Tag Archives: 2924

The NEW Sevicing abuse cases california Jan1, 2013

10 Dec

Abuses by Mortgage Service Companies

Although predatory lending has received far more attention than abusive servicing, a significant percentage of consumer complaints over loans involve servicing, not origination. For example, the director of the Nevada Fair Housing Center testified that of the hundreds of complaints of predatory lending issues her office received in 2002, about 42 percent involved servicing once the loan was transferred

Abusive Mortgage Servicing Defined:

Abusive servicing occurs when a servicer, either through action or inaction, obtains or attempts to obtain unwarranted fees or other costs from borrowers, engages in unfair collection practices, or through its own improper behavior or inaction causes borrowers to be more likely to go into default or have their homes foreclosed. Abusive practices should be distinguished from appropriate actions that may harm borrowers, such as a servicer merely collecting appropriate late fees or foreclosing on borrowers who do not make their payments despite proper loss mitigation efforts. Servicing can be abusive either intentionally, when there is intent to obtain unwarranted fees, or negligently, when, for example, a servicer’s records are so disorganized that borrowers are regularly charged late fees even when mortgage payments were made on time.

Abusive servicing often happens to debtors who have filed a Chapter 13 Bankruptcy Plan and are in the process of making payments under the Plan. If you suspect that your mortgage servicer is abusing your relationship by charging unnecessary fees while you are paying off your Chapter 13 Plan, call us. We can help.

There is significant evidence that some Mortgage servicers have engaged in abusive behavior and that borrowers have frequently been the victims. Some servicers have engaged in practices that are not only detrimental to borrowers but also illegal Such abuse has been documented in court opinions and decisions, in the decisions and findings of ratings agencies, in litigation and settlements obtained by government agencies against prominent servicers, in congressional testimony, and in newspaper accounts of borrowers who claim to have been mistreated by servicers. The abusive servicing practices documented in these sources include improper foreclosure or attempted foreclosure, improper fees, improper forced-placed insurance, and improper use or oversight of escrow funds .

Improper foreclosure or attempted foreclosure

Because servicers can exact fees associated with foreclosures, such as attorneys’ fees, some servicers have attempted to foreclose on property even when borrowers are current on their payments or without giving borrowers enough time to repay or otherwise working with them on a repayment plan Furthermore, a speedy foreclosure may save servicers the cost of attempting other techniques that might have prevented the foreclosure.

Some servicers have been so brazen that they have regularly claimed to the courts that borrowers were in default so as to justify foreclosure, even though the borrowers were current on their payments. Other courts have also decried the frequent use of false statements to obtain relief from stay in order to foreclose on borrowers’ homes. For example, in Hart v. GMAC Mortgage Corporation, et al., 246 B.R. 709 (2000), even though the borrower had made the payments required of him by a forbearance agreement he had entered into with the servicer (GMAC Mortgage Corporation), it created a “negative suspense account” for moneys it had paid out, improperly charged the borrower an additional monthly sum to repay the negative suspense account, charged him late fees for failing to make the entire payment demanded, and began foreclosure proceedings.

Improper fees

Claiming that borrowers are in default when they are actually current allows servicers to charge unwarranted fees, either late fees or fees related to default and foreclosure. Servicers receive as a conventional fee a percentage of the total value of the loans they service, typically 25 basis points for prime loans and 50 basis points for subprime loans In addition, contracts typically provide that the servicer, not the trustee or investors, has the right to keep any and all late fees or fees associated with defaults. Servicers charge late fees not only because they act as a prod to coax borrowers into making payments on time, but also because borrowers who fail to make payments impose additional costs on servicers, which must then engage in loss mitigation to induce payment.

Such fees are a crucial part of servicers’ income. For example, one servicer’s CEO reportedly stated that extra fees, such as late fees, appeared to be paying for all of the operating costs of the company’s entire servicing department, leaving the conventional servicing fee almost completely profit The pressure to collect such fees appears to be higher on subprime servicers than on prime servicers:

Because borrowers typically cannot prove the exact date a payment was received, servicers can charge late fees even when they receive the payment on time Improper late fees may also be based on the loss of borrowers’ payments by servicers, their inability to track those payments accurately, or their failure to post payments in a timely fashion. In Ronemus v. FTB Mortgage Services, 201 B.R. 458 (1996), under a Chapter 13 bankruptcy plan, the borrowers had made all of their payments on time except for two; they received permission to pay these two late and paid late fees for the privilege. However, the servicer, FTB Mortgage Services, misapplied their payments, then began placing their payments into a suspense account and collecting unauthorized late fees. The servicer ignored several letters from the borrowers’ attorney attempting to clear up the matter, sent regular demands for late fees, and began harassing the borrowers with collection efforts. When the borrowers sued, the servicer submitted to the court an artificially inflated accounting of how much the borrowers owed.

