So much of the wreckage from the last financial and foreclosure crisis has been mopped up and like an alcoholic or drug abuser that can’t quit the addition, the criminals that run the financial world have engineered another massive bubble that’s expanding and ready to pop all over again.
It’s not that “they” don’t care, it’s the absolute fact that our nation’s economy is not so much substantive, but is a casino where Goldman Sachs and the other financial black hats that suck the literal life force from the American people must maintain the controls of the casino called the American economy.
But let’s look back a bit further….a bit of retrospective of where we were in the depths of the crash, courtesy of the soon to be best selling book that just hit the stands, David Dayen’s Chain of Title: How Three Ordinary Americans Uncovered Wall Street’s Great Foreclosure Fraud.
Here’s an excerpt from the book…
Among the many young Florida lawyers seeking guidance at the dawn of their careers was a lanky guy out of St. Petersburg named Matthew Weidner. His family had a tradition of civic engagement. His father joined the air force, one uncle became the executive director of the state Republican Party, and the other liked to walk around in Benjamin Franklin costumes. After graduating from Florida State University, Matt did political campaign work, but found it laced with corruption, so he moved on to practicing law. He filed his first case while still in law school, over the denial of a public records request. It went nowhere because he didn’t turn in enough copies for the process servers. The combination of earnest principles and reckless abandon never faded.
Matt thought of foreclosure defense as the subsistence farming of the legal profession: the $500 retainer he charged would barely cover expenses, and clients couldn’t pay much more. When he realized he could get attorney fees from the banks instead, it changed his life. A couple of key moments stuck out. Once Matt sat in a judge’s chambers before a hearing, reviewing a mortgage document. The judge pointed to one of the amount-due figures that looked improbable, and the plaintiff’s attorney interrupted, “We can change that right away and give it back to you.” Matt wondered how much of the document could be legitimate if the attorney could alter it by snapping her fingers.
Later he hired a law school clerk, who ran down a provision in the rule book requiring plaintiff’s attorneys in foreclosure cases to attach internal records for the borrower. Matt didn’t believe him, but after looking it up himself, he agreed.
“Look at the rule book!”
After the judge found the rule in question, he said, “Holy shit, you’re right!” Not even judges with extensive experience in foreclosure cases knew the required steps to take away someone’s home. And they didn’t really have to know; until the crisis, most cases went untried. In fact, when Matt took April Charney’s seminar, with her insistence that securitized mortgages constituted the largest criminal scheme in the history of mankind, most of the lawyers in the audience feared that judges would find such defenses frivolous. Lawyers often try to build relationships with judges; they don’t want to be seen as wasting the court’s time. If they believed they would lose and that judges would consider them ridiculous for even bringing the case, they would stay away from filing.
Matt didn’t see it that way. April inspired him that the rule of law was at stake. He watched April’s 2005 trial, in which Judge Logan threw out all those cases where MERS tried to foreclose in its name, as the smoke heralding the fire of the collapse. If the judges paid attention, the foreclosure crisis might have been avoided. And he’d be damned if he would keep quiet out of concern for career advancement.
April Charney’s insistence that lawyers collaborate rubbed off on Matt. He met Greg Clark, a title attorney in Clearwater, who worried that broken chains of title would make existing homes unmarketable, creating ghost properties without resale potential. “The judges can do whatever they want,” Greg told Matt. “But I’m a title attorney. This is unfixable.”
Greg assembled a group of local attorneys in St. Petersburg, and Matt joined up. They called themselves Jurists Engaged in Defending Title Integ- rity, or JEDTI. The whole thing was vaguely related to the concept of Jedi knights; maybe the membership had seen Star Wars too many times. They bought a broadsword, engraved it with the initials “JEDTI,” and held round- table meetings where only the attorney in possession of the broadsword could speak. They found a meeting room on the twenty-sixth floor of the county administration building in downtown Tampa, which took two ele- vator rides to reach. They even had a JEDTI motto: “The light of truth, the strength of defense, the heart of passion, and the leadership that follows from integrity.”
Matt built a website to market his law practice, and colleagues convinced him to include a blog. In fact, before Lisa and Michael published their blogs, Matt Weidner started his own, in July 2009. Matt filled the blog with the kinds of rants he couldn’t say out loud in court: contempt for the Great Foreclosure Machine and the judges’ nonchalant acceptance of bank attorney lies.
Judges initially viewed Matt and his JEDTI friends as clowns fighting the equivalent of traffic tickets. But inside the system, clerks who worked with mortgage documents on a daily basis knew something was tragically wrong. They were disquieted by the behavior of the foreclosure mill law firms, filing hundreds of cases a week in the sloppiest way imaginable. They thought the courts desperately needed the leadership that follows from in- tegrity. As the crisis raged and the lost notes and fabricated documents mounted, judges in the Tampa/St. Petersburg area began to listen.
When people around the state discovered what was happening in St. Petersburg, new faces would show up at JEDTI meetings. Once an attorney stood up and said he had to come to Florida’s west coast to see JEDTI for himself. He’d driven four hours from Palm Beach, known locally as “Cor- ruption County,” where he couldn’t get anything done because the judge who handled all the cases wouldn’t listen to foreclosure defenses. In fact, she would sanction attorneys for stepping out of line.
As the attorney from Palm Beach discussed his litigation strategies, Matt immediately recognized him as a much higher-caliber advocate than the JEDTI lunatics, someone with deep experience. The attorney’s name was Thomas Ice.