlines about other banks halting foreclosures and wondered whether something might have gone wrong with the foreclosure on his new house. A spokesman for Deutsche Bank declined comment.

Mr. Kovalick is not the only one pondering what could go wrong. While the banks were pressing the pause button on many foreclosures, some title insurers were growing concerned as well.

On Oct. 1, Old Republic National Title Insurance Company released a notice forbidding any agents or employees to issue new policies on homes that had been recently foreclosed by GMAC Mortgage or Chase.

Clearly, the title insurer was also worried about a situation in which untold numbers of former homeowners have their foreclosures overturned. At that point, those individuals might claim the right to take back their old homes, but they’d also be responsible for, say, a $400,000 loan on a home that is worth half that.

So what would happen next? The banks that foreclosed might start the process over again. At that point, lawyers for the people who had been foreclosed upon might take the next logical step and try to show that the banks never had the documents to prove ownership of the mortgage in the first place. The banks might settle at that point, writing checks to everyone who had gone through a disputed foreclosure in exchange for each of them giving up the title.

But if banks did not settle, or the evicted homeowners refused to settle and fought on and won, they might end up owning their homes once again and not owing the bank either.

Or banks might agree to slice a big chunk off the remaining balance in exchange for a release from any liability for the errors it made.

At that point — and again, this is what Old Republic and investors in other title insurers fear — those homeowners might actually want to move back in. But some foreclosed homes were sold by the banks to others who now live there. And those new residents would have big, fat title insurance claims if their predecessors ever turned up at their doorsteps, proclaimed them trespassers and told them to leave.

“All of these Joe Schmos who did everything legally would then be in the middle of it, too,” said Mr. Kovalick, who manages an auto repair shop and is now hoping not to be one of those Schmos.

“Now, you’d have two total disasters,” he said. “How would you like to be the judge to get that first case?”

While homeowners like Mr. Kovalick may have title insurance, it generally covers them only for the purchase price of the home. When you buy a home out of foreclosure, however, it often needs a lot of work. “If I bought it at $200,000 and it’s a steal but I had to gut it and sink $100,000 more in, my recovery is limited if there is a problem,” said Matthew Weidner, a lawyer in St. Petersburg, Fla.

Indeed, this possibility has occurred to Mr. Kovalick, who has plans to put an addition on his home and is asking how he could extract that investment if someone ever turned up on his doorstep and asked him to leave. “What do I do, take the paint off the walls and the custom blinds off the windows?”

Chances are, it will not come to that. After all, title insurers could settle with the previous residents, allowing them to walk away with a big check to restart their lives elsewhere.

Still, for anyone considering buying a bargain home out of foreclosure anytime soon, consider asking your title insurer if any special riders are available that can cover appreciation on your home in the event of a total loss.

That said, if you can possibly help it, stay away from foreclosed homes until the scene shakes out a little bit.

Some people will undoubtedly make a fortune investing in these properties in the next few months. But if your down payment represents most of what you have in the world, it’s hard to justify betting it all on a situation like this one.

 

 

The Foreclosure Mess MBS Hate Triangle Emerges: Junior Versus Senior Bondholders Versus Servicers, by Tyler Durden, Zerohedge.com


The WSJ has an article that does a great job of qualifying the impact of what the foreclosure halt will do to the traditional cash waterfall priority schedule inherent in every MBS deal. To wit: junior bondholders will rejoice as they will receive payments for the duration of the halt/moratorium (these would and should cease upon an act of foreclosure), while senior bondholders will suffer, as the deficiency money will come out of the total “reserve” in the pooling and servicing agreement set up by the servicers. As for the servicers themselves, they should be “reimbursed by funds in the trust for all costs related to litigation and extra processing of foreclosures, provided they follow standard industry practices.” In other words, it will now become “every man, sorry, banker for themselves” as each party attempts to preserve as much capital as possible given the new development: juniors will push for an indefinite foreclosure halt, seniors will seek an immediate resumption of the status quo, while the servicers stand to get stuck with billion dollar legal and deficiency fees if it is found that “standard industry practices” were not followed. Alas, it would appears that the servicers have by far the weakest case, and the impact to the banks, whose sloppy standards brought this whole situation on, will be in the tens if not billions of dollars. Oh, and suddenly both junior and senior classes will be embroiled in very vicious, painful, and extended litigation with the servicers. Lots of litigation.

