Consumer Lawyers Drawn to Foreclosure-Fighting Bootcamp On Remote Farm

A growing band of consumer lawyers have been pilgrimaging to a farm located in the depths of the North Carolina mountains to learn the secrets of fighting foreclosures by exploiting lenders’ flawed document trail.

O. Max Gardner III is their guru, dishing out advice in between his wife’s home-cooked meals and over single-malt Scotch.

His essential method revolves around finding holes in the process as the mortgages were securitized, like lost promissory notes and sketchy loan ownership tracking. Robo-signer foreclosure mills tried to cover up the errors with affidavits with false signatures on them and assigning mortgages after the fact.

599 people have gone through the program and afterward they stay in touch on a private email newsletter. By sharing documents and finding patterns of misconduct together, they’re able to take on some of the “tall building” law firms and keep their clients’ homes or get them sizable settlement checks.

One thing Gardner loves to do is let creditors hang themselves on their own documents.

“The more false documents and inconsistent documents I get the other side to produce, the more legal leverage I have against them.”

If you’re a homeowner facing foreclosure, you can find a consumer lawyer graduate of Max’s bootcamp in this roster.

Foreclosure Lawyers Go to Gardner’s Farm for Edge on Lenders [Bloomberg]


Edit Your Comment

  1. Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

    Loving it.

  2. tedyc03 says:

    Just because you defaulted doesn’t mean you don’t deserve due process. And if banks are committing fraud in the process, they deserve to be called out.

    • Kate says:

      Banks deserve to be called out if they are messing up the process with bad procedure. Doing that can create problems for anyone thereafter who buys that house, or does business with that bank.

      Deregulation is bad for all of us.

      • huadpe says:

        Well, this is a combination of really stringent regulations colliding with deregulation. There are none of these issues with, for example, car loans, even though car loans were securitized just as much as home loans. The regulations on title documents are however, much more convoluted than for cars, so you get the insanity that’s ensued.

  3. mobiuschic42 says:

    The only problem with this is that for any of this to work, you have to be a) able to afford a lawyer and b) Dealing with a judge who’s not so drowned in foreclosures that (s)he can actually look at your case. This NPR piece outlines a Florida foreclosure where the bank granted a loan modification but forgot to remove the foreclosure from the docket.
    “DePuy immediately hired a lawyer and went back to the rocket docket with a motion seeking to overturn the foreclosure. The judge ruled against her — and said it was a justified sale. “The judge actually admitted she had not read my affidavit or any of the information because she had too many cases to listen to that day,” DePuy says. “So, I think that’s a big part of the problem right there.””

    • bsh0544 says:

      I have to wonder what’s the point if the judge isn’t even going to bother looking into the case. Why be proud of a system that’s efficiently failing?

      • JustLurking says:

        Yeah, really. If using robo-signers is wrong, then a robo-judge is even worse.

        It is, isn’t it? Someone tell me a judge rubber stamping a foreclosure because he has no time to read it represents some sort of judicial misconduct or dereliction of his duty.

    • mythago says:

      These lawyers are probably working on a contingency-fee arrangement, meaning you don’t pay them and they get a cut of any recovery if they win.

      • Karita says:

        There isn’t much in the way of recovery if you defend a foreclosure case. We represent borrowers who are in foreclosure, but it’s hard to find clients who are able to pay. And unlike with short sales, there’s no chance of getting money at the end of the process. Maybe things are different in other states, but I’ve never come across a settlement in a standard foreclosure defense.

        • mythago says:

          Aren’t there awards for fees and costs though?

          • Karita says:

            Not that I’ve seen. Of course, we’ve never had one thrown out entirely – until recently, there was no real chance of fighting the lender and actually winning. Things might be different now. I’ll be alleging fraud in a case soon (nothing related to the paperwork issues we’ve been hearing about lately, but rather a true case of mortgage fraud), and because there have been so many well-publicized issues surrounding foreclosures, I think we might actually get someone to listen this time. Only time will tell. Often we can get the lender to modify by going through the mediation program the courts have set up. Occasionally we can get them to withdraw the case for a few months while the lender takes a breather and gets all its paperwork in order.

  4. Megalomania says:

    oh my that is a grammatically ambiguous title

    • pecan 3.14159265 says:

      It really is. I had to read it a few times. “Consumer Lawyers Drawn to Foreclosure-Fighting Bootcamp on Remote Farm” would’ve been soooo much easier to read…and not passive.

  5. Evil_Otto would rather pay taxes than make someone else rich says:

    No “PAY YOUR MORTGAGE ON TIME YOU FREELOADERS HERP DERP” reply yet? Must be too early for the trolls to be out..

    • u1itn0w2day says:

      Only if they had only paid their mortgage on time. Only if they had only bought something they could actually afford. Only if they had only bought a place to live instead on an investment.

      ONLY if the banks and lawyers and had followed the rules of the very same system they were/are using to foreclose on some of these wanna be home buyers.

