Activists see progress in push for national moratorium
By Eric T. Campbell
The Michigan Citizen http://michigancitizen.com/bank-forges-signature-homeowner-gets-temporary-victory-p11072-1.htm
DETROIT — A metro Detroit homeowner received a temporary victory in court April 16 against a possible illegal eviction.
Attorney Vanessa Fluker argued in Wayne County Circuit Court that Deutsche Bank is using forged documents to claim ownership of her client’s home. Fluker’s client, who asked that her name not be released to the press, is facing eviction despite seeking loan modifications and attempting to buy her home after a sheriff’s sale.
Deutshe Bank is one of several large financial institutions foreclosing on homeowners without knowing who legally possesses the title, Fluker argued before Judge John MacDonald. Fluker was in court to defend her client from Deutsche Bank.
Fluker says her client is a victim of an epidemic of robo-signings — the practice of banks signing thousands of documents and affidavits without verifying the information.
“The whole issue is that the homeowner was at the eviction stage and they actually challenged the legitimacy of the ownership/interest of the plaintiff, which is Deutsche Bank,” Fluker told the Michigan Citizen. “One of the reasons and rationale for this is that there were numerous assignments, one of which was done by a ‘Linda Green,’ a nationally known robo-signer.”
Fluker argued the assignments were improper and therefore would affect the bank’s standing to initiate a legitimate foreclosure and subsequent eviction.
Judge MacDonald ruled in favor of Fluker’s client, saying a period of discovery was required before he could establish the “assignment of mortgage” and the case could move forward.
But the circumstances leading to her client’s court challenge are not rare, according to Attorney Fluker.
“She’s a hardworking individual who has been fighting to save this home. They’ve done everything they’re supposed to do — tried to get a modification, tried to purchase the home back after the sheriff’s sale. They want to stay in their home as most homeowners do,” she said.
Reports are now surfacing indicating that during the height of the foreclosure crisis — when banks were making billions from the sale of mortgage-backed securities — banks and lenders lost track of vital paperwork. Now, many believe they are using fraudulent practices to replace the missing documents.
An April 3 edition of CBS’ “60 Minutes” indicated that banks such as Deutsche used temp agencies to hire hourly workers for the purpose of signing off on documents as bank vice presidents and other officials. The name “Linda Green” was traced to a Georgia company hired to apply forged signatures to mortgage assignments.
“60 Minutes” sources said the agencies are “sweatshops for forged mortgage documents.” “Linda Green” has appeared thousands of times on mortgage documents nationwide.
Detroit Attorney Jerry Goldberg, of Moratorium NOW!, says cases like this will continue to plague Detroit unless a two-year moratorium on home foreclosures is implemented, either by the federal or state government. He adds that recent figures reflect a loss in home equity in Michigan of over $50 billion since 2005.
“You can imagine what that’s done to the tax base,” Goldberg says. “In the Black community especially, where most of the wealth is concentrated in home equity.”
Moratorium NOW! hosted a conference March 31 to discuss a national movement on the issue. Representatives from the Chicago Anti-Eviction Committee, Miami’s Take Back the Land, Occupy LA and more met at Central United Methodist Church to further the organizing campaign.
Goldberg told the Michigan Citizen that legislation recently proposed by U.S. Congressman Hansen Clarke, D-Mich., may attract enough attention to, at the very least, push the moratorium agenda forward.
According to the congressman’s spokesperson, Lindsey Schubiner, Clarke will introduce the bill this week.
In an e-mailed statement, Congressman Clarke writes: “Home foreclosures in metro Detroit represent a critical, ongoing crisis and urgent action from Congress is required … If enacted, the bill would stabilize neighborhoods, stop home abandonment, preserve our tax base and most importantly, strengthen our communities.”
Goldberg says a draft bill includes language allowing a homeowner to ask for a three-year moratorium on eviction, if the bank will not come to agreeable payment terms during the 60-day mediation period.
In addition, if the home is “underwater,” meaning the homeowner has negative equity, after the three years, the court will order the principal payment to be reduced to fair market value.
“It’s actually a very progressive bill,” Goldberg says. “We have no illusions that it’s going to pass, but it provides an important lever to help mobilize and help the struggle progress.”
“When Hansen was a state senator, he proposed a moratorium bill here in Michigan,” Fluker added.
“Unfortunately, it was not taken up and passed but it tracked the same terms as the bill he is proposing now, which would allow the parties — the banks and the borrowers — to go into court and arrange a modification. The borrowers would then pay a fair market rent in the interim,” she said.
For more information on the National Conference for a Moratorium on Foreclosures and Evictions, visit www.nationalmoratorium.org or call 313.744.7912.
Eric T. Campbell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org