Countrywide Invents Evidence In Foreclosure Hearing

One of the nation’s biggest mortgage lenders, Countrywide, admitted to a Pennsylvania judge that it had fabricated some of the evidence supplied in a homeowner’s bankruptcy case. The evidence in questions were a series of letters the lender said it sent to the homeowner notifying her that she owed $4,700 because of problems with escrow deductions. The homeowner had filed for Chapter 13 bankruptcy and the mortgage debt was discharged after she met the terms of her 60-month bankruptcy plan. But then later Countrywide told her they were foreclosing on her house because she still owed them money. They said they had sent her three letters notifying her of the debt. The homeowner, her lawyer, and the Chapter 13 trustees say they never got them. When Countrywide produced the letters it supposedly sent, the homeowner’s lawyer noticed that the ones addressed to him didn’t have the address of his office at the time; they had the address of the office he had moved to AFTER the dates on which the letters were said to have been sent. What a bunch of crooks.

Lender Tells Judge It ‘Recreated’ Letters [NYT] (Thanks to pangeloni!)
(Photo: Getty)

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  1. Jaysyn was banned for: http://consumerist.com/5032912/the-subprime-meltdown-will-be-nothing-compared-to-the-prime-meltdown#c7042646 says:

    Burn, baby, burn!

  2. Dibbler says:

    Wouldn’t the average person go to prison if they pulled something like this?

  3. Curiosity says:

    Somehow, Countrywide didn’t learn that its not really wise to make a mockery of the legal system, especially when it pisses off a Judge.

  4. startertan says:

    Scumbags.

  5. bohemian says:

    Isn’t this illegal?

  6. qwickone says:

    @Dibbler: I’m pretty sure fabricating evidence is against the law…

  7. waydownriver says:

    If there is a reader experienced in court legalities, please comment!

    I’d think that fabricating evidence in a court case would be a felony.

    And no matter the excuses of Countrywide that the “letters” were for enlightenment purposes only, it’s obvious they would have been accepted as copies of original letters if the lawyer hadn’t noticed the address discrepancy.

  8. jerros says:

    Doesn’t supprise me at all. My mortgage was sold to countrywide after I purchased my house. Last month the normal bill was not sent to me but there were at least 1/2 dozen “Refinance” requests from countrywide that I tossed into the trash. This week they send me a little notice that I was in default.

    The customer service experiance trying to clear this up was horrible. As soon as you enter your account number you get forwarded to the “Debit Collection” offices rather than a customer service rep, and the same applies on their webpage which will consistantly ask you why you paid late (giving 4 options, none of which happens to be “Countrywide tried to save $0.32 on a stamp and didn’t send me my bill”), and then asks when you can pay (Now, later, or I can’t at all).

    After being annoyed by a webpage that didn’t work, I finally managed to be able to get to the webpage which allows for online payments of bills. I filled out the forms and hit submit, and was confronted with a blank webpage….I won’t know till close of buisness day today if the payment went through or not.

    Mean while their webpage consistantly requests I tell them why I didn’t pay on time, when I can pay again every time I try to check on my account or contact a customer service rep.

    Now I can’t say if other lenders do similar things, but I can say I was not impressed with how Countrywide handeled the situation given my past history of on time payments. I can’t say I’d reccomend this company to friends, and I definately wouldn’t use them in the future.

  9. llcooljabe says:

    we need jack mccoy to go after the ceo on this one.

  10. savvy999 says:

    “These letters are a smoking gun that something is not right in Denmark,” Judge Agresti said in a Dec. 20 hearing in Pittsburgh.

    Cliché much, your honor?

  11. weg1978 says:

    @bohemian: So is defaulting on your mortgage, though not in the criminal sense. Also, I thought it was something is ‘rotten’ in denmark. This judge needs to brush up on his hamlet, which is ironic, given the nature of this post :)

  12. bohemian says:

    After reading Jerros story I think it should be illegal to sell your loan without your written approval on a specific form giving them permission to do so.

    People used to select their mortgage lender very carefully because they are really at the mercy of that bank for 20-30 years. Now any crook could end up holding your mortgage.

  13. Rufdawg says:

    @savvy999: Judges, from time immemorial, have been wont to appear erudite and thus earn that most coveted of epithets, learned.

