Homeowners losing money in legal snarls surrounding non-judicial foreclosures

Although this article is about Hawaii, Georgia too, is a non-judicial foreclosure state.  The state of Georgia has bent over backwards to see that the bank and their attorneys, who lie at every instance, never loses.  We have been aiding in the battle against “the Bank with the most homes in the end wins”.

Very interesting outlook in this article.

Homeowners losing money in legal snarls surrounding non-judicial foreclosures

A previous version of this story listed that an interview subject, Lynn Noffsinger had purchased his title insurance policy from Fidelity National Title Insurance Company. He actually bought his policy from First American Title Company Inc. It is the policy of West Hawaii Today to correct promptly any incorrect information.

KAILUA-KONA — Foreclosed properties bought at auction often afford buyers a chance at a lucrative deal.

But if you’ve purchased a property anywhere in Hawaii that’s been through a non-judicial foreclosure, you may have acquired considerably less than you bargained for — or potentially nothing at all.

That’s because of several class action and individual action lawsuits that have been filed across every county in the state. The lawsuits allege the banks that administered mass foreclosures during and after the 2008 housing crisis using the non-judicial foreclosure process — meaning without the supervision of the court — did so without following proper procedure.

If a judge rules that a lender didn’t follow the highly specific power of sale outlined in the mortgage contract and supplemented by Hawaii’s non-judicial foreclosure statute part 1, then the sale is void and the property is returned to its original owner.

Such a determination by a judge doesn’t necessarily leave the current title holder on the street absent compensation, particularly if he or she holds title insurance. But it does place on the title company the burden of reimbursing the current holder the monetary value of the property outlined in the title insurance policy.

Because the number of lawsuits challenging the legitimacy of non-judicial foreclosures conducted in Hawaii over the last several years has recently skyrocketed and yet continues to climb, title insurers are wary of insuring future sales of any property that’s gone through the process, whether it was bought firsthand from the bank or secondhand from a private citizen.

When they are willing to insure, it’s not necessarily at fair market value.

“If the sale is void, that means when the bank sold the property to the new owner, the new owner got nothing,” said James Bickerton, an Oahu attorney who to date has filed nearly 60 lawsuits against financial institutions contesting the legitimacy of their foreclosure procedures. “So there are dozens and dozens of people sitting on property they thought was good because they bought it from a bank. That’s where the title insurance comes in. Title insurance companies have to step up and take care of it.”

Losing value on non-judicial foreclosures

Gretchen Osgood, principal broker and owner of Hawaiian Isle Real Estate, found out about the amended policies of title companies the hard way earlier this year. Her husband, Randy, purchased a unit at Kona Mansions from Bank of New York in 2013, as well as title insurance from Fidelity National Title and Escrow. The property had been through a non-judicial foreclosure in 2008.

More than three years after Randy purchased the unit for $72,000 and spent more than $10,000 to upgrade it, Osgood said the property’s face value has risen to around $160,000. The long-term plan has been to sell the unit for profit after utilizing it for several years as a rental — a typical tactic of real estate investors.

But when examining the process of sale, Osgood discovered no title company would offer to insure the property for any future buyer for more than $69,000 — the same amount Randy received on the policy he purchased in 2013 and nearly $100,000 short of the unit’s current market value.

“The reason you buy title insurance is to validate the title as valid so you can resell it. That’s why you pay for title insurance, and that’s why lenders require you to buy them title insurance as well,” Osgood explained. “Now, we don’t have the ability to get title insurance re-issued for this property for the face value of what we would sell it at. No buyer in their right mind would buy a property unless you can get title insurance for it, otherwise you could end up with a property you can’t resell, as we have now.”

Osgood added they could sell the property for $69,000 and lose part of their investment along with their equity. So the unit is technically re-sellable, but not at a price anywhere near what it would command on the open market.

Suzanne Patterson, who works at Kona Resort Properties, said word has been circulating within the real estate community about the concern since this summer, when issues arose for several brokers across the industry almost simultaneously.

One couple in Kona was served a lawsuit as they left their home one afternoon with their daughter on the way to her wedding.

“We were aghast by the fact this even happened,” Patterson said. “It’s a bad situation. These are local people, not cash buyers, but people getting loans. They are real people.”

One real estate agent who requested anonymity said the circumstances surrounding non-judicial foreclosures and the inability to insure them have created a major public relations crisis for the industry, as both title insurers and real estate agents are concerned about how these developments will affect buyer perception of the market.

For people with substantial portions of their finances tied up in one or several of these properties, the situation could become dire, especially if any issues arise demanding a sale of property to create cash flow.

“Lots of people won’t care,” Osgood said. “But for some, it will be catastrophic.”

Comparing judicial, non-judicial foreclosures in Hawaii

The differences between judicial and non-judicial foreclosures are stark, starting with the presence of a court authority in the process.

“In a judicial foreclosure, you have judicial supervision of how the transaction or foreclosure is being conducted,” said Robert Triantos, administrative partner in the Kona Office of the law firm Carlsmith Ball. “In a non-judicial foreclosure, it’s just the attorney going out there, publishing in the newspaper, holding the auction, sometimes extending the dates, maybe following the letter of the law, maybe not.”

Non-judicial foreclosures are not permitted in every state but have always been a staple of the real estate industry in Hawaii, said Bruce Graham, an attorney at Ashford & Wriston in Honolulu who also teaches a transactional property/real estate class at University of Hawaii at Manoa’s William S. Richardson School of Law.

The process of non-judicial foreclosure, which Graham characterized as essentially a reversion to the foreclosure process of 17th century England, became popular in the immediate aftermath of the housing crisis as financial institutions were foreclosing on a massive scale.

“Non-judicial foreclosures were more expeditious and less expensive than judicial foreclosures,” said Stephen Whittaker, Big Island real estate attorney and broker.

Triantos explained, however, that is no longer the case. The law in Hawaii was changed approximately two years ago, he said, making the judicial method considerably less expensive. The development has spurred a migration back to the judicial process, especially considering the position of title companies.

Triantos added it’s been roughly a year since most title insurance companies decided it wasn’t worth the hassle or the financial risk to insure properties that have been through non-judicial foreclosures in Hawaii.

“The title insurance companies are essentially saying they are not going to go back and investigate whether everything was done correctly,” Triantos said. “They are making a business decision. Whether that renders (the properties) unsellable — it probably does. But I’m not going to say it’s the title insurance companies that have put the properties in those positions.”

The only recourse for those who’d like to sell is to scour the industry for a title company that might be willing to insure a sale, sell at a substantial markdown or simply sit on the property until the statute of limitations to challenge the title expires.

Bickerton said the applicable statute is the same as the one dealing with the recovery of a property someone is occupying. While that issue is currently under legal review, he said one judge has already agreed with him on his interpretation.

If Bickerton is correct, the applicable statue of limitations to contest title is 20 years.

The catalyst for change

The Honolulu law firm Bickerton Dang has been the most prominent filer of lawsuits contributing to the change in title company policy.

As of Monday, the firm had filed 51 individual actions against banks challenging the legitimacy of foreclosures, at least 15 of which originated on Hawaii Island. Bickerton’s firm is also behind seven class action suits naming Bank of America, U.S. Bank, Wells Fargo and Deutsche Bank as defendants.

The class action suits don’t directly involve title insurers, Bickerton said, as his clients in those cases are simply seeking damages against the banks.

