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.
executivebusiness.jpg
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.

Continue reading "Retiring SEC Lawyer: Agency Too Lax on Wall Street" »

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.
usdollarbills.jpg
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.

Continue reading "FTC: Scamming Debt Collectors Must Pay $3.3 Million, Shut Down" »

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
Our
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.

Continue reading "Force-Placed Insurance Claim Against BofA, BQE, Settled in Miami" »

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.
moneygrab.jpg
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.

Continue reading "Handling Post-Foreclosure Deficiencies, Collections in Florida" »

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.
brickranchhouse.jpg
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.

Continue reading "Report: Middle Class Steadily Shrinking" »

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.
stackofbooks.jpg
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.

Continue reading "Student Loan Debt Widens Wealth Gap" »

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.
calculator2.jpg
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).

Continue reading "Debt Collectors Adept at Gathering Your Information" »

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,
handcuffs7.jpg
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.

Continue reading "Report: Banks Will Continue to Evade Prosecution for Mortgage Misdeeds" »

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.
black41.jpg
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.

Continue reading "Mortgage Fraud Settlement Terms "Satisfied," With Unsatisfying Results" »

March 31, 2014

Wall Street Landlords Seek Out Distressed Loans to Push Foreclosure

For the past couple years, first-time home buyers were edged out of the market by investors offering cash for foreclosed homes. Snapping up the properties at foreclosure auctions and the like, firms like American Homes 4 Rent and others collectively amassed more than 200,000 family homes, with the intention of turning them into cheap rental properties. dollarsign.jpg

But now, the supply of foreclosed homes is drying up. The price of homes is on the incline. So these firms are turning to another sector of the housing market where the supply still seems plentiful: distressed loans. A recent housing market report indicates that 1 in 5 homeowners are still underwater on their loans.

Our Miami foreclosure defense attorneys are deeply concerned about this shift. If a distressed loan is purchased by an investor or firm that has a vested interest in that property going into foreclosure, there will be little chance that the investor is going to be open to working with the struggling homeowner to hammer out a loan modification plan.

Continue reading "Wall Street Landlords Seek Out Distressed Loans to Push Foreclosure" »

March 29, 2014

Audit Reveals DOJ Unable, Unwilling to Address Mortgage Fraud

In the six years since the housing market crash and subsequent financial crisis, the U.S. Department of Justice has been challenged on its response, which has largely lacked any significant criminal prosecution. balance.jpg

Our Miami foreclosure defense attorneys known that the DOJ's retort to this has pretty much remained constant: We're doing all we can. If there were criminal cases to be made, we would have made them. These cases are highly complex matters, and they take time. We're working overtime on it.

However, a new audit by the department's Office of the Inspector General appears to suggest otherwise, indicating that the agency is either unequipped or unwilling to take on complex financial crimes.

Continue reading "Audit Reveals DOJ Unable, Unwilling to Address Mortgage Fraud" »

March 27, 2014

Court Documents: Wells Fargo Systematically Forged Foreclosure Papers

According to documents filed in a New York federal court case this month, the country's largest mortgage servicer is accused of setting up procedures internally that allowed them to produce phony foreclosure documents on-demand.
atwork.jpg
The explosive allegations against Wells Fargo are detailed in a seemingly innocuous homeowner bankruptcy. Within that filing, though, is a 150-page procedures manual intended for use by Wells Fargo foreclosure attorneys. It was created in November 2011 and updated in late February 2012.

Our Miami foreclosure defense attorneys have learned that among the details in that manual is a specific procedure outlined for processing mortgage notes that lack any endorsements and obtaining endorsements for those notes.

Continue reading "Court Documents: Wells Fargo Systematically Forged Foreclosure Papers" »

March 25, 2014

CFPB Launches "Zombie Foreclosure" Probe

Several months after the revelation of so-called "zombie foreclosures," federal regulators with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau are launching an inquest into the problem.
californiahouse1.jpg
Miami foreclosure defense lawyers know this is particularly timely for Florida, as we rank No. 1 for zombie foreclosures, according to a new report by RealtyTrac.

A zombie foreclosure, in case you aren't familiar, is one in which the bank initiates the foreclosure process - maybe even issues notice of the foreclosure to the homeowner - but then abandons it, failing to tell the homeowner. This results in cases where the homeowner has vacated the property, believing they no longer own the home and have been evicted, when in reality, they do still legally own the home and are responsible for the ongoing mortgage, taxes, maintenance, etc.

Continue reading "CFPB Launches "Zombie Foreclosure" Probe" »

March 22, 2014

No, Homeowners Were Not to Blame for Housing Crisis

In the midst of the financial crisis, a Rasmussen poll revealed that the majority blamed the cause of the crash on individuals who had borrowed more than they could afford (55 percent) versus Wall Street (25 percent).
wallstreet.jpg
Our foreclosure lawyers in Miami-Dade know that this perception was skewed from the beginning, fueled by the spin machine of the newly-born "Tea Party."

Unfortunately, even with the advantage of time, this perspective has remained largely unchanged, despite the blatant avarice of bankers, mortgage servicers and the like in the years leading up to the crash. Clearly, the logic goes, people should have known better than to get greedy with loans that were two or three times what the house was actually worth.

Continue reading "No, Homeowners Were Not to Blame for Housing Crisis" »

March 19, 2014

Foreclosure-to-Rent Business Slowing in Miami-Dade, elsewhere

It was just a handful of months ago that investors were clamoring to climb aboard the foreclosure-to-rent business, steered primarily by firms like Blackstone Group and American Homes 4 Rent. halloweenhouse.jpg

These companies are in the business of buying up thousands of single-family foreclosures across the country on a monthly basis, only to turn around and rent out those same homes, in many cases to the previous owners. This not only gave banks an incentive to press forward on foreclosures, rather than home loan modifications (because they knew there would be a buyer standing at the ready), but it also effectively shut out many first-time home buyers, who couldn't afford to compete with offers of outright cash.

Still, business seemed to pushing full-steam ahead, with Blackstone spending some $2.5 billion just in 2012 to buy up some 16,000 homes, bringing its total rental property business to about 200,000. Other companies joined the fray.

However, our Miami foreclosure defense attorneys understand that business has slowed significantly in recent months. It's too early to say, though, whether the stagnation will be long-term.

Continue reading "Foreclosure-to-Rent Business Slowing in Miami-Dade, elsewhere" »