September 27, 2014

Middle Class Bears Greatest Burden of Economic Risk

If there was ever a need for more proof of the gap between America's wealthiest and the rest of us, look no further than the recent bankruptcy of the Trump Plaza and Trump Taj Mahal in Atlantic City.
On one hand, there is billionaire Donald Trump, who 30 years earlier touted opening of the casino as one of his greatest investments, a crown achievement and possibly one of the greatest buildings in the country. When the venture folded, he was offering his own praises for having the foresight and "great timing" to sell the casino beforehand.

On the other hand are approximately 1,000 workers left to pick up the pieces after losing jobs, where they had learned skills that aren't so easily transferable in communities where they purchased homes for which they the value has plummeted and they can no longer pay the mortgage.

Our Miami foreclosure defense lawyers know this is just one in a cascade of examples revealing how our laws and practices advance corporate interests and shield them from the consequences of poor financial decisions, while brutally punishing the rest of us.

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September 24, 2014

Florida Foreclosure Decisions Skewed Toward Banks

The Sun-Sentinel Editorial Board voiced strong condemnation of Florida's newest "foreclosure rocket docket," part of the state's effort to plow through a backlog of cases in the wake of the housing crisis.
The problem was highlighted in a recent article published by The Center for Public Integrity, a non-profit investigative news organization. The piece detailed how the courts, working under explicit instructions from the state Legislature and Florida Supreme Court, are pushing quickly through each case, often by trampling homeowner rights and awarding thousands of homes to banks - regardless of whether the financial giants have the proper paperwork as required by law. As our Miami foreclosure defense lawyers previously noted, this new approach has compromised the entire court system, leaving borrowers overwhelmingly wronged.

The Sentinel editorial characterized it as a form of bribery, akin to banks slipping judges cash-filled envelopes in exchange for favorable verdicts. Were it that blatant, the public would be outraged. What's occurring is less obvious, but potentially no less corrupting, as money is being funneled indirectly from the banks to the courts in order to keep the foreclosure courts open.

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September 20, 2014

Florida's Foreclosure Law Stripping Homeowners of Property Rights

It began with an effort by Florida's judicial leaders and state legislators to boost the state's economy by sorting through the gargantuan foreclosure backlog and getting these homes back on the market. However, for those trying to hang onto their homes, it's turned into what one reporter described as a "Kafkaesque nightmare," referring to the complex, bizarre and illogical stories penned by German author Franz Kafka.
Our Miami foreclosure defense lawyers have noted state leaders have mostly turned their backs to the ramifications of tossing thousands of families out of their homes, only to return those foreclosed properties back to the banks and mortgage servicers, who must maintain and then sell them. Failure to maintain the properties has become a blight on neighborhoods, and they aren't moving nearly as fast as they should.

But what's worse is the fact that Florida's entire court system has been compromised, because lawmakers effectively sidestepped property rights by effectively transferring billions of dollars in real estate assets from individual owners to large financial institutions. These were essentially the explicit orders from the state Legislature and the Florida Supreme Court, both more concerned with clearing the docket than protecting the rights of homeowners.

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September 16, 2014

Study: Millions Have Paychecks Garnished for Old Debts

A study by ADP, the largest payroll provider in the U.S., found that of 13 million employees on file, 1 in every 10 of prime working age (35 to 44) had their paychecks garnished for recovery of past debt. The research was prompted by a journalistic inquiry from ProPublica and NPR, which sought to find out how past debts were affecting people trying to recover from the financial knock-out of the recession.
One such affected worker described his wage garnishment as, "A roundhouse kick." Just as he thought he might be turning the corner, his credit card company began automatically deducting twice-monthly payments from his paychecks - one quarter of what he made, which is the maximum allowable by law. The company deducts this whether he can afford it or not. The total bill now stands at $15,000, which is grossly inflated by fees and interests, and had originally started at $7,000.

"It just knocks you down and out," he was quoted as saying.

Our Miami credit card defense attorneys know many of these individuals end up in this situation after failing to respond to legal notices, warning them debtors plan to take them to court. By not showing up, debtors effectively forfeit their right to dispute the charges or at least negotiate a solution that's reasonable.

