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Punch line to foreclosure-gate

By Jay MacDonald · Bankrate.com
Monday, February 14, 2011
Posted: 10 am ET

When the banking bigs and the feds decided to turn the page and sweep "robogate" under the rug last December, it left me wanting. Not for anything as corny as justice or compassion, though both would go a long way in this foreclosure quagmire in which we'll likely spend the 20-teens.

What I was missing was the punch line to this dark joke.

It's one thing to talk about the thousands of schlubs -- known in some quarters as "Burger King kids" -- who mangled, tangled and besmirched the process of legally assigning a mortgage, but quite another to move on without allowing us to savor the black humor of their actual screw-ups.

So I was excited when my own Florida Attorney General's office, or FLAG, released a wonderfully droll PowerPoint presentation a few weeks back with the tantalizing title: "Unfair, Deceptive and Unconscionable Acts in Foreclosure Cases." It's based on their own investigation into robosigning in the Sunshine State.

And it did not disappoint. If they ever make the movie version, it should star those guys from "The Hangover." Or maybe "Dumb and Dumber."

The robosigners forged signatures, bungled the witnessing and flunked the notarizing steps necessary to legally transfer thousands of mortgages. Despite this sorry display, the bigs seem satisfied that something justice-y occurred.

There's a wonderful sequence in which an assortment of forged signatures in the possibly fictitious name of bank vice president Linda Green are shown in detail, ranging from fifth-grade penmanship to gotta-run illegible scrawl. Green's signature(s) appear on hundreds of thousands of mortgage assignments under many flags, including Bank of America, Wells Fargo and Citi Residential Lending, according to FLAG.

The quick-draw artists who signed the name Scott Anderson were either inspired by the scrawl of Salvador Dali or merely messing with the next schlub down the chain of shame.

Even the boilerplate stuff in these fudged docs evokes laughter. My favorite is the grantee in an assignment of mortgage identified (typed in) as BOGUS ASSIGNEE. How did truth sneak in here anyway?

I enjoyed seeing all the docs where the notary was years out of date, the plaintiff bank took the liberty of signing for their opponent, and where assignment was made by defunct institutions. Lehman Brothers Bank somehow miraculously assigned a mortgage nearly two years after declaring bankruptcy.

The real howlers: a mortgage note in the amount of $42,214,400 and one document where a blank line is both witnessed and notarized ("Linda Green" again).

Thank you, FLAG, for the foreclosure closure. I needed the punch line, however dark, to convince myself that the letter of law still stands for something in an industry driven mad by its own greed.

To err is human. To institutionalize it is not.

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