From Our Friends At Living Lies on the Glaski Decision

Glaski Decision in California Appellate Court Turns the Corner on “Getting It”

Posted on August 2, 2013 by Neil Garfield  @:

http://livinglies.wordpress.com/2013/08/02/glaski-decision-in-california-appellate-court-turns-the-corner-on-getting-it/

On the other hand we should not assume that they have arrived nor that this decision will have pervasive effects throughout California or elsewhere in the United States or other countries.

J.P. Morgan did suffer a crushing defeat in this decision. And the borrower definitely receive the benefits of a judicial decision that will allow the borrower to sue for wrongful foreclosure including equitable and legal relief which in plain language means reversing the foreclosure and getting damages. Probably one of the most damaging conclusions by the appellate court is that an examination of whether the loan ever made it into the asset pool is proper in determining the proper party to initiate a foreclosure or to offer a credit bid at a foreclosure auction.  The court said that alleged transfers into the trust after the cutoff date are void under New York State law which is the law that governs the common-law trusts created by the banks as part of the fraudulent securitization scheme.

Before you give them a standing ovation remember that it is possible for additional documentation to be created, fabricated and forged showing that despite the apparent violation of the cutoff date, the trustee has accepted the loan into the trust. This will most likely be a lie. I don’t think there is any entity acting as trustee of a trust that doesn’t know that it is under intense scrutiny and doesn’t want to be subject to liability that could amount to trillions of dollars advanced by investors with the purchase of bogus mortgage-backed bonds that were presumably managed by the trustee but in reality not managed at all  because the bonds were worthless. This gave the banks the opportunity to claim that they owned the bonds and therefore had an insurable interest which gave rise to the whole problem with AIG and AMBAC and other insurers or parties who had guaranteed the bond, the loan or any loss (credit default swaps).

The fact that the loan in this case was definitely securitized is also interesting. Of course Washington Mutual was stating to everyone that it was not involved in the securitization of mortgage loans when in fact nearly all of the loans originated became subject to claims of securitization. This case explains why I never say that the loan was securitized or that the loan was in any particular trust, to wit: I don’t believe that a funded trust exists with the ability to purchase loans and therefore I don’t believe the loans are in any of the asset pools. So when people ask me how they can prove which trust their loan is actually in, I reply that they are asking the wrong question.

What is being played out here in this case and hundreds of thousands of other cases is a representation by the foreclosing entity that the trust owns the loan when in fact it never owned the loan nor could it because the money that was advanced by investors was never deposited into the trust. We have the same banks representing to regulatory authorities and insurers that it is the bank and not the trust that owns the loan even though the bank merely made the loan using money advanced by investors who believed that they were buying mortgage-backed bonds. The truth is they were merely making a deposit into an account maintained by the investment bank. The resulting transactions do not qualify for exemption as securities or insurance under the 1998 law. Nor do they qualify for REMIC treatment under the Internal Revenue Code.

In other words if you take a close look and actually follow the path of the money and the path of the paper you will find that despite the pronouncements from the Department of Justice and other agencies, this is a simple fraud case using a Ponzi model. The hallmark of a Ponzi model is that it collapses as soon as the investors stop buying the bogus securities. If the government cares to do so it can freely prosecute the individuals and companies involved without any air of exemption under the 1998 law because none of the parties followed the securitization path presumed by the 1998 law. So we are back to this, to wit: a security is a security and subject to SEC regulations and insurance is an insurance contract subject to insurance regulators, and fraud is fraud subject to recovery of restitution, compensatory damages, punitive damages, treble damages etc.

You should remember when reading this decision that the appellate court was not ruling in favor of the borrower granting the substantive relief the borrower  was seeking. The appellate court merely reversed the trial court decision to dismiss the borrower’s claims. That only means that the borrower now as an opportunity to prove the elements of quiet title, wrongful foreclosure, slander of title, cancellation of instruments and relief under California’s version of unfair business practices. But the devil is in the details and proving the case requires aggressive discovery and aggressive preparation for trial. It is highly probable that the case will settle. The bank will probably be willing to pay almost any amount of money to avoid a judgment setting forth the elements of a wrongful foreclosure and how the bank violated the law.

The Bank will attempt to avoid any final order that undermines the value of loans that are subject to claims of securitization, because those loans supposedly support the value of the bogus mortgage-backed bonds sold to investors.  Any such final order would also undermine the balance sheet of J.P. Morgan and any other major bank carrying the mortgage bonds as assets on their balance sheet. If those assets are diminished, then the bank is not as well funded as it has been reporting. In fact, those assets might well vanish completely from the balance sheet of those banks, causing the banks to be seized by the FDIC and broken up into smaller pieces for regional and community banks to pick up. Hence this decision represents a risk factor that could eliminate the legal fiction created by smoke and mirrors from Wall Street banks, to wit: it is not the borrowers who are deadbeats, it is the banks who are broke and whose management has run off with billions and perhaps trillions of dollars that should be in the United States economy. The absence of that money lies at the root of our unemployment and low economic activity.

