Ormond Beach fighting a plague of zombie homes

Saul Saenz
March 30, 2014

This is one of the zombie house residents in Ormond Beach are trying to fight.

Florida leads the nation in zombie foreclosures.

 

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There’s a group of Ormond Beach homeowners battling a zombie home problem — homes that are standing dead and sucking the life out of entire neighborhoods.

The group is targeting homes that are abandoned and decaying, with so much overgrowth they are hard to look at.

“It is an eyesore and it is exactly a zombie home because we don’t even know at this point who owns the homes,” said Rita Press, president of Citizens for Ormond Beach.

“I think it’s gonna lower the property values if they see a rundown house,” said neighbor Joe Puccino.

The group has identified at least 300 foreclosed homes throughout the city, and numerous abandoned homes with no paper trail that homeowners simply walked away from. One house Press told us about is in the city’s exclusive, historic riverfront district.

The group contacts homeowners in foreclosure to help them through the process before a homes turns into a zombie home. They also want the city to prevent houses from turning into lifeless shells.

But the ultimate goal, Press said, is to get all those homes on the market so that new homeowners can breathe life back into a lifeless Zombie home.

FLORIDA AND ZOMBIE FORECLOSURES

Five of Florida’s housing markets are in the top 10 zombie foreclosures, according to RealtyTrac.

The foreclosure tracking group said there are more than 140,000 homes in Florida that are in zombie mode, or are bank-owned. And zombie homes in Florida are in foreclosure for about 1,095 days.

 

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Regulators Size Up Wall Street, With Worry

March 12, 2014
Money laundering, market rigging, tax dodging, selling faulty financial products, trampling homeowner rights and rampant risk-taking — these are some of the sins that big banks have committed in recent years.
Wall
The regulators also said that they have stepped up pressure on the banks’ boards. The regulators hope that more independent-minded directors will demand changes if they see standards and practices slipping, especially in crucial areas like accounting and risk management.To help promote that push, Mr. Dudley said, the New York Fed has bolstered the stature of supervisors who interact with the boards and senior executives. “We’ve put some of our very best people in those spots,” he said.But boards may have very different priorities from regulators.Directors may not see the need for far-reaching changes if a bank is producing large profits that benefit shareholders.JPMorgan Chase’s board took steps to hold management accountable after the so-called London Whale trading scandal that engulfed the bank in 2012 and 2013. Still, in January, JPMorgan’s board approved a large raise in the 2013 pay of Jamie Dimon, the bank’s chief executive.Antony P. Jenkins, the chief executive of Barclays, which has been hit by its own scandals, took a different approach with his 2013 compensation. Earlier this year, he turned down a bonus worth $4.5 million.

And compensation is one area where bank regulators may need to do more if they want to do more to clean up bank culture, according to critics of the industry.

Wall Street’s compensation practices can reward unhealthy levels of short-term risk-taking and entice bankers into ethical lapses. Acknowledging that, regulators around the world agreed after the crisis to overhaul bankers’ pay, in part by requiring them to wait several years before they receive all of their bonuses. The hope is that bankers will behave better if they know their employers can easily take back the deferred part of their pay.

But there is evidence that large American banks are still deferring much less pay than their European peers. The Fed is in charge of regulating compensation at American banks. When asked whether the pay overhaul at American banks had gone far enough, Mr. Dudley said, “There is potential to defer more compensation for longer periods of time.”

One particularly daunting challenge looms over the efforts to improve the ethics of banks. Some banks may be so large and complex that it would be difficult for managers to maintain a clean culture across all of their operations.

But Mr. Dudley said he would not allow size or complexity to be an excuse for ethical breaches. “Either the firm is not too complex, you can manage it, you do know what’s going on,” he said. “Or, if you don’t know, that’s sort of raising the question whether the firm is too complex to manage.”

SoFla Woman’s 2-Year Battle Gets Mortgage Wiped Out

By Trina Robinson and Karen Franklin
 

MERS

A South Florida woman succeeded with the unheard of

when she was able to get her mortgage wiped out by a lender.

