Posts filed under “Foreclosures”
A bombshell has dropped in mortgage land.
We’ve said for some time that document fabrication is widespread in foreclosures. The reason is that the note, which is the borrower IOU, is the critical instrument to establishing the right to foreclose in 45 states (in those states, the mortgage, which is the lien on the property, is a mere “accessory” to the note).
The pooling and servicing agreement, which governs the creation of mortgage backed securities, called for the note to be endorsed (wet ink signatures) through the full chain of title. That means that the originator had to sign the note over to an intermediary party (there were usually at least two), who’d then have to endorse it over to the next intermediary party, and the final intermediary would have to endorse it over to the trustee on behalf of a specified trust (the entity that holds all the notes). This had to be done by closing; there were limited exceptions up to 90 days out; after that, no tickie, no laundry.
Evidence is mounting that for cost reasons, starting in the 2004-2005 time frame, originators like Countrywide simply quit conveying the note. We are told this practice was widespread, probably endemic. The notes are apparently are still in originator warehouses. That means the trust does not have them (the legalese is it is not the real party of interest), therefore it is not in a position to foreclose on behalf of the RMBS investors. So various ruses have been used to finesse this rather large problem.
The foreclosing party often obtains the note from the originator at the time of foreclosure, but that isn’t kosher under the rules governing the mortgage backed security. First, it’s too late to assign the mortgage to the trust. Second. IRS rules forbid a REMIC (real estate mortgage investment trust) from accepting a non-performing asset, meaning a dud loan. And it’s also problematic to assign a note from the originator if it’s bankrupt (the bankruptcy trustee must approve, and from what we can discern, the note are being conveyed without approval, plus there is no employee of the bankrupt entity authorized to endorse the note properly, another wee problem).
We finally have concrete proof of how widespread document fabrication was. For some reason the ScribD embeds aren’t working correctly, you can view the entire Lender Processing Services price sheet here, and here are the germane sections.
Not only are there prices up for creating, which means fabricating documents out of whole cloth, and look at the extent of the offerings. The collateral file is ALL the documents the trustee (or the custodian as an agent of the trustee) needs to have pursuant to its obligations under the pooling and servicing agreement on behalf of the mortgage backed security holder. This means most importantly the original of the note (the borrower IOU), copies of the mortgage (the lien on the property), the securitization agreement, and title insurance.
Also notice that there is a price for creating allonges. We discussed earlier that phony allonges have become the preferred fix for the failure to convey notes properly:
The cure for the mortgage documents puts the loan out of eligibility for the trust. In order to cure, on a current basis, they have to argue that the loan goes retroactively back into the trust. This is the cure that the banks have been unwilling to do, because it is a big problem for the MBS. So instead they forge and fabricate documents.
The letter in particular mentions an allonge. An allonge is a separate sheet of paper which is attached to a note to allow for more signatures, in this case, endorsements, to be added. Allonges have had a way of magically appearing in collateral files while trails are in progress (I’ve seen it happen in cases I was tracking; it’s gotten so common that some attorneys warn judges to be on the alert for “ta dah” moments).
The wee problem with an allonge miraculously being discovered is that the allonges that show up are inherently in violation of UCC (Uniform Commercial Code) provisions (UCC has been adopted by all states, a few states have minor quirks, but the broad provisions are very similar).
An allonge is NOT to be used unless all the space on the original note, including the margins and the back side of pages, has been used up. This is never the case. Second, an allonge has to be so firmly attached to the original document as to be inseparable. Thus an allonge suddenly being discovered is an impossibility (well impossible if it were legit), yet it seems to happen all the time.