The individual actions do involve title companies because the current owners of the properties are also named in the lawsuits, as the plaintiffs are asking for the return of their former properties.

Bickerton said that Fidelity National Title Insurance Company and First American Title Company Inc. are the most commonly named title institutions in his clients’ lawsuits.

He explained that title insurers haven’t done anything expressly wrong, but asserted the banks had no legal right to sell the foreclosed properties and title companies were an integral part of those sale processes.

Steve Gottheim, senior counsel for the American Land Title Association, explained Bickerton’s approach from a title company’s point of view.

“Plaintiffs’ attorneys try to basically name everybody they can possibly think of that has ever been connected to the mortgage in some way,” Gottheim said of lawsuits like those being headed by Bickerton’s firm. “The tactic from those attorneys is to name everyone and every company they can think of, make it as painful as possible, and see if any or all of them are willing to come to the table and pay the client(s) something to go away.”

How homeowners can be hurt at foreclosure auctions

The grounds for Bickerton’s filings are that lenders performed non-judicial foreclosures improperly, a claim that can be made for several reasons.

The most prominent reason, present in almost all 58 of Bickerton’s cases, is that lawyers enlisted by banks to handle foreclosures didn’t provide proper notice of the date and time of auctions.

When Bickerton’s clients granted power of sale to lenders in the initial contracts, the mortgages specified that if lenders reclaimed the properties by way of foreclosure, they were required to publish the date and time of auctions in general circulation news outlets in the counties where the auctions were to be held.

Bickerton said lawyers would regularly put up the initial notice, then postpone the auction and never republish the specific details.

He added a typical example involved an auction being slated for December. Then, at the auction, the bank’s lawyer announced the proceedings would be postponed until a later date but never published a circulated notice containing the new, pertinent information.

Bickerton said he is working on multiple cases where auctions were continued in that fashion as many as 12 or 13 times. He and his clients want to know why.

“The banks may have had other reasons, but it looks like it’s a possibility they were doing it to reduce the amount of buyer interest to (acquire the properties) for themselves,” Bickerton said. “You can see the temptation for the mortgagee to under-publicize a sale. They don’t have to let someone else get it if it’s a deal. Instead of selling it at a fire sale auction price, they can retail it and extract more value.”

Osgood explained that banks are allowed a credit up to the face value of what is still owed on the mortgage, plus penalties and interest for non-payment. That typically allows banks a credit large enough to claim the property at auction, particularly if they’re only bidding against themselves with what Osgood characterized as “monopoly money.”

This can create a problem for borrowers who defaulted because it tends to drive auction prices down. In judicial foreclosures, those which are overseen by a court of law, lenders can often seek a deficiency judgment if the amount the property sells for is less than the amount the bank is owed.

At first glance, that wouldn’t appear an issue for a non-judicial foreclosure, because generally the security, or the reclaimed property itself, satisfies the debt. Plus, there’s no legal entity to render a deficiency judgment because there was no court presiding over the process.

Even in such cases where there were no monetary consequences for a borrower due to an unfairly low auction price, the foreclosure may still be voided simply because proper protocol wasn’t observed, creating grounds for a lawsuit.

But Bickerton explained there tend to be actual monetary damages for many of his clients despite going through non-judicial foreclosures because they took out second mortgages on properties the initial lenders later reclaimed.

“I’ve got a lot of clients where the second mortgagee went after them for the deficiency because that lender is not getting paid,” Bickerton said. “The first bank is the only one that bid on the property because the auction date was not publicized. The bank bid what it was owed, acquired the property, and then the second bank says, ‘What about me?’ The junior bank then turns around and goes after borrower. They are allowed to do that because the debt hasn’t been paid.”

Bickerton said the notion that auctioneers must publish postponements as well as initial auction details is being challenged currently in the Hawaii Supreme Court based on a case argued last year. The seven class action lawsuits his firm has filed are on hold until that ruling is handed down.

More potential pitfalls

But there remain other methods lenders used that Bickerton claims didn’t fit the specifications outlined in both Hawaii law and the specific mortgages, so all individual actions his firm is handling are moving forward.

One such issue is providing sufficient notice of a foreclosure and the subsequent proceedings. The law states a physical notice must be posted on the property at least three weeks before its sale, and the language of the mortgage may require more notice and in a different form.

Bickerton mentioned one case on Hawaii Island he recently took up in which the final public notice was published on Nov. 2 for a Nov. 3 auction. Final publication notice is supposed to be published at least two weeks prior to the date of auction.

The physical notification of the borrower, which was supposed to be posted on the property three weeks prior to any auction, wasn’t posted there until Nov. 10, a week after the auction had concluded.

“That’s quite common, that sort of sloppiness,” Bickerton said. “Banks just treated people very, very poorly, not really recognizing that these are contractual powers that people have granted them that they have to honor. Banks need to step up and solve this problem they created.”

Another potential issue can be holding an auction for a property in a separate county from the one in which the property is located, because this can also produce the effect of driving down the price at auction.

Business strategy for the title companies

The alleged missteps of lenders during non-judicial foreclosures and the resulting lawsuits have combined to create hesitance on the part of title insurance companies to insure the resale of properties that have been through the process.

First and foremost, it’s a financial risk. Title insurers not only pay out claims if a title is successfully challenged by a former title holder, but also pay to represent the current title holder in legal proceedings.

“In title insurance, about 80 percent of your dollar is spent upfront so the title company can review the title, understand what some of the risks are and try to fix those risks before you even buy the property,” Gottheim, senior counsel for the American Land Title Association, said. “So only a smaller portion of the dollar is really available to cover claims.

“When you have the increased potential risk of somebody coming back and challenging the ownership of the home because of a foreclosure that there wasn’t a good view into, it can create some challenges on the pricing dynamic and the economics of that policy.”

Gottheim explained the better the title insurer’s understanding of the foreclosure process, the more effectively it will be able to represent a policy holder in any potential legal challenges.

Acquiring a good view into a foreclosure proceeding can be riskier and more difficult to accomplish if the process wasn’t overseen by the courts.

People who challenge title based on improper foreclosure proceedings rarely win their properties back, Gottheim said. But even if the title company never has to pay out a claim, just the process of defending title in court can be pricey.

“The easier it is for a title company to know what happened in that foreclosure, the easier it is to get lawsuit kicked out early at a lower cost,” Gottheim said. “The less we know about that process, the more expensive it becomes.”

The result of these risks, as Triantos explained, has been title companies making the business decision over the last year not to insure such properties — or not to do so at more than the value of the policies currently held, which may be substantially less than the properties would command on the open market.

But such practices may have existed even before the last year. While going through a purchase process for a condo at Kona Bali Kai six years ago, Lynn Noffsinger noticed something curious in the fine print on his First American title insurance policy. His agent at the time, Osgood, negotiated its removal from the contract.

“He was reviewing title policy offered to him during escrow. In the exclusions section, the company listed a foreclosure as an exclusion,” Osgood said. “It was in about eight-point type in the generic template part of the title policy. His diligence is how we discovered it.”

Marcus Ginnaty, media relations manager for First American, said his company “evaluates non-judicial foreclosures on a case-by-case basis in order to consider the unique circumstances of each foreclosure when considering whether or not to offer a title insurance policy.”

Fidelity representatives did not return a request for comment on their current title policies in regards to properties that have been subject to non-judicial foreclosures.

