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Allegations: An Ohio Judge Rigged Foreclosures

Allegations: An Ohio Judge Rigged Foreclosures

Frank Russo charges suggest he corrupted county judges

Published: Thursday, September 09, 2010, 6:10 PM     Updated: Thursday, September 09, 2010, 9:09 PM

Leila Atassi, The Plain Dealer Leila Atassi, The Plain Dealer

CLEVELAND, Ohio — The charges filed Thursday against Cuyahoga County Auditor Frank Russo offer the most detailed description yet of the suspected corrupt activities of two Common Pleas Judges — one of whom is seeking re-election.

Excerpts:

In exchange for his help, Russo wanted control over the outcome of certain [of Terry’s ] civil cases, according to the charges. The docket Terry inherited included numerous civil foreclosure cases involving Russo’s close friend O’Malley, who was representing one of the litigants. American Home Bank was seeking $190,000 in damages from O’Malley’s client.

O’Malley called upon Russo to wield his influence over Terry and convince the judge to deny motions for summary judgment in the case to force it to a settlement.

According to the charges, Russo called Terry in July 2008 and asked, “Did (a county employee) give you the case numbers? … I talked to you about this once before … it’s about denying the motions for summary judgment.”

Yep, I still have the note you gave me,” Terry replied.

“Okay, good, so deny the motions for summary judgment, okay, good. …I just wanted to touch base with you on that,” Russo said.

The following day, Terry reported to Russo that he had followed through on his promise.

I called just to tell you that I took care of those two issues with those two cases that we talked about. … Denied everything.”

Continue Reading…CLEVELAND.com

© 2010-17 FORECLOSURE FRAUD | by DinSFLA. All rights reserved.



Posted in coercion, concealment, conflict of interest, conspiracy, contempt, CONTROL FRAUD, corruption, foreclosure, foreclosure fraud, foreclosures, mortgage, settlement, STOP FORECLOSURE FRAUD0 Comments

Treasury Makes Shocking Admission: Program for Struggling Homeowners Just a Ploy to Enrich Big Banks

Treasury Makes Shocking Admission: Program for Struggling Homeowners Just a Ploy to Enrich Big Banks

The Treasury Dept.’s mortgage relief program isn’t just failing, it’s actively funneling money from homeowners to bankers, and Treasury likes it that way.

August 25, 2010 |AlterNet / By Zach Carter

The Treasury Department’s plan to help struggling homeowners has been failing miserably for months. The program is poorly designed, has been poorly implemented and only a tiny percentage of borrowers eligible for help have actually received any meaningful assistance. The initiative lowers monthly payments for borrowers, but fails to reduce their overall debt burden, often increasing that burden, funneling money to banks that borrowers could have saved by simply renting a different home. But according to recent startling admissions from top Treasury officials, the mortgage plan was actually not really about helping borrowers at all. Instead, it was simply one element of a broader effort to pump money into big banks and shield them from losses on bad loans. That’s right: Treasury openly admitted that its only serious program purporting to help ordinary citizens was actually a cynical move to help Wall Street megabanks.

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner has long made it clear his financial repair plan was based on allowing large banks to “earn” their way back to health. By creating conditions where banks could make easy profits, Getithner and top officials at the Federal Reserve hoped to limit the amount of money taxpayers would have to directly inject into the banks. This was never the best strategy for fixing the financial sector, but it wasn’t outright predation, either. But now the Treasury Department is making explicit that it was—and remains—willing to let those so-called “earnings” come directly at the expense of people hit hardest by the recession: struggling borrowers trying to stay in their homes.

This account comes secondhand from a cadre of bloggers who were invited to speak on “deep background” with a handful of Treasury officials—meaning that bloggers would get to speak frankly with top-level folks, but not quote them directly, or attribute views to specific people. But the accounts are all generally distressing, particularly this one from economics whiz Steve Waldman:

The program was successful in the sense that it kept the patient alive until it had begun to heal. And the patient of this metaphor was not a struggling homeowner, but the financial system, a.k.a. the banks. Policymakers openly judged HAMP to be a qualified success because it helped banks muddle through what might have been a fatal shock. I believe these policymakers conflate, in full sincerity, incumbent financial institutions with “the system,” “the economy,” and “ordinary Americans.”

Mike Konczal confirms Waldman’s observation, and Felix Salmon also says the program has done little more than delay foreclosures, as does Shahien Nasiripour.

Here’s how Geithner’s Home Affordability Modification Program (HAMP) works, or rather, doesn’t work. Troubled borrowers can apply to their banks for relief on monthly mortgage payments. Banks who agree to participate in HAMP also agree to do a bunch of things to reduce the monthly payments for borrowers, from lowering interest rates to extending the term of the loan. This is good for the bank, because they get to keep accepting payments from borrowers without taking a big loss on the loan.

