FULL Mortgage Payoff Rejected, Broken Entry (2), FORECLOSURE JUDGEMENT REVERSED…PRICELESS! Fed. Deposit Ins. Corp., as Receiver of WAMU v. TRAVERSARI, 2010 Ohio 2406 – Ohio: Court of Appeals, 11th Dist., Geauga 2010

2010-Ohio-2406

Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, as Receiver of Washington Mutual Bank, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
Robert Traversari, et al., Defendants-Appellants.

No. 2008-G-2859.

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Eleventh District, Geauga County.

May 28, 2010.

Karen L. Giffen and Kathleen A. Nitschke, Giffen & Kaminski, L.L.C., 1300 East Ninth Street, #1600, Cleveland, OH 44114 and Donald Swartz, Lerner, Sampson & Rothfuss, P.O. Box 580, Cincinnati, OH 45210-5480 (For Plaintiff-Appellee).

Edward T. Brice, Newman & Brice, L.P.A., 214 East Park Street, Chardon, OH 44024 (For Defendants-Appellants).

OPINION

COLLEEN MARY O’TOOLE, J.

{¶1} Appellants, Robert Traversari (“Traversari”) and B & B Partners (“B & B”), appeal from the August 5, 2008 judgment entry of the Geauga County Court of Common Pleas, granting summary judgment in favor of appellee, Washington Mutual Bank, and entitling appellee to a judgment and decree in foreclosure.

{¶2} In 1994, appellant Traversari borrowed $190,000 from Loan America Financial Corporation which was memorialized by a promissory note and further secured by a mortgage on property located at 9050 Lake-in-the-Woods Trail, Bainbridge Township, Geauga County, Ohio. Appellant Traversari obtained the loan individually and/or in his capacity as the sole member and principal of appellant B & B, a real estate based company. The mortgage at issue was subsequently assigned to appellee.

{¶3} On January 8, 2007, appellee filed a complaint in foreclosure against appellants and defendants, JP Morgan Chase Bank, N.A., Charter One Bank, N.A., Jesse Doe, and Geauga County Treasurer. In count one of its complaint, appellee alleges that it is the holder and owner of a note in which appellant Traversari owes $149,919.96 plus interest at the rate of 7.75 percent per year from September 1, 2006, plus costs. In count two of its complaint, appellee alleges that it is the holder of a mortgage, given to secure payment of the note, which constitutes a valid first lien upon the real estate at issue. Appellee maintains that because the conditions of defeasance have been broken, it is entitled to have the mortgage foreclosed. Appellee indicated that appellant B & B may have claimed an interest in the property by virtue of being a current titleholder.

{¶4} Appellants filed an answer and counterclaim on February 16, 2007. In their defense, appellants maintain that appellee failed to comply with Civ.R. 10(D) and is estopped from asserting a foreclosure by its waiver of accepting payment. According to their counterclaim, appellants allege the following: on or about September 25, 2006, appellant Traversari sent a check in the amount of $150,889.96 to appellee for payment in full on the loan, which included the principal of $149.919.96 plus $970 of interest; on or about November 17, 2006, appellee issued a new home loan statement to appellant Traversari indicating the amount due was $5,608.95; appellant Traversari contacted appellee stating that a check had been sent for payment in full; appellee failed to respond; appellant Traversari mailed a check to appellee in the amount of $155,000; no stop payment was issued on the first check; because the house was vacant, appellant Traversari went to check the residence on December 26, 2006, and discovered that it had been broken into; an orange placard was placed on the premises indicating that a representative from appellee would secure the home; appellant Traversari immediately purchased new lock sets, secured the premises, and called and left a message for appellee to inform them to not enter the home; on December 31, 2006, electronic transmission was sent to appellee concerning the break-in and requested appellee to stop breaking into the home as well as to locate the two checks and to send a copy of a letter to a credit bureau; appellee did not respond; appellant Traversari then mailed a check from a separate account in the amount of the last payment demanded by appellee; appellee sent the $155,000 check back with a form letter to the address of the vacant property stating that personal checks were not accepted for payoff; appellee also rejected the $5,674.41 check; appellant Traversari then contacted appellee regarding the rejected checks; on January 11, 2007, appellant Traversari went to the home again, finding the kitchen door open, furnace running, new lock set taken out, garage door openers unplugged, and worse dings in the steel door; and appellant Traversari emailed appellee again, however, appellee indicated it could not give appellants any information because the case had been moved to foreclosure.

{¶5} Appellee filed a reply to appellants’ counterclaim on March 19, 2007, and an amended reply on September 6, 2007.

{¶6} According to the deposition of Maritza Torres (“Torres”), an employee of appellee in its senior asset recovery, loss prevention department, she was assigned to appellants’ case. Torres testified that appellee has no record of having received a check in the amount of $150,889.96 from appellant Traversari on September 25, 2006. However, she indicated that appellee received a check from appellant Traversari on September 30, 2006, in the amount of $102,538.74 (“Check #1”), which was returned to him due to appellee’s policy not to accept checks for early payoffs that are not certified funds.

{¶7} According to the deposition of Linda Rae Traversari (“Linda”), appellant Traversari’s wife, she is the handler of the family assets. Following the return of Check #1, appellee forwarded a delinquency letter to appellant Traversari in early November of 2006. Later that month, appellee sent a second default letter to him. Linda testified that on or around November 30, 2006, appellant Traversari sent another personal check for early payoff to appellee in the amount of $155,000 (“Check #2”). Appellee returned Check #2 with a letter explaining that noncertified funds are not accepted for early payoff. Linda stated that on January 2, 2007, appellant Traversari sent a third personal check via certified mail to appellee in the amount of $5,674.41 (“Check #3”). By the time appellee received Check #3, the loan had been referred to foreclosure. Check #3 was returned to appellant Traversari as “insufficient.”

