Foreclosure by Rubber Stamp? State Attorney Generals Investigate

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The investigation led by AGs and bank regulators seeks to identify if servicers or employers falsified documents during the largest mortgage market implosion this nation ever has seen.

What's creating the scandal is "the lenders are basically saying they actually own the note, when they don't have it in their presence or don't have the original note," said Jason Biro, co-founder and director of Saving Your American Dream, a non-profit group that assists individuals hurting from the mortgage crisis. "But, in order to foreclose, you have to have the original promissory note."

By not properly identifying a promissory note or affidavits, property could be seized improperly and sold by a lender that does not own the mortgage.

Perhaps adding to the confusion, the mortgage industry leans heavily on a paper system during an all-digital age.

"The dominant technology in the industry is very dated," Horne said. "It's 1960s-era technology."

While foreclosure laws vary from state to state, proper paperwork is required. Depending on the property location, there is a judicial or non-judicial process that lenders or servicers must follow.

The question is: Did Stephan and Moua adequately pore over the 625 or 500 documents they signed off on each day.

As the foreclosure documentation process comes under intense examination, many areas of the real estate business could be impacted.

"It affects people that have purchased these homes that may have clouds on their titles now because of fraudulent foreclosure measures," said Biro.

There also could be "title insurance problems because title insurance companies don't want to insure [property] because they worry about [future] liens on property or being sued," Biro said.

There's worry in the industry that a freeze on foreclosure sales will stall the real estate market recovery. As some banks grind foreclosures to halt, the slowdown can affect neighborhoods and communities across the country.

In September, foreclosed homes accounted for more than 30 percent of property sales.

"It's the worst of both worlds," said Peter J. Henning, professor of law at Wayne State University Law School. "You're not going to slow down people that can't pay, but you are going to slow down people that can pay.

"It will have an impact on neighborhoods because houses will sit longer," Henning said. "If I was a buyer, I'd be very leery of buying a home under foreclosure."

Problem is, more "robo signers" keep popping up. In May, according to the Financial Times, another Wells Fargo employee swore in a deposition that he failed to review the 150 documents a day he was given to sign.

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