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Are the Big Banks Off the Hook for Mortgage Fraud?

Are the Big Banks Off the Hook for Mortgage Fraud?

NOTE: This is a guest post from Karen Nussbaum, Executive Director of Working America.

Last week, 49 state Attorneys General reached a mortgage settlement deal that makes the banks pay $26 billion for their role in the nationwide foreclosure crisis.

The deal is, at best, akin to putting a Band-Aid on a broken leg. Wall Street and the wealthiest power brokers did work feverishly, and spend freely, to buy themselves a sweetheart deal and get immunity against future lawsuits stemming from abuses yet to be fully investigated. But our nation’s Attorneys General could have done much more. The $26 million is just a drop in the bucket compared to the $700 billion total loss in home value.

Luckily, one attorney general is still fighting. New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman filed an independent lawsuit to hold several of the nation’s biggest banks accountable for defrauding potentially tens of millions of homeowners through “a wide range of deceptive and fraudulent foreclosure filings.” Here’s a telling quote from his press release:

“Our action demonstrates that there is one set of rules for all — no matter how big or powerful the institution may be.”

Schneiderman’s lawsuit isn’t the only hopeful sign that the big banks responsible for bringing the economy to its knees will get more than a slap on the wrist. During the State of the Union address, President Obama announced a full investigation into mortgage bank fraud and abuses — and tapped Schneiderman to help lead it.

This is a huge step in the right direction, fueled by a wave of public outrage. And it brings us closer to keeping millions of people in their homes and to imposing real penalties on the bad banks that enriched themselves at the expense of average American families.

But it’s just that — one step toward relief.

That’s why it’s so vital to keep up the public pressure that is so central to the progress being made.

Working America is one of the groups that, alongside Care2 activists, has played a huge role in mobilizing people across the country to demand justice for the families hit hardest by Wall Street’s greed and recklessness.

In recent days, tens of thousands of Working America members have pushed the White House and state Attorneys General for a full investigation of fraud and abuse in the mortgage industry.

But despite the promising signs, the lenient settlement deal makes clear that there is much more to be done — and everyone has a part to play. We cannot let up on the pressure and we cannot allow another bank bailout, or a slap on the wrist.

To get involved, join thousands of Working America members in standing shoulder to shoulder with Attorney General Eric Schneiderman as he works to make the worst mortgage abusers pay.


Working America’s 3 million members believe working families deserve good jobs, affordable health care, secure retirement and respect at work. The group provides tools, research, information and assistance that make a real difference for working families.

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77 comments

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3:28PM PDT on Aug 13, 2012

So far greed is still winning.

8:17PM PDT on Mar 12, 2012

Thank for the article.

8:02AM PST on Feb 17, 2012

Our system is broken!

5:23AM PST on Feb 17, 2012

Deadly C. We are now on a lease to own contract on another home . You will never convince me that if you can't pay for a home that you should live in it for free . When you sign a contract and you make the promise to pay and you can't that is on the you also when most people signed home loan contract how many where aware that they signed there name on a piece of paper that said they gave permission to the bank and knew at anytime that the loan could be sold off to another bank . Also the banks will never pay for there wrong doing because they bought the president and damn near all the politicians in other words there protected .

9:15PM PST on Feb 16, 2012

Sherri C -

Your case is exactly the type of issue I'm talking about. The public doesn't know the "otherside" of the story... Neither do legislators. So the way to tell the story has to be creative. I'm sure your investment numbers are astounding... But nobody knows that but you right now. We need a superPac that runs commercials and tells the public just what the banks did - unfortunately the banks own the highly leveraged media too. There are ways.

I don't know the details of your case, but you can contact me on www.deadlyclear.com and we can email. I'd be very interested in hearing your story.

