As Florida real estate slowly pulls itself out of the foreclosure fraud files; there is finally a government agency standing up to the bully of banks!
Last week, Reuters News Service published an exclusive article exposing yet another way the banks have been defrauding taxpayers. This time it wasn’t directly through improper lending practices, robo-signing or bad assignments of mortgage.
Now, the IRS discovered that banks acting as servicers for “REMICs”, otherwise known as Real Estate Mortgage Investment Conduits, have been claiming tax-exempt status on the income they generate under favorable tax code provisions.
So what is a REMIC? A REMIC is a passive entity where mortgages are pooled and securitized into investments. Generally, the investors in REMICs are large funds, pension plans, and 401ks.
Not only did the banks failed to comply in any manner with the requirements of the Internal Revenue Code that allow this favorable tax treatment, they have apparently decided to ignore the IRC altogether.
So what does this mean for taxpayers?
It means that the banks have been systematically ignoring IRC provisions, thinking the IRS is too sheepish to enforce the law. These entities, as a result of the actions of the banks servicing the mortgages, have failed to pay billions of dollars in taxes, and robbed the government, and thus the American people, of that money.
The reason that REMICs were afforded this massive tax break is due to the fact that they are meant to be vehicles for passive investing, and as such they have rules for strict compliance that require that all mortgages passing into a REMIC must be transferred into a trust within 90 days of trust formation.
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In an eye-opening piece by 60 Minutes this week, Scott Pelley managed to actually interview robo-signers who had forged documents that allowed banks to foreclose on thousands of homes illegally. As we have discussed over the past few years, these document mills re-created the necessary documents that banks were too lazy to keep track of in the heyday of the housing bubble.
Signing 4000 documents a day for $10/hour
Pelley interviews Chris Pindley, a former robo-signer who estimates that he signed over 4,000 documents a day. Pindley signed the documents using a coworker’s name because her name was short and easy to write. This coworker, Linda Green, was given the title of “vice president” of about 20 different banks… at the same time. This “vice president” of multiple banks and her coworkers were paid 10 dollars an hour for their work. Pindley even remarked that as they sat around a table signing papers, he told the others that one day they would be on 60 Minutes: how prophetic.
Homeowner must have all paperwork perfect, while banks cheat and forge
While requiring thousands of everyday folks to have all of their paperwork perfect and wait in line for days just for the chance to beg for some sort of a reprieve, these banks felt that they could forge the documents they needed to throw people out of their homes. These kinds of double standards are endemic in the industry and are an unconscionable assault on the public. Scott Pelley’s work here is an invaluable insight behind the colossal corporate wall into the shenanigans of the banks and the everyday people caught up in the mess.
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In today’s USA Today article titled “Foreclosures take biggest dive in years in November,” Roy Oppenheim comments that in light of recent events, foreclosure judges have begun processing foreclosure cases more slowly.
Julie Schmit reports that U.S. foreclosure filings fell more last month than in the last five years after several large banks halted foreclosures amidst widespread allegations of robo-signers and improperly prepared or missing documents.
Data released by RealtyTrac today indicates that national foreclosure filings in November dropped 21 percent from the month before. According to a related story running in today’s South Florida Sun-Sentinel, foreclosure filings in Florida fell a staggering 42 percent in November. Florida remains the state with the second-highest foreclosure rate in the country.
Read this article in its entirety in the Oppenheim Law Media Room.