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Sweet, sweet payback
June 3, 2011 9:17 PM   Subscribe

Homeowners foreclose on Bank of America. (Not an Onion story.) A Florida couple watches as their lawyer and sheriff's deputies foreclose on a Bank of America branch that had refused to pay the couple damages for wrongfully seizing their home.
posted by Kraftmatic Adjustable Cheese (59 comments total) 20 users marked this as a favorite

 
Didn't this also happen somewhere like Pennsylvania with a man and a Wells Fargo branch?
posted by The Thnikkaman at 9:22 PM on June 3, 2011 [3 favorites]


Indeed.
posted by chaff at 9:27 PM on June 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


I began it thinking the cost of the couple's home was somehow involved, but they put on this whole show over only a few grand. Still sounds like a fun scene. Something very satisfying about news stories that involve sticking it to the man, even if you are only making entertaining gestures towards sticking it to the man.

Also, they got their couple grand, so the man didn't get to stick it to them on this particular occasion. That is like a partial sticking it to the man.

Sorry, spoilers.
posted by damehex at 9:28 PM on June 3, 2011


I actually raised my fist in the air in triumph when I read the FPP text.
posted by dry white toast at 9:33 PM on June 3, 2011 [4 favorites]


Knowing how these companies operate, I'd imagine that wasn't so much the scenario of archetypical greedy branch manager getting his comeuppance, but more of a scenario of BOA corporate bureaucracy making it impossible for the branch to cut the check, then BOA corporate firing the branch manager once the shit hit the fan.
posted by crapmatic at 9:40 PM on June 3, 2011 [12 favorites]


But anyway.
posted by Horselover Phattie at 9:40 PM on June 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


I wonder if cops would have played along the way they did if the victim in the case weren't a retired police officer?
posted by contessa at 9:41 PM on June 3, 2011 [39 favorites]


Even more impressive than the comeuppance is the level of fucked-upedness with which BOA operated. Foreclosing on a home that had no mortgage, taking a year and a half to correct the error, and then not paying the legal fees in a timely fashion? Go fuck yourself, BOA. Seriously.

I shudder to think what other crap they're pulling against people who don't have the resources to fight back. I also worry about people who've been screwed by BOA through acts just as wrongful, but without the clear open-and-shut nature of this kind of screw-up.
posted by Sticherbeast at 9:45 PM on June 3, 2011 [23 favorites]


I tracked this version of the story down through the Consumerist, and I have to love the excuse (and by love, I mean 'wonder how these people lost their brains'):

“We apologize to Mr. Nyegres that there was a delay in receiving the funds,” said Christine Toth, Southeast media relations manager for the bank. “The original request went to an outside attorney who is no longer in business.”

That's just stupidity.
posted by mephron at 9:53 PM on June 3, 2011


My justice just got a boner reading that.
posted by hal_c_on at 10:16 PM on June 3, 2011 [6 favorites]


Just to be clear, its not a foreclosure but a seizure.
posted by Ironmouth at 10:16 PM on June 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


That's just stupidity.

That's corporate America. Indifference and incompetence are far more prevalent than deliberate malice.
posted by dantsea at 10:18 PM on June 3, 2011 [9 favorites]


I wonder if cops would have played along the way they did if the victim in the case weren't a retired police officer?

Its a court order. The deputies have zero choice in the matter. This is an everyday occurance, other than usually the old attorney informs the bank. Here they didn't.
posted by Ironmouth at 10:18 PM on June 3, 2011 [4 favorites]


“We apologize to Mr. Nyegres that there was a delay in receiving the funds,” said Christine Toth, Southeast media relations manager for the bank. “The original request went to an outside attorney who is no longer in business.”

This one?

posted by furiousxgeorge at 10:21 PM on June 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


The embattled law firm – a so-called “foreclosure mill” that represented banks – will close its doors March 31, leaving about 100,000 cases in limbo statewide.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 10:22 PM on June 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


Isn't this the plot from the next Saramago?
posted by oxford blue at 11:12 PM on June 3, 2011


The problem is not so much that these bureaucracies make mistakes, but that they are institutionally unwilling to fix their mistakes, even when a judge orders them to do so. Stunning. I can only hope this goes viral and encourages other police to do the same thing.
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 11:12 PM on June 3, 2011 [5 favorites]


Indeed.

You know, that stinks. It doesn't look like they were kicking the guy out of his house without cause or anything — he wrote them letters to see if they'd take longer than 20 days to respond to him so that he could sue them. They didn't, awesome, and he sued them. Then they paid him. ... But because they didn't also actually go ahead and give him an envelope with a letter responding to his previous letters, he decided it was his pejorative to file a form to start a foreclosure sale (that'd get knocked down by a judge, and did) so that he could say he did and then charge them the $50 fee he paid to do it.