Some servicers have sent out late notices even when they have received timely payments and even before the end of a borrower’s grace period Worse yet, a servicer might pocket the payment, such as an extra payment of principal, and never credit it to the borrower Late fees on timely payments are a common problem when borrowers are making mortgage payments through a bankruptcy plan

Moreover, some servicers have also added false fees and charges not authorized by law or contract to their monthly payment demands, relying on borrowers’ ignorance of the exact amount owed. They can collect such fees or other unwarranted claims by submitting inaccurate payoff demands when a borrower refinances or sells the house). Or they can place the borrowers’ monthly payments in a suspense account and then charge late fees even though they received the payment Worse yet, some servicers pyramid their late fees, applying a portion of the current payment to a previous late fee and then charging an additional late fee even though the borrower has made a timely and full payment for the new month Pyramiding late fees allows servicers to charge late fees month after month even though the borrower made only one late payment

Servicers can turn their fees into a profit center by sending inaccurate monthly payment demands, demanding unearned fees or charges not owed, or imposing fees higher than the expenses for a panoply of actions For example, some servicers take advantage of borrowers’ ignorance by charging fees, such as prepayment penalties, where the note does not provide for them Servicers have sometimes imposed a uniform set of fees over an entire pool of loans, disregarding the fact that some of the loan documents did not provide for those particular fees. Or they charge more for attorneys’, property inspection, or appraisal fees than were actually incurred. Some servicers may add a fee by conducting unnecessary property inspections, having an agent drive by even when the borrower is not in default, or conducting multiple inspections during a single period of default to charge the resulting multiple fees

The complexity of the terms of many loans makes it difficult for borrowers to discover whether they are being overcharged Moreover, servicers can frustrate any attempts to sort out which fees are genuine.

Improperly forced-placed insurance

Mortgage holders are entitled under the terms of the loan to require borrowers to carry homeowners’ insurance naming the holder as the payee in case of loss and to force-place insurance by buying policies for borrowers who fail to do so and charging them for the premiums However, some servicers have force-placed insurance even in cases where the borrower already had it and even provided evidence of it to the servicer Worse yet, servicers have charged for force-placed insurance without even purchasing it. Premiums for force-placed insurance are often inflated in that they provide protection in excess of what the loan.

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Escrow Account Mismanagement

One of the benefits of servicing mortgages is controlling escrow accounts to pay for insurance, taxes, and the like and, in most states, keeping any interest earned on these accounts Borrowers have complained that servicers have failed to make tax or insurance payments when they were due or at all. The treasurer of the country’s second largest county estimated that this failure to make timely payments cost borrowers late fees of at least $2 million in that county over a two-year span, causing some to lose their homes. If servicers fail to make insurance payments and a policy lapses, borrowers may face much higher insurance costs even if they purchase their own, non-force-placed policy. Worse yet, borrowers may find themselves unable to buy insurance at all if they cannot find a new insurer willing to write them a policy

You can make a claim for mortgage service abuse, and often the court will award actual and punitive damages. If you think you have been a victim of mortgage service abuse, contact us. We can help you make a claim.

Civil Code §2924.12(b) Right to Sue Mortgage Servicers for Injunctive Relief, Damages, Treble Damages, and Right to Attorney’s Fees. : )

5 Dec

prohabition-images

H. Right to Sue Mortgage Servicers for Injunctive Relief, Damages, Treble Damages, and Right to Attorney’s Fees

2013 is going to be a good year

One of the most important provisions of the Act from a lender’s perspective is that it provides borrowers with the right to sue mortgage servicers for injunctive relief before the trustee’s deed upon sale has recorded, or if it has already recorded, to sue for actual economic damages, if the mortgage servicer has not corrected any “material” violation of certain enumerated portions of the Act before the trustee’s deed upon sale recorded. (Civil Code §2924.12(a).) In an area that will certainly open up a Pandora’s Box of litigation, the Act does not define what constitutes a “material” violation of the Act. If a court finds that the violation was intentional, reckless or willful, the court can award the borrower the greater of treble (triple) damages or $50,000. (Civil Code §2924.12(b).) Furthermore, a violation of the enumerated provisions of the Act is also deemed to be a violation of the licensing laws if committed by a person licensed as a consumer or commercial finance lender or broker, a residential mortgage lender or servicer, or a licensed real estate broker or salesman. (Civil Code §2924.12(d).) Lastly, in a one-sided attorney’s fee provision that only benefits borrowers, the court may award a borrower who obtains an injunction or receives an award of economic damages as a result of the violation of the Act their reasonable attorney’s fees and costs as the prevailing party. (Civil Code §2924.12(i).) This provides all the more reason for lenders and mortgage servicers to comply with the terms of the Act. This provision for the recovery by only the borrower of their reasonable attorney’s fees makes it more likely that borrowers will file litigation against mortgage lenders or servicers than they otherwise would. Compliance is the lender’s or mortgage servicer’s best defense to litigation under the Act.

Significantly for lenders, as long as the mortgage servicer remedies the material violation of the Act before the trustee’s deed upon sale has recorded, the Act specifically provides that the mortgage servicer shall not be liable under the Act for any violation or damages. (Civil Code §2924.12(b) & (c).) The Act also clarifies that signatories to the National Mortgage Settlement who are in compliance with the terms of that settlement, as they relate to the terms of the Act, will not face liability under the Act. (Civil Code §2924.12(g).

 

Fix Income Inequality with $10 million Loans for Everyone the 99 solution

25 Apr

“I wonder how many audience members know that Bair’s plan is more or less exactly the revenue model for all of America’s biggest banks. You go to the Fed, get a buttload of free money, lend it out at interest (perversely enough, including loans right back to the U.S. government), then pocket the profit.” Matt Taibbi

From Rolling Stone’s Matt Taibbi on Sheila Bair’s Sarcastic Piece

I hope everyone saw ex-Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation chief Sheila Bair’s editorial in the Washington Post, entitled, “Fix Income Inequality with $10 million Loans for Everyone!” The piece might have set a world record for public bitter sarcasm by a former top regulatory official.