In an effort to save her mother’s home, Idania Castro waged a two-year battle with the bank.

“The mortgage got wiped out, so I have no mortgage payment, everything was completely satisfied,” Castro said.

The woman, who took it upon herself to go through every document related to the mortgage, finally discovered robo-signing. She said the signatures on her foreclosure documents appeared to have been signed by different people.

“The signatures varied five times and it made me suspicious,” she said.

With the help of attorney Omar Arcia, she won her case. The lender decided to stop all legal proceedings against her because the documents were deemed fraudulent . Castro now owes nothing.

“The moment that we brought that information to light and we brought it to the judge, the parties resolved the case and in that particular case the bank agreed to forgive her entire mortgage debt,” Arcia said.

The attorney stressed the importance of investigating.

“You have to do your legwork and find out if there is anything wrong that was done in connection with your transaction,” Arcia said. “ You may have something that you can go back to the bank with and either negotiate better terms for your loan or sometimes get your mortgage wiped out altogether.”

California AG Sues JPMorgan Over Debt Collection Abuses (and then some)

May 10, 2013

California Attorney General Kamala Harris is on a roll. There’s been a fair bit of media coverage about abusive debt collection practices, particularly in credit cards, but at least until Harris filed a suit on Thursday against bank miscreant JPMorgan (hat tip Deontos), surprisingly little action.

Because the amounts are usually much smaller than in mortgages, banks have incentives to play fast and loose if they think they can wring some extra blood out of the turnip of an overextended consumer. But the result often goes well beyond just improperly submitting information to the court. JP Morgan and other banks have been accused of trying to collect on debt where they have the amounts wrong, where the debt was discharged in bankruptcy, or where the consumer was never notified an action was underway. And when the debt is sold to debt collectors, the same problems with inaccuracy of information, invalidity of the debt, and abuse of the legal system multiply.

Chase had its dirty laundry aired in public by whistleblower Linda Almonte, who filed an SEC suit in 2010, settled, and then decided to break her confidentiality agreement in 2012. She was an important contributor to an American Banker story that also revealed that the OCC had been investigating. As we wrote:

“The American Banker story discusses the operations of a unit that handled delinquent credit card borrowers. Handling these accounts involved using three different computer systems that communicated reasonably well on current borrowers but not with delinquent or defaulted ones. As a result, the operation had involved a high level of manual checks to make sure the amounts borrowers owed were accurate before they were sent off to collection (which in high population states, was an in-house operation, but for most, involved the use of outside law firms….

Linda Almonte, who was a process specialist who had worked at WaMu, joined in 2009 and was fired, as she charged in a wrongful termination lawsuit, for refusing to send files to collection that has obvious problems in them. Almonte filed a whistleblower complaint with the SEC (see an Abigail Field story for more detail). Her charges:

1. Chase Bank sold to third party debt buyers hundreds of millions of dollars worth of credit card accounts. . .when in fact Chase Bank executives knew that many of those accounts had incorrect and overstated balances.

3. Chase Bank executives routinely destroyed information and communications from consumers rather than incorporate that information into the consumer’s credit card file, including bankruptcy notices, powers of attorney, notice of cancellation of auto-pay, proof of payments and letters from debt settlement companies.

4. Chase Bank executives mass-executed thousands of affidavits in support of Chase Banks collection efforts and those Chase Bank executives did not have personal knowledge of the facts set forth in the affidavits.

…the American Banker story quotes current and recent employees who confirm that he bad practices that Almonte called out are still very much alive. Specifically:

“We did not verify a single one” of the affidavits attesting to the amounts Chase was seeking to collect, says Howard Hardin, who oversaw a team handling tens of thousands of Chase debt files in San Antonio. “We were told [by superiors] ‘We’re in a hurry. Go ahead and sign them.’”…

The records the law firms used to sue people sometimes differed from Chase’s own files at an alarming rate, according to a routine Chase presentation prepared by Almonte and later submitted to the Securities and Exchange Commission. Some law firms’ records disagreed with Chase’s in almost 20% of cases sampled, a rate far above what is regarded as an acceptable level of errors.

