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The Best, Most Revealing Reporting on the Foreclosure Crisis

The housing crisis in the U.S. has been going on nearly five years, with still regular revelations about misdeeds by banks and others. Here’s our roundup of standout reporting on the crisis.

(Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

The housing crisis in the U.S. has been going on nearly five years, with still regular revelations about misdeeds by banks and others. Here’s our roundup of standout reporting on the crisis.

Lucrative fees may deter efforts to alter loans, The New York Times, July 2009

Banks and other mortgage servicers have made big bucks on the fees associated with delinquent loans, because of rules that one Federal Reserve Bank of Boston paper called a “perverse incentive to foreclose rather than modify.” This piece surveys the homeowners caught in purgatory – and why the servicers seemed to want to keep them there.

Fannie and Freddie’s foreclosure barons, Mother Jones, August 2010

One of the first stories to shed light on a “foreclosure mill.” A Florida law firm tore through cases as quickly as possible, while frequently signing off on dodgy documents. The firm has since been shut down.


Grave errors as undead rework loans, The Wall Street Journal, July 2010

Homeowner Sarah Larson, a 33-year-old acupuncturist, tried to get a break on her $1,055-a-month mortgage from Bank of America. The bank requested three important documents: bank statements, a utility bill and her death certificate. She replied: “I am not sending a death certificate because I am not deceased. I am currently still living."

Mortgage mess: Shredding the dream, Businessweek, October 2010
How banks’ carelessness and underinvestment in back-end infrastructure contributed to paperwork errors and lost promissory notes that many argue worsened the housing crisis.

Ties to insurers could land mortgage servicers in more trouble, American Banker, November 2010

Here’s another way that mortgage servicers have profited from struggling homeowners: by forcing them to pay for expensive and unnecessary insurance policies.

The next housing shock, CBS' "60 Minutes," April 2011

This piece investigates the prevalence of “robo-signing,” focusing on one company where a number of employees signed one woman’s name to thousands of documents because her name was short. None of the major banks agreed to talk to "60 Minutes."

Obama’s efforts to aid homeowners, boost housing market fall far short of goals, The Washington Post, October 2011

This in-depth, inside look shows the internal debate behind the Obama administration’s stumbling efforts to deal with the worst housing crisis since the Great Depression.

Raging against the foreclosure machine, iWatch News, The Center for Public Integrity, January 2012

From the beginning of the foreclosure mess, struggling homeowners often defaulted due to accounting and paperwork errors by the mortgage servicing industry. Servicers claimed they’d addressed the systemic problem. But as this piece shows, the “veterans of the foreclosure wars” tell a very different story.

A mortgage tornado warning, unheeded, The New York Times, February 2012

Years before the crisis, a wealthy Florida businessman, who had lost his home in a questionable foreclosure, unearthed and compiled a “dossier of improprieties" on Fannie Mae. In retrospect, it looks like a blueprint for today’s crisis — and raises several questions about how deep and how far back our mortgage problems go.

We at ProPublica also have long been digging into the administration’s stumbling efforts and how Wall Street machinations ultimately super-charged the crisis.

If you have other great foreclosure reporting, email us at MuckReads@ProPublica.org or tweet it with the hashtag #muckreads.

Rodney Proffitt

Feb. 17, 2012, 2:01 p.m.

I have been having nothing but problems with SunTrust Mortgage. They refused to talk to me, refused my payments after I got behind in payments, and denied their own loan modification agreement with me. We paid on time through the trial period of the loan modification, but then my wife was diagnosed with cancer and we got behind upon her death. When I finally got the money to catch everything up they refused to talk to me, and the Fed said they could not help while they were still talking. When foreclosure was likely, I filed suit to enforce the loan modification, then the Fed said they could not help because the matter was in litigation. It is a mess! They are spending money, I am spending money and my mortgage is going down the tubes.

Merely closing down companies that operated unethically or illegally is not enough. The wrong doers - including the minimum wage earning dupes who forged signatures should be prosecuted to the full extent possible.  If prosecution is not possible, laws need to be changed. Bankers should know if a deal offered a borrower is a bummer & should bear responsibility for promoting such. Ultimately, individual responsibility should be imposed on the borrowers as well - stupidity is not excuse.

It’s a nightmare because it STARTED OUT as a nightmare—-except for the people who designed the whole thing…they made TRILLIONS…on the greatest fraud ever perpetrated in the history of the planet…the government WILL NOT HELP becuse they are responsible too—-with fannie and freddie being a PART OF THE FRAUD…they don’t want to prosecute themselves…

THEY WON’T GIVE YOU A LOAN MOD BECAUSE IT’S ALL FALSE DEFAULT DEBT—-UNSECURED—-NOT A “LOAN” THAT THEY “OWN”...there is a HUGE cover-up going on—-people—-PLEASE WAKE UP!!!

The SUBPRIME PONZI was the beginning of the end—-subprime MBS (mortgage-backed securities) created because of the repeal of Glass-Steagal act…thank you Clinton, et. al…

MERS—-Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems—-was the tool they used to perpetrate their fraud.

People, here’s the TRUTH:

ONLY “collection rights” were transferred at the closing of the subprime “loans”...NOT REALLY LOANS…NO FUNDING…only “cash out receivables” were “securitized”...

