Saved, for Now

The homeowner at the epicenter of the foreclosure documentation scandal has been granted a reprieve, at least temporarily.

Ally Financial Inc.'s GMAC Mortgage on Monday moved to have its foreclosure case against a Maine woman dismissed, according to her lawyer, Tom Cox.

"For now she gets to keep her home," he said. "In her case we pointed out the major defects that they had and I think they accepted that they weren't going to win this one. So they figured they need to refile."

The foreclosure case against Nicolle Bradbury has gained national attention since a deposition in the case of GMAC employee Jeffrey Stephan uncovered problems with the way affidavits and other court documents were executed by the company.

As a result, GMAC revamped its processes and stopped foreclosure sales and evictions in the 23 states where foreclosures are settled by a court while it reviewed the affidavits in those cases for potential inaccuracies. That set off a wave of foreclosure halts by other servicers, including Bank of America Corp. and JPMorgan Chase & Co. amid similar problems.

GMAC has been resuming the foreclosure process after each file is reviewed, the company said last week. So far, no evidence of any "inappropriate foreclosures" has been found, GMAC said.

A call to GMAC seeking comment about Bradbury's case was not returned as of press time.

No REO Relief

Guhan Venkatu, an economist at the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland, has concocted three different scenarios for how the massive 4.1 million shadow inventory of seriously delinquent loans and those in foreclosure will ultimately hit the market and be liquidated.

Suffice it to say, Venkatu does not offer much good news. The temporary foreclosure moratoriums of the past few weeks could throw a monkey wrench into his calculations as well.

For the past year, a smaller proportion of loans have been moving out of foreclosure every month because mortgage services have stepped up efforts to modify the loans of defaulted borrowers, putting many seriously delinquent loans in a state of limbo. Before 2009, about 8% of loans transitioned from foreclosure to real estate owned every month. This year, that proportion has been cut in half, hardly a good sign for a housing recovery, Venkatu wrote in a report Tuesday.

How loans flow from foreclosure to REO "is critical," he claims, "since these changes will ultimately determine the timing and number of REO properties that emerge." Given current economic forecasts, many households will be under distress through 2013 resulting in elevated REO levels for years to come and further downward pressure on prices, Venkatu wrote.

Under Review

Even the American Civil Liberties Union is weighing in on the foreclosure crisis, questioning whether some homeowners are having their constitutional rights violated and being unlawfully removed from their homes.

The nonprofit organization and its Florida affiliate on Tuesday filed public records requests with judicial officials in that state seeking to determine whether the right of due process is being upheld.

The ACLU takes issue with the recent establishment in Florida of special courts staffed by retired judges specifically for handling foreclosures.

"In the rush to push foreclosure cases through the courts, Florida may be taking shortcuts and, in the process, forsaking constitutionally required due process protections," the ACLU said in a press release.

Hawaii on Board

All 50 states are now on the Nationwide Mortgage Licensing System and Registry, with Hawaii becoming the last state to join this week.

It took nearly three years for the Conference of State Bank Supervisors to get every state registered on a single system, which now tracks 16,000 mortgage companies and 126,000 mortgage loan originators.

The system was designed to establish a standardized licensing process for all state-licensed originators and to increase transparency and accountability in the mortgage industry. It started with just a handful of states in January 2008.

Because states are sharing more information through the system, if problems with an originator surface in one state, others states can be alerted.

A Rap for the Ages

Love and money have always made good song topics. Now add to that list foreclosures.

A new YouTube video circulating the Internet features a rap by "ForeclosureMom," a 58-year-old woman in a sideways baseball cap, sunglasses and gold chains. Standing in front of images of bank branches and the New York Stock Exchange, she laments about being steered into an adjustable-rate mortgage and later, trying unsuccessfully to get a modification.

Blaming the rise of securitization for the housing market's woes, ForeclosureMom concludes: "Investors got paid and no one disputed, homeowners speak up and we get prosecuted."

The five-minute video has had more than 5,000 views since it was posted Oct. 14.

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