Charles Durning – Regular New Yorker

Charles Durning

When I was a young lawyer working in Manhattan, I religiously went to see Shakespeare in the Park and would organize these big group picnics with friends with good Italian cold cuts and semolina bread and chocolate covered strawberries and different wines for each course.

So, one night, three or four of us are watching Tracy Ullman and Morgan Freeman in Taming of the Shrew (set in the Old West, no less) and during intermission we pull out dessert from the baskets and tote bags. We had fresh strawberries, homemade May Wine, champagne and meringue cookies. Charles Durning and a younger man –who from their conversation appeared to be in show business as well– were sitting behind us and had been making very intelligent analysis of the play. So, we turned around and offered them wine and dessert. We wound up having the best convo all through intermission and then they hung around after the play ended and we stayed in our seats and finished all the food and wine.

Just as security was trying to throw us out, Morgan Freeman came out to say hello to Durning, so we got to stay, and then all the rest of the cast trickled out. By that point we were all pretty crocked and Durning tried to pass us off as his nieces.

Really nice, down to earth, fun guy, and a really great night.

I always think of that evening whenever his name is mentioned. (more…)

Why Isn’t This a Front Page Story Nationwide?

On November 20th 2012 I told you about a guilty plea taken by Lorraine Brown, the founder of DOCX (later known at LPS), in federal court in Florida. The press release for that plea did not come out until after 5 PM on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving. On the Wednesday before Thanksgiving most of the reporters who usually occupy the front pages of our newspapers and network news were presumably traveling or preparing for their holiday. The story was barely reported.

Lorraine Brown also pled guilty earlier that same day in state court in Missouri. She is rumored to be in plea negotiations in other states.

Even though this is no longer breaking news, it still belongs on the front page of every paper in the country and should be the lead story on every newscast. I’ll tell you why:

Whatever the banks thought about the robo-signing being “sloppy” before, once Lorraine Brown admitted that virtually every document coming out of DOCX/LPS was a forgery and that ALL documents coming out of DOCX/LPS were suspect, the banks that had court cases pending using DOCX/LPS documents had an obligation to either withdraw the documents and/or withdraw the lawsuits and other foreclosure proceedings.

It is a crime (common law fraud) to knowingly use a false, perjured, forged, fraudulent document as “evidence” in court. The specific statute violated will vary from state to state, but it is impossible to conceive that there is a single state where this is legal. If I’m wrong about that, I’m sure someone from the fraud-allowing state will set me straight in the comments. This is certainly a violation of federal criminal law, for example 18 USC §§ 371, 1341, 1342, and 1343 and 39 USC§§ 1341 and 1342.

I have seen no evidence that there has been a wholesale withdrawal of DOCX/LPS documents from evidence or a large scale voluntary dismissal of cases or even letters sent to chief judges saying that the cases should be stayed until they can perform the mechanics of withdrawing the fraudulent “evidence.” Nope, the cases I have been following are still going strong and being prosecuted vigorously.

This also means that the 50 state settlement notwithstanding, the Department of Justice and every attorney general in the country have a brand new, slam dunk, open and shut case against every single bank that is still allowing a foreclosure case to go forward based on DOCX/LPS false evidence.

THAT, my friends, is front page news. And getting it to the front page is essential so that judges know they are being hoodwinked, and homeowners know they should be making motions to dismiss. DOJ clearly knows about the Lorraine Brown guilty plea since the 13th hour press release came out of Main Justice instead of from the Middle District of Florida press office.

So, I’m asking for your help. Tweet this. Send a copy as a Letter to the Editor (or re-write your own using this information). Send it to the network and cable news shows you watch. Put up your own blog post about it. Email it to your favorite reporters. I don’t care if my little blogpost is the form you promote, just promote the story of the brand new massive fraud on the court that is occurring right now. The banks, and their lawyers, have no excuse. They can no longer harbor any belief, good faith or not, that those documents are not false and fraudulent.

Why isn’t this a front page story nationwide?

On November 20th 2012 I told you about a guilty plea  taken by Lorraine Brown, the founder of DOCX (later known at LPS), in federal court in Florida. The press release for that plea did not come out until after 5 PM on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving. On the Wednesday before Thanksgiving most of the reporters who usually occupy the front pages of our newspapers and network news were presumably traveling or preparing for their holiday. The story was barely reported.

