by Jeff Sovern
As I listen to more of the Chain of Title audiobook, I am struck by how the acts of the robo-signers resemble those of consumers faced with disclosures. Like the consumers, the robo-signers signed the documents without reading them, trusting that the documents presented for their signature were what they should be. And maybe that shouldn't be surprising, because many of the robo-signers, despite having the title of bank vice presidents, were just ordinary people. One such robo-signer, who was identified as a vice president for five different banks (depending on which bank he was signing on behalf of), was paid only $10 an hour. Perhaps this is too much of a stretch, but I wonder if contemporary society's culture of not reading disclosures contributed to this phenomenon. But unlike many consumers, the robo-signers were committing fraud. The robo-signer who was paid $10 an hour wasn't signing his name, but someone else's. And often the documents they signed were affidavits stating that the affiant had personal knowledge of the events described in the affidavit. One passage that brings this home lists the prices from a catalog for re-creating documents, including affidavits. This might sound only like a technicality, until you realize that these documents were used to foreclose upon people and kick them out of their homes. And sometimes banks did that to people who had not defaulted on their payments or had not even taken out a mortgage.
In my previous post on the book, I mentioned a few consumer law professors whose names have turned up in the volume; since then, the book has referred to Adam Levitin. And consumer lawyers also make an appearance, including April Charney and Max Gardner, both of whom come across as heroic.