Archive for March 7th, 2013

If the Legislators Only Knew

Over the past 4-5 years, I’ve devoted my entire professional career – countless hours, thousands of cases, hundreds of dismissals and settlements, and untold blood, sweat, and tears – to representing homeowners facing foreclosure.  And I’m not alone.  Many other defense lawyers and consumer advocates have made similar contributions to the foreclosure defense industry.  Yet, somehow, we have no say on the future of the industry or the adjudication of foreclosure cases in Florida.  No input.  Nope.  Nada.  Zilch.

The future of foreclosure defense is at the mercy of a handful of legislators.  Sadly, many of these legislators have no idea how foreclosure cases are adjudicated.  They’ve never seen a rocket docket.  They’ve never watched a foreclosure trial.  They’ve never spoken to a homeowner in foreclosure.  They’ve never watched a bank refuse to prosecute a foreclosure case for years on end, only going to trial after a judge forces the issue.

Worse yet, some of these legislators have direct, financial ties to the banking industry.  If they’re not an officer, director, or shareholder of a bank, they invariably recieve campaign contributions from the big banks.

Are you scared yet?  You should be.  But that doesn’t mean the situation is hopeless.  It’s up to you – yes, YOU – to help your local legislator understand what foreclosure-world is really like.  Maybe, just maybe, if the legislators know what foreclosure-world is really like, they’ll realize there is no need to pass a bill like HB87 or SB1666.

Here are a few of the things I wish these legislators realized:

1.  Homeowners can’t get modifications because banks would rather foreclose.  Between private mortgage insurance and the government insuring mortgages, banks often get paid in full (including all default interest, late charges, fees and costs) by foreclosing.  Once you realize the bank gets paid in full by foreclosing, do you really wonder why you can’t get a loan modification?

Call me crazy, but if you’re going to pass legislation, isn’t this the dynamic you should be looking to change?


2.  What happens to all of these properties (we’re talking tens of thousands of properties) after foreclosure?  You think they get sold to families who want to own a home?  Pffft.  You think those properties get bought by the middle class Americans that got foreclosed?  Hehehehehe.  After foreclosing, the banks transfer title to Fannie Mae – yes, government-run Fannie Mae, operating off of your and my tax dollars – and Fannie then sells these properties in bulk for pennies on the dollar.  But these sales aren’t available for just anyone.  Nope, you have to be an uber-wealthy investor with at least $10 million in demonstrable assets.  Yes, someone like Bill Clinton.

Yes, by all means.  Let’s pass a new law to speed up foreclosures.  We have to set up more bulk sales so society’s elite – those with an eight-figure net worth – can buy hundreds more foreclosed houses in bulk for 15 cents on the dollar. 


3.  In five years of defending foreclosures – thousands of cases – do you know how many times a bank pushed a case to trial against me?  I don’t have the exact number, but I could count them on two hands.  Yes, putting aside the cases where a judge decided to set trial because the case was languishing for years on end, there have been fewer than 10 times a bank has pushed a case to trial against me.

Does that sound like a system where new laws are necessary?  Or could it be that the banks are unwilling or unable to prove their cases?  Once you realize it’s the latter – and that banks are unwilling/unable to prove their entitlement to foreclose – why on earth would anyone pass a new law allowing foreclosure to go faster?

The banks can’t prove their cases honestly, so, by all means, let’s change the laws to make it easier for them.  God knows the banks haven’t had enough bailouts. 

4.  Florida’s appellate courts have already bent over backwards to help the banking industry.  If a bank gets caught red-handed committing fraud on the court, no biggie – just dismiss the case without prejudice, sweep the fraud under the rug, and re-file.  Sound crazy?  That’s the Florida Supreme Court’s recent ruling in Pino.  And that follows a long line of other decisions which helped ensure the banking industry’s fraudulent practices would never see the light of day in Florida’s courtrooms.

With senior judges, rocket dockets, and all of these appellate decisions, how much more can Florida cater to the banks?  Ahhhh, yes.  Let’s pass new laws, too!


5.  Homeowners are not deadbeats.  I can’t begin to describe how many of my clients have paid their mortgages, yet fallen prey to the dual-track system, banks which told homeowners not to pay under the auspices of a modification, banks which jacked up homeowners’ insurance rates to induce defaults, and banks which simply refused to accept payments.

Yes, legislators – let’s foreclose on these homeowners faster!

I could go on and on, but I find myself getting more and more pissed off.   So let’s end it here with this message …

Florida’s legislators have no idea how the foreclosure process works.  I gave a few examples, but there are dozens more.  Nonetheless, these are the men and women voting on the future of the foreclosure defense industry in Florida.  Let’s make sure they don’t remain in the dark.  Call your local legislators.  Share your experiences in court.  Tell them how the process works.  If you don’t, then no matter how bad you think things may have been up to this point, they might just get worse.

Mark Stopa

Posted in Main | No Comments »