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‘Whistleblower’ Lan Pham Says Mortgage Securitization Still an Issue for U.S. Homeowners

‘Whistleblower’ Lan Pham Says Mortgage Securitization Still an Issue for U.S. Homeowners


ABC-

Lan Pham, an economist fired by the Congressional Budget Office two years ago, is still asking whether the watchdog agency appeared to “diminish or deny” the problem of foreclosure fraud while providing analysis to Congress.

As lawmakers enter budget season in Washington D.C. and wrangle over House Republicans’ new budget blueprint, Pham is hoping to draw more attention to the housing market’s woes.

“Why is one of the most powerful government agencies that can determine the direction of the nation’s policies appearing to diminish or deny that the issue of mortgage securitization is a problem?” she said. “If it is a problem, we have a $7 trillion in mortgage-backed securities that has brought chaos to homeowners, whether or not they are in foreclosure.”

[ABC]

[ipaper docId=86245951 access_key=key-1qbo0nggi3s0p30uthwk height=600 width=600 /]

 

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Read Lan Pham’s letter to Sen. Chuck Grassley re: MERS/Securitization

Read Lan Pham’s letter to Sen. Chuck Grassley re: MERS/Securitization


LAN T. PHAM

February 23,2011

Senator Chuck Grassley
Ranking Member
United States Senate Judiciary Committee
135 Hart Senate Offrce Building
Washington, DC 20510

Re: Inquiry into Reprisal Action by the Congressional Budget Office

Dear Ranking Member Grassley:

At the suggestion of Mr. Gary Aguirre, I describe below the circumstances of my
discharge by the Congressional Budget Office and request your assistance to the extent you
believe there is something appropriate you could do on my behalf.

As the Congress grapples with the economic and budgetary challenges facing the nation,
the Congress relies on the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) to provide “objective” and “nonpartisan”
analyses to inform its policy decisions.l This mandate gives the CBO a unique status
and confers upon the agency an impression of credibility and authority, as its analyses can alter
the course of national policies. The CBO cultivates this image internally and externally, and
enjoys the protection ofthe press.

Yet, my brief time as a senior staffer financial economist at the CBO suggests that there
is room for doubt about this perception of an objective and non-partisan CBO. Alternative view
points are suppressed or questioned as “pessimistic” by CBO Director Doug Elmendorf.
Economic facts inconvenient to the CBO’s forecasts of economic growth, recovery and other
estimates are omitted or suppressed so the desired message may be delivered. For providing
truthful and correct analyses of the issues, I was abruptly fired after 2.5 months at the CBO.

Suppression of Alternative Views

In October 2010,I wrote about the conditions and developments in the banking sector
and mortgage markets. The events surrounding the collapse of the housing market triggered what
many consider to be the worst economic and financial crisis in 80 years since the Great
Depression. The effects from this market with $10 trillion in residential mortgage debt
outstanding exposed systemic risks and put into question the solvency of financial institutions
worldwide. In addition to the global response, the U.S. government and Federal Reserve have
responded with trillions of dollars in extraordinary fiscal and monetary stimulus, the bulk of
which was aimed at shoring up the banks and financial institutions.

I was repeatedly pressured by the CBO Assistant Director, Deborah Lucas, in charge of
the Financial Analysis Division to not write nor discuss issues in the banking sector and
mortgage markets that might suggest weakness in these sectors and their consequences on the
economy and households. Assistant Director Deborah Lucas explicitly sought assurances from
the Assistant Director in charge of the Macroeconomic Analysis Division that the issues I raised
would not lower the CBO’s forecasts of economic growth. More broadly, what emerges is a
pattern of suppression by the CBO to prevent public writings about the damage brought on by
the banking and financial sector and housing collapse. While disregardingfactual and empirical
evidence, the CBO leadership insisted:

  • o Statements could not be made attributing the decline in property tax revenues to
    foreclosures and the decline in home prices, which runs counter to common sense and
    the findings by the U.S. Senate Joint Economic Committee of the U.S. Congress.
  • o Foreclosures had no impact on home prices (negative extemalities, spillover effects).
    This runs counter to common sense, and a prominent national home price index by
    Corelogic in the CBO’s key database subscription showing clearly the distressed
    homes component of the index worsens home price declines.
  • o The decline in home prices had no impact on household wealth, which runs counter
    to common sense and the fact that the home is a significant asset or source of ‘wealth’
    for most households. According to the Federal Reserve, about $7 trillion in home
    equity evaporated in the housing collapse.
  • o The emerging foreclosure fraud problems in September 2010 were due to media
    “sensationalism”, “the kind of event of the moment where we should be adding
    skepticism, not just repeating the hype in the press” and discussingit “laclcs judgment
    about what is important’.

