If you've been following this amazing, unfolding foreclosure fraud story then you probably already know that JP Morgan/Chase, BofA and GMAC have all suspended foreclosure processes around the country now that it's been revealed they've been committing massive fraud. And Attorneys General in a number of states have also stepped in to stop the process, for the same reason.
But if you are just coming into the story, as is most of the national press, Alan Grayson has prepared a valuable primer on the crisis that's wee worth watching:
He lays out the history from the beginning when mortgage mills failed to properly file documents, instead using shortcut electronic transfer program instead of the documentation required by law. It's snowballed from there, to the point where nobody really knows who owns what and the crisis atmosphere has given cover to fraudsters, con men and greedy bankers.
Grayson is knee deep in this issue, leading the charge to get to the bottom of it, since ground zero for the foreclosure crisis is in Florida (and which this columnist warns could destroy Florida's economy.) He's dealing with some of these situations among his own constituency and among others, has been at the forefront of bringing this to the attention of the nation:
Democratic Congressman Alan Grayson of Orlando recently wrote the Florida Supreme Court, saying, "taking someone's home should not be done lightly." He asked the court to halt foreclosure proceedings for flawed paperwork brought by the most active "foreclosure mill" law firms in the state. Four firms are already under investigation by the Florida Attorney General's office. They are the Law Offices of David J. Stern, the Law Offices of Marshall C. Watson, Shapiro & Freeman and Florida Default Group.
In response to Grayson, the state Supreme Court punted, saying it lacked the authority to get involved. The court referred the official to the Florida Bar to investigate any allegations.
Sadly, the legal system isn't rapidly stepping up to the plate in most cases to right this, offering up excuses and in some cases, indicating a far great concern for efficiency than justice. Keep in mind that this latest wave of foreclosures isn't a bunch of high flying speculators or people who bit off more than they could chew in the go-go real estate market of the Bush years. Those people were foreclosed upon already. These are prime mortgages that have gone south because of the unemployment crisis. Many of these are people who are victims of a bad economy, not their own bad judgment and in some cases they are being fraudulently foreclosed upon without just cause.
The New York Timesspeculates that this freeze on foreclosures is a needed pause, allowing borrowers a little breathing room and giving the market a chance to stabilize a bit. Unfortunately, it would also appear that it's going to freeze the market since title insurance companies are justifiably gun shy in the wake of all these fraud revelations. It's a huge mess.
Again, I urge you to watch Grayson's video, especially if you haven't been following this story. It's one of the best illustrations we've yet seen of how the the unregulated businesses of the manic Bush years continue to destroy the lives of average Americans. And if you feel like getting his back on this, you can donate to his campaign here.