My friend and fellow Foreclosure Fraud Fighter Mark Stopa is currently engaged in bitter trench warfare over a very important issue that we all need to be aware of and coming to grips with….potential conflicts of interest in foreclosure cases between the first mortgage holder, junior lien holders and the law firms representing both.
We should all be aware now that most assignments of mortgage and endorsements traveling around in foreclosure cases are of questionable authenticity and veracity. To support this statement, please read any of the depositions taken of agents of MERS and any of the other depositions taken of the infamous “Robo Signers” operating in document mills all across the country. Take note of the controversies surrounding Docx, LLC (story here), which is a division of Lender Processing Services, the nation’s “leading provider of mortgage processing services”…to me that’s a euphemism for….well, let’s just say it’s a euphemism.
So the issue here is that in a foreclosure case documents and evidence are being submitted and admitted in cases and those documents are the sole evidence courts are relying on to grant judgments totaling millions, perhaps billions of dollars. It is right and frankly an obligation of courts to examine the authenticity of such documents in every case, but it is particularly important that we understand the collective effect of the admission of the millions of these documents in court cases across the country.
The assignments of mortgages, endorsements of notes and affidavits of amounts due and owing form the sole basis for the single largest transfer of wealth in the history of mankind.
Think about that for a minute. When you total up all the foreclosure cases sloshing around courts and non-judicial foreclosure systems across this country, your talking about money judgments and grants of property rights in the billions of dollars. Given the magnitude of this transfer and the implications of such an unprecedented transfer of wealth, we should all begin to understand the importance of questioning the authenticity and veracity of the evidence that is used to support these transfers. I respectfully suggest that our circuit court judges need to stop for a moment and think not just about that singular case in front of them for which they see only a homeowner who has not paid a mortgage and think about the millions of dollars in judgment and property rights that they are transferring when they enter a judgment of foreclosure. Given our emerging knowledge of the questionable practices that are employed to obtain the “evidence” that is submitted in foreclosure cases and the widespread use of these practices in courtrooms across the country, I again respectfully suggest that members of the judiciary, the Bar and members of the public need to
consider the long-term implications of ignoring basic rules of law and evidence to support this mad rush to push foreclosure judgments through.
Which brings us back to the original point of this post and that is Stopa’s Motion to Disqualify Counsel, which can be found here. You will have to visit Mark’s site for the transcript of the hearing that was held on this issue and the other important documents and details, but here are some highlights that he wanted to emphasize:
(1) Citimortgage admits its own employees signed an assignment of mortgage, essentially conveying a mortgage to itself.
(2) Foreclosure Mill Shapiro & Fishman, LLP admits its standard practice is to prepare these assignments for their own clients (not the original mortgagee) to execute and record in the public record.
(3) Shapiro never runs conflict checks prior to filing new lawsuits, leaving it up to their other clients (who may or may not be named as Defendants) to assert a conflict after the case has been filed.
These admissions were made in the course of a 3.5 hour, evidentiary hearing on a Motion to Disqualify Counsel brought by Mark Stopa on June 18, 2010 before Judge Foster in Tampa.
Facts (as set forth in the motion, transcript, and exhibits): Shapiro & Fishman represents Citimortgage, Inc. in a foreclosure lawsuit against JPMorgan, MERS, and the homeowners. The Complaint does not specify how Citimortgage acquired standing to foreclose. The public records reflect an Assignment of Mortgage, prepared by Shapiro, purporting to assign the mortgage from MERS, as Nominee for First Security Mortgage Services, to Citimortgage. The assignment was executed the same day Citimortgage filed suit. Citimortgage’s own employee testified that Nate Blackstun and Jamie Hardcastle, the individuals who signed this assignment (purporting to transfer the mortgage from MERS to Citimortgage) are actually employees of Citimortgage.
In fact, Shapiro and Fishman’s office manager admitted that Shapiro’s standard practice is to prepare an Assignment of Mortgage, provide it to its own client to sign (on behalf of the original mortgage holder, typically MERS), have its client execute the assignment, and cause the assignment to be recorded.
Developing the facts to further develop these arguments both in individual cases and throughout the entire system, but there is an affirmative obligation on the part of all members of the Bar to pursue these issues and an obligation on the part of the general public to become aware of these issues.