Matt Taibbi Writes About America’s Two-Tiered Justice System

Matt Taibbi has a new book called The Divide: American Injustice in the Age of the Wealth Gap.  This ties right in with Joseph Stiglitz’s comments in the Price of Inequality,

But a basic principle of the rule of law and property rights is that you shouldn’t throw someone out of his home when you can’t prove he owes you money. But so assiduously did the banks pursue their foreclosures that some people were thrown out of their homes who did not owe any money.  To some lenders this is just collateral damage as the banks tell millions of Americans they must give up their homes—some eight million since the crisis began, and an estimated three to four million still to go. The pace of foreclosures would have been even higher had it not been for government intervention to stop the robo-signing.

The banks’ defense—that most of the people thrown out of their homes did owe money—was evidence that America had strayed from the rule of law and from a basic understanding of it. One is supposed to be innocent until proven guilty. But in the banks’ logic, the homeowner had to prove he was not guilty, that he didn’t owe money. In our system of justice it is unconscionable to convict an innocent person, and it should be equally unconscionable to evict anyone who doesn’t owe money on her home. We are supposed to have a system that protects the innocent.  The U.S. justice system requires a burden of proof and establishes procedural safeguards to help meet that requirement.  But the banks short-circuited these safeguards. 

