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Judges Slam More and More Plaintiffs’ Attorneys for Corruption

March 13, 2014

Peasants in Leon, Nicaragua, march in 2007 to denounce the use of harmful pesticides at banana plantations

Photograph by Miguel Alvarez/AFP via Getty Images

http://www.businessweek.com/articles/2014-03-13/judges-slam-more-and-more-plaintiffs-attorneys-for-corruption#p1

Peasants in Leon, Nicaragua, march in 2007 to denounce the use of harmful pesticides at banana plantations

On March 7 a California appellate court upheld a trial judge’s finding that what had been billed as a watershed liability verdict against Dole Food over pesticide use in Nicaragua was actually the product of a conspiracy by corrupt plaintiffs’ lawyers. That decision came only three days after a federal judge in New York ruled that a multibillion-dollar pollution judgment against Chevron (CVX) in 2011 was so tainted by bribery and coercion that it wasn’t worth the paper it was written on.

Meanwhile, in Texas, a prominent class-action injury lawyer faces mounting woes because of allegations that he faked thousands of damage claims against BP (BP)related to the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill. When you combine these cases with the criminal convictions several years ago of plaintiffs-bar titans Mel Weiss, Bill Lerach, and Dickie Scruggs—all of whom served time for corrupting the civil justice system—it’s hard to deny that there’s deep dysfunction within a powerful portion of the legal profession that claims to fight corporate abuse on behalf of the little guy.

A look at the Dole ruling illustrates the point. The California Court of Appeal in Los Angeles affirmed dismissal of one of a series of suits filed against Dole, alleging the company’s use of pesticides in Nicaragua left banana workers sterile in the late 1970s. In all, these suits resulted in billions of dollars in judgments against Dole.

The case at issue in the March 7 ruling, known as Tellez, went to trial in 2008 and produced a multimillion-dollar verdict for workers. That verdict was thrown out when Dole’s attorneys proved that many of the plaintiffs never worked for the company and weren’t, in fact, sterile. Witnesses and investigators were intimidated in Nicaragua, and plaintiffs were coached to concoct false stories. One supposed victim testified that he was instructed to memorize and repeat phony evidence “like a parrot.”

Plaintiffs’ lawyers and law firms are major political contributors, particularly to Democrats

The California appellate court said the trial judge correctly sent the Tellez plaintiffs packing. The ruling was a win for the Los Angeles firm Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, which has engineered the negation of multiple pesticide verdicts against Dole. That accomplishment prompted Chevron to hire Gibson Dunn to fight back against a $19 billion oil-contamination judgment imposed by an Ecuadorean court in 2011. In the Chevron case, U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan of New York ruled on March 4 that plaintiffs’ attorney Steven Donziger turned his Ecuadorean lawsuit against the oil company into a racketeering scheme, complete with extortion, bribery of judges, and fabrication of evidence. Donziger has denied wrongdoing and vowed to appeal.

Mass-tort and class-action securities-fraud suits reached their apogee in the 1990s, fueled in part by the energy and ingenuity of an elite fraternity of plaintiffs’ firms and individual lawyers, some of whom became phenomenally wealthy as a result of their success. There’s nothing necessarily wrong, of course, with plaintiffs’ attorneys doing well along the path to doing good, just as there’s nothing necessarily improper with corporate-defense lawyers getting richly paid.

But as the plaintiffs’ bar achieved lucrative triumphs in asbestos litigation and the tobacco cases, some of its leaders lost their bearings. Scruggs, who earned a fortune in both of those arenas, pleaded guilty in 2008 to crimes related to a judicial bribery scheme. Weiss and Lerach, impresarios of securities-fraud class actions, went to prison for paying kickbacks to shareholder plaintiffs-for-hire. Last year the Kentucky Supreme Court upheld the disbarment of Stanley Chesley, a scourge of the pharmaceuticals and chemicals industries, among others. Chesley allegedly sought “unreasonable” fees in the settlement of a diet drug class action against Wyeth, now part of Pfizer (PFE).

