May 1, 2014

Ongoing Mortgage Fraud Unaddressed By Government

The system of mortgage documentation in the U.S. housing industry remains broken.

Courts continue to unearth evidence that banks have been systematically committing fraud by fabricating critical pieces of documentation necessary to foreclose. And yet, since the $26 billion mortgage settlement agreement (the terms of which most of the banks haven't totally adhered to either), no government agency has pursued sanctions against these firms. floridahouseandgarden.jpg

Our Miami foreclosure defense lawyers are familiar with countless examples of ongoing fraud going unchecked. Recently, a report by writer David Dayen pointed to a number of cases where proving wrongdoing would have been fairly straightforward. Among those:

  • A couple from New Mexico learned their mortgage note was assigned to the bank three months after the bank filed a foreclosure complaint against them, meaning the bank didn't own the loan when the foreclosure was initiated;

  • An Ohio couple facing foreclosure learned that the bank produced two different versions of the mortgage note, each stamped as the "true and accurate copy";

  • A Montana woman's loan was, without her knowledge, changed from a $300,000, 30-year loan to one that was for $200,000, but due in full in just 18 months.

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April 29, 2014

Report: 25 Percent of Florida Foreclosures Have Equity

Distressed Florida homeowners may have more power than they realize, as evidenced by a recent report issued by RealtyTrac.
According to the latest figures, more than a quarter of all borrowers whose homes are in foreclosure have positive equity. That means that the borrower owes less on the property than it's currently worth. An owner in this situation has more options than perhaps they realize. If the borrower with positive equity can't afford the mortgage, he or she would still have the option of selling the home - avoiding a foreclosure altogether. In the alternative, the home could likely be refinanced, with the homeowner using the equity as leverage in that process. There might also be the possibility of an equity sale of the home.

Miami foreclosure defense lawyers suspect the reason why so many homeowners are forgoing these options is because they don't realize they are on the table. They don't know that they have equity. In some situations, they may have already moved out of the property, having been informed by the banks that a foreclosure is all but inevitable.

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April 27, 2014

Report: Home Prices Down, So is Foreclosure Crisis Recovery

One of the primary reasons so many Americans endured a foreclosure in the wake of the economic downturn is that so many homes were "underwater." That is, the homes had been overvalued at the time of purchase (due to the shady practices of banks and complicit appraisers) and homeowners could no longer afford to make the payments - or sell the homes.
The deeper underwater a home is, the tougher it can be to avoid a Miami foreclosure. When home prices started to rise in 2012, many homeowners saw their real estate investments stabilize, and they were able to either sell or take a minor loss. However, home appreciation levels are now slowing and, in some markets, dropping again. That means that once again, we're going to see an increased risk of foreclosures.

This isn't to say that a foreclosure is inevitable for someone who is underwater. A experienced Miami foreclosure defense lawyer can assist in helping homeowners negotiate a home loan modification, wherein the principle balance is more in line with the actual value of the property. In the alternative, mortgage services can be challenged on their rights to foreclose, as well as procedural issues that could delay the process until the market bounces back.

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April 25, 2014

Report: America is an Oligarchy, Not a Democracy

Professors from both Princeton University and Northwestern University have co-authored a study asserting that the so-called "class war" is over - and the working class lost, big-time. movingcrowd.jpg

The paper, "Testing Theories of American Politics: Elites, Interest Groups and Average Citizens," penned by Professor Martin Gilens of Princeton and Benjamin I. Page of Northwestern, is set for publication in the fall edition of the journal Perspectives on Politics. The academics assert that over the last three decades, and particularly during the Great Recession, the middle class has shrunk significantly, while corporation and economic elites have recovered very well -and are continuing to thrive.

Further, when it comes to influence wielded by the average voter on American policy: virtually zero, the professors point out. Sometimes, the government acts in ways that are consistent with the view held by the majority, but only when the very well-connected or wealthy support those views.

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April 22, 2014

HSBC Sued Again, This Time for Predatory Lending

Following a $2.5 billion judgment for securities fraud last year against HSBC Group, the financial firm is facing another lawsuit, this time for predatory lending and racial discrimination.
Miami consumer rights lawyers recognize that while the foreclosure crises impacted almost everyone in some way, the kinds of practices in which HSBC allegedly engaged assured that poor and minority borrowers would suffer disproportionately.

