Robo-Signer Confession: 'I Don't Know The Ins & Outs Of The Loan, I Just Sign Documents'

In spite of their nickname, “robo-signers” — those hired to process the mountain of foreclosure documents during the recent recession — are flesh and blood human beings. And like many human beings, they also know very little about mortgages and foreclosures.

According to a Florida lawyer who represents around 3,000 homeowners, the people installed into “foreclosure expert” gigs with minimal or no training didn’t exactly have extensive financial and/or real estate backgrounds. Rather, they were people with unrelated jobs like hair stylists, retail and assembly line work.

Writes the AP:

In depositions released Tuesday, many of those workers testified that they barely knew what a mortgage was. Some couldn’t define the word “affidavit.” Others didn’t know what a complaint was, or even what was meant by personal property. Most troubling, several said they knew they were lying when they signed the foreclosure affidavits and that they agreed with the defense lawyers’ accusations about document fraud.

According to reports, one deposed “foreclosure supervisor” from Litton Loan Servicing (a division of Goldman Sachs) couldn’t define basic terms like “promissory note,” “mortgagee,” “lien,” “receiver,” or “defendant.”

She testified that she didn’t know what the required conditions were for a bank to foreclose or who the holder of the mortgage note was.

In a statement that basically sums up the entire clusterf*ck, she testified, “I don’t know the ins and outs of the loan, I just sign documents.”

Because of revelations like this, Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase and GMAC/Ally have temporarily stopped foreclosures and foreclosure sales in a number of states.

Robo-signers: Mortgage experience not necessary [Salon]

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  1. u1itn0w2day says:

    Just one of millions of sheeple who have gotten through life being blissfully ignorant.

    • the Persistent Sound of Sensationalism says:

      Does that surprise you? Although I’m not a fan of the trending of sheople, you have to realize that they’re following their shepherds. It’s tough to do the right thing when you know that they’ll just fire you and replace you with someone who will. That’s how sheople are made. “Do what we tell you to do and don’t question it because there are plenty of people to replace you who won’t question it.”

      • smo0 says:

        America 2010.

        • the Persistent Sound of Sensationalism says:

          Yes, exactly. When you put all the pieces together, you see that the current state of affairs is designed this way. When unemployment is high, employers can get people to do whatever they want, it’s the corporate wet dream. When unemployment is low, it’s the workers’ market and the working class have the power.

      • TheRedSeven says:

        This is always how I imagine that conversation going if I ever find myself there–

        Supervisor: Do this evil deed.
        Me: No. It’s evil.
        S: If you don’t do it, we’ll fire/kill/disappear you, and find someone else to take your place. Nothing will change, so you might as well do it.
        Me: One thing will change–it won’t be me doing it.

        Consequences will follow, but I’ll have as clear a conscience as possible.

        • ARP says:

          But its often more complicated. You assume a thriving job market with health care paid for.

          Boss: Do this evil thing.
          You: No
          Boss: If you don’t, we’ll fire you. And since your wife is sick and you get insurance through your work, you’ll have to pay for Cobra and it will bankrupt you and she’ll die. [Or, since you just bought that house, you'll get foreclosed and since the job market is horrible, you migh not find work for months and your family wil be out on the streets]
          You (losing bit of your soul): OK, just tell me what I need to do.

        • tanyaandkarl says:

          So, it’s just that simple. Don’t sign it if you’re not sure, and let the chips fall where they may.
          Sleep soundly, secure in the knowledge that you have fulfilled your duty to your own moral ideal.
          What about…

          Duty to self.
          Duty to family.
          Duty to Nation.
          Duty to the law.
          Duty to my own moral.
          Duty to Religion–or to God, as you prefer.
          Duty to fellow employees working alongside me.
          Duty to unknown human being (the creditor who’s not getting paid).
          Duty to my promise–to deliver the work for the money I’m being paid.
          Duty to unknown human being (the guy getting kicked out of his house).

          Did you satisfy all of those duties as well?
          CAN you satisfy all of them?

