When the biggest banks shut down their foreclosure operations, they claimed they would undertake a comprehensive review of all the loans involved in robo-signing to ensure that the foreclosures were legitimate. They promised a thorough verification process. Just weeks later, the banks pronounced themselves ready to reopen these cases and foreclose again.
Many were skeptical that the banks had enough time to actually verify the cases. Of course, the companies who perfected robo-signing could have merely downshifted to robo-verifying, hiring people to rush through the documents and certify them in just as haphazard a way as before. For at least one major bank, it looks like that’s what happened.
4closurefraud has released a deposition from Alden Berner, an employee at Wells Fargo. Ice Legal, the law firm that originally deposed robo-signer extraordinaire Jeffrey Stephan, deposed Berner in early December. Berner and two other employees, known as legal process specialists, were put in charge of verifying every Wells Fargo foreclosure case in Florida. But it doesn’t appear that he verified much of anything. Here’s a report from the Daily Business Review:
Berner’s role as a verifier differs from that of a robo-signer. Critics say robo-signers sign foreclosure documents without having knowledge of their contents. In Berner’s case, he testified that he uses a computer only to verify the name of the lender or loan servicer against the name of the investment entity that owns the loan.
That still falls short of the intent of the Supreme Court ruling, critics say.
Berner acknowledged he does not know who places the information in the system he relies on, and does not review any attachments in the complaints. He said he assumed the bank’s attorneys “accurately input that information into the complaint.”
“I did not review the mortgage note and date,” Berner said during the deposition related to five cases. “I rely that our attorneys do their job and put the information in those complaints … correctly based on the information provided to them in our referral process,” Berner said.
The Supreme Court ruling referred to above is a ruling from the Florida Supreme Court from all the way back in February designed to force lenders to “appropriately investigate and verify its ownership of the note or right to enforce the note and ensure that the allegations in the complaint are accurate,” and “give trial courts greater authority to sanction plaintiffs who make false allegations.” Berner started his verifying of Florida foreclosure cases in March.
Clearly robo-signing violated the Supreme Court order. And robo-verifying doesn’t look too much better. We don’t know exactly how many documents Berner and his colleagues verified every day for Wells Fargo, but it looks like he had as much knowledge about the underlying cases as the robo-signers did. Basically Berner was working off someone else’s information and hoping it was correct. As Thomas Ice said, “The bank’s counsel could have attached a copy of a comic book to the complaint, and Berner still would have stated that ‘the allegations in the complaint are true and correct.’”
Here’s the full deposition. Now, Berner has an automotive degree from Lincoln Tech in Maryland. He’s not a lawyer, nor did he have any training in mortgage finance prior to this job. But his job description, as I see it, didn’t really require any formal training. He would go into his computer and access documents prepared by the attorneys working foreclosure cases for Wells Fargo Home Mortgage, and basically verify the name against their system. I don’t see anything else that he really does. Here’s the key excerpt:
Q: Okay. So when you’re reviewing the information as far as who the proper name is for the entity to own the loan and to bring the lawsuit in you’re relying on the information that’s in that computer system, the Investor Matrix?
Q: Do you get a look at the actual loan document itself, the note or the mortgage?
Mr. Winston (Berner’s lawyer): Object to form.
Q: How about do you get a look at any documents that actually transfer or assign ownership of any note or mortgage?
A: No, I do not look at them, but I don’t need to look at them because I know what our processes are that refer those loans to our attorneys. And I rely that our attorneys do their job and put the information in those complaints accurately and correctly based on the information that was provided to them in our referral process.
So the verifier… isn’t actually verifying anything. He’s just relying on the information entered by the attorneys and the foreclosure department and… looking for typos, I don’t know. I have no idea what this guy is being paid to do other than give a pretext of verification. He doesn’t even know who is putting the information in the system which he is verifying.
In other cases, according to consumer attorney Margery Golant, the lawyer who prepared the case is doing their own verification. There’s just no independent track of the actual documents to see if they’re correct. Foreclosure attorneys say this does comply with the Supreme Court rule, but it doesn’t seem like it to me.
After the robo-signing scandal, the banks are still using automated systems designed not to catch the numerous errors in securitization and document preparation. They aren’t complying with the Supreme Court rule because if they did, they would have to admit fault, and possibly the inability to foreclose on the borrower.