Foreclosure by Rubber Stamp? State Attorney Generals Investigate

VIDEO: David Muir investigates questionable foreclosure practices throughout America.
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In one month, thousands of documents were pushed through the system by one man.

An estimated 10,000 mortgage documents -- affidavits and mortgage assignments -- made it by the desk of 42-year-old Jeffrey Stephan, according to his deposition at the Circuit Court of the 15th Judicial Circuit in Palm Beach, Fla.

As the team leader in the documentation unit of mortgage company GMAC in Horsham, Pa., Stephan spent his days going through what amounts to 2,500 documents over a four-week period, or 625 documents a day -- perhaps too many even for the most highly skilled analysts, in the eyes of some critics.

Those 600-plus daily documents were expected to be vetted for proper paperwork before kicking off the foreclosure process.

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Now there are increasing questions about the qualifications of people like Stephan who were handling those documents at such a blinding rate -- even as the country's foreclosure epidemic continues to spiral out of control.

In September, banks repossessed more than 102,000 homes, according to online mortgage tracking company Realtytrac -- the first time the monthly total has exceeded 100,000. The amount of homes experiencing foreclosure filings in the third quarter was a whopping one in every 139 households.

Because of the sheer volume of foreclosures, some companies employed "robo signers," individuals whose job was to sign off on the bulk of paperwork. Such people were dubbed "The Burger King Kids" at J.P. Morgan and Chase, according to The New York Times.

The fast-food conveyor belt culture of bulk signing, and the admission by some signers that they rushed through their work, has called into question the entire foreclosure process.

Xee Moua, an employee of Wells Fargo, a lender that decided against delaying the foreclosure process, told a court in March that she only identified her own name and title when going over the 500 mortgage documents she viewed each day, according to a report by the Financial Times.

When Stephan was asked if he received training from Mortgage Electronic Registration System (MERS), a mortgage tracking service, he responded with a simple no.

Instead of being motivated by bad intentions, employees may have been pushed to just complete or sign documents to get the job done, real estate experts say.

"The rationale behind hiring low-skilled people is to spend as little money as possible, said Steve Horne, president of Wingspan Portfolio Advisors. "It saves the servicer money, although it costs the lender more money."

What is turning into a widespread problem led Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum to send out identical letters of concern to Bank of America, JP Morgan Chase, GMAC, PNC Financial Group and Litton Loan Servicing.

"I was distressed to learn from media reports that your company may have engaged in faulty affidavits in foreclosure cases in Florida courts with regard to ownership of promissory notes and affidavits that attested to personal knowledge of facts when, in fact, the affiant had no such personal knowledge," McCollum wrote in a letter addressed to the five companies dated Oct. 12.

To proceed with the foreclosure documents, employees were expected to review and identify who owned a promissory note on a mortgage.

Joining McCollum in a probe of the foreclosure process are attorney generals in the other 49 states.

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