We’re at T-minus four days for sign-ons to the foreclosure fraud settlement, and we know that Florida’s Pam Bondi is on board, despite pushback from advocates in her state, ground zero for the foreclosure crisis. There’s an interesting nugget buried in this article, though.
Bondi spokeswoman Jennifer Meale said in an email that their concerns are “misguided” because the settlement would provide a historic level of monetary relief and will overhaul the mortgage industry.
“Rather than engaging in political grandstanding, Attorney General Bondi is working hard to reach an agreement that gets Floridians substantial relief now and holds banks accountable for their misconduct,” Meale wrote.
The settlement is expected to provide $1,800 each for about 750,000 families across the country. It is a response to such practices as “robo-signing” by bank employees who often knew little or nothing about the mortgage documents they were hired to sign.
Nevada, New York, Delaware, New Hampshire and Massachusetts contend the deal isn’t strong enough because it would protect banks from future civil liability.
It will not, though, fully release them from future state criminal lawsuits.
Put aside Bondi’s dissembling for a second, and the idea that an $1,800 for the theft of your home represents “historic” relief. This lawyer in Utah called it what it is: “An arbitrary system of modifications administered by the same banks that knowingly perpetrated the fraud on the homeowner in the first place, and allowed to get off by paying $1800 for an illegal foreclosed home. That’s outrageous.”
But New Hampshire? That’s a new one. I know that Attorney General Michael Delaney has done some preliminary investigations of foreclosure practices in his state, and I know he was present at that meeting of 15 AGs looking for an alternative to the settlement. But Delaney has been pretty quiet overall. Since when is he listed among the holdouts?
That could just be bad information. And to be clear, liability isn’t the central issue anymore. But I don’t know how states like Massachusetts and Nevada, with active legislation against banks and document processors over the same conduct that would be released here, could possibly sign on to this deal.
There’s some news on that front. Lender Processing Services, which has been sued by Nevada for deceptive practices in generating false documents, sought to dismiss the complaint today in a filing with a state court.
The complaint by Nevada Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto fails to allege any document executed by subsidiaries was incorrect or caused any borrower financial harm, Lender Processing Services said in a statement today.
The state’s claims “are a collection of suppositions, legal conclusions and inflammatory labels,” the company said in the court filing. The document couldn’t be immediately verified in court records [...]
Nevada sued the company in December, claiming that it engaged in a pattern of “falsifying, forging and/or fraudulently executing” foreclosure documents, requiring employees to execute or notarize as many as 4,000 foreclosure- related documents a day, according to a statement from the attorney general. Lender Processing Services also demanded kickbacks from foreclosure firms, the office said.
Two interesting things here. First, LPS leans hard on the idea that borrowers weren’t harmed by the use of false documents. The implication here is that the borrower was delinquent anyway, so there’s no abuse going on. But the more important part of the motion to dismiss (copy at the link) comes when LPS makes the claim that robo-signing isn’t really a crime. It’s merely “signing of documents by an authorized agent,” says LPS, and that is permitted under Nevada law. Here’s one way they justify that (DocX is a subsidiary of LPS):
The State of Florida has reached an identical conclusion regarding DocX’s surrogate signed documents. Two assistant attorneys general involved in that state’s investigation of the mortgage crisis, including DocX, prepared an information power point presentation in which surrogate signing was characterized as “forgery.” The two attorneys were subsequently terminated for alleged fraud, deficient and improper investigatory practices which triggered a formal review by the Inspector General of Florida. In a recently issued official report, the propriety of the termination of the attorneys was confirmed, and specifically, the power point characterization of surrogate signing as “forgery” was determined to be unsupported by the legal definition of forgery.
Wow. So LPS used the whitewash IG report from Florida to justify the dismissal of their lawsuit in Nevada. And remember, LPS lobbyists more recently urged the Florida AG’s office to intervene on their behalf in a criminal case in Michigan. The connections between the FLorida AG’s office and LPS just continue to grow.
This also happens to be BS. Pam Bondi made a recent motion in a Florida appeals court, as part of a case against the foreclosure mill David J. Stern, which stated, among other things, this:
The Attorney General’s motion asks the Fourth DCA to certify that its decision in Stern passes upon the following question of great public importance: whether the creation of invalid assignments of mortgages by a law firm and subsequent use of such documents by the firm in foreclosure litigation on behalf of the purported assignee is an unfair and deceptive trade practice which may be the subject of an investigation by the Office of the Attorney General.
This is a tacit acknowledgement of illegal assignments, which is functionally the opposite of what the IG report said. So of course LPS uses the latter in their Nevada case.
It’s completely insidious. And if the foreclosure fraud settlement goes through, LPS will surely point to that as another reason why they should be held harmless for their illegal conduct.