More from the WSJ on the conflict between juniors and seniors:

When houses that have been packaged into a mortgage bond are liquidated at a foreclosure sale—the very end of the foreclosure process—the holders of the junior, or riskiest debt, would be the first investors to take losses. But if a foreclosure is delayed, the servicer must typically keep advancing payments that will go to all bondholders, including the junior debt holders, even though the home loan itself is producing no revenue stream.

The latest events thus set up an odd circumstance where junior bondholders—typically at the bottom of the credit structure—could actually end up better off than they expected. Senior bondholders, typically at the top, could end up worse off.

Not surprisingly, senior debt holders want banks to foreclose faster to reduce expenses. Junior bondholders are generally happy to stretch things out. What is more, it isn’t entirely clear how the costs of re-processing tens of thousands of mortgages will be allocated. Those costs could be “significant” said Andrew Sandler, a Washington, D.C., attorney who represents mortgage companies.

“This is sort of an extraordinary situation,” said Debashish Chatterjee, a vice president for Moody’s Investors Service who covers structured finance. By delaying foreclosures, “it means the subordinate bondholders don’t get written down for a much longer period of time, and they keep getting payments.”

This, however, ignores the class that will impacted the most by all this: servicers.

Typically, mortgage servicers enter into contracts called pooling and servicing agreements with bondholders that spell out the servicers’ obligations to manage the loans in the best interests of the investors. These agreements provide that the servicers be reimbursed by funds in the trust for all costs related to litigation and extra processing of foreclosures, provided they follow standard industry practices.

Servicing companies hope the reviews will be quick. At GMAC Mortgage, a unit of Ally Financial Inc., the vast majority of these affidavits will be resolved in the coming weeks and before the end of the year,” a spokeswoman for the company said. A spokesman for J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. said the company’s review process is expected to take “a few weeks.”

But the problems could be magnified if the reviews uncover a lack of proper documentation or other substantive problems rather than simple procedural errors. The furor over servicer practices is also likely to trigger additional legal challenges from borrowers facing foreclosure and more judicial scrutiny, which could further slow the process and increase foreclosure costs.

And the explanation for why one day soon the XLF will open limit down, as soon as Wall Street sellside research gets their cranium out of their gluteus:

“It’s very hard to see how the servicers can avoid reimbursing the trusts for losses caused by taking short cuts,” said David J. Grais, an attorney in New York who represents investors. Investors could press trustees to investigate servicer conduct, sue the servicers to recoup damages or replace a servicer, he said.

As we said: lots of litigation… playa.

And since Wall Street continues to refuse to touch this topic with a ten foot pole (here is the bottom line for those who may not have been paying attention: huge hits to bank EPS) Zero Hedge is in the process of quantifying just how many billions of dollars each day, week and month of halted foreclosures will bring to the juniors, and how many more billions servicers will be on the hook for unless they manage to convince each of the hundreds of judges in thousands of upcoming lawsuits that all the mortgage fraud (for lack of a better word) was “standard industry practice.”

In foreclosure controversy, problems run deeper than flawed paperwork, by Brady Dennis and Ariana Eunjung Cha, Washingtonpost.com


Sign of the times - Foreclosure

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Millions of U.S. mortgages have been shuttled around the global financial system – sold and resold by firms – without the documents that traditionally prove who legally owns the loans.

Now, as many of these loans have fallen into default and banks have sought to seize homes, judges around the country have increasingly ruled that lenders had no right to foreclose, because they lacked clear title.

These fundamental concerns over ownership extend beyond those that surfaced over the past two weeks amid reports of fraudulent loan documents and corporate “robo-signers.”

The court decisions, should they continue to spread, could call into doubt the ownership of mortgages throughout the country, raising urgent challenges for both the real estate market and the wider financial system.

For struggling homeowners trying to avoid foreclosure, it could mean an opportunity to challenge the banks they argue have been unhelpful at best and deceptive at worst. But it also threatens to leave them in prolonged limbo, stuck in homes they still can’t afford and waiting for the foreclosure process to begin anew.

For big banks, “there’s a possible nightmare scenario here that no foreclosure is valid,” said Nancy Bush, a banking analyst from NAB Research. If millions of foreclosures past and present were invalidated because of the way the hurried securitization process muddied the chain of ownership, banks could face lawsuits from homeowners and from investors who bought stakes in the mortgage securities – an expensive and potentially crippling proposition.