Let’s take a closer look at the implications of the unknown risks and liabilities of the
foreclosure fraud problems unfolding through the legal process, which led the nation’s largest
banks to suspend foreclosures nationwide. Issues at the heart of the foreclosure problems pertain
to securitization (pooling of mortgages that collateralize mortgage-backed securities “MBS”) and
the Mortgage Electronic Registration System (MERS), which purports to have legal standing on
electronic records of ownership on about 65 million or half of all mortgages in the country.

MERS, with Fannie Mae and Bank of America as founding members, facilitated Wall
Street’s ability to expedite the pooling of subprime mortgages into MBSs by bypassing standard
ownership transfer procedures as the housing bubble escalated, the collapse of which devastated
the economy and households. The CBO leadership suppressed and minimized concerns about
these issues, viewing these concerns in October 2010 as media “sensationalism” and “hype.”
Such statements if made public would raise serious questions about the credibility and
objectivity of the CBO, and the kinds of analyses that would be provided to Congress and
allowed to be made known to the public. This “hype” has entered the nation’s courtrooms:

  • o On January 7,2011, the Supreme Court of Massachusetts agreed with a lower court
    decision that invalidated the foreclosures actions of two of the largest banks on
    mortgages that were in MBSs; the legal right to foreclose was not proven.
  • o Courts in Florida have also followed suit.
  • On February 14,2011, U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Robert E. Grossman in Central Islip,
    New York rendered the MERS system invalid. ln rendering his decision, Judge
    Grossman acknowledged that his decision would have “significant impact.”
  • o On February 16,2011, MERS released a statement, an exce{pt which reads:
    “The proposed amendment will require Members to not foreclose in MERS’
    name…During this period we request that Members do not commence foreclosures in
    MERS’name.”

The implications have profound financial and economic consequences that would be of
compelling interest to Congress and the public, but the CBO sought to silence a discussion of
such risks, that in reality, have been mateiralizing. These risks put into question the ability of
investors or bondholders to make claims on the collateral (the homes) that underlies trillions of
dollars in MBSs, the bulk of which are now guaranteed by the govemment-sponsored enterprises
(“GSEs” Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac). This affects $10 trillion in residential mortgage debt
outstanding, of which $7 trillion in mortgage-backed securities (MBSs) are backed by about 65
million homes, and roughly $3 trillion is in the form of mortgage loans on bank balance sheets.

The $7 Trillion MBS Problem -Foreclosure Problems and Buy Backs

Banks, Private Label MBSs. About $1.5 trillion MBSs are bank-issued, private label
MBSs that were collateralized by primarily subprime mortgages, $330 billion of which is
delinquent. Banks have publicly acknowledged these risks by recently increasing reserves
against repurchase of bad mortgages from investors and litigation costs. As of third quarter 2010,
the nation’s largest four banks – Bank of America, JP Morgan Chase, Citigroup, and Wells Fargo
- have reserved about $10 billion for potential mortgage buy back demands,l a “miniscule”
amount given the $330 billion in delinquent mortgages. The combined net worth of the largest
four banks is about $700 billion.

The foreclosure problems may put even greater pressure on banks as some state courts
and legislation have made dents into the legal foundation of MERS. The implication is that
investors may be holding trillions in MBSs that are unsecured, which places even gteater
pressure on banks for mortgage buy-backs. Banks may also face greater losses in not having the
legal authority under MERS to foreclose and liquidate the collateral. These issues (among others)
are concentrated among a handful of the largest banks that hold about three quarters of the
nation’s banking assets, a concentration that has been deemed a systemic risk to the nation’s
economic and financial system. The CBO dismissing such issues prevents an analysis of the
risks, so that the public may be forced again to shoulder the consequences for which they have
not been a given a voice or a choice.

GSEs, Agency MBSs. The other $5.5 trillion MBSs are issued or guaranteed by Fannie
Mae and Freddie Mac, whose fate is currently being debated by policy makers. During the first
nine months of 2010, Fannie Mae repurchased about $195 billion in delinquent loans from its
MBSs;2 Freddie Mac faced $5.6 billion in buy back demands.3 The amount of these repurchases
in less than one year alone would wipe out Bank of America, the largest bank in the country.

