Attorneys general in Texas, Iowa and Illinois, following Florida, have started investigations into mortgage practices at Ally Financial Inc.’s GMAC unit while California has ordered the company to prove its foreclosures are legal or halt them.
California Attorney General Jerry Brown said today in a statement that he is “demanding that Ally Financial, the fourth largest home loan institution in the country, demonstrate its compliance with California law or else halt all foreclosure operations in the state.”
Iowa, which leads an 11-state working group of attorneys general and bank examiners exploring ways to prevent foreclosures, opened an inquiry yesterday.
“The integrity of the foreclosure process is of utmost importance and we are very concerned by the issues that have been raised regarding Ally Financial’s treatment of affidavits,” Iowa Assistant Attorney General Patrick Madigan said.
Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott opened an investigation “early this month,” said Tom Kelley, a spokesman for the office. Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan asked for a meeting with the company and requested information about how homeowners in the state have been affected, according to a statement.
The action by officials in the four states follows an announcement by Florida Attorney General William McCollum, who last month said he was investigating three Florida law firms handling foreclosures.
Florida investigators issued subpoenas in the case to the Law Offices of Marshall C. Watson PA; Shapiro & Fishman LLP; and the Law Offices of David J. Stern P.A., according to a news release posted on the attorney general’s website.
The law firms were hired by loan servicers to begin foreclosure proceedings when consumers were behind on their mortgages, according to McCollum’s office.
Homeowners facing eviction have accused the companies of filing foreclosure actions without verifying that borrowers actually defaulted or who owns the loans.
GMAC Mortgage notified agents and brokers on Sept. 17 that it had suspended evictions in 23 states. This week, Ally, the Detroit-based auto and home lender, said it found a “technical” deficiency in its foreclosure process allowing employees to sign documents without a notary present or with information they didn’t personally know was true.
GMAC said today in a statement that the problem was identified and then corrected “a few months ago.” The defects didn’t occur in all foreclosure cases in the 23 affected states, according to the statement.
“Regrettably, a procedural error was found to have occurred in certain affidavits required in certain states,” the company said. “The error is not related to the accuracy of the underlying transaction or the ultimate decisions to have exercised the foreclosure proceedings.”
California wasn’t on the list of states where Ally halted foreclosures. These 23 states have a system that requires a court order for foreclosure, unlike California, Brown’s office said in its statement. Ally has continued its foreclosure operations in California, the state said.
California law prohibits lenders from recording defaults on mortgages made from Jan. 1, 2003, to Dec. 31, 2007, unless, with some exceptions, the lender and borrower determine eligibility for a loan modification, Brown said in the statement. Brown cited reports that Ally approved foreclosure documents without confirming that they complied with state law.
Consumer Fraud Act
Illinois’ Madigan said GMAC Mortgage may have violated the state’s consumer fraud act. Madigan requested information about Illinois homeowners affected by GMAC’s suspension and the names of law firms in the state that work with the company on processing foreclosures.
“If I determine that Ally is rubber-stamping affidavits and filing them with our courts as evidence, I will take appropriate action,” Madigan said in the statement. “The law demands that lenders prove their case in foreclosure actions, and Illinois homeowners demand the same.”
To contact the reporters on this story: Lorraine Woellert in Washington at email@example.com; Margaret Cronin Fisk in Detroit at firstname.lastname@example.org; Joel Rosenblatt in San Francisco at email@example.com.