But the deal is not so good for homeowners. Banks don’t actually have to reduce how much borrowers actually owe them—only how much they have to pay out every month. For borrowers who owe tens of thousands of dollars more than their home is worth, the deal just means that they’ll be pissing away their money to the bank more slowly than they were before. If a homeowner spends $3,000 a month on her mortgage, HAMP might help her get that payment down to $2,500. But if she still owes $50,000 more than her house is worth, the plan hasn’t actually helped her. Even if the borrower gets through HAMP’s three-month trial period, the plan has done nothing but convince her to funnel another $7,500 to a bank that doesn’t deserve it.

Most borrowers go into the program expecting real relief. After the trial period, most realize that it doesn’t actually help them, and end up walking away from the mortgage anyway. These borrowers would have been much better off simply finding a new place to rent without going through the HAMP rigamarole. This example is a good case, one where the bank doesn’t jack up the borrower’s long-term debt burden in exchange for lowering monthly payments

But the benefit to banks goes much deeper. On any given mortgage, it’s almost always in a bank’s best interest to cut a deal with borrowers. Losses from foreclosure are very high, and if a bank agrees to reduce a borrower’s debt burden, it will take an upfront hit, but one much lower than what it would ultimately take from foreclosure.

That logic changes dramatically when millions of loans are defaulting at once. Under those circumstances, bank balance sheets are so fragile they literally cannot afford to absorb lots of losses all at once. But if those foreclosures unravel slowly, over time, the bank can still stay afloat, even if it has to bear greater costs further down the line. As former Deutsche Bank executive Raj Date told me all the way back in July 2009:

If management is only seeking to maximize value for their existing shareholders, it’s possible that maybe they’re doing the right thing. If you’re able to let things bleed out slowly over time but still generate some earnings, if it bleeds slow enough, it doesn’t matter how long it takes, because you never have to issue more stock and dilute your shareholders. You could make an argument from the point of view of any bank management team that not taking a day-one hit is actually a smart idea.

Date, it should be emphasized, does not condone this strategy. He now heads the Cambridge Winter Center for Financial Institutions Policy, and is a staunch advocate of financial reform.

If, say, Wells Fargo had taken a $20 billion hit on its mortgage book in February 2009, it very well could have failed. But losing a few billion dollars here and there over the course of three or four years means that Wells Fargo can stay in business and keep paying out bonuses, even if it ultimately sees losses of $25 or $30 billion on its bad loans.

So HAMP is doing a great job if all you care about is the solvency of Wall Street banks. But if borrowers know from the get-go they’re not going to get a decent deal, they have no incentive to keep paying their mortgage. Instead of tapping out their savings and hitting up relatives for help with monthly payments, borrowers could have saved their money, walked away from the mortgage and found more sensible rental housing. The administration’s plan has effectively helped funnel more money to Wall Street at the expense of homeowners. And now the Treasury Department is going around and telling bloggers this is actually a positive feature of the program, since it meant that big banks didn’t go out of business.

There were always other options for dealing with the banks and preventing foreclosures. Putting big, faltering banks into receivership—also known as “nationalization”—has been a powerful policy tool used by every administration from Franklin Delano Roosevelt to Ronald Reagan. When the government takes over a bank, it forces it to take those big losses upfront, wiping out shareholders in the process. Investors lose a lot of money (and they should, since they made a lousy investment), but the bank is cleaned up quickly and can start lending again. No silly games with borrowers, and no funky accounting gimmicks.

Most of the blame for the refusal to nationalize failing Wall Street titans lies with the Bush administration, although Obama had the opportunity to make a move early in his tenure, and Obama’s Treasury Secretary, Geithner, was a major bailout decision-maker on the Bush team as president of the New York Fed.

But Bush cannot be blamed for the HAMP nightmare, and plenty of other options were available for coping with foreclosure when Obama took office. One of the best solutions was just endorsed by the Cleveland Federal Reserve, in the face of prolonged and fervent opposition from the bank lobby. Unlike every other form of consumer debt, mortgages are immune from renegotiation in bankruptcy. If you file for bankruptcy, a judge literally cannot reduce how much you owe on your mortgage. The only way out of the debt is foreclosure, giving banks tremendous power in negotiations with borrowers.

This exemption is arbitrary and unfair, but the bank lobby contends it keeps mortgage rates lower. It’s just not true, as a new paper by Cleveland Fed economists Thomas J. Fitzpatrick IV and James B. Thomson makes clear. Family farms were exempted from bankruptcy until 1986, and bankers bloviated about the same imminent risk of unaffordable farm loans when Congress considered ending that status to prevent farm foreclosures.