As for those who hold title to properties that have been through non-judicial foreclosures, and who wish to alleviate themselves of potential litigation as well as the anxiety surrounding whether their title may one day be contested, Gottheim explained they are simply in a tough spot with limited recourse.

“It can become a challenge. There’s not a lot of good options for them at that point,” he said. “If they’re not able to get title insurance up to the amount that would cover (the property’s) worth, a lot of times what becomes difficult is thinking about their next steps.”

OCCUPY.COM Expose Courts Blocking the Public From Sitting In On Trials In Georgia Courts, What Better Way to Show How Corrupt The Courts Are?

OCCUPY.COM EXPOSES GEORGIA’S COURTS DENYING THE PUBLIC ACCESS TO COURT PROCEEDINGS!

I am quite pleased that someone took notice. The Judges in Georgia are akin to little despots. No doubt, a Judge is God in their Courtroom, but they don’t have the right to Deny the public access, so that they can violate one’s Civil and Constitutional Rights while they sneakily do it.

accused flanked by attorneys at sentencing court

EXPOSED: GEORGIA’S COURTS ARE BREAKING THE LAW BY DENYING PUBLIC ACCESS
TUE, 9/24/2013 – BY TANYA GLOVER

Courtrooms aren’t just a place where justice is served and legal decisions are made. They are also a place for the public to go and see how the justice system works: people enjoy viewing trials and hearings, even if they have no personal stake in them. Viewing public trials is the public’s legal right.

However, revelations by a judicial oversight commission in Georgia show that numerous judges in the state, including some in Atlanta, are violating the law by denying public access to courtrooms in cases ranging from bail hearings to standard trials.

There are some cases in which closing courtrooms to the public is legal, and the circumstances for this are carefully outlined in official Georgia State documents that make the points for legality clear. But according to a recent report in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, investigations by the state’s judicial oversight commission found the practice of sealing off courtroom access widespread across Georgia — and in most cases, illegally.

Instead of typical open courts, there are now signs posted on courtroom doors stating access is denied to either the general public or specific groups of people, including kids. Bailiffs sometimes stand in place of the signs, blocking entry to the court despite people’s legal right to go in, said Robert Ingram, an attorney from Marietta, Ga., and chairman of the state’s Judicial Qualifications Commission.

“We’ve had our own investigators and commissioners go out and visit a courtroom and they have been greeted by a bailiff or a deputy sheriff and been told to state their business or otherwise they don’t need to be there,” Ingram said.

But why the closed rooms and bans on view judicial proceedings in the first place? Under Georgia’s law, closing off or banning someone from the courtroom can be done at a judge’s discretion. For instance, an unruly or disruptive person, whether child or adult, can be removed. Or there may be a case not considered proper for people under the age of 18 to attend.

More often, however, judges these days claim they are keeping out the public because of lack of space in the courtroom. One instance that put this closed court behavior in the spotlight was the jury selection for Andrea Sneiderman, in which DeKalb Superior Court Judge Gregory Adams lifted the public ban stating that people who wished to be present for the selection had the right to do so.

Seemingly arbitrary court closures by judges in the Peach State are nothing new. Back in 2011, Barbra Mobley, a DeKalb County State Court Judge, resigned after investigations were launched by the Judicial Qualifications Commission alleging that her court featured bailiffs questioning people illegally about why they wanted to observe the cases on the docket.

The phenomenon is occurring statewide. In both Crisp and Ben Hill counties, the Southern Center for Human Rights (SCHR) filed suit against the practice of closing courts to the public. In those counties, it’s been common that courts remain closed off even to the family members of both victims and the accused, other than their attendance at guilt pleas during the trials’ conclusions.

Further investigations have showed that closed courts are more common than first thought. According Gerry Weber of SCHR, this is causing a major problem with transparency. “A closed courtroom is one that is less accountable to the public. What is done behind closed doors can be different to what is done in the cold light of day,” he said.

Many judges are following the closed court lead, including Judge T. Jackson Bedford of the Fulton County Superior Court, Judge Clarence Seeliger of the DeKalb County Superior Court, and Judge Patsy Porter of Fulton State Court. Attempts by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution to contact these servants of the people were unsuccessful, as were the attempts made by Occupy.com.

There are some positive signs as well, however. Judge Christopher Brasher of Fulton Superior Court says he was unaware that the practice of closing courts was occurring in his courtroom, and quickly put a stop to it. Brasher attributed the action to “overzealous deputies, who provide security and order.” He has since ordered that no one be keep out of the court, and that no signs excluding any specific group be put up without his written consent.

Judges Todd Markle and Robert McBurney, both of Fulton Superior Court, say they were not aware the public was being deterred with signs from entering their courts, and that this step was taken without their permission. However, there is debate about the judges’ knowledge of the situation. Each county sheriff’s department is responsible for court security, and Fulton County Sheriff’s Department spokesperson Tracy Flanagan says they do not make or affix signs nor are signs permitted without the consent of the presiding judge.

The Judicial Qualifications Commission issued an opinion on the matter, from the commission’s director Jeff Davis who said massive amounts of complaints have come from the public about access to courtrooms. “Our efforts to educate judges about these issues have resulted in the type of response we would have anticipated,” said Davis.

“Judges are complying with the opinion and modifying practices accordingly. Since the issuance of our Opinion, we have been encouraged by the response of judges and the willingness to bring their courts into full compliance with the law.”

JPMorgan Chase said the US Department of Justice was probing its foreign exchange operations

http://en.ria.ru/business/20141104/195078092/JPMorgan-Faces-Up-to-59-Bln-in-Losses-Over-US-Criminal-Probe.html

MOSCOW, November 4 (RIA Novosti) – America’s largest banking company JPMorgan Chase said the US Department of Justice was probing its foreign exchange operations, with legal procedures expected to cost it up to $5.9 billion, Reuters said on Tuesday.

195078045

The agency cited JPMorgan as saying in its regulatory filing that US criminal investigators were looking into its spot foreign-exchange trading business and associated controls.
It added the bank has been in talks with the Justice Department but noted there was “no assurance” that these negotiations would eventually lead to a settlement.
JPMorgan Chase is a multinational banking and financial services holding company with assets estimated at a total of $2.5 trillion.
Throughout its 14-year-long history, the company has stood accused of mortgage overcharging, alleged manipulations of the energy market, sanctions violations and obstruction of justice by its employees.

Excerpts from Tragedy and Hope Selected by henrymakow.com

Insider Confirmed Conspiracy is No “Theory”

Thursday, October 16, 2014 9:49
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(Before It’s News)

1625cfrquigley.jpg
Caroll Quigley (1910-1977) taught at Princeton, Harvard and Georgetown Universities. In his book,Tragedy and Hope, (1966) he confirmed that private merchant bankers create money out of nothing and control world affairs to their advantage.

 

“There does exist, and has existed for a
generation, an international Anglophile network which operates, to some
extent, in the way the … Right believes the Communists act. In fact,
this network, which we may identify as the Round Table Groups, has no
aversion to cooperating with the Communists, or any other groups, and
frequently does so. I know of the operations of this
network because I have studied it for twenty years and was permitted for
two years, in the early 1960′s, to examine its papers and secret
records.” Tragedy and Hope p. 960

Excerpts from Tragedy and Hope
Selected by henrymakow.com

Pg. 48-49:

In effect, this creation of paper claims greater than the reserves available means that bankers were creating money out of nothing. The same thing could be done in another way, not by note-issuing banks but by deposit banks. Deposit bankers discovered that orders and checks drawn against deposits by depositors and given to third persons were often not cashed by the latter but were deposited to their own accounts. Thus there were no actual movements of funds, and payments were made simply by bookkeeping transactions on the accounts.