          If you pick one duty and abandon all others during a conflict, you get to be right ALL THE TIME.
          Be very careful which one you pick.

      • andrewe says:

        Or you could look at it from the opposite perspective.

        Each of the rubber stamp employees had to know that every case that they worked on was another family losing their home. At what point do you ask yourself if maybe there weren’t a few cases that didn’t meet foreclosure criteria. Do you just shut off your brain and continue rubber stamping people out of their homes?

        I think these employees knew full well what they were doing and chose to continue to collect wages and profit from others’ misery. Shame on every one of them.

        • runswithscissors says:

          Agreed, but to play devil’s advocate; look at how many commenters on here reply to every foreclosure story with “shouldn’t have bought more house than they could afford”.

          While some foreclosures sure are such cases, some are not. But its easy for some folks to point fingers and cast blame and then do whatever they want now that the mortgage holder “deserves it”. Get a few dozen people who like to think that way and you’ve got your loyal robo-signers.

        • kujospam says:

          Watch the First view “Movies” of Lexx. That is how our population will become.

    • Chaosium says:

      They’re really not to blame for the mess we’re in.

      • grapedog says:

        They rubber stamped the fraud, they are just as culpable as anyone else.

      • Pax says:

        Yes, they are. “Ignorance of the law cannot be allowed to become a defense.” Their ignorance does not shield them for blame for what they did, because they did it.

        • mythago says:

          It doesn’t shield them from blame, but it certainly shouldn’t be allowed to shield the companies that hired them to ‘robosign’. THEY certainly knew what they were doing.

        • Chaosium says:

          “Yes, they are. “Ignorance of the law cannot be allowed to become a defense.” Their ignorance does not shield them for blame for what they did, because they did it.”

          Responsible for their actions. Not responsible for being ordered to do this by their superiors, who DO have extensive training in what not to do.

  2. dgm says:

    I guess they were “just following orders”.

    /Godwin

  3. Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

    Hiring someone not qualified for the job is the responsibility of the employer. Knowing what you’re doing is legaling wrong but continuing anyway is the responsibility of the employee.

    • Chaosium says:

      I’d say if everyone you hire is incompetent, untrained, and put to fraud, the employer should hold the most responsibility.

      • Clyde Barrow says:

        Yes the most responsibility, but responsibility also lies on the employee’s shoulders to have enough common sense and good judgment to know whether their actions could be illegal. These people should have reported it and quit.

        Finding a money on the street and not knowing who owns it does not justify in keeping it. It’s your responsibility to follow through and report it.

        This attitude about acting ignorant is for the fricking birds and it’s become an epedemic in this country and it’s total BS.

  4. cmdr.sass says:

    Replace “I don’t know the ins and outs of the loan, I just sign documents.”
    With “I don’t know the ins and outs of the bill, I just vote with party leaders.”
    and you have Congress.

  5. jason in boston says:

    Although I know only civil suits might come of this, I really wish there could be criminal charges.

    • ArtlessDodger says:

      Not trolling, just curious. Why can’t there be criminal liability? Why only civil?

      • jason in boston says:

        Not a lawyer – only took a couple semesters worth of business law in school. One of the reasons that you incorporate in the US is that the company will be held liable (unless there is a really really bad case when people are actually being killed) for monetary damages. There can be SEC charges that will result in jail – but those are extremely rare.

        • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

          That doesn’t excuse criminal charges. I believe the banking industry committing fraud falls under a federal court.

          • jason in boston says:

            But what is the charge? And can a single person be held criminally liable for the work of a corporate entity? I don’t know the answer.

            • Pax says:

              Perjury.

              Affidavits are, IIRC, under the same rules and requirements as sworn testimony presented in-person in a court.

    • mythago says:

      The individual signers could be charged with perjury.

      The real fun is in ethics charges for any lawyers who presented these affidavits during foreclosure proceedings.

  6. Thyme for an edit button says:

    If you knew you were lying, but did it anyway, you probably deserve a criminal charge and fines, community service, and maybe a little time in jail. Sorry your parents didn’t teach you lying is a no-no and now the state has to do it.