This Glaski case has many of the elements that we have been discussing for years. Fabricated documents, forgeries, perjury, false affidavits and no money trail to backup the story painted by the fabricated documents. And of course it has our old friend Washington Mutual Bank And the supposed take over by Chase Bank that never actually happened.

And it involves the issue of assignments and the fact that the assignment is not the transaction itself but only a report of a transaction. If the borrower proves that the transaction reported in the assignment or other instrument of conveyance never occurred, or if the borrower is successful in shifting the burden of proof to the bank to show that it did occur, the assignment will have no value whatsoever unless the transaction is present, to wit: that someone actually purchased the loan through the payment of money or other valuable consideration that was received by a party who actually owned the loan.

Thus even if Chase Bank were able to show that it entered into a transaction in which the loans were transferred (something we can find no evidence of which the FDIC receiver says never occurred) that would only be the equivalent of a quit claim deed, to wit: whoever received the consideration for the transfer of the loans was merely conveying any interest they had even if they had no interest at all. Hence the transactions by which Washington Mutual allegedly came to be the owner of the loan must be examined in the same way as the transaction between the Washington Mutual bankruptcy estate and chase bank.

You should also take note that the decision was published with the admonition that it is  “not to be published in the official reports.”  this is further indication that the court is concerned about the far-reaching effects of the decision and essentially tells trial judges that they do not have to follow it. So for those who wish to point to this decision and say “game over” we are not there yet. But I do think that we passed the halfway point and we are probably in the fifth or sixth inning of a nine inning game. Translating that to time, I would estimate that it’s going to take another three or four years to clean up this mess and that it might take several decades to clean up the title corruption that was created by the banks.

http://stopforeclosurefraud.com/2013/08/01/glaski-v-bank-of-america-ca5-5th-appellate-district-securitization-failed-ny-trust-law-applied-ruling-to-protect-remic-status-non-judicial-foreclosure-statutes-irrelevant-because-sa/

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Fed Blesses Banks’ Foreclosure-Rental Approach – Developments – WSJ

April 5, 2012, 5:55 PM

http://blogs.wsj.com/developments/2012/04/05/fed-blesses-banks-foreclosure-rental-approach/

Fed Blesses Banks’ Foreclosure-Rental Approach

By Alan Zibel

Reuters Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke

The Federal Reserve set out new polices for banks that decide to rent out foreclosed homes, endorsing a strategy for managing the huge number of distressed properties that have piled up during the housing bust.

The central bank said in a six-page policy statement Thursday that the Fed’s regulations permit the rental of foreclosed properties to tenants “in light of the extraordinary market conditions that currently prevail.” The policy clarified that banks that would otherwise be required to sell off the properties more quickly can turn to rental as a strategy.

Banks can do so “without having to demonstrate continuous active marketing of the property provided that suitable policies and procedures are followed,” the central bank said. The shift to rentals is a significant change in the way banks deal with properties that fall into foreclosure – if loan assistance programs don’t work.

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke and other central bank officials have spoken publicly about the need to encourage banks to rent out foreclosures. “With home prices falling and rents rising, it could make sense in some markets to turn some of the foreclosed homes into rental properties,” Mr. Bernanke said in a February speech.

The central bank said that banks holding large numbers of foreclosures should establish detailed policies for renting foreclosures, including a process to determine whether the properties are safe to occupy and meet local building code requirements.

The Fed said banks should set up criteria by which properties are picked to be rental properties. The banks should establish plans that “describe the general conditions under which the organization believes a rental approach is likely to be successful,” the central bank said.

Last month, Bank of America Corp. announced a plan to allow homeowners at risk of foreclosure to hand over deeds to their houses and sign leases that will let them rent the houses back from the bank at a market rate.

In addition, Fannie Mae is selling 2,500 homes in eight metropolitan areas around the country. The government-controlled mortgage firm is selling the $320 million portfolio to investors, who would be required to turn them into rental properties.

Follow Alan @AlanZibel

 

NootkaBearMcDonald Says:

It never ceases to amaze me….

First the banks screw the people with toxic loans.

They sale the Note, and then Sale the Deed to someone else, make a whole hell of a lot of money.