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September 3, 2014

Deficiency Judgments Plaguing South Florida Foreclosure Victims

Many of those who endured a foreclosure in the last six years may have feared the worst that could happen was they would lose their homes, and suffer a damaged credit score. They are now learning the worst may have been yet to come.
A recent article in the Palm Beach Post detailed how banks and debt collection firms are going after borrowers for unpaid mortgage debt from homes that were lost years ago.

It's called a deficiency judgment, and in the single month beginning June 1, there were more than 300 filed in Broward County, 200 in Miami-Dade County and 110 in Palm Beach County. Those were just from a single, Texas-based debt collection agency. More are pending from other firms.

Our Miami foreclosure lawyers believe the change in Florida law recently set off a flurry of these filings. Previously, there had been a five-year deadline to collect unpaid mortgage debt. Now, the deadline is one year.

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September 2, 2014

Bank of America's Mortgage Abuses Laid Bare

It didn't take long after the announcement of the $17 billion settlement deal with Bank of America over mortgage abuses committed by its executives, as well as those at Countrywide and Merrill Lynch, for pundits to decry it as an attack on big business by an overzealous regulatory agency.
However, our Miami foreclosure lawyers recognize that what this firm will have to pay still does not make whole all of those affected. What's more, Bank of America still profited more from its actions than what it will pay out.

But it's also important to remind these naysayers of what Bank of America and its subsidiaries actually did wrong. The U.S. Justice Department did not pursue Bank of America because it was an easy target. In fact, to the contrary.

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August 31, 2014

Many Underwater Homeowners in Florida Unlikely to Benefit From $17B Deal

When the U.S. Justice Department first began crowing about the $17 billion settlement deal it wrangled from Bank of America over mortgage abuses, there was immediately a question of how much real homeowners could be expected to benefit.
The answer? It's not clear. We know a portion of those funds are to be paid directly in cash to the federal government. Some will go to state governments. And approximately $7 billion is supposed to be offered as aid to distressed homeowners in the form of loan modifications, short sales, etc. But what does that mean in actuality? Our Miami foreclosure defense lawyers believe probably not much.

The Huffington Post recently published an article on this very subject. Quoting a housing counselor in Fort Myers, principle reductions are rare, and many housing experts aren't clear on where the money is directed.

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August 28, 2014

Mortgage Lending Abuses Cost Bank of America $17B - Largest-Ever Settlement

The Department of Justice has brokered a deal with financial giant Bank of America, in which the company will pay $17 billion to settle allegations that it and its subsidiaries purposely misled investors regarding toxic, mortgage-backed securities.
It's the largest settlement of its kind in the nation's history, and ends a long battle that stretches back to the 2008 financial crisis.

While big business sympathizers have already blasted the government for raking the bank across the coals, the fact is, the economic meltdown was triggered in large part by fraud perpetuated by the banking industry. Our Miami foreclosure lawyers saw firsthand the aftermath of this crisis, in which people were stripped of their homes, their jobs, suffered stagnant wages and lost life savings. People have been forced to start all over again.

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August 25, 2014

Report: "Too Big to Fail" Banking is Far From Over

Following the 2008 collapse of the housing market and subsequent bank bailouts, federal regulators insisted the 11 largest U.S. and foreign banks draft so-called "living wills." These documents spelled out contingency plans in the event institutional collapse.
Banks were given two years to come up with a plan. They were ordered to simplify their legal structures and rewrite some internal policies in order to make sure that if they did fail, they would not mar the wider financial system.

The regulators recently ordered a "pencils down" to review the plans. The grade? Failing.

Our Miami foreclosure attorneys aren't entirely surprised, as it's likely the firms didn't make much of an effort to map workable solutions. After all, from their perception, they are too big to fail. And even if they did, the public will have no choice but to bail them out again.

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August 21, 2014

Spread of Poverty a Central Source of Conflict

The riots in Missouri after police officers fatally shot an unarmed black teenager engender the deep-seated fear and racism experienced daily by minorities in the U.S., particularly in the South. blueauthority.jpg

For all our talk of progress, this situation shows we have much farther to go. If we truly want to see progress, our Miami consumer rights lawyers believe we shouldn't stop at the improvement of race relations. The truth of the matter is, in modern-day America, one of the greatest sources of discrimination is not based on the color of one's skin, but rather on the size of one's bank account.

