Occupy Wall Street has planned a march tomorrow from Zuccotti Park to the US Court House Building at Foley Square, specifically in protest of the looming foreclosure fraud settlement between state and federal regulators and big banks. The goal of the march is to “expose the looming cash-for-immunity deal,” where banks are poised to get a broad release from prosecution in exchange for a pittance sum for troubled borrowers, a loan modification promise on which the banks historically have not followed through.
This is from the press release:
President Obama is on the brink of cutting a backroom deal that would give bankers broad immunity for illegally throwing tens of thousands of Americans out of their homes. The Administration is pressuring state attorneys general to abandon an ongoing investigation into the massive “robo-signing” fraud, in exchange for a relatively small payoff by the banks.
Numerous investigations by state and federal authorities have demonstrated that banks used illegal procedures to make tens of thousands of foreclosures over the past decade. Rushing to a settlement before the full extent of the fraud is known would be a grave injustice to those who were illegally foreclosed upon and those still struggling to stay in their homes.
“This is a clear, moral issue that cuts to the core of why we occupy,” said Max Berger, an Occupy Wall Street participant helping to plan the event. “Instead of throwing corrupt bankers in jail, the administration is pushing to give them a get-out-of jail-free card.”
It’s actually worse than all this. As Yves Smith thoroughly documents today, the banks continue to robo-sign. We’ve known this since the results of two media investigations back in July. Immunity in this case is immunity for ongoing crimes. We also know that the banks are still robo-signing because, in Nevada, where the statute has been changed to criminalize the practice, no banks are foreclosing anymore.
The Nevada attorney general, Catherine Cortez Masto, was instumental in getting legislation passed that makes it a crime (a felony) to fine improper paperwork with the courts, subject to 10 years in jail and fines of $10,000 per violation. Note that this legislation did not change the legal requirement for foreclosure; it simply criminalized failure to comply.
What happened when the law became effective? Foreclosures stopped. In other words, no one who had been filing foreclosures was confident that their procedures complied with the law. Moreover, Masto says in this segment today on Dylan Ratigan, “There’s no doubt that there’s robosigning occurring.”
There’s a possibility that the law will change in New Jerey to affirm that only the “established holder” of a mortgage – the party identified in records at the county recording office – has the right to foreclose on the property. Foreclosures will stop in New Jersey then, too. Yves adds that in New York, where attorneys have to certify that they have verified the accuracy of the documents they submit to the court, foreclosures have also slowed to a trickle. Without robo-signing or fabricating documents, the banks simply can’t foreclose.
Occupy Wall Street is right to highlight this, especially when a settlement between most states and the banks could come any day now. As OWS says, “President Obama and the attorneys general have a choice: do they stand with Wall Street, or do they stand with the 99%?” There is no greater example of this circumstance than foreclosure fraud.