Mar 23

By Tony Dobrowolski – The Berkshire Eagle

The problems began when Dave lost the job he had held for 14 years one month after the birth of his fourth child.

After six months on unemployment, Dave found a new job. But after expenses, his new salary didn’t pay enough to keep current with his mortgage payments.

“I had an outrageous interest rate,” he said.

So he let his mortgage payments lapse. For five years.

During that five-year foreclosure process, his mortgage “was bought and sold twice,” Dave said.

Fannie Mae had initiated foreclosure proceedings on Dave’s house in June 2011, according to the Berkshire Regional Housing Authority.

“Dave,” a Pittsfield resident who told his story on the condition his real name not be published, isn’t the only Berkshire County resident to find himself in this situation lately. [read more]

Mar 21

By Amy Greenwood-Field – Financial Services Perspectives

In Alaska Trustee, LLC and Stephen Routh v. Brett Ambridge and Josephine Ambridge, the Alaska Supreme Court considered whether Alaska Trustee and Routh were “debt collectors” subject to liability under the Federal Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA). The case represents another in a growing body of precedent revolving around the fundamental issue of whether law firms and trustees involved in judicial or non-judicial foreclosure processes are “debt collectors” for FDCPA purposes. In Alaska Trustee, LLC, the Alaska Supreme Court joined with other courts in answering the question in the affirmative for trustees in non-judicial foreclosure states.

Routh was the sole owner and shareholder of Alaska Trustee, which acted as a processor of non-judicial foreclosures of deeds of trust on real property. Alaska Trustee’s activities included “ordering the title report, recording the Notice of Default in the real property records, providing notice of the foreclosure as required by statute, responding to requests from the borrower . . .for reinstatement or payoff quotes,” and handling formalities before and after the foreclosure sales. In support of its argument to be excluded from FDCPA coverage, Alaska Trustee noted it did not bring suit to recover on an underlying note, nor did it write demand letters. [read more]

Mar 17

By Bill Moak – The Clarion-Ledger

In 2015, many Americans got fed up with being harassed by debt collectors, having their identities stolen by identity thieves and being impersonated by crooks. Those three topics formed the bulk of complaints made last year to a host of federal, state and local law enforcement and regulatory agencies and private groups.

Each year around this time, the Federal Trade Commission issues its annual Data Book using data collected by Consumer Sentinel, which serves as a clearinghouse and database of complaint activity nationwide. The 2015 report listed a record 3.08 million complaints, of which nearly a third were filed about various debt collection issues. It’s worth noting that a large number of identity theft cases concerned the fraudulent filing of tax returns, in which many consumers found their taxes had already been filed (and refunds collected) by the time they went to file their tax paperwork.

Here in the Magnolia State, our consumers filed more than 18,400 complaints during 2015, with about a quarter of those dealing with debt collection practices. Second place was imposter scams, followed by prize/sweepstakes/lottery scams, telephone and mobile services issues and banks and lenders. Rounding out the top 10 Mississippi complaint categories were complaints about phone and mobile services; banks and lenders; shop-at-home and catalog sales; auto-related issues; TV and electronic media; credit bureaus, information furnishers and report users; and investment-related issues. (These numbers don’t count complaints collected by the Mississippi attorney general’s office, which handles a large number of consumer complaints filed each year by Mississippians.) [read more]

Mar 16

By Russ Van Arsdale – Banger Daily News

Roll two of America’s top consumer complaints into one, and the result might wear a T-shirt proclaiming, “I am a phony debt collector.”

The Federal Trade Commission just released its annual list of consumer complaints. Debt collection topped the list, and imposter scams came in third. Together, the two categories accounted for roughly 1.2 million complaints, 40 percent of all complaints the FTC received in 2015.

Nationally, the FTC last year increased its effort to protect consumers from illegal debt collection practices. The agency coordinated a federal-state-local effort called Operation Collection Protection; through that program, more than 130 legal actions were brought. The FTC brought 12 actions against 52 defendants, and permanently barred 30 companies and individuals from the debt collection industry. The agency said in a recent statement that it obtained almost $94 million in judgments against debt collectors. [read more]

Mar 15

By Andrew Khouri – Los Angeles Times

During the bust that followed last decade’s housing boom, hundreds of thousands of Californians lost their homes to foreclosure. It was a process later found to be rife with problems, such as overwhelmed bank employees who sometimes didn’t even read the foreclosure documents in front of them.

But challenging foreclosures on the basis of paperwork problems proved to be mostly futile, given California courts had ruled that borrowers who weren’t paying their mortgages didn’t suffer financial harm.

Now, a recent decision by the California Supreme Court will allow some of those former homeowners to pursue lawsuits and possibly win damages for wrongful foreclosure even if they were in default.

“They opened the courthouse doors,” said Katherine Porter, a law professor at UC Irvine and a former monitor for a national settlement over foreclosure abuses.

During the foreclosure crisis, tales of “robo-signing” emerged when employees of mortgage firms signed off on foreclosure documents even though they had no authority to do so. Troubled borrowers were often bounced around to various employees who gave different answers.

And borrowers were often confused over who actually owned their loan, given shoddy paperwork that transferred mortgages from original lenders into obscure securities sold to Wall Street investors. [read more]

Mar 14

By John Hielscher – Herald Tribune

Florida remains the foreclosure capital of the country, but the number of homeowners who have lost their properties is down sharply.

Florida led the nation with 74,303 completed foreclosures in the 12-month period through January, data provider CoreLogic reported.

While that was significantly higher than any other state, the foreclosure activity was down nearly 37 percent over the year.

The state posted a 2.4 percent foreclosure rate, with that share of homeowners mired in some stage of the foreclosure process. That tied for the third-highest rate in the nation.

But it dropped from 3.5 percent one year ago and from 6.4 percent in 2014.

Florida accounted for about 16 percent of all the completed foreclosures in the past year. [read more]