    • grapedog says:

      There is nothing wrong with people saying that these people should be paying their mortgage. They SHOULD be… but they are also entitled, as someone said above, to due process of law. If the banks cannot forclose on them legally, then that’s an issue. The people who own the house will most likely still end up having to pay in the end, but it will come about in a different fashion once true ownership of the property has been discovered.

      • mythago says:

        Evil_Otto is talking about the “OMFG JUST PAY R MORTGAGE WHARRRRGARBL” types that ooze out in these discussions. Consumerist didn’t used to need a Comments Code.

  6. RickinStHelen says:

    Just one man and his wife (dramatic music) fighting the banking terrorist (building music) holed up in a ramshackle farmhouse in North Carolina (Crescendo) Arnold Schwarzenegger (cymbal crash) and Marg Helgenberger (piano run) in a film by the producers of Wall Street (more cymbals) and The Insider (rolling cymbals). Forclose This, coming this Christmas. A Jerry Bruckheimer film. This film has not yet been rated. (Giant Cymbal crash and a picture of a burning mortgage.)

  7. MonkeyMonk says:

    Sadly, for every legitimately screwed-over homeowner using these lawyers there will be another 100 using them to try to game the system and get out from under their own mistakes. The legal system handling these problems will get hopelessly bogged down and once again we’ll all pay the price for people buying houses they couldn’t afford.

    • Evil_Otto would rather pay taxes than make someone else rich says:

      And there it is, 2 comments later.

    • Bob Lu says:

      What’s wrong about another 100 using them to try to game the system and get out from under their own mistakes? Banks do it all the time.

      Or is it OK to have two sets of laws, (or even, two sets of moral values), one for regular people and one for big companies?

      • MonkeyMonk says:

        I’ve got at least two problems with people fighting legitimate foreclosures on technicalities:

        1) It’s going to just make it that much harder for people who do have a legitimate problem having their cases fairly heard. This is partially what caused the problem in the first place — the banks tried to push too many foreclosures through at once and essentially broke the system in place to provide a fair checks and balances for homeowners.

        2) Ultimately it’s going to be the US citizens (including me and others who were responsible and bought mortgages we could afford) who end up paying for all this.

        There are plenty of people who have a legit right to be pissed off about the foreclosure process. I’d like to see these people getting assistance, not the crowd that feels a sense of entitlement and doesn’t feel responsible for any of the mistakes they’ve made. If this makes me sound pro-bank then oh well.

        • ARP says:

          So are you suggesting that banks and other big business would use ever legal means at their disposal to get out their legal obligations on technicalities?

          And yes, we already paid for their mistakes- remember TARP?

          I find it odd that we have a double stanard for appropriate behavior for corporations v. people, when more and more, corporations have all the rights (and even more) than people.

        • Bob Lu says:

          It is wrong if people (companies are also people, as supreme ruled) are allowed to commit crimes without being punished.

          But it is even more wrong if only SOME people are allowed to commit crimes without being punished.

          And if we can not make EVERYONE obey the low or take responsibility, I say let’s let everything burn.

          In other words, I’d like to agree with you, if you can convince me that the banks are not going to get anything when they feel a sense of entitlement and doesn’t feel responsible for any of the mistakes they’ve made.

        • Unclaoshi says:

          You maybe right but also if the system and rules were followed correctly people wouldnt need to be fighting it because they would be in the wrong no question, but with robo signers and all the falsified paperwork the banks deserve what they get when it comes to people doing this. No matter what happens they wont go back to how it should work there is going to be a new precedent, more complex system and more rules that wont necessarily make things easier.

          • Doubts42 says:

            but the problem is it is not the banks “getting what they deserve” it is Joe taxpayer getting what a handful of executives who made the decisions deserve.

        • mythago says:

          Lying under oath is a “technicality”? Okay.

          1) If the banks had followed the law in the first place, there wouldn’t be any ability to game the system, and the courts wouldn’t be bogged down.

          2) “All this” meaning “mortgages banks should not have issued, and then screwed up by robosigning.”

          You’re kind of aiming your pissofficity at the wrong target there, Tex.

    • mythago says:

      If you’re going to write PR for Bank of America, you should do it for pay. Free dumb commenting is a waste of your talents.

    • mac-phisto says:

      …and once again we’ll all pay the price for banks skirting the law for fun & profit.

      there, fixed it for you.

  8. PBallRaven says:

    60 miles outside of Charlote is NOT the “depths of the North Carolina mountains”. You’re barely getting into the foothills at that point.

  9. Bagumpity says:

    Cue Rush Limbaugh and Bill O’Reilly calling these “Mortgage Madrassas” in 5…4…3…2…

  10. Michael Bauser says:

    Don’t do it, lawyers! It’s a trap! As soon as you’re all in the barn, a sneaky banker is going to push one of the dyanamite plunger things and blow up the farm!