Lorraine Brown also pled guilty earlier that same day in state court in Missouri. She is rumored to be in plea negotiations in other states.

Even though this is no longer breaking news, it still belongs on the front page of every paper in the country and should be the lead story on every newscast. I’ll tell you why:

Whatever the banks thought about the robo-signing being “sloppy” before, once Lorraine Brown admitted that virtually every document coming out of DOCX/LPS was a forgery and that ALL documents coming out of DOCX/LPS were suspect, the banks that had court cases pending using DOCX/LPS documents had an obligation to either withdraw the documents and/or withdraw the lawsuits and other foreclosure proceedings.

It is a crime (common law fraud) to knowingly use a false, perjured, forged, fraudulent document as “evidence” in court. The specific statute violated will vary from state to state, but it is impossible to conceive that there is a single state where this is legal. If I’m wrong about that, I’m sure someone from the fraud-allowing state will set me straight in the comments. This is certainly a violation of federal criminal law, for example 18 USC §§ 371, 1341, 1342, and 1343 and 39 USC§§ 1341 and 1342.

I have seen no evidence that there has been a wholesale withdrawal of DOCX/LPS documents from evidence or a large scale voluntary dismissal of cases or even letters sent to chief judges saying that the cases should be stayed until they can perform the mechanics of withdrawing the fraudulent “evidence.” Nope, the cases I have been following are still going strong and being prosecuted vigorously.

This also means that the 50 state settlement notwithstanding, the Department of Justice and every attorney general in the country have a brand new, slam dunk, open and shut case against every single bank that is still allowing a foreclosure case to go forward based on DOCX/LPS false evidence.

THAT, my friends, is front page news. And getting it to the front page is essential so that judges know they are being hoodwinked, and homeowners know they should be making motions to dismiss. DOJ clearly knows about the Lorraine Brown guilty plea since the 13th  hour press release came out of Main Justice instead of from the Middle District of Florida press office.

So, I’m asking for your help. Tweet this. Send a copy as a Letter to the Editor (or re-write your own using this information). Send it to the network and cable news shows you watch. Put up your own blog post about it. Email it to your favorite reporters. I don’t care if my little blogpost is the form you promote, just promote the story of the brand new massive fraud on the court that is occurring right now. The banks, and their lawyers, have no excuse. They can no longer harbor any belief, good faith or not, that those documents are not false and fraudulent.

Photo by steakpinball under Creative Commons license.

Late Night: Interesting Timing on the DocX Founder’s Guilty Plea

Were they hiding this news behind the turkey?

Yesterday, Lorraine Brown, the founder of DocX/LPS, was scheduled to plead guilty to conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud at 1 PM EST. I found out about it around 2 PM from the wonderful Lynn Szymoniak who has nagged and noodled the US Attorney’s Office about this case 4-evah (she really is the unsung hero of this development, but Lanny Bruer managed to leave her out of his self congratulatory press release).

So, I start making calls to the press liaison at United States Attorney’s Office Middle District of Florida and the Office of Public Affairs at Main Justice. No one would confirm that she had in fact completed her guilty plea and that the judge had accepted it. What most of the non-lawyer press does not realize is that a plea agreement is only a contract of intent between the USAO and defendant, it is not binding until the defendant actually goes into a courtroom and pleads guilty in front of a judge – and the judge makes a ruling that the allocution (confession of the specifics of the crime) is legally sufficient to support the guilty plea, seems credible, and is not coerced or the result of some physical or mental impairment (such as being stoned).

So she could have changed her mind at the last minute, I’ve seen it happen. Or the judge could have found fault with the plea allocution, I’ve seen that happen, too. Then you have to reschedule and have a do-over on another day.

So you can understand that despite having read the Plea Agreement and Criminal Information, as well as the written version of The Facts she would be giving in her allocution, I was loath to hit “publish” on my backstage draft until I had confirmed that it had actually completed.

So I called, and I called back and I called back some more. Oh, “OPA is working on a press release.” “ No, I can’t confirm that her court appearance has concluded.” “No, I can’t confirm that her court appearance even initiated.” “Don’t worry, press release will be emailed to you any minute.” This went on for hours until that magic moment at 5:01 PM EST when the press release arrived and there was not one word on it that could not have been written in advance of the plea appearance with “send” hit once the judge banged the gavel.