{¶8} On March 14, 2008, appellee filed a motion for summary judgment pursuant to Civ.R. 56(b). Appellants filed a response on April 21, 2008.

{¶9} In its July 3, 2008 order, the trial court found, inter alia, that appellee was within its legal rights to reject the personal checks; appellee had the right to institute and maintain the foreclosure because appellants did not cure their default; and appellee had the right to enter the premises. Thus, the trial court indicated that appellee’s motion for summary judgment would be granted in its favor as to all issues and claims against appellants upon appellee’s presentation of an appropriate entry to be provided to the court.

{¶10} Appellee filed a “Motion For Submission Of Its Entry Granting Motion For Summary Judgment And Decree In Foreclosure” on July 11, 2008, and an amended entry on July 21, 2008. Appellants filed objections to appellee’s proposed amended entry the following day.

{¶11} Pursuant to its August 5, 2008 “Amended Entry Granting Summary Judgment And Decree In Foreclosure,” the trial court granted summary judgment in favor of appellee, entitling appellee to a judgment and decree in foreclosure. The trial court ordered, inter alia, that unless the sums found due to appellee are fully paid within 3 days from the date of the decree, the equity of redemption shall be foreclosed, the property sold, and an order of sale issued to the Sheriff directing him to appraise, advertise, and sell the property. The trial court further ordered that the proceeds of the sale follow the following order of priority: (1) to the Clerk of Courts, the costs of the action, including the fees of appraisers; (2) to the County Treasurer, the taxes and assessments, due and payable as of the date of transfer of the property after Sheriff’s Sale; (3) to appellee, the sum of $149,919.96, with interest at the rate of 7.75 percent per annum from September 1, 2006 to February 29, 2008, and 7.25 percent per annum from March 1, 2008 to present, together with advances for taxes, insurance, and costs; and (4) the balance of the sale proceeds, if any, shall be paid by the Sheriff to the Clerk of Court to await further orders. It is from that judgment that appellants filed the instant appeal, raising the following assignment of error for our review:

{¶12} “THE TRIAL COURT ERRED TO THE PREJUDICE OF DEFENDANTSA-PPELLANTS IN ITS ORDER GRANTING IN PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE’S FAVOR AS TO ALL ISSUES AND CLAIMS AND AGAINST DEFENDANTS, AND ITS AMENDED ENTRY GRANTING SUMMARY JUDGMENT AND DECREE IN FORECLOSURE TO PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE AGAINST DEFENDANTS-APPELLANTS.”

{¶13} In their sole assignment of error, appellants argue that the trial court erred by granting summary judgment in favor of appellee, and entitling appellee to a judgment and decree in foreclosure.

{¶14} “This court reviews de novo a trial court’s order granting summary judgment.” Hudspath v. Cafaro Co., 11th Dist. No. 2004-A-0073, 2005-Ohio-6911, at ¶8, citing Hapgood v. Conrad, 11th Dist. No. 2000-T-0058, 2002-Ohio-3363, at ¶13. “`A reviewing court will apply the same standard a trial court is required to apply, which is to determine whether any genuine issues of material fact exist and whether the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.'” Id.

{¶15} “Since summary judgment denies the party his or her `day in court’ it is not to be viewed lightly as docket control or as a `little trial.’ The jurisprudence of summary judgment standards has placed burdens on both the moving and the nonmoving party. In Dresher v. Burt [(1996), 75 Ohio St.3d 280, 296,] the Supreme Court of Ohio held that the moving party seeking summary judgment bears the initial burden of informing the trial court of the basis for the motion and identifying those portions of the record before the trial court that demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of fact on a material element of the nonmoving party’s claim. The evidence must be in the record or the motion cannot succeed. The moving party cannot discharge its initial burden under Civ.R. 56 simply by making a conclusory assertion that the nonmoving party has no evidence to prove its case but must be able to specifically point to some evidence of the type listed in Civ.R. 56(C) that affirmatively demonstrates that the nonmoving party has no evidence to support the nonmoving party’s claims. If the moving party fails to satisfy its initial burden, the motion for summary judgment must be denied. If the moving party has satisfied its initial burden, the nonmoving party has a reciprocal burden outlined in the last sentence of Civ.R. 56(E) to set forth specific facts showing there is a genuine issue for trial. If the nonmoving party fails to do so, summary judgment, if appropriate shall be entered against the nonmoving party based on the principles that have been firmly established in Ohio for quite some time in Mitseff v. Wheeler (1988), 38 Ohio St.3d 112 ***.” Welch v. Ziccarelli, 11th Dist. No. 2006-L-229, 2007-Ohio-4374, at ¶40.

{¶16} “The court in Dresher went on to say that paragraph three of the syllabus in Wing v. Anchor Media, Ltd. of Texas (1991), 59 Ohio St.3d 108 ***, is too broad and fails to account for the burden Civ.R. 56 places upon a moving party. The court, therefore, limited paragraph three of the syllabus in Wing to bring it into conformity with Mitseff. (Emphasis added.)” Id. at ¶41.