    As for submitting “fabricated” evidence to a court, there are a couple of sanctions available to both the court and the opposition. At the most extreme, the lawyer may face some sort of reprimand from the PA state bar; but, states differ. In the present case, I wouldn’t be too surprised to see something akin to a Rule 11 motion.

  14. nweaver says:

    THis isn’t scam, but stupidity. See Tanta@ Calculated-Risk for her analysis

    [calculatedrisk.blogspot.com]

  15. scoli83 says:

    @bohemian: That sounds like a good plan, but would never work. In today’s world mortgages are securitized and sold of kind of like stocks or bonds. Plus, mortgages can be used to acquire financing. The free and unimpeded transferability of mortgages is an essential part of the modern financial markets and corporate financing.

  16. Jean-Baptiste Emanuel Zorg says:

    “These letters are a smoking gun that something is not right in Denmark,” Judge Agresti said

    He went on to say “I’m not going to beat around the bush here. I wasn’t born yesterday, and you’ve got to get up pretty early in the morning to pull the wool over my eyes. You can talk until you’re blue in the face, but when it comes to these letters, you don’t have a legal leg to stand on. In conlusion, close, but no cigar”

  17. scoli83 says:

    In a Chapter 13 bankruptcy a mortgage is generally not a dischargable debt. It seems as though the debtor completed their plan and fulfilled the other requirements of the statute to earn a discharge. A discharge was granted, but the mortgage debt was not discharged, she was merely current. After the completion of the plan CW then claimed that the debtor was in arrears because of escrow issues. Those escrow issues turned out to be false. It is very likely that the debtor still owed CW money for the portion of the mortgage that remained unpaid as of the completion of the plan. So, one may ask, why would CW do this? They were either trying to get an extra 4k or they were making stuff up because part of the debt was unsecured and was crammeddown. In either case, CW screwed up and should probably be fined.

  18. Chris Walters says:

    @TinyBug: Some weird part of me almost wishes someone really would talk like that. I’d like to see that in person. Once.

  19. missbheave (is not convinced) says:

    I hope the judge holds the whole company responsible, including their creepy spokesman so he’ll stop interrupting my favorite shows with his scammy lies.

  20. Red_Eye says:

    @scoli83: And in the past people were traded as commodities as well, or their indentured servitude. Thats not legal anymore and nor should this be. I’ve had problems along these lines my self, when my mortgages have been sold Ive had insurance canceled, then over paid then told I would have to purchase the mortgage companies insurance all because nobody could keep track of my loan because it was changing hands quicker than a hooker on fleet week. Who was left to deal with the mess? Me.

  21. laserjobs says:

    GRETCHEN MORGENSON is no reporter!!! I would question the credibility of anything she writes.

  22. hwyengr says:

    @TinyBug: If we hit that bullseye, the rest of the dominoes will fall like a house of cards. Checkmate.

  23. lalala1956 says:

    haha savvy and tinybug

  24. SacraBos says:

    @TinyBug: Now, Countrywide should be up a creek without a paddle. Crying wolf when you don’t have your ducks in a row is a tough row to hoe.

    Seriously, this is perjury. People go to jail for that. Those fake letters were made by someone. That’s the bad thing about a “corporation” being a “person”, that the corporation never seems to go to jail when they commit a felony and a real person would.

  25. savvy999 says:

    @TinyBug: lol, I started something like that, but gave up. No creative energy or brainpower left today. Nice one!

    Got no gas in the tank, no wind in my sails, dollar short and a day late, dumb as a bag o’ hammers….

  26. bohemian says:

    @scoli83: How about something where the maintenance of said agreement is held by the same entity that wrote it, even if they sell off “ownership” in portions of the mortgage.

    This all makes me glad we have a govt backed loan that only has two possible banks allowed to service it.

  27. Curiosity says:

    @RufusNC: True but I would suspect that the eventual result of such stupidity would be to lose the case. As an addendum to your comment on Rule 11 – it refers to the federal rule in this link [www.law.cornell.edu], as well as many states have adopted it in some form (like PA [www.larrimorefarnish.com]).

    Some of the discussions here turn upon whether a consumer was in the wrong, or lying. The rule highlights the importance that courts place upon the truth.