Soooo, why would it take so long to get out this simple plain vanilla press release? Let me put on my tinfoil hat for a minute. You know how they dump news that is bad for the stock markets late on a Friday afternoon, so there is time to digest the news and not cause a sell off panic? What’s even a deader time to do that? Right before Thanksgiving. A lot of newspapers have a 5 PM deadline for getting a story into the next morning’s print edition. Yes, if you have a story in draft and are just waiting for some last little detail, they will let you file late, but if you first learn about a thing after 5 PM, it’s doubtful you can get it in unless it’s so momentous at to rate a “stop the presses” moment.

Most reporters have filed their pieces for the day and are closing up, heading out. Many will not see that press release until they get to work this morning, which means they will write their stories to file by 5 PM today, after the markets close at noon for the holiday. Holders of big bank stock who desire to engage in a panic sell off will need to do so via foreign exchanges. Of course most won’t even know about it in time to panic because Thanksgiving is hardly a day for reading the newspapers, especially the financial news. So, maybe I’m reading too much into the timing of this press release, but I do know that the DOJ press operation is more than sophisticated enough to understand story deadlines and timing of news releases, so it sure looks to me as if they were afraid the news would spark a panic selloff of bank stock and were trying to avoid that.

Interesting Timing on the DocX Founder’s Guilty Plea

Were they hiding this news behind the turkey?

Yesterday, Lorraine Brown, the founder of DocX/LPS, was scheduled to plead guilty to conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud at 1 PM EST. I found out about it around 2 PM from the wonderful Lynn Szymoniak who has nagged and noodled the US Attorney’s Office about this case 4-evah (she really is the unsung hero of this development, but Lanny Bruer managed to leave her out of his self congratulatory press release).

So, I start making calls to the press liaison at United States Attorney’s Office Middle District of Florida and the Office of Public Affairs at Main Justice. No one would confirm that she had in fact completed her guilty plea and that the judge had accepted it. What most of the non-lawyer press does not realize is that a plea agreement is only a contract of intent between the USAO and defendant, it is not binding until the defendant actually goes into a courtroom and pleads guilty in front of a judge – and the judge makes a ruling that the allocution (confession of the specifics of the crime) is legally sufficient to support the guilty plea, that it seems credible, and that it is not coerced or the result of some physical or mental impairment (such as being stoned).

So she could have changed her mind at the last minute, I’ve seen it happen. Or the judge could have found fault with the plea allocution, I’ve seen that happen, too. Then you have to reschedule and have a do-over on another day.

So you can understand that despite having read the Plea Agreement and Criminal Information, as well as the written version of The Facts she would be giving in her allocution, I was loath to hit “publish” on my backstage draft until I had confirmed that it had actually completed.

So I called, and I called back and I called back some more. Oh, “OPA is working on a press release.” “ No, I can’t confirm that her court appearance has concluded.” “No, I can’t confirm that her court appearance even initiated.” “Don’t worry, press release will be emailed to you any minute.” This went on for hours until that magic moment at 5:01 PM EST when the press release arrived and there was not one word on it that could not have been written in advance of the plea appearance with “send” hit once the judge banged the gavel.

Soooo, why would it take so long to get out this simple plain vanilla press release? Let me put on my tinfoil hat for a minute. You know how they dump news that is bad for the stock markets late on a Friday afternoon, so there is time to digest the news and not cause a sell off panic? What’s even a deader time to do that? Right before Thanksgiving. A lot of newspapers have a 5 PM deadline for getting a story into the next morning’s print edition. Yes, if you have a story in draft and are just waiting for some last little detail, they will let you file late, but if you first learn about a thing after 5 PM, it’s doubtful you can get it in unless it’s so momentous at to rate a “stop the presses” moment.