Accordingly, it was necessary for the banker to keep on hand in actual money (gold, certificates, and notes) no more than the fraction of deposits likely to be drawn upon and cashed; the rest could be used for loans, and if these loans were made by creating a deposit for the borrower, who in turn would draw checks upon it rather than withdraw it in money, such “created deposits” or loans could also be covered adequately by retaining reserves to only a fraction of their value. Such created deposits also were a creation of money out of nothing, although bankers usually refused to express their actions, either note issuing or deposit lending, in these terms. William Paterson, however, on obtaining the charter of the Bank of England in 1694, to use the moneys he had won in privateering, said, “The Bank hath benefit of interest on all moneys which it creates out of nothing.” This was repeated by Sir Edward Holden, founder of the Midland Bank, on December 18, 1907, and is, of course, generally admitted today.

Pg. 51: The merchant bankers of London had already at hand in 1810-1850 the Stock Exchange, the Bank of England, and the London money market when the needs of advancing industrialism called all of these into the industrial world which they had hitherto ignored. In time they brought into their financial network the provincial banking centers, organized as commercial banks and savings banks, as well as insurance companies, to form all of these into a single financial system on an international scale which manipulated the quantity and flow of money so that they were able to influence, if not control, governments on one side and industries on the other.

The men who did this, looking backward toward the period of dynastic monarchy in which they had their own roots, aspired to establish dynasties of international bankers and were at least as successful at this as were many of the dynastic political rulers. The greatest of these dynasties, of course, were the descendants of Meyer Amschel Rothschild (1743-1812) of Frankfort, whose male descendants, for at least two generations, generally married first cousins or even nieces. Rothschild’s five sons, established at branches in Vienna, London, Naples, and Paris, as well as Frankfort, cooperated together in ways which other international banking dynasties copied but rarely excelled.

Pg. 52: The names of some of these banking families are familiar to all of us and should be more so. They include Raring, Lazard, Erlanger, Warburg, Schroder, Seligman, the Speyers, Mirabaud, Mallet, Fould, and above all Rothschild and Morgan. …

Pg. 324: The powers of financial capitalism had another far-reaching aim, nothing less than to create a world system of financial control in private hands able to dominate the political system of each country and the economy of the world as a whole. This system was to be controlled in a feudalist fashion by the central banks of the world acting in concert, by secret agreements arrived at in frequent private meetings and conferences.

The apex of the system was to be the Bank for International Settlements in Basle, Switzerland, a private bank owned and controlled by the world’s central banks which were themselves private corporations. Each central bank, in the hands of men like Montagu Norman of the Bank of England, Benjamin Strong of the New York Federal Reserve Bank, Charles Rist of the Bank of France, and Hjalmar Schacht of the Reichsbank, sought to dominate its government by its ability to control Treasury loans, to manipulate foreign exchanges, to influence the level of economic activity in the country, and to influence cooperative politicians by subsequent economic rewards in the business world.

Pg. 326-327: It must not be felt that these heads of the world’s chief central banks were themselves substantive powers in world finance. They were not. Rather, they were the technicians and agents of the dominant investment bankers of their own countries, who had raised them up and were perfectly capable of throwing them down. The substantive financial powers of the world were in the hands of these investment bankers (also called “international” or “merchant” bankers) who remained largely behind the scenes in their own unincorporated private banks. These formed a system of international cooperation and national dominance which was more private, more powerful, and more secret than that of their agents in the central banks.

Source: http://henrymakow.com/2014/10/Insider-Confirmed-Conspiracy-is-No-Theory.html

Truth About Judges and Banks, and Why Foreclosure Hell Will Stay, Written by Darwin Bond Graham Great Story

Backing Banks Over Borrowers, California Judges Often Big Stakeholders in Same Banks

Wednesday, 25 June 2014 09:59

By Darwin BondGraham, Truthout | News Analysis
DARWIN BONDGRAHAM (Darwin BondGraham is a sociologist and journalist who covers political economy. He blogs at http://darwinbondgraham.blogspot.com and for washingtonspectator.org.)

http://truth-out.org/news/item/24400-alifornia-judges-ruling-in-favor-of-banks-over-borrowers-often-own-financial-stocks-and-bonds#.U65EgJjg51o.wordpress