{¶17} “The Supreme Court in Dresher went on to hold that when neither the moving nor nonmoving party provides evidentiary materials demonstrating that there are no material facts in dispute, the moving party is not entitled a judgment as a matter of law as the moving party bears the initial responsibility of informing the trial court of the basis for the motion, `and identifying those portions of the record which demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of fact on a material element of the nonmoving party’s claim.’ Id. at 276. (Emphasis added.)” Id. at ¶42.

{¶18} In the case at bar, the record establishes that appellant Traversari sent personal checks to appellee for payment on the loan at issue. However, appellee returned the checks with letters indicating they would not be accepted as payment because they were not certified, and foreclosure proceedings commenced.

{¶19} There is no genuine issue of material fact that appellants executed and delivered a note and mortgage to appellee. However, a genuine issue of material fact does exist with regard to the fact that appellant Traversari tendered the entire principal payment and appellee rejected it because the payment was made by personal check. See Chase Home Fin., LLC v. Smith, 11th Dist. No. 2007-P-0097, 2008-Ohio-5451, at ¶19. The dates and amounts of the personal checks are conflicting due to the testimony and/or evidence submitted by the parties.

{¶20} “A cause of action exists on behalf of a damaged mortgagor when, in conformity with the terms of his note, he offers to the mortgagee full payment of the balance of the principal and interest, and the mortgagee refuses to present the note and mortgage for payment and cancellation.” Cotofan v. Steiner (1959), 170 Ohio St. 163, paragraph one of the syllabus.

{¶21} Appellant Traversari did not place any conditions on the personal checks tendered to appellee. We note that “[t]he essential characteristics of a tender are an unconditional offer to perform, coupled with ability to carry out the offer and production of the subject matter of the tender.” Walton Commercial Enterprises, Inc. v. Assns. Conventions, Tradeshows, Inc. (June 11, 1992), 10th Dist. No. 91AP-1458, 1992 Ohio App. LEXIS 3081, at 5. (Emphasis sic.)

{¶22} “It is an implied condition of every contract that one party will not prevent or impede performance by the other. If he does prevent or impede performance, whether by his prior breach or other conduct, he may not then insist on performance by the affected party, and he cannot maintain an action for nonperformance if the promises are interdependent.” Fed. Natl. Mtge. Assns. v. Banks (Feb. 20, 1990), 2d Dist. No. 11667, 1990 Ohio App. LEXIS 638, at 8-9, citing 17 American Jurisprudence 2d, Contracts, Sections 425, 426.

{¶23} In the instant matter, paragraph 3 of the Open-End Mortgage provides:

{¶24} “3. Application of Payments. Unless applicable law provides otherwise, all payments received by Lender under paragraphs 1 and 2 shall be applied: first, to any prepayment charges due under the Note; second, to amounts payable under paragraph 2; third; to interest due; fourth, to principal due; and last, to any late charges due under the Note.”

{¶25} Here, there was no new note and mortgage, nor agreement for application of payments, when the mortgage at issue was subsequently assigned from Loan America Financial Corporation to appellee. Rather, it was the policy of appellee to require mortgagors to pay by certified check for any amounts over $5,000. According to appellee’s employee, Torres, she indicated that any amount over $5,000 not paid by certified funds puts the company at risk because it can take anywhere between 7 to 10 days for a personal check to clear. We note, however, that the mortgagee has up to 90 days to verify the sufficiency of the underlying funds before satisfying and releasing its recorded mortgage. R.C. 5301.36(B). In the instant case, it would have been reasonable for appellee to have either waited 7 to 10 days for appellant Traversari’s checks to clear or to have inquired with his bank, see, generally, Hunter Sav. Assn. v. Kasper (Sept. 25, 1979), 10th Dist. No. 78AP-774, 1979 Ohio App. LEXIS 11777, at 13, if there were sufficient funds before returning any of his 3 personal checks and commencing foreclosure proceedings.

{¶26} The lender in this case unilaterally refused the debtor’s payment by check due to itsinternal policy that an amount over $5,000 had to be made by certified check. The terms and conditions of the mortgage, however, do not impose such a requirement. Under paragraph 3 of the Open-End Mortgage, it appears the lender had an obligation to apply the payment tendered, by personal check or otherwise. Its refusal to present the check for clearance and apply the payment on the ground of internal policy appears to have violated the debtor’s rights.

{¶27} Construing the evidence submitted most strongly in favor of appellants, we must conclude that genuine issues of material fact remain. Again, a genuine issue of material fact exists with regard to the fact that appellant Traversari tendered the entire principal payment and appellee rejected it because the payment was made by personal check. Also, the dates and amounts of the personal checks are conflicting due to the testimony and/or evidence submitted by the parties. Thus, the trial court erred by granting appellee’s motion for summary judgment.

{¶28} For the foregoing reasons, appellants’ sole assignment of error is well-taken. The judgment of the Geauga County Court of Common Pleas is reversed and the matter is remanded for further proceedings consistent with this opinion. It is ordered that appellee is assessed costs herein taxed. The court finds there were reasonable grounds for this appeal.

Trapp, P.J., Rice, J., concur.

Defendants are not named parties to the instant appeal.

The matter was stayed. On November 26, 2008, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation was substituted for appellee Washington Mutual Bank. This court instructed the Clerk of Courts to correct the docket by removing “Washington Mutual Bank” and substituting “Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, as Receiver of Washington Mutual Bank” as appellee in this appeal. The stay order automatically dissolved on August 29, 2009.