This revelation touches every major servicer and RMBS trustee in the US. DocX is a part of of Lender Processing Services. Lender Processing Services has three lines of business, the biggest of which is “default services”, representing close to half its revenues of this over $2 billion in revenues company. DocX is its technology platform it uses to manage its national network of foreclosure mills. Note that DocX closed one of its offices in Alpharatta, Georgia earlier this year, per StopForeclosures:
On April 12, 2010, Lender Processing Services closed the offices of its subsidiary, Docx, LLC, in Alpharetta, Georgia. That office was responsible for pumping out over a million mortgage assignments in the last two years so that banks could foreclose on residential real estate. The law firms handling the foreclosures were retained and largely controlled by Lender Processing Services, according to a Sanctions Order entered by U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Diane Weiss Sigmund (In re Niles C. Taylor, EDPA, Case 07-15385-sr, Doc. 193). Lender Processing Services, the largest “default management services company” in the country, has already made at least partial admissions that there were faults in the documents produced by the Docx office – although courts and homeowners were never notified. According to Lender Processing Services, over 50 major banks use their default management services. The banks that especially need the services provided by Lender Processing Services include Deutsche Bank, Citibank, Wells Fargo and U.S. Bank, acting as trustees for mortgage-backed securitized trusts. These trusts, in the rush to securitize mortgages and sell them to investors, often ignored the critical step of obtaining mortgage assignments from the original lenders to the securities companies to the trusts. Now, years later, when the companies “servicing” the trusts need to foreclose, they retain Lender Processing Services to draft the missing documents. The mortgage servicers, including American Home Mortgage Services, Saxon Mortgage Services, and American Servicing Company, never disclose that the trusts are missing essential documents – they just rely on Lender Processing Services to “fix” the problems. Although the Alpharetta office has been closed, Lender Processing Services continues to mass produce “replacement” assignments from its Jacksonville, Florida, and Dakota County, Minnesota offices. Law firms retained by Lender Processing Services also often use their own employees, posing as officer of Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems, to produce the needed Assignments.
So wake up and smell the coffee. The story that banks have been trying to sell has been that document problems like improper affidavits are mere technicalities. We’ve said from the get go that they were the tip of the iceberg of widespread document forgeries and fraud. This price sheet provides concrete proof that the practices we pointed to not only existed, but are a routine way of doing business in servicer and trustee land. LPS is the major platform used by all the large servicers; it oversees the work of foreclosure mills in every state.
And this means document forgeries and fraud are not just a servicer problem or a borrower problem but a mortgage industry and ultimately a policy problem. These dishonest practices are so widespread that they raise serious questions about the residential mortgage backed securities market, the major trustees (such as JP Morgan, US Bank, Bank of New York) who repeatedly provided affirmations as required by the pooling and servicing agreement that all the tasks necessary for the trust to own the securitization assets had been completed, and the inattention of the various government bodies (in particular Fannie and Freddie) that are major clients of LPS.
Amar Bhide, in a 1994 Harvard Business Review article, said the US capital markets were the deepest and most liquid in major part because they were recognized around the world as being the fairest and best policed. As remarkable as it may seem now, his statement was seem as an obvious truth back then. In a mere decade, we managed to allow a “free markets” ideology on steroids to gut investor and borrower protection. The result is a train wreck in US residential mortgage securities, the biggest asset class in the world. The problems are too widespread for the authorities to pretend they don’t exist, and there is no obvious way to put this Humpty Dumpty back together.
Objectors’ Siren Song Enchants During Article 77 Proceeding Isaac Gradman Subprime Shakeout, July 29, 2013 We are 20 days into the monumental bench trial over Bank of America’s proposed $8.5 billion settlement of Countrywide MBS claims, and with the proceedings now taking a break until September 9, we have a chance to sit…Read More
MERS: The Center of the Mortgage Scam
A prominent economist said about the 2008 financial crisis:
“At the root of the crisis we find the largest financial swindle in world history”, where “counterfeit” mortgages were “laundered” by the banks.
The Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems – MERS – was one of the main ways the swindle was done, and the main way in which counterfeit mortgages were laundered by the banks.
MERS is a shell company with no employees, owned by the giant banks.
MERS threw out centuries of well-established law about how real estate is transferred – and cheated governments out of many tens or hundreds of billions of dollars in recording fees.
Matt Taibbi pointed out:
MERS … is essentially an effort at systematically evading taxes … and hiding information from homeowners in ways that enabled the Countrywides of the world to defraud investors and avoid legal consequences for same.
MERS was at least in part dreamed up by Angelo Mozilo of Countrywide.
For those of you wondering why so many localities are broke, here’s one small factor in the revenue drain. Counties typically charge a small fee for mortgage registration, roughly $30. But with MERS, … you don’t need to pay the fee every time there’s an ownership transfer. Multiply that by 67 million mortgages and you’re talking about billions in lost fees for local governments (some estimates place the total at about $200 billion).
Outrageously, MERS actually marketed itself to its customers as a way to save money by avoiding the payment of legally-mandated registration fees. Check out this MERS brochure from 2007. It brags on the face page about its fee-avoiding qualities (“MINIMIZE RISK. SAVE MONEY. REDUCE PAPERWORK”) and inside the brochure, in addition to boasting about helping clients “Foreclose More Quickly,” it talks about how clients save money because MERS “eliminates the need to record assignments in the name of the Trustee.”