Seriously, that guy's a dick.
posted by floam at 11:36 PM on June 3, 2011


Seriously, that guy's a dick.

When a vast, multinational bank does what this guy did -- good business practice. Oops, sorry should have paid your mortgage.

When a lone person does what this guy did -- that guy's a dick.
posted by dirigibleman at 12:16 AM on June 4, 2011 [27 favorites]


You know, that stinks. It doesn't look like they were kicking the guy out of his house without cause or anything — he wrote them letters to see if they'd take longer than 20 days to respond to him so that he could sue them. They didn't, awesome, and he sued them.

Well, he took advantage of the kind of "self-help" laws that legislatures make in order to pass the costs and risk of proper regulatory enforcement (and some of the minor benefits, like getting to be paid small amounts in fines) onto individuals rather than more expensive government agencies. I find it hard to hate him for that.
posted by A Thousand Baited Hooks at 12:45 AM on June 4, 2011 [13 favorites]


Sadly it's only a branch of the bank, not the bank
posted by the noob at 1:45 AM on June 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


The original request went to an outside attorney who is no longer in business.

In jail or owns an IT solutions company
posted by the noob at 1:48 AM on June 4, 2011 [3 favorites]


Sadly it's only a branch of the bank, not the bank

That's where my head's at - this is a fun story and I'm glad this matter was put to rights, but this is a microscopic instance of the consequences I'd like to see these heinous megabanks face for their criminal actions and calculated inactions.
posted by EatTheWeak at 1:59 AM on June 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


This is classic April Fool's day stuff. Not that it's fake, but that it's "little guy puts one over on big guy one day of the year to distract from the other 364".
posted by DU at 2:25 AM on June 4, 2011 [3 favorites]


Sometimes mere incompetence can't really explain what seems more likely to be caused by unmitigated greed and callous, asymmetric disregard for law, expecially when laws interfere with profit seeking.

Fortune confirms Pervasive Defects in BOA corporate documents

Thus the myth of private efficiency...is not shattered: when disregarding, messing with law is more efficient/cost effective, you may bet your house the financially small guys (read: piss poors) will be on the receiving end of the stick, except PR firms will spin it into "it's the market" or "it's normal".
posted by elpapacito at 2:35 AM on June 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


Additionally, I've noticed the lawyer of the Florida Couple was "cut short" during the interview, when he was hinting that this is the "symptom" of a larger problem. The aforecited article refers exactly to that.
posted by elpapacito at 2:37 AM on June 4, 2011


Seriously, that guy's a dick.
What? Did you miss the part where they tried to steal his house? The force-placed insurance thing can be a scam used to foreclose on home owners without them even having an opportunity to fight back. The bank should have just paid the fee.
posted by delmoi at 2:43 AM on June 4, 2011 [8 favorites]


$2,534? that's a cheap attorney! No wonder it took so long to settle this.
posted by tomswift at 2:49 AM on June 4, 2011


Very cute. Is asset seizure like this regarded legally as a form of contempt of court? Or does it have a separate lesser status?
posted by jeffburdges at 3:19 AM on June 4, 2011


I'm really curious... is there any reason at all to buy a home in the U.S. these days?
posted by MrVisible at 3:45 AM on June 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


That's corporate America. Indifference and incompetence are far more prevalent than deliberate malice.

But, but...The private sector is inherently more efficient and responsive!!!
posted by Thorzdad at 3:47 AM on June 4, 2011 [4 favorites]


Very cute. Is asset seizure like this regarded legally as a form of contempt of court? Or does it have a separate lesser status?

This is what happens when you fail to pay a judgment or attorney fee petition against you. The court orders your assets seized and the Sherrifs are called in to execute the judgment.

This attorney called in the cameras. He could have just as easily sent a letter to inside counsel for BOA.
posted by Ironmouth at 3:57 AM on June 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


:)
posted by caddis at 4:17 AM on June 4, 2011


contessa: I wonder if cops would have played along the way they did if the victim in the case weren't a retired police officer

Yes, the sheriff's department would have "played along." I don't think you understand the mechanism at work here.
posted by DarlingBri at 4:18 AM on June 4, 2011


$2,534? that's a cheap attorney! No wonder it took so long to settle this.

When your clients, almost by definition, have no money, you really can't get away with charging $500 an hour.
posted by valkyryn at 4:43 AM on June 4, 2011


The embattled law firm – a so-called “foreclosure mill” that represented banks – will close its doors March 31, leaving about 100,000 cases in limbo statewide.

