After having published over one thousand articles on various topics involving the foreclosure crisis from the high point of the market in 2006 until the present, it is clear that the latest scandal involving banks, title agencies, and county government recording offices is nothing new. With all of the fraud and abuses of consumers and the real estate process that have come to light since the Federal Reserve lowered interest rates and encouraged the housing boom, this latest instance of fraud is logical and should have been predictable by almost everyone.
In essence, the robo-signing scandal covers various types of fraud involving possibly fraudulent affidavits, foreclosure paperwork, and mortgage transfer documents. When a homeowner gets behind on their loan and the servicing company decides to foreclose, it is supposed to do a thorough review of the documents to prove it has the legal authority to go ahead with removing the homeowners. It must have proper authorization from the trust that holds the note, and it must verify that the trust actually has legal ownership of the promissory note.
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But servicing companies and other banking institutions have apparently not been doing their due diligence, instead automatically signing off on hundreds of thousands of foreclosures with little or no proof that they have any legal right to sue the house or advertise its forced sale. And this is where the real problems begin for homeowners attempting to save their homes from this insidious fraudulent foreclosure process.
From the title agencies processing mortgage transfer documents and recording them with county clerks or recorders offices, to so-called “foreclosure mill” law offices churning out hundreds or thousands of foreclosures every day without any review, there has been little checking that the banks and servicers are doing everything legally. And when the case goes to court, the lawyers for the financial institutions lie to get a foreclosure for their banking clients and earn their fee, while the judges are more inclined to believe a university educated lawyer rather than the homeowners who may or may not be behind and may or may not owe the bank money even if they are behind. But when the courts are backed up with the huge number of foreclosure, a thirty second hearing may be all that property owners are given as their “day in court.”
The most amazing part of this whole scandal is that the media is treating it as if it is new and just being discovered. Maybe the media is just discovering it year later, but such foreclosure fraud has been going on since the early 2000s at the latest, and possibly even earlier. Working directly with foreclosure victims in 2004, it became apparent that neither the lawyers nor the banks nor the mortgage servicers really had any idea of why a foreclosure was happening or could produce evidence that the parties foreclosing had a legal right to do so. Homeowners just got caught up in the system, and no amount of begging, pleading, or even paying money could stop the process at times.
The only major revelation in this current robo-signing scandal is that so many processing companies and title agencies were given mass authorization to sign off on mortgage documents as vice presidents of banks, notaries, and other representatives. For signing purposes, these title companies were the big banks, processing tens of thousands of mortgage transactions and transfers every week, and the people doing the paperwork had little or no idea of what a promissory note actually does or stands for. And this is when these workers even had to put their actual signatures on one of the thousands of documents that crossed their desks every day; in some instances they did not even have to do this, as their signatures were automatically electronically added to documents.
But is this robo-signing fraud a huge surprise after the numerous instances of fraud discovered in the process of approving these mortgages in the first place? So many people qualified for huge loans by overstating their incomes, banks overstated the quality of these loans in order to package them into triple-A rated securities, which they then sold around the world and then bet on the ultimate worthlessness of the loans. Courts have discovered lawyers for banks committing egregious errors and fraud when prosecuting foreclosure cases, with paperwork being lost or mixed up.
All of the fraud that has become such a noticeable aspect of the banking and real estate industry is unfortunate, but should be expected to continue. After all, not a single major player in the scandals has gone to jail, and the largest financial institutions have received more money in bailouts from the federal government than they have received fines from regulatory agencies. With no accountability for their crimes and financial rewards of hundreds of billions of dollars for destroying people’s lives, who could possibly expect the banks to straighten up and begin imposing any kind of quality control on their lending processes?