All of this adds up to a system that enabled the mortgage industry to avoid keeping any kind of proper paperwork on its frantic, coke-fueled selling and re-selling of mortgage-backed securities during the bubble, and to help the both the Countrywide-style subprime merchants and the big banks like Goldman and Chase pull off the mass sales of crappy loans as AAA-rated securities.
Foreclosures Loom Large in the Region
Jaison R. Abel and Richard Deitz
FRBNY April 10, 2013
Households in the New York-northern New Jersey region were spared the worst of the housing bust and have generally experienced less financial stressthan average over the past several years. However, as the housing market has begun to recover both regionally and nationally, the region is faring far worse than the nation in one important respect—a growing backlog of foreclosures is resulting in a foreclosure rate that is now well above the national average. In this blog post, we describe this outsized increase in the region’s foreclosure rate and explain why it has occurred. We then discuss why the large build-up in foreclosures could cause a headwind for home-price gains in the region.
While the foreclosure rate has been edging down in the nation recently, the opposite is true in New York and northern New Jersey. The chart below shows the foreclosure rate as measured by the share of all active mortgages in foreclosure in a given month. After rising sharply during the housing bust, the U.S. foreclosure rate plateaued at about 4 percent in 2011, and has since fallen. Unlike the national rate, the foreclosure rate in our region has steadily climbed over the past several years. The rate in northern New Jersey and downstate New York now hovers at around 8 percent, double the national average. Even in upstate New York, where housing conditions have remained relatively stable, the foreclosure rate has recently edged above the national rate. Indeed, according to a recent report, New Jersey and New York now have the second- and third-highest foreclosure rates in the United States, behind only Florida.
Ireland’s Homeowners: Global Champions in not Repaying Mortgages Source: Quartz via Deutsche Bank, Moody’s Cyprus? Pshaw. Greece, Italy, Spain Portugal? Puh-leeze. Ireland sets the bar for what mortgage arrears looks like ina country bankrupted by their financial sector and hoodwinked by a bank bailout. The chart above, showing mortgage arrears on the emerald…Read More
Fannie & Freddie have finally begun to investigate the self-dealing and often fraudulent practice of Force-Placed Insurance. Both the New York State Insurance Regulator and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau have been way ahead of the GSEs on this.
For those of you who may be unfamiliar with Force-Placed Insurance, it is an optional bank insurance product that sometimes gets forcibly jammed down the throats of home owners and mortgage investors at grossly inflated prices. As Jeff Horowitz detailed in 2010 (Losses from Force-Placed Insurance Are Beginning to Rankle Investors), most of the fees, commissions and revenues from this “product” went straight back to the banks holding the related mortgage, typically to wholly owned subsidiaries.
It was an abusive practice, and in quite a few instances, the additional costs actually tipped homeowners into foreclosure.
Here’s the WSJ:
“The Federal Housing Finance Agency, which regulates mortgage giants Fannie Mae (FNMA) and Freddie Mac (FMCC) plans to file a notice Tuesday to ban lucrative fees and commissions paid by insurers to banks on so-called force-placed insurance . . .
Forced policies have boomed in the wake of the housing bust, as many homeowners struggled to keep up with mortgage payments. Some borrowers may try to save money by dropping the original standard coverage, only to be hit by policies with premiums that are typically at least twice as expensive as voluntary insurance, and sometimes cost as much as 10 times more. Nearly six million such policies have been written since 2009, insurance industry data indicate. Consumers are free at any point to replace a force-placed policy with one of their own choosing.”
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has issued new rules on this, but the real action seems to be the variety of civil suits from investors; additionally, New York State just reached a settlement with forced-placed insurer Assurant, including a $14 million penalty, and a long list of practice changes (after the jump). If it were up to me, I would have insisted on profit disgorgement and jail time for the CEO (But I am “unreasonable”).
Hopefully, this is the first of many . . .
Latest Mortgage Scandal: Force-Placed Insurance (November 10th, 2010)
Rule of Law: Banker Criminality Demands Prosecution (May 20th, 2011)
A modern Pecora Commission could right Wall Street wrongs (February 5th, 2012)
U.S. Cracks Down on ‘Forced’ Insurance
ALAN ZIBEL And LESLIE SCISM
WSJ, March 25, 2013
Losses from Force-Placed Insurance Are Beginning to Rankle Investors
Amaerican Banker, NOV 9, 2010