Then it is just a matter of time until these pick a pay loans, or negative am loans, adjustable rate loans, get to where you can no longer make the payments, no matter how much money you make.  Face it, the payment went into default when you made your first payment if you had a pick-a-pay loan, you started out making payments that were less than the amount of interest each month.

The homeowner defaults, the banks, who cannot foreclose, due to having sold the Note to one entity, and the Deed to another entity, so they have LPS, DocX, CoreLogic,  Prommis Solutions, or some other unsavory 3rd party default services entity, create falsified, robo-signed and forged documents, because ain’t no way in hell, they’re going to let your house get away.

The Bank then forecloses, no matter what they have to do, they will do it to get that home. 

Then…what are they going to do with yet another home?  Of course, the one with the most homes in the end wins.. but we still have a ways to go before then.  In the meantime, different areas are coming up with fees for having houses sitting with no one living in the homes.

BRAINSTORM!!!  RENT IT OUT!!!

So they stole your home, bought it themselves at the auction, turned the paperwork into the Insurance, got 80% of the amount you defaulted on, and they can either sale it (but there is no one left that can get a home loan, they have done foreclosed on them all) or Rent it out.  Just think!!!  When they get used to the idea, they will be renting you your house, foreclosing on you and selling your house in one swift easy move.

Hell, they should just take your house from you, let you stay there, and change it from house payment to rent, without having to do any paperwork or anything…kind of like the issue of not having the needed documents to foreclose on you.  They will wipe out the need for a Promissory Note and a Deed, they will keep you in your home by renting it to you.

DocX Faces Foreclosure Fraud Charges in Missouri – NYTimes.com

 

Company Faces Forgery Charges in Mo. Foreclosures

By GRETCHEN MORGENSON
Published: February 6, 2012

One of the largest companies that provided home foreclosure services to lenders across the nation, DocX, has been indicted on forgery charges by a Missouri grand jury — one of the few criminal actions to follow reports of widespread improprieties against homeowners.

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Kelley McCall/Associated Press

Chris Koster, the Missouri attorney general, is investigating DocX.

A grand jury in Boone County, Mo., handed up an indictment Friday accusing DocX of 136 counts of forgery in the preparation of documents used to evict financially strained borrowers from their homes. Lorraine O. Brown, the company’s founder and former president, was indicted on the same charges.

Employees of DocX, a unit of Lender Processing Services of Jacksonville, Fla., executed and notarized millions of mortgage documents for big banks and loan servicers over the years. Lender Processing closed the company in April 2010, after evidence emerged of apparent forgeries in these documents, a practice now called robo-signing.

Chris Koster, the Missouri attorney general, will prosecute the case. “The grand jury indictment alleges that mass-produced fraudulent signatures on notarized real estate documents constitutes forgery,” Mr. Koster said in a statement. “Today’s indictment reflects our firm conviction that when you sign your name to a legal document, it matters.”

Mr. Koster said his office’s investigation was continuing. This suggests he may hope to persuade Ms. Brown to cooperate in his investigation of the parent company. If convicted, Ms. Brown could face up to seven years in prison for each forgery count. DocX could be fined up to $10,000 for each forgery conviction.

Scott Rosenblum, a lawyer at Rosenblum, Schwartz, Rogers & Glass who represents DocX said: “We have not had an opportunity to review the indictment at this point. The company intends to enter a plea of not guilty.”

According to the indictment, Ms. Brown acted “knowingly in concert with DocX and its employees” to mislead and defraud the Boone County recorder of deeds. The documents central to the indictments were deeds of release, which eliminate a previous claim on an asset. Such releases are typically issued when a mortgage has been paid off.

A lawyer for Ms. Brown said that she intends to enter a not guilty plea and that she had no criminal intent.

Since evidence of pervasive foreclosure improprieties emerged, state officials have mostly brought civil suits against the institutions and law firms that filed the fraudulent documents. Individuals in Nevada, for example, have been charged with notary fraud, but beyond that matter, criminal cases arising from foreclosure practices have been uncommon.

The Missouri grand jury found that the person whose name appeared on 68 documents executed on behalf of a lender — someone named Linda Green — was not the person who had signed the papers. The documents were submitted to the Boone County recorder of deeds as though they were genuine, Mr. Koster said.

A recent civil lawsuit against Lender Processing by the attorney general of Nevada found that former workers at one of its divisions had described their work as “surrogate signers.” One worker who was quoted in the complaint said she had been paid $11 an hour and told that her job was “to sign somebody else’s signature on documents.” The person said she had signed roughly 2,000 documents a day for months, according to the lawsuit.