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Sue your bank in California over a wrongful foreclosure, and the best you’re likely to get – if you have ironclad evidence that it broke the law – is a loan modification. That is, a “win” for the borrower usually means the bank keeps another customer and collects interest payments that are thousands of basis points above the level at which the bank is able to borrow from the Fed. Very often, however, homeowner lawsuits against the banks end in dismissal. In the parlance of the courts, the defendant’s demurrer is sustained. Judges in California’s superior courts often rule in favor of the banks, and the few lawsuits that filter up to the appeals courts and Supreme Court don’t fare any better.
Why do the banks keep winning in court against borrowers alleging wrongful foreclosure, fraud and other abuses? Many borrowers and their lawyers say there’s a judicial bias favoring the banks over homeowners, and that this bias is revealed by the economic position of the judges themselves. Most California judges are wealthy, and many of them hold significant investments in financial corporations and bonds, oftentimes even in the very same banks and mortgage lenders that have been sued by thousands of Californians over alleged fraud, deception and wrongful foreclosure.
Case in point: Baldwin v. Bank of America, a borrower lawsuit alleging wrongful foreclosure that battled all the way to the steps of California’s Supreme Court. In 2007, Marvin Baldwin borrowed half a million dollars from J&R Lending to purchase a small three-unit apartment building in Long Beach, California. It was the height of the real estate bubble. Things quickly fell apart, and Baldwin ran into financial troubles.
In 2009, Bank of America, which by this point had acquired Baldwin’s loan, notified him that he qualified for a federally sponsored HomeSaver Forbearance Program, a temporary bridge toward a permanent loan modification. Baldwin assumed that this was how the taxpayer-funded bank bailouts were translating into assistance for small landlords, so he cooperated with Bank of America and made payments under the program. But late in 2010, Bank of America recorded a notice of default against Baldwin’s loan. Things looked dire.
Then in October, two months after filing the notice of default, Bank of America spun around again and appeared to be offering Baldwin a rescue plan. Bank of America announced a national moratorium on foreclosures due to the bank’s acknowledgement of “irregularities” in its own internal processes. But then Bank of America reversed course yet again. In spite of announcing a moratorium on foreclosures – a moratorium stemming from the robo-signing scandal in which it was revealed Bank of America was routinely breaking the law – Marvin Baldwin’s home was suddenly sold at auction on December 8, 2010.
He filed a lawsuit alleging breach of contract and fraud and sought injunctive relief to save his property. Baldwin alleged in his lawsuit that Bank of America violated California’s Unfair Competition Law, which states, among other things, that a company cannot act in ways that would be likely to deceive a reasonable customer. The foreclosure “moratorium” Bank of America announced was one such deceptive practice because the bank lulled its borrowers into inaction, but then in fact continued to foreclose on properties and sell them, argued Baldwin and his lawyer. A year later, a trial court in Los Angeles sided with Bank of America, ruling the foreclosure and auction were perfectly legal, and that the bank’s actions weren’t deceptive.
Marvin Baldwin and his lawyer Lenore Albert appealed and argued their case before California’s 2nd District Appellate Court. They lost again. The court’s reasoning waded deep into gray areas, interpreting California’s business laws, fraud laws, and real estate laws liberally in the Bank of America’s favor.
Broad Pattern of Bias Seen
Plaintiffs’ attorneys see a broad pattern in California in which the judiciary has routinely sided with the banks, even when the law could be interpreted to prevent or reverse a foreclosure.
“They don’t want to be the judge that allows 40 million mortgages to go back to the borrowers,” said Patricia Rodriguez, a lawyer who has filed homeowner lawsuits against banks and mortgage servicers in multiple California superior courts. “They don’t want to possibly set a precedent.” A single ruling against Bank of America that reverses a foreclosure sale because the bank didn’t follow the letter of the law, for example, could spill over into thousands of other cases and potentially impact the profitability of the entire banking and loan servicing industry in Calfiornia, said Rodriguez.
“It was very clear that there is one form of justice for the small borrower and another form of justice for the moneyed interests,” said Donald Adams, a retired California attorney. “It pains me to say that, but having seen the real estate debacle and the judiciary’s protection of these fraudulent practices, I have reluctantly come to that conclusion.”
As to why the banks so often come out winners, some point to the economic interests of the judges. The average superior court judge in California is paid a salary of about $150,000, but many of the judges are appointed to the bench after years of lucrative private practice where they earned many times this amount of money. Most judges worked as lawyers at large law firms and boutique offices whose clients include major corporations, real estate companies, banks, and others that can pay top dollar. By the time they become judges, most of these lawyers have amassed considerable financial wealth, and like other members of the top 1% of income earners and wealth holders, most judges invest their fortunes in stocks and bonds. And after years of working for corporate clients, many judges have also been steeped in legal and social philosophies that favor the interests of the wealthy above those of consumers and debtors.
It’s impossible to really know why California’s judges have decided so many mortgage fraud and wrongful foreclosure cases in favor of the banks. Certainly it’s a mix of factors, including ideology, but also the existing structure of the legal system that favors wealthy defendants like the banks over isolated and indebted plaintiffs; the banks can afford the best lawyers to represent them, and the biggest banks spend several billion each year lobbying the legislatures of all 50 states and the federal government to shape laws and regulations in their favor. It’s an uneven playing field from the very start. But one possible way to gauge the possibility of bias in the legal system is to look at the economic interests of California’s judges. Unlike ideology, the material interests of the judiciary can be observed and measured. Through their ownership of bonds in financial and mortgage lending companies, many judges own senior claims on debt, debt that is directly tied to the loans of homeowners. Judges also own equity stakes in corporations, the value of which hinges very much on residential mortgage loans and loan-servicing activities.
For example, 42 of California’s 105 appeals court judges own stocks or bonds in financial companies. Seventeen of California’s appeals court judges own stock in Bank of America, while 10 own stock in Citibank, 6 in US Bank, 5 in JPMorgan Chase, and 4 in Wells Fargo. These judges own significant numbers of shares, on average amounting to about $10,000, but some California appeals court judges have revealed in their financial disclosure reports that they own perhaps as much as $1 million in stock in these banks.
The implication here is that many of California’s judges have a financial stake in the profitability of the largest mortgage servicers in the state, the same banks that have been brought before the courts in thousands of cases alleging wrongful foreclosure.
For example, in the Baldwin case, one of the appeals court judges who ruled in favor of Bank of America, Steven Suzukawa, owned as much as $100,000 in Bank of America stock, according to public records. Another of the judges on the three-judge appellate panel that heard the Baldwin case, Norman Epstein, owned as much as $10,000 in Bank of America stock. This was not disclosed, according to parties involved in the case. Under California’s judicial ethics standards, a judge owning more than $1,500 in stock of a company that is party to a lawsuit should recuse themselves from the case.
Baldwin fought on after the setback in the appeals court which was decided in February of this year, petitioning the Supreme Court of California to hear the case. California’s highest court refused to consider the lawsuit, dismissing the petition on May 21.
“I am a bit shocked at the failure to review such a new issue that affects thousands,” wrote Lenore Albert, Baldwin’s counsel, in an email.
One of the Supreme Court judges who was set to decide whether or not Baldwin would be heard had to recuse himself from even making that preliminary decision. Ming Chin, appointed to the California Supreme Court by former Governor Pete Wilson in 1996, disclosed as much as $100,000 worth of stock in Bank of America. Judge Chin also owns stock in Morgan Stanley, the investment bank that sold billions in mortgage-backed securities during the real estate bubble of the 2000s.
Majority of Justices Major Stakeholders in Banks
A majority of California’s Supreme Court justices own major stakes in the banks that service the majority of mortgage loans in the state. Justice Marvin Baxter owns shares of Wells Fargo Bank and Citibank. Justice Carol Corrigan owns shares of Citigroup and part of a business called Redwood Mortgage Investors, a private investment company that owns tens of millions of dollars worth of residential mortgage loans in California. Justice Joyce Kennard owns stock in JPMorgan Chase and Citibank. Justice Kathryn Werdegar owns as much as $1 million in Wells Fargo stock. That makes five of California’s seven Supreme Court justices major investors in the mortgage lending and loan servicing industries.
“I’m so frustrated,” said one lawyer, speaking on the condition of anonymity, about decisions of California’s judges. “I have my team putting together the wall of shame for the judges, how they’re not enforcing the law.”
The state courts, many of them, were individually biased against the consumers,” said retired attorney Don Adams. “The courts were not going to let individual borrowers escape mortgage payments, and were less concerned with stopping the fraudulent and predatory activities that got us into the mess in the first place.”
In 2009, Adams sued Countrywide on behalf of a client who sought to quiet title to their home after a tangled deal of loans involving Countrywide, Citibank, and Bank of America led Countrywide to wrongfully foreclose. Countrywide admitted to foreclosing “in error,” but a trial court found in favor of the bank, forcing the borrowers to sign a new loan agreement with Countrywide. Adams and his clients appealed the decision, but then lost before a panel of three judges in California’s Second Appellate District court. One of the judges, Arthur Gilbert, owned stock in Bank of America and Citibank. Another one of the judges, Kenneth Yegan, disclosed two loans for over $1 million he had taken from Countrywide.
According to Adams, the bias of the courts in favor of the banks existed long before the foreclosure crisis. “Had courts enforced the law against the lenders, the great recession did not have to occur,” he said. “Many of us were after the New Centurys, the Ameriquests, and Countrywides well before the collapse. Even after the economy imploded, most judges did their best to protect the business interests of the predatory lenders by cynically not wanting to let the consumers ‘off the hook’ without recognizing that borrowers would still have to pay a mortgage, but the lenders would have to unwind the loans and do it again. The courts felt that was too much for the fraudsters – and accordingly protected them.”

Good Ole Supreme Court of Georgia! Quite a Bit Different Than Their Yearly Address States They Feel!

http://law.justia.com/cases/georgia/supreme-court/2014/s14a0391.html

(It did not copy across very well, but click the link to get there from here).

In the Supreme Court of Georgia
Decided: July 11, 2014
S14A0391. MITCHELL et al. v. WELLS FARGO BANK, N.A. et al.

