Friday, January 20, 2012
In recent weeks the Justice Department has come under renewed pressure from members of Congress, state and local officials and homeowners' lawyers to open a wide-ranging criminal investigation of mortgage servicers, the biggest of which have been Covington clients. So far Justice officials haven't responded publicly to any of the requests.
While Holder and Breuer were partners at Covington, the firm's clients included the four largest U.S. banks - Bank of America, Citigroup, JP Morgan Chase and Wells Fargo & Co - as well as at least one other bank that is among the 10 largest mortgage servicers.
Why won't the DOJ prosecute the big banks for their blatant mortgage fraud? This might explain it. But at the very least they should recuse themselves and appoint a special prosecutor to handle the investigation.
Consumers who sign credit card agreements that feature an arbitration clause cannot dispute fees or charges in court, the Supreme Court ruled Tuesday. The 8-to-1 decision drew immediate fire from consumer advocates.
To get a credit card, a consumer generally must sign a detailed agreement. In the fine print, almost always, is an arbitration clause that says that if consumers want to dispute fees, they must do so through arbitration, not in court.
A 1996 federal law allowed consumers to take their disputes to court. But in its ruling Tuesday, the Supreme Court said arbitration clauses in those agreements trump that law.
Your Supreme Court at work protecting consumers the way the usually do. Which is, not. Thanks to Beanie Adolph for this link. The full opinion is here.
SAN RAFAEL (KCBS / CBS 5) – The long-delayed plans of filmmaker George Lucas to build a movie production studio on the old Grady Ranch has stirred opposition among residents of a quiet bedroom community in Marin County.
The state-of-the-art facility would bring an outdoor soundstage and underground parking for 250 cars to an area residents said is zoned for single-family and multi-family residences.
The NIMBY Strikes Back!
Thursday, January 19, 2012
PITTSBURGH - The parents of a Pittsburgh boy who has health aversions to sunlight can add a retractable awning to the front of their home in settling a federal lawsuit against their neighborhood homeowner's association.
The association will also pay about $42,000 in legal costs and $10,000 in damages.
What a great use of the courts. Not.
Wednesday, January 18, 2012
About one million American homeowners would get writedowns in the size of their mortgages under a proposed deal with banks over shady foreclosure practices, Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan said on Wednesday.
The deal, which could be struck within weeks, would mark the largest cut in the mortgage load since the start of the credit crisis in 2007 and could pressure the government-sponsored mortgage agencies to also reduce principal on underwater home loans.
With the election closing in and with even the Fed saying that something has to be done for homeowners, the Obama Administration finally inches onto the thin ice of large-scale principal reduction. Now if we could just make some headway on turning underwater owners into renters we might have the start of a real housing policy.
"Homebuilder sentiment continued to improve in Jan, rising to 25 from 21, above expectations of 22 and it’s the best since June ’07. Present conditions rose 3 pts to 25 and the Future outlook was up 3 pts to 29. Prospective Buyers Traffic also gained 3 pts to 21. The NAHB chief economist said “builders are seeing greater interest among potential buyers as employment and consumer confidence slowly improve in a growing number of markets, and this has helped to move the confidence gauge up from near historic lows…That said, caution remains the word of the day as many builders continue to voice concerns about potential clients being unable to qualify for an affordable mortgage, appraisals coming through below construction cost, and the continuing flow of foreclosed properties hitting the market.”
From Barry Ritholtz' blog. We will see how this pans out in the year to come. With European sovereign debt/Euro issues, possible war with Iran, and a slowdown in China all looking like major question marks I would be reluctant to predict how the economy will fare this year. And there is the dead weight of negative home equity and foreclosures hanging over the housing market and the economy.
Vacant properties blog series will examine solutions to growing regional, national housing challenge
On Feb. 12, Cook County's vacant building ordinance takes effect, intended to help communities get a handle on both the sheer numbers and conditions of vacant properties in their borders. The ordinance requires owners of vacant properties to list a building as vacant on the county registry (if the community where the property is located is unincorporated) or on a municipal registry (if the municipality where the property is located chooses to partner with the county). The ordinance also requires all owners of vacant properties (whether the original mortgagees or new owners) to take responsibility for maintaining that property (mortgagees within 60 days of a mortgage default; new owners within 30 days of vacancy or after assuming ownership). Cook’s ordinance is very similar to an ordinance the Chicago City Council adopted in November 2011. That ordinance is now the target of a lawsuit, filed by the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA), claiming Chicago’s rules encroach on FHFA’s role as the sole regulator and supervisor of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which own about 258,000 mortgages within the city. FHFA is seeking an exemption for those mortgages; Chicago has vowed to take it to the courts.
According to the Woodstock Institute, nearly one in ten residential buildings in Cook County is VACANT.
