Ocwen Financial holds the keys to some 17,500 defaulted home mortgage loans – and can’t continue to foreclose on a single one. stop

That is true at least for the time being, after the National Mortgage Settlement monitor announced the company is barred from foreclosure action after falling short of the required performance metrics.

The monitor announced the mortgage servicer failed on a key metric that requires the mortgage servicer to send a loan modification denial notification to the borrower. This notice needs to denote why the modification was denied, as well as the facts that weighed into this ruling by the servicer. It also must indicate a timeline in which the defaulted homeowner can offer evidence the decision was a mistake.

The National Mortgage Settlement office first announced the company wasn’t in compliance with this metric back in October. However, it’s now been seven months, and the company still hasn’t remedied the problem. That led the office to bring all of Ocwen’s foreclosures to a screeching halt.  Continue reading

The majority of Americans are not prepared for retirement. This includes those who are fast approaching retirement age. grandmothersad

Study after study has shown a substantial portion of workers don’t have any pension or savings whatsoever.

Of course, this impacts these individuals directly. But it’s also a threat to the financial fabric of the rest of the country. They will either need to work long after they might otherwise have retired (which leaves less space for younger workers to break into new careers) or if they are unable to work, their cost of living after a meager Social Security check will be passed on to taxpayers.

The reasons are multi-pronged, but it has to do with:

  • Increased cost of living;
  • Stagnant wages;
  • The collapse of the housing market;
  • Mounting debt.

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Some 6 million Americans were stripped of their homes during the housing crisis and subsequent economic recession. It was soon apparent that the underlying cause of the crisis were unethical and fraudulent practices by some of the biggest banks in the world. frontdoor

The federal government through its U.S. Department of Justice vowed to make these big banks pay dearly for the harm caused to homeowners and taxpayers. And ultimately, federal prosecutors did finagle some large settlements from six of the biggest banks, which allowed those firms to resolve criminal allegations. None of the top-level banking executives served time in prison.

In all, there were more than 30 mortgage-related settlements reached and more than $110 billion collected by the DOJ, federal housing agencies and state Attorneys General. But there has been very little accounting of where that money went. Presumably, it was to go to taxpayers. Specifically, it was supposed to go in large part to those who had lost their homes or suffered other serious financial woes after the fallout.

Some of the money was used for that purpose. But as a recent investigation revealed, much of it was not. In fact, one of the biggest benefactors of that money? The federal government. Continue reading

The biggest banks in the country set in motion the events resulting in the mortgage crisis that would tailspin the nation into an economic depression. Millions of people conned into overpriced and risky mortgages lost their homes to foreclosure. Many also had to file for bankruptcy. agreement

To pay for this, the federal government finagled a collective settlement: $110 billion. The idea was that these large institutions would have to pay recompense to those they affected.

But as The Wall Street Journal recently learned, underwater homeowners didn’t see much of this money, which was divvied up on a state-by-state basis, depending on how greatly each was affected. So how was that money spent?  Continue reading

It’s been five years since widespread foreclosure fraud, sometimes referred to as the “robo-signing scandal,” was first revealed. You may recall, this was a type of fraud that involved banks and mortgage servicers colluding to produce false documentation of property ownership they did not actually have in order to obtain foreclosures on those properties. email

Countless homeowners lost their homes when these documents were presented as true and accurate before the courts.

There was a weak attempt at accountability for this mess that ultimately resulted in a $25 million National Mortgage Settlement among the five leading mortgage servicers. Although it never should have happened in the first place, that settlement should have been the end of it.  Continue reading

Credit reports have a huge influence on so many aspects of our lives – from our mortgage rate to our ability to secure a loan to various job prospects. So it’s important to understand how ratings are formulated, how to improve scores and how to correct mistakes (which are more common than you would think and can cost more than you might realize).creditcards

Details of what is allowable (and what isn’t) is found in 15 U.S. Code Section 1681c. The law states consumer reporting agencies can’t make a report that includes:

  • Cases that fall under the Bankruptcy Act or title 11 that date back more than 10 years.
  • Records of arrest or civil lawsuits or civil judgments that go back more than 7 years or beyond the governing statute of limitations expiration (whichever is longer).
  • Tax liens that have been paid and which date back more than seven years.
  • Accounts that have been placed for collection or charged to profit-and-loss that date back more than seven years.
  • Any other adverse information (other than a criminal conviction) that goes back more than seven years.
  • Name, phone number or address of any medical provider that has filed notification with the agency (with a few exceptions, including credit holder’s engaging in the business of insurance).

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A company that promises to protect consumers from identity theft has been accused of violating a federal court order that requires it to keep those promises and refrain from deceptive advertising. lock

The case against LifeLock dates back several years, but now,  the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) announces LifeLock has agreed to a $113 million settlement in the matter – the largest monetary award ever wrangled by the commission in an enforcement action.

The FTC first took action against the firm five years ago, when it alleged in the U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona that the company didn’t deliver on advertising claims promoting its identity theft services. The firm vows to keep consumers’ sensitive personal information shielded from thieves. But the FTC alleges the company failed to provide the kind of protection it promised, meaning it misled consumers with advertising that was deceptive. Continue reading

The U.S. Senate recently took one major step toward protecting the rights of consumers and the integrity of capitalism in the 21st Century with its passage of the Consumer Review Freedom Act (S. 2044, H.R. 2110). The bill targets so-called “gag clauses” or “non-disparagement agreements,” which some companies use to curb criticism online.enterkey

Although many companies have argued that competitors or others are unfairly using online tools to spread falsehoods or maliciously damaging their reputation without cause, the flip side is that consumers have been penalized thousands of dollars for posting negative – but honest – online reviews. These reviews are widely used by prospective customers to determine whether to buy a service or patronize a location, so there is a lot at stake on both sides.

These dubious non-disparagement clauses are often tucked into the fine print of the purchase agreement, and have been found on even the most seemingly inane purchases, such as cellphone accessories. Others have been found in rental agreements with landlords, wedding contractors or sellers of weight loss products. Continue reading

Renters in Miami are being bled dry by a combination of sharply rising housing costs, stagnant wages and lower-than-average incomes. miami1

A report from the website apartmentlist.com, based on figures from the most recent 2014 U.S. Census, reveals that no other city in the county had as many renters as cost-burdened as those in Miami. Two out of every three renters in Miami are paying a third or more of their salaries to their landlord. Renters who pay more than 30 percent of their income for housing are considered “cost-burdened.”

Of course, rents aren’t necessarily as high as what you might see in Boston or New York or San Francisco. But people here in South Florida are earning much less in terms of salary. Further, home ownership is not an option that is available to many people who live here because home prices have skyrocketed as the housing market stabilizes from the housing crisis. South Florida had been hit particularly hard by the economic downturn, and while the uptick in housing prices has been good for some folks, it has meant others have lost their homes and/or are stuck in high-price rentals. Continue reading

Florida residents are protected from dubious debt collection practices by two laws: The federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act and F.S. 559.72. cash

The laws prohibit things like:

  • Using or threatening to use violence;
  • Communicating or threatening to communicate with a debtor’s employer before obtaining a final judgment against debtor;
  • Disclosing information to anyone other than debtor or family information that may affect debtor’s reputation;
  • Using abuse, vulgar or obscene language;
  • Claiming or enforcing a debt when it is known the debt isn’t legitimate.

The problem, as highlighted recently by The New York Times, is that most state laws were written many years ago, long before the digital age. At the core, these statutes were written to protect people from becoming completely destitute. But debt collectors are now finding new ways to secure court judgments that allow them to garnish paychecks or seize bank accounts belonging to debtors. Continue reading