    Same goes for your idiot supervisor.

    • jessjj347 says:

      I agree that they should be held personally responsible, however, I think it would be a shame to not hold the employer responsible as well. All of the banks will probably get away scot-free (sp?) because they’re merely using a third-party to process paper work.

    • Galium says:

      Why do you think the banks hired them? They are the buffer, the executives at the bank did not do anything wrong, the employees did. The employees will be held responsible, and the bankers will find another way to screw everyone.

      • Clyde Barrow says:

        The NAZIs used this same logic after WWII while on trial. They said that they didn’t kill anyone at the camps because they did not directly do the killing. This is because they forced the prisoners to drop the Zyklon B pellets into the water. Yep, that logic didn’t work too well and it shouldn’t here either.

        Direct or indirectly, these asshole bankers are guilty.

  7. ARP says:

    My guess is that this was intentional- If you compartmentalize people’s roles, nobody can go to jail when you do something unlawful, because its nearly impossible to prove a conspiracy at a corporate level- its all just paperwork errors, or failure to follow an official procedure.

    It also creates plausible deniability on the part of the company, they hire people that don’t know what they’re doing, then blame them when the correct process wasn’t followed, even though they often encourage them not to follow procedure or make following procedure functionally impossible (you might review and sign 1000 foreclosures per day or you’re fired).

    So, when do I get to get out trouble for claiming administrative errors or procedure wasn’t followed?

    • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

      Hell no. Hiring someone unqualified for the position is very trackable and definitely chargable.

      So hiring managers (tier one management) at the very least can be held responsible. But that can easily move higher up.

      Not to mention that executive sign documents that make them legally responsible for certain aspects of legal and financial issues of the company.

      • Gramin says:

        Um… you’re wrong. In most instances, it is not illegal to hire an unqualified employee. Please, cite your source. There are those obvious exceptions, such as lawyers and doctors, in which a specific degree and/or certification is required by law. This is not such an example.

        • smo0 says:

          Maybe that’s the problem… even something as simple as a notary… you need to have the proper certification.. make this ONE OF THOSE JOBS.

        • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

          As a subject matter expect, let me assure you that managers are most definitely held accountable to their employee’s actions. If you company’s accountant fails to submit payroll taxes, your CFO is legally responsible. Managers bare the burden of responsibility for their hourly workers. And in situations like this, where the negligence is due to lack of training, you bet your bottom dollar that management is legally and ethically responsible for their actions.

          • Gramin says:

            Well no shit, Sherlock. Per your post: “Hiring someone unqualified for the position is very trackable and definitely chargable.”

            That statement is utterly false. The act of hiring an under-qualified individual is not a criminal offense. Again, please provide a reference illustrating the opposite.

            If I, acting as an agent of my employer (a large financial institution), commit fraud, then yes, my employer, the bank, is responsible and liable for my actions. However, if they hire me just because I’m dating the daughter of the boss but lack any other qualifications, they can’t be held criminally liable.

            Simply put, you’re talking out your ass.

            Nobody disputes that a company is liable for the actions of its employees. The hiring practice, short of documented civil rights violations, is largely free from criminal charges.

            • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

              You are taking it out of context. Or more precisely, you’re not putting it INTO context.
              The context being when fraud is committed. I didn’t talk about dating the boss’s daughter. I am talking about FRAUDULENT ACTIVITY

              F-R-A-U-D-U-L-E-N-T A-C-T-I-V-I-T-Y. Yes, I spelled it out for you. It’s the topic of the post.

              Please, explain to us AGAIN how hiring incompetent people, which leads to fraud, is not the manager’s responsibility?

              I’ll wait.

              • halfcuban says:

                You’re still confusing the two; hiring incompetent people is not something you can be found liable for, period, unless it is a situation of job that is required by virtue of a state or national licensing board with regulatory authority to be licensed. Doctors, lawyers, house contractors etc.

