Sorry You Lost Your Home: Americans Deserve More than an Apology for the Foreclosure Fraud Epidemic

Salon | August 9, 2016      “I lost my home of 30 years to fraudclosure.”

“I have been fighting this bank for over five years now. I am finally losing everything to their fraud.”

“We feel captive in our own home.”

This is a sampling of what I have awakened to practically every day for the past few months, since my book “Chain of Title: How Three Ordinary Americans Uncovered Wall Street’s Great Foreclosure Fraud” came out. Hundreds of people have emailed me, sent me letters, attended my public events, to relate their personal horror stories of foreclosure and dispossession. They come from across America, from different social and economic backgrounds. Some lost everything, and some haven’t given up.

They contact me, a non-lawyer who has only written about and not participated in their struggle, because they have been abandoned, by a government that chose sides against them after the crash of 2008. They seek answers that I mostly don’t have and support I mostly cannot provide. Outside of referring them to legal aid, I cannot solve their foreclosure problems. I cannot convince a judge disinclined to rule in their favor, or a bank disinclined to see them as anything but a financial asset to be plucked, to change their minds. I can only note in sorrow that the massive netting of fraud laid by the mortgage industry over a decade ago continues to capture people like them.

But despite my lack of assistance, they typically express to me their gratitude, for one simple reason: just by giving voice to similar nightmares, I have instilled in them hope that they aren’t utterly alone in their misery, that they haven’t been singled out by a vengeful nation, that somewhere out there they have an ally and a confidant.

I wrote my book for them, for everyone who suffered as a result of the largest consumer fraud in American history and the greatest economic collapse in nearly a century. They shouldn’t be forgotten. In fact, somebody should apologize to them for having to bear the weight of the financial collapse on their shoulders, even while that suffering was exacted through outright fraud. It might as well be me.  Read more here.

Rule on Arbitration Would Restore Right to Sue Banks

The New York Times | May 5, 2016      The nation’s consumer watchdog is unveiling a proposed rule on Thursday that would restore customers’ rights to bring class-action lawsuits against financial firms, giving Americans major new protections and delivering a serious blow to Wall Street that could cost the industry billions of dollars.

The proposed rule, which would apply to bank accounts, credit cards and other types of consumer loans, seems almost certain to take effect, since it does not require congressional approval.

In effect, the move by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau — the biggest that the agency has made since its inception in 2010 — will unravel a set of audacious legal maneuvers by corporate America that has prevented customers from using the court system to challenge potentially deceitful banking practices.

Honing their plan over decades, credit card companies, banks and other lenders devised a way to use the fine print of their contracts to push consumers out of court and into arbitration, where borrowers must battle powerful companies on their own. Without the ability to pool resources, most people abandon their claims and never make it to arbitration.

The new rules would mean that lenders could not force people to agree to mandatory arbitration clauses that bar class actions when those customers sign up for financial products. The changes would not apply to existing accounts, though consumers would be free to pay off their old loans and open new accounts that are covered.

And while those rules are not final yet — there will be a 90-day public comment period — financial industry lawyers say they are tough to derail.   Read more here.