The GSEs hold $266 billion in bank-issued private label MBSs, which have experienced the
highest rates of default. Recently, Bank of America paid $2.8 billion to the GSEs to settle $7
billion in mortgage buy-back requests, a private transfer of loss to the public that remains
unbeknownst to the public.

A discussion of these and other issues were not acceptable to the CBO leadership, but
unrealistic assumptions are encouraged and significant facts inconsistent with their
predetermined views are overlooked in providing economic analyses and estimates to Congress.
For instance, the CBO leadership appeared panic-stricken when I suggested that interest rates
were likely to rise in early November 2010 despite the Federal Reserye’s quantitative easing
programs, and what that may mean for example, to an already weakened housing market. Indeed,
interest rates have risen sharply since then from 4.3Yoto 5.}Yo onthe 30 year fixed-rate mortgage
“FRM” (as of 2117111). Providing a correct assessment did not seem to matter.

For presenting a truthful and correct assessment of where things stood, I was fired. I
know other economists who have been pressured to fall in line with the leadership, but are afraid
to voice their concerns for fear that it could endanger their careers. I am prepared to identify
them, but only with your assurance that their identities will be remain confidential at this time.

I deeply appreciate your taking the time to consider the information I have placed before
you.

Sincergly,

Lan T. Pham, Ph.D.

Attachments

New York Times Article
Time Line
Mortgage Forecast Memo
Banking Forecast Memo
Banking Forecast Memo: Revision of Key Points

[ipaper docId=86245951 access_key=key-1qbo0nggi3s0p30uthwk height=600 width=600 /]

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Employees at FL Foreclosure Firm Elizabeth R. Wellborn P.A. fired for wearing orange shirts, workers say

Employees at FL Foreclosure Firm Elizabeth R. Wellborn P.A. fired for wearing orange shirts, workers say


Sun Sentinel-

Were they wearing orange shirts on Friday to protest management? Or to get psyched for happy hour?

Either way, orange-shirted workers no longer have jobs at the Deerfield Beach law firm of Elizabeth R. Wellborn P.A.

A spokeswoman said the law firm had “no comment at this time.”

Four workers tell the story this way: For the past few months, some employees have worn orange shirts on pay-day Fridays so they’d look like a group when they went out for happy hour.

[SUN SENTINEL]

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Abigail Field: Meet FL AG Pam Bondi, Foreclosure Fraudsters’ BFF

Abigail Field: Meet FL AG Pam Bondi, Foreclosure Fraudsters’ BFF


I’d like to add this tid bit: An attorney for Lender Processing, Martin Fiorentino, who lobbied on behalf of the company, is actively involved in both state and national politics. Fiorentino is a well-known political fundraising bundler, and has raised at least $102,9000 for presidential hopeful Mitt Romney. The Fiorentino Group has been paid at least $180,000 by Lender Processing Services since 2009.

Guess which Presidential candidate Bondi just endorsed?

Abigail C. Field-

Our national foreclosure crisis has epicenters; Florida is one. Florida’s Multiple Listing Service currently lists 15,755 foreclosure properties in Miami alone (Jan 8, 2012). Prices have fallen so far in some areas homes are selling for less than “a used Toyota.”

Foreclosure statistics, like all numbers, fail to convey the human misery involved. If “irresponsible borrowers” caused Florida’s crisis, well, no one would look to the Attorney General for action. What does law enforcement have to do with irresponsible borrowers? But that’s not what happened–banker fraud and gambling wrecked the housing market. And now the banks are resorting to document fraud to process the millions of foreclosures their earlier bad acts set in motion.

[REALITY CHECK]

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Pam Bondi cleared of ‘political’ firing charges

Pam Bondi cleared of ‘political’ firing charges


“I will only have the very best, most skilled people on the job; those who embody the highest standards of ethics, responsibility, professionalism, and performance,” Bondi wrote. “These two staff attorneys clearly and repeatedly failed to measure up to these standards.”

With all the evidence, where is Florida’s lawsuit against LPS? Nevada had to take the bull by the horns since you couldn’t. Speaking of “ethics, responsibility, professionalism, and performance” … NEXT!

