In a move likely to further Nevada's growing reputation for rigorously pursuing mortgage fraudsters, the state's Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto is suing Lender Processing Services, a Florida-based company that allegedly foreclosed illegally on thousands of struggling borrowers, according to a press release.
The company processes more than half of all foreclosures annually, making it the largest company in the country that collects mortgage payments from delinquent borrowers, faces a number of charges: fraudulently notarizing documents; intentionally disrupting communication between distressed borrowers and the attorneys attempting to help them; kickbacks concealed as "attorney's fees," and "robo-signing;" in which employees signed foreclosure documents without verifying the information.
The state alleges Lender Processing Services "required employees to execute and/or notarize up to 4,000 foreclosure related documents every day."
Lender Processing Services "engaged in a pattern and practice of deceptive conduct that willfully misled consumers, courts and the public, resulting in countless foreclosures that were predicated upon false, deceptive and deficient documents that [the company] prepared and/or executed," the attorney general said in the complaint.
Lender Processing Services was quick to dimiss the attorney general's allegations outright in a statement, in fact accusing the attorney general itself of breaking Nevada law by "outsourcing" the probe to a plaintiff's law firm.
"As the company has previously disclosed, it has discovered, during its own internal reviews, potential issues related to some of its past document execution practices," the statement reads. "However, the company is not aware of any person who was wrongfully foreclosed upon as a result of a potential error in the processes used by our employees."
This isn't Lender Processing Services's first brush with Nevada law. Last month, Attorney General Mastro indicted Gary Trafford and Gerri Sheppard, two company employees charged for a robo-signing scheme that resulted in filing tens of thousands of fraudulent documents with the Clark County Recorder's Office between 2005 and 2008. Nevada has been especially hard hit by the collapse of the housing market. In November, for the 59th month in a row, Nevada recorded the highest foreclosure rate in the country, according to the complaint.
"We will protect the integrity of the foreclosure process," said the attorney general in a statement announcing the suit against Lender processing Services. "This lawsuit is the next, logical step in holding the key players in the foreclosure fraud crisis accountable."
Robo-signing has been linked to wrongful foreclosures and is at the center of a much larger conversation about foreclosure fraud currently taking place between the Obama administration, the majority of the states' attorneys general, and five of the nation's largest mortgage servicers. Those negotiations, which have yet to be finalized, are intended to both penalize the companies for their alleged fraud and also secure funding to help struggling borrowers to keep their homes.
Though the final terms of the deal have yet to be announced, some states' attorneys general, including California, Delaware and New York, are concerned the deal will provide too little relief for home borrowers while letting servicers too easily off the hook.
Nevada is another of the states that has voiced reservations, going so far as to announce last month a partnership with California Attorney General Kamala Harris to pool resources to investigate and prosecute mortgage companies that wrongfully foreclosed on borrowers.