In addition to deed releases, DocX surrogate signers routinely executed assignments of mortgage, which reflect changes in ownership.

The indictment is only the latest legal assault on the company and its parent, Lender Processing. In August 2011, American Home Mortgage Servicing, a large loan servicer, sued Lender Processing contending that more than 30,000 residential mortgages that it had handled across the country contained “improper execution, notarization and recording of assignments of mortgage.” DocX executed such paperwork for American Home from April 2008 through November 2009, the lawsuit said.

Last April, Lender Processing signed a consent order with the nation’s top financial regulators, agreeing to remediate improperly executed mortgage documents and to correct its default business practices. Michelle Kersch, a Lender Processing spokeswoman, said recently that the company now executed documents “with stringent controls in place” to ensure compliance with all rules.

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: February 8, 2012

An article on Tuesday about indictments on forgery charges of the loan processing firm DocX and its founder and former president, Lorraine O. Brown, misstated the given name for the lawyer representing the company. He is Scott Rosenblum, not Chris. (The lawyer defending Ms. Brown is Chris Rosenbloom.)

A version of this article appeared in print on February 7, 2012, on page B1 of the New York edition with the headline: Company Faces Forgery Charges in Foreclosures in Missouri.

DocX Faces Foreclosure Fraud Charges in Missouri – NYTimes.com

Lender Processing Unit Indicted in Missouri for Forging Mortgage Documents- Bloomberg

http://mobile.bloomberg.com/news/2012-02-07/lender-processing-unit-indicted-in-missouri-for-forging-mortgage-documents

Lender Processing Unit Indicted in Missouri for Forging Mortgage Documents

By Phil Milford
February 07, 2012 8:24 AM EST

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Docx LLC, a unit of Lender Processing Services Inc., was charged in Missouri with forgery and making a false declaration related to mortgage documents it processed.

A Boone County grand jury handed down the 136-count indictment against Docx and founder Lorraine Brown alleging that a person whose name appears on 68 notarized deeds of release didn’t actually sign the paperwork, Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster said in a statement yesterday.

“When you sign your name to a legal document, it matters,” Koster said. “Mass-producing fraudulent signatures on millions of real estate documents across America constitutes forgery.”

Lender Processing, based in Jacksonville, Florida, says about half of all U.S. mortgages by dollar volume are serviced using its loan-servicing platform.

Michelle Kersch, a Lender Processing spokeswoman, didn’t immediately return phone and e-mail messages seeking comment on the indictment. The indictment was reported earlier in the New York Times.

To contact the reporter on this story: Phil Milford in Wilmington, Delaware, at pmilford@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Hytha at mhytha@bloomberg.net.

Lender Processing Unit Indicted in Missouri for Forging Mortgage Documents- Bloomberg

Special report: Legal woes mount for a foreclosure kingpin | Reuters

http://www.reuters.com/article/2010/12/06/us-foreclosures-lps-idUSTRE6B547N20101206

Lest We Not Forget…

Special report: Legal woes mount for a foreclosure kingpin

Fall leaves blow past an empty home (C) seen in a well kept neighborhood where the house is listed on the auction block during the Wayne County tax foreclosures auction of almost 9,000 properties in Detroit, Michigan, October 22, 2009. REUTERS/Rebecca Cook

Fall leaves blow past an empty home (C) seen in a well kept neighborhood where the house is listed on the auction block during the Wayne County tax foreclosures auction of almost 9,000 properties in Detroit, Michigan, October 22, 2009. Credit: Reuters/Rebecca Cook

By Scot J. Paltrow

JACKSONVILLE, Florida | Mon Dec 6, 2010 2:10pm EST

JACKSONVILLE, Florida (Reuters) – Lender Processing Services is riding the waves of foreclosures sweeping the United States, but in late October its CEO, Jeff Carbiener, found himself needing to reassure investors in the $2.8 billion company.

Although profits were rolling in, LPS’s stock had taken a hit in the wake of revelations that mortgage companies across the country had filed fraudulent documents in foreclosures cases. Earlier in the year, the company, which handles more than half of the nation’s foreclosures, had disclosed that it was under federal criminal investigation and admitted that employees at a small subsidiary had falsely signed foreclosure documents.

Still, Carbiener told the Wall Street analysts in an October 29 conference call that LPS’s legal concerns were overblown, and the stock has jumped 13 percent since its close the day before the call.

But a Reuters investigation shows that LPS’s legal woes are more serious than he let on. Public records reveal that the company’s LPS Default Solutions unit produced documents of dubious authenticity in far larger quantities than it has disclosed, and over a much longer timespan.