HUNSTEIN, Justice.
Appellants Richard and Deborah Mitchell appeal from the dismissal of
their lawsuit against Appellees Wells Fargo Bank, N.A., Mortgage Electronic
Registration Systems, Inc. (“MERS”), and their successors.1 We find that the
trial court properly granted Appellees’ motion to dismiss based on a bill of
peace, which barred Appellant Richard Mitchell from filing future lawsuits
without prior court approval. Therefore, we affirm.2

In November 2005, Richard Mitchell (“Mitchell”) obtained title to
property located at 455 St. Regis Drive, Alpharetta, Georgia, and executed a
security deed in favor of MERS, who subsequently assigned the security deed
1Appellants specifically named as defendants “any unknown heirs, devisees,
grantees, creditors, successors in interest, and other unknown persons, or unknown
spouses claiming by, through and under any of the . . . named defendants.”
2Appellants filed their appeal in the Court of Appeals, which transferred this
case to this Court because a substantive issue on appeal involved the legality or
propriety of an equitable bill of peace.

to Wells Fargo as trustee. The property was foreclosed upon after Appellants
became delinquent on their mortgage payments, and Wells Fargo purchased the
property at a foreclosure sale on February 3, 2009. Since that time, Appellants
admit that they have made numerous “dilatory filings,” proceeding pro se, in
state, federal, and bankruptcy courts.

In May 2010, Mitchell filed a complaint against Wells Fargo in Fulton
County Superior Court in case number 2010-CV-185623. Wells Fargo moved
to dismiss the complaint and moved for a bill of peace pursuant to OCGA § 23-
3-110 against Mitchell as a measure to end Mitchell’s “meritless filings” in state
court. On July 21, 2011, the trial court issued an order granting Wells Fargo’s
motion to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction because Mitchell had not properly
served Wells Fargo. The court also granted Wells Fargo’s motion for a bill of
peace, finding that the records of Fulton County courts reflected “nothing less
than repeated and contemptuous behavior in the courts of this State” and that the
lengthy history of filings in federal court showed a pattern of behavior by
Mitchell consistent with his state filings. The court concluded that pursuant to
OCGA § 23-3-110, “a bill of peace [was] warranted, in order to stop [Mitchell’s] abuse of the courts of Georgia.”   The court permanently enjoined Mitchell from filing any pleading or complaint related to the foreclosure and eviction from the property at issue for a period of five years unless Mitchell first received written approval from the court. The court continued that if Mitchell did file such a complaint, Wells Fargo was under no duty to respond, and the complaint or any pleading would be subject to dismissal immediately.  

Mitchell moved to set aside the order granting the bill of peace, which the court denied rally during a hearing on February 19, 2013.

3OCGA § 23-3-110 provides as follows:
(a) It being the interest of this state that there shall be an end of
litigation, equity will entertain a bill of peace:
(1) To confirm some right which has been previously satisfactorily
established by more than one legal trial and is likely to be litigated
again;
(2) To avoid a multiplicity of actions by establishing a right, in favor
of or against several persons, which is likely to be the subject of legal
controversy; or
(3) In other similar cases.
(b) As ancillary to this jurisdiction, equity will grant perpetual
injunctions.
4The court also ordered Mitchell to pay Wells Fargo $4,000 in attorney fees.
5At the time of the filing of this appeal, the trial court had not issued a written
order memorializing its oral ruling denying Mitchell’s motion to set aside.
3
Meanwhile, on May 24, 2012, Appellants, proceeding pro se, filed a
complaint to quiet title and for injunctive relief with regard to the property
against Appellees in Fulton County Superior Court in case number
2012-CV-215444. Wells Fargo moved to dismiss the complaint, arguing inter
alia that Mitchell had failed to receive prior written court approval in violation
of the bill of peace. Appellants did not respond. On October 18, 2012, the court
granted Wells Fargo’s motion to dismiss based on good cause, including the fact
that Mitchell was barred from filing the complaint pursuant to the bill of peace.
Thereafter, Appellants, represented by counsel, filed a motion to reconsider the
order dismissing their complaint, a motion to set aside the dismissal order, and
an emergency motion for stay of execution of writs of possession pending a
ruling on Appellants’ previously filed motions. On November 2, 2012, the court
denied all three of Appellants’ motions.
Appellants now appeal the dismissal of their complaint, contending that
because the court dismissed Mitchell’s complaint for lack of jurisdiction over
Wells Fargo in case number 2010-CV-185623, the court had no jurisdiction over
Wells Fargo to grant them the relief sought in the bill of peace. They assert that
because the court lacked jurisdiction over Wells Fargo, the bill of peace was
4
facially void and a nullity, and they may collaterally attack this void order in this
appeal. Appellants thus assert that the trial court erred in dismissing their
complaint in case number 2012-CV-215444 by relying on a void bill of peace.
Appellees respond that the bill of peace was not void because the court had
jurisdiction over Mitchell, and therefore, that the dismissal based on the bill of
peace was not in error.
We agree with Appellees. In case number 2010-CV-185623, Wells Fargo
made a special appearance and thereby consented to the court’s jurisdiction for
the limited purpose of filing its motion for a bill of peace, while at the same time
contesting the court’s personal jurisdiction over it with respect to Mitchell’s
complaint. Additionally, the court had personal jurisdiction over Mitchell, and
Appellants do not argue to the contrary. Therefore, the trial court had
jurisdiction to issue the bill of peace, and it is not void on its face.6 See Nally
v. Bartow County Grand Jurors, 280 Ga. 790 (1) (633 SE2d 337) (2006) (order
was not void where the appellant failed to show that the court lacked personal
or subject matter jurisdiction).
6We make no ruling on the propriety of the merits of the bill of peace.
Without any order setting aside the bill of peace or a reversal thereof on
appeal, it remains binding on Mitchell. Accordingly, we find that the court’s
dismissal of Appellants’ complaint in case number 2012-CV-215444 based on
Mitchell’s failure to comply with the bill of peace was proper. See Rolleston v.
Kennedy, 277 Ga. 541, 542 (591 SE2d 834) (2004) (summary dismissal of
complaint was correct due to a previously issued bill of peace, which enjoined
the plaintiff from claiming an adverse interest in certain property or filing any
lawsuit without prior written court approval).8
Judgment affirmed. All the Justices concur.
We note that the bill of peace names only Richard Mitchell. Deborah
Mitchell, however, makes no argument that the bill of peace does not apply to her as
well. In any event, we note that an injunction – which is like an equitable bill of
peace in many respects – binds not only the persons named in the injunction, but
“their officers, agents, servants, employees, and attorneys,” as well as “those persons
in active concert or participation with them who receive notice of the order by
personal service or otherwise.” OCGA § 9-11-65 (d).
8Appellees’ motion to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction is hereby denied.

ANYBODY CAN FORECLOSE ON YOU IN GEORGIA!

WTF?

The Georgia Supreme Court determined back when they made the ruling on the You case, that the foreclosing entity does not have to hold the Note, does not have to hold the security deed, and does not have to have an interest in the loan.’

It should not surprise anyone, they had been allowing it to go on for a long time.  Now, I am seeing the people who were foreclosed upon between 4 and 6 years ago, are being foreclosed upon again, but this time, by someone new, a different Lender, that never existed.  One day the real Lender will come, and they too will foreclose on the borrower.