In it, Bair points out that since we’ve been giving zero-interest loans to all of the big banks, why don’t we do the same thing for actual people, to solve the income inequality program? If the Fed handed out $10 million to every person, and then got each of those people to invest, say, in foreign debt, we could all be back on our feet in no time:

Under my plan, each American household could borrow $10 million from the Fed at zero interest. The more conservative among us can take that money and buy 10-year Treasury bonds. At the current 2 percent annual interest rate, we can pocket a nice $200,000 a year to live on. The more adventuresome can buy 10-year Greek debt at 21 percent, for an annual income of $2.1 million. Or if Greece is a little too risky for you, go with Portugal, at about 12 percent, or $1.2 million dollars a year. (No sense in getting greedy.)

Every time I watch a Republican debate, and hear these supposedly anti-welfare crowds booing the idea of stiffer regulation of Wall Street, I wonder how many audience members know that Bair’s plan is more or less exactly the revenue model for all of America’s biggest banks. You go to the Fed, get a buttload of free money, lend it out at interest (perversely enough, including loans right back to the U.S. government), then pocket the profit.http://www.democracynow.org/embed/story/2011/7/22/pushing_crisis_gop_cries_wolf_on

Logo of the United States Federal Deposit Insu...

Logo of the United States Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, which incorporates the seal. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Considering that we now know that the Fed gave out something like $16 trillion in secret emergency loans to big banks on top of the bailouts we actually knew about, you might ask yourself: How are these guys in financial trouble? How can they not be making mountains of money, risk-free? But they are in financial trouble:

• We’re about to see yet another big blow to all of the usual suspects – Goldman, Citi, Bank of America, and especially Morgan Stanley, all of whom face potential downgrades by Moody’s in the near future.

We’ve known this was coming for some time, but the news this week is that the giant money-managing firm BlackRock is talking about moving its business elsewhere. Laurence Fink, BlackRock’s CEO, told the New York Times: “If Moody’s does indeed downgrade these institutions, we may have a need to move some business around to higher-rated institutions.”

It’s one thing when Zero Hedge, William Black, myself, or some rogue Fed officers in Dallas decide to point fingers at the big banks. But when big money players stop trading with those firms, that’s when the death spirals begin.

Morgan Stanley in particular should be sweating. They’re apparently going to be downgraded three notches, where they’ll be joining Citi and Bank of America at a level just above junk. But no worries: Bank CFO Ruth Porat announced that a three-level downgrade was “manageable” and that only losers rely totally on agencies like Moody’s to judge creditworthiness. “A lot of clients are doing their own credit work,” she said.

• Meanwhile, Bank of America reported its first-quarter results yesterday. Despite that massive ongoing support from the Fed, it earned just $653 million in the first quarter, but astonishingly the results were hailed by most of the financial media as good news. Its home-turf paper, the San Francisco Chronicle, crowed that BOA “Posts Higher Profits As Trading Results Rebound.” Bloomberg, meanwhile, summed up results this way: “Bank of America Beats Analyst Estimates As Trading Jumps.”

But the New York Times noted that BOA’s first-quarter profit of $653 million was down from $2 billion a year ago, and paled compared to results of more successful banks like Chase and Wells Fargo.

Zero Hedge, meanwhile, posted an amusing commentary on BOA’s results, pointing out that the bank quietly reclassified nearly two billion dollars’ worth of real estate loans. This is from BOA’s report:

During 1Q12, the bank regulatory agencies jointly issued interagency supervisory guidance on nonaccrual policies for junior-lien consumer real estate loans. In accordance with this new guidance, beginning in 1Q12, we classify junior-lien home equity loans as nonperforming when the first-lien loan becomes 90 days past due even if the junior-lien loan is performing. As a result of this change, we reclassified $1.85B of performing home equity loans to nonperforming.

In other words, Bank of America described nearly two billion dollars of crap on their books as performing loans, until the government this year forced them to admit it was crap.

ZH and others also noted that BOA wildly underestimated its exposure to litigation, but that’s nothing new. Anyway, despite the inconsistencies in its report, and despite the fact that it’s about to be downgraded – again – Bank of America’s shares are up again, pushing $9 today.

Post Foreclosure and Reversing your CA Foreclosure Sale under new Case Law

7 Apr

Reversing a foreclosure sale:  Avoiding the “Tender Rule”

Firm commentary:

Foreclosure auction signs

Foreclosure auction signs (Photo credit: niallkennedy)

If you are considering suing to reverse a foreclosure sale, consider the LONA case for a better understanding on CA non-judicial sales and exceptions to the requirement that you must offer to pay off the loan to title to your home back in your name.

After a nonjudicial foreclosure sale has been completed, the traditional method by which the sale is challenged is a suit in equity to set aside the trustee’s sale. (Anderson v. Heart Federal Sav. & Loan Assn. (1989) 208 Cal.App.3d 202, 209-210.) Generally, a challenge to the validity of a trustee’s sale is an attempt to have the sale set aside and to have the title restored. (Onofrio v. Rice (1997) 55 Cal.App.4th 413, 424 (Onofrio), citing 4 Miller & Starr, Cal. Real Estate (2d ed. 1989) Deeds of Trusts & Mortgages, § 9.154, pp. 507-508.)

 

The burden of proof is on the former owner:

A nonjudicial foreclosure sale is accompanied by a common law presumption that it ‗was conducted regularly and fairly.  This presumption may only be rebutted by substantial evidence of prejudicial procedural irregularity. The mere inadequacy of price, absent some procedural irregularity that contributed to the inadequacy of price or otherwise injured the trustor, is insufficient to set aside a nonjudicial foreclosure sale.