Sun Sentinel-

An independent report released Friday cleared Attorney General Pam Bondi‘s office of any wrongdoing in the May firings of two lawyers in her South Florida office who were nationally recognized for exposing foreclosure fraud and unsavory mortgage lending practices.

The long-awaited report from Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater‘s office said no laws or policies were violated in the dismissal of Theresa Edwards and June Clarkson, who had argued that their firings came down to politics, not performance.

“A review of the circumstances surrounding the termination of Edwards and Clarkson, along with the information gathered during this inquiry, did not warrant initiating a formal investigation into a potential violation of law, rule or policy,” the report says. “During the course of the inquiry there was no specific allegation of wrongdoing made by any person, and no discovery of evidence of wrongdoing on the part of anyone involved in the matter.”

[SUN SENTINEL]

image: i-tube.net

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The Foreclosure Crisis: As California’s AG Issues Subpoenas, Florida’s AG Quits Worrying

The Foreclosure Crisis: As California’s AG Issues Subpoenas, Florida’s AG Quits Worrying


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

December 1, 2011

CONTACT: Michelle DeMarco, 850.487.5833

 

 

 

.

The Foreclosure Crisis: As California’s AG Issues Subpoenas, Florida’s AG Quits Worrying

This Week on the Florida Senate Democratic Update

 

Tallahassee — In the ongoing foreclosure crisis, California and Florida have a lot in common when it comes to the high number of people caught in its grip, but that’s about where the similarities end. California’s attorney general has been aggressively pursuing banks and lender service companies, recently issuing another round of subpoenas in her drive to pursue criminal and civil charges on behalf of victims of mortgage fraud and other unscrupulous foreclosure practices.

In Florida, Attorney General Pam Bondi took a decidedly different track. Not only did she move to protect financial companies from criminal prosecution, but fired two of the most aggressive attorneys in her agency pursuing mortgage fraud shortly after taking office. News of the ouster prompted a flurry of activity to justify the abrupt dismissals, with the attorney general apparently more concerned with her own well being than that of victimized homeowners. “I can finally go to sleep now and quit worrying about how these women will attempt to destroy me,” Bondi confided in one late-night email.

This week on the Florida Senate Democratic Update, Senator Eleanor Sobel (D-Hollywood) talks about Florida’s approach to the foreclosure fraud crisis, and the firings of June Clarkson and Theresa Edwards.  Three months after Bondi’s request to a fellow Republican Cabinet member for an “outside” investigation of the dismissals, Senator Sobel is still waiting for answers.

Watch this week’s reality check at: http://www.youtube.com/flasenatedems or www.flsenate.gov/offices/minority.

###

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Pillar Processing Firm That Helped Steven J. Baum P.C. To Lay Off 590 People

Pillar Processing Firm That Helped Steven J. Baum P.C. To Lay Off 590 People


Just as in Florida with Stern & DJSP, this will continue to repeat with others.

You all know who you are.

Rewind-

In 2007 Steven J. Baum sold all or most of his stake in Pillar to Tailwind Capital. Tailwind is a Hedge Fund that buys companies that are valued between $25 – and $100 Million. Sometime later, Ares Capital Corporation, a publicly traded company invested over $30 Million in Pillar. Both Baum & Pillar share an address.

Ares, Tailwind Said to Be Subpoenaed in N.Y. Foreclosure Probe.

BUFFALO NEWS-

Pillar Processing, a back-office and document-processing firm with close ties to the Steven J. Baum PC foreclosure law firm, will lay off 590 full- and part-time employees at its offices in Amherst.

The company told state and local officials that the layoffs are expected to take effect Feb. 27. Pillar is also laying off about 20 employees in Westbury, on Long Island.

[BUFFALO NEWS]

H/T JeffreyFreedman.com

“I’m not saying Baum and Pillar were not in the wrong, but according to my sources, many other firms in New York were doing the same things as Baum and Pillar,” Freedman said. “However, Baum and Pillar were the only upstate companies handling a large volume of foreclosure business, and now the work is most likely going to move to downstate firms that are still in business.”

I think we all know that they know who they all are. :) Sound Off!

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FANNIE MAE: Authorization for File Transfers from the Baum Law Firm

FANNIE MAE: Authorization for File Transfers from the Baum Law Firm


Effective immediately, servicers are authorized to transfer any Fannie Mae foreclosure or bankruptcy matters in New York from Steven J. Baum, P.C., to any other Retained Attorney Network firms in the State of New York, a listing of which is posted on eFannieMae.com.