SERVICERS ARE THE ONES FORECLOSING—-JUST PRETENDING TO BE BANKS—-THEY DON’T OWN ANY LOANS—-NO LOANS EVER WENT INTO ANY SECURITIZED TRUSTS—IT’S ALL A LIE—-

We’re talking major insurance fraud, too—-AMONG OTHER THINGS…

THEY ARE STEALING PEOPLES HOMES WITH NO PROOF OF OWNERSHIP OF ANY LOANS OR PROMISSORY NOTES—-

They sold my home without proof of anything except forged, fabricated, fraudulent documents recorded at county recorders office.

more info at:

livinglies(dot)wordpress(dot)com

Fraud, greed, corruption, and underhanded manipulation of the system is causing everyone to suffer - including those who perpetrate such craziness and are making dirty money off of it. They think they can get away with it, but negative karma will come around and bit them in the arse. Count on it. It’s beginning to happen now. Let’s keep the ball rolling, and let those who perpetrate this kind of behavior that we won’t stand for it, and if you hurt us, you will pay with jail time, and all that goes along with it.

BANK OF AMERICA DONT WANT TO MODIFY ANYONE LOAN
ALL THEY WANT, IS TO STEAL PEOPLE HOME BY FRAUD .THEY ARE CROOKS AND ARE WORKING WITH THE HELP OF BAD JUDGES IN AMERICAN COURTS TO STEAL PEOPLE HOMES.
STOP WAISTING TIME MODIFYING GET EDUCATION AND GOOD ATTORNEY AND FIGHT BACK THE BANK FRAUD

And they keep on going:

We wanted to bring our loan current but were tacked on over $ 4000 in “attorney fees” (foreclosure mill for our Servicer) - weeks BEFORE mers assigned the mortgage to our Servicer (BoA).

They claim excessive fees before they have occurred (we’re in a judicial state in pre-foreclosure).
Got it all in writing. This all happened this past week. They got a little slap on the wrist and try to do what they want….

I just don’t understand WHY or HOW this is allowed to go on and on. I have been fighting for a few years and I have done nothing but gotten black eyes. Bank of America is by far one of the most corrupt banks in the US. The phony programs my last ditch effort was Hardest Hit. Once again my 12th time sending in my entire identity told they were representing me They were to produce papers for the courts stating they were representing me Thanks to that group and my housing counselor I defaulted because NO ONE showed up. I never missed a court date, paid 250 for mediation and received a postcard stating the judge found me in default and my home would be placed for sale on Fed 20th(TODAY)! Illinois is one of the states that has the highest foreclosure rate and at this point Everyone should be held responsible The Banks, The Courts, The Judges and the State. It is almost impossible to even find another place to live because Bank of America has ruined my life and my credit not to mention my health. Sent in my paperwork for the independent review but I filed with them in 2011. As I sit here now I am going to write not only the States Attorney but also the Senator. I have had my home 14 yrs I simply wanted a lower interest rate and they stole my home instead.  People to jail for stealing cigarettes Yet the banks can steal our lives and our children’s lives. If not for my only child this process would have killed me by now. I cannot handle NO ONE being responsible for this but the homeowners (millions all races, all ages, all environments etc…. Not much to do when you have no where else to go. Except maybe a shelter!

@AdiAnne-I am praying for you. PLEASE get legal representation. Contact Legal Aid Society. I know this has been a nightmare for you as I’m living the same thing.  Most of all don’t give up as that is what they want. God bless!

@Roy, thank you and God Bless You also! You have been my positive force for a while now and I thank you. I used to consider myself a strong person, but this process is by far the hardest thing I have encountered since the loss of my dad mom and sister. I think it is just not logical to be lied to over and over. Everyone is getting financial help except the homeowners. Illinois got millions to do the Hardest Hit program and it has not helped one person. It is no secret IL has always been corrupt in some form but this has gone too far.I don’t want free anything I just want help. Why throw me out and go forward with the OCC review? If Bank of America is found at fault it will be too late because they will have thrown myself and my daughter out by then. Trying to find another place is incredibly hard no one wants you if you have blemished credit. Well Thanks to Bank of America that is ruined also. How is Everyone in the United States seeing this and still going forward with this debacle? Every news show, newspapers, Bankers,Politicians, Judges, lawyers Congress and the President.!!!! Whistle blowers consistently coming forward ,neighborhoods falling apart.  Millions of people are suffering!  I believe strength is in numbers but Where does one get help without the funds to do it. People are afraid of these banks. I am in fear every day!  The system of man is a failure!  Thank goodness for Propublica or I would have ended this a long time ago.

AdriAnne-Please give Michael a call or email him. You still have my personal email so you can contact me if you’ve lost Michael’s contact info. The main thing is to be sure and not let this damage your health any more than it already has. To quote Michael…keep the faith. People who are trying to do the proper thing will eventually get a fair shake.

Sad indeed….

This article is part of an ongoing investigation:
Foreclosure Crisis

Foreclosure Crisis: Banks and Government Fail Homeowners

Banks and the government have fallen short in helping homeowners in danger of foreclosure.

The Story So Far

Systemic failures at the country’s banks and mortgage servicers have exacerbated the most severe foreclosure crisis since the Great Depression, and government efforts to limit the damage have fallen short. ProPublica created an unrivaled database of homeowners who have faced foreclosure, opened a Facebook page to encourage homeowners to share their stories, wrote profiles of some of them, and incorporated their experiences into our reporting. We also provided a comprehensive rundown of the numbers behind the crisis.

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