Advertisements

Another “HOME RUN” in Nassau, NY! Judge awards FREE home to woman after mortgage records lost: NEWSDAY

Originally published: May 6, 2010 8:47 PM
By SID CASSESE  sid.cassese@newsday.com

The house at 517 Pinebrook

Photo credit: Newsday / Karen Wiles Stabile | The house at 517 Pinebrook Ct. in West Hempstead, which a judge awarded to Corliss Gittens, free of any liens and mortgages because nobody opposed the action. (May 6, 2010)

A Lakeview woman got an early birthday present when a Nassau County State Supreme Court Justice awarded her the house she lives in, free and clear of any liens and mortgages because nobody opposed the action.

Tuesday, Corliss Gittens, who turned 48 Friday, received the award of her six-room ranch-style house at 517 Pinebrook Ct. from Justice John Galasso.

Gittens bought the house from her parents in late 2000. But when she mailed monthly checks to the mortgage company, Homeside Lending, the checks were never cashed, said Hempstead lawyer Fred Brewington, who represents Gittens. In 2001, Gittens was told by Homeside Lending officials that it could not locate evidence of the mortgage in its records.

“She had a mortgage and a deed. She went to a closing and purchased the house,” said Brewington. “She never stopped trying to find out to whom she should pay the mortgage because the uncertainty was making her distraught.”

Eventually, Gittens learned Homeside ceased to exist, and its parent company, SR Investments, was sold to Washington Mutual in 2002. Washington Mutual was in turn acquired by JPMorgan Chase in 2008. All of the companies, as well as the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, were named as respondents.

None opposed Gittens’ suit.

Brewington said he reached out to Chase on the issue, only to be told the bank knew nothing about it.

Michael Fusco, a spokesman for Chase in Manhattan, said the bank “has no comment at this time.”

Gittens did not want to be interviewed for the story, but Brewington quoted her as saying: “After so many years of existing in limbo, I am happy that I will have the resources of my property available to me.”

He said Gittens once sought a second mortgage, but failed to get it because no one could get any information on the existing one. He added that her case was filed to wipe out that mortgage.

County records show the 2009 property tax on the house as $7,667.44.

In his decision Galasso said: “The Court directs the Clerk of the County of Nassau in whose office the mortgage and note were presumably recorded on or about March 6, 2001, to mark the record of the debt secured by the mortgage canceled and discharged.”

County Clerk Maureen O’Connell said Thursday she got the order Thursday and will execute it immediately.

Was There a Plan to Blow Up the Economy? The Subprime Conspiracy: COUNTERPUNCH

May 3, 2010

Was There a Plan to Blow Up the Economy?

The Subprime Conspiracy

By MIKE WHITNEY

Many people now believe that the financial crisis was not an accident. They think that the Bush administration and the Fed knew what Wall Street was up to and provided their support. This isn’t as far fetched as it sounds. As we will show, it’s clear that Bush, Greenspan and many other high-ranking officials understood the problem with subprime mortgages and knew that a huge asset bubble was emerging that threatened the economy. But while the housing bubble was more than just an innocent mistake, it doesn’t rise to the level of “conspiracy” which Webster defines as  “a secret agreement between two or more people to perform an unlawful act.”  It’s actually worse than that, because bubblemaking is the dominant policy, and it’s used to overcome structural problems in capitalism itself, mainly stagnation.

The whole idea of a conspiracy diverts attention from what really happened. It conjures up a comical vision of  top-hat business tycoons gathered in a smoke-filled room stealthily mapping out the country’s future. It ignores the fact, that the main stakeholders don’t need to convene a meeting to know what they want. They already know what they want; they want a process that helps them to maintain profitability even while the “real” economy remains stuck in the mud.  Historian Robert Brenner has written extensively on this topic and dispels the mistaken view that the economy is “fundamentally strong”. (in the words of former Treasury secretary Henry Paulson)  Here’s Brenner :

“The current crisis is more serious than the worst previous recession of the postwar period, between 1979 and 1982, and could conceivably come to rival the Great Depression, though there is no way of really knowing. Economic forecasters have underestimated how bad it is because they have over-estimated the strength of the real economy and failed to take into account the extent of its dependence upon a buildup of debt that relied on asset price bubbles.

“In the U.S., during the recent business cycle of the years 2001-2007, GDP growth was by far the slowest of the postwar epoch. There was no increase in private sector employment. The increase in plants and equipment was about a third of the previous, a postwar low. Real wages were basically flat. There was no increase in median family income for the first time since World War II. Economic growth was driven entirely by personal consumption and residential investment, made possible by easy credit and rising house prices. Economic performance was weak, even despite the enormous stimulus from the housing bubble and the Bush administration’s huge federal deficits. Housing by itself accounted for almost one-third of the growth of GDP and close to half of the increase in employment in the years 2001-2005. It was, therefore, to be expected that when the housing bubble burst, consumption and residential investment would fall, and the economy would plunge. ” (“Overproduction not Financial Collapse is the Heart of the Crisis”, Robert P. Brenner speaks with Jeong Seong-jin, Asia Pacific Journal)

What Brenner describes is an economy \that–despite unfunded tax cuts, massive military spending and gigantic asset bubbles–can barely produce positive growth.  The pervasive lethargy of mature capitalist economies poses huge challenges for industry bosses who are judged solely on their ability to boost quarterly profits. Goldman’s Lloyd Blankfein and JPM’s Jamie Dimon could care less about economic theory, what they’re interested in is making money; how to deploy their capital in a way that maximizes return on investment. “Profits”, that’s it.  And that’s much more difficult in a world that’s beset by overcapacity and flagging demand.  The world doesn’t need more widgets or widget-makers. The only way to ensure profitability is to invent an alternate system altogether, a new universe of financial exotica (CDOs, MBSs, CDSs) that operates independent of the sluggish real economy. Financialization provides that opportunity. It allows the main players to pump-up the leverage, minimize capital-outlay, inflate asset prices, and skim off record profits even while the real  economy endures severe stagnation.