  28. Pancakes?? FRENCH TOAST!! says:

    The line from Hamlet, Prince of Denmark is
    “Something is rotten in the state of Denmark” – Marcellus says it in the latter half of the first act.

    Whether or not what the judge in this case has said is trite or a cliche is up for debate. In any case, he didn’t directly quote Shakespeare.

  29. pengie says:

    Well crap, my mortgage just got passed along to these douchebags. I’m certainly looking forward to the next thirty years of paying people who have no qualms with making up evidence.

  30. Munsoned says:

    How about a nice little “contempt of court” order? That should wake up Countrywide’s legal department.

  31. mac-phisto says:

    @nweaver: tanta does a great job with her explanation (as usual), but it seems she’s even more concerned that this is not fraud b/c it further illustrates claims she’s made in the past about the current state of “mortgage banking culture” & how they ride roughshod over the law.

    i especially enjoyed her conclusion where she likens CW (& others) to a psychotic monkey. awesome.

  32. econobiker says:

    Why couldn’t the court or defendant require proof of mailing or proof of receipt like a return receipt or certified mail reciept? It seems like all these companies want is to just say they put a letter in the mail versus actually confirming the person got it.

  33. eggm4n says:

    Well they maintain that they ‘recreated’ the letters. This is a pretty common practice. The computer system may maintain that the letters were generated, and since it’s just boilerplate with variables in it for addresses and stuff, lots of organizations take this short cut.

    What they should have is some method to optically scan all outgoing letters in a system *outside* of their mainframe. This would let the lender retrieve an image of the letter before it was mailed and therefore more likely to have been mailed.

  34. econobiker says:

    Also the best quote being:

    “Ms. Hill’s matter is one of 300 bankruptcy cases involving Countrywide that have come under scrutiny by Ms. Winnecour, the Chapter 13 trustee in Pittsburgh. On Oct. 9, she asked the court to sanction Countrywide, contending that the company had lost or destroyed more than $500,000 in checks paid by homeowners in bankruptcy from December 2005 to April 2007.”

    What company looses over $500k in checks over 1 year or so and doesn’t have a serious problem?

  35. Sam Glover says:

    A debt collector (that’s what foreclosure lawyers are, after all) pretended to have evidence it did not have?!?

    How surprising!!! I am shocked!!!

  36. rjhiggins says:

    @bohemian: This is indeed a form I was required to sign for at least two mortgages I can remember. I’m pretty sure it’s required by law — and definitely in certain states.

  37. meeroom says:

    I just realized that my Countrywide HELOC statement did not come in the mail this month. Probably because I overpaid it by $500 last month towards principal, they know I’m one of those irritating hate to have debt sort of people. The only reason I even have it is I needed a teeny-weeny bit more to avoid paying PMI on my mortgage.
    Hate them, but I love my mortgage broker, who is a sweet creature and unfortunately works for CW.

  38. lostalaska says:

    Throw the book at them, and then pick it back up and beat them retarded with it.

    That kind of underhanded tactic needs some kind of severe penalty.

  39. grebby says:

    @jerros: Not getting a statement suddenly means you have no obligation to make your monthly mortgage payment on time?

  40. shadow735 says:

    Just so you few know I worked as a senior bky specialist at a mortgage company and I delt primarliy with the issued involved (escrow) there are so many factors that could result in a loan not being current because of escrow payment impound increases and additions, and borrowers claiming they never recieved letters of those changes.
    Fact is I have done escrow breakdowns from loan origination as well as projected escrow balances which took in the future taxes and insurance to be paid out in the comming year as well as sent proof to the courts of escrow statements and impound changes sent to the borrower, 99% of the time all opposition to the amts owned due to escrow were dropped the 1% that was was due to pre-petition escrow impounds not being included in the filed POC because the escrow was not analyzed correctly when the poc was done or the judge just being debtor friendly.
    There are so many different factors/ laws and rules in the bky process that people will not have a clue on the facts.
    I dont know what countrywides record keeping is like or what form thier escrow letters are sent or how they back up old letters previous sent. But I have submitted system generated letters that were sent, sometimes data was corrupted what most likely happened here was theyre were unable to find said letter but recreated it based on system information. The only problem here is they should have told the court this information to begin with.
    Escrow is a very complicated thing its not cut and dry you cant say you owe this much as it is always changing each payment you send it adds money to the account and each dispursment for taxes and insurance takes away from the account. I worked at this for 5 years so I know my stuff I will tell you this. people are lazy head in the sand hiding system abusing people. What they think they owe is not what they actually owe. There is a preconcieved notion that mort companies make money with an escrow account, well they do not. Also if you dont pay your taxes or insurance it will get force placed its int he docs, read up a bit on the bky process there are oh so many ways escrow can get messed up, till you actually work loans in bky you wont have a clue.

