Wells Fargo, the nation’s biggest mortgage servicer, appears to have set up detailed internal procedures to fabricate foreclosure papers on demand, according to allegations in papers filed Tuesday in a New York federal court.
In a filing in New York’s Southern District in White Plains for a local homeowner in bankruptcy, attorney Linda Tirelli described a 150-page Wells Fargo Foreclosure Attorney Procedures Manual created November 9, 2011 and updated February 24, 2012. According to court papers, the Manual details “a procedure for processing [mortgage] notes without endorsements and obtaining endorsements and allonges.”
Those are the technical terms for the paperwork proving that the company that’s foreclosing owns the loan, and therefore has the right to kick a family out of its home. Wells Fargo services roughly 9 million home loans, according to Inside Mortgage Finance.
A Wells Fargo spokesman denied that the manual could be used to order improper documents. “No note is endorsed without the proper authority,” he said. “Wells Fargo’s foreclosure processes—today and back in 2012—are legal [and] appropriate.”
Attorneys, forensic accountants and consumer advocates have long suspected that banks were systematically creating improper documents to prove ownership of loans. Foreclosure defense lawyers use the term ‘ta-da’ endorsement to describe situations in which they say a document appears, as if by magic, in the bank’s possession as needed in a foreclosure case—even though the proper endorsement was not included in the original foreclosure filing. It might sound like a technicality, but correct proof of ownership lies at the heart of the foreclosure crisis for securitized loans, which were sold by the lender that originally issued the mortgage. To legally transfer a securitized loan, the endorsements and allonges have to be created in a very specific way and within a specific time frame, usually 90 days after a residential mortgage trust closes. For many loans in foreclosure now, which were originated years ago and then sold, it’s way too late to correct incomplete documents, experts said.
If the allegations in Tirelli’s court filing are true, this manual represents the first time ‘ta-da’ endorsements are “being described and admitted to be a procedure” at a major bank, as Tirelli claimed to The Post.