Has everything gotten so bad, that the courts just don’t care?  What ever happened to contract law?  Are they going to allow all contracts to be violated by lenders, or just when it comes to real property?

I saw someone the other day, Bank of America had allegedly foreclosed upon the man.  Bank of America not only foreclosed, but evicted  the man as well.  Bank of Americas name is on the  Deed Under Power.  Bank of America swore under Oath that they were the current party with right to foreclose.  A month and a half later, US Bank sold the property to a third party, because they claim that they were the party with rights to the property.

So lets’s get this straight, when did Bank of America turn into US Bank?  There was nothing in the record showing Bank of America had any claim to the Note or Deed, nothing showing that Bank of America is anything to the loan.  The Deed Under Power of Sale, has Bank of America’s name on  it, with some of those squiggly marks that the foreclosing attorneys have been signing for years, to create a fictional assignment.  But… US Bank be damned, they were going to get some of that action.  So without any documentation recorded anywhere, of any kind, US Bank sold the property to a third party.

DeBord Report : California is going through another ‘wave’ in foreclosures | 89.3 KPCC

 

California is going through another ‘wave’ in foreclosures

By Matthew DeBord

http://www.scpr.org/blogs/economy/2012/07/12/7025/california-going-through-another-wave-foreclosures/

Foreclosures Spike As Banks Accelerate Loan Default Notices

Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

A for sale sign is posted in front of house in Glendale. California saw foreclosure starts pick up in June, suggesting that a new wave of defaults is underway.

For the first six months of 2012, foreclosures in California declined from the same period a year earlier. But RealtyTrac, an Irvine-based company that specializes in tracking foreclosures, reports that the state still has the fourth highest foreclosure rate in the nation. In fact, in June, default notices sent to homeowners increased from May. And year-over-year, California’s rate of foreclosure starts increased 18 percent, making it the top state for the month, the first time that California has held that slot since 2005.

I talked to RealtyTrac vice-president Daren Blomquist. He said that states with the worst foreclosure rates have remained consistent during the housing crisis. The top five haven’t moved around a lot: it’s Nevada, Arizona, Georgia, California, and Florida. He noted that the only surprise was that Georgia has moved into the top four and that Florida has slipped.

Foreclosure filings in California fell by about 11 percent in the second quarter of 2012. But in June foreclosure moved up a bit more than 12 percent over May.

Blomquist said we’ve seen this pattern before in California. He calls it a “foreclosure wave” and expects the pattern to continue, as banks cope with the national mortgage settlement that was signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown yesterday and avoid flooding the market with foreclosures. Blomquist’s interpretation is that banks will work through their foreclosures gradually, so we’ll see activity ebb and flow.

"Lenders are looking at their loan portfolios and figuring out how many mortgages to set aside for modification," he said. The banks are determining which ones likely won’t qualify and sending out notices of default, the first stage of the foreclosure process, to homeowners.

Regardless of how these waves are paced, the foreclosure crisis isn’t going away any time soon. At the current rate, Blomquist expects it to take until late 2013 or early 2014 before the country’s million-and-half foreclosures are in the rearview mirror.

Follow Matthew DeBord and the DeBord Report on Twitter. And ask Matt questions at Quora.

Tagged: realtytrac, notice of default, foreclosures, california, California

DeBord Report : California is going through another ‘wave’ in foreclosures | 89.3 KPCC

Daily Report: Robin Hood lawyer fights foreclosures with a passion

 

http://www.dailyreportonline.com/PubArticleFriendlyDRO.jsp?id=1202559725985

‘Robin Hood’ lawyer fights foreclosures with a passion

Katheryn Hayes Tucker

Daily Report

06-18-2012

For 34 years, Robert Thompson Jr. had been a business and labor lawyer — as was his father before him — defending corporations and financial institutions and even serving on several banks’ boards of directors.

But something happened to him two and half years ago that changed his entire practice. Now, he challenges banks and financial institutions in court, accusing them of wrongful foreclosure and outright fraud on behalf of individuals who are a step away from losing their homes.

The turning point for Thompson came at Christmas time, 2009. His mortgage servicer — with whom he had been embroiled in disputes over what he said were misapplied or lost checks, late fees for payments that had been made on time, unnecessary insurance costs and double billings for taxes — moved to foreclose on his home.

"I was a single father with three young children living with me in that house," the silver-haired Thompson said during an interview in his Buckhead Thompson Law Group office filled with books about the financial industry and the economic crisis. "It was very upsetting."

But, he added, "I was the wrong person to pick on about injunctions and bank law."

On Dec. 28, 2009, he went before Fulton County Superior Court Judge John Goger, asking for an order enjoining the mortgage company from proceeding with the foreclosure. The judge’s first question was, "How much do you owe?" Thompson recalled.

"I told him I didn’t owe anything, that my payments had all been made on time, and that in fact they owed me more than $50,000 in overpayments and mystery fees," Thompson recalled.

"Can you prove it?" the judge asked.

Thompson recalled he pointed the judge to canceled checks and FedEx receipts, and the judge granted Thompson’s injunction. Thompson filed a lawsuit against his loan servicer for mortgage fraud and abuse, wrongful foreclosure, unjust enrichment, breach of contract, conversion, misrepresentation, defamation, libel and deceit.

"People started talking about it," Thompson said. "I thought it was just me, but then people started calling saying they had the same problem and wanting to know if I could help them."

Now, Thompson is a man obsessed. And he said he’s had success halting foreclosures — but acknowledged securing such an injunction for a client is only the first step.

Thompson said he still has new clients coming to his office daily. Most don’t have the exact situation as his, where the payments were current but not applied to the account. The biggest percentage, he said, are struggling because of a loss of income and are seeking loan modifications to make payments more manageable, but were told by their mortgage holder they weren’t eligible either because they weren’t behind or far enough behind.

Thompson said being behind on mortgage payments isn’t a requirement of federally funded modification programs. But, on the assumption that it was, he said, his clients missed payments in hopes of qualifying for modifications, then found themselves in foreclosure with their lender refusing to accept more payments. Thompson calls that being "lured into default."

Out of hundreds of cases he’s reviewed in the past two and a half years, he said, there wasn’t a single one where he didn’t find fraud or at least errors in the records. So far, he said, he has not yet been able to say to a homeowner, "I can’t help you because the bank did everything right."

Bank representatives say it’s absurd to suggest banks want to foreclose if there are other options. They admit some paperwork mistakes happen but suggest it’s not right to make those a basis for loan forgiveness.

Meanwhile, Thompson is ordering up forensic audits — at a minimum of $1,000 each — to ferret out problems so that he can go to court to block foreclosures. A forensic auditing company analyzes the loan activity and tracks the transfers of deed and title as the loan has been sold by one financial company to another — and sometimes to several others.

Sometimes, Thompson said, he finds the foreclosing lender has already sold the note and collected the balance, and thus doesn’t have the legal right to foreclose. Often Thompson finds what he calls a "break in the chain of title" because the deed and the note have not been kept together in the transactions, which he said is illegal.

He can’t charge the homeowners the hourly rates he used to bill his corporate clients. Some can hardly pay anything. Occasionally, he said, he just offers free advice on how to fight a foreclosure pro se. Most of the time he negotiates a flat fee varying in amounts according to the work that needs to be done and the client’s ability to pay. "I have to make it affordable or they can’t do it," he said. "But I can’t do it for free."