Most reporters have filed their pieces for the day and are closing up, heading out. Many will not see that press release until they get to work this morning, which means they will write their stories to file by 5 PM today, after the markets close at noon for the holiday. Holders of big bank stock who desire to engage in a panic sell off will need to do so via foreign exchanges. Of course most won’t even know about it in time to panic because Thanksgiving is hardly a day for reading the newspapers, especially the financial news. So, maybe I’m reading too much into the timing of this press release, but I do know that the DOJ press operation is more than sophisticated enough to understand story deadlines and timing of news releases, so it sure looks to me as if they were afraid the news would spark a panic selloff of bank stock and were trying to avoid that. (more…)

Why the Florida and Missouri Guilty Pleas from Docx Founder May Change the Mortgage Crisis

mortgage documents
Now any bank offering these as evidence is committing a fraud on the court and homeowner

Yesterday I dashed off a post about the guilty plea taken by Lorraine Brown, the founder of DocX/LPS in which she admits that it was the custom and practice of her company to employee people to forge the signatures of others and to falsely notarize those signatures creating assignments, allonges and affidavits that were both forgeries and perjuries. In short, fraud.

At the end, I said that this could be a game changer. In the comments, folks thought that was a reference to the fact that for once we have a criminal case which involves a top tier executive. That is a big deal no doubt, but not the reason this could possibly change everything.

Homeowners who are being foreclosed upon based on a document chain that includes documents prepared by DocX/LPS have a built-in defense, and actually a counterclaim against Ms. Brown’s company. The defense is that the bank offering these documents as evidence no longer has any right to rely on them as proof of anything, and any bank offering a DocX or LPS document as evidence after yesterday knows or should know that they are committing a fraud on the court and on the homeowner.

Secondly, it would mean that the bank would be unable in many instances to prove an essential factual element of its case, that the mortgage and/or note was transferred to the foreclosing entity, and the matter would be ripe for a Summary Judgment motion by the defendant homeowner. This ONLY applies if there are DocX or LPS documents in you chain of transfer (just like the various MERS defenses only applied if your mortgage was put into the MERS system). Also, there may be other facts or circumstance in individual cases that would moot this point.

How can you tell if you have a DocX or LPS document in your case file? Well, many of the DocX papers I have seen helpfully have a DocX legend in the upper left hand corner. Also, look for documents executed in Alpharettta, Georgia and for LPS, in Florida.

About that counterclaim: In her plea agreement Ms. Brown agrees to make restitution to unspecified “victims” of her forgery scheme. Now, don’t get too happy thinking you are going to ever collect a judgment from her. She also agreed to forfeit millions of dollars, so I don’t expect she will have much left to pay any of you. However, if your counterclaim against Ms. Brown and DocX/LPS, they become parties to your lawsuit and you get to take discovery from them without the bother and expense of hiring private detectives to track down each individual robo signer whose name may appear in the bank’s papers.

While you will still need a process server to do the more expensive out-of-state service to implead her and her company, once that’s done, in many states you can do the rest by mail, up to the in-person deposition. Some states, like NYS, allow for deposition by written question, which can be done in the mail for the price of stamp.

As always, nothing above should be construed as giving you legal advice, this is NEWS and analysis. You should consult your own lawyer and the strategic impact of the above will vary depending on the unique facts of each individual case and the laws of the applicable jurisdiction.

So, while there is some tiny bit of satisfaction to think that maybe, just maybe, some MOTU who blew up the housing market is having just the smallest cold shiver down the spine hearing about actual criminal accountability for even one aspect of the incredibly reckless binge mail-and-wire fraud these mortgage originators and TBTF banks engaged in during the aughts, it’s not what really wows me about this development. I don’t care about the banksters nearly as much as I care about the millions of homeowners who saw their life savings, in the form of home equity destroyed. I care about the millions of other people who were victims of predatory lending and who relied on the bank to not give them a mortgage that they could not afford. After all who ever heard of a lender giving money to someone they knew could not pay it back?

I care that these victims of predatory lending now have a weapon. It will still take work and effort to wield it, it’s not going to be easy; but a profound weapon that if used skillfully can turn the tables in a foreclosure.

Want banks to make meaningful mortgage modifications with principal write downs? Well the specter of losing outright in court makes that kind of settlement much more tenable to the banks.

This could be the beginning of a revolution in foreclosure defenses, that’s the gamechanger.