For the fragile housing market, already clogged with foreclosure cases, it could mean gridlock and confusion for years. And there is concern in Washington that if the real estate market and financial institutions suffer harm, it could force the government to step in again. Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. said Wednesday he is looking into the allegations of improper foreclosures, and Sen. Christopher J. Dodd (D-Conn.), chairman of the Senate banking committee, said he plans to hold hearings on the issue.

At the core of the fights over the legal standing of banks in foreclosure cases is Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems, based in Reston.

The company, known as MERS, was created more than a decade ago by the mortgage industry, including mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, GMAC, and the Mortgage Bankers Association.

MERS allowed big financial firms to trade mortgages at lightning speed while largely bypassing local property laws throughout the country that required new forms and filing fees each time a loan changed hands, lawyers say.

The idea behind it was to build a centralized registry to track loans electronically as they were traded by big financial firms. Without this system, the business of creating massive securities made of thousands of mortgages would likely have never taken off. The company’s role caused few objections until millions of homes began to fall into foreclosure.

In recent years, the company has faced numerous court challenges, including separate class-action lawsuits in California and Nevada – the epicenter of the foreclosure crisis. Lawyers in other states have also challenged the company’s legal standing in court.

 

Kentucky lawyer Heather Boone McKeever has filed a state class-action suit and a federal civil racketeering class-action suit on behalf of homeowners facing foreclosure, alleging that MERS and financial firms that did business with it have tried to foreclose on homes without holding proper titles.

“They have no legal standing and no right to foreclose,” McKeever said. “If you or I did this one time, we’d be in jail.”

Judges in various states have also weighed in.

In August, the Maine Supreme Court threw out a foreclosure case because “MERS did not have a stake in the proceedings and therefore had no standing to initiate the foreclosure action.”

In May, a New York judge dismissed another case because the assignment of the loan by MERS to the bank HSBC was “defective,” he said. The plaintiff’s counsel seemed to be “operating in a parallel mortgage universe,” the judge wrote.

Also in May, a California judge said MERS could not foreclose on a home, because it was merely a representative for Citibank and did not own the loan.

On the other hand, Minnesota legislators passed a law stating that MERS explicitly has the right to bring foreclosure cases. And on its Web site and in e-mails, MERS cites numerous court decisions around the country that it says demonstrate the company’s right to act on behalf of lenders and to undertake foreclosures.

“Assertions that somehow MERS creates a defect in the mortgage or deed of trust are not supported by the facts,” a company spokeswoman said.

But that’s precisely what lawyers are arguing with more frequency throughout the country. If such an argument gains traction in the wake of recent foreclosure moratoriums, the consequences for banks could be enormous.

“It’s an issue of the whole process of foreclosure having been so muddied by the [securitization] process,” said Bush, the banking analyst. “It is no longer a straightforward legalistic process, which is what foreclosures are supposed to be.”

Janet Tavakoli, founder and president of Tavakoli Structured Finance, a Chicago-based consulting firm, said that for much of the past decade, when banks were creating mortgage-backed securities as fast as possible, there was little time to check all the documents and make sure the paperwork was in order.

But now, when judges, lawyers and elected officials are demanding proper paperwork before foreclosures can proceed, the banks’ paperwork problems have been laid bare, she said.

The result: “Banks are vulnerable to lawsuits from investors in the [securitization] trusts,” Tavakoli said.

Referring to the federal government’s $700 billion Troubled Assets Relief Program for banks, she added, “This problem could cost the banks significantly more money, which could mean TARP II.”

dennisb@washpost.com chaa@washpost.com

 

 

U.S. Justice Dept. probing foreclosure processes, Yahoo.com


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WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Justice Department said on Wednesday it was probing reports the nation’s top mortgage lenders improperly evicted struggling borrowers from their homes as part of the devastating wave of foreclosures unleashed by the financial crisis.

Amid mounting political outrage over the U.S. mortgage mess, key members of U.S. congressional banking committees joined calls for probes into the foreclosure activities of banks accused of tossing homeowners out without proper review.

At least three banks have already halted eviction proceedings, and various lawmakers have called for an industry-wide moratorium on home repossessions until the problems are fixed. Attorney General Eric Holder said the Justice Department would look into media reports that loan servicers improperly have used “robo-signers” to push through thousands of foreclosure orders.

Holder’s move, and the rising chorus of fury among lawmakers, comes ahead of November congressional elections and takes aim at one of the most visible signs of the U.S. economic crisis as hundreds of thousands of families have lost their homes as unemployment surged.