He is especially busy the week before the first Tuesday of every month, when crowds gather on the courthouse steps for the auctioning of foreclosed homes. This month alone, he went to court for 25 injunctions to stop foreclosures.

Asked how many he won, he said, "All of them. But the injunction is only the first step."

The next step varies, but often includes lawsuits against the lenders or servicers who initiated the foreclosure.

Lender representatives said Thompson’s charges about banks’ motivations don’t make sense.

"Do you really think the lender wants that house back?" asked Mo Thrash, a lobbyist for the Mortgage Bankers Association of Georgia and McCalla Raymer, a law firm with offices in Georgia that represents lenders. "It is absolutely ridiculous to think the lender would want the home back."

Thrash said the conventional wisdom — that the best outcome for the lender is for the homeowner to make all their payments until the loan is paid in full — is still true, maybe more so now because of falling real estate prices and difficulty in selling homes. "I admit mistakes do happen, but I’d be willing to bet that the majority of these cases are a two-way street," he said. "It takes two to tango."

The majority of mortgage banks — 99 percent — are ethical and honest, Thrash added. To suggest otherwise, he said, is "absolutely crazy."

If the personal foreclosure experiences of Thompson and some of his clients are as they described them, "It was a mistake," said J.D. Crowe, senior vice president of Southeast Mortgage of Georgia Inc. and a member of the Mortgage Bankers Association of Georgia Board of Governors.

"If that’s the case, that’s why he won an injunction and will probably win his lawsuit. With the number of foreclosures in the last few years, there’s a lot of paper going back and forth," Crowe said.

But like Thrash, Crowe said it’s "ridiculous" to suggest that a lender would want to foreclose if there were an alternative. "Lenders want to work with borrowers. They don’t want to foreclose," he said.

Crowe also suggested that when homeowners win their foreclosure fights, they usually win on a technicality — a mistake in the paperwork or the separation of the deed and note in the selling of the loan by one financial institution to another. In such cases, if homeowners win damages or loan forgiveness, allowing them to walk away from their mortgage payments, said Crowe, "I think it is unconscionable."

Disbelief, said Thompson, is the biggest challenge he faces in fighting foreclosure fraud. "People who have never suffered through it cannot believe it. It challenges the fundamentals of everything you want to believe about the banks being honest and the government protecting you."

He cited the case of client LaVonda DeWitt, a patent lawyer whose income was reduced because her firm’s revenue dropped. In an interview, she said she contacted her mortgage company to discuss a loan modification so she could lower her payments.

"They said I wasn’t eligible because I still had a job," she said.

Then she was laid off. She called her lender again about the modification and was told she wasn’t eligible because didn’t have a job. She said she was also told she wasn’t eligible unless she was three months behind. She stopped making payments in December 2010. She also filed a complaint with the U.S. Treasury Department over being denied a loan modification. The lender responded with a document she had never seen saying she had been offered a modification and rejected it, but later admitted that claim was a mistake, according to DeWitt. She still wasn’t offered a modification. She received a foreclosure notice in March of this year.

She met with Thompson, who went to court with her to block the sale on the first Tuesday in April. She won the injunction but still wasn’t able to negotiate a loan modification. So, on Thompson’s advice, she filed a lawsuit in federal court.

DeWitt said Thompson reminds her of the fictional Atticus Finch, taking on jobs that other lawyers don’t want.

Another client of Thompson’s, Patricia Sibley, won an injunction a year ago, then filed a lawsuit against the lender for wrongful foreclosure. The suit is pending in the Northern District of Georgia. Sibley and her husband are still in their home — "because of Bob Thompson," she said.

As with DeWitt, Sibley’s suit is based on what Thompson calls "luring into default." When the recession hit and slashed revenue for her advertising company, Sibley said she had to close her business. She and her husband had paid down by half their $950,000 15-year mortgage on their north Atlanta home near the Chattahoochee River, and their payments were current, she said in an interview.

She contacted the lender to ask about changing the terms to lower the payments. Since they still had some income, they felt they could afford the loan if they could spread it back to 30 years. They were told they weren’t eligible for a modification because they weren’t behind. They skipped one payment and called again, but were told they were not far enough behind to be eligible, according to Sibley and the lawsuit. After the third missed payment, they received a foreclosure notice. They tried to talk to the lender’s customer service department many times and offered to pay the loan current and cover fees in return for restructuring, she said, but heard no response.

The house was advertised for foreclosure. The weekend before the first Tuesday in June 2011, cars were driving by the house and stopping to take pictures, Sibley said. It was an experience she said she wouldn’t wish on anyone.

A friend called and said she had a friend who knew someone who might be able to help — Thompson. The friend said, "I have somebody who’s like Robin Hood. He takes from the banks and gives to the poor."

"Not that we’re the poor," Sibley added. But, she said, "I never would have dreamed I’d be in this position."

Sibley’s case is unresolved, but Thompson was able to get an injunction to prevent foreclosure while it’s pending.

McCurdy & Candler, which has offices in Decatur and Atlanta, handled Sibley’s foreclosure for PNC Mortgage, as well as DeWitt’s foreclosure for Chase. Managing partner Sidney Gelernter said the firm couldn’t comment on any pending case or even discuss foreclosures generally. Sibley’s suit is being defended by Ballard Spahr. One of the lawyers working on the case in Atlanta, Christopher Willis, said the firm couldn’t comment on any matter involving any of its clients.

Sibley’s lawsuit is against National City Mortgage Company, National City Bank, PNC Mortgage, Bank of America and unidentified investors. Sibley said she tried repeatedly to find out the identity of the investors who now own the loan — in order to work out payment terms — but PNC, the servicer, wouldn’t tell her.

A spokeswoman for PNC said the company couldn’t comment on any lawsuit. "We do work with customers," said Amy Vargo, noting modification programs described on the PNC website.

In his own personal case, Thompson sued BAC Home Loans Servicing, which is a subsidiary of Bank of America, and Bank of New York Mellon, formerly known as Bank of New York, successor in interest to JP Morgan Chase Bank. Bank of America acquired Countrywide Mortgage Company, which was Thompson’s loan servicer. Thompson’s lawsuit names four companies that owned his note successively. Thompson’s case — which he has withdrawn for now — was defended by Monica Gilroy of Alpharetta’s Dickenson Gilroy, who said she couldn’t discuss it.

The foreclosing firm in Thompson’s case was Shuping, Morse & Ross, based in Riverdale. Neither the managing partner, Sheltan Andrew Shuping Jr., nor the lawyer who handled the foreclosure, Kevin Duda, could be reached for comment.

Thompson’s lawsuit — moved from Fulton Superior Court to federal district court in Atlanta — seeks damages for overpayments and unauthorized fees, harassment and injury to his credit and reputation, naming a figure of $5 million.

Thompson said he has stopped making mortgage payments, and BAC has stopped trying to foreclose. He moved to withdraw his complaint, while keeping the door open to refiling it later, and the judge agreed. He said he believes the courts are evolving in their understanding of foreclosure fraud, and he plans to reinitiate the suit at a time that will be advantageous. For now, he said, "It’s an armed truce."

Thompson’s case in federal court is Thompson v. BAC Home Loans, No. 1:10-CV-3205-TCB.

Sibley’s case in federal court is Sibley v. National City Mortgage Co., No. 1:12-cv-00305-SCJ-JFK.

Daily Report: Robin Hood lawyer fights foreclosures with a passion