Articles Posted in Fighting Back

Esteemed Miami foreclosure lawyer Bruce Jacobs has been given the go-ahead to proceed with his lawsuit that aims to oust the new Florida Democratic Party Chairman Stephen Bittel. american flag

The lawsuit recently survived a motion to dismiss after Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Lisa Walsh ruled the complaint should be allowed to proceed. Walsh declined, however, too prevent the Democratic party from certifying the election of Bittel, as they had already done so.

Jacobs filed the lawsuit last month, along with Dr. Mae Christian, a civil rights advocate and president of Miami-Dade County’s Democratic Black Caucus. The lawsuit names as defendants Bittel, the Florida Democratic Party and the Miami-Dade Executive Committee chairman, Juan Cuba.  Continue reading

Consumer advocates have been warning for years that bank debt collection tactics by third-party collection agencies are unfair, deceptive and abusive.
Now, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) and the attorneys general of 47 states and Washington, D.C., have filed an enforcement action against one of the largest banks in the country for allegedly unfair credit card collection tactics.

The action outlines the systematic approach the bank reportedly took in collecting debts that were unverified, inaccurate, discharged in bankruptcy or were not collectible for other reasons.

Our Miami consumer protection attorneys understand the list of alleged transgressions is long.

Among allegations made:

The bank used documents that were illegally-sworn in obtaining court judgments against some 500,000 borrowers whose debts were not verified. In those cases, people may not have had the resources to fight back, and ended up getting slapped with a default judgment – owing a debt they should never have had to pay to start. The bank issued sworn statements promising the debts were valid and accurate, but in fact, the company failed on a consistent basis to review those records and make sure those statements were truthful.
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If you or I were convicted of a felony crime, we would almost certainly lose our freedom. We’d be facing prison time. We’d likely lose our job. We would also no longer have the right to a host of civil liberties, including the right to vote.
But we are not large financial institutions. If we were, we might expect far different treatment for felony convictions.

A recent New York Times report details how the process is unfolding for five of the world’s biggest banks, which are expected to plead guilty to a lengthy list of charges, including fraud and antitrust violations. What type of penalties are they likely to face?
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For years, Wall Street sympathizers have defended actions of bankers in the lead-up to the collapse of the housing market and subsequent financial crisis.
While many practices within the financial industry have drawn criticism, under special scrutiny was the practice of packaging shoddy mortgages and then selling them to unsuspecting investors prior to 2008. Some have danced around bank’s liability, with many suggesting it was in fact the fault of consumers, who took on loans far in excess of what they could afford.

But in a recent decision that spanned more than 360 pages, a federal judge issued a scathing assessment of bankers’ actions that directly conflicts with their version of history.

The ruling, against the Royal Bank of Scotland and Nomura Holdings, a Japanese financial firm, was part of a government case that started with 18 defendant banks over deceptive loans. All other defendants settled the claims out-of-court before they went to trial. Those included Bank of America and Goldman Sachs, which collectively shelled out $18 billion. In so doing, they avoided the public delving into their dealings prior to the crisis.

Judge Denise L. Cote of the Federal District Court of Manhattan, ruled the scope of the lies – even when conservatively measured – is “enormous.”
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A recent report by advocacy group Democracy Now! details how pensions for millions of Americans public workers have been invested into risky hedge funds, private equity and “alternative investment funds.”
These investments put worker pensions at risk – but they have been lining the pockets of local politicians with millions of dollars in investment fees.

In one case, journalists learned President Obama’s one-time chief-of-staff, now Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, received $600,000 in campaign contributions from investment firms that are responsible for managing city worker pension funds in Chicago. In New Jersey, the top official seated on the board that decides how state workers’ $80 billion in pension funds are invested was closely involved with Gov. Chris Christie’s head campaign fundraising aides while he was lobbying for re-election.
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In the wake of the 2008 housing market collapse and economic meltdown that followed, it became clear that real change would have to be effected on Wall Street if we hoped to avoid a similar scenario down the road.
In many respects, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) has made that her mission. The Washington Post recently characterized her efforts as a “jihad against Wall Street.” Warren has worked hard to battle financial and corporate giants that bend or break the law for their own benefit, often protecting the masses from getting the short end of the stick.

The latest target of her efforts is Antonio Weiss. He is President Barack Obama’s nominee for the Treasury undersecretary for domestic finance. Warren notes Weiss’s resume includes toiling as an investment banker for Lazard and working to secure international merger deals in that role and others. Some of the bigger of those deals involve an $11 billion merger of Burger King with a coffee-and-doughnut manufacturer based in Canada.
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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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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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An out-of-state banking regulator has launched an investigation into whether a mortgage servicing firm required struggling homeowners to sign an agreement not to publicly deride the firm if they hoped to have their loan modified.
Reuters reports that such contracts may have been required by more than one firm, including Ocwen Financial Corp., which is being investigated by New York’s Financial Services Superintendent Benjamin Lawsky.

Foreclosure defense lawyers in Miami know that between the housing market crash and the robo-signing foreclosure fraud scandal (to say nothing of a host of other issues), these companies have had their names dragged through the mud.

But here’s the thing: There is every indication that the criticism was well-placed and deserved.
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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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