Financialization provides a  path to wealth creation, which is why the sector’s portion of total corporate profits is now nearly 40 per cent. It’s a way to bypass the pervasive inertia of the production-oriented economy. The Fed’s role in this new paradigm is to create a hospitable environment (low interest rates) for bubble-making so the upward transfer of wealth can continue without interruption. Bubblemaking is policy.

As we’ve pointed out in earlier articles, scores of people knew what was going on during the subprime fiasco. But it’s worth a quick review, because Robert Rubin, Alan Greenspan, Timothy Geithner, and others have been defending themselves saying, “Who could have known?”.

The FBI knew (“In September 2004, the FBI began publicly warning that there was an “epidemic” of mortgage fraud, and it predicted that it would produce an economic crisis, if it were not dealt with.”) The FDIC knew. ( In testimony before the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission, FDIC chairman Sheila Bair confirmed that she not only warned the Fed of what was going on in 2001, but cited particular regulations (HOEPA) under which the Fed could stop the “unfair, abusive and deceptive practices” by the banks.) Also Fitch ratings knew, and even Alan Greenspan’s good friend and former Fed governor Ed Gramlich knew. (Gramlich personally warned Greenspan of the surge in predatory lending that was apparent as early as 2000. Here’s a bit of what Gramlich said in the Wall Street Journal:

“I would have liked the Fed to be a leader” in cracking down on predatory lending, Mr. Gramlich, now a scholar at the Urban Institute, said in an interview this past week. Knowing it would be controversial with Mr. Greenspan, whose deregulatory philosophy is well known, Mr. Gramlich broached it to him personally rather than take it to the full board. “He was opposed to it, so I didn’t really pursue it,” says Mr. Gramlich. (Wall Street Journal)

So, Greenspan knew, too. And, according to Elizabeth MacDonald  in an article titled “Housing Red flags Ignored”:

“One of the nation’s biggest mortgage industry players repeatedly warned the Federal Reserve, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. and other bank regulators during the housing bubble that the U.S. faced an imminent housing crash….But bank regulators not only ignored the group’s warnings, top Fed officials also went on the airwaves to say the economy was “building on a sturdy foundation” and a housing crash was “unlikely.”

So, the Mortgage Insurance Companies of America [MICA] also knew. And, here’s a clip from the Washington Post by former New York governor Eliot Spitzer who accused Bush of being a ‘partner in crime’ in the subprime fiasco. Spitzer says that the OCC launched “an unprecedented assault on state legislatures, as well as on state attorneys general just to make sure the looting would continue without interruption. Here’s an except from Spitzer’s article:

“In 2003, during the height of the predatory lending crisis….the OCC promulgated new rules that prevented states from enforcing any of their own consumer protection laws against national banks. The federal government’s actions were so egregious and so unprecedented that all 50 state attorneys general, and all 50 state banking superintendents, actively fought the new rules. (Washington Post)

So, the Fed knew, the Treasury knew, the FBI knew, the OCC knew, the FDIC knew, Bush knew, the Mortgage Insurance Companies of America knew, Fitch ratings knew, all the states Attorneys General knew, and thousands, of traders, lenders, ratings agency executives, bankers, hedge fund managers, private equity bosses, regulators knew. Everyone knew, except the unlucky people who were victimized in the biggest looting operation of all time.

Once again, looking for conspiracy, just diverts attention from the nature of the crime itself. Here’s a statement from former regulator and white collar criminologist William K. Black which helps to clarify the point:

“Fraudulent lenders produce exceptional short-term ‘profits’ through a four-part strategy: extreme growth (Ponzi), lending to uncreditworthy borrowers, extreme leverage, and minimal loss reserves. These exceptional ‘profits’ defeat regulatory restrictions and turn private market discipline perverse. The profits also allow the CEO to convert firm assets for personal benefit through seemingly normal compensation mechanisms. The short-term profits cause stock options to appreciate. Fraudulent CEOs following this strategy are guaranteed extraordinary income while minimizing risks of detection and prosecution.” (William K. Black,“Epidemics of’Control Fraud’ Lead to Recurrent, Intensifying Bubbles andCrises”, University of Missouri at Kansas City – School of Law)

Black’s definition of “control fraud” comes very close to describing what really took place during the subprime mortgage frenzy. The investment banks and other financial institutions bulked up on garbage loans and complex securities backed by dodgy mortgages so they could increase leverage and rake off large bonuses for themselves. Clearly, they knew the underlying collateral was junk, just as they knew that eventually the market would crash and millions of people would suffer.

But, while it’s true that Greenspan and Wall Street knew how the bubble-game was played; they had no intention of blowing up the whole system. They simply wanted to inflate the bubble, make their profits, and get out before the inevitable crash.  But, then something went wrong. When Lehman collapsed, the entire financial system suffered a major heart attack. All of the so-called “experts” models turned out to be wrong.

Here’s what happened: Before to the meltdown, the depository “regulated” banks got their funding through the repo market by exchanging collateral (mainly mortgage-backed securities) for short-term loans with the so-called “shadow banks” (investment banks, hedge funds, insurers) But after Lehman defaulted, the funding stream was severely impaired because the prices on mortgage-backed securities kept falling. When the bank-funding system went on the fritz,  stocks went into a nosedive sending panicky investors fleeing for the exits. As unbelievable as it sounds, no one saw this coming.

