Tuesday, January 04, 2011

A New High in Lows

We've written a lot about questionable, even fraudulent foreclosure practices in recent months, practices like robo-signing. Today Laura wrote about how courts in Cuyahoga County, Ohio are dealing with questionable documentation.

It seems that dubious practices aren't confined to foreclosures. From MoJo:

But now the seamy debt-collection industry has one-upped the foreclosure industry's robo-signing disaster. One of America's largest debt collectors, Portfolio Recovery Associates, used court filings that were signed by a woman who'd died nearly a decade earlier.

Martha Kunkle died in 1995. Yet her name and hand-written signature appeared on debt-collection filings submitted by Portfolio Recovery Associates as late as 2006 and 2007, according to the Wall Street Journal. Facing a fraud lawsuit, Portfolio announced that documents with Kunkle's name were "defects" and couldn't be used in court. That was in early 2008, the Journal reports, more than a decade after Kunkle's death. But even then, Portfolio tried to use a Kunkle-signed document in July 2009 to collect on $2,892.10 of credit card debt.

Using the name and signature of a dead woman is a new high in lows. But the worst part of all of this is the contempt these companies have for the rest of us:

What is clear, though, is how little regard certain mortgage companies and debt collectors have for the American legal system. Because, at the end of the day, that's what the robo-signing scandals tell us: that these financial heavyweights cared so little about the integrity of our judicial system that they saw nothing wrong with employing robo-signers to mass-produce faulty foreclosure documents, or with using a dead woman's name and signature to collect on old debts.

Contempt for consumers, contempt for ethics, and contempt for our legal system. If there is any good news here at all, it's that debt collection will fall into the purview of the new Consumer Protection Agency being put together by Elizabeth Warren, special advisor to President Obama.

The new agency is due to officially start on July 21. From USA Today:

"This new agency did not come into being because special interests demanded it or lobbyists spent hundreds of millions of dollars to make it happen," Warren said in an interview. "But ordinary Americans pushed hard for this agency. They said loud and clear that they wanted an agency in Washington to level the playing field with big banks."

Warren has long been a voice for the consumer. But she had little power when, as a professor, she opposed what she saw as costly bank fees and predatory lending in testimony before Congress and her writings on the subjects. She now spends her time and energy starting an agency that she says has been born of optimism.

We desperately need an agency that will be on the side of consumers. I fear the new Congress may have different ideas.

cross-posted at MainSt/workingamerica.org

1 comment:

DissedBelief said...

Disgraceful! This reminds me of the body snatchers of 19th century Britain. But here I will seemingly digress, however, I believe it is all tied together, and that is, the lack of ethical and moral behavior of others. I experience this at the most basic level. I work at a local Inn. During their breaks, the head chef and his kitchen cohorts smoke pot in the parking lot. If I "reported" this to the owner, or even the constabulary, I would probably lose my job, because "everyone does it". Behaving in any manner that turns a blind eye to breaking the law, and living by a less than stellar ethical and moral code, eventualy effects us all and has negative and toxic consequences. When Willie Nelson boasted he did pot on top of the White House roof, this set a standard that a lot of people refer to. I'm appalled by the amount of individuals who break this particular law in the valley by spouting garbage such as "it's natural" etc. In the end, individuals such as myself are impacted and for that I have nothing but comtempt for law breakers.