Mikal Watts of San Antonio ranks among the nation’s most feared mass-injury lawyers. In the wake of the BP oil spill four years ago, his firm filed some 40,000 claims on behalf of deckhands and others alleging economic harm from the disaster that killed 11 rig workers and sullied the Gulf Coast. Last December, BP hit back, accusing Watts of seeking to shake down the company by filing claims for thousands of “phantom” clients who didn’t fit his description of them or didn’t exist at all. Then, in January, another well-known mass-tort attorney, Danny Becnel of Louisiana, filed a separate suit against Watts on behalf of Vietnamese American fishermen and business owners who say Watts used their names without authorization. Watts last year resigned from the plaintiffs’ steering committee helping to direct the litigation against BP after media reports that federal agents had searched his offices in connection with the phantom-claims scandal. The federal criminal probe is continuing. Watts, a major fundraiser for the presidential campaigns of Barack Obama, has denied any wrongdoing—civil or criminal. His lawyers have said all his filings against BP were made in good faith.

Despite the egregiousness of the plaintiffs’ bar abuses, there’s little chance that Congress will enact tort reform anytime soon, says Victor Schwartz, a lobbyist for business on the issue and a partner in Washington with law firm Shook, Hardy & Bacon. Plaintiffs’ lawyers and law firms are major political contributors, particularly to Democrats, who have fought attempts to cap settlements in big corporate liability cases and class actions. Lawyers spent about $135 million in 2012 helping to elect Democrats, compared with $56 million for Republican candidates, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, which tracks political money. “There have been no major business civil justice victories [in Congress] for almost a decade,” Schwartz says. Likewise, President Obama has shown little interest in taking on attorneys who invested $28 million in his reelection effort in 2012, more than twice what they gave Mitt Romney, according to the center. And bar associations and state attorneys general rarely seek to prosecute litigation fraud, which is expensive to pursue and politically fraught. As a result, says Sherman Joyce, president of the corporate-funded American Tort Reform Association, “too many plaintiffs’ lawyers believe there’s not much risk in filing fraudulent suits.”

The bottom line: Dole and Chevron have won major court victories after federal judges ruled that plaintiffs’ lawyers engaged in fraud.

Barrett_190
Barrett is an assistant managing editor and senior writer at Bloomberg Businessweek. His new book, Law of the Jungle, which tells the story of the Chevron oil pollution case in Ecuador, will be published by Crown in September 2014. His most recent book is GLOCK: The Rise of America’s Gun.
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LivingLies’ Neil Garfield Post on Fannie and Freddie

New post on Livinglies’s Weblog

 

Fannie and Freddie Demand $6 Billion for Sale of “Faulty Mortgage Bonds”

by Neil Garfield

You read the news on one settlement after another, it sounds like the pound of flesh is being exacted from the culprits again and again. This time the FHFA, as owner of Fannie and Freddie, is going for a settlement with Bank of America for sale of “faulty mortgage bonds.” And most people sit back and think that justice is being done. It isn’t. $6 Billion is window dressing on a liability that is at least 100 times that amount. And stock analysts take comfort that the legal problems for the banks has basically been discounted already. It hasn’t.

For practitioners who defend mortgage foreclosures, you must dig a little deeper. The term “faulty mortgage bonds” is a euphemism. Look at the complaints there filed. When they are filed by agencies it means that after investigation they have arrived at the conclusion that something was. very wrong with the sale of mortgage bonds. That is an administrative finding that concluded there was at least probable cause for finding that the mortgage bonds were defective and potentially were criminal.

So what does “defective” or “faulty” mean? Neither the media nor the press releases from the agencies or the banks tell us what was wrong with the bonds. But if you look at the complaints of the agencies, they tell you what they mean. If you look at the investor lawsuits you see that they are alleging that the notes and mortgages were “unenforceable.” Both the agencies and the investors filed complaints alleging that the mortgage bonds were a farce, sham or in other words, a PONZI Scheme.

Why is that important to foreclosure defense? Digging deeper you will find what I have been reporting on this blog. The investors money was not used to fund the REMIC trusts. The unfunded trusts never had the money to buy or fund the origination of bonds. The notes and mortgages were never sold to the Trusts even though “assignments” were executed and shown in court. The assignments themselves were either backdated or violated the 90 day cutoff that under applicable law (the laws of the State of New York) are VOID and not voidable.

