Chain of Title: How Three Ordinary Americans Uncovered Wall Street's Great Foreclosure Fraud

Chain of Title: How Three Ordinary Americans Uncovered Wall Street's Great Foreclosure Fraud

David Dayen

Language: English

Pages: 320

ISBN: 1620971585

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


In the depths of the Great Recession, a cancer nurse, a car dealership worker, and an insurance fraud specialist helped uncover the largest consumer crime in American history—a scandal that implicated dozens of major executives on Wall Street. They called it foreclosure fraud: millions of families were kicked out of their homes based on false evidence by mortgage companies that had no legal right to foreclose.

Lisa Epstein, Michael Redman, and Lynn Szymoniak did not work in government or law enforcement. They had no history of anticorporate activism. Instead they were all foreclosure victims, and while struggling with their shame and isolation they committed a revolutionary act: closely reading their mortgage documents, discovering the deceit behind them, and building a movement to expose it.

Fiscal Times columnist David Dayen recounts how these ordinary Floridians challenged the most powerful institutions in America armed only with the truth—and for a brief moment they brought the corrupt financial industry to its knees.

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institutions that they were exempt from Georgia law. Georgia eventually backed down and replaced the regulations, rendered moot by an unholy alliance of the industry and the people who regulated them. Banks issued $1 trillion in nonprime mortgage bonds every year during the bubble’s peak. Subprime mortgages made up nearly half of all loan originations in America in 2006. Total mortgage debt in America doubled from 1999 to 2007. There was so much money in mortgages that loan brokers right out of

come until three months of delinquency; Michael reckoned it had something to do with the liquidation of Washington Mutual. According to the letter, JPMorgan Chase was now the creditor, having assumed the loan when they took over Washington Mutual. But Freddie Mac owned it originally: WaMu was just the servicer. Unless Freddie sold it to Chase at some point in the past few weeks—a highly unlikely scenario amid the current upheaval—this was impossible. Michael started poking around the Internet

out there trying cases. But Michael and Lisa didn’t know about a robust coalition of lawyers—a giant virtual law firm—challenging lenders. Some had been doing it for decades. The activists, not the lawyers, needed to be educated. 9 THE NETWORK April Charney did it first in 1992. A Miami native with long jet-black hair who shuttled between Florida and Arkansas in her legal career, she had just started working at the nonprofit Gulfcoast Legal Services in Sarasota. April’s humility was evident in

neighbor’s house, at least if the windows would open. Lisa stepped outside to a tiny backyard patio bracketed by two saplings, and a few feet beyond that was a thin canal containing something resembling a liquid substance. It hardly compared to Lisa’s view of the water. Everything about the house seemed rushed and slapped together. She had no interest in the place. But Alan did, and so did his parents, who encouraged the house hunt. Lisa felt outnumbered and exhausted, so she just went along.

new wrinkle: the company doing the transferring was also absent, replaced on the template with A BAD BENE, short for “a bad beneficiary.” The signers of the document were from the company transferring the mortgage (at least that was the theory), so right on the assignment, Korell Harp was listed as the vice president of A BAD BENE. The person who made the DocX templates had a wicked sense of humor. Michael posted a new story with the headline “Bogus Assignee for Intervening Asmts All Over the

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