It is the burden of the party challenging the trustee’s sale to prove such irregularity and thereby overcome the presumption of the sale’s regularity.‖ (Melendrez v. D & I Investment, Inc. (2005) 127 Cal. App.4th 1238, 1258 (Melendrez) In addition, under section 2924,6 there is a conclusive statutory presumption created in favor of a bona fide purchaser who receives a trustee’s deed that contains a recital that the trustee has fulfilled its statutory notice requirements. (Melendrez, supra, 127 Cal App.4th at p. 1250.)

Case law instructs that the elements of an equitable cause of action to set aside a foreclosure sale are: (1) the trustee or mortgagee caused an illegal, fraudulent, or willfully oppressive sale of real property pursuant to a power of sale in a mortgage or deed of trust;

(2) the party attacking the sale (usually but not always the trustor or mortgagor) was prejudiced or harmed; and

(3) in cases where the trustor or mortgagor challenges the sale, the trustor or mortgagor tendered the amount of the secured indebtedness or was excused from tendering. (Bank of America etc. Assn. v. Reidy, supra, 15 Cal.2d at p. 248; Saterstrom v. Glick Bros. Sash, Door & Mill Co. (1931) 118 Cal.App. 379, 383 (Saterstrom) [trustee's sale set aside where deed of trust was void because it failed to adequately describe property]; Stockton v. Newman (1957) 148 Cal.App.2d 558, 564 (Stockton) [trustor sought rescission of the contract to purchase the property and the promissory note on grounds of fraud]; Sierra-Bay Fed. Land Bank Ass’n v. Superior Court (1991) 227 Cal.App.3d (1991) 227 Cal.App.3d 318, 337 (Sierra-Bay) [to set aside sale, ―debtor must allege such unfairness or irregularity that, when coupled with the inadequacy of price obtained at the sale, it is appropriate to invalidate the sale‖; ―debtor must offer to do equity by making a tender or otherwise offering to pay his debt‖]; Abadallah v. United Savings Bank (1996) 43 Cal.App.4th 1101, 1109 (Abadallah) [tender element]; Munger v. Moore (1970) 11 Cal.App.3d 1, 7 [damages action for wrongful foreclosure]; see also 1 Bernhardt, Mortgages, Deeds of Trust and Foreclosure Litigation (Cont.Ed.Bar 4th ed. 2011 supp.) § 7.67, pp. 580-581 and cases cited therein summarizing grounds for setting aside trustee sale.)

 

The Tender requirement

Because the action is in equity, a defaulted borrower who seeks to set aside a trustee’s sale is required to do equity before the court will exercise its equitable powers. (MCA, Inc. v. Universal Diversified Enterprises Corp. (1972) 27 Cal.App.3d 170, 177 (MCA).)

Consequently, as a condition precedent to an action by the borrower to set aside the trustee’s sale on the ground that the sale is voidable because of irregularities in the sale notice or procedure, the borrower must offer to pay the full amount of the debt for which the property was security. (Abadallah, supra, 43 Cal.App.4th at p. 1109; Onofrio, supra, at p. 424 [the borrower must pay, or offer to pay, the secured debt, or at least all of the delinquencies and costs due for redemption, before commencing the action].)

The rationale behind the rule is that if [the borrower] could not have redeemed the property had the sale procedures been proper, any irregularities in the sale did not result in damages to the [borrower]. (FPCI RE-HAB 01 v. E & G Investments, Ltd. (1989) 207 Cal.App.3d 1018, 1022.)

 

A series of cases have come down in the last few weeks that have some very serious ramifications for lenders.

The most dramatic case is that of Lona v. Citibank, based on a property right here in my back yard. The fact pattern in Lona is that the bank foreclosed and Lona sued the bank to void the sale on the absurd theory that the lender made him an unconscionable loan he couldn’t possibly afford therefore the loan was void. (Apparently, he’s a mushroom farmer in Hollister making $40k/yr)*.

Lona alleged that he agreed to refinance the home, on which he owed $1.24 million at the time, in response to an ad. The monthly payments were more than four times his income, so unsurprisingly, he defaulted within five months and the home was sold at a trustee’s sale in August 2008.

Lona obtained two re-financed loans: the first being $1.125 million, a 30-year term and an interest rate that was fixed at 8.25% for five years and adjustable annually after that, with a cap of 13.255 and the second loan being $375,000, with a term of 15 years, a fixed rate of 12.25%, monthly payments of nearly $4,000, and a balloon payment of $327,000 at the end of the 15 year term.

Lona testified that English was not his first language, he was 50 years old at the time of the loan and he that he did not understand the loan documents. Of course, he also did not read the loan documents.

After Citibank foreclosed, it filed an unlawful detainer action (“UD”) to evict Lona, but the UD was consolidated with Lona’s lawsuit to void and set aside the foreclosure sale. According to Citibank, Lona had been “living for free” in the house and had not posted bond or paid any “impound funds.” (since 2007!!!)

San Benito County Superior Court Judge Harry Tobias said Lona’s “bare allegations” were not enough to persuade him that the bank or the broker had engaged in misconduct and that it was “hard to believe” that the Lonas weren’t “responsible for their own conduct,” especially since they owned other property that had been foreclosed upon.

Despite the craziness of Plaintiff’s theory, the appellate court rendered a 32 page opinion that discussed in major detail that:
1) The borrower did not have to tender offer (which goes against almost a century of a legal precedent); and
2) The borrower’s allegations of the loan being unconscionable were not wholly disproven by the lenders.

The Court decision stated “Lona had received $1.5 million from the lenders and had not made any payments since June 2007. Meanwhile, he and his wife continued to live in the house for free, without paying rent or any impound funds…” and so it was quite aware of the inequities or injustice of the situation. However, the Court still concluded that the Lenders did not meet their burden of proof on summary judgment and so the case may continue at its snail pace until trial. [Lona v. Citibank No. H036140. Court of Appeals of California, Sixth District. (December 21, 2011.)]