The Cook County, IL lawsuit (similar to claims brought by officials in Cleveland, Memphis and Baltimore) alleges that banks preyed on minority borrowers. It's alleged in County of Cook v. HSBC North America Holdings Inc. that HSBC knew that these borrowers weren't qualified to take out the loans for which they were applying, but they offered them anyway. In other cases, the bank reportedly meted out subprime, high-interest mortgages to minority borrowers who otherwise would have been qualified for prime loans.

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April 20, 2014

Florida's Fast-Track Foreclosure Law Falls Short of Stated Goals

When Florida's "faster foreclosure" law took effect last July, courts immediately began to see a sharp decline in the number of foreclosures being filed.
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The ill-advised law was intended to quickly push foreclosures through the system, in some cases sidestepping borrower due process rights.

Our Miami foreclosure defense lawyers believe it should come as little surprise nearly one year later, that there has been a more than 35 percent drop in the number of new foreclosure cases filed.

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April 18, 2014

Retiring SEC Lawyer: Agency Too Lax on Wall Street

James Kidney had worked for the Securities and Exchange Commission as a trial attorney since 1986, winning more than a half-dozen insider trading trials.
But if anyone expected him to simply retire quietly with his nice pension - they were mistaken. According to Bloomberg News, the veteran lawyer used his retirement speech to blast the agency for its failure to take Wall Street to task for the 2008 mortgage crisis.

The SEC lacks the kind of enforcers who hold a firm belief in afflicting the powerful and comfortable, Kidney said. Regulators have become hyper-focused on policing the windows on the first floor, rather than taking action against those on the penthouse floors.

Our Miami foreclosure lawyers know that the agency has been hammered in recent years by external critics - us included. Judges, advocacy groups and lawmakers have slammed the agency repeatedly for the easy hand it's taken with financial firms that caused the economic meltdown. But this is the first time someone from inside has chastised the leadership and called for reform.

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April 16, 2014

FTC: Scamming Debt Collectors Must Pay $3.3 Million, Shut Down

The Federal Trade Commission announced recently that defendants in a debt collection scheme frequently targeting Spanish-speaking consumers will not only be required to pay a $3.3 million penalty, but will also be barred from doing future business.
Our Miami consumer lawyers have learned that the settlement agreement involves the two primary owners of Rincon Debt Management, who stood accused of violations of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, as well as the Federal Trade Commission Act.

Specifically, the company targeted calls to debtors' family, friends, employers and neighbors. In doing so, collectors pretended to be delivering legal papers relative to a pending lawsuit. In some instances, the defendants were reportedly threatened with arrest if they failed to respond to the collection firm's calls. Also, the two defendants, as well as their staffers, pretended to be attorneys - or employees of a law firm - and demanded that consumers pay legal fees and legal costs. This was despite the fact that in almost all cases, there was no pending lawsuit. In fact, there were many instances in which it was later revealed that the consumer didn't owe the debt at all.

Herein lies one of the most important lessons that consumers can take away from these cases: It pays to fight back - or at least have the case investigated by an experienced consumer lawyer. Even if the debt collection agency is collecting on a legitimate debt, their tactics may be illegal. You may not actually owe as much as they are demanding. In some cases, even if you technically owe the debt, the statute of limitations may have run out or the collection firm may not be able to effectively link the debt to you in court.

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April 14, 2014

Force-Placed Insurance Claim Against BofA, BQE, Settled in Miami

A settlement deal reached in a Miami federal court ended with Bank of American and QBE Insurance Company agreeing to pay nearly $230 million for their dual roles in a kickback scheme that involved inflating the cost of insurance that was forced on homeowners who had defaulted. windowarchfrontdoor.jpg
Miami foreclosure lawyers
know that these force-placed insurance deals plunged many distressed borrowers in Florida even further into debt, in some cases resulting in them losing their homes. This case, Hall v. Bank of America N.A., heard before the U.S. District Court in the Southern District of Florida (Miami), is the latest of several multi-million-dollar deals reached over the issue in the last year.

There is nothing inherently illegal about force-placed insurance per se. Lenders are allowed to take action to protect interest in a given property when a borrower has allowed the homeowner's insurance to lapse - regardless of the reason.