Questionable signing and notarization practices weren’t limited to its subsidiary, called DocX, but occurred in at least one of LPS’s own offices, mortgage assignments filed in county recorders’ offices show. And rather than halt such practices after the federal investigation got underway, the company shifted the signing to firms with which it has close business ties. LPS provided personnel to work in the new signing operations, according to information from an LPS spokeswoman and court records including an October 21 ruling by a judge in Brooklyn, New York. Records in county recorders’ offices, and in the judge’s opinion, show that “robosigning” and preparation of apparently false documents went on at these sites on a large scale.

In one instance, it helped set up a massive signing operation at the nearby office of a major client, a spokeswoman for the client, American Home Mortgage Servicing, confirmed. LPS-hired notaries who worked there said in interviews that troves of documents were improperly handled. They said that about 200 affidavits per day were robosigned during the two months the two notaries remained there.

A spokeswoman for LPS confirmed to Reuters that it had helped other firms establish operations that performed the same function. LPS spokeswoman Michelle Kersch didn’t specify which firms. But beginning early in 2010, county recorders’ records show, signing shifted also to law firms under contract with LPS.

Interviews with key players and court records also show that pending investigations and lawsuits pose a bigger threat to the company than Carbiener let on.

The criminal investigation in Jacksonville by federal prosecutors and the Federal Bureau of Investigation is intensifying. The same goes for a separate inquiry by the Florida attorney general’s office. Individuals with direct knowledge of the federal inquiry said that prosecutors have impaneled a grand jury, begun calling witnesses and subpoenaed records from LPS.

The company confirmed to Reuters that it has hired Paul McNulty, former deputy U.S. attorney general in the George W. Bush administration, to represent it in the investigation. A spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney’s office declined to comment on the probe.

The U.S. Comptroller of the Currency’s office, which is responsible for supervising national banks, also announced in November that it had teamed up with the Federal Reserve to conduct an on-site examination of LPS.

Meanwhile, the threats from four class action lawsuits filed in federal courts appear to be greater than the company has indicated, especially one filed in Mississippi. In a highly unusual move, a unit of the U.S. Justice Department has joined that suit as a plaintiff. The lawsuit alleges that LPS extracted many millions of dollars in kickbacks from law firms through an illegal fee-sharing arrangement, in exchange for doling out lucrative foreclosure work to them.

The lawsuit also charges that LPS illegally practices law and routinely misleads homeowners and federal bankruptcy judges. Carbiener has said there is little reason to worry about the Mississippi suit because the company already prevailed in a federal lawsuit in Texas that had made nearly identical accusations. But court records in that case show that the lawsuit was dropped without any ruling on the merits of the allegations.

Copies of LPS internal documents obtained by Reuters and testimony in lawsuits shed new light on the company’s unusual dealings with its vast network of law firms. LPS relentlessly pressed them for speed. The result was almost instant filing of foreclosure documents, mostly prepared by clerical workers, not lawyers, according to court records, including deposition testimony by LPS officials. Several judicial opinions from around the country and evidence from investigations in Florida show that these documents often were riddled with inaccurate information about the amount homeowners owed, and were signed and notarized en masse without anyone at the firms checking the information in them.

Under LPS’s system, law firms that were slower, often because their lawyers carefully prepared and reviewed court documents before filing them, were effectively punished, according to deposition testimony and other sources. The computer automatically assigned bad ratings to these firms, and the flow of work assignments to them dried up.

A BOOMING BUSINESS

Few firms benefited more from the collapse of the U.S. housing boom than LPS. Spun off as an independent company in 2008, the company has seen its profits, with big help from its mortgage default services business, reach $232 million for the first nine months of 2010. That is a nearly 15 percent increase from the same period in 2009. Its revenue last year was $2.4 billion, up from $1.8 billion in 2008.

And business continues to surge. Carbiener told analysts on the October 29 call that “we continue to gain market share across all key business segments.” In a November 23 report prepared for investors and clients, LPS said banks are pushing to foreclose on properties as rapidly as possible, driving “the foreclosure inventory rate to all-time highs.” It said that at the end of October, the number of properties going into foreclosure is “7.4 times historical averages and rising.”

The banks’ push to evict homeowners faster and in bigger numbers than ever before makes LPS’s services even more crucial to them. LPS’s success is built on its advanced, super-automated system that is highly efficient, low-cost, and speeds foreclosures through to completion. The “LPS Desktop” starts foreclosure actions, assigns work to law firms and supervises the cases to conclusion with almost no intervention by humans. (LPS says foreclosure actions are started by its clients, the loan servicers. But copies of agreements with servicers obtained by Reuters show that LPS has direct access to the banks’ and other servicers’ computer systems, and LPS detects defaults and initiates foreclosures based on parameters given to it by the banks.)

