Wednesday, October 13, 2010

By ALAN ZIBEL, AP Real Estate Writer

WASHINGTON – Officials in 50 states and the District of Columbia have launched a joint investigation into allegations that mortgage companies mishandled documents and broke laws in foreclosing on hundreds of thousands of homeowners.

The states' attorneys general and bank regulators will examine whether mortgage company employees made false statements or prepared documents improperly.

Alabama initially did not sign on to the investigation. It reversed course after the joint statement was released.
Attorneys general have taken the lead in responding to a nationwide scandal that's called into question the accuracy and legitimacy of documents that lenders relied on to evict people from the homes. Employees of four large lenders have acknowledged in depositions that they signed off on foreclosure documents without reading them.

The allegations raise the possibility that foreclosure proceedings nationwide could be subject to legal challenge. Some foreclosures could be overturned. More than 2.5 million homes have been lost to foreclosure since the recession started in December 2007, according to RealtyTrac Inc.

The state officials said they intend to use their investigation to fix the problems that surfaced in the mortgage industry.

"This is not simply about a glitch in paperwork," said Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller, who is leading the probe. "It's also about some companies violating the law and many people losing their homes."

Ally Financial Inc.'s GMAC Mortgage Unit, Bank of America and JPMorgan Chase & Co. already have halted some questionable foreclosures. Other banks, including Citigroup Inc. and Wells Fargo & Co. have not stopped processing foreclosures, saying they did nothing wrong.

In a joint statement, the officials said they would review evidence that legal documents were signed by mortgage company employees who "did not have personal knowledge of the facts asserted in the documents. They also said that many of those documents appear to have been signed without a notary public witnessing that signature — a violation of most state laws.

"What we have seen are not mere technicalities," said Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray. "This is about the private property rights of homeowners facing foreclosure and the integrity of our court system, which cannot enter judgments based on fraudulent evidence."

Remember, these are felonies in Florida...

117.105  False or fraudulent acknowledgments; penalty.--A notary public who falsely or fraudulently takes an acknowledgment of an instrument as a notary public or who falsely or fraudulently makes a certificate as a notary public or who falsely takes or receives an acknowledgment of the signature on a written instrument is guilty of a felony of the third degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082, s. 775.083, or s. 775.084.

TALLAHASSEE, FL – Attorney General Bill McCollum today announced an on-going effort to reign in mortgage servicers and protect Floridians from purported deceptive and unfair practices. Attorney General McCollum, along with 48 other Attorneys General, are part of a multistate effort to stop mortgage loan servicers from allegedly submitting affidavits or signing notices that appear to have procedural defects of either a judicial or non-judicial foreclosure.

Investigators allege that many mortgage documents have been signed without personal knowledge of the facts asserted in the documents. In addition, it appears that many affidavits were signed outside of the presence of a notary public. This process of signing documents without confirming their accuracy has come to be known as “robo-signing” and is in direct violation of Florida law.

The 49 states are joining together to form a multistate group comprised of both state Attorneys General and state banks and mortgage regulators to more effectively address the issue. The multistate group, led by Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller, plans to speak with all relevant mortgage servicers as soon as possible to determine whether or not each company has improperly submitted affidavits or signed notices in support of a foreclosure in the states. State bank and mortgage regulators are participating both individually and through their Multistate Mortgage Committee, which represents mortgage regulators from all 50 states. Florida is taking a leading role in this multistate initiative as a member of the Executive Committee of the multistate group. The Executive Committee is also comprised of the following Attorneys General Offices: Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Iowa, North Carolina, Ohio, Texas, and Washington; and the following state banking regulators: the Maryland Office of the Commissioner of Financial Regulation and the New York State Banking Department.
Participating Attorneys General
Hawaii Department of the Attorney General / Hawaii Office of Consumer Protection
New Hampshire
New Jersey
New Mexico
New York
North Carolina
North Dakota
Rhode Island
South Carolina
South Dakota
West Virginia
Participating State Bank and Mortgage Regulators
Arizona Department of Financial Institutions
Arkansas Securities Department
Connecticut Department of Banking
D.C. Department of Insurance Securities and Banking
Florida Office of Financial Regulation
Idaho Department of Finance
Illinois Secretary of Financial and Professional Regulation
Indiana Department of Financial Institutions
Iowa Division of Banking
Kentucky Department of Financial Institutions
Louisiana Office of Financial Institutions
Maine Bureau of Consumer Credit Protection
Maine Bureau of Financial Institutions
Maryland Office of the Commissioner of Financial Regulation
Division of Banks, Commonwealth of Massachusetts
Michigan Office of Financial & Insurance Regulation
Minnesota Department of Commerce
Mississippi Department of Banking and Consumer Finance
Montana Division of Banking and Financial Institutions
Nebraska Department of Banking and Finance
Nevada Financial Institutions Division and Mortgage Lending Division
New Hampshire Banking Department
New Jersey Department of Banking & Insurance – Office of Consumer Finance
New York State Banking Department
North Carolina Commissioner of Banks
North Dakota Department of Financial Institutions
Ohio Division of Financial Institutions
Oregon Department of Consumer and Business Services – Division of Finance
and Corporate Securities
Pennsylvania Department of Banking
Rhode Island Department of Business Regulation - Division of Banking
South Carolina Department of Consumer Affairs
Tennessee Department of Financial Institutions
Texas Department of Banking
Texas Finance Commission and Consumer Credit Commissioner
Vermont Department of Banking, Insurance, Securities and Health Care Administration
Washington State Department of Financial Institutions
West Virginia Division of Banking
Wisconsin Department of Banking
Wyoming Division of Banking

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