The reason that no one anticipated a run on the shadow banking system is because the basic architecture of the financial markets has changed dramatically in the last decade due to deregulation. The fundamental structure is different and the traditional stopgaps have been removed. That’s why no one knew what to do during the panic. The general assumption was that there would be a one-to-one relationship between defaulting subprime mortgages and defaulting mortgage-backed securities (MBS). That turned out to be a grave miscalculation. The subprimes were only failing at roughly 8 percent rate when the whole secondary market collapsed. Former Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill explained it best using a clever analogy. He said, “It’s like you have 8 bottles of water and just one of them has arsenic in it. It becomes impossible to sell any of the other bottles because no one knows which one contains the poison.”

And that’s exactly what happened. The market for structured debt crashed, stocks began to plummet, and the Fed had to step in to save the system. Unfortunately, that same deeply-flawed system is being rebuilt brick by brick without any substantive changes.. The Fed and Treasury support this effort, because–as agents of the banks–they are willing to sacrifice their own credibility to defend the primary profit-generating instruments of the industry leaders. (Goldman, JPM, etc) That means that Bernanke and Geithner will go to the mat to oppose any additional regulation on derivatives, securitization and off-balance sheet operations, the same lethal devices that triggered the financial crisis.

So, there was no conspiracy to blow up the financial system, but there is an implicit understanding that the Fed will serve the interests of Wall Street by facilitating asset bubbles through “accommodative” monetary policy and by opposing regulation. It’s just “business as usual”, but it’s far more damaging than any conspiracy, because it ensures that the economy will continue to stagnate, that inequality will continue to grow, and that the gigantic upward transfer of wealth will continue without pause.

Mike Whitney lives in Washington state. He can be reached atfergiewhitney@msn.com

Too Big To Jail? Executives Unscathed As Regulators Let Banks Report Criminal Fraud: HUFFINGTON POST

Huffington Post Investigative Fund |  David Heath First Posted: 05- 3-10 09:24 PM   |   Updated: 05- 3-10 09:44 PM

Republished from the Huffington Post Investigative Fund.

The financial crisis has spawned hundreds of criminal prosecutions for alleged fraud. Yet so far, defendants have been mostly minor players such as real-estate agents, mortgage brokers, borrowers and a few low-level bank employees. No senior executives at large financial institutions face criminal charges.

Too Big To JailThats in stark contrast to prosecutions during the savings and loan scandal two decades ago, when the government’s strategy targeted and snagged some of banking’s most powerful players. The approach back then succeeded in sending scores of S&L executives to prison, as well as junk-bond king Michael Milken and business tycoon Charles Keating Jr.

One explanation for the difference may be that key bank regulators — who did the detective work during the S&L crisis and sent more than 1,000 criminal referrals to prosecutors — have this time left reporting fraud up to the banks themselves.

Spokesmen for two chief regulators, the Comptroller of the Currency and the Office of Thrift Supervision, say that they have not sent prosecutors a single case for criminal prosecution.

An OTS spokesman said the agency, much like the banks themselves, does not see much evidence of criminal fraud inside the financial institutions. The spokesman, Bill Ruberry, citing the agency’s enforcement director, said, “There may be some isolated cases, but certainly there’s no widespread patterns.”

That surprises William K. Black, a former OTS official who helped coordinate criminal investigations during the S&L crisis.

“Dear God,” Black said when told bank regulators haven’t made any criminal referrals. “Not a single one?”

Black sees many signs the the government is less aggressive than during the S&L era — and could result in more bad behavior.

“This crisis was not bad luck,” he said. “It was done to us. When you bring those convictions, you hope that at least for a while to deter.”

Banks have reported massive amounts of fraud to the Treasury Department but have not held themselves — or their top executives — responsible, instead pinning blame on borrowers, independent mortgage brokers, and others.

That may account for the dearth of prosections against big fry. For instance, in California, among states where the mortgage meltdown hit hardest, the Huffington Post Investigative Fund identified 170 mortgage fraud prosecutions in federal courts. Only two are against employees of a regulated lender.

An Investigative Fund analysis shows that two-thirds of the 170 prosecutions are against mortgage brokers, real-estate professionals or borrowers — the same groups blamed by the banks when they report suspicious activities to regulators.

Besides the absence of criminal referrals, other plausible factors for the lack of major prosecutions may include a skittishness among prosecutors about filing cases they could have trouble winning, and a severe decline in investigative resources. The FBI dramatically shifted resources away from white-collar crime after the 2001 terrorist attacks.

To be sure, there are also notable differences between the S&L and current financial crisis, in the behavior of lenders during both periods, and between civil allegations of fraud and proving that someone committed a crime — all of which could account for the lack of big prosecutions.

But interviews with several law enforcement authorities suggest another explanation: A lack of active assistance to prosecutors by bank regulators who played key roles during the S&L crackdown. Those regulators sent detailed reports to prosecutors of known and suspicious criminal activity.

“Only the regulators can make a lot of these cases,” Black said. “The FBI can make a few, but the regulators are the ones that understand the industry.”

Under intense political pressure in the late 1980s, the Justice Department and thrift regulators developed a strategy to thoroughly investigate failed S&Ls for evidence of fraud and to focus their resources on the highest ranking executives.

In the early years, between 1987 and 1989, there were more than 300 prosecutions. Some bank executives were already behind bars. In 1989, Woody Lemons, chairman of Vernon Savings and Loan in Texas, was sentenced to 30 years.

