Category Archives: Foreclosures

Costume Party At ‘Foreclosure Mill’ Law Firm Mocked Those Who Lost Homes

This is simply outrageous!

I’m just glad these creeps were exposed for their callousness and sheer apathy toward the foreclosure mess that they no doubt, helped facilitate…

The New York Times

On Friday, the law firm of Steven J. Baum threw a Halloween party.The firm, which is located near Buffalo, is what is commonly referred to as a “foreclosure mill” firm, meaning it represents banks and mortgage servicers as they attempt to foreclose on homeowners and evict them from their homes. Steven J. Baum is, in fact, the largest such firm in New York; it represents virtually all the giant mortgage lenders, including Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America and Wells Fargo.

The party is the firm’s big annual bash. Employees wear Halloween costumes to the office, where they party until around noon, and then return to work, still in costume. I can’t tell you how people dressed for this year’s party, but I can tell you about last year’s.

That’s because a former employee of Steven J. Baum recently sent me snapshots of last year’s party. In an e-mail, she said that she wanted me to see them because they showed an appalling lack of compassion toward the homeowners — invariably poor and down on their luck — that the Baum firm had brought foreclosure proceedings against.

When we spoke later, she added that the snapshots are an accurate representation of the firm’s mind-set. “There is this really cavalier attitude,” she said. “It doesn’t matter that people are going to lose their homes.” Nor does the firm try to help people get mortgage modifications; the pressure, always, is to foreclose. I told her I wanted to post the photos on The Times’s Web site so that readers could see them. She agreed, but asked to remain anonymous because she said she fears retaliation.

Let me describe a few of the photos. In one, two Baum employees are dressed like homeless people. One is holding a bottle of liquor. The other has a sign around her neck that reads: “3rd party squatter. I lost my home and I was never served.” My source said that “I was never served” is meant to mock “the typical excuse” of the homeowner trying to evade a foreclosure proceeding.

A second picture shows a coffin with a picture of a woman whose eyes have been cut out. A sign on the coffin reads: “Rest in Peace. Crazy Susie.” The reference is to Susan Chana Lask, a lawyer who had filed a class-action suit against Steven J. Baum — and had posteda YouTube video denouncing the firm’s foreclosure practices. “She was a thorn in their side,” said my source.

 

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Filed under Foreclosure Fraud, Foreclosures

What?! Prince in foreclosure?!

Prince is on the top of my favorite artists list.  This article takes a light-hearted look at what appears to be a trend in “celebritydom”…

Bankrate.com

I know the foreclosure crisis has been super-bad, but now it’s even badder, given that it’s knocking on the door of the baddest, most ridiculously funky musician to ever emerge from the frozen north: the Minnesota Landowner Currently Known as Prince. Or MLCKP, if you prefer.

The Carver County Sheriff’s Office reports that the multitalented, multiplatinum Rock and Roll Hall of Famer has fallen behind $368,382 on the mortgage to his 20-acre former manse in Chanhassen, the Minneapolis suburb that he’s called home since 1980.   A sheriff’s auction is set for May 13.

According to the foreclosure notice in the Chaska Herald, His Paisleyness bought the property in 1994 for $605,000. But you won’t find him mixing tracks there these days; he leveled the place in 2005, leaving only the tennis court and gatehouse. The property is currently valued at $1.15 million.

Prince’s publicist denies the report. USA Today quotes a local legal firm as saying there is “a decent likelihood” that The Artist will send The Payment before The Auction.

Given that Prince coughed up $1.3 million last year in current and delinquent property taxes on 14 parcels in Chanhassen, it would indeed seem unlikely that MLCKP would let the place go for a song.

But it’s a sign o’ the times that even well-heeled celebrities have been drawn into the foreclosure undertow. A host of them have run afoul of the taxman lately as well.

What’s the takeaway? Three words: Pay. Your. Bills.

Yes, there’s a whole alternate reality, a dark marketplace out there that wants you to believe that it’s more complicated than that.

But it isn’t. To avoid foreclosure, pay your bills.

And when it comes to home mortgages and living beyond your means, don’t party like it’s 1999. 

Now excuse me, I have to get back to “Little Red Corvette.”

Follow me on Twitter. It’s what it sounds like when doves cry.

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Foreclosure Fairy Dust

Is Bank of America a miracle worker? (Not.)

Slate

Did Bank of America really review 102,000 foreclosures in two and a half weeks? Yeah, right.

On Oct. 1 Bank of America said it would temporarily halt foreclosures in the 23 states where foreclosures require a court proceeding so that it might review the seizures in light of reports about industry-wide irregularities. (See my previous column, “Ask George Bailey.”) The bank pledged to “amend all affidavits in foreclosure cases that have not yet gone to judgment.”

Seventeen days later, the bank said it had completed its review in these 23 states and would resume foreclosures starting Oct. 25. (It will continue the review it began Oct. 8 of the remaining 27 states where foreclosures do not require a court proceeding—and where the likelihood that anyone will care about fake notarizations, missing documents, and the like is therefore more remote.) In effect, the bank said on Oct. 18 that it had reviewed 102,000 foreclosures, figured out whatever may have been wrong with them, and was ready to get back to the business of seizing and selling off these delinquent properties.