  41. mgyqmb says:

    @Sam Glover: Usually they just say that they have said evidence. In this case….they actually fabricated it. This has to involve a lot of people.

  42. 1greensix says:

    Don’t worry. No judge is going to go after a large bank. Not with the current administration in the Whitewash House. The homeowners lawyer will be lucky to get out with his license in tact.

  43. Sam Glover says:

    @mgyqmb: I am guessing it’s just the first time anyone noticed.

  44. cosby says:

    Creditors often pretend to have more information or power then they do. For the to fake documents in court is interesting though. I would have not put it past them to send fake documents. I can only hope the defence laywer lets them have it.

  45. filmhack9 says:

    As someone already mentioned, it is required by law to notify the borrower that the loan will be ‘servicing released’-hard to miss in that giant paper stack of legalese, right? Many of the originating banks (that have since gone belly-up) relied on this as their main profit vehicle-and went dark when the price they anticipated getting on the open market fell off a cliff last year…

  46. Jesse in Japan says:

    @RufusNC: Doesn’t that amount to perjury though?

  47. skinman says:

    I had a loan with Countrywide for 7 years and never had any problems. Granted I never had much need to contact them. I paid on time and my payments were always applied correctly.

    Having said that I don’t want to come across as defending Countrywide. But these letters are likely result of incompetence rather than some sort of corporate maliciousness. I worked for a mortgage servicer for many years and in my experience this sort of thing was probably an employee playing CYA. Someone in the collections dept. probably didn’t generate and mail the letters when they were required. Then that employee recreated the letters in an effort to escape the responsibility of those lost fees. In my opinion that is a very likely scenario. Still, no matter how those letters came to be, there is no excuse for Countrywide’s attempt to collect those fees. But I seriously doubt that Countrywide has some sort of unwritten policy of fabricating evidence.

  48. terieaston says:

    My sister and her husband had applied for a mortgage refi through CW. On closing day, they were contacted and the terms of the mortgage completely changed. They were told they would reschedule the closing for another day because CW was still doing the paperwork on changing the terms. They terms were changed again 3 times. Of course, my sister refused the loan because the final terms were subprime and predatory. The loan advisor even contacted me and requested I advise them they would have serious trouble getting a loan anywhere else if they refused CW’s mortgage! They have good credit and have gone elsewhere. Now CW refuses to refund all the application fees, as their guarantee stated they would. We have contacted the BBB and filed complaints with CW president’s office but no answers.

  49. shadow735 says:

    more then likely the orig proof of mailing data was corrupted, so the person recreated the letter that was sent out based on info in the system and put the new address on the letter in error, the actual copy of the letter sent out could have been unretreivable. point is the default is more then likely all escrow for taxes and insurance countrywide paid out.
    the pre-petition portion(amt that was paid for taxes/insurance before the bky was filed) of the escrow shortage was never determined so it was never put into the poc so that it could be included in the ch 13 plan. When this happens and the ch 13 is discharged any unpaid escrow will be tacked onto post pmts, or if the person handing the bky loan in countrywide didnt send out a letter to the trustee for post pmt increase due to escrow the loan would show delq because of the added shortage impounds on regular payments.
    It all boils down to someone dropped the ball, which happens a lot when you take into account how many people they have to service the massive amt of loans in bky and foreclosure. its small when I was in the bky dept we had 20 people to service some 15,000 loans and that was just sub prime who knows how many loans countrywide handles

  50. Nighthawke says:

    The City of Brotherly Love is going to get Medieval on countrywide for their fun and games in the subprime arena anyway. So this case may get a bigger punch if it gets incorporated with the larger one that’s spooling up.