As more and more problems with foreclosures and borrower horror stories are coming to light, it isn’t hard to notice that banks are still gamely sticking with the pitch that the failings are technical and procedural even as the breadth of their response and the official reaction says otherwise. Suspending all foreclosures in the US, as Bank of America did today, is a very significant move. And the pressure appears to be escalating, as a multi-state effort is close to going live. Per Bloomberg:
Attorneys general in about 40 states may announce by next week a joint investigation into potentially faulty foreclosures at the largest banks and mortgage firms, according to a person with direct knowledge of the matter.
State attorneys general led by Iowa’s Tom Miller are in talks that may lead to the announcement of a coordinated probe as soon as Oct. 12, said the person, who asked not to be named because an agreement wasn’t completed. The number of states may change because several are deciding whether to join, the person said. New Mexico Attorney General Gary King said yesterday in a statement that his state will join a multi-state effort.
The Financial Times gives us Bank of America’s gloss on this shoddy situation:
Banks have downplayed the problem by saying it is a mere technicality, adding that they are only foreclosing on homeowners who are months behind on their mortgage payments. BofA reiterated that position on Friday, saying: “Our ongoing assessment shows the basis for foreclosure decisions is accurate.”
Yves here. Although we have chronicled the affidavit improprieties, we’ve kept our focus on the fact that these abuses are symptoms of much bigger, and we believe pervasive, problems with the securitizations. But in trying to give the big picture, we may have played into the bank narrative of minimizing the importance of the affidavit issue. Reader ella in comments provided a reminder:
An affidavit is a legal document which can substitute for live witness testimony in court. All testimony in court is governed by the rules of evidence or by statute. All testimony requires that the witness swears to tell the truth, is competent and has personal knowledge of the facts they are testifying about. An affidavit is no different, in most if not all jurisdictions; the affiant swears to tell the truth by being placed under oath by the notary, the affiant states in the affidavit that they were sworn, are competent and that they have personal knowledge of the facts in the affidavit. The notary attests to the oath of the affiant and that the affiant is who he claims to be.
If a witness lies in court or in an affidavit then they could be charged with perjury. Perjury is lying to the court.
The affidavit issue is being portrayed in the MSM at a paperwork problem. Lying to the court is not a paperwork problem. Attorneys are prohibited from making a material misrepresentation to the court of fact or law. Further, attorneys in most jurisdictions have an affirmative duty to report known perjury by their clients to the court.
The problem with the affidavits is perjury on behalf of the affiants and possibly the notaries depending on the notaries’ knowledge that the affiants had not reviewed the files, the promissory notes, the mortgages, or the records of default.
Further, you can reasonably argue that the entities pursuing foreclosure (banks or servicers) have perpetrated a fraud on the court by submitting perjured affidavits. If the attorneys representing the entities have knowledge of the fraud or are preparing questionable documents then they may also be involved and subject to penalties.
At the heart of any trial or hearing is the determination of the truth of the matter. It is the very purpose of the rules of evidence and what law and fact is presented to the court. If the affiants lied, as it appears, then the truth of whether they owned the note and held the mortgage and the borrower was in default is at issue. Courts, Attorneys General, and bar associations need to serious consider actions that will assure compliance with the rule of law.
This country cannot stand as a democracy if there is one set of law for the banks, corps, elites and another set of law for the rest of us. Perjury and fraud on the court is very serious matter. It is not a mere paperwork problem.