“That’s horrendous,” says a former Chase attorney who was informed of the numbers by American Banker…

Borrower correspondence sent to the San Antonio facility, such as bankruptcy notifications, address changes, and hardship requests were being dropped on an unmanned desk, according to a 2009 printout from Chase’s troubleshooting log….

“I understand there were documents trashed, yes,” she says. [Carol] McGinn retired from the San Antonio facility in June of 2010 after she says she became uneasy with how it was being managed.”

http://www.scribd.com/doc/140561152/California-v-JP-Morgan-Chase-May-9-2013

Full article from Naked Capitalism can be found here

Bloomberg Terminal Iceberg – Tortious Interference?

Who Forced BLOOMBERG TERMINAL To Shut Down ALL Audit Service Providers? Can You Say Tortious Interference?

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From deadlyclear.wordpress.com

A couple of weeks ago forensic auditors and attorneys ran into the Bloomberg Terminal iceberg when Bloomberg Terminal (a securities stock searching software program) locked them out of the loan finding program [LFND]). Without warning Bloomberg Terminal shutdown access to the loan searching program that had been used by numerous companies to research securitized trusts and the loans within in them. It appears too many loans had been found in trusts when the servicers were claiming ownership. What better way to stop the truth than to try to sink the ship?

Unknown to most homeowners, their mortgage loans ended up trading on Wall Street in alleged REMIC trusts, supposedly tax shelters for investors who turned over primarily 401ks, pension and retirement funds in what now is viewed by many as the world’s largest and most egregious un-prosecuted Ponzi scheme [and its no wonder why Bernie Madoffwants out of prison, at least some recovery was achieved]. It now appears the INVESTORS in the securitized RMBS (Residential Mortgaged-Backed Securities) trusts failed to scrutinize the assets of the alleged REMICs.  It also appears, the Depositors and Trustees for the trusts apparently did not properly and timely assigned the mortgage loan documents to the Certificateholders and it appears in most cases the REMICs have actually failed.

From what sources inside the loan audit and forensics companies say, many times the servicer initiates a foreclosure action in its own name when it doesn’t own the loan. In particular, the loan may actually be in a REMIC trust – that many times has been paid! Paid by either Uncle Sam TARP (thank you very much) or by some other entity that the borrower has no obligation or agreement to repay.

The dilemma here is that the IRS doesn’t care who pays your loan, as long as neither you or your benefactor claim deductions. For example, attorneys have noted that if your Uncle makes your mortgage loan payments, as long as neither you or he claims deductions, that is perfectly legal. Under current law, each taxpayer is allowed to give gifts of up to $1 million in their lifetime before they begin paying gift tax. Gifts which exceed $13,000 to the same person in one year must be reported on Form 709, and those gifts then reduce the taxpayer’s remaining lifetime limit. But no taxes actually apply until the taxpayer reaches that $1 million lifetime exemption.

In many cases these REMIC trusts appear to be current when servicers began foreclosure. Investors have been paid whether through TARP funds or foreclosure insurance – and in that case, loans still existing in the trust may not actually be in default. Goodness, maybe the banks haven’t been reporting on the Form 709…

Homeowners have become more savvy theses days and many are asking to find their loans before they are in default. Since the banks have been less than forthcoming, forensic auditors and attorneys began using Bloomberg Terminal to research the trust location of loans. While your name and address do not appear in Bloomberg Terminal, your loan information may be available, such as your loan number (although many times the banks have changed the original loan numbers), your credit score, the amount of your original loan payment, interest rate, zip code, amount and date of your mortgage – enough information to pretty accurately pinpoint the alleged loan that is actively trading…Yes, actively trading. Maybe even portions of it has been paid off.

