Blast From Past-Indepedent Foreclosure Review

Posted by kevin on October 11, 2014 under Foreclosure Blog | Comments are off for this article

I recently conducted a review of a borrower file to determine whether there were any defenses to a pending foreclosure action which at the final judgment stage. I noted that the homeowner received $600 from the Independent Foreclosure Review.

Brought back memories, so I searched my notes about this so-called review. Kudos to Naked Capitalism blog where I got most of my anecdotal information. Also, a nod to Prof Levitin from Georgetown The following is a piecing together of my notes:

The banks had agreed to hire the reviewers, pay them, coordinate their efforts, all presumably within the oversight of the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC). Then after a year and a half of spending $1.5 billion on this program of which little or nothing went to the homeowner victims of the banks’ foreclosure abuses, the banks persuaded the OCC that the reviews were not worthwhile.

2 Points.

1. Back in October 2011 as the Independent Foreclosure Reviews beginning, Georgetown Law Professor Adam Levitin wrote a long blog he called “Robosigning 2.0: Mortgage Foreclosure File Reviewers.” In it he reviewed and criticized a bank’s temp agency’s help-wanted ad for the reviewers. His main conclusions:

“I have seldom seen a document that says more about the… malarkey that the OCC and Fed are trying to pass off to cover for the banks than this job ad. I think it demolishes even the thin fiction that the OCC/Fed servicing consent orders are anything more than [fake] Potemkin villages. Instead, what we have here is nothing less than a federally-blessed Robosigning 2.0.”
“Bottom line here–it’s hard to take the OCC/Fed consent orders seriously when all they mean is that a marginally more skilled employee is reviewing the robosigners’ original work….”

2. Regretfully, what then actually happened as the banks proceeded to hire and work with these reviewers appears to be much worse even than Prof. Levitin anticipated. One former reviewer wrote a very long comment describing in great detail how the bank where was hired to conduct these reviews actively suppressed his and other reviewers’ efforts to find foreclosure errors and abuses, and to locate and compensate homeowners. Here are samples of what he wrote:

“We were supposedly independent contractors, but we worked directly under bank and lenders authority and supervision. Any findings we made were quality controlled by the bank. Any findings we made came directly under the scrutiny of the bank. Any arguments over our findings, and whether they should be changed or not could and often did result in termination from the program (meaning the reviewers got fired) without cause or warning and we had no recourse because we were contractors.”
“Other issues began to come up…The situation was becoming heated as Claim Reviewers (as we were called) began finding more and more issues of law, not to mention, incompetence, and immorality and poor judgment…[T]here were tensions building between Claim Reviewers and bank managers as the list of harm on borrowers grew. However, the bank and the OCC did find a solution. Take the questions out of the tests we were doing that asked about issues of law. So one test that had 2200 investigative questions (there are about a dozen tests for a file review) now became about 550 questions. Issues of law were removed.”
“At another of our group meetings we were told that if a borrower did not specifically cite the law or statute that was violated in their complaint that we were not to address a violation of law found in the file as it was now irrelevant to the issues at hand… The problem was that usually a borrower only had a feeling they got shafted somehow, but did not specifically know how. The complaint form also didn’t mention to the borrower that they had to be specific about issues of law. The form only asked generic questions about what happened. Now it was very evident that we were there as window dressing and not the compassionate heroes we thought we were.”

The problem was that the banks sold the OCC on the idea that the audits would vindicate the banks; however, as the reviewers got more into their work, they discovered that the opposite was true. At that point, the banks complained that the costs of the audits was prohibitive, and before you know it, the audits stopped. Many of my clients got checks with some sort of vague explanation of why. A joke.

Foreclosure Review- Panned by Government Accountablity Office

Posted by kevin on April 5, 2013 under Foreclosure Blog | Comments are off for this article

Earlier this week, I blogged about the Chairperson of he SEC going to Promontory, the audit company that has come under fire because of the botched Independent Foreclosure Reviews. Yesterday, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) faulted the Office of the Comptroller of Currency (OCC) and Federal Reserve for not insuring that banks were using consistent methods to determine which foreclosure files to scrutinize for possible errors.

Auditors including Promontory Financial Group, rather than following through on the audits, pushed for settlement. The settlement is listed at $9.3 billion, but like the so-called $25 billion settlement, the lenders are putting up only a small fraction of the settlement in hard cash. The rest are a complicated scheme of credits that defy common sense. More importantly, by abandoning the audits, the questions becomes, how do you know who is entitled to settlement proceeds and how much?

The GAO did not focus on these practical issues, but just said that the auditors should have at least had the same checklist for their audits- otherwise people with the same issue could get a different result. GAO said that the buck stopped with OCC and the Fed. I guess they dropped the buck.

The borrowers are the people. And the people get the short end when government takes care of the big guys. Our greatest President (or at least in the top 2) has been in the press a lot over the last couple of months because of the Spielberg movie. I wonder what Mr. Lincoln would think of this government of the people, by the people, for the people?

SEC shot down by US Supremes

Posted by kevin on February 28, 2013 under Foreclosure Blog | Comments are off for this article

One of the recurring themes in this blog (and others) has been the dismal record of US governmental agencies in trying to thwart lawlessness on the part of banks and individuals in the securities industry. Whether it was the sell out known as the $25B settlement, or the OCC’s abrupt curtailment of the foreclosure audits or the administration’s about face on Chapter 13 cramdowns, you get the impression that the consumer enforcement agencies are not there for the consumers.

In the latest debacle, the US Supreme Court voted 9-0 against the SEC effectively throwing out an enforcement action against two money managers at Gabelli Funds. The grounds- the SEC did not bring the action within the 5 year statute of limitations. The acts complained of happened between 1999 and 2002. The SEC claims it discovered the violations in 2003 but did not bring the penalty action until 2008. Given that the US Supremes are so divided, it is a real slap in the face of the SEC that they were shot down by a unanimous court.

On one hand, you could say that the SEC was thwarted in trying to protect the public. However, on the other hand, the question is why did it take the SEC 5 years from discovery to file its complaint. Clearly, it could not have been a high priority. Which gets us back to the initial question of whether the agencies are helping the consumer or playing ball with their future employers. Without strong restrictions on going from agencies like the SEC to Wall St, I do not think that you are going to root out this problem.