The foreclosure crisis was brought on by bluffing and corner-cutting banks (or foreclosure mills subcontracting for those banks) that had too many defaults to process at once. Might a similar bluffing and corner-cutting be the hallmark of Bank of America’s Evelyn Wood-style review? One can’t be certain, but three clues suggest the answer is “yes.”

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Nine Stories The Press Is Underreporting — Fraud, Fraud And More Fraud

This report exposes a lot of what the mainstream media refuses to report on…

Huffington Post

If it wasn’t already blindingly obvious that pervasive fraud was at the heart of the financial crisis and the ensuing foreclosure catastrophe, you would think that the latest news — that banks have routinely been lying their heads off in the rush to kick homeowners off the properties they fraudulently induced them to buy in the first place — would pretty much clinch it.

[...]

1. The astonishing amount of mortgage fraud (literally, millions of cases annually) and how it hyperinflated the bubble and led to the Great Recession.

2. The fact that these mortgage frauds were overwhelmingly due to consciously fraudulent lending practices in which the CEOs of seemingly legitimate entities used accounting tricks as their “weapon of choice” to report higher profits and get bigger bonuses. (George A. Akerlof and Paul R. Romer got it right in the title to their 1993 article: Looting: The Economic Underworld of Bankruptcy for Profit.)

3. The disgraceful lack of prosecutions which has resulted from regulators virtually ending the practice of making criminal referrals and the pathetic March 2007 “partnership” that the FBI entered into with the Mortgage Bankers Association (the trade association of the “perps”) that led the FBI and the Department of Justice to (implicitly) define out of existence fraud by the lenders (and to conceive of them as the “victim” — which they are, but only of their controlling officers). Bush administration attorney general Michael Mukasey in June 2008 notoriously refused to create a national task force against mortgage fraud based on his claim that mortgage fraud was analogous to “white collar street crime.”

4. The “echo” epidemics of fraud set off by the primary epidemic of accounting “control fraud“. The fraud designed by CEOs in turn kicked off an epidemic of fraud among loan brokers and appraisers. Reporters should explore the concept of the Gresham’s-style dynamic in which bad ethics were a competitive advantage and drove good ethics out of the marketplace.

5. The massive foreclosure fraud we are seeing now as another “echo” epidemic. To optimize their accounting control fraud, lenders gutted underwriting. [...]

6. The ongoing massive cover up of losses on bad assets, particularly by the “too big to fail” institutions, which I call “systemically dangerous institutions” (SDIs). Those institutions, along with Federal Reserve Board Chairman Ben Bernanke and Congress (at the behest of the Chamber of Commerce and with no opposition from the Obama administration) in April 2009 forced the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) to change the rules so that the banks do not have to recognize their losses unless and until they sell the bad assets. The implications of this cover up are large (and rarely reported). At the very least, it means that Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner’s propaganda campaign about TARP saving the world at virtually no cost (perhaps even a “profit”) is nonsense — despite its success in influencing the Washington Post and Los Angeles Times[...]

7. The continued absence of effective regulation. It should be scandalous that President Obama left in charge, or even promoted, the anti-regulators who permitted the Great Recession. The (failed) anti-regulator of Fannie and Freddie, for example, remains FHFA’s acting director. This is significantly insane as a matter of both economics and politics. (The administration doesn’t even seem to realize the issue of integrity.)

8. The crises of state and local government and the lack of a rational basis for Republican and Blue Dog opposition to the proposed revenue sharing component of the stimulus bill. The compounding insanity of the administration failing to fight for its concept and failing to make explicit how badly its removal would harm the recovery, employment, and vital government services.

9. The insanity of accepting mass, long-term unemployment rather than having the government provide productive jobs for everyone willing to work (as the employer of last resort).

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‘Foreclosure Mill’ Employees Got Gifts For Altering Documents, Witness Says

This story should require Congressional and Senate investigations when congress convenes after the midterms.  However, it appears all the Republicans want to do, if they gain the majority is investigate housing loans to poor people and impeach Obama.

Huffington Post

At a large Florida “foreclosure mill,” a manager signed up to 1,000 documents a day without reading them and employees were given gifts to speed up foreclosure paperwork, according to depositions released today by the Florida Attorney General’s Office.

The news, also reported by Tampa Online, comes as Bank of America, the nation’s largest bank by assets, announcement that it would resume more than 100,000 foreclosures in 23 states after an internal investigation of its practices.

Florida authorities are investigating the law offices of David J. Stern over how it handled foreclosure paperwork. As the AP notes, Cheryl Salmons, an office manager at the law offices of David Stern, “would sign 500 files in the morning and another 500 files in the afternoon without reviewing them and with no witnesses,” according to Kelly Scott, a former assistant at the firm.