8:11PM PST on Feb 16, 2012

I'm waiting for the other actions that will be filed against me on the other properties and I'm taking the whole mess and filing bankruptcy. We never in the whole history of our business, ever missed a payment on anything in any area of our business. Subcontractors, suppliers, employees, business property investments for our future work, charge cards, you name it, we paid it, faithfully every month for 12 years. We were 100% honest in everything we did. We had to lay-off 7 faithful, talented employees and right now we only keep 1 employee part-time. If you have an answer for this I would sure be interested in hearing your view and if anyone knows a good lawyer that would work for us "Pro Bono" in Seattle,WA. and take pay at time of settlement in our behalf, I would be open to that also.

8:10PM PST on Feb 16, 2012

Deadly C- Prior to "The Collapse" or our "knowing" what was to come from our crooked lending institution, our Bank hit us with a 20 page Form asking about out assets. They had a complete current history of our financial lives, income, taxes, checking, savings, IRA's, other investments, properties, vehicles and machinery. They found out our total worth. When they Called-In on our business property mortgages they wanted us to "Pay Up Front", 65% of the total cost of each mortgage loan for each property we had, to refinance us under a standard short-term (3 to 5 year) business mortgage contract for the remaining 35%. We could not do that and while we haggled with the bank they gave us "short-term 6 month mortgages" at the cost of $700 (refinance cost) on each property. It didn't take them long to clean us out just trying to keep on the bargaining table. We were able, with the banks okay, to sell one property on a "Short Sale", the bank got all the money from the sale and now are suing us (3 years after the sale) for the remaining balance owed on the loan, the bank feels it "lost money" on the deal. We went to other banks, it was the same deal. It was a "Tug-of-War" against crooks and we finally let go of the rope because we ran out of money. There's no hiring a lawyer, there's no money to pay a lawyer and I don't have the funds to haggle with a lawyer and a crooked banking system for 6 years or more in the courts over the whole thing. I'm waiting for the other actions that wil

7:01PM PST on Feb 16, 2012

John H -

Are you living in a tent or your car, because you have no skills or a job? Or are you paying rent somewhere? I don't know the amount you originally mortgaged or how deep you got into debt, but I do know that most people made substantial investments in their homes, made their payments with a promise that they could refinance - and then the economy collapsed and the jig was up.

If you look at the value of the house you owned in today's market, subtract all the payments, down payments, and closing costs from the original mortgage (including every refinance) from that current market value - if you could refinance that figure you would probably pay less than rent. Sometimes if there were substantial renovations and asset improvements as long as you have receipts that can get factored in too.

But just because you roll over and walk away doesn't mean that was the "right" thing to do. People who commit fraud should be punished. You are out of a job because the Wall Street banks gambled away pension fund monies on fraudulent trusts primarily empty. Banks are settling (confidentially) but you need a strong attorney to drag them to the table and tell them that we know what they did wrong. Add up your numbers, you will be astounded.

11:20AM PST on Feb 16, 2012

Deadly C. It still comes down to if you can't pay your mortgage for any reason then you need to find another place to live . We lost our home due to the economy job loss the bank didn't and wouldn't help us they didn't have to . We hated to pick up and leave but we had no choice if the banks don't want to work or help you because of what ever reasons you need to go find another home . I can tell you it sucks but what can you do in all the paperwork we signed for our home loan it never said anything about job loss or the economy being bad it just said you pay you stay .

10:43AM PST on Feb 16, 2012

John H - You really need to read and research before you take such a narrow position. This is much bigger than a simple default to which you refer. It affects over 36 million people personally for starters and that number continues to grow because the pension and retirement funds people are planning are no longer there - they just don't know it yet.

When the economy collapsed - before they missed a payment, homeowners called and asked the banks for HAMP modification. The banks told them that they had to miss 3-4 payments to get help. Then they defaulted the homeowner and started foreclosure and all the time the banks knew they could not modify because of they way the mortgage scheme was set up - and default was the big payoff for the banks because they had insured themselves. It was never advantageous for the banks to modify the loans - they wrote more than they can legally hold and the subprime mortgage scam was magnified by HAMP. If you don't like to read watch INSIDE JOB the movie. But educate yourself - it's a lot more complicated than the average person can easily understand. www.deadlyclear.com

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