Forced-place insurance is usually obtained through companies that offer high-risk coverage. The reason is that most other companies won't touch these cases because they recognize a higher probability of loss. Most of the time, these higher-risk policies are far more expensive.

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April 12, 2014

Handling Post-Foreclosure Deficiencies, Collections in Florida

Many of those who have chosen not to fight a Miami foreclosure have learned the hard way that even giving up won't be the end of their struggles.
Unfortunately, as some families find, that may be just the beginning, depending upon the way in which the foreclosure was handled. Particularly borrowers who took out more than one loan on their property, may face hounding from collection agencies, who purchased the debt from the original lender for pennies on the dollar.

All homeowners have their principal mortgage. Then some have a second mortgage and others take out a home equity line of credit.

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April 10, 2014

Report: Middle Class Steadily Shrinking

The "middle class" has for the better part of the last century remained an attainable ideal for most Americans.
It's the economic sweet-spot, where jobs are stable, people are self-sufficient and families have nice homes as they can continue to work toward a place of greater prosperity.

But our Miami foreclosure lawyers know that today, five years post-Great Recession, many families are coming to the difficult realization that not only are they no longer a part of this class, they may never be again.

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April 8, 2014

Student Loan Debt Widens Wealth Gap

House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) recently invited controversy in preparation for a number of legislative proposals that would reform America's poverty programs when he essentially asserted that poverty stems from laziness.
He's not alone in this thinking, of course. A 2012 report by The Salvation Army showed that nearly a third of Americans believe that people are poor because they are lazy, and not due to economic circumstances beyond their control.

Our Miami foreclosure lawyers know that the perpetuation of these kinds of poverty myths are part of why so many people struggle to emerge from poverty. It's this same kind of thinking that allowed banks to assert that homeowners were the ones who shouldered the lion's share of responsibility for the housing crisis.

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April 7, 2014

Debt Collectors Adept at Gathering Your Information

Anyone who has ever been hounded by debt collectors has likely been at some point impressed with the breadth of information these firms have been able to obtain.
A recent report aired by ABCNews examines a host of methods that debt collectors use to track down debtors - from your credit reports to your Facebook page. Some of what they find could even harm your case if the company sues you for failure to pay your debts, which is why it's important to understand how they do it.

It's also advisable for those deep in debt to contact a debt relief attorney in Miami, who can help you determine the best way to minimize your liability and fight lawsuits where collectors may lack the appropriate standing (which is more common than you might think).

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April 4, 2014

Report: Banks Will Continue to Evade Prosecution for Mortgage Misdeeds

A recent internal report generated by the U.S. Department of Justice concedes that the successes of the mortgage fraud crackdown efforts were grossly overstated,
Not only were the number of mortgage fraud cases egregiously low, the agency considered these matters to be of the lowest possible priority. In some jurisdictions, the report reveals, it wasn't noted as a priority whatsoever. Our Miami foreclosure lawyers recognize this revelation as especially troubling, considering that it also emerges at the same time we find out Wells Fargo had created an internal guideline for its foreclosure lawyers on how to fabricate missing records, so that foreclosures wouldn't be slowed.

These two points in conjunction give rise to the bigger question: Will banks continue to escape any prosecution or real accountability for their wrongs? A recent broadcast by Democracy Now! seems to indicate the answer is yes.

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April 1, 2014

Mortgage Fraud Settlement Terms "Satisfied," With Unsatisfying Results

You may recall two years ago that representatives of the five largest banking institutions shook hands with government leaders from 49 states in a $25 billion settlement that stemmed from widespread mortgage fraud.
The deal was supposed to result in $5 billion going directly to struggling homeowners and the other $20 billion was to be offered in other "homeowner relief actions," such as mortgage loan modifications that would keep underwater borrowers in their homes.

Now, according to the Final Credit Report issued by the National Mortgage Settlement Monitor, Joseph A. Smith Jr., the terms of the settlement have been "satisfied." The results, as our Miami foreclosure lawyers see it, are thoroughly unsatisfying. Not only has the settlement failed in its core mission of rescuing homeowners left drowning in debt by the banks, but it has also failed miserably in serving as a deterrent against future abuses by these financial giants.

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