Tuesday, January 17, 2012
According to an email from the HOA, construction was approved and permits were issued by the City of Round Rock. Then, the HOA issued a complaint to halt construction.
In fact, the HOA filed a lawsuit demanding work on the shed be stopped. The Pattons counter-sued, stating the HOA suit is without merit. Both the HOA's attorney and an HOA representative YNN reached over the phone refused to comment on the case.
The Patton's attorney, Derek Davis, said the entire process is a waste of time and money.
"It is, in my experience, one of the most frivolous lawsuits that I have ever dealt with," he said.
Welcome to Privatopia, where frivolous litigation such as this abounds.
Monday, January 16, 2012
If you want to see the problem with anonymous emails, read this. I teach at the University of Illinois at Chicago, one of three U of I campuses. The current president of the system, Michael Hogan, has a right hand henchperson named Lisa Troyer who has been with him for all three of his last jobs. He is trying to centralize admissions for all three campuses, which has produced a lot of faculty opposition. There was a faculty Senate committee discussing it on an email list. One of the members was spying for Troyer and feeding her confidential information (using a gmail pseudonymous account) that she was passing on to Hogan. But then Troyer (according to a detailed investigation) created her own fake id and started sending phony comments to the Senate committee members, claiming that she was a Senator who agreed with Hogan and was being intimidated. A computer science prof figured out what she had done, after which the whole stupid ploy melted down. Now she has lost her chief of staff job.
But the point is that people use fake identities on the web for all sorts of reasons, some good and some bad.
Former homeowners' association treasurer pleads guilty to embezzlement charges - theoaklandpress.com
A former treasurer of a homeowners’ association has pleaded guilty to an embezzlement charge.
Kevin Douglas Harris, who is accused of using some of the embezzled money to buy golf equipment, will be sentenced next month.
Got this from a weblog by Ward Lucas, who has a new book coming out called Neighbors at War: The Creepy Case Against Your Homeowner Association. That book link didn't go anywhere for me, but it may be an "under construction" page that you can check out soon.
Thanks to Fred Pilot for the link to Lucas' blog.
Former actor and American football player OJ Simpson is losing his house, after late fees, penalties, and overdue principal built up.
But, according to court records, the bank’s process server tried to deliver the foreclosure notice at Simpson’s Miami home.
Simpson, 64, has been imprisoned in a Nevada jail since 2008.
Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2087178/OJ-Simpson-loses-Miami-bungalow-foreclosure.html#ixzz1jdL3Yfmb
Nice example of the due diligence these mortgage companies bother to do when they foreclose.
Sunday, January 15, 2012
WASHINGTON - At a town-hall-style meeting in New Hampshire last month, listeners pressed Mitt Romney on the soaring cost of higher education. His solution: students should consider for-profit colleges like the little-known Full Sail University in Florida. A week later in Iowa, Mr. Romney offered another unsolicited endorsement for "a place in Florida called Full Sail University." By increasing competition, for-profit institutions like Full Sail, which focuses on the entertainment field, "hold down the cost of education" and help students get jobs without saddling them with excessive debt, he said. Mr. Romney did not mention the cost of tuition at Full Sail, which runs more than $80,000, for example, for a 21-month program in "video game art." Nor did he mention its spotty graduation rate. Or, for that matter, that its chief executive, Bill Heavener, is a major campaign donor and a co-chairman of his state fund-raising team in Florida.
Sure--great place to get a real education...in how not to spend your time and money.
The Florida Senate Rules Committee has proposed a bill that would require the state’s Department of Corrections to privatize all prisons and other correctional facilities in 18 counties, according to the News Service of Florida.
The state legislature passed nearly the same measure last year, but the law was ruled unconstitutional in court because it didn’t go through the committee process, violating the Florida Constitution.
The second largest private prison company in the world, GEO Group, has donated $822,000 to political campaigns in Florida, according to the nonpartisan National Institute on Money in Politics. The company also spent $25,000 for Florida Gov. Rick Scott’s (R) inauguration party.
When the record of this whole Reagan-era privatization racket is finally written, maybe a decade or two from now, I think the focus will not be on efficiency, but on corruption.
Heartless or clueless? The board of a no-pet seniors co-op on Long Island unleashed the hounds on a frail old woman who owned what her doctors called a therapy dog. Now, after the dog's removal and the woman's death, the situation has become literally a federal case about discrimination against the disabled.
Thanks to Pamela McKuen for this link.
From demographic shifts to federal government policies to alternating trends in retail sales, each photograph offers an example of one of the many conditions or causes of dereliction in the United States.
This scholar chose urban neighborhoods in old industrial cities (with one exception from Las Vegas) for his photos. It would be possible to do a similar slide show with vacant condos and suburban subdivisions.