The moves on foreclosures risk further slowing the U.S. economic recovery, leaving banks unsure whether they will ever claw back losses and the housing market overshadowed by a mounting inventory of homes still likely to face foreclosure in future.

U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi and fellow Democrats wrote to Holder earlier this week asking the Justice Department to look into banks’ actions after receiving reports from thousands of homeowners about their foreclosure woes.

On Wednesday, the lead Republican on the Senate Banking Committee, Senator Richard Shelby, called on federal regulators to review the foreclosure practices of JPMorgan Chase and Co (JPM.N), Bank of America Corp (BAC.N) and Ally Financial Inc, formerly known as GMAC, and said a congressional investigation should also be started.

Two senior Democratic members of the House Financial Services Committee also said it was time to examine whether the banks broke the law based on their participation in the law that governed the Troubled Asset Relief Program, the $700 billion bailout of financial firm.

“The American people helped out these companies and the least they deserve is a guarantee of due process and fairness,” Representatives Luis Gutierrez and Dennis Moore said.

Banks are expected to take over a record 1.2 million homes this year, up from about 1 million last year, according to real estate data company RealtyTrac Inc.

Federal and state officials have pushed to suspend foreclosures after reports that banks signed large numbers of foreclosure affidavits without conducting proper reviews.

Banks and loan servicers, companies that collect monthly mortgage payments, reportedly have used “robo-signers” — middle-ranking executives who signed thousands of affidavits a month claiming they were knowledgeable of the cases.

Separately on Wednesday, Wells Fargo & Co (WFC.N) agreed to pay eight states $24 million after allegations of deceptive marketing practices at its home loan unit. The firm said it would also alter its foreclosure prevention practices that could benefit struggling homeowners by more than $700 million.

Wells Fargo Home Mortgage‘s chief financial officer, Franklin Codel, told Reuters that his unit did not cut corners to speed the foreclosure process. He said he was “confident that the paperwork is being properly produced.”

STATES TAKE ACTION

The issue on improper handling of foreclosures came to the fore last month when Ally Financial said officials had signed thousands of affidavits without having personal knowledge of borrowers’ situations.

Ally suspended evictions and post-foreclosure proceedings in 23 states last month, followed by similar moves by JPMorgan Chase & Co and Bank of America.

The foreclosure issue and the battered state of the U.S. housing market have weighed on the Obama administration ahead of the November congressional elections in which the Democrats already face the possibility of big losses.

Any broader push to solve the foreclosure crisis, such as the wholesale forgiveness of principal debt of struggling homeowners, is unlikely to find support among lawmakers because of the cost and the potential for political backlash from any move seen as rewarding reckless behavior by banks or borrowers.

The focus on bank procedures has thrown a new twist into the saga.

North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper on Wednesday became the latest state official to ask lenders to suspend home repossessions as he probes foreclosure practices.

Democratic Senator Robert Menendez earlier this week raised the idea of a national foreclosure moratorium.

Ally Financial and its GMAC Mortgage unit also were targeted by Ohio’s attorney general, Richard Cordray, on Wednesday, who announced a lawsuit alleging fraud and violations of Ohio’s consumer law.

Cordray also said he has sought meetings with Citibank (C.N), Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase and Wells Fargo to try to ascertain whether their foreclosure processes include any of the “mass” signing of official papers that are the subject of the suit against GMAC Mortgage.

Gina Proia, a spokeswoman for Ally Financial, said there was nothing fraudulent or deceitful about GMAC Mortgage’s practices. She said the company will “vigorously defend” itself, and expects to be fully vindicated by the Ohio courts.

GMAC Mortgage said in a statement it “believes there was nothing fraudulent or deceitful about its foreclosure practices. If procedural mistakes were made in the completion of certain legal documents, GMAC Mortgage reacted proactively to the issue and immediately undertook steps to remedy the situation.”

(Writing by Corbett B. Daly and Andrew Quinn; Editing by Leslie Adler)

 

Multi-Billion-Dollar Class Action Suits Filed Against Lender Processing Services for Illegal Fee Sharing, Document Fabrication; Prommis Solutions Also Targeted, Nakedcapitalism.com


Welcome to our new readers from the FCIC.

Lender Processing Services, a crucial player in the residential mortgage servicing arena, has been hit with two suits seeking national class action status (see here and here for the court filings). If the plaintiffs prevail, the disgorgement of fees by LPS could easily run into the billions of dollars (we have received a more precise estimate from plaintiffs’ counsel). To give a sense of proportion, LPS’s 2009 revenues were $2.4 billion and its net income that year was $276 million.