Why the Florida and Missouri Guilty Pleas from Docx Founder May Change the Mortgage crisis

mortgage documents
Now any bank offering these as evidence is committing a fraud on the court and homeowner

Yesterday, I dashed off a post about the guilty plea taken by Lorraine Brown, the founder of DocX/LPS in which she admits that it was the custom and practice of her company to employ people to forge the signatures of others and to falsely notarize those signatures creating assignments, allonges and affidavits that were both forgeries and perjuries. In short, fraud.

At the end, I said that this could be a game changer. In the comments, folks thought that was a reference to the fact that for once we have a criminal case which involves a top tier executive. That is a big deal no doubt, but not the reason this could possibly change everything.

Homeowners who are being foreclosed upon based on a document chain that includes documents prepared by DocX/LPS have a built-in defense, and actually a counterclaim against Ms. Brown’s company. The defense is that the bank offering these documents as evidence no longer has any right to rely on them as proof of anything, and any bank offering a DocX or LPS document as evidence after yesterday knows or should know that they are committing a fraud on the court and on the homeowner.

Secondly, it would mean that the bank would be unable in many instances to prove an essential factual element of its case, that the mortgage and/or note was transferred to the foreclosing entity, and the matter would be ripe for a Summary Judgment motion by the defendant homeowner. This ONLY applies if there are DocX or LPS documents in your chain of transfer (just like the various MERS defenses only applied if your mortgage was put into the MERS system). Also, there may be other facts or circumstance in individual cases that would moot this point.

How can you tell if you have a DocX or LPS document in your case file? Well, many of the DocX papers I have seen helpfully have a DocX legend in the upper left hand corner. Also, look for documents executed in Alpharettta, Georgia and for LPS, in Florida.

About that counterclaim: In her plea agreement Ms. Brown agrees to make restitution to unspecified “victims” of her forgery scheme. Now, don’t get too happy thinking you are going to ever collect a judgment from her. She also agreed to forfeit millions of dollars, so I don’t expect she will have much left to pay any of you. However, if your counterclaim against Ms. Brown and DocX/LPS, they become parties to your lawsuit and you get to take discovery from them without the bother and expense of hiring private detectives to track down each individual robo signer whose name may appear in the bank’s papers.

While you will still need a process server to do the more expensive out-of-state service to implead her and her company, once that’s done, in many states you can do the rest by mail, up to the in-person deposition. Some states, like NYS, allow for deposition by written question, which can be done in the mail for the price of stamp.

As always, nothing above should be construed as giving you legal advice, this is NEWS and analysis. You should consult your own lawyer and the strategic impact of the above will vary depending on the unique facts of each individual case and the laws of the applicable jurisdiction.

So, while there is some tiny bit of satisfaction to think that maybe, just maybe, some MOTU who blew up the housing market is having just the smallest cold shiver down the spine hearing about actual criminal accountability for even one aspect of the incredibly reckless binge mail-and-wire fraud these mortgage originators and TBTF banks engaged in during the aughts, it’s not what really wows me about this development. I don’t care about the banksters nearly as much as I care about the millions of homeowners who saw their life savings, in the form of home equity destroyed. I care about the millions of other people who were victims of predatory lending and who relied on the bank to not give them a mortgage that they could not afford. After all who ever heard of a lender giving money to someone they knew could not pay it back?

I care that these victims of predatory lending now have a weapon. It will still take work and effort to wield it, it’s not going to be easy; but a profound weapon that if used skillfully can turn the tables in a foreclosure.

Want banks to make meaningful mortgage modifications with principal write downs? Well the specter of losing outright in court makes that kind of settlement much more tenable to the banks.

This could be the beginning of a revolution in foreclosure defenses, that’s the gamechanger.

Photo by FeatheredTar under Creative Commons license

Founder of DocX/LPS Pleads Guilty in Federal Court

Breaking news:

At 5:01 PM EST, DOJ issued confirmation that :

The Founder of DocX, which later changed its name to LPS, has pleaded GUILTY in US District Court for the Middle District of Florida. In the “Factual Basis” document attached to her Plea Agreement, Lorraine Brown, the founder of DocX, LLC, admits that the documents produced by these companies from the period 2003-2009 were forgeries.

 Beginning in or about 2003 and continuing through November 2009, employees of DocX at the direction of Brown and others, began forging and falsifying signatures on mortgage-related documents that they had been hired to prepare and file with property recorder’s offices throughout the United States. Unbeknownst to clients, the Authorized Signers were instructed or authorized by Brown to allow other DocX employees, who were not authorized signers, to sign and notarize the mortgage-related documents as if the [sic] actually by the Authorized Signer.