Although there are still other options open to finding your mortgage loan, the freeze out of Bloomberg Terminal is a little more than suspect. Admittedly, Bloomberg makes a ton of money from these small companies – its about $2000 a month to operate the Bloomberg Terminal software. On the other hand, Bloomberg is intrinsically linked to Wall Street banks and it connections are strong and go very deep.

So, auditors feel somebody likely dropped a chunk of change …or asked a VERY big favor when Bloomberg shut down their LFND customers. Thar’s not the only issue, Bloomberg may have left itself open to a Tortious Interference class action lawsuit. It wouldn’t be surprising to find that big banks and servicers like Aurora (formerly owned by Lehman) and others like BofA contacted Bloomberg and offered monetary infusions to reset the forensic auditors’ computers. Not everybody was aced out… just the smaller companies (isn’t that a bias?) that would prefer to chew off a leg or two of these banks rather than play the “sell-out your client” game.“Bloomberg had the right to terminate the contract at any time. But what if Bloomberg was told, forced or otherwise convinced to shut down and terminate service providers contracts?

Wouldn’t such an act constitute tortious interference with contract or perspective business advantage?” asks Florida attorney Anthony Martinez, a Litigation Discovery Expert, Consultant and Strategist, who will be hosting a blog forum discussing this subject on Thursday, February 21, 2013 at 8 pm EST on his Blog Talk Radio Show – “Strategy No 3. Securitization – The Truth About Your Loan“. 

Last July 2012, shortly after Hawaii attorney Gary Dubin submitted a declaration of a Bloomberg Terminal analyst who had found a loan Aurora (the servicer) claimed to own actively trading in a Lehman XS Trust 2007-5H  to the Hawaii United States District Court, Honorable Judge Seabright, the company Mr. Dubin used to obtain the research suddenly was frozen out of the LFND portion of Bloomberg Terminal.

BT loan located

The opposing counsel was RCO Hawaii aka Northwest Trustee Services, Inc. which is a full-service trustee company providing default services to mortgage lenders in the Western United States, a powerful force not known for its fair play or legal ethics.

Of course, that’s not the first loan where a servicer has claimed itself as holder of the note that Mr. Dubin has located elsewhere actively trading in a trust – nor, it appears, is it the first such RCO foreclosure loan [questionably] representing the alleged holder. After his analyst was locked out of Bloomberg Terminal LFND, Mr. Dubin purchased the lease for Bloomberg Terminal for his offices. He too was recently frozen out of Bloomberg Terminal.

Buy SellYou see, if a loan is actively trading in the trust then it belongs to the Certificateholders… and in that case the court should demand an agreement or some document to establish that the Plaintiff before the court has standing to sue the homeowner – and if not – sayonara.

What do you think these banks have to hide? The fact that these loans have been paid? The fact that they bank on judges not knowing which end is up? Hey, if the loan is paid – it is paid, right? Lord knows, after they’ve put the homeowners through such stress, taken billion$ of dollars from the taxpayers to prop themselves up when they should have been arrested, surely the banks are not expected to allow research and discovery to get to the actual truth – on, my no!

Someday, maybe judges will realize that there are no funds in their mutual funds, that the stock market is severely over-leveraged and that it can’t keep this up for very much long – and then…and only then will they start interpreting and following the rule of law in order to make decent decisions.

Dallas Fed: Why We Must End Too Big To Fail

Top reasons why your Clerk of Court or Register of Deeds should reject a document for recording

Below is an initial draft of top reasons for document rejection. The list is certainly not all inclusive and laws of course vary by state. It is a general reference guideline that relates to conveyance and security instruments.

One of the problems with foreclosures and land title (generally speaking) are risks inherent from purchasing a property with unknown, undisclosed or undischarged liens.

The finance industry went from temporarily delusional to downright felonious in some of their business practices. The record number of investigations into fraudulent business practices, investor class action lawsuits, homeowner lawsuits and recent settlement agreements lends credibility to the fact that something went terribly wrong.