The other case that came down a week before Lona (Dec. 21) was the Bardasian (Dec. 15) case, where the borrower sued because the lender’s trustee did not discuss loan mod options with her as required by Civil Code Section 2923.5. The court granted the borrower’s injunction and like Lona, the borrowers did not tender, nor put up an undertaking or surety for the bond. The lower court had ruled at the injunction hearing that the trustee had not complied with the code and that Bardasian must bond in the amount of $20k. When she failed to do so, the lower court dissolved the injunction.

On appeal, the appellate court concluded that since the injunction had been issued after the court had ruled on the merits stating:

“Plaintiff seeks postponement of the foreclosure sale until the defendants comply with Civil Code [section] 2923.5. Plaintiff has established that BAC Home Loan Servicing did not comply with Civil Code section 2923.5 prior to the issuance of the notice of default on September 15, 2010.” “Plaintiff states under penalty of perjury that no contact was ever made at least 30 days before the notice of default was issued…”

that the injunction was not actually “preliminary” at all, but that the plaintiffs had essentially won their argument showing that the defendants had not complied with Section 2923.5 and so no Notice of Default could successfully issue and the trustee’s sale could not take place until Section 2923.5 had been complied with. (Bardasian v. Santa Clara Partners Mortgage C068488. Court of Appeals of California, Third District. (December 15, 2011).

So in one month, two appellate cases came down where the borrower could either pursue voiding a trustee’s sale or enjoin one without tendering!

2012 will prove to be an interesting year as more decisions stemming from the subprime meltdown start coming down the pipeline.

* The decision contained a footnote that Lona’s loan application that apparently stated Lona made $20k/month, or $240k/yr. Clearly, as stated income loans go, that was a whopper!

The Exceptions to the Tender requirement under LONA

First, if the borrower’s action attacks the validity of the underlying debt, a tender is not required since it would constitute an affirmation of the debt. (Stockton, supra, (1957) 148 Cal.App.2d at p. 564) [trustor sought rescission of the contract to purchase the property and the promissory note on grounds of fraud]; Onofrio, supra, 55 Cal.App.4th at p. 424.)

Second, a tender will not be required when the person who seeks to set aside the trustee’s sale has a counter-claim or set-off against the beneficiary. In such cases, it is deemed that the tender and the counter claim offset one another, and if the offset is equal to or greater than the amount due, a tender is not required. (Hauger, supra, (1954) 42 Cal.2d at p. 755.)

 

Third, a tender may not be required where it would be inequitable to impose such a condition on the party challenging the sale. (Humboldt Savings Bank v. McCleverty (1911) 161 Cal. 285, 291 (Humboldt). In Humboldt, the defendant’s deceased husband borrowed $55,300 from the plaintiff bank secured by two pieces of property. The defendant had a $5,000 homestead on one of the properties. (Id. at p. 287.) When the defendant’s husband defaulted on the debt, the bank foreclosed on both properties. In response to the bank’s argument that the defendant had to tender the entire debt as a condition precedent to having the sale set aside, the court held that it would be inequitable to require the defendant to•pay, or offer to pay, a debt of $57,000, for which she is in no way liable to attack the sale of her $5,000 homestead.10 (Id. at p. 291.)

Fourth, no tender will be required when the trustor is not required to rely on equity to attack the deed because the trustee’s deed is void on its face. (Dimock, supra, 81 Cal.App.4th at p. 878 [beneficiary substituted trustees; trustee's sale void where original trustee completed trustee's sale after being replaced by new trustee because original trustee no longer had power to convey property].)

 For a better understanding of how this new case affects your individual situation, contact the Firm and set up an appointment.

THE SAN FRANSICO “SMOKING GUN REPORT”

19 Feb

Audit Uncovers Extensive Flaws in Foreclosures

By
Published: February 15, 2012

An audit by San Francisco county officials of about 400 recent foreclosures there determined that almost all involved either legal violations or suspicious documentation, according to a report released Wednesday.

Annie Tritt for The New York Times

Phil Ting, the San Francisco assessor-recorder, found widespread violations or irregularities in files of properties subject to foreclosure sales.

Readers’ Comments

Readers shared their thoughts on this article.

Anecdotal evidence indicating foreclosure abuse has been plentiful since the mortgage boom turned to bust in 2008. But the detailed and comprehensive nature of the San Francisco findings suggest how pervasive foreclosure irregularities may be across the nation.

The improprieties range from the basic — a failure to warn borrowers that they were in default on their loans as required by law — to the arcane. For example, transfers of many loans in the foreclosure files were made by entities that had no right to assign them and institutions took back properties in auctions even though they had not proved ownership.

Commissioned by Phil Ting, the San Francisco assessor-recorder, the report examined files of properties subject to foreclosure sales in the county from January 2009 to November 2011. About 84 percent of the files contained what appear to be clear violations of law, it said, and fully two-thirds had at least four violations or irregularities.

Kathleen Engel, a professor at Suffolk University Law School in Boston said: “If there were any lingering doubts about whether the problems with loan documents in foreclosures were isolated, this study puts the question to rest.”

The report comes just days after the $26 billion settlement over foreclosure improprieties between five major banks and 49 state attorneys general, including California’s. Among other things, that settlement requires participating banks to reduce mortgage amounts outstanding on a wide array of loans and provide $1.5 billion in reparations for borrowers who were improperly removed from their homes.