Later down:

Thus, even through [sic] clients were told that a senior DocX manager would be preparing and signing the client documents, there was never any intention to do so.

More

 After these documents were falsely signed and fraudulently notarized, Brown authorized DocX employees to send them through the mails or by electronic means for recording with local county property records offices across the nation. Many of these documents – particularly mortgage assignments, lost note affidavits, and lost assignment affidavits – were later relied upon in court proceedings, including property foreclosures and federal bankruptcy actions. Brown understood that these property recorders, courts, title insurers and homeowners, relied upon the documents as genuine.

First of all, let me gloat. I have been saying for how many years that there were easy plain vanilla mail fraud and wire fraud cases to be made (I’m in a rush to get this posted before I go to coach my HS Mock Trial Team, I’ll come back later to put in the links).

Secondly, elsewhere in the plea agreement—don’t’ worry there will be follow-up posts as I dig into these documents better—she agrees to give restitution to the “victims”. It will be hard for those victims to collect since she is apparently forfeiting most of her money. But bear with me, if foreclosure defendants were to bring a 3rd party action against Lorraine Brown and DocX/LPS (assuming there are DocX/LPS documents being used against them), they could simply Notice the Depositions of Brown and the relevant robo-signers to obtain testimony to refute the validity of those documents, and then move for Summary Judgment against the bank trying to foreclose.

Unless I am giddy with excitement and totally misreading this, this plea could be a game changer.

I won’t be here for the thread, but will come back to read it when I get out of Mock Trial practice.

Update: 5:07 PM EST

She also pleaded guilty in state criminal court in Missouri (h/t Peterr)

Mayor Bloomberg Owes OWS an Apology

Mayor Mike has a lot of egg on his face, so does Ray Kelly. Despite being derided, kettled, pepper sprayed, and generally treated like subhumans by the NYC government, Occupy Wall Street continues to rise above the pettiness that characterizes the behavior and assumptions of “various serious people.”

Continuing to think outside the box, OWS has two new initiatives: Occupy Sandy and Rolling Debt Jubilee.

Occupy Sandy

I live on the North Shore of Long Island, walking distance from the beach, in an area full of very old tall trees and very old overhead wires. Oh, and spotty cellphone coverage. I have been virtually incommunicado for the past couple weeks. No electricity, no internet, no landline phones, no TV, no voice over cellphone and very limited texting over cellphone.

What little information I had access to, came from the car radio, and it told a tale of stranded victims on Staten Island and the Long Island South Shore and Brooklyn, left unaided by the City. No police doing door-to-door searches for the trapped and stranded elderly or infirm, no social service agencies coming to their homes to make sure they had a meal, nadda.

So, OWS called upon its stupendous logistical skills and filled the void left by Ray Kelly and Michael Bloomberg. Bloomberg holds daily press conferences, but for people with no access to mass communication, he was a tree falling in the forest with no one to hear. Did it really take him 2 weeks to figure out that squad cars have speaker systems on them and could be deployed like sound trucks?

BTW, Con Ed, LIPA and PSE&G: Would it have killed you to hire some sound trucks to make announcements, since people without power or internet cannot use your hopeless websites?

I digress. OWS did what they do best, rallied compassionate people, started cooking meals and gave them away, just like at Liberty Plaza (it’s hard to get me to call it Zuccotti Park). They organized blankets and flashlights and charging stations (including the Green Peace solar truck and those cool Gilligan’s Island bicycle generators), just as they did at Liberty Plaza. They knocked on doors to ask the stranded residents what they needed. They sent out tweets for “needs of the occupiers” and supporters from all over the world sent supplies, just like at Liberty Plaza. They even improved on that with an Occupy Sandy “wedding registry” on Amazon that helps doors to ship supplies quickly and easily. Genius!

So complete is their logistical competence that they are now holding training for the National Guard troops who have been sent in to help and…wait for it…for the Mayor’s Office representatives. Considering how poorly they have been treated by this administration, they could have refused to aid the government efforts and played tit-for-tat, but their goal is to help by any means.