UPDATE: H.R. 3808 INTERSTATE RECOGNITION OF NOTARIZATION ACT OF 2010, seen by many as an attempt at legalizing robo-signing, was averted by a Presidential Veto which was sustained when the veto override procedure failed in the House of Representatives on Nov. 17th 2010. H.R. 3808 would have required “each federal and state court to recognize any lawful notarization (…) by a notary public” in another state while legalizing the use of digital signatures and digital-only document storage (see also -> MERS). It does not take a rocket scientist to figure out how this would have both legalized and streamlined the robo-signing of foreclosure documents. Luckily, the President’s Veto stands and the measure cannot be reconsidered by the House or the Senate. This does not resolve any of the current problems caused by robo-signers, however.
50-state attorney general investigation into robo-signing foreclosure practices is reportedly nearing a settlement.
As reported by CNBC’s Diana Olick, Bank of America and JPMorganChase appear to be agreeing to the same framework of a settlement.
1. Banks would pay into a fund administered by attorneys general which could be used to compensate borrowers who can prove valid claims to having been wrongfully foreclosed upon (in exchange , those borrowers would presumably have to agree to forgo ever seeking legal recourse elsewhere).
2. There are talks of some kind of third-party mediation for review of eligibility as per the first point above.
3. Banks would have to eliminate dual track of modifications and foreclosures, which have often resulted in homeowners in negotiation of a loan modification being foreclosed upon by another arm of the lender. Only after all options of modification are exhausted will a bank be able to begin foreclosure proceedings (what looks good on paper can be still subject to interpretation, so don’t celebrate just yet).
The final agreement could still look a lot different from this framework.
Principal write downs as part of the settlement have been on the table as well.
Banks are apparently in no mood to lavish money at a compensation fund if they can dodge the bullet.
In an interview last week, Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller hinted at the possibility that
maybe instead of paying huge fines, they [the banks] adequately fund the modification process
What sounds so laudable comes down to this: The arrangement mentioned by AG Tom Miller would keep the money and the leverage in banks’ hands. It is difficult not to wonder whether past victims of the robo gate who had been wrongfully foreclosed upon as a result of a clerical mistake and/or fraud are going to get shortchanged again.
We will keep you posted.
In the meantime, if you happen to be a victim of robo-signing, your property was a subject of a regular foreclosure or a short sale or you cut a loan modification deal with your lender, you could be liable for taxes on phantom income unless you preempt the IRS. Read how you can legally dodge the bullet in: “Negative Equity and How You Can Avoid Tax On Phantom Income From Relinquished Property.”
You can also find out how to get out of trouble with your lender in: “How To Stop A Foreclosure (And Walk Away With Money In Your Pocket).”