But the precise terms of the states’ deal have not yet been disclosed. As the San Francisco analysis points out, “the settlement does not resolve most of the issues this report identifies nor immunizes lenders and servicers from a host of potential liabilities.” For example, it is a felony to knowingly file false documents with any public office in California.

In an interview late Tuesday, Mr. Ting said he would forward his findings and foreclosure files to the attorney general’s office and to local law enforcement officials. Kamala D. Harris, the California attorney general, announced a joint investigation into foreclosure abuses last December with the Nevada attorney general, Catherine Cortez Masto. The joint investigation spans both civil and criminal matters.

The depth of the problem raises questions about whether at least some foreclosures should be considered void, Mr. Ting said. “We’re not saying that every consumer should not have been foreclosed on or every lender is a bad actor, but there are significant and troubling issues,” he said.

California has been among the states hurt the most by the mortgage crisis. Because its laws, like those of 29 other states, do not require a judge to oversee foreclosures, the conduct of banks in the process is rarely scrutinized. Mr. Ting said his report was the first rigorous analysis of foreclosure improprieties in California and that it cast doubt on the validity of almost every foreclosure it examined.

“Clearly, we need to set up a process where lenders are following every part of the law,” Mr. Ting said in the interview. “It is very apparent that the system is broken from many different vantage points.”

The report, which was compiled by Aequitas Compliance Solutions, a mortgage regulatory compliance firm, did not identify specific banks involved in the irregularities. But among the legal violations uncovered in the analysis were cases where the loan servicer did not provide borrowers with a notice of default before beginning the eviction process; 8 percent of the audited foreclosures had that basic defect.

In a significant number of cases — 85 percent — documents recording the transfer of a defaulted property to a new trustee were not filed properly or on time, the report found. And in 45 percent of the foreclosures, properties were sold at auction to entities improperly claiming to be the beneficiary of the deeds of trust. In other words, the report said, “a ‘stranger’ to the deed of trust,” gained ownership of the property; as a result, the sale may be invalid, it said.

In 6 percent of cases, the same deed of trust to a property was assigned to two or more different entities, raising questions about which of them actually had the right to foreclose. Many of the foreclosures that were scrutinized showed gaps in the chain of title, the report said, indicating that written transfers from the original owner to the entity currently claiming to own the deed of trust have disappeared.

Banks involved in buying and selling foreclosed properties appear to be aware of potential problems if gaps in the chain of title cloud a subsequent buyer’s ownership of the home. Lou Pizante, a partner at Aequitas who worked on the audit, pointed to documents that banks now require buyers to sign holding the institution harmless if questions arise about the validity of the foreclosure sale.

The audit also raises serious questions about the accuracy of information recorded in the Mortgage Electronic Registry System, or MERS, which was set up in 1995 by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and major lenders. The report found that 58 percent of loans listed in the MERS database showed different owners than were reflected in other public documents like those filed with the county recorder’s office.

The report contradicted the contentions of many banks that foreclosure improprieties did little harm because the borrowers were behind on their mortgages and should have been evicted anyway. “We can deduce from the public evidence,” the report noted, “that there are indeed legitimate victims in the mortgage crisis. Whether these homeowners are systematically being deprived of legal safeguards and due process rights is an important question.”

A version of this article appeared in print on February 16, 2012, on page A1 of the New York edition with the headline: Audit Uncovers Extensive Flaws in Foreclosures.

Freddie Mac Bets Against American Homeowners

7 Feb
Freddie Mac

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Freddie Mac, the taxpayer-owned mortgage giant, has placed multibillion-dollar bets that pay off if homeowners stay trapped in expensive mortgages with interest rates well above current rates.

Freddie began increasing these bets dramatically in late 2010, the same time that the company was making it harder for homeowners to get out of such high-interest mortgages.

No evidence has emerged that these decisions were coordinated. The company is a key gatekeeper for home loans but says its traders are “walled off” from the officials who have restricted homeowners from taking advantage of historically low interest rates by imposing higher fees and new rules.

Freddie’s charter calls for the company to make home loans more accessible. Its chief executive, Charles Haldeman Jr., recently told Congress that his company is “helping financially strapped families reduce their mortgage costs through refinancing their mortgages.”

But the trades, uncovered for the first time in an investigation by ProPublica and NPR, give Freddie a powerful incentive to do the opposite, highlighting a conflict of interest at the heart of the company. In addition to being an instrument of government policy dedicated to making home loans more accessible, Freddie also has giant investment portfolios and could lose substantial amounts of money if too many borrowers refinance.

“We were actually shocked they did this,” says Scott Simon, who as the head of the giant bond fund PIMCO’s mortgage-backed securities team is one of the world’s biggest mortgage bond traders. “It seemed so out of line with their mission.”

The trades “put them squarely against the homeowner,” he says.

Those homeowners have a lot at stake, too. Many of them could cut their interest payments by thousands of dollars a year.

Freddie Mac, along with its cousin Fannie Mae, was bailed out in 2008 and is now owned by taxpayers. The companies play a pivotal role in the mortgage business because they insure most home loans in the United States, making banks likelier to lend. The companies’ rules determine whether homeowners can get loans and on what terms.

The Federal Housing Finance Agency effectively serves as Freddie’s board of directors and is ultimately responsible for Freddie’s decisions. It is run by acting director Edward DeMarco, who cannot be fired by the president except in extraordinary circumstances.

Freddie and the FHFA repeatedly declined to comment on the specific transactions.