Few loan servicers could resist handing over key tasks to the company. Today, LPS boasts a client list that includes 14 of the 15 biggest loan servicers, with household names such as Wells Fargo and JPMorgan Chase — its two biggest clients, according to LPS’s most recent 10K filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission. The company has said that Bank of America joined as a client earlier this year. LPS says that all 50 of the nation’s largest banks use at least some of its services.

In essence, LPS is a giant electronic butler for the big banks and other companies in the industry. It attends to routine tasks the loan servicers prefer not to do themselves. These include tracking mortgage payments, calculating amounts owed to investors who purchased bundles of mortgages, ensuring that property taxes and insurance get paid — and automatically filing foreclosure actions when homeowners go into default.

The pending investigations and lawsuits, however, are focusing on whether LPS, in its zeal to serve its clients, broke the rules, in part by replacing missing bank documents with fictitious ones to make foreclosure cases go through.

SIGNATURE TROUBLE

The first sign of legal problems for LPS emerged earlier this year, when the company disclosed that federal prosecutors in Florida had opened a criminal investigation into apparently forged signatures on foreclosure documents prepared by DocX, the shuttered subsidiary located in a small office park in Alpharetta, Georgia.

Fidelity National Financial, LPS’s former parent, had bought DocX in 2005. The unit soon became a high-speed mill, churning out mortgage assignments — many of which are now known to be of doubtful validity — on behalf of banks and investor trusts, helping them to foreclose on homeowners.

Mortgage assignments are documents transferring ownership, usually from the original lenders to trusts owned by investors who bought securitized packages of mortgages. Loan servicers typically file foreclosure actions on behalf of the trusts when any of their mortgages go into default. But cases popping up all over the country show that the original lenders never handed over ownership of mortgages to the trusts. Assignments establishing ownership of a mortgage are required as evidence in foreclosure cases.

DocX turned out tens of thousands of newly-minted mortgage assignments, purporting to show transfers of ownership long after the mortgages should have been handed over to the trusts, according to the standard provisions in trust agreements.

Thousands of these bore the signature of DocX employee Linda Green. The signatures didn’t look alike, however, and LPS eventually confirmed that multiple DocX employees had signed her name. Some of the assignments stood out because they listed the new owner of the mortgages as “bogus assignee” or “bad bene.”

LPS spokeswoman Michelle Kersch said “bogus assignee” and “bad bene” were simply standard placeholders on document templates which the employees inadvertently had neglected to fill in with the proper names.

In his October 29 conference call with analysts, Carbiener said that when the company discovered the DocX wrongdoing in December 2009, it immediately stopped it and soon shut DocX down. But it turns out that DocX continued operating much longer than LPS originally had acknowledged. In a written response last week to questions from Reuters, LPS’s Kersch confirmed that DocX actually wasn’t closed until August 2010. She said: “The last document signed by DocX was on May 14, 2010.” But she said no improper signing had occurred there since 2009.

DUBIOUS DOCUMENTS

Hundreds of public records examined by Reuters show that production of suspect mortgage assignments was not limited to DocX.

The records indicate that employees in one of LPS’s own offices, in Mendota Heights, Minnesota, signed and notarized large numbers of documents which for multiple reasons appear invalid. Records filed with county recorders’ offices show that the Minnesota office continued to turn out these documents at least through the end of January 2010.

Dozens of assignments were signed by LPS Minnesota office employees who listed themselves as corporate officers of banks and other loan servicers, a sampling of public records from counties in five states shows. As at DocX, the assignments were signed years after the mortgages should have been transferred to the investment trusts.

The signature of one of these LPS employees, Liquenda Allotey, appears on thousands of mortgage assignments. Homeowners’ lawyers and at least one judge — federal bankruptcy judge Joel B. Rosenthal in Massachusetts — have noted that Allotey’s signature is a simple zigzag line, raising questions about whether other individuals may have signed his name. Titles listed below the signature identify him variously as “vice president” or “attorney in fact” for at least 13 banks and mortgage companies.

LPS spokeswoman Kersch said Allotey signed all of the documents himself, and said all mortgage assignments prepared in the Minnesota office “were executed under a lawful grant of authority.” She didn’t spell out, however, how such authority was given.

In any event, two other aspects of many mortgage assignments signed by Minnesota employees raise strong doubts about the documents’ legitimacy.

State laws, backed up by court decisions, require that mortgage investment trusts and others filing to foreclose on houses possess a valid mortgage assignment at the time they file for foreclosure. If it doesn’t, the laws require that the case be dismissed.

