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Money Talks News has been doing an investigative series about a local foreclosure law firm that’s one of the nation’s largest. If you haven’t seen it yet, part 1 is The Foreclosure Freeze and Why It Matters. Part 2 is The Mother of All Foreclosure Mistakes.
There’s been a lot of press lately about bank robo-signers signing hundreds of foreclosure-related documents daily without bothering to review what was in the files. Many on Wall Street are calling this a mere technicality: for example, here’s JP Morgan CEO Jamie Diamond, quoted in this recent article in Fortune: “We’ve known there are issues for a while,” he said of the foreclosure process. But, he stressed, “We’re not evicting people who deserve to stay in their house.”
Others point out that whether the right people are being thrown out is beside the point: Robo-signing is far from a technicality, because these signers are essentially swearing to a judge that they have personal knowledge that the foreclosure file is accurate. They’re attesting that the lender has the legal right to take the home, and the people losing the home are the right people: something kind of hard to do if you haven’t read the file.
But while taking people’s homes without reading their file has to be a tough job, nobody seems to care how difficult it must be to sign your name 1,000 times a day. Sound exhausting? It must be, because now allegations are surfacing that at least one robo-signer was so over worked, she had to get help to sign her own name.
The Florida Attorney General is currently conducting an investigation into one of the largest foreclosure law firms in the country, the law offices of David Stern. As part of that investigation, they’re taking depositions from some of Stern’s former paralegals, giving a fascinating glimpse into the workings of a firm that processed an incredible 70,000 foreclosure cases in 2009.
It’s through the deposition of a former Stern employee named Kelly Scott, taken on October 4, 2010, that we learn how other employees of Stern’s firm allegedly came to the aid of their beleaguered robo-signing colleague – by signing her name for her.
According to Ms. Scott, the person who was doing most of the robo-signing was Stern employee Cheryl Salmons. Here’s a cut-and-paste from Scott’s deposition about Cheryl getting help from co-workers.
Q: Are you aware of anyone other than Cheryl Salmons signing Cheryl Salmons’ name to documents?
Q: Could you tell me about that, please?
A: Cheryl would give certain paralegals rights to sign her name, because most of the time she was very tired, exhausted from signing her name numerous times per day. You had to understand it was more than five hundred files that she’s signing morning and afternoon.
Q: Five hundred in the morning and then another five hundred in the afternoon?
Q: So approximately a thousand a day?
A: A thousand a day. So, yes, she would, you know, if they were very close with Cheryl Salmons -
Q: They who? Could you give me their names?
A: Shannon Smith, Elizabeth Davilla, Beth Cerni.
Q: These people were allowed to sign her name?
So, what do you think? Is it OK for law firm employees to robo-sign foreclosure files? If so, I guess there’s no reason that someone else shouldn’t sign their name when they got tired…right?