[ipaper docId=73952804 access_key=key-29xzzyberswyxcgijtio height=600 width=600 /]

 

 

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Foreclosure firm’s collapse could delay cases statewide

Foreclosure firm’s collapse could delay cases statewide


If you think these mills are the only ones? …GUESS AGAIN!

All of these firms should be barred and out of business period. You all know who you are.

REUTERS-

The sudden demise of one of New York’s largest foreclosure law firms has raised concerns of a drag on the thousands of cases it still has pending before the courts.

Steven J. Baum PC filed notice Monday informing federal labor regulators that it is planning “mass layoffs” on Feb. 20 as it prepares to close its doors. While no specific numbers were provided, the firm currently employs about 67 full and part-time employees at its main offices in western New York and 22 full and part-time employees in Long Island.

But while his firm may be on its way out, Steven Baum said in a statement Monday that he and remaining staff members will “fulfill our remaining work on behalf of our clients.”

Whether this means relying on the skeleton crew left behind to wind down the business or transferring cases to new firms will depend on the status of each case, according to attorneys who work on foreclosures in New York.

[REUTERS]

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Baum Firm Could Possibly Owe “Millions of Dollars” From Foreclosured Properties

Baum Firm Could Possibly Owe “Millions of Dollars” From Foreclosured Properties


NYPOST-

What’s in this law firm’s wallet?

New York state’s beleaguered, largest foreclosure law firm — which today announced plans to shut down in the face of a firestorm of legal action — has allegedly failed to turn over about $130,000 owed to three people whose co-ops were foreclosed on, and could be sitting on millions of dollars of hundreds of other people’s money without those people knowing, The Post has learned.

Steven J. Baum P.C.’s move to shutter came a week after it was made ineligible to get new referrals on any Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac mortgages — essentially a death knell for the controversial firm. The two federally backed mortgage giants moved in the face of numerous complaints about questionable legal filings by Baum.

 On Friday, a Brooklyn lawyer sued Baum claiming that the firm repeatedly ignored his attempts to obtain about $130,000 for three people whose co-ops were foreclosed on and later sold off in Baum-supervised auctions.
.
.
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Steven J. Baum P.C. law firm to close

Steven J. Baum P.C. law firm to close


Get em before they shred… remember 18 wheelers moving boxes at David J. Sterns when they were closing down?

“We will fulfill all of our obligations under WARN and during this process we will also fulfill our remaining work on behalf of our clients,” Baum said in a prepared release. “Disrupting the livelihoods of so many dedicated and hardworking people is extremely painful, but the loss of so much business left us no choice but to file these notices.”

Buffalo Business First-

The embattled Steven J. Baum P.C. law firm is the closing its doors after a series of missteps that included mortgage industry giants Freddie Mac    and Fannie Mae    cutting off business with the Amherst-based firm.

[BUFFALO BUSINESS FIRST]

 

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Occupy Buffalo protesters picket at Baum law office

Occupy Buffalo protesters picket at Baum law office


“Hey, hey. Ho, ho. Steven Baum got to go,” they chanted.

 

Buffalo News-

Nearly three dozen protesters from Occupy Buffalo demonstrated in front of the Amherst offices of Steven J. Baum PC, denouncing the controversial foreclosure attorney and calling on state authorities to shut down his office, take away his law license and even put him in jail.

The ragtag band of protesters, many of whom have been camping out in Niagara Square in downtown Buffalo, held up handwritten cardboard signs and chanted slogans to the beat of a bongo drum. They assembled at the corner of Northpointe Parkway and Sweet Home Road, before beginning a slow march down to Baum’s office at 220 Northpointe.

“Hey, hey. Ho, ho. Steven Baum got to go,” they chanted.

Signs called for a “moratorium on all foreclosures now,” proclaimed that “housing is a right,” and called Baum “the Grinch who stole houses.” Some protesters also wore paper crowns because “Stephen J. Baum is the foreclosure king of New York State,” said Samantha Colon, the spokeswoman for the protesters.

[BUFFALO NEWS]

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Fannie and Freddie terminate Steven J. Baum law firm from attorney networks

Fannie and Freddie terminate Steven J. Baum law firm from attorney networks


This is a major victory. We will not rest until every last one is done… Including MERS!!

Housing Wire-

[Update 1: Adds confirmation that Fannie has terminated Baum firm from its attorney network]

Fannie Mae said Tuesday that it has removed the Steven J. Baum firm from its designated attorney network.