We are the wealthiest nation in the world, and yet, poverty persists like a plague, continuing its spread. Through aggressive policies advanced by big business interests, the "middle class" is rapidly shrinking, and the divide between the rich and poor continues to expand.

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August 4, 2014

Report: Billionaire GOP Donor Forces Argentina to Default

Debt collectors can be brutal, as many U.S. consumers have learned. Over the past couple of years, these agencies have swooped in like vultures, eager for whatever scraps they can pilfer from Americans still struggling to claw their way out of debt.
Now, these vultures have set their sights on the entire country of Argentina. Here again, the fact that Argentina and its people are unable to pay seems not to concern the billionaire Republican donor, who seeks to almost single-handedly pull the rug out from underneath an entire economy.

Our Miami debt collection defense lawyers understand that Paul Singer, a hedge fund conservative with Elliot Management who donated millions to the campaigns of Mitt Romney, George W. Bush and Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, is dead-set on collecting this money. It's not because he needs it. Rather, according to various media reports, it's based on his deeply-held conviction that those who owe money should always pay it back. The New York Times called the hedge fund head a "relentless foe" of the Argentinian government.

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July 29, 2014

Report: Debt Collectors After 35 Percent of Americans

We all recognize that default on debts is a major problem for many Americans right now. These defaults are on everything from cell phone contracts to mortgages to student loans to hospital bills. These debts are more than a simple hit to a credit score. They can impact a person's ability to be approved for loans, secure housing in decent neighborhoods or land a good job. However, it's easy to lose sight of just how widespread the issue. blackandlight.jpg

A recently-released study conducted by the Urban Institute reveals that every third person you pass on the street is indebted to a collection agency for one reason or another. A total of 35 percent of Americans have unpaid debts reported to collection firms. That figure translates to 77 million Americans who are behind on medical bills, child support, credit card bills and more.

The problem is even worse when you consider the researchers' assertion that low-income consumers are underrepresented in the data, meaning that other forms of debt, such as payday loans, aren't even included.

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July 24, 2014

Florida Foreclosure Abuse Victims to Receive $18M From Ocwen

Claims forms have been sent to some 26,000 Florida residents whose homes were foreclosed upon when Ocwen Financial Services engaged in what Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi characterized as "mortgage servicing misconduct and foreclosure abuse."
In total, Floridians are expected to collect approximately $18 million of a $2.1 billion settlement to which the firm agreed in December, following an investigation by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. The agreement was finalized in February.

Miami foreclosure lawyers know that Ocwen was one of many financial firms that engaged in shady servicing with the mortgages it managed. In this case, the conduct involved individuals who had their homes foreclosed upon between January 2009 and December 2012. As part of the agreement, the company settled on paying $125 million directly to those homeowners. The remaining $2 billion will be offered up in the form of first lien principle relief to those who managed to hang onto their homes. Floridians are expected to receive approximately $342 million of that amount.

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July 20, 2014

Analysis: Housing Market Back on Downward Slope

Inevitably, the housing market endures cycles of upswings and downturns. Generally, so long as those fluctuations remain within reasonable bounds, there is nothing amiss about it.instability.jpg

What we saw beginning in 2008, however, was a frightening aberration. Now, despite countless media reports touting our "ongoing recovery," our Miami foreclosure lawyers on the front lines of this issue understand the silver lining view may be a bit optimistic.

In fact, the "recovery" we saw may be more of an illusion than initially realized, and there is little doubt at this point that we are on track for another market downturn. The slide on the immediate horizon may not be as severe as the crash, but there is strong evidence to suggest the reports of incremental steps toward a positive change may have been premature.

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July 14, 2014

Citi to Record $7B Fine in Mortgage Settlement Agreement

For its role in hawking defective mortgage investments during the subprime housing boom, Citigroup Inc. has agreed to fork over $7 billion, in a combination of cash and consumer relief, to settle numerous state and federal investigations.
Our Miami foreclosure lawyers understand this could mean relief for those who are on the verge of a foreclosure and possibly compensation for those who have already lost their homes.

An investigation by the U.S. Justice Department indicated Citigroup's actions were part of what was at the core of the housing market bust: mortgage-backed securities that were marketed as safe investments, despite internal knowledge that they were doomed to collapse. When they did, the economy imploded like a house of cards, leading to a financial crisis from which the world is still recovering.

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