The perks for good performance were considerable, according to Scott’s statement. Tampa Online notes office employees were lavished with gifts:

“As a perk of Samons’ [sic.] job, Stern’s office would routinely pay her personal mortgage, a car payment, her electric bills and her cell phone bill, according to Scott, who told investigators Stern also bought Samons [sic.] a new BMW sport utility vehicle every year and gave her and other employees jewelry. Additionally, Stern purchased employee David Vargas a house, a car and a cell phone, Scott claims in her statement.”

According to Kelly Scott’s statement, Cheryl Ramos’s marathon document signing sessions took place in an office conference room and would leave her wearied. From Scott’s deposition:

They would [be] stacked amongst each other, side by side, and Cheryl would come twice a day, in the morning and mid-afternoon, around two or three o’clock and she would sign all of them, every single one of them…
Cheryl would give certain paralegals rights to sign her name, because most of the time she was very tired exhausted from signing her name numerous times per day. You had to understand it was more than five hundred files that she’s signing morning and afternoon.

David Stern had an especially close relationship with the mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, Scott said in her statement. The lenders were “considered his babies,” Scott said and employees would change codes to hide files when their representatives visited the office.

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Cantor Opposes Foreclosure Moratorium: ‘People Have To Take Responsibility For Themselves’

In light of millions of people losing their homes and the jobs are not “there” to accommodate the millions out of work, not to mention the GOP stonewalling any legislation to help those people affected by the above, I am hard-pressed to see how the hell can they say that the GOP will sweep the mid-terms and glide into a majority for the House this November.

Think Progress

In recent weeks, there have been extremely disturbing revelations about how the nation’s biggest financial institutions handle foreclosures. After widespread reports about “robo-signers” — bank officials who would sign foreclosure forms without even reading them — several large financial institutions declared they were halting their foreclosure process. For example, a Bank of America official admitted in a bankruptcy case that she signed 7,000 to 8,000 foreclosure documents a month and “typically” did not read them “because of the volume,” and last week, Bank of America announced it was stopping all foreclosures across the country until it could be sure the process was fair to homeowners.

Several lawmakers have joined the banks in calling for foreclosure moratoriums until banks can carry the process out in a fair and legal manner. And a bipartisan group of attorneys general is also demanding action — for example, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, a Republican, is asking 30 lenders to stop foreclosures until they can prove it’s being done legally.

On Fox News Sunday, Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz (D-FL) called for a nationwide moratorium on foreclosures, saying “it’s absolutely imperative that we keep people in their homes.” House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-VA) disagreed strongly, however, saying he was “just perplexed” at Wasserman Schultz’s answer, and that “people have to take responsibility for themselves.”

CANTOR: I’m just perplexed to that answer, Bret… what we’re seeing if you do that, if you impose a moratorium on foreclosures what you are telling people and institutions that lend money is they do not have the protection to take the risk they need to, to extend credit for people will get a mortgage. You’ll shut down the housing industry if that is the case[...]

What we’re talking about, Debbie, you have 10 percent, if that, of the population who are now in a foreclosure situation or in a mortgage that they have been unable to meet the obligations… Now, come on, people have to take responsibility for themselves. We need to get the housing industry going again. We don’t need government intervening in every step of every aspect of this economy.

Watch it:

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In California: 10,000 LINE UP TO SAVE THEIR HOMES!

 

Sacramento Bee

They came by the thousands, transforming normally festive Cal Expo into a venue emblematic of California’s nightmarish housing meltdown.

An estimated 10,000 people were in line Friday morning when the Cal Expo Pavilion’s doors opened on a five-day event aimed at helping distressed homeowners avoid foreclosure.

The line for the Neighborhood Assistance Corporation of America’s “Save the Dream” event stretched from the Pavilion, through Cal Expo’s east parking lot, onto Exposition Boulevard and nearly to Ethan Way – a distance of half a mile.

Sacramento-area homeowners stood shoulder to shoulder with those from all parts of California, Oregon, Washington, Nevada, Arizona and far beyond, hoping to have their mortgage payments lowered in order to keep their homes.

Their stories ran the gamut: underwater mortgages, unemployment, financial crises, long-missed loan payments and frustration trying to talk with lenders.

NACA officials this week wrapped up a six-day event at the Los Angeles Convention Center, where an estimated 40,000 came through the doors.

NACA CEO Bruce Marks said Friday that he expects that many at Cal Expo by closing time Tuesday.

“You’d think that the crowds would diminish by now, but they’re not. They keep coming,” Marks said. “This (Sacramento event) is probably going to have about as many as we had in Los Angeles.”

NACA, headquartered in the Boston suburb of Jamaica Plain, will be working with homeowners around the clock through 8 p.m. Tuesday.

Its services are free, and it serves both the employed and unemployed. Options include renegotiated loans, interest rate reductions, loan principal reductions and mortgage restructuring. NACA said it has legally binding contracts with major lenders, including Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

Read more: http://www.sacbee.com/2010/10/09/3091190/10000-wait-in-line-at-cal-expo.html#ixzz11uTuhBNd

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