                On the other hand what IS illegal is when the incompetent employee screws up and commits an illegal act under the aegis of a supervisor or manager who knows about it. This is kind of splitting hairs, but its an important point, as hiring idiots to work for you isn’t a problem until they actually commit a crime, and not simply be bad at their job or being unqualified for a position that does not actually require any sort of licensing.

                • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

                  Oh for the love of Christ.

                  I
                  Am
                  Not
                  Talking
                  About
                  Hiring
                  Incompetent
                  People
                  In
                  General

                  I am speaking of fraud due to incompetence.

                  Speaking of incompetence…. YOU!

                  • Gramin says:

                    READ YOUR ORIGINAL POST!!! “Hiring someone unqualified for the position is very trackable and definitely chargable.”

                    Hiring an unqualified individual IS NOT a crime! If I commit fraud, yes, my employer can be held responsible. But that’s not what you wrote. You stated that the act of hiring an unqualified person is a crime, and that’s just not the case.

                  • Greely says:

                    If you keep talking and repeat yourself enough, maybe he’ll think you’re right!

      • ARP says:

        I think you’re referring to “negligent hiring” which is often a claim in Personal Injury (tort) cases. But, it’s very rare in criminal cases. So having a bunch of unqalified people doing the work could expose them to tort suits, but they’re hard to prove and (not) surprisingly enough, the people who would sue them, often don’t have the money to pursue.

        On, the signature side, I think this may expose them to civil/contract liability, but not criminal liability.

        • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

          Why is this so hard (Gramin can’t get it either)

          Maybe you don’t understand that Supervisors, because they are responsibile for your oversight, are actually responsible for your actions, legally. So while hiring an incompetent person is in no way a crime, it does open you up to liability if that person commits a work-related crime such as fraud.

          And because banks are inter-state company’s, they fall under federal scrutiny. Bank fraud is a federal, and therefore criminal, offense.

    • Clyde Barrow says:

      I always found it laughable when the very people who study law, use that very system that they swear to uphold and then manipulate it to better themselves for greed. What a nice system of law we have.

  8. palfas says:

    Strange, I don’t see TuxthePenguin spouting off about how too many government regulations are ruining everything here.

    Very strange.

    • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

      Also, no word from Macgyver about how it’s the homeowner’s fault for obtaining a mortgage from a corrupt and incompetent company.

  9. Alex says:

    That’s not being ‘flesh and blood human’, that’s being willfully ignorant.

  10. Macgyver says:

    This is why the country is fucked up, cause these companies hire unqualified people for the job that have no idea what they doing, but yet there are a lot of unemployed people out there who are qualified for the job.

    • smartmuffin says:

      Really? There are a lot of mortgage/financial experts out there who would be willing to take what seems to be a completely menial, most likely low-paying job that consists of rubber-stamping documents all day?

      Please.

      • Galium says:

        Why would the banks hire someone who knew what they where doing. This would have slowed the process down with knowledgeable people working. The banks just got caught with their hands in the cookie jar again. They also where caught trying to slip the “big one” through congress. I am still trying to figure out how they will slide out from under this besides blaming the employee. Any guesses what their next, screw America, will be?

    • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

      This began before the housing bubble burst. They were hired prior or right at the beginning of the issue – likely not many financial people were on the street yet.

      Smartmuffin is also right – of the few that were likely none of them would have considered that type of job yet. And now…. who wants to be known as a robo-signer?

      • Gramin says:

        No… most of these people were hired after the bust. These people have always existed, but not in the numbers that we see today. My firm looked at a couple of these businesses that specialize in foreclosure processing and there numbers are off the charts! Their YOY EBITDA is ridiculous and they’re staffing up like crazy. Fortunately, we didn’t pursue any of them.

        • Clyde Barrow says:

          These folks are TEMPS and they’re cheap with zero bennies. Again, it’s all about how much money a company can retain for itself so greed is the bottom line.

  11. Why is this on Consumerist? says:

    Just void the mortgages and give the people the houses. If the companies broke the law, PUNISH them. Revoke their charters, revoke their right to business in specific states, fine the living shit out of them, put their CEOs in jail, whatever. You want corporate personhood, fine, but then we can put you up for capitol punishment when you commit mass fraud.

