Foreclosure in California-A Crisis of Compliance

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The City and County of San Francisco’s Office of the Assessor-Recorder retained

Aequitas Compliance Solutions, Inc. to produce this report.

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

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

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

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

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

The San Francisco analysis points out, “ it is a felony to knowingly file false documents with any public office in California.

The depth of the problem raises questions about whether at least some foreclosures should be considered void, Mr. Ting said.

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

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

This information is consistent with a report out of the New York Post which claims that lawyers, forensic accountants and consumer advocates have long suspected that banks were systematically creating improper documents to prove ownership of loans. Foreclosure defense lawyers use the term “ta-da endorsement” to describe situations in which they say a document appears, as if by magic, in the bank’s possession as needed in a foreclosure case — even though the proper endorsement was not included in the original foreclosure filing.

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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

© Barry Fagan, Law Offices of Barry S Fagan | Attorney Advertising

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