Banks ‘hired hair stylists’ to vet foreclosures

Banks hired hair stylists, teens to process foreclosure documents, workers’ testimony shows – Published on TheRawStory, by AP, Oct. 13, 2010.

In an effort to rush through thousands of home foreclosures since 2007, financial institutions and their mortgage servicing departments hired hair stylists, Walmart floor workers and people who had worked on assembly lines and installed them in “foreclosure expert” jobs with no formal training, a Florida lawyer says.

In depositions released Tuesday, many of those workers testified that they barely knew what a mortgage was. Some couldn’t define the word “affidavit.” Others didn’t know what a complaint was, or even what was meant by personal property. Most troubling, several said they knew they were lying when they signed the foreclosure affidavits and that they agreed with the defense lawyers’ accusations about document fraud. 

“The mortgage servicers hired people who would never question authority,” said Peter Ticktin, a Deerfield Beach, Fla., lawyer who is defending 3,000 homeowners in foreclosure cases. As part of his work, Ticktin gathered 150 depositions from bank employees who say they signed foreclosure affidavits without reviewing the documents or ever laying eyes on them — earning them the name “robo-signers.” … //

… So far, JP Morgan Chase, PNC Financial and Litton Loan Servicing have stopped some foreclosure proceedings in 23 states. Bank of America and GMAC, recently renamed Ally, have extended their moratoriums to all 50 states. Wells Fargo and Citigroup have said they are continuing with foreclosures, adding that they are confident in their documents and processes.

But Citigroup has now backpedaled some on that assertion. The bank sent out a press release Tuesday that it was no longer using the law firm of “foreclosure king” David Stern, now under investigation by the Florida attorney general’s office. “Pending the outcome of the AG’s investigation, Citi is not referring new matters to this firm,” the bank said in an e-mailed statement.

Late last week, in an interview with the Florida attorney general, a former senior paralegal in Stern’s firm described a boiler-room atmosphere in which employees were pressured to forge signatures, backdate documents, swap Social Security numbers, inflate billings and pass around notary stamps as if they were salt.

Stern’s lawyer, Jeffrey Tew, did not respond to a request for comment.

Meanwhile, the public outrage continues to mount. In what is perhaps a sign of things to come, a Simi Valley, Calif., couple and their nine children broke into their foreclosed home over the weekend and moved back in, according to television station KABC of Simi Valley. The couple, Jim and Danielle Earl, say they were working with the bank to catch up on payments until they discovered a $25,000 difference between what they owed and what the bank said they owed. The family was evicted from their Spanish-style two-story in July. The home has been sold, and the new owner was due to move in soon.

The Earls and their attorney now allege that they were victims of fraudulent paperwork. (full text).

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