Freddie’s moves to limit refinancing affect not only individual homeowners but the entire economy. An expansive refinancing program could help millions of homeowners, some economists say. Such an effort would “help the economy and put tens of billions of dollars back in consumers’ pockets, the equivalent of a very long-term tax cut,” says real-estate economist Christopher Mayer of the Columbia Business School. “It also is likely to reduce foreclosures and benefit the U.S. government” because Freddie and Fannie, which guarantee most mortgages in the country, would have lower losses over the long run.

Freddie Mac’s trades, while perfectly legal, came during a period when the company was supposed to be reducing its investment portfolio, according to the terms of its government takeover agreement. But these trades escalate the risk of its portfolio, because the securities Freddie has purchased are volatile and hard to sell, mortgage securities experts say.

The financial crisis in 2008 was made worse when Wall Street traders made bets against their customers and the American public. Now, some see similar behavior, only this time by traders at a government-owned company who are using leverage, which increases the potential profits but also the risk of big losses, and other Wall Street stratagems. “More than three years into the government takeover, we have Freddie Mac pursuing highly levered, complicated transactions seemingly with the purpose of trading against homeowners,” says Mayer. “These are the kinds of things that got us into trouble in the first place.”

Freddie Mac is betting against, among others, Jay and Bonnie Silverstein. The Silversteins live in an unfinished development of cul-de-sacs and yellow stucco houses about 20 miles north of Philadelphia, in a house decorated with Bonnie’s orchids and their Rose Bowl parade pin collection. The developer went bankrupt, leaving orange plastic construction fencing around some empty lots. The community clubhouse isn’t complete.

“We’re in financial Jail”

The Silversteins have a 30-year fixed mortgage with an interest rate of 6.875 percent, much higher than the going rate of less than 4 percent.  They have borrowed from family members and are living paycheck to paycheck. If they could refinance, they would save about $500 a month. He says the extra money would help them pay back some of their family members and visit their grandchildren more often.

But brokers have told the Silversteins that they cannot refinance, thanks to a Freddie Mac rule.

The Silversteins used to live in a larger house 15 minutes from their current place, in a more upscale development. They had always planned to downsize as they approached retirement. In 2005, they made the mistake of buying their new house before selling the larger one. As the housing market plummeted, they couldn’t sell their old house, so they carried two mortgages for 2½ years, wiping out their savings and 401(k). “It just drained us,” Jay Silverstein says.

Finally, they were advised to try a short sale, in which the house is sold for less than the value of the underlying mortgage. They stopped making payments on the big house for it to go through. The sale was finally completed in 2009.

Such debacles hurt a borrower’s credit rating. But Bonnie has a solid job at a doctor’s office, and Jay has a pension from working for more than two decades for Johnson & Johnson. They say they haven’t missed a payment on their current mortgage.

But the Silversteins haven’t been able to get their refi. Freddie Mac won’t insure a new loan for people who had a short sale in the last two to four years, depending on their financial condition. While the company’s previous rules prohibited some short sales, in October 2010 the company changed its criteria to include all short sales. It is unclear whether the Silverstein mortgage would have been barred from a short sale under the previous Freddie rules.

Short-term, Freddie’s trades benefit from the high-interest mortgage in which the Silversteins are trapped. But in the long run, Freddie could benefit if the Silversteins refinanced to a more affordable loan. Freddie guarantees the Silversteins’ mortgage, so if the couple defaults, Freddie — and the taxpayers who own the company — are on the hook. Getting the Silversteins into a more affordable mortgage would make a default less likely.

If millions of homeowners like the Silversteins default, the economy would be harmed. But if they switch to loans with lower interest rates, they would have more money to spend, which could boost the economy.

“We’re in financial jail,” says Jay, “and we’ve never been there before.”

How Freddie’s investments work

Here’s how Freddie Mac’s trades profit from the Silversteins staying in “financial jail.” The couple’s mortgage is sitting in a big pile of other mortgages, most of which are also guaranteed by Freddie and have high interest rates. Those mortgages underpin securities that get divided into two basic categories.

Anatomy of a Deal

How Freddie Mac structured a deal in which it profited if homeowners stayed trapped in high-interest mortgages.

One portion is backed mainly by principal, pays a low return, and was sold to investors who wanted a safe place to park their money. The other part, the inverse floater, is backed mainly by the interest payments on the mortgages, such as the high rate that the Silversteins pay. So this portion of the security can pay a much higher return, and this is what Freddie retained.

In 2010 and ’11, Freddie purchased $3.4 billion worth of inverse floater portions — their value based mostly on interest payments on $19.5 billion in mortgage-backed securities, according to prospectuses for the deals. They covered tens of thousands of homeowners. Most of the mortgages backing these transactions have high rates of about 6.5 percent to 7 percent, according to the deal documents.

Between late 2010 and early 2011, Freddie Mac’s purchases of inverse floater securities rose dramatically. Freddie purchased inverse floater portions of 29 deals in 2010 and 2011, with 26 bought between October 2010 and April 2011. That compares with seven for all of 2009 and five in 2008.

In these transactions, Freddie has sold off most of the principal, but it hasn’t reduced its risk.

First, if borrowers default, Freddie pays the entire value of the mortgages underpinning the securities, because it insures the loans.

It’s also a big problem if people like the Silversteins refinance their mortgages. That’s because a refi is a new loan; the borrower pays off the first loan early, stopping the interest payments. Since the security Freddie owns is backed mainly by those interest payments, Freddie loses.

And these inverse floaters burden Freddie with entirely new risks. With these deals, Freddie has taken mortgage-backed securities that are easy to sell and traded them for ones that are harder and possibly more expensive to offload, according to mortgage market experts.