When Congress did repeal the exemption, farm loans didn’t get any more expensive, and bankruptcy filings didn’t even increase very much. Instead, a flood of farmers entered into negotiations with banks to have their debt burden reduced. Banks took losses, but foreclosures were avoided. Society was better off, even if bank investors had to take a hit.

But instead, Treasury is actively encouraging troubled homeowners to subsidize giant banks. What’s worse, as Mike Konczal notes, they’re hoping to expand the program significantly.

There is a flip-side to the current HAMP nightmare, one that borrowers faced with mortgage problems should attend to closely and discuss with financial planners. In many cases, banks don’t actually want to foreclose quickly, because doing so entails taking losses right away, and most of them would rather drag those losses out over time. The accounting rules are so loose that banks can actually book phantom “income” on monthly payments that borrowers do not actually make. Some borrowers have been able to benefit from this situation by simply refusing to pay their mortgages. Since banks often want to delay repossessing the house in order to benefit from tricky accounting, borrowers can live rent-free in their homes for a year or more before the bank finally has to lower the hatchet. Of course, you won’t hear Treasury encouraging people to stop paying their mortgages. If too many people just stop paying, then banks are out a lot of money fast, sparking big, quick losses for banks — the exact situation HAMP is trying to avoid.

Borrowers who choose not to pay their mortgages don’t even have to feel guilty about it. Refusing to pay is actually modestly good for the economy, since instead of wasting their money on bank payments, borrowers have more cash to spend at other businesses, creating demand and encouraging job growth. By contrast, top-level Treasury officials who have enriched bankers on the backs of troubled borrowers should be looking for other lines of work.

Zach Carter is AlterNet’s economics editor. He is a fellow at Campaign for America’s Future, writes a weekly blog on the economy for the Media Consortium and is a frequent contributor to The Nation magazine.

Source: AlterNet

© 2010-17 FORECLOSURE FRAUD | by DinSFLA. All rights reserved.



Posted in coercion, concealment, conflict of interest, conspiracy, CONTROL FRAUD, corruption, federal reserve board, foreclosure, foreclosure fraud, foreclosures, geithner, hamp, insider, investigation, trade secrets0 Comments

FLORIDA| Watch out for Conciliation| Mediation Scam

FLORIDA| Watch out for Conciliation| Mediation Scam

DinSFLA here: MEDIATION without the true lenders disclosed may be an issue later…these mills have no right to play middlemen to no one! You must make sure who the real parties are before, during and after foreclosure!

Florida Default Group is emailing foreclosure defense attorneys with emails stating “Per your request, conciliation will be scheduled for your client…” that is how the are scamming even REPRESENTED defendants out of their right to a third party mediation (not that they are going to work anyway).

As I myself have witnessed on many occasions, some mill attorneys, or LOCAL COUNSEL, like Peter Porcaro local counsel for Stern’s office, bring pro se defendants out of the courtroom, smooth talk them into an agreement where there is an “extended sale date 120 days into the future, and an agreement for “conciliation” (which differs from mediation because mediation for primary residences cost the plaintiff $750 each and also there is a mediator) and a waiver of mediation. Conciliation is at no cost to the plaintiff and is between the two parties without a mediator. There is no explanation of mediation vs conciliation and no telling that the FL Supreme Court mandates mediation unless it is waived. There is no acknowledgment of months if not years of frustrated attempts at “conciliation” in terms of loan mods or short sales or deeds in lieu and how the defendants have a right to mediation. If any issues regarding the veracity and/or authenticity of the documents in the court file are raised, the answer given in these hallway dirty dealings, is “I’m not involved with that. I don’t work for their office.”

The same thing happens with all the mills. Attached is what the defendant in a Marshall Watson case walked away with…..just read it to see …………

See for yourselves. Stand outside of courtroom 10H or the other “foreclosure mill courtrooms” and watch this play out.

Sincerely,
Lisa Epstein
ForeclosureHamlet.org

© 2010-17 FORECLOSURE FRAUD | by DinSFLA. All rights reserved.



Posted in coercion, conspiracy, investigation, Law Offices Of David J. Stern P.A., law offices of Marshall C. Watson pa, non disclosure, settlement, STOP FORECLOSURE FRAUD1 Comment

Townhouse for sale…but with a catch

Townhouse for sale…but with a catch

Listen up Real Estate agents as you are well too familiar with this tale.

Previously I wrote a post  ARE FORECLOSURE MILLS Coercing Buyers for BANK OWNED homes? ARE ALL THE MILLS? and just today I received another example of these foreclosure mills working hand in hand as title companies demanding you use their terms or else get NO CONTRACT.