What to do? File Freedom of Information Act requests for the findings, allegations and names of investigators for the agency that were involved in the agency action. Take their deposition. Get documents. Find put what mortgages were looked at and which bond series were involved. Get a list of the mortgages and the bonds that were examined. Get the findings on each mortgage and each mortgage bond. Use the the investor allegations as lender admissions admissions in court — that the notes and mortgages are unenforceable.

There is a disconnect between what is going on at the top of the sham securitization chain and what went on in sham mortgage originations and sham sales of loans. They never happened in the real world, no matter how much paper you throw at it.

And that just doesn’t apply to mortgages in default — it applies to all mortgages, which is why all the mortgages that currently exist, and most of the deeds that show ownership of the property have clouded and probably “defective” and “faulty” titles. It’s clear logic that the government and the banks are seeking to avoid, to wit: that if the way in which the money was raised to fund the loans or purchase the loans were defective, then it follows that there are defects in the chain of title and the money trail that were obviously not disclosed, as per the requirements of TILA and Reg Z.

And when you keep digging in discovery you will find out that your client has some clear remedies to collect the profits and compensation paid to undisclosed recipients arising out of the closing of the “loan.” These are offsets to the amount claimed as due. If the loan was not funded by the Trust, then the false paper trail used by the banks in foreclosure is subject to successful attack. If the loans were in fact funded directly by the trust complying with the REMIC provisions of the Internal Revenue Code, then the payee on the note and the mortgagee on the mortgage would be the trust — or if the loan was actually purchased, the Trust would have issued money to the seller (something that never happened).

And lastly, for now, let us look at the capital structure of these banks. A substantial portion of their capital derives from assets in the form of mortgage bonds. This is the most blatant lie of all of them. No underwriter buys the securities issued by the company seeking financing through an offering to investors. It is an oxymoron. The whole purpose of the underwriter was to create securities that would be appealing to investors. The securities are only issued when you have a buyer for them, and then the investor is the owner of the security — in this case mortgage bonds.

The bonds are not issued to the investment bank as an asset of the investment bank. But they ARE issued to the investment bank in “street name.” That is merely to facilitate trading and delivery of certificates which in most cases in the mortgage bond market don’t exist. The issuance in street name does not mean the banks own the mortgage bonds any more than when you a stock and the title is issued in street name mean that you have loaned or gifted the investment to the investment bank.

If you follow the logic of the investment bank then the deposits of money by depository customers could be claimed as assets — without the required entry in the liabilities section of the balance sheet because every dollar on deposit is a liability to pay those monies on demand, which is why checking accounts are referred to as demand deposits.

Hence the “asset” has been entered on the investment bank balance sheet without the corresponding liability on the other side of their balance sheet. And THAT remains that under cover of Federal Reserve purchase of these bonds from the banks, who don’t own the bonds, the value of the bonds is 100 cents on the dollar and the owner is the bank — a living lies fundamental. When the illusion collapses, the banks are coming down with it. You can only go so far lying to the public and the investment community. Eventually the reality is these banks are underfunded, under capitalized and still being propped up by quantitative easing disguised as the purchase of mortgage bonds at the rate of $85 Billion per month.

We need to be preparing for the collapse of the illusion and get the other financial institutions — 7,000 community and regional banks and credit unions — ready to take on the changes caused by the absence of the so-called major banks who are really fictitious entities without a foundation related to economic reality. The backbone is already available — electronic funds transfer is as available to the smallest bank as it is to the largest. It is an outright lie that we need the TBTF banks. They have failed and cannot recover because of the enormity of the lies they told the world. It’s over.

Great News From Jessica Dye

Unbelievably: Another Bombshell revelation.      Another case has emerged to our attention involving a Bank of America Whistleblower.   Gregory Mackler  filed a Qui Tam case on behalf of all those who were foreclosed upon while eligible for modifications which were required if a homeowner qualified, but denied so that the bank could maximize profit.     This time a former employee blew the whistle on purposeful, malicious denials of modifications while the bank was reporting to the federal government complete direct lies about participation levels in HAMP.      This whistle blower pocketed 14million.     READ THIS FROM REUTERS….  Seems like the whistleblowers should be coming out of the woodwork.