These suits, one of which was filed late last week, the other Monday, appear to be the proximate cause for the sharp drop in LPS stock, which fell 5% on Friday and 8% Monday (trading was halted just prior to the close of the trading day).

Those close to the foreclosure process have lodged many complaints against LPS. But the two suits we highlight here level the most serious and wideranging allegations thus far.

By way of background, we’ve described issues with foreclosure mills and the flaws in the securitization process at some length in previous posts (see here and here for some recent posts which contain overview material). As evidence about problems with the foreclosure process have surfaced at more and more servicers, one of the common themes has been that a substantial portion of the foreclosure process was outsourced to various processing companies. Foreclosure defense attorneys have cited one firm, called Lender Processing Service (LPS) as one of the largest as well as more problematic firms in the outsourced foreclosure business. In addition, by 2008, LPS had purchased a company called DocX, the company responsible for the“document production” price sheet cited here earlier.

LPS is effectively in three lines of business (which are organized in two divisions): Technology, Data, and Analytics; Loan Services, and Default Services. The suits focus on the practices of the Default Services operation, which contributed $1.137 billion, or 48% of total revenues. The allegations set forth in the suits involve its Default Services, which organizes and manages foreclosures (including property management and REO auctions) on behalf of servicers.

But the rub in this line of business is that the servicers are technically not the clients. LPS acts a sort of general contractor, farming out various tasks to both internal staff as well as outside firms. But LPS’s business pitch to the servicing industry was that it would come in and use a technology platform and provide (if desired) a turnkey solution, FOR NO ADDITIONAL COST than what the servicers were already paying on foreclosures.

How could that be? All of LPS’s revenues in Default Services come from the lawyers in the national network of foreclosure mills that LPS has developed over time. Note that these cases may be filed in state court or federal bankruptcy court, depending on the situation of the borrower. In a routine foreclosure, all legal actions will be filed in state court. If the borrower has filed for a Chapter 13 bankruptcy, the Federal bankruptcy court has jurisdiction. In theory, the bankruptcy filing stops the actions of all creditors until the borrower has worked out a payment plan with the court. But in these cases, LPS and its network firms are seeking to break the bankruptcy court time out and grab the borrower’s house (the legal procedure is “motion for relief of stay”).

To illustrate the degree of control LPS exercises over its network: we have been told by an LPS insider that the software that LPS uses to coordinate with all law firms in its network, LPS Desktop, incorporates a scoring system called 3/3/30. When LPS sends a referral on a foreclosure, the referee is expected to respond in three minutes. When it accepts the referral, it is auto debited (ACH or credit card). In three days, it is expected to have filed the first motion required in pursing the case, and it is expected to have resolved the case in 30 days. Firms are graded according to their ability to meet these time parameters in a green/yellow/red system. Firms that get a red grade are given a certain amount of time to improve their results or they are kicked out of the network.

The cases describe the many fees between LPS and the network law firms. The terms of standard agreements provide for the payment of $150 at the time of referral (the first 3 in the 3/3/30 standard above). Network firms allegedly pay other fees as various milestones are reached, and these are couched as fees for technology, administrative review, document execution, and other legitimate-sounding services. We’ve also been told separately by LPS insiders that LPS and network law firms split the fee for the motion for relief of stay in bankruptcy court, as well as the fee on a small filing called a proof of claim.

What, pray tell, is wrong with this business model? The two suits attack LPS’s very foundations. One case was filed late last week in Federal bankruptcy court in Mississippi and the other in state court in Kentucky. Both make similar allegations, but the Federal case is broader in some respects (it includes a company called Prommis Solutions a firm backed by Great Hill Partners, that like LPS, provides services to foreclosure mills, including one named in this case as defendant along with LPS).

The Kentucky case includes on the RMBS trust issue that we have discussed in this blog. First, it contends that the mortgage assignment attempted by the the local law firm to allow the trust foreclose was a void under New York law, which governs the trust. Hence the foreclosure was invalid. Second, it claims that the defendants (the local law firm and LPS) fabricated documents. Third, the plaintiffs claim that the defendants (LPS and the local law firm) conspired together to practice systemic fraud upon the court and engage fee sharing arrangements, which is tantamount to the unauthorized practice of law (It is illegal for a law firm to split fees with a non-lawyer or to pay a non-lawyer for a referral; it’s considered to be the unauthorized practice of law). And this leads to some very serious conclusions. Per the Kentucky case:

This attempt by the Trust to take Stacy’s real property is most analogous to stealing since this Trust cannot provide any legal evidence of ownership of the promissory note in accordance with the requirements of New York law which governs and controls the actions of the Trust and the Trustee acting on behalf of the trust.