Here is the example of this agent from Coldwell Banker who clearly states

“FannieMaeHomePath-Purchase this property for as little as 3% down. This property approved for HomePath Mortgage Financing. Approved for HomePath Renovation Mortgage Financing. Large 3 bedroom unit with two full baths. 2nd floor master suite has hardwood floors and a huge closet. Upgraded kitchen has granite countertops and cherry wood cabinets. Laundry Room.  Fenced yard for added privacy.”

“REO Addendum not furnished until acceptance-See IMPORTANT attachments & Follow**Use FAR9 Contract-No Calls Please- EMAIL only: UNIT HAS NO APPLIANCES.”

Well here’s the catch, I got a sneak peek…read the last few sentences to discover the major RESPA VIOLATION among other serious issues.

I am sure Coldwell Banker would be estatic to see agents working in this fashion as well as Fannie Mae having their addendum crossed out in certain areas.

[ipaper docId=33202164 access_key=key-kovwb3di6vj5wqfk52w height=600 width=600 /]


RELATED STORY:

AGENTS BEWARE! HERE COME THE HAFA VENDORS aka LPS AFTER YOUR COMMISSION

© 2010-17 FORECLOSURE FRAUD | by DinSFLA. All rights reserved.



Posted in coercion, concealment, conspiracy, CONTROL FRAUD, djsp enterprises, foreclosure, foreclosure fraud, foreclosure mills, foreclosures, Law Offices Of David J. Stern P.A., law offices of Marshall C. Watson pa, respa, Violations0 Comments

POCKET CHANGE!! BofA’s Countrywide settles with FTC for $108 million

POCKET CHANGE!! BofA’s Countrywide settles with FTC for $108 million

(Reuters) – Bank of America Corp has agreed to pay $108 million to settle government charges that its Countrywide unit, the mortgage lender that became synonymous with risky lending practices, bilked borrowers with misleading and excessive fees.

Housing Market

The Federal Trade Commission said two Countrywide mortgage servicing units deceived cash-strapped homeowners by overcharging them by hundreds or thousands of dollars, sometimes when they were already in bankruptcy.

The alleged activity took place before Bank of America acquired the distressed lender in 2008.

The settlement is a small win for regulators trying to hold to account those who contributed to the deep financial crisis.

The agency called the $108 million settlement one of the largest in an FTC case and the largest in a mortgage servicing case. The FTC has no jurisdiction over banks but does have jurisdiction over deceptive practices by non-bank financial services and products firms.

Countrywide, which was once the nation’s top mortgage lender, “profited from making risky loans to homeowners during the boom years, and then profited again when the loans failed,” said FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz, noting that some fees during the foreclosure process were marked up more than 400 percent.

Bank of America said in a statement that it agreed to the settlement to void the expense and distraction of litigating the case. There was no admission of wrongdoing.

The FTC said the $108 million, which represents the amount consumers were overcharged, would be used to repay borrowers but could take months to sort out.

“The record-keeping of Countrywide was abysmal,” said Leibowitz. “Most frat houses have better record-keeping than Countrywide.”

In May, Countrywide agreed to a $624 million settlement of a class action lawsuit accusing it of misleading investors about its lending practices. The case was led by several pension funds, including the New York State Common Retirement Fund, that state’s $129.4 billion public pension fund, and five New York City pension funds.

Once the largest U.S. mortgage lender, Countrywide and its long-time chief executive, Angelo Mozilo, became known for risky lending practices that helped fuel the U.S. housing boom and subsequent bust.

Countrywide nearly collapsed as credit markets tightened, before Bank of America agreed to buy it in January 2008 in a stock deal valued at about $4 billion.

Mozilo and two other former Countrywide executives remain defendants in a U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission civil fraud lawsuit.

The SEC alleges that Mozilo hid from investors the deteriorating prospects of Countrywide, and conducted insider trading by entering a systematic stock selling plan in late 2006, knowing that the mortgage lender’s prospects would worsen.

The SEC claimed Mozilo violated insider trading rules in generating a $139 million profit by exercising stock options in 2006 and 2007.

It said the exercises came after he admitted in an email to colleagues that Countrywide was “flying blind” as to the quality of its loans.

Sen. Charles Schumer, a New York Democrat and a member of the panel working out final wording on a comprehensive overhaul of Wall Street, called the FTC settlement “a major breakthrough that closes one of the ugliest chapters of the entire subprime mortgage crisis.”

“Anyone who believes the blame for the housing crisis rests with borrowers should read this settlement and learn just how shameless these lenders were during these years,” Schumer said.

(Additional reporting by Diane Bartz in Washington and by Joe Rauch in Charlotte; editing by John Wallace and Gerald E. McCormick)

© 2010-17 FORECLOSURE FRAUD | by DinSFLA. All rights reserved.



Posted in bank of america, breach of contract, coercion, concealment, foreclosure, foreclosure fraud, foreclosures0 Comments


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