I’ll have plenty to say about the escalating foreclosure fraud scandal later this week. For now: This is a big, big deal. It isn’t a clerical error, it’s an aggressive attempt to slap borrowers with thousands of dollars in illegal fees for the luxury of being foreclosed on. And what’s more, this absurd, shady business was priced into the entire mortgage securitization scheme from the get-go. Banks have been fudging their documentation for years in order to cut costs and score higher profits from securitization—the business model has relied on this corner-cutting since day one of the housing boom.
The good news is that borrowers can use this epic fraud to defend themselves. If a bank can’t prove that it has the right to foreclose on a borrower by showing the proper documentation to a judge, then it doesn’t have the right to foreclose. This is a tremendous opportunity for neighborhood advocates. Make them pony up the docs, it might just save your home. The problem isn’t restricted to GMAC—foreclosure counselors and attorneys talk about the issue of forged or destroyed documentation all the time, and we already know that JPMorgan Chase and Countrywide (now Bank of America) have major documentation problems. Including GMAC, that’s three of the biggest players in every aspect of the mortgage market.
If courts actually follow the law here, we get the best of both worlds—big losses for Wall Street on their predatory loans, and borrowers who get to stay in their homes (mortgage-free, at that). The only question is whether these mortgage losses prove so severe that Wall Street banks come back begging to the government for another bailout. If so, it’s an opportunity to do what should have been done in 2008—break up these financial monsters into smaller creatures that don’t require bailouts when they fail.
Yves Smith quotes a mortgage banker who assumes that Congress will simply legislate this problem away for Wall Street. Don’t count on it. Nobody– not even the most subservient Wall Street sycophant in the Republican Party—is eager to bailout Wall Street again, particularly to spare megabanks the costs of explicit, documented fraud.
The trick, of course, is making sure that the courts actually follow the law.