In June 1990, then-OTS director Timothy Ryan told Congress that his agency had established criminal-referral units in each of 12 district offices. In addition, more than 30 OTS employees were assigned as full-time agents of grand juries or assistant US attorneys to help prosecutions. And the agency prioritized prosecutions to a Top 100 list, targeting senior S&L executives and directors.

While data on criminal referrals during the S&L crisis is spotty, the Government Accountability Office reported that in the first ten months of 1992 alone — a random snapshot — financial regulators sent the Justice Department more than 1,000 cases for criminal prosecution.

One study showed that 35 percent of criminal referrals in Texas — ground zero for the S&L problems — were against officers and directors.

This time, prosecutors are relying more heavily on banks to report suspicious activity to the Treasury Department. Banks are required to report known or suspected criminal violations, including fraud, on Suspicious Activity Reports designed for the purpose. In effect, the reports, which can be many pages in length, provide substantive leads for criminal investigations.

Black scoffs at the strategy of leaving it to banks to ferret out all the fraud. “Institutions will not make criminal referrals against the people who control the institutions,” said Black.

A white-collar criminologist and law professor at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, he argues that there’s ample evidence of fraud. Insiders working for lenders openly referred to loans they made without proof of income as “liar loans.” Many banks actively sought inflated appraisals in their rush to make as many loans as possible. As previously reported by the Investigative Fund, such lending practices contributed to the demise of Washington Mutual.

Not everyone agrees that such a case can be successful. Benjamin Wagner, a U.S. Attorney who is actively prosecuting mortgage fraud cases in Sacramento, Calif., points out that banks lose money when a loan turns out to be fraudulent. An investor in loans who documents fraud can force a bank to buy the loan back. But convincing a jury that executives intended to make fraudulent loans, and thus should be held criminally responsible, may be too difficult of a hurdle for prosecutors.

“It doesn’t make any sense to me that they would be deliberately defrauding themselves,” Wagner said.

So far, only sporadic news reports suggest that the Justice Department has ongoing criminal investigations against major banks such as Washington Mutual and Countrywide, as well as investment bank Goldman Sachs.

Fewer Cops on the Beat

The Justice Department, in response to written questions from the Investigative Fund, acknowledged the absence of criminal referrals from financial regulators. Months into the financial crisis, a new Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force, formed by President Obama last fall, was trying to work out communication problems between Justice and the regulatory agencies, according to the head of the task force, Robb Adkins. Adkins has said that criminal referrals from regulators have been “too often the exception to the rule.”

At a Congressional hearing in December, Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer was asked why there have been no criminal cases brought yet against CEOs. “Don’t for a moment think [these cases] aren’t being investigated,” Breuer replied. “They are complicated cases. It took a long time in hatching them and developing them. But they will be brought.”

The system that tracks Suspicious Activity Reports, or SARs, detected a dramatic increase in mortgage fraud starting in 2003, when reports of mortgage fraud nearly doubled within a year from 5,400 to 9,500. By 2007, the number had exploded to 53,000. During those same years, many mortgage lenders dramatically lowered their lending standards. Banks often required no proof of income. Borrowers could even get loans without be able to repay them.

Yet in their reports, banks overwhelmingly have blamed others for fraud. Whenever a borrower’s income was wrong on a loan application, the banks fingered borrowers 87 percent of the time and independent mortgage brokers 64 percent of the time, according to a 2006 Treasury analysis of the SARs. But the bank’s own employees were almost never blamed — only about four times in every 1,000 reports.

That might explain why so few prosecutions have targeted bank insiders.

Another reason for fewer prosecutions against bank employees is that the Federal Bureau of Investigation has far fewer agents working on the current crisis. Deputy Director John Pistole testified before Congress last year that the bureau had 1,000 people working on the S&L crisis at its height. That compares to about 240 agents working on mortgage fraud cases last year.

The FBI dramatically shifted its resources away from white-collar crime and to terrorism after the Sept. 11 attacks.

“We just didn’t have the cops on the beat” during the recent crisis, said Sen. Ted Kaufman, the Delaware Democrat who conducted a hearing on the lack of criminal prosecutions. “I was around during the savings and loan crisis [as a Congressional aide] and we had a lot more folks working it when it went down.”

Even with additional funding from Congress, which Kaufman helped push through, the FBI is budgeted to have 377 people working mortgage fraud cases this year, about a third as many as during the S&L investigations.

Charges Harder to Prove?

Charges in the recent banking crisis may be harder to prove, said Robert H. Tillman, who teaches at St. John’s University and who analyzed data about S&L prosecutions. Savings and loan executives who were convicted often personally approved large commercial loans for projects doomed to fail. Some would use federally insured deposits to pay themselves excessive salaries or to lend money to their own real estate projects. A few even took kickbacks.

This time, lending executives may have encouraged the making of bad loans, but they generally did not personally approve the loans, Tillman said. They didn’t send emails telling the troops to make fraudulent loans but paid big commissions to loan offers who made risky loans. Then the executives were able to reap huge bonuses for making the company look so profitable.

So far, the biggest cases have been civil lawsuits brought by the Securities and Exchange Commission, including most recently a highly publicized securities fraud case against Goldman Sachs and one of its vice presidents, Fabrice P. Tourre. News reports suggest that a referral from the SEC’s enforcement division to the Justice Department has led to a criminal inquiry.

Typically, federal authorities deal with massive financial scandals by picking a few cases they are confident they can win, said Henry Pontell, an expert on fraud at the University of California — Irvine.

