Article Courtesy of The Palm
By Kimberley Miller
Published January 12, 2010
Sweeping evidence of the case the state attorney general's office has built in its pursuit of foreclosure justice for Florida homeowners is outlined in a 98-page presentation complete with copies of allegedly forged signatures, false notarizations, bogus witnesses and improper mortgage assignments.
The presentation, titled "Unfair, Deceptive and Unconscionable Acts in Foreclosure Cases," was given during an early December conference of the Florida Association of Court Clerks and Comptrollers by the attorney general's economic crimes division.
It is one of the first examples of what the state has compiled in its exploration of foreclosure malpractice, condemning banks, mortgage servicers and law firms for contributing to the crisis by cutting corners.
"What we got from this is the state has had the opportunity to see where the laws have been broken, and frankly, it is in large part thanks to the work of the defense attorneys," said Palm Beach County Clerk and Comptroller Sharon Bock. "They've been bringing these defenses up in foreclosure cases for years now."
In page after page of copied records, the presentation meticulously documents cases of questionable signatures, notarizations that could not have occurred when they are said to have because of when the notary stamp expires, and foreclosures filed by entities that might not have had legal ability to foreclose.
It also focuses largely on assignments of mortgage, documents that transfer ownership of mortgages from one bank to another.
Mortgage assignments became an issue after the real estate boom, when mortgages were sold and resold, packaged into securitized trusts and otherwise transferred in a labyrinthine fashion that made tracking difficult.
As foreclosures mounted, the banks appointed people to create assignments, "thousands and thousands and thousands" of which were signed weekly by people who may not have known what they were signing.
In one example, a signature by someone named Linda Green is said to appear on hundreds of thousands of mortgage documents from dozens of banks and mortgage companies, but in varying styles.
In another example, the signature of Scott Anderson, an employee of West Palm Beach-based Ocwen Financial Corp., appears in four styles on mortgage assignments.
"No one bothered to take the time and effort to properly execute this stuff," said Boynton Beach attorney James Bonfiglio, who defends foreclosures. "It matters a great deal who signed the documents because people can be sued twice and three times for the same debt if it wasn't properly transferred."
Paul Koches, executive vice president of Ocwen, acknowledged Tuesday that the signatures were not all Anderson's, but that doesn't mean they were forged, he said. Certain employees were given authorization to sign for Anderson on mortgage assignments, which Koches noted do not need to be notarized.
Still, Ocwen has since stopped allowing other people to sign for Anderson, Koches said.
The attorney general's office had no comment Tuesday on the presentation, which was not aimed at a specific case. Four of Florida's large foreclosure law firms that represent the banks are under investigation by the state, as well as two companies that serve court summonses on homeowners, and a Jacksonville-based servicing company that the presentation said produced 2,000 mortgage assignments per day.
The office is also part of a 50-state coalition of attorneys general trying to work out agreements with the nation's largest lenders on foreclosure