    • HideYaKidsHideYaWife says:

      Brilliant idea….the people who stopped paying their mortgages in the first place should just have all their debt absconded! No consequences for anyone! What’s a little moral hazzard anyway.

      • hypnotik_jello says:

        We already had plenty of moral hazard with the bailouts.
        Bailouts for some, American flags for others!

      • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

        Hey, if you did wrong by not paying your mortgage, you lost your house. But if someone took your house away due to fradulent activity, they too must be punished. I say part of that punishment is to have to watch their new assets (the homes) returned to the people they committed fraud against.

      • Erik Hughes says:

        You wouldn’t necessarily have your debt forgiven if the bank can’t foreclose because they can’t prove ownership. You would still owe them the money and they could try and collect. Of course if you file for bankruptcy in many states, you’d be free and clear…

    • jason in boston says:

      One would argue to put the Board of Directors in Jail – The CEO mostly works for them.

    • Oranges w/ Cheese says:

      But that’s socialism.

      • Pax says:

        No, actually. It’s capitalism,and basic legal principle: you cannot profit from a criminal action you have committed. Ever. Period.

        These banks, by proxy, have broken the law (submitting an affidavit the signer does not absolutely know to be 100% true, is perjury), in the course of administering a foreclosure of a mortgage. They should not be allowed to profit from that action.

        Ruling in equity, IMO? They surrender all further legal interest in the property, immediately.

        A somewhat less-drastic ruling would allow them to retain a lien on that property in the amount of the remaining principle of the original loan, with no late fees or interest accruable, and no right to foreclose on the property ever … only to be repaid that sum, out of whatever the property might sell for in the future (if ever).

  12. mcs328 says:

    That’s like hiring workers to prep and handle your food but then skip washing their hands so they can get food out quicker.

  13. HideYaKidsHideYaWife says:

    What is the difference between these “Robo-Signers” and the homeowner who originally signed the mortgage document they didn’t understand and on a house they couldn’t afford???

    It’s too easy to pass the blame onto these “robor-signers”. The novation on these homes may have been done improperly, but that doesn’t change the fact that these were still defunct mortgages on houses being.

    Let’s stop looking for scapegoats and focus on the real issues here.

    • hypnotik_jello says:

      Uhm, you don’t have a problem with the fact that foreclosures aren’t happening in a lawful, by the book, due process sort of way?

      Please.

      • HideYaKidsHideYaWife says:

        Of course i do. There absolutely should be a degree of due diligence done by all these banks before officially foreclosing on a home. But you are missing my point. Foreclosures don’t just occur out of nowhere (and yes i know there have been scattered instances of accidental notices of foreclosures on current mortgages). The homeowner has to stop making payments on their mortgage in order to trigger the process. This is where the problem originates.

        There is a much larger issue here and that is the number of families that have mortgages under water and stop paying beacuse of this. We only keep kicking the can further down the road by not working to absolve all this bad debt.

        The banks have been working extensively to do this by slimming down their balance sheets and selling off all these foreclosed houses. I agree that more oversight is needed in this process, but halting it all together is a big mistake.

        • jason in boston says:

          Some foreclosures are happening from a) people that have never been late and b) people that paid cash for their home.

          If people can’t afford their mortgages then they should not have taken the loan out in the first place. But for people that are current or already own their deed outright, I can understand if someone would go “Falling Down” on a corporate HQ of a bank.

          • Pax says:

            Also, some people are having their homes foreclosed when (c) THEY NEVER HAD A MORTGAGE AT ALL.

            Based, in no small part, on the inaccurate, unverified, and IMO criminally negligent practises of these very “robo-signers”.

            • jason in boston says:

              My B and your C mean the same thing.

              • Pax says:

                Hmm, somehow my brain short-circuited on that.

                Still, they’re not exactly the same. :) My friend’s father is, sadly, dying (we all do, once Old Age finally catches up to us). Said friend will be inheriting the house (where he grew up, actually) … without paying a penny for it.