But the real meat in these cases are the class action claims, and they are real doozies. Both allege undisclosed contractual arrangements for impermissible legal fee splittings, which are camouflaged as various types of fees we described earlier. The suits describe the considerable lengths that LPS has gone to to keep these illegal kickbacks secret, including requiring that all attorneys who join the network keep the arrangement confidential. as well as using dubious “trade secret” claims to forestall their disclosure in discovery.

As bad as this fact pattern is, it has even more serious implications for the bankruptcy court filing in Mississippi. In a bankruptcy case, any attorney pleading before the court must disclose every disbursement pursuant to a case, no matter how minor. Yet the payment of fees to LPS have never been disclosed to a single bankruptcy judge in the US, since LPS requires they be kept confidential. LPS and its network lawyers are thus engaged in a massive, ongoing fraud on all bankruptcy courts in the US.

The Prommis Solutions/Great Hill charges are included only in the Mississippi case. Prommis is broadly in the same business as LPS’s Default Services unit (”leading provider of technology-enabled processing services for the default resolution sector of the residential mortgage industry”). And Prommis and its investor Great HIll, like LPS, are not a law firms, which means their participation in foreclosure-related legal fees constitutes illegal fee sharing. Prommis filed a registration statement (it planned to go public) this past June. Consider this section from its “Risk Factors” discussion (boldface theirs):

Regulation of the legal profession may constrain the operations of our business, and could impair our ability to provide services to our customers and adversely affect our revenue and results of operations.

Each state has adopted laws, regulations and codes of ethics that grant attorneys licensed by the state the exclusive right to practice law. The practice of law other than by a licensed attorney is referred to as the unauthorized practice of law. What constitutes or defines the boundaries of the “practice of law,” however, is not necessarily clearly established, varies from state to state and depends on authorities such as state law, bar associations, ethics committees and constitutional law formulated by the U.S. Supreme Court. Many states define the practice of law to include the giving of advice and opinions regarding another person’s legal rights, the preparation of legal documents or the preparation of court documents for another person. In addition, all states and the American Bar Association prohibit attorneys from sharing fees for legal services with non-attorneys.

The common remedy for illegal fee sharing is disgorgement. Remember the magnitude of this business: it accounts for nearly half of LPS’s revenues. LPS is a pretty levered operation, with a debt to equity ratio of over 3:1. It isn’t hard to see that success in either of these cases would be a fatal blow to LPS. Similarly, if the allegations are proven true it could have ramifications for all servicers who do business with Fannie and Freddie since they are not supposed to be involved in referring work to a vendor who pays a kickback for a referral.

Mortgage investor group wants loans ensnared in robo-signing snafu repurchased, by JASON PHILYAW, Housingwire.com


The Association of Mortgage Investors wants trustees of residential mortgage-backed securities “to hold servicers accountable for negligence in maintaining the assets of trusts.”

The Washington firm, which advocates on behalf of institutional and private MBS investors, said in a press release that the recently uncovered robo-signing debacle – first reported by HousingWire two weeks ago – “undermines the integrity and the operational framework of the housing finance and mortgage system as it exists today.”

Most of the nation’s largest mortgage lenders, includingBank of America, Ally Financial, formerly GMAC Mortgage, and JPMorgan Chase, have suspended foreclosures to amend faulty affidavits that may have been signed without looking at the documents or a notary present.

The AMI wants bond trustees to investigate the process and assure investors that mortgages bundled and sold into MBS are repurchased by the loan originators, who failed in their “fiduciary responsibilities [to] protect millions of American pensioners and retirees.”

“The capacity constraints at our nation’s largest servicers continue to be an issue of great concern to investors,” said Chris Katopis, executive director of the AMI. “We urgeAllyJPMorgan Chase, and all other servicers to invest the time and resources necessary to improve their operational infrastructure and to avoid situations where efficient mortgage servicing and collection practices are compromised.”

He said the may snafus may cause inaccurate legal filings for the mortgages and underlying properties in the MBS pools.

“The unfortunate and little-known consequence of these operational breakdowns is the destruction of capital needed to sustain fixed-income investors reliant upon cash flow from pensions and retirement accounts,” Katopis said.

Write to Jason Philyaw.