This time, the administration may have been more focused on saving failing banks — and an entire financial system — than in prosecuting bank executives, Pontell said. Giving billions in bailout dollars to executives who encouraged fraudulent practices not only could complicate a case, it could prove embarrasing, he added.

Freedom of Information Act Requests Show OneWest Bank Misrepresentation

When will ALL this Bull Shit come to an END? Everything is a stage and all these “Non-Bank’s” are characters!

 Freedom of Information Act Requests Show OneWest Bank Misrepresentation
Posted on March 17, 2010 by Neil Garfield

Submitted by BMcDonald

Most of us are trying to get the info from the banks, which they will not do unless forced. Well, now many of us can walk right in through the back door. FOIA requests! I fought for 7 months to get the bank to cough up the info and it only took 6 days by going through the FDIC. So now I’m in the drivers seat. This damned bank has been lying from day one claiming they are the sole beneficiary of my loan. Now they have committed the fraud and done the crime by illegally selling my home. They are now in deep, deep, trouble.

I’ve been fighting OneWest Bank since August of last year here in Colorado. In Colorado they have nonjudicial foreclosures and the laws as so totally banker-biased it’s insane. All the bank has to do is go to the public trustee with a note from an attorney who “certifies” that the bank is the owner of the loan. What they don’t tell you is the bank has to go before a judge and get an order for sale in a 120 hearing. Most only find out about it at the last minute and don’t even show up because the only issue discussed is whether a default has occurred or not.

I discovered however that if you raise the question of whether the foreclosing party is a true party in interest or not, the court has to hear that as well. I raised that issue and demanded the bank produce the original documents and endorsements or assignements. The judge only ordered them to produce originals, which they did.

Long story short, I managed to hold them off for seven months after hiring an attorney. I found a bankruptcy case from CA in 2008 in which IndyMac produced original documents and ended up having to admit they didn’t own them. I had a letter from OneWest that only stated they purchased servicing rights. I had admissions from the bank’s attorney that there were no endorsements. And at the last minute I discovered the FDIC issued a press release in response to a YouTube video that went viral over the sweetheart deal OneWest did with the FDIC. The FDIC stated in their press release that OneWest only owned 7% of the loans they service. I presented all this to the judge but he ended up ignoring it all and gave OneWest an order to sell my home, which they did on the 4th.

About a week before the sale I went directly to the FDIC and filed a FOIA request for any and all records indicating ownership rights and servicing rights related to my loans and gave them my loan numbers. I managed to get the info in about 6 days. I got PROOF from the FDIC that OneWest did not own my loan. Fredie Mac did. And the info came directly from OneWest systems. And just last Friday I got a letter from IndyMac Mortgage services, obviously in compliance with the FOIA request that Freddie Mac owned the loan. So I now have a confession from OneWest themselves that they have been lying all along! I have a motion in to have the sale set aside and once that’s done I’m going to sue the hell out of them and their attorneys in Federal court.

So I found a wonderful little back door to the proof most of us need. If the FDIC is involved, you can do a FOIA request for the info. I don’t know if it applies to all banks since they are all involved in the FDIC. You all should try it to see.

Most of us are trying to get the info from the banks, which they will not do unless forced. Well, now many of us can walk right in through the back door. FOIA requests! I fought for 7 months to get the bank to cough up the info and it only took 6 days by going through the FDIC. So now I’m in the drivers seat. This damned bank has been lying from day one claiming they are the sole beneficiary of my loan. Now they have committed the fraud and done the crime by illegally selling my home. They are now in deep, deep, trouble.


  

The Great Highway Robbery Continues: How The FDIC Is Legally Transferring Billions In Taxpayer Money To Hedge Funds

by Tyler Durden on 02/10/2010

It is not a secret to anyone who has been closely following the FDIC’s quasi criminal bank takeover practices over the past year, that acquirors of failed banks end up receiving a massive and risk-free gift in the form of taxpayer benefits via the FDIC when it comes to funding losses on a given bank acquisition. Should there be a short sale resulting in a loss to the full principal (not the cost basis mind you)? Not to worry, Sheila Bair is there to hand out taxpayer money to the hedge funds/banks owning the newly transferred assets. A recent example of this was the glaring insider trading which preceded the acquisition of failed AmTrust Bank by New York Community Bancorp, in which both NYB and those who bought calls in advance of information being made public, made massive illegal profits. And as the SEC continues to pretend like this episode never happened, we remind the intellectually subprime Mary Schapiro to finally pursue those involved, and will continue doing so for as long as it takes. But back to the FDIC: the folks at Think Big Work Small have compiled a terrific video detailing exactly how several hedge funds, currently owners of recently created shell holding company OneWest Bank, are picking apart the carcass of failed IndyMac, all the while encouraging short sales (instead of loan mods) as only that way do they get to benefit fully from the taxpayer funded FDIC loss-share arrangements which makes the IndyMac transaction an immediate slam dunk for everyone involved…except America’s taxpayers, and the FDIC’s ever depleting DIF reserve.

As the authors appropriately title the video, this is indeed a slap in our face. And this goes on every single bailout Friday when the FDIC continues handing out billions of dollars under the guise of “loss sharing” arrangements, which is simply a guaranteed profit from the acquirors’ cost basis to 90% of the original loan value: an instantaneous 30% risk free IRR.

Full must watch video after the link (click on the icon below).

Click Here for NY Times article.


Other articles and posts about the FDIC-OneWest agreement.
Click Here for actual consumer story.
Click Here for other consumer insights.
Why OneWest Always Forecloses
FDIC Pays Bank to Foreclose
The Great Highway Robbery

Document Downloads