                So … replace my prior (C) with a new one I just remembered reading stories abut, here on the Consumerist:

                (C) People who have a mortgage with an entirely different bank than the one “foreclosing” on them.

        • hypnotik_jello says:

          You don’t think it should be halted while things can be checked out to make sure instances of fraud are minimized? It’s not like these banks are doing an indefinite moratorium on foreclosures. Only until they can ascertain the level of fraud and work out proper procedures to mitigate any further fraud.

        • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

          Have you not been paying attention the last 2 years? It’s a series of events that are not much under control of the homeowner, not to mention unscurulous behavior that got us here.

          If you want to blame homeowner’s for taking an irresponsible mortgage, fine. But do it on an article that battles that topic. This article is talking specifically about fraudulent behavior WELL past the inception of the mortgage and that in no way can be blamed by the homeowner.

          So STFU unless you have something to say about the topic at hand.

    • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

      Troll comment.

  14. Nigerian prince looking for business partner says:

    Hearing this kind of stuff makes me glad that I work in a field with professional certifications and specific standards/guidelines determined by federal and state law.

  15. areaman says:

    Florida again.

  16. JiminyChristmas says:

    This reminds me of my 6-year-old niece playing “office.” When she played office she would sit at a desk and her friend would bring her papers to sign. This was a fun game because if you sat at a desk and signed things it meant you were an important office person.

    So, my 6-year-old niece was signing things but didn’t really know what she was doing… not unlike the real-life foreclosure supervisors.

  17. sopmodm14 says:

    hey, if the bank hires these ppl, they should be responsible for the bad things that happen

    its easy to pin the blame on the employee or the human resources person, but it all trickles down from somewhere

    you share the glory, you share the doom….this is inversely proportional to CEO wages and amount of work put in

    • banndndc says:

      unfortunately, as others have said, these robosigners are individually liable. they are the ones who committed perjury. they are the ones who broke the law. the attestations they signed were personal.

      i don’t feel sorry for them. they are the ones who didnt read what they were signing. they were the ones who thought their job was to sign autographs all day. the only way to get at someone higher up is if one of them read the documents and raised the question of how they could attest to something that wasnt true. im not surprised that there are lots of people who wouldn’t read what they were signing but i am a bit surprised that nobody ever raised the issue. it’s not like they could be immediately fired for unwillingness to do an illegal act, they would have had at least had a few months while a bad employee file was created.

  18. u1itn0w2day says:

    Isn’t this how corporate America normally works. Wether it’s the professional executive wanting a raise or promotion or the entry level employee simply looking for work isn’t this the corporate way- just do or die but dare not question why? Or simply agree with and/or sign off what the corporate heads want.

  19. Pax says:

    Ignorance of the law cannot be considered a defense.

  20. u1itn0w2day says:

    Didn’t know what a mortgage was?

    I know with all the immigrants legal or not working in south Florida practices like this stand a chance. But most immigrants or new citizens I know know what a mortgage is. Without making these robo signers lawyers I bet most here could teach or give a basic orientation on things like a mortgage.

    Tight job markets even during the boom years in south Florida can make any job worth keeping especially to those who have zero to fall back on. But a slower process would’ve made for more job securtiy as well.

  21. sumocat says:

    I worked a temp job for a legal firm specializing in foreclosure, and the fact is a lot of it is just processing paperwork and getting all the forms in place before the files go to the paralegals. If the file does not go to a paralegal or attorney for final review, then that is a problem, but I didn’t see that mentioned in the article. Titles like “mortgage supervisor” are more akin to corporals than captains.

  22. evilpete says:

    And the banks still charged you thousands of dollars just the process your foreclosure paper work

  23. Clyde Barrow says:

    Oh how I would just love it if someone would secretly record a work session of hearing these lawyers tell these workers to do this such as the vid made during the ACORN scandal. And also a vid of the employee’s working while signing these documents. That would be priceless.

    Will someone send this page link to Congress?