As a consequence of the fallout that marked the frenzy of the subprime mortgage era, banks and mortgage servicers are finding themselves accused of fraud in trying to foreclose on properties while using falsified documentation. In a number of cases in Florida and other states where the foreclosure process must proceed through the courts, they are being charged with presenting forged documents of assignment.
Millions of loans were processed very quickly during the heyday of interest-only and other questionable loan practices, and some mortgages were sold hundreds or even thousands of times with incomplete information or documentation so that it became impossible to determine when or to whom the mortgage was sold.
Consequently, mortgage servicers have been trying to recreate loan documents by supplying phony stamps used by financial companies to simulate proof of assignments and by randomly changing the identity of a mortgage holder when it could not verify its ownership.
When consumers in Florida, Maryland and other states began challenging the foreclosures in court, the forgeries were uncovered. Banks have been undoubtedly under pressure to provide evidence of ownership of these loans in which incomplete documents were filed.
Many lenders and banks used a service from Docx, the nation’s largest lien release processor and a subsidiary of Lender Processing Services, to provide document and assignment services for banks and mortgage lenders. With no evidence of ownership or assignment of many of these loans, Docx is accused of scrambling to fabricate documents of assignment to satisfy the requirements for foreclosure in court. The company is presently under criminal investigation by federal prosecutors.
In February 2010, the Florida Supreme Court ruled that a lender now has to verify that it had all the proper documents before a foreclosure can proceed. Failure to do so can subject the lender or bank to charges of perjury. In a number of cases, judges have invalidated the foreclosures and returned the properties to the borrowers. In other cases, judges are holding hearings to determine if the lenders have attempted to perpetrate a fraud on the court by presenting fabricated documents.
Under fire, a number of large lenders, such as JP Chase Morgan, Bank of America and GMAC, recently suspended foreclosure proceedings in certain states, pending review of their files to find potential errors. Proceedings were only halted in certain states because not every jurisdiction has a law requiring that foreclosure proceedings to go through court; foreclosures continue to be processed in the states without judicial foreclosure laws.
Because the use of fraudulent documents of assignment is on the rise, it is important to talk to an experienced bankruptcy attorney if you are served foreclosure papers. Even if your mortgage documents are not falsified, you may still have options to save your home.