Yesterday I talked about how the failure to prosecute represented a fundamental decay at the heart of our politics, a symbol of the lack of accountability that has plagued this country for a decade. Yesterday, we began to get some accountability for foreclosure fraud in the unlikeliest of places: Missouri. From the New York Times Gretchen Morgenson:
One of the largest companies that provided home foreclosure services to lenders across the nation, DocX, has been indicted on forgery charges by a Missouri grand jury — one of the few criminal actions to follow reports of widespread improprieties against homeowners.
A grand jury in Boone County, Mo., handed up an indictment Friday accusing DocX of 136 counts of forgery in the preparation of documents used to evict financially strained borrowers from their homes. Lorraine O. Brown, the company’s founder and former president, was indicted on the same charges.
Employees of DocX, a unit of Lender Processing Services of Jacksonville, Fla., executed and notarized millions of mortgage documents for big banks and loan servicers over the years. Lender Processing closed the company in April 2010, after evidence emerged of apparent forgeries in these documents, a practice now called robo-signing.
Chris Koster, the Missouri attorney general, will prosecute the case. “The grand jury indictment alleges that mass-produced fraudulent signatures on notarized real estate documents constitutes forgery,” Mr. Koster said in a statement. “Today’s indictment reflects our firm conviction that when you sign your name to a legal document, it matters.”
Along with FDL’s Cynthia Kouril’s surprise, I can honestly say that this blindsided me. Koster, a former Republican who switched parties to the Democrats in 2007, has simply not been front and center in any of the foreclosure fraud issues. And yet here he comes with a criminal indictment of one of the worst document processors in the country. And the indictment goes all the way to the top of the company, to its founder, who faces seven years in prison.
It remains to be seen whether Koster is following the same strategy as Catherine Cortez Masto, the other AG with criminal indictments for document fraud. At one point it appeared she was starting with suits against the document processors to go up the chain to the bigger fish on Wall Street. We don’t know this with Koster. And we also don’t know if he has signed the settlement deal that would head off this investigation and confine it to DocX. For her part, Yves Smith doesn’t believe this will go that far:
DocX was a particularly bad actor; we’ve discussed in earlier posts how it had a price sheet for various services, including fabricating documents like mortgage note out of whole cloth. I’m surprised it has taken this long for someone to go after them. While this is clearly good news for borrowers and bad news for LPS, I doubt that anyone at the banks will feel threatened by this action. Unless this action leads to further prosecutions, it only scrapes the surface of bad conduct in the mortgage arena.
But as for a complaint against DocX, the indictment is quite effective. I have the complaint here. It basically accuses employees of DocX with 136 counts of Class C forgery (a felony) and false declarations (a misdeamenor). It states in pretty plain language that employees submitted documents they knew to be false to the Boone County recorder of deeds. Missouri is both a judicial and non-judicial foreclosure state, so the documents in this indictment are mainly the ones submitted to recorders.
Because this is a grand jury from just one county in Missouri, presumably it could be replicated all over the state. For all we know Koster has that in motion. He did say yesterday that the investigation was ongoing. It’s possible he’s trying to flip Lorraine Brown to go up the chain at DocX, and its parent company, Lender Processing Services (the subject of the lawsuit in Nevada).
The grand jury got to know a name that most of us following foreclosure fraud are acquainted with: Linda Green.
The Missouri grand jury found that the person whose name appeared on 68 documents executed on behalf of a lender — someone named Linda Green — was not the person who had signed the papers. The documents were submitted to the Boone County recorder of deeds as though they were genuine, Mr. Koster said.
Considering that we’re so starved for accountability in this country, this lawsuit comes as a nice surprise. DocX may have been a low-level offender, but they were a particularly notorious one. And they deserve everything they’re going to get.