Wells Fargo Curtailing Short Sale Extensions, by Kate Berry, Americanbanker.com


In a move that will expedite some foreclosures, Wells Fargo & Co. has stopped granting extensions for certain distressed homeowners to complete short sales.

The change last month preceded recent revelations of faulty documentation at two major mortgage servicers — JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Ally Financial Inc. — that suspended thousands of foreclosure actions to review their processes. Wells said it does not have the same problems as those servicers.

The company said it changed its policy on short sales at the behest of investors for whom it services mortgages, including the government-sponsored enterprises.

Early last month, Fannie Mae told its servicers to stop unnecessarily delaying foreclosures. The GSE said it would hold servicers responsible for unexplained delays to foreclosures with fines and on-site reviews.

In a memo e-mailed to short sale vendors last month and obtained by American Banker, Wells said it will no longer postpone foreclosure sales for those who do not close short sales by the date in their approval letter from the company. Only extension letters dated Sept. 14 or earlier would be honored, Wells said.

Mary Berg, a spokeswoman for Wells, confirmed that the memo was genuine. But she said it had “caused confusion,” and stressed that Wells still grants extensions on loans in its own portfolio (including those it acquired with Wachovia Corp.) and in cases where investors allow it. For those two categories, Berg said, Wells allows one foreclosure postponement, provided these conditions are met: a short sale has been approved by Wells, by junior lienholders and by mortgage insurers; the buyer has proof of funds or approved financing; and the short sale can close within 30 days of the scheduled foreclosure sale.

Berg would not say how often Wells’ investors allow extensions.

The new policy on short sales was put in place “over the past couple of months … in response to various investor changes,” Berg said. Those investors “would include the GSEs, HUD and those investing in private-label” mortgage-backed securities.

In a short sale, a home is sold for less than the amount owed on the mortgage and the lender accepts a discounted payoff. The transactions are often less costly to the lender than seizing and liquidating the home.

“As long as there is a short sale possibility, the loss will always be less,” said Rayman Mathoda, the president and chief executive of AssetPlan USA, a Long Beach, Calif., provider of short sale training and education. “Basically foreclosure sales should be delayed for any responsible homeowner that has a real buyer available.”

Wells’ decision also follows efforts by the Obama administration to encourage short sales for borrowers who do not qualify for loan modifications.

“It makes no business sense why they are doing this, since it’s wrong for the borrowers and for the government,” said Eli Tene, the CEO of IShortSale Inc., a Woodland Hills, Calif., firm that advises distressed borrowers.

But experts on short sales said that in recent months servicers have been reluctant to approve the transactions out of concern that they will fall through, further prolonging the process.

“There is also a growing issue with the new buyer and financing issues, either losing their jobs ahead of closing or the new lender not being ready to close, which then gives rise to the buyer running out of patience and walking,” said Jim Satterwhite, executive vice president and chief operating officer of Infusion Technologies LLC, a Jacksonville, Fla., provider of short sale services.

Satterwhite said many servicers have reached the point where they know which borrowers do not qualify for a modification and are moving those borrowers through to foreclosure to deal with the backlog of inventory. “A lot of servicers are just falling in line with Fannie,” he said.

Moreover, the expectation that housing prices will fall further is forcing servicers — and the GSEs — to push for a quicker resolution through foreclosure, since short sales can involve further delays. “Values are dropping faster and that also means the losses on short sales are going up,” Satterwhite said.

Of course, the recent reports of “robo-signing” at Ally Financial’s GMAC Mortgage and at JPMorgan Chase could gum up the foreclosure works again. For example, on Friday, Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal asked state courts to freeze all home foreclosures for 60 days to “stop a foreclosure steamroller based on defective documents.” The day before, Acting Comptroller of the Currency John Walsh said he had told seven major servicers, including Wells, to review their foreclosure processes.

Another Wells spokeswoman, Vickee J. Adams, said the company’s “policies, procedures and practices satisfy us that the affidavits we sign are accurate.”

Prices rise for homes in foreclosure or sold by banks, by Alejandro Lazo, Los Angeles Times (Latimes.com)


The increase underscores the degree to which the mortgage crisis has spread to more affluent neighborhoods.

Prices for homes either in foreclosure or sold by banks rose in the second quarter, according to a real estate group, underscoring competition in the market for distressed properties and the degree to which the mortgage crisis has spread to more affluent neighborhoods.


