DENISE SUBRAMANIAM DOESN’T like to think of herself as homeless. A former software engineer, she has several chronic illnesses, including one known as multiple chemical sensitivity, which causes her to react to allergens and chemicals common in interior spaces. So this January, when LNV Corporation foreclosed on the Portland, Oregon, home she’d inhabited for 20 years, she had no option other than her Jeep.
Every morning, Subramaniam wakes up in the driveway of a friend’s subdivision. Her possessions are stored in a small shop. “I’m not on the street,” she said. “I’m trying to hang in there.”
These days, Subramaniam is less concerned with finding a place to live than with filing legal briefs at the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.
She’s acting as her own lawyer in a case against LNV, which if successful would transform the way foreclosures are adjudicated in America. The suit alleges that LNV forged evidence to prove it owned her loan, and that the summary judgment for foreclosure issued by the lower court violates constitutional protections regarding due process.
Subramaniam is not the only litigant representing herself in a case against LNV. In fact, there are three such cases currently before the 9th Circuit, and several others across the country, all filed by members of an informal network of homeowners known as the Victims Group. The 15 participants talk and email constantly and provide research assistance with one another’s foreclosure cases. “Those of us who have survived this process have come together,” Subramaniam said. “It saves us time and makes us smarter.”
LNV’s lawyers and spokespeople for its parent company have dismissed the Victims Group as being made up of conspiracy theorists. “The allegations raised by the borrowers are categorically false,” wrote senior vice president for corporate communications Jim Chambless, and “have been disproven and vetted by the appropriate authorities all over the country.” Chambless referred to Victims Group members as not only “not credible” but as having been “in some instances found to be vexatious litigants,” a legal term meaning that the cases were frivolous or unwarranted.
Courts that have ruled in the cases have not accepted the Victims Group’s claims of deception and fraud, though several cases remain pending. And among the Victims Group’s allegations, some — like that the bank surveilled homeowners, bribed judges, and intimidated the claimants’ own lawyers — are not persuasive.
Other allegations, however, raise questions about the documents the bank has used to prove its ability to foreclose. Charges of this kind have dogged the mortgage industry for years: In 2012, banks such as JPMorgan Chase and Wells Fargo paid billions of dollars in fines when confronted with evidence of robo-signing and submission of false evidence to courts.
The plaintiffs in the Victims Group cases have focused their energies on a single target: billionaire financier and noted poker player Andy Beal, who records indicate is the sole board member of LNV Corporation. In addition to founding Beal Bank, Andy Beal also figures prominently in Donald Trump’s presidential campaign. Beal endorsed Trump in February and in August became part of Trump’s economic policy team. He also formed a Super PAC, called Save America From Its Government, which has advertised for Trump, spending $2.4 million on Trump ads just in the closing week of the campaign. In June, Trump floated that, if elected, he would put Beal “in charge of China,” to negotiate on behalf of the United States.