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A Helping Hand With Sensible Secrets

A little bit of soap may — as the Jarmels famously sung — wash the lipstick off your face or powder from you chin but it will never, never wash away the fraud — according to this doctrine — perpetrated by those in the financial services industry who relentlessly pursue home seizures via fraudulent note endorsements, mortgage assignments and robo-signed affidavits; supporting materials necessary to prove the right (a/k/a “standing”) to pursue a foreclosure. Unfortunately, in all too many cases the banking/foreclosure industry has have gotten away with it. One only needs to review the collateral damage (think, “homeowners”) that followed the 2008 subprime meltdown to see the devastation wrought to communities around the country and let’s not forget those impacted were folk of all political leanings. Bruce Jacobs, a Miami based lawyer and former state prosecutor, is riding point in a legal charge to make good use of “unclean hands” as a foreclosure defense and his arguments have begun to resonate with some Florida judges. One of his cases — Wells Fargo v John Riley — was dismissed last December in a Palm Beach, Florida Circuit Court, after the Judge found plaintiffs had failed to scrub unclean hands; to wit: Wells Fargo and its servicer, JP Morgan Chase (both parties to the $25 billion National Mortgage Settlement ) relied on false testimony and failed to explain how an endorsement from the original lender, Washington Mutual (remember them? The financial institution notable for being history’s biggest bank failure ) came to be affixed to the note years after WAMU went out of business. Finally, the court found that the “purported mortgage loan schedules” was a phony; missing essential data (plaintiff’s witness first claimed that this was done to protect the borrower’s “privacy.” The Judge forced the witness, upon cross-examination, to admit that it had nothing to do with privacy. It was simply missing). It seemed that the plaintiffs had taken one too many Mulligans in trying to justify how Wells Fargo had obtained the mortgage and note which finally led the Judge to this conclusion: The court finds Plaintiff failed to prove every element of its case by substantial competent evidence and has unclean hands, and enters judgement in favor of the Defendant, John Riley. In short, the good guys — at least in this case — win. In the arcane world of mortgage securitization, where tens of millions of loans are sliced, diced and parceled out to third party investors the process of proving who really owns a loan, and who has the legal standing to foreclose, is much like asking a medieval alchemist to give a step by step description — with verification — of how lead is turned to gold.

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