Last year, some Wall Street banks settled in a fraud lawsuit for $95 million, filed by Florida resident and white-collar fraud specialist, Lynn Szymoniak. The lawsuit named 28 “banks, mortgage servicers and document processing companies,” and was filed in federal courts in North and South Carolina.
The scam consisted of the banks drawing up fake mortgage documents “because they could not legally establish true ownership of the loans when trying to foreclose.”
The lawsuit, recently unsealed, exposes some nasty secrets about the way in which banks handled the lawsuit and what that handling means. David Dayen with Salon, reported because the banks settled, rather than fought the suit, there are “tens of millions of mortgages in America [that] still lack a legitimate chain of ownership.” These tens of millions have been estimated to equal up to trillions of dollars. And because the mortgage documents are forgeries, there is no “underlying owner” that can rightfully foreclose on these mortgages.
What the banks were doing is sending off securities that were not mortgage-backed. They were essentially empty securities. As Syzmoniak points out, the “Defendants used fraudulent mortgage assignments to conceal that over 1400 MBS trusts, . . are missing critical documents.” The banks would push out these non-mortgage backed securities and eventually created over $1.4 trillion of worthless mortgages and securities.
A crucial piece of evidence in the lawsuit was that, in 2009, one “Assignment of Mortgage was inadvertently not recorded prior to the Final Judgement of Foreclosure.” This makes the underlying ownership of the mortgage invalid because that finding proved that the “mortgage assignment was not made before the closing date of the trust.”
Because these documents were faked, mortgages “were materially harmed by the subsequent impaired value of the securities.” The banks committed fraud to the most severe degree. They created $1.4 trillion in non-mortgage-backed securities, but they were able to settle by only paying a fraction of the amount they defrauded. And they even lied to the Securities and Exchange Commission about the valuelessness of the mortgages. No one was put in handcuffs, no one was convicted.
Despite the five largest banks settling, Szymoniak can still bring other banks like HSBC, Bank of New York Mellon, and Deutsche Bank to trial to seek retribution of their crimes.