Wells Fargo, the nation’s biggest mortgage servicer, appears to have set up detailed internal procedures to fabricate foreclosure papers on demand, according to allegations in papers filed Tuesday in a New York federal court.
The 150-page Wells Fargo Foreclosure Attorney Procedures Manual was created November 9, 2011 and updated February 24, 2012. The Manual details “a procedure for processing [mortgage] notes without endorsements and obtaining endorsements and allonges.” Those are the technical terms for the paperwork proving that the company that’s foreclosing owns the loan, and therefore has the right to kick a family out of its home. Wells Fargo services roughly 9 million home loans.
Foreclosure defense lawyers use the term ‘ta-da’ endorsement to describe situations in which they say a document appears, as if by magic, in the bank’s possession as needed in a foreclosure case—even though the proper endorsement was not included in the original foreclosure filing. It might sound like a technicality, but correct proof of ownership lies at the heart of the foreclosure crisis for securitized loans, which were sold by the lender that originally issued the mortgage. To legally transfer a securitized loan, the endorsements and allonges have to be created in a very specific way and within a specific time frame, usually 90 days after a residential mortgage trust closes. For many loans in foreclosure now, which were originated years ago and then sold, it’s way too late to correct incomplete documents. The manual appears to provide step-by-step instructions for a Wells Fargo Home Mortgage “Default Docs Team” and foreclosure attorneys if a blank endorsement is in a file and the attorney wants that note executed.
The questions raised by foreclosure experts about the Wells Fargo documents, however, come on the heels of whistleblower accounts of failures to prove ownership, and document fabrication. When this Attorney Procedures Manual was in effect, Wells Fargo was finalizing a settlement with regulators over alleged foreclosure abuses including false documents. On Feb. 9, 2012, Wells and four other major banks settled with 49 state attorneys general and the federal government for $25 billion over foreclosure practices. The complaint accused the banks of “preparing, executing, notarizing or presenting false and misleading documents” and alleged “loss of homes due to improper, unlawful or undocumented foreclosures.”
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