FOR THE RECORD:
Homes in foreclosure: A chart accompanying an article in some editions of the Sept. 30 Business section contained errors in illustrating the rise in the average price of homes sold during or after foreclosure in Southern California, the state and the nation. The chart listed prices for 2009 and 2010 but failed to note that the time frame was the second quarter of each year. The data, credited to Bloomberg, were compiled by RealtyTrac of Irvine. And the numbers presented for 2009 were incorrectly transcribed from RealtyTrac’s original data. A corrected version of the chart appears on Page B2 of the Business section. —


In the second quarter, 248,534 U.S. properties were sold by banks or by owners who had fallen into foreclosure, RealtyTrac of Irvine said. That was an increase of 4.9% from the previous quarter, but a 20.1% decline from the same quarter last year, when discounted bank-owned homes flooded the market.

The average price for these properties was $174,198, RealtyTrac said, up 1.6% from the previous quarter and 6.1% from the same quarter last year.

“We are seeing the tail end of the foreclosure crisis caused by bad loans,” said Rick Sharga, senior vice president of RealtyTrac. “We are seeing the beginning of the wave of foreclosures caused by unemployment, which means you are seeing, in a lot of cases, a more expensive property in foreclosure than you would see, say, based on a subprime loan.”

The price increase was more pronounced in California, according to RealtyTrac. The average price was $256,833 for homes sold by banks or by homeowners who had at least received a notice of default from their lenders. That was an increase of 4.2% from the previous quarter and 17.5% from the same quarter last year.

The sales tracked by RealtyTrac included only properties sold to third parties, either investors or consumers, and not sales of properties sold back to lenders at trustee sales or through other transactions.

Overall home sales during the three-month period captured by the report were boosted by a popular federal tax credit for buyers. Since then, sales of U.S. homes have weakened considerably, and many experts are predicting a decline in home valuations.

“It is tempered a little bit by the fact that it covers the period of the tax credit, and everything looked fine, and since then the market has dropped off,” said Gerd-Ulf Krueger, principal economist at Housingecon.com. “We need to watch this a little more and what it shows under the slower market conditions.”

Banks have been repossessing homes at a record clip this year, pushing properties through foreclosure that had been delayed by several moratoriums last year as well as the Obama administration’s efforts to help troubled borrowers. In recent weeks, the practices of banks taking back homes through foreclosure have increasingly become a concern.

Wall Street titan JPMorgan Chase said Wednesday that it was delaying foreclosure proceedings after it discovered that some employees signed affidavits about loan documents on the basis of file reviews done by other people instead of personally reviewing those files.

The New York bank said it was working with independent counsel to review documents in foreclosure proceedings and has requested that the courts not enter judgments in pending matters until it has completed the review. Those foreclosures only apply to properties in so-called judicial foreclosure states, which require a court order for a foreclosure. The vast majority of foreclosures in California are conducted without a court order.

The JPMorgan Chase foreclosure delay follows a similar move by Ally Financial Inc. last week, when its GMAC Mortgage unit suspended evictions and foreclosures in 23 states while it conducted a review of its processes.

The Detroit company, formerly known as GMAC Inc., didn’t suspend evictions in California because almost all foreclosures in the state by it and other lenders don’t require a court order. Nevertheless, Atty. Gen. Jerry Brown has told the company to halt foreclosures unless it could prove it was observing the state’s laws.

alejandro.lazo@latimes.com

Chase Halts Foreclosures In Process, by Thetruthaboutmortgage.com


JP Morgan Chase has halted foreclosures until a review of its document-filing process is completed, according to the WSJ.

The New York City-based bank said the move affects roughly 56,000 home loans in some stage of the foreclosure process.

Chase spokesman Tom Kelly announced that there were cases where employees may have signed affidavits about loan documents on the basis of file reviews done by other personnel.

As a result, the bank and mortgage lender must now re-examine documents tied to loans already in foreclosure to verify if they “meet the standard of personal knowledge or review” where required.

Back in May, law firm Ice Legal LP dropped Chase document-signer Beth Ann Cottrell after it became known that she signed off on roughly 18,000 foreclosure affidavits and other documents each month without actually reviewing the files.

And last week, GMAC Mortgage told brokers and agents to immediately stop evictions, cash-for-keys transactions, and lockouts in 23 states after the company warned it could need to take corrective action in connection with some foreclosures.

Sign of the times…a year ago it was all about foreclosure moratoriums to help borrowers in need, and now it’s all about lenders making sure they don’t get into hot water over their suspect loss mitigation activities.