 

By Jessica Dye

NEW YORK, March 7 (Reuters) – Bank of America NA prevented homeowners from receiving mortgage-loan modifications under a federal program in order to avoid millions of dollars in losses while benefitting from financial incentives for participating in the program, according to a complaint unsealed in federal court Wednesday.

The suit is the second whistle blower complaint unsealed so far with apparent ties to the $1 billion False Claims Act settlement announced by Bank of America and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York on February 9.

The Bank of America settlement is also part of the sweeping $25 billion agreement reached between state and federal authorities.

Final settlement documents have yet to be filed in the BoA settlement, which the U.S. Attorney’s Office said was the largest ever False Claims Act payout related to mortgage fraud.

The settlement resolved claims that Bank of America’s Countywide Financial subsidiaries defrauded the Federal Housing Administration by inflating appraisals used for government-insured home loans, as well as claims involving the Home Affordable Modification Program, a federal program to help American homeowners facing foreclosure.

The complaint unsealed Wednesday was filed by whistleblower Gregory Mackler, a Colorado resident who said he worked alongside Bank of America executives while an employee at Urban Lending Solutions, a company to which Bank of America contracted some of its HAMP work.

While working at Urban Lending, Mackler said he saw BofA and its loan servicing subsidiary, BAC Homes Loans Servicing LP, implement “business practices designed to intentionally prevent scores of eligible homeowners from becoming eligible or staying eligible for permanent HAMP modification.”

The bank and its agents routinely pretended to have lost homeowners’ documents, failed to credit payments during trial modifications and intentionally misled homeowners about their eligibility for the program, the complaint alleged.

BoA let through just enough HAMP modifications to avert suspicion and allay congressional critics, while not enough to incur any substantial losses to its own bottom line, according to the complaint.

“In other words, BoA has had it both ways. BoA has continued to maximize the value of its mortgage portfolio with anti-HAMP modification practices and managed to make money by committing fraud on homeowner,” the lawsuit said.

A lawyer for Mackler could neither confirm nor deny that the complaint was tied to the settlement. A spokesman for the U.S. attorney’s office and a representative for Bank of America declined to comment.

In February, a whistleblower complaint was unsealed from Kyle Lagow, a former employee in a Countrywide appraisal unit which detailed allegations of Countrywide’s “corrupt underwriting and appraisal process.” Bank of America purchased Countywide in June 2008.

Under the False Claims Act, successful whistleblower complaints can earn that whistleblower up to 25 percent of the settlement amount.

According to the docket, the U.S. Department of Justice has until March 16 to decide whether to intervene in both the Mackler and Lagow case. The case is United States of America v. Bank of America NA et al., in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York, no. 11-3270.
 
 
 
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Chloe Williams
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From Living Lies Important Info On Banks!

http://livinglies.wordpress.com/2013/05/07/new-york-getting-ready-to-prosecute-banks-for-violations-of-settlement/

 