I found it especially disturbing that they have something called a "rocket docket" for foreclosures. It's sad when you have so many people to kick out of their homes that you have to put in a g.d. express lane.
posted by and miles to go before I sleep at 4:57 AM on June 4, 2011


You can bet that BOA would NEVER have paid that small amount owed to that couple. NEVER NEVER NEVER. No matter what a court instructs them to do. The rule of law no longer applies to the corporate elite. If you want justice served, you can't simply ask and expect it in 2011 America. You must take it, with force. We are way too compliant. Congratulations to this couple for their small victory.
posted by Seymour Zamboni at 5:25 AM on June 4, 2011 [11 favorites]


If you foreclose on a guy that paid CASH for his house, you mightwant to expect he'll be able to afford to fight back.
posted by blue_beetle at 5:40 AM on June 4, 2011 [3 favorites]


I didn't ask whether or not this happen, Ironmouth. I asked a question about abstract legal theory. I'd imagine the answer is : No, the bank was not in contempt of court, the judge could not have thrown the bank's manager in jail, nor temporarily withdrawn their business license, etc. If otoh, the bank has openly stated that they were not going to pay up, or something equally "contemptuous", the judge could've exercised such stronger powers. err.. I guess that's what you meant by your letter comment. Ok, thanks.
posted by jeffburdges at 5:45 AM on June 4, 2011


Calling this guy a dick is a symptom of a larger problem in this country.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 5:59 AM on June 4, 2011 [14 favorites]


Just the other day when my usual ATM was out of service, I asked myself whether my current policy of refusing to do business with BOA was really justified. So it's good to know that my trek to the nearest non-BOA machine was not in vain.
posted by suetanvil at 6:14 AM on June 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


I didn't ask whether or not this happen, Ironmouth. I asked a question about abstract legal theory. I'd imagine the answer is : No, the bank was not in contempt of court, the judge could not have thrown the bank's manager in jail, nor temporarily withdrawn their business license, etc. If otoh, the bank has openly stated that they were not going to pay up, or something equally "contemptuous", the judge could've exercised such stronger powers. err.. I guess that's what you meant by your letter comment. Ok, thanks.
IANA US attorney and I don't know anything about the specifics of the law the guy sued under, but my guess is that the judgement he got was just a judgment for money, i.e. a piece of paper that said something like "BoA must pay $[amount] to [name]". BoA could have paid up under the order, but as it failed to do so his remedy was to get the sheriffs in to start seizing the bank's assets (another remedy would be to apply to another court to have the company declared insolvent, but that would have been more expensive, less successful and much less entertaining to watch). Courts don't generally punish failure to pay judgement debts as contempt, or people would be hauled off to debtor's prison a lot more often, and courts also don't tend to be able to make specific punitive orders like withdrawing business licences in cases like this. Anyway, that's my series of guesses.
posted by A Thousand Baited Hooks at 7:17 AM on June 4, 2011


Just the other day when my usual ATM was out of service, I asked myself whether my current policy of refusing to do business with BOA was really justified. So it's good to know that my trek to the nearest non-BOA machine was not in vain.

I keep an account in the local megabank for convenient ATM use, but maintain it (via electronic transfers to/from my real account at the credit union) with a balance small enough that I'm fairly sure I'm costing them money. It's win/win.
posted by bjrubble at 7:34 AM on June 4, 2011


Just the other day when my usual ATM was out of service, I asked myself whether my current policy of refusing to do business with BOA was really justified. So it's good to know that my trek to the nearest non-BOA machine was not in vain.

I'll admit, I use the BOA ATM in the lobby at work, but only because I don't get charged for it. (I guess they have an agreement worked out with my employer, and my [wonderful, small, local] bank doesn't charge a foreign-ATM fee).
posted by and miles to go before I sleep at 7:59 AM on June 4, 2011


This case is a pretty big outlier. The guy never had a mortgage in the first place, so it's a case of gross incompetence and negligence. I'm glad he got his money back, and it's a shame that it had to go as far as bringing in the sheriff to repo their furniture.

This is a far cry from complaining about technicalities (robo-signing) in order to delay legitimate foreclosures, which are necessary to unfreeze the real estate market. Banks ought to be forced to handsomely compensate anyone wrongly foreclosed upon or otherwise hassled by their own incompetence, but foreclosures, in general, are vital to restoring health to the housing market.
posted by BobbyVan at 8:00 AM on June 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


Banks ought to be forced to handsomely compensate anyone wrongly foreclosed upon or otherwise hassled by their own incompetence, but foreclosures, in general, are vital to restoring health to the housing market.