Last week, Freddie Mac told mortgage servicers they may no longer refer New York foreclosure or bankruptcy cases to the Steven J. Baum PC law firm.

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Ka-Boom! Freddie Mac Quits Steven J. Baum, P.C. As A Designated Counsel On and after November 10, 2011

Ka-Boom! Freddie Mac Quits Steven J. Baum, P.C. As A Designated Counsel On and after November 10, 2011


via Freddie Mac-

On and after November 10, 2011, Servicers may not refer any new Freddie Mac foreclosure or bankruptcy cases in New York to Steven J. Baum, P.C., whether referred within or outside of the Program.

Attorney Susan Chana Lask says

“This looks like the beginning of a well-deserved end for Baum”

 

 

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Bondi has wrong priority

Bondi has wrong priority


You should know by now that no one and I mean no one is coming to the borrowers rescue, even after all the fraud, after all the robo-signing… No one has tried to put a stop to this fraud.

A simple halt to investigate and an examination of the documents would easily demonstrate the massive fraud happening to titles to real estate. Each day that goes by, families continue to get evicted.

But NO.

PERIOD.

END OF STORY.

Palm Beach Post-

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi’s effort to play catch-up and clear her name following the revelation that her office fired two highly praised foreclosure fraud attorneys suggests that she is more concerned with her image than her job.

In July, The Post’s Kim Miller broke the story of the firings, which happened in May. On Tuesday, Ms. Miller reported on emails related to the firings. In one, Ms. Bondi responds to a statement detailing that June Clarkson and Theresa Edwards were fired because of “shoddy legal work” by saying, “I can finally go to sleep now and quit worrying about how these women will attempt to destroy me.”

In another email, Ms. Bondi wrote that she learned about the firings during a “two-minute phone call” and that she “did not even know the details, nor should I have needed to know.”

Therein lies the problem.

[PALM BEACH POST]

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Internal FL AG’s Office Emails Show “Secret” Discussions About LPS & DOCX

Internal FL AG’s Office Emails Show “Secret” Discussions About LPS & DOCX


A few email discussions of the FL AG’s office that show what went on behind closed doors. Go thru them and thanks to Foreclosure Hamlet for these gems.

Please click on the links below.

 

[M-Hamilton-to-LPS]

[V-Butler-to-LPS]

[B-Julian-to-LPS-1]

[B-Julian-to-LPS-2]

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Was president of LPS’ Loan Portfolio Solutions division just let go?

Was president of LPS’ Loan Portfolio Solutions division just let go?


UPDATE:

It was announced that he's left to 
spend more time with his family.

According to the Yahoo Message boards:

Greg Whitworth FIRED

If you do a google search under cached it brings you to his info, but when clicked on the message board link it brings you or redirects one to a 404 NOT FOUND.

Mysteriously his info went down.

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SENATOR ELEANOR SOBEL, REP. DARREN SOTO PROBE DEEPER INTO FIRINGS OF ASSISTANT ATTORNEYS GENERAL

SENATOR ELEANOR SOBEL, REP. DARREN SOTO PROBE DEEPER INTO FIRINGS OF ASSISTANT ATTORNEYS GENERAL


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

CONTACT: MICHELLE DeMARCO
850.487.5833

AUGUST 4, 2011

SENATOR ELEANOR SOBEL, REP. DARREN SOTO PROBE DEEPER INTO FIRINGS OF ASSISTANT ATTORNEYS GENERAL
Seek details under Florida’s public records laws of relationships between Tallahassee/mortgage service company under investigation

TALLAHASSEE – State Senator Eleanor Sobel (D-Hollywood) and Representative Darren Soto (D-Orlando) on Thursday launched a probe of their own into the relationships surrounding the abrupt ouster of two top assistant attorneys general investigating widespread mortgage fraud throughout Florida.

“A number of troubling questions have come to our attention involving past and current employees of the Attorney General’s office and at least one mortgage processing company currently under investigation,” the duo wrote to Attorney General Pam Bondi in a formal public records request. “In particular, we are especially concerned with the sudden departure to Lender Processing Services of your former special counsel, Joe Jacquot, and the subsequent dismissal of two apparently top notch foreclosure fraud attorneys – June Clarkson and Theresa Edwards – from the Department of Legal Affairs.”

The circumstances surrounding Jacquot’s abrupt decision to leave the attorney general’s office sparked the lawmakers’ interest after it was learned that he had been hired in May as a senior vice president for Lender Processing Services, a company which had been under investigation for its role in questionable foreclosures throughout Florida. Jacquot had been named earlier this year as Bondi’s “special counsel.” Within approximately one week after his hiring by the company, assistant attorneys general Clarkson and Edwards were told of their dismissal and that the firings of the investigators “came from the top.” Both Clarkson and Edwards had been at the forefront of uncovering shady practices involving so-called “foreclosure mills” and were leading the probe into Lenders Processing Services.

But Jacquot is not the only connection the company shares with Tallahassee. Yet another Lender Processing Services senior vice president previously worked as general counsel and outside general counsel for the governor’s former health care company, Solantic.

The public records request seeks information specifically related to all communications, including Blackberry transmissions such as PINs and text messages involving top attorneys within the Attorney General’s office and the company, including documents relating to an “introductory meeting” held in March. It also seeks additional details on Provest, a Tampa-based mortgage servicing company also investigated by Edwards and Clarkson.

“Given the powerful ties, the high stakes, and the thousands of Florida homeowners on the line, many of whom I represent, the dismissal of June Clarkson and Theresa Edwards, and the ties between Tallahassee and these companies are critical,” said Senator Sobel. “The troubling questions surrounding these firings not only beg closer scrutiny, but deserve substantiated answers.”

“This supplemental information request is a sincere attempt to help determine what happened in regards to these dismissals,” added Rep. Soto. “The public deserves a thorough explanation.”

The move by Senator Sobel and Rep. Soto follows their request this week to U.S. Senator Bill Nelson and the U.S. Justice Department to investigate the firings. Last month, Rep. Soto also sought under Florida’s public records laws documentation substantiating claims by Bondi’s office that both Edwards and Clarkson were terminated due to “poor performance.”

A copy of the latest Sobel/Soto public records request is attached.

###

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LETTERS | Democratic lawmakers ask feds to investigate Bondi’s firing of foreclosure attorneys

LETTERS | Democratic lawmakers ask feds to investigate Bondi’s firing of foreclosure attorneys


Tampabay-

Rep. Darren Soto, D-Orlando and state Sen. Eleanor Sobel, D-Hollywoold, have asked U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson and U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to intervene in the investigation of the forced resignations of two foreclosure attornesy by Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi.

[TAMPABAY.COM]

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Bondi plans outside review of forced resignations

Bondi plans outside review of forced resignations


Tallahassee-

“I have 1,100 employees. I have trusted management in my office and the one common denominator with the people that I have hired, they’re tough former prosecutors,” Bondi said. “The only directive I’ve ever given to any employees of my office is to go after the bad guys with everything you’ve got.”

She said she trusted the judgment of three top staff aides who recommended forcing Clarkson and Edwards out. But Bondi said she was troubled by lack of documentation in personnel files and wanted an outside investigation to clear up any misgivings and make recommendations for avoiding such allegations in the future.

[TALLAHASSEE]

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Taxpayers fund, get smacked by Pam Bondi’s ‘revolving door’

Taxpayers fund, get smacked by Pam Bondi’s ‘revolving door’


OS-

Earlier this year, the Florida Attorney General’s Office was in the midst of a pull-no-punches investigation into foreclosure fraud.

Investigators were exposing rampant abuses. They’d netted a $2 million settlement from one company. And they were gunning for more.

But then in May, two things happened:

First, the “special counsel” to Attorney General Pam Bondi left to take a high-level job with one of the very companies the office was investigating.

One week later, the investigators were forced out of their jobs, told late on a Friday afternoon that they had 90 minutes to decide whether to resign or be fired.

[ORLANDO SENTINEL]

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Lawmaker may push to reinstate two ousted Florida foreclosure investigators

Lawmaker may push to reinstate two ousted Florida foreclosure investigators


Palm Beach Post-

An Orlando lawmaker wants two former state foreclosure investigators reinstated if performance evaluations he has requested reflect high rankings for the duo.

Democratic Rep. Darren Soto sent a public records request Wednesday to Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, asking for evaluations and documents related to the forced resignations of Theresa Edwards and June Clarkson.

The two former assistant attorneys general had been the lead investigators on the state’s foreclosure fraud cases, but were abruptly told in May to resign or they would be fired.

[PAM BEACH POST]

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