New York Getting Ready to Prosecute Banks for Violations of Settlement

Posted on May 7, 2013 by Neil Garfield
At the end of the day everyone knows everything. If you start with the premise that the securitization of debt was a farce and that the necessary element of the false securitization of mortgage loans was the foreclosure of those loans, then you move one step closer to understanding the mortgage and foreclosure mess and a giant step forward to understanding and implementing a solution. All the actions, statements and myths promulgated by the Wall Street banks become clear, including their violation of every consent decree,order and settlement they ever made with respect to mortgage loans.
Attorney General Schneiderman of New York seems to understand this and he is taking the mega banks to task for violating a settlement that looks like pennies on the dollar. He doesn’t care why they violated the $26 Billion settlement but he is taking action for their consistent violation of the settlement. But I care about the reason and so should you. The reason is nothing less than the obvious: the mega banks expose themselves to liability that far exceeds the terms of the settlement.
In any normal circumstances when a big company enters into a settlement that amounts to pennies on the dollar, the company rushes to make the settlement final by paying the money and performing the actions required in the agreement. Thus they commit illegal acts and get away with it by entering into an agreement that looks big but doesn’t put them out of business. They are nothing but anxious to put the settlement behind them.
So why are the mega banks refusing to abide by a $26 billion settlement on a multi- trillion theft? The answer by pure logic and my sources is that if the banks actually performed on the material portions of the agreement they risk going out of business. Why?
The answer is arithmetic. The purpose of the settlement was to stop illegal foreclosure practices and compensate those who lost their homes in illegal Foreclosures (as opposed to simply reversing the Foreclosures and starting over again which is what any court of law would require if there was an admission that the documents and claims in foreclosure were false).
Arithmetic is the answer. Without Foreclosures, the banks cannot support their claim of failure of the mortgages. If the loans are reinstated then the “sales” of loans and mortgage bonds become immediately subject to an accounting and to payback to investors who bought empty bogus bonds issued by a trust that existed in name only. If the loans must be considered performing loans because of any of the reasons contained in those multistage settlements, consent decrees,orders and agency settlements, then the banks must reimburse the insurers, buyers and counter-parties on hedge products like credit default swaps.
Thus satisfactions the settlement agreement exposes the banks to a reduction in their tier 1, tier 2, and tier 3 capital such that the reality and empty underbelly of the banksia displayed for all to see. Those banks and are not nearly as big as they say they are and must be resolved by the FDIC because they actually do not have the minimum capital requirements that all banks must have to continue operations. That is why the Brown bill in the U.S. Senate is dead on right.
If the Foreclosures were invalid there is only one way to correct them, just like any title problem. Correct the defect In Title by reversing the foreclosure or get an affidavit from the homeowner joining in some correction of the corrupted title resulting from fake Foreclosures.
With trillions in liability at stake of course the banks are violating the settlement agreements and consent decrees. All they can do is try to control state and federal action by providing photo opportunities and planted articles around the media to make people feel good. But neither the housing market nor the economy will get the stimulus necessary for a full recovery until the truth is addressed instead of pretending you can fix this mortgage and foreclosure mess with Tiny settlements and promises that nobody intends to keep.

Eric Schneiderman: Banks Have ‘Confidence’ That Law Enforcement Is Not Taking Violations ‘Seriously’
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/05/07/eric-schneiderman-banks_n_3226992.html

 

CURTIS HERTEL JR: INGHAM COURTS OVERTURN FANNIE MAE EVICTIONS OF COUNTY HOMEOWNERS Posted by 4closureFraud on April 19, 2013 ·

CURTIS HERTEL JR: INGHAM COURTS OVERTURN FANNIE MAE EVICTIONS OF COUNTY HOMEOWNERS

Posted by 4closureFraud on April 19, 2013 · 1 Comment

FannieMayhem

INGHAM COURTS OVERTURN FANNIE MAE EVICTIONS OF COUNTY HOMEOWNERS

Ingham County Register of Deeds Curtis Hertel Jr. praised two recent court decisions against mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac in Ingham County that will overturn the eviction of local residents from their homes, while offering similar hope for citizens across Michigan.

“Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have been shamelessly manipulating our state’s property laws for years at the expense of innocent citizens,” Hertel Jr. said. “They continue to try and exempt themselves from important local and state taxes by claiming a government exemption, but have continued to foreclose on individuals and families using procedures that are only available to private corporations. I’m thrilled that we now the opportunity to protect our residents from future deceitful foreclosure practices.”

Hertel Jr. has been pleading for the courts to clarify Fannie Mae’s status, as it has positioned itself as a government agency to avoid taxes, but also as a private organization in order to avoid foreclosure regulation. The cases were won against mortgage giant Fannie Mae – one in Ingham County Circuit Court, the other in its District Court.

One of the cases is now being sent to the Michigan Court of Appeals and has the potential to change the way that thousands of foreclosures are handled throughout Michigan. The court case specifically addressesforeclosures that are executed by Fannie Mae, the federally-controlled mortgage corporation that has foreclosed on thousands of Michigan residents since the housing crisis began in 2007.

Both of the overturned evictions were residents who called in to Hertel’s Foreclosure Fraud Hotline, a service he arranged with help from the Ingham County Commissioners. The purpose of the hotline is to obtain legal assistance for citizens who are facing illegal foreclosures, but cannot afford representation. The hotline is active – Ingham County residents may call 517-676-7210 to leave their information.

SOURCE: Curtis Hertel – Ingham County Register of Deeds

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