What about folks that should be foreclosed upon, but suffer from the banks' incompetence? Folks who can't renegotiate their mortgage, because it's easier for the bank employees to just foist the whole thing off on their foreclosure-mill law firm? Should they be compensated? What about people who were underwater on their mortgage but never got a chance to sell the house because the bank couldn't be reasoned with?

I'm a real estate title examiner; I see more of this stuff than you would believe. Just this past week I ran across a Lis Pendens (notice of a pending lawsuit) by the owner of a house, alleging that the assignment of mortgage from the original bank (call 'em Bank A) to the bank that was trying to foreclose (Bank B) had been signed by someone claiming to be a vice president of Bank A and who was actually just a lawyer at the law firm handling foreclosures for Bank B. If true, this means that Bank B has no standing to foreclose, because they don't actually have the mortgage. (It also means that the lawyer blatantly lied when signing that piece of paper, but basically, no one cares about that.)

Now, is that a house that should be getting foreclosed on? I have no idea. It's entirely possible the owner hasn't been making payments. It's also entirely possible that they've been making payments to Bank A because they weren't properly notified that their checks should be going to Bank B now, or that whatever payment-processing-arrangement Bank A and Bank B have got screwed up; a single payment sent to the wrong bank, when your mortgage gets sold, if the banks never sort it out can lead to you being considered a payment behind for many more months - maybe enough to foreclose on you. It's also possible that the assignment with the bogus signature was entirely bogus and that Bank B has nothing at all to do with this house, and the law firm just thinks it does due to god-knows-what typo in a database somewhere. Because the banks (and their foreclosure-mill law-firms) are so unreliable, you can't tell. The completely apathy for doing things correctly demonstrated by the banks and their law firms has the impact of making the bogus foreclosures much harder to separate out from the fair ones.

The pending suit won't stop the bank, of course; they'll sort out the paperwork (to the minimal extent they absolutely have to; probably they'll just record an assignment signed by someone who actually does work at Bank A) and come back and try to foreclose. There will almost certainly not be any significant punishment in that case, even if it does turn out that the lawyer in question was blatantly lying when he signed his name as Vice President of [Bank A] - at best, it'll be a trivial symbolic gesture as so many people have pointed out that the OP is. Fortunately in this particular case, the court case should buy the owner enough time to sell the house (they have a buyer, or I wouldn't be doing the title) and pay off the mortgage in full - which I think is pretty inarguably better for the housing market than having the bank own a house that then sits around empty for months or even years, deteriorating, piling up city boarding liens and having its copper pipes stolen.

Foreclosures are not vital to restoring the health of the housing market. What's vital to restoring health to the housing market is that people get out from underwater/toxic mortgages and that house prices adjust to a reasonable level. Foreclosure is about the worst way of doing that, and should be a method of last resort, on owners that aren't willing to do anything to fix their own mistakes or owners who are literally penniless and unemployed. But renegotiating with owners, making decisions about when it'd be better for everyone to let the owners have a couple months to try and sell the house themselves, that kind of thing takes time, and requires a human touch - maybe even actually getting to know the people, and make a judgment about them. And don't kid yourself - banks get killed on foreclosure sales. They're going to take a huge loss, selling that house for a quarter of what the original mortgage amount was. If the people they were foreclosing on were even a little bit solvent/employed/financially responsible, the bank could've made more money by working with those folks instead of against them. That's the worst part of this: most of these foreclosures don't happen because it's the last resort when all other attempts have failed, they happen because it's easier for the banks to farm it out to a foreclosure-mill law firm than actually try and help people.
posted by mstokes650 at 8:58 AM on June 4, 2011 [20 favorites]


And don't kid yourself - banks get killed on foreclosure sales

Then it is time to put a stake in that rotten heart.
posted by clavdivs at 9:04 AM on June 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


(It also means that the lawyer blatantly lied when signing that piece of paper, but basically, no one cares about that.)

Bullshit. Take that to the state bar. It won't be pretty.
posted by Ironmouth at 9:08 AM on June 4, 2011


Take that to the state bar. It won't be pretty.

Well, without derailing this into a discussion of the differences between state bar associations, I'll say say: Yes, it's possible they might get a year or two suspension. (I don't know the numbers for the last couple years, but in 2009 suspensions and disbarments were way up around here.)
posted by mstokes650 at 10:16 AM on June 4, 2011


Then it is time to put a stake in that rotten heart.

