David Dayen, in a pointed article titled, “The Corruption of the Financial Press: A Look at Housing Wire” documents how that mortgage “news” site has extensive business and financial connections with firms and individuals at the frontlines of dubious mortgage industry practices and has repeatedly gone to bat for its biggest advertiser even in the face of criminal investigations.
Housing Wire’s proprietor, Paul Jackson, made this inquiry fair game in a recent post, “Follow the money: Interpreting U.S. Bank v. Congress” in which he took aim at the Alabama attorneys who tried defending a client against what they contended was a wrongful foreclosure, using the untested strategy we had mentioned on this blog, the so-called New York trust theory. The court rejected the case on narrow grounds (the suit was fighting the ejectment, a stage after the foreclosure; any precedent on ejectment actions will have limited applicability in Alabama and none in other states). But Jackson went further than arguing the issues of the case or the importance of the decision. Based on no evidence, he denigrated the attorneys involved, claiming they must have big money backers (and we separately dispatched his spurious charges):
In other words, everything is about the money, and if you can find a viable angle to make more of it than someone else. And I mean everything….. As a result, it would be fascinating to learn who really bankrolled the defense in this particular case. Sometimes defense attorneys will put up their own money to defend a case like this — it’s not unheard of — but it’s far from the norm.
With the benefit of Dayen’s sleuthing, Jackson’s post is revealed as a classic case of projection, in which someone attributes to others the very sort of behavior he engages in. Per Dayen:
What is Housing Wire, anyway? The principals of it and its parent company, the LTV Group, are Paul Jackson, and Richard Bitner. He used to be a subprime mortgage broker, and he wrote a book about it called Confessions of a Subprime Lender. Bitner has compared himself in interviews to a drug dealer for his career in the subprime industry.
The main shareholders in Housing Wire, and its publisher LTV Publishing, which is also an advertising/PR/marketing company, are:
Robert Jackson, Paul’s father and a CEO at Jackson and Associates, an REO (real estate owned; it means a property owned by a bank or government entity after an unsuccessful foreclosure auction) lawyer; Berry Laws, a partner at Martin, Leigh, Laws & Fritzlen, a foreclosure mill law firm out of Kansas, linked to robo-signing, which also owns a title company; and Benny Nassiri, the owner of Asset Financial Network, which specializes in foreclosure properties. Basically, someone cashing in on the misery of others. She has also worked with IndyMac, the collapsed subprime lender.
So this is the group around Housing Wire: foreclosure firms, an REO broker and an ex-subprime lender. If it is indeed “all about the money,” there’s a lot of guilt by association here. All of these people make money off the broken housing market and its constant stream of foreclosures.
But there’s more. The leading advertiser for Housing Wire is, in fact, LPS (Lender Processing Services). You may have heard of them because they have been implicated in multiple criminal investigations for producing fake documents for foreclosure cases. LPS ran DocX, the company that sold “authentic” documents to foreclosure mill law firms at cut rates. And they continued this profit center even outside of DocX:
Questionable signing and notarization practices weren’t limited to its subsidiary, called DocX, but occurred in at least one of LPS’s own offices, mortgage assignments filed in county recorders’ offices show. And rather than halt such practices after the federal investigation got underway, the company shifted the signing to firms with which it has close business ties. LPS provided personnel to work in the new signing operations, according to information from an LPS spokeswoman and court records including an October 21 ruling by a judge in Brooklyn, New York. Records in county recorders’ offices, and in the judge’s opinion, show that “robosigning” and preparation of apparently false documents went on at these sites on a large scale.
In one instance, it helped set up a massive signing operation at the nearby office of a major client, a spokeswoman for the client, American Home Mortgage Servicing, confirmed. LPS-hired notaries who worked there said in interviews that troves of documents were improperly handled. They said that about 200 affidavits per day were robosigned during the two months the two notaries remained there.
See also here and here. Yet Jackson has repeatedly defended LPS, its leading advertiser, from these charges, minimizing their legal exposure. One of the principals of the company, Benny Nassiri, also lists herself as affiliated with LPS.
Here’s the point. Jackson has a habit of throwing around statements like “it’s all about the money,” but his organization really fails under that standard. It’s filled with people from the mortgage industry who obviously have an incentive to minimize the conduct of the mortgage industry. It also makes its money from the mortgage industry. This is part and parcel of the financial press in all its sleaze.
Our Richard Smith pointed out that Jackson’s “follow the money” standard meant Jackson himself was not reliable:
Taking guidance from this exceedingly dubious, indeed self-refuting claim (if it’s all about the money, we can’t trust Jackson either, can we?) is quite foolish.
I think we can now go even further, that if you listen to Jackson, you can assume it’s only the money talking.