The inverse floaters carry another risk. Freddie gets paid the difference between the high mortgages rates, such as the Silversteins are paying, and a key global interest rate that right now is very low. If that rate rises, Freddie’s profits will fall.

It is unclear what kinds of hedging, if any, Freddie has done to offset its risks.

At the end of 2011, Freddie’s portfolio of mortgages was just over $663 billion, down more than 6 percent from the previous year. But that $43 billion drop in the portfolio overstates the risk reduction, because the company retained risk through the inverse floaters. The company is well below the cap of $729 billion required by its government takeover agreement.

How Freddie tightened credit

Restricting credit for people who have done short sales isn’t the only way that Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae have tightened their lending criteria in the wake of the financial crisis, making it harder for borrowers to get housing loans.

Some tightening is justified because, in the years leading up to the financial crisis, Freddie and Fannie were too willing to insure mortgages taken out by people who couldn’t afford them.

In a statement, Freddie contends it is “actively supporting efforts for borrowers to realize the benefits of refinancing their mortgages to lower rates.”

The company said in a statement: “During the first three quarters of 2011, we refinanced more than $170 billion in mortgages, helping nearly 835,000 borrowers save an average of $2,500 in interest payments during the next year.” As part of that effort, the company is participating in an Obama administration plan, called the Home Affordable Refinance Program, or HARP. But critics say HARP could be reaching millions more people if Fannie and Freddie implemented the program more effectively.

Indeed, just as it was escalating its inverse floater deals, it was also introducing new fees on borrowers, including those wanting to refinance. During Thanksgiving week in 2010, Freddie quietly announced that it was raising charges, called post-settlement delivery fees.

In a recent white paper on remedies for the stalled housing market, the Federal Reserve criticized Fannie and Freddie for the fees they have charged for refinancing. Such fees are “another possible reason for low rates of refinancing” and are “difficult to justify,” the Fed wrote.

A former Freddie employee, who spoke on condition he not be named, was even blunter: “Generally, it makes no sense whatsoever” for Freddie “to restrict refinancing” from expensive loans to ones borrowers can more easily pay, since the company remains on the hook if homeowners default.

In November, the FHFA announced that Fannie and Freddie were eliminating or reducing some fees. The Fed, however, said that “more might be done.”

The regulator as owner

The trades raise questions about the FHFA’s oversight of Fannie and Freddie. But the FHFA is not just a regulator. With the two companies in government conservatorship, the FHFA now plays the role of their board of directors and shareholders, responsible for the companies’ major decisions.

Under acting director DeMarco, the FHFA has emphasized that its main goal is to limit taxpayer losses by managing the two companies’ giant investment portfolios to make profits. To cover their previous losses and ongoing operations, Fannie and Freddie already had received $169 billion from taxpayers through the third quarter of last year.

The FHFA has frustrated the administration because the agency has made preserving the value of the companies’ investment portfolios a priority over helping homeowners in expensive mortgages. In 2010, President Barack Obama nominated a permanent replacement for acting director DeMarco, but Republicans in Congress blocked him. Obama has not nominated anyone else to replace DeMarco.

Even though Freddie is a ward of the state, top executives are highly compensated. Peter Federico, who’s in charge of the company’s investment portfolio, made $2.5 million in 2010, and he had target compensation of $2.6 million for last year, when most of these leveraged investments were made.

One of Federico’s responsibilities — tied to his bonuses —  is to “support and provide liquidity and stability in the mortgage market,” according to Freddie’s annual filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Mortgage experts contend that the inverse floater trades don’t further that goal.

ProPublica and NPR made numerous attempts to reach Federico. A woman who answered his home phone said he declined to comment.

The FHFA knew about the trades before ProPublica and NPR approached the regulatory agency about them, according to an FHFA official. The FHFA has the power to approve and disapprove trades, though it doesn’t involve itself in day-to-day decisions. The official declined to comment on whether the FHFA knew about them as Freddie was conducting them or whether the FHFA had explicitly approved them.

Liz Day of ProPublica contributed to this story.

Publishing Paper not of general Circulation Trustee sale not valid Government code 6000

4 Feb

We have uncovered a number of the Newspapers that “publish” for 21 days the notice of Trustee sale are not legally qualified to do so.
A “newspaper of general circulation” is a newspaper published for the dissemination of local or telegraphic news and intelligence of a general character, which has a bona fide subscription list of paying subscribers, and has been established, printed and published at regular intervals in the State, county, or city where publication, notice by publication, or official advertising is to be given or made for at least one year preceding the date of the publication, notice or advertisement.
The Paso Robles Press in Paso Robles California are not Judicially adjudicated and they are printed outside the county, We are currently litigating cases and having the Trustee Sales set aside. This paper is printed hundreds of miles ouside the San Luis Obispo county in Watsonville, California and they have published hundreds of Legal notices.

Generally speaking, the statutory, nonjudicial foreclosure procedure begins with the recording of a notice of default by the trustee. (§ 2924, subd. (a)(1).) 8  After the expiration of not less than three months, the trustee must publish, post, and mail a notice of sale at least 20 days before the sale, and must also record the notice of sale at least 14 days before the sale (§§ 2924, subds. (a)(1), (a)(2) & (a)(3), 2924f, subd. (b)(1);  see Moeller v. Lien (1994) 25 Cal.App.4th 822, 830, 30 Cal.Rptr.2d 777 (Moeller );  see also 4 Miller & Starr, supra, § 10:199, p. 623.)   The sale and any postponement are governed by section 2924g.  (Moeller, supra, 25 Cal.App.4th at p. 830, 30 Cal.Rptr.2d 777;  Miller & Starr, supra, § 10:201, p. 637.)

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