Yeah, I don't really trust anything a bank tells me about their own balance sheets, these days. Accounting is too much of an art and not enough of a science at that level. But this:

The company continued to strengthen the balance sheet with risk-weighted assets declining $23 billion and global excess liquidity increasing $50 billion from the end of 2010 to $386 billion at March 31, 2011.

This is "we foreclosed on toxic ("risky") mortgages and turned them into cash on hand", as far as I understand.

I will grant you, they are only getting killed relative to the amount of money they could be making by working things out instead of foreclosing. You renegotiate a $400,000 mortgage at (high interest) down to a $350,000 mortgage at (low interest) that actually gets paid off over the next thirty years, you make a lot more money in the long run than just foreclosing on the house and selling it at auction for $150,000 or $200,000. Of course the key words there are probably "in the long run"; reporting that you turned some toxic assets into less-toxic assets that aren't worth as much is not as impressive as reporting that you dumped a bunch of toxic assets and have giant piles of cash instead.
posted by mstokes650 at 10:36 AM on June 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


What? Did you miss the part where they tried to steal his house?

Must have. Can you quote the part where that occurred? I'm NOT talking about this post, but the other story linked to in Philadelphia.
posted by floam at 12:46 PM on June 4, 2011


...he decided it was his pejorative to file a form to start a foreclosure sale...

I do not think that word means what you think it means.


Indifference and incompetence are far more prevalent than deliberate malice.

If it's your house they are trying to capture, that's pretty scant comfort.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 12:55 PM on June 4, 2011


I know these posts always turn into parades of horror stories, but I fear I'm going to contribute anyway.

A person I know got laid off a while back and spent months and months trying to work with his mortgage company (Saxon, if you care) to restructure the loan or arrange a short sale. The company was utterly indifferent, even at the point at which my friend had actually started a new job and just needed a few weeks for his first paycheck to arrive. With the first paycheck literally days away, Saxon foreclosed and kicked them out of the house.

Now, months later, Saxon is calling MULTIPLE TIMES A DAY and won't stop begging them to restructure the loan or arrange a short sale. No amount of explaining that it is too late, that Saxon themselves foreclosed on the house and evicted my friends months ago, will convince them to stop calling.

Banks should be treated like the utilities they are: allowed to make a modest profit but super-regulated and monitored so crap like this doesn't happen again.
posted by LastOfHisKind at 2:16 PM on June 4, 2011 [6 favorites]


I'm sorry to break it to you, oxford blue.
posted by yoga at 3:22 PM on June 4, 2011


I do not think that word means what you think it means.
:(
I'm feeling absolutely mortalfied right now!

posted by floam at 6:19 PM on June 4, 2011


Now, months later, Saxon is calling MULTIPLE TIMES A DAY and won't stop begging them to restructure the loan or arrange a short sale.

"Please baby, it won't happen again. I've changed baby. I'm a different bank now... well, really our mortgage is under Deutsche Bank a subsidiary of Morgan Stanley, but that still technically counts as "different."

But really, it's going to be wonderful this time. What? You don't need any legal protection from me, I've learned my lesson.

We were meant to be together, baby."
posted by formless at 1:58 AM on June 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


(It also means that the lawyer blatantly lied when signing that piece of paper, but basically, no one cares about that.)

Bullshit. Take that to the state bar. It won't be pretty.


Bullshit on your bullshit. The standard practice for law firms that are caught is to fire some notary fallguys. Searching for lawyers forging signatures brings up many stories blaming the notaries with nothing happening to the supervising lawyers. I would love to see some data that the state bars are taking this seriously. And disbarments in RI going from 3 in 2005, 5 in 2006 and 3 in 2007 to "way up" to 10 in 2008 isn't very convincing and not very statistically significant.
posted by roquetuen at 7:22 AM on June 5, 2011


And disbarments in RI going from 3 in 2005, 5 in 2006 and 3 in 2007 to "way up" to 10 in 2008 isn't very convincing and not very statistically significant.

Yeah, I was being [extremely] sarcastic with that "way up", sorry if that wasn't clear. Note that those numbers aren't all disbarments, it includes less-severe disciplinary measures as well. So total number of slaps on wrists + temporary suspensions + disbarments was all the way up to 10 in 2008.

The first link I posted also describes some past punishments dished out by the RI state bar and what they were dished out for: forging your client's signature doesn't rate disbarment, only a one-year suspension. Sleeping with your client and certifying their false statements gets you a three-month suspension. But hey, getting convicted of 35 counts of bank fraud will get you disbarred, so it's not like there are no standards.
posted by mstokes650 at 7:55 AM on June 5, 2011


Now we just have to figure out how to do this on a national level.
posted by Work to Live at 12:00 PM on June 5, 2011


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