An examination of county recorders’ records turned up dozens of mortgage assignments signed and notarized by the Minnesota office weeks or months after a foreclosure case had been filed. Records show that even though invalid, the belated mortgage assignments often enabled foreclosure cases to sail through.

April Charney, an attorney who represents homeowners at Jacksonville Area Legal Aid, said in a Reuters interview that in most instances homeowners can’t afford lawyers and don’t challenge the foreclosures.

In many states, judges often approve the foreclosures without carefully examining the documents, she said. And at least until recently, when widespread questions were raised about the legitimacy of mortgage documents, judges routinely accepted belated mortgage assignments — even in cases contested by the homeowners, she said.

Equally difficult to explain are mortgage assignments signed by LPS Minnesota employees purporting to be officers of lenders that no longer existed. For example, in January 2010, two Minnesota employees jointly signed one as officers of Encore Credit Corp., defunct since 2008.

On other occasions, LPS employees signed as authorized officers of American Brokers Conduit, well after the subprime lender had been liquidated in bankruptcy. And in many instances they signed as officers of Sand Canyon Corp. In a March 18, 2009 affidavit, Sand Canyon’s president, Dale M. Sugimoto, said the company had completely exited the mortgage business in 2008 and had no mortgages to assign.

In written answers to questions, LPS spokeswoman Kersch didn’t respond directly to questions about the employees signing mortgage assignments after the foreclosures had been filed, or about signing on behalf of defunct companies. Instead, she said that the LPS employees signed mortgage assignments because lawyers who had filed foreclosure cases asked them to. She said the lawyers “decide when and if an assignment of mortgage is required.”

Shortly after the federal investigation was launched in December 2009, LPS began moving to curtail document-signing activities at the company itself. LPS says that the Minnesota office stopped signing mortgage assignments at the end of January 2010, and public records appear to confirm that. Carbiener said during the analysts meeting that LPS has now ended all signing of mortgage assignments and affidavits at the company.

Without someone to draw up replacement documents, though, LPS’s clients faced potential hardship, because so many mortgages were never assigned by lenders, as required, in the first place. Without these documents, thousands of foreclosures all over the country would come to a halt.

Reuters has learned that rather than stamping out the practice, LPS in December 2009 began transferring signing operations out of its own offices and into those of firms it has close relationships with. Kersch confirmed that LPS sent personnel to work “at client locations to assist clients during this period.”

For example, LPS arranged through a local employment service to hire about a dozen notaries, sending them to work at a new signing operation set up in the Jacksonville office of American Home Mortgage Servicing, one of LPS’s biggest clients.

Records from county recorders’ offices show that at least as recently as October, American Home Mortgage Servicing employees signed exactly the same type of questionable mortgages assignments that LPS staffers at DocX and in Minnesota had signed. These included assignments done on behalf of defunct companies like American Brokers Conduit, and after foreclosure actions already had been filed. Reuters obtained a partial list of the names of the LPS-hired notaries. Copies of mortgage assignments available publicly show that these notaries notarized many of these assignments, including ones signed on behalf of defunct companies.

In interviews, two of the notaries, who asked that they not be identified, said the American Home Mortgage Servicing office also set up a “robosigning” operation for affidavits, another type of document required in foreclosure cases. The employees who signed the affidavits were swearing that they had verified the facts listed in them, such as the specific amounts owed by homeowners.

But the two notaries, who said they were dismissed after raising questions with supervisors about the practices, said that each morning about a half-dozen American Home Mortgage Servicing employees in about an hour would sign some 200 affidavits received via LPS’s computer system, without reading them, let alone verifying the facts they contained. “In that time, come on, you have not verified figures in 200 documents. That’s impossible,” one of the notaries said.

Philippa Brown, spokeswoman for American Home Mortgage Servicing, said in an e-mailed statement that “We recently had independent audits conducted on our processes and it was found that at no time was AHMSI (American Home Mortgage Servicing Inc.) ‘robosigning’.” She confirmed that the company had used DocX until December 2009, and then “contracted with LPS” to provide it with notaries “in connection with execution of affidavits and other documents” in American Home Mortgage Servicing’s office. Concerning assignments the company signed for defunct lenders, Brown said American Home Mortgage Servicing “obtains authorization from the previous parties,” but did not explain how.

LPS acknowledged that it had sent notaries to several companies to help them set up signing operations. Kersch said: “When LPS Default Solutions group transitioned away from signing documents on behalf of its customers, in some cases it employed notaries who worked on-site at client locations to assist clients during this period.” The spokeswoman confirmed that LPS provided training at these sites, but said it was only “technical” training on using the LPS Desktop system.