Part of the problem was that during the run up and peak of the housing market lenders were loaning money at a rapid pace on real estate sales and home equity 2nd loans using ‘limited’ or ‘present owner’ title searches. This means that title abstractors and title examiners went back 1 owner in the chain of title to search for records that may have adversely impacted title to the property. The one owner was typically the current owner and no consideration was given to prior title flaws.

*THEY MISSED A LOT. Now that the market has dramatically changed, we need more attention and oversight at the local level to preserve and protect land values and property records.

*MANY PROFESSIONALS in the lending, title and real estate industry rely on title insurance companies to assure their clients that they will be protected when buying or selling real property. You often hear the words “that’s what title insurance is for.” What you don’t hear is that title insurers do not insure matters not of record. Off book transactions are not covered unless there was a separate rider added to the policy that would have covered matters not of record. In a majority of cases this would leave out the possibility that title insurance would offer protection from an undisclosed interest claiming lien-holder status on an off book transaction that involved the alleged sale of a note. The title insurance commitment and closing instructions would have required a discharge or subordination of any undischarged lien prior to closing. Whatever transpired subsequent to closing was likely an uninsured or uninsurable event from a title insurance standpoint.

Title insurance is optional, you are not required to buy it and there are policies available to protect the lender and owner from certain limited risks. Homeowners may or may not have received a copy of their title insurance commitment at closing including copies of their signed HUD statement and other closing documents. Also, as you know we often hear stories of people who never received copies of their final title policy. There are dozens of things that can and do adversely impact title. Current and previous owner; divorce, probate, bankruptcy, mortgage, ucc lien, irs lien, code enforcement lien, hoa or condo lien, judments in favor of state & us govt, state tax warrants and other encumbrances are just some of the things that can potentially cloud title.

Now more than ever Clerks and Register of Deeds need to be proactive in preventing their registries from becoming overwhelmed with bad documents and erroneous filings. It is one thing to say that a registry has low standards but to say that there are no standards for recording (as in those Clerks and Registrars who state “we record as presented”) is completely absurd and patently false. Clerks and Recorders do not and should not “record as presented” and they know it. The Clerks and Registrars are our first line of defense and we should expect them to abide by the highest standards possible in order to prevent the erosion of property rights from further taking place.

1. Illegible Document.
2. Incorrect Fee.
3. Missing Signature.
4. Signature does not match.
5. Notary stamp missing.
6. Notary date missing.
7. Incomplete notary.
8. Prepared by statement missing.
9. Names not printed/typed under signature.
10. Grantor address missing.
11. Grantee address missing.
12. Reference from previously recorded deed missing.
13. Marital status of Grantor missing.
14. Recording district not included on face or within document.
15. Return to info missing.
16. Tax affidavit missing.
17. Inadequate space for recording certificate.
18. Heading/caption of the instrument is missing.
19. Document not authorized by state to be recorded.
20. Not an original document.
21. No witness signatures as required by state.
22. No legal description or inadequate legal.
23. Missing signature of non-titled spouse.
24. Date of execution of document missing.
25. No real estate transfer declaration or exemption stamp clause.
26. Disclosure statement missing or incomplete.
27. Corporate seal missing or illegible.
28. Taxes not paid with submission.
29. Missing parcel Identification number.
30. Indexing instructions missing.
31. Transfer statement or intake sheet not included.
32. Declaration of value form not submitted.
33. Separate document required for discharge.
34. Signature inconsistent with names on document.
35. Lack of original signature.
36. Miscalculated doc stamp and/or transfer tax.
37. Special forms not submitted with deed.
38. Statement of consideration missing.
39. Reference to original documents missing from subsequent docs.
(corrective or re-recorded documents)
40. Any part of the text, including attachments are illegible or incapable
of reproduction.
41. Certificate of residence (homestead) missing or unsigned.
42. Oath of value missing.
43. Documents references exhibits but none attached.