Foreclosure Fraud Rally Today at West Palm Beach Courthouse Gains National Attention: Where Are the Clean Hands?
This afternoon, we're all invited to a ForeclosureGate protest rally to be held at the Palm Beach Courthouse, where two organizations have organized a public protest of the current ForeclosureGate crises (note the plural there). It's getting national media attention as well as being promoted by various high-traffic web sites (like Naked Capitalism).
The rally is being publicized in a joint press release by ForeclosureHamlet.org and 4foreclosurefraud.org, with the latter site advising us to "[h]ave fun with it by dressing up as a homeless person or bring a sleeping bag …" and that there will be a happy hour afterward at E.R. Bradley's.
Actually this is an invite to the group's monthly happy hour gathering where they "... relax, socialize, enjoy stimulating conversation, and use our collective brain power to make a positive impact on the Foreclosure Crisis that is annihilating our communities."
The SunSentinel reports that Michael Redman, 36, is the founder of 4closurefraud.org, and has explained to them that he quit a job as an online marketer to start the site and while he does live in Palm Beach County, he does not own a home - but tells the SunSentinel that foreclosure has impacted his family. Look at the site, and you'll find that Florida attorney Carol C. Asbury of the Save My Home Law Group is also a critical part of the site.
Which makes sense. There are going to be attorneys marketing to those homeowners who are facing foreclosure, or who believe that they have been the victim of various ForeclosureGate activities, such as robosigning. (What is robosigning exactly? Read here to learn more.)
Let's Consider Right and Wrong Here: Pot, "Kettle, You're Black"?
However, there's a critical component to all these foreclosure fights: the homeowner has not been able to pay their mortgage payment. Homeowners that make their payments aren't going to be facing foreclosure proceedings, after all.
You don't get to a robosigning fight until long after a homeowner has stopped paying their note. Not gonna happen.
Which brings up the book written by Arizona law professor Brent White, Underwater Home: What Should You Do If You Owe More On Your Home Than It's Worth, where he posits that it is morally and ethically acceptable for homeowners to walk away from their mortgages, despite their promise to pay that loan in full. Here is a quote from Professor White's book (also emphasized in a recent Wall Street Journal article):
I think it‘s OK to stop paying the mortgage long before you clean out your savings, sacrifice your retirement, spend your children‘s college fund, and certainly before you have to start using your credit cards to survive. Before you do any of those things, I think the more moral course is to stop paying your mortgage. Indeed, I think it‘s morally acceptable to default if your mortgage threatens your ability to save adequately for the future, regardless of whether you can pay it according to some arbitrary definition of “affordability.” It may be more responsible to put the money saved from giving up your home and renting instead into an investment account, so that you are secure in retirement. Or put it into a college fund, so that you can give your children a chance at a higher education.
In other words, things aren‘t so black-and-white. Given the unprecedented nature of the housing collapse, it should at least be possible for reasonable people to disagree about the most moral or responsible course of action for underwater homeowners. No one is entitled to sit in judgment of you.
I've ordered Professor White's book and I'll be reading it shortly - forming my opinion of his efforts then, not based upon WSJ coverage (and comments). I won't be attending today's rally.
However, already I have a core question: as an attorney who represents commercial transactional interests as well as real estate matters, I have to wonder about how contract breaches (failure of a promise to pay) correlate with alleged regional real estate law illegalities (e.g., robosigning) which have resulted from the initial mortgage breach?
It does not seem to be a disputed fact that ForeclosureGate is the result of an unprecedented number of mortgage holders who stopped paying their home loan, for whatever reason. Where are the clean hands?