Recently, attorney Matthew Weidner weighed in with Jon Rosen – Duke University student for his Bass Connections American Predatory Lending and the Global Financial Crisis project.
American Predatory Lending: Attorney Matt Weidner Weighs In
In an interview conducted by Zoom on June 3, 2021, Duke Law School Student, Jon Rosen interviewed Attorney Weidner for an oral history interview as part of the Bass Connections American Predatory Lending and the Global Financial Crisis project.
During the interview, Attorney Weidner shares his inspiration behind his career in residential mortgage and his thoughts on predatory mortgage lending in the early 2000’s and the subsequent rise in foreclosures. Weidner explains the atmosphere that led up to the market crash – one not unlike a carnival or Black Friday shopping atmosphere. During this time the stock market was healthy, mortgages and the housing market were on the way up, and the tech industry was booming. But then all of a sudden, things went from growth to dropping drastically – it was a change that happened almost overnight. The stock market dipped and shortly thereafter, everything else followed. Foreclosures began to skyrocket and the “sand states” – Florida, Nevada, and California – were the epicenter of the crisis.
The crisis hit hard particularly in Pinellas county where there were 30,000 foreclosures pending countywide. Throughout the state there were 400,000 foreclosures pending. Weidner states that at the start, the foreclosures began slowly, but it wasn’t long before they were coming in in waves and those waves got bigger every day. Eventually, there was a daily list of foreclosure cases coming into Weidner’s office.
One day in particular, attorney Weidner scrolled down the foreclosure list to see hundreds of pending foreclosures. The numbers he was seeing were not reflective of the news headlines that were being broadcast. During this time, attorney Weidner recalls that foreclosure cases took so long to close that cases just continued to pile up – he gives the example of a 2009 foreclosure with a default date in 2007 that was only just closed in 2021!
Because of predatory lending on the part of banks, more foreclosure cases continued to pile up and as the list got bigger and bigger, it very quickly became apparent that no one was prepared to handle the sheer number of foreclosures that the nation was dealing with. Weidner comments that back during this time, there was no foreclosure defense, so he took the opportunity to stand up for homeowners who were facing foreclosure. When Weidner took a stand, word got out that there was an attorney ready and willing to take on foreclosure cases and stand up for homeowners.
In 2006 – 2007, Weidner comments that there was no foreclosure defense at all and so mortgage lenders and banks had become used to throwing cases together slapdash knowing that there was no defense and no one would dare challenge them. When Weidner and other attorneys stepped up, however, the defense began and increasing numbers of homeowners sought to defend against foreclosure.
As foreclosure numbers rose, it quickly became apparent to Weidner and other attorneys that a couple of major lenders were playing a major role in the foreclosures that were taking place. Weidner names Bank of America, Countrywide and Citibank as three of the biggest offenders.
Weidner comments that at this time, it was mostly residential mortgages that were the problem, but it wasn’t long after that commercial mortgage holders began to experience difficulties as well. Weidner says that it was at about this time that many foreclosure rescue firms began to pop up all over the place, offering to help homeowners who were in trouble. These firms promised resolution, but ultimately, their aim was to scam people who were already hurting. One of the ways that they did this was to borrow wording similar to the official government program that was established to help people in foreclosure to keep their homes. Unfortunately, the companies that were making these claims were little more than scams and they would promise to save people’s homes when ultimately, all they did was leave them with less than they began with!
Eventually plaintiff law firms representing larger lenders began to contact lenders who had a significant number of foreclosures pending. The firm would promise to get the accounts taken care of quickly and this got them business.
Attorney Weidner mentions that the thing that he found most frustrating during this time was that it was so well known that these companies were frauds, and yet the government did nothing to step in and correct the situation. He even cites an example of his speaking with government investigators who promised that they would look into the situation which was getting worse with every day. Ultimately, the investigation never happened and these fraudulent companies never got what they had coming to them!
In the meantime, however, Florida established a foreclosures docket and laws because of the sheer number of foreclosure cases it was facing and the backlog that they had caused. As this took place, Weidner noticed that there was no input on the matter from consumers or their legal defense.
The number of foreclosures continued to grow, meanwhile the input from consumers was dropping exponentially, so – in Weidner’s own words:
“So I, along with a couple of other lawyers, hired a lobbyist. We took our own good money and hired a gentleman who had been the clerk of the Florida Supreme Court to say, “look, if the court system, the third branch, is going to be adopting these procedures that are going to be mandatory statewide at the very least, give us a seat at the table and let us have some input on it.”
Weidner and his legal pals pursued the issue, but when finally, a gathering took place, there was still no consumers or attorneys for the consumers getting any input.
Find out more about Attorney Matthew Weidner’s experience, you can find the entire transcript of this interview at the following link: “AMERICAN PREDATORY LENDING AND THE GLOBAL FINANCIAL CRISIS ORAL HISTORY PROJECT.“