TROLLING FOR CASES

It remains unclear whether LPS faces more legal risks because of its document-signing operations or because of its odd arrangement with the lawyers assigned to file foreclosure actions.

Reuters has obtained new details of how the relationship worked from copies of the “network agreements” the law firms sign with LPS, among other sources. Interviews and records from court cases show that this system often worked to the detriment of homeowners struggling to keep their homes.

LPS says that clients are the ones who pick law firms to represent them in foreclosure cases. But copies of its agreements with clients reviewed by Reuters state that the company’s clients sign up to use LPS’s network of lawyer. The agreements and depositions from lawsuits show that when a homeowner goes into default, the LPS system automatically selects a law firm in its network, sometimes using criteria set by a client, and transmits an offer of work that pops up on the law firm’s LPS Desktop screen.

The firm has no more than a couple of hours to accept the job. And if it does, it immediately agrees to pay an up-front fee to LPS. The law firms also pay LPS a monthly fee for use of the LPS Desktop system.

The company denies that it charges fees to lawyers in exchange for assignments of work. Kersch said the company charges fees strictly for the use of LPS’s computer system. Carbiener on October 29 said: “Our services are nonlegal, and are similar to any other operational cost of a law firm such as the licensing costs they pay for word-processing software or accounting software.”

But in a lawsuit deposition on January 13, 2010, Christian Hymer, an LPS first vice president, testified that the company often signs up the law firms that are part of its network. In addition, until recently, lawyers signed work agreements only with LPS, not with the loan servicers. Kersch said that currently lawyers are required to sign separate agreements both with LPS and the servicers.

Laws in nearly all states forbid lawyers to share legal fees with nonlawyers. The laws are intended to prevent kickbacks for funneling legal work to an attorney, the cost of which would be passed on to unsuspecting clients or, as in foreclosure cases, billed to homeowners.

LPS isn’t a law firm. The Mississippi class action suit alleges that LPS is a nonlawyer middleman between the servicers (acting on behalf of trusts that own the mortgages) and the lawyers. It alleges that the company illegally decides which law firms get to file foreclosure cases, and makes decisions about what they file.

RED, YELLOW, GREEN

Interviews, deposition transcripts and LPS’s own records underline that the company keeps its clients happy and maximizes its own fee income by whipping law firms to gallop cases through the courts.

The law firms are on a stopwatch: Kersch confirmed that the LPS Desktop system automatically times how long each firm takes to complete a task. It assigns firms that turn out work the fastest a “green” rating; slower ones “yellow” and “red” for those that take the longest.

Court records show that green ratings go to firms that jump on offered assignments from their LPS computer screens and almost instantly turn out ready-to-file court pleadings, often using teams of low-skilled clerical workers with little oversight from the lawyers. Copies of company newsletters from shortly before LPS was spun off show that the company each year gave awards to the law firms that were consistently the fastest.

Firms that move more slowly were slapped with “red” designations. For them, work offers dried up.

LPS denies that the rating system is used to punish slower firms. Kersch said the ratings are generated so that law firms can compare their speed and efficiency with an average calculated for a wide group of firms.

LEGAL AFFAIRS

The term “robosigners” was coined to describe the low-level clerical workers who signed many thousands of affidavits for foreclosure cases, swearing to the truth of facts they had never checked. But it turns out that the professionals at these firms — the attorneys who have strict legal and ethical obligations to file truthful documents in court — have carried out similar activities on a large scale. They allowed others to sign their names to multiple types of court pleadings they had never read or bothered to check, involving many types of documents.

In an April 2009 court decision, Diane Weiss Sigmund, a federal bankruptcy judge in Philadelphia, specifically faulted lawyers whose firm filed LPS-transmitted documents in court using clerical workers to sign the name of a lawyer who hadn’t looked at them.

In that case, it turned out that, contrary to the documents supplied via the LPS system, the homeowners weren’t in default on their mortgage.

Referring to the LPS computer system, the judge stated, “the flaws in this automated process become apparent.” She added: “An attorney must cease processing files and act like a lawyer.”

Jacksonville legal aid attorney Charney says that carelessly prepared documents, containing basic errors, have been used to foreclose on a big portion of the homeowners who have lost their houses.

LPS denies that its system encourages carelessness by law firms. In the October 29 conference call, Chief Executive Carbiener said that based on routine internal reviews, “we are not aware of any defects in our signing and review processes that resulted in the wrongful foreclosure of any borrower.”

(Editing by Jim Impoco and Claudia Parsons)

Special report: Legal woes mount for a foreclosure kingpin | Reuters