Friday, May 2, 2008

Florida Lawmakers Pass Foreclosure Rescue Legislation; Governor Expected To Sign Into Law

In Florida, The Miami Herald reports:

  • [I]n an effort to protect the growing number of homeowners [in foreclosure], the state Senate approved a foreclosure fraud bill Thursday, reining in the growing field of consultants and equity purchasers offering home-saver services to delinquent borrowers. Some have been accused of duping homeowners into signing over their property and then selling for profit or charging them stiff fees to get it back -- a scheme sometimes called equity stripping.

For more, see Foreclosure fraud bill OK'd (State lawmakers passed a bill to protect delinquent borrowers from losing their homes and money to fraudulent foreclosure rescue services) (if link expires, try here).

Go here for the new Florida foreclosure rescue fraud law (CS/HB 643E1): (bill history) (bill text). Upon Florida Governor Charlie Crist's signing the bill into law, the new law will be found in Section 501.1377, Florida Statutes and will take effect on October 1, 2008.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Subprime Borrower Lawsuits Allege Consumer Protection Law Violations, Racial Discrimination

American Association for Justice reports:

  • Amid the subprime mortgage crisis, many people across the country—with both good and bad credit—have found themselves stuck with loans that are not what they anticipated. Mortgage lenders and related institutions are under intensifying scrutiny for a wide range of illegal conduct, including misrepresenting loan terms, adding bogus fees, inflating appraisals, committing securities fraud, and discriminating against borrowers based on their race and gender. Lawsuits allege violations of the Truth in Lending Act (TILA), the Fair Housing Act, the RICO statute, and state consumer protection laws, to name a few.


  • The option ARM has proved especially problematic. “It’s a subprime product being marketed to everybody,” said Jeffrey Berns, a Tarzana, California, lawyer, whose firm has filed 60 federal class actions against major lenders over option ARMs. He noted that these clients range “from doctors and lawyers to field workers.”


  • Paul Kiesel, a Beverly Hills, California, lawyer, also represents borrowers suing over option ARMs. His firm has filed 56 class actions, most of which revolve around TILA violations, all on behalf of borrowers who stand to lose their primary residences. He estimated that half had loans with low interest rates before signing up for the option ARMs. “They were eligible for far better mortgages than they got,” he said.

  • If the terms are not adequately disclosed, a mortgage is rescindable, but the general public may not be aware of that, Kiesel said. He and his colleagues have built a consortium of firms to work together—which is necessary because “we have taken on the largest lenders in the United States, and they have unlimited resources,” he said. “We are facing such an imminent threat” of people being forced out of their homes that lawyers have a responsibility to take on this type of litigation.


  • The problem is acute in Cleveland, where foreclosure rates are among the highest in the country. Cleveland lawyer Edward Kramer and his firm have more than 25 cases pending over predatory-lending practices, most arising from foreclosure actions. [...] More recently, the Cleveland-based public-interest law firm Housing Advocates, Inc., which Kramer directs, filed a complaint with the Ohio Civil Rights Commission against Argent Mortgage Co. for racial discrimination, claiming that the company offered loans that were likely to result in foreclosure in mostly African-American neighborhoods. The commission investigated and found that the evidence substantiated the alleged discrimination claim. [...] (Housing Advocates, Inc. v. Argent Mortgage Co., (CLE)H4(38066)05212007, 05-07-0938-8 (Ohio Civ. Rights Commn. Mar. 13, 2008).) A hearing is to follow. [...] The complexity of mortgage securitization—determining which company is doing what—makes things difficult for plaintiffs, Kramer said, because “no one’s taking personal responsibility.” [...] “It’s not an easy situation,” Kramer said, but “if we could get lawyers to take a case or two, we could have a tremendous impact in the community.”

For more, see Predatory-lending litigation looms.

For other posts on homeowners using Federal & state consumer protection statutes to try and undo bad mortgage loans, Go Here and Go Here.

Go here for other posts on alleged discriminatory subprime lending.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Attorneys Nailed For $150K In Sanctions For Misrepresnting Ownership Of Promissory Note In Foreclosure Action; Lender/Servicer & Trustee Hit For $500K

The Wall Street Journal Law Blog reports:

  • On Friday, two law firms — Buchalter Nemer and Ablitt & Charlton, along with name partner Robert Charlton — got whacked with a combined $150,000 in sanctions. In a decision regarding an order to show cause in the case, called Nosek v. Ameriquest, bankruptcy judge Joel Rosenthal found that, throughout earlier proceedings, lawyers at both firms, in representing Ameriquest, had continually represented that Ameriquest was the holder of Nosek’s mortgage, when in fact it had been assigned, at least twice, to other lenders.

  • Judge Rosenthal held: “At a time when mortgages and notes are bought and sold at a pace so swiftly that the assignor and assignee cannot keep up with the paperwork, had the attorneys at the Ablitt firm checked the firm’s file, they would have seen that Norwest was perhaps the real party interest. . . . The firm cannot shield itself from institutional knowledge.” Rosenthal fined the firm $25,000, and attorney Robert Charlton another $25,000. (The Buchalter firm was fined the remainder, or $100,000.)

According to the court order, the lender/servicer and trustee involved, Ameriquest and Wells Fargo, were also clipped for $250,000 each in sanctions. Judge Rosenthal, however, declined to sanction the two associates who assisted Charlton in the case.

For more, see Judge Has Stern Words (But No Fine) for Associates at Sanctioned Firm.

See also, Wells Fargo Is Sanctioned For Role in Mortgage Woes:

  • Joel B. Rosenthal, a Massachusetts federal bankruptcy judge, wrote in a decision that Wells Fargo "turned all responsibilities over" to the servicer but "turn[ed] a blind eye" to the servicer's mistakes. Had the company "shown even a modicum of oversight or review" of the servicer's behavior, "it should have been able to correct the misrepresentations" made to the court. He added: "This court will not allow Wells Fargo or any other [mortgage holder] to shirk responsibility by pointing fingers at their servicers." A Wells Fargo spokeswoman said in a statement: "We believe the judge failed to appreciate Wells Fargo's limited role as trustee in the servicing of the home loan. As a result, Wells Fargo plans to appeal the order."

For the relevant court documents in this case, see:

For other posts that reference the failure of some mortgage lenders and their attorneys of filing mandatory loan documents when starting foreclosures, Go Here, Go Here, and Go Here. missing mortgage foreclosure docs beta