May 20, 2014

Working Poor Get Poorer, Top 0.1 Percent Get Richer

Long-perpetuated is the belief that poor people deserve their station. If they had only studied more, worked harder, sacrificed a greater deal, they wouldn't be where they are now.
Of course, this view negates the very real fact that poverty is cyclical, and the divide between rich and poor has grown exponentially in recent decades. People point to cases where those receiving food aid also have an iPhone. The reality is that the relative cost of electronics has dropped, making them more accessible, but the cost of things like education and child care - the very things that could help one rise out of poverty - have skyrocketed.

Miami foreclosure defense lawyers know it's this kind of attitude that has allowed large financial institutions to pin the blame for the housing market crash on home buyers, ignoring the enormous role that their own greed, deceit and extensive abuse of the system played in the fiasco.

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May 18, 2014

Ted Kaufman: Trust in Equal Justice Eroded With Mortgage Crisis Failures

Ted Kaufman, a former U.S. senator and professor at Duke University School of Law, recently penned an opinion piece for the New York Times, lamenting the federal government's egregious failures in bringing Wall Street to justice following the mortgage meltdown.balance2.jpg

Miami foreclosure lawyer Bruce Jacobs has frequently expressed the same stance, holding that most of the government's supposed commitment to pursue criminal sanctions against Wall Street was just posturing.

Perhaps it began with good intent. In 2009, Congress passed the Fraud Enforcement Recovery Act. At the time, Kaufman was chairman of two oversight hearings on the act, held by the Senate Judiciary Committee. H says the goal was to ensure both the Justice Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation had ample resources to file criminal charges against individual Wall Street executives who had perpetuated crimes.

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May 14, 2014

HAMP-Modified Mortgage Interest Rates to Increase, Starting This Year

When the federal government first introduced the Home Affordable Modification Program, the deal was that struggling homeowners could have their mortgage interest rates slashed to as low as 2 percent, but then begin to gradually adjust upward again.
The modifications were first granted starting in 2009, and each had a five-year life before again resetting. Nearly 1 million borrowers took the government up on its terms.

But now, our Miami foreclosure defense lawyers know that those reduced rates will begin expiring in September. Economic analysts fear that the end result is going to be a new wave of borrowers who are once again at risk of default on their loans.

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May 11, 2014

Report: Settlement Negotiated Before Scope of Foreclosure Abuses Was Clear

A new report filed by the U.S. Government Accountability Office indicates that a $10 billion settlement agreement negotiated following the botched Independent Foreclosure Review was based on information that significantly downplayed the extent of the bank abuses.
Foreclosure defense attorneys in Miami know that no one was under the illusion the settlement agreement truly helped wronged homeowners. The terms of it were so skewed in favor of the financial institutions that borrowers received paltry payouts, with banks determining the final sums.

But the fact that federal regulators failed to follow through in determining a more accurate scope of the problem likely impacted the size of the settlement, and in turn cheating already-swindled borrowers out of what they might have otherwise recovered.

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May 8, 2014

Collapse of Economy Met With a Single Executive Prison Sentence

The actions that put in motion the worst economic collapse since the Great Depression were not solely those of a middle-tier Wall Street executive. And yet, according to a new report by ProPublica and New York Times Magazine, he was the only executive sentenced to any prison time for his role in the crisis.
Miami foreclosure defense lawyers believe certainly, that he deserved to be held accountable for his crimes. It's just that there were many others who should have been sitting in the defendant's chair. After all, while the former Credit Suisse employee did approve an effort to hide hundreds of millions in losses suffered by the bank's mortgage-backed securities portfolio, he didn't create toxic products or sell them, which was the crux of what spurred the housing market bubble and ultimately led to the recession.

Executives who played that role - those at the top of the chain - were never brought to justice, and it's unlikely they ever will be.

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May 5, 2014

Canada's Middle Class Surpasses U.S. in Wealth

The American middle class is no longer the world's richest. That distinction now goes to our northern neighbors in Canada, where wages have shot up nearly 20 percent in the last decade, mirroring the increases also seen in Britain.
Foreclosure lawyers in Miami know that in the U.S., however, wages have remained virtually flat for the middle class, rising just 0.3 percent during that same time period.

That's according to new figures released by the Luxembourg Income Study Database. Miami consumer rights attorneys understand that there are three theories as to why America has lost such significant ground in recent years. Those include:

  • The fact that Canada's educational system and attainment has outpaced the U.S. and most of the world.

  • The fact that American middle class wages haven't kept pace with overall economic growth.

  • Other governments to a better job of redistributing income to poorer families.

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May 3, 2014

American "Dream" Fast Becoming Fantasy

When we were last in the midst of deciding who our next President would be, the Republican nominee, Mitt Romney, frequently quipped that President Obama would rather our economy in the U.S. be "more like Europe."
Of course, many saw this as a stinging retort. After all, Europeans are "socialists" in the view of the conservative right. To be sure, Europe is by no means perfect. After all, look at the current economic situation in Spain. However, our Miami consumer attorneys note a number of recent reports indicate we may have more to learn from Europe than we want to believe.

Perhaps the greatest indicator of this is the rapid decline of the American middle class. Postwar growth in this country has hinged on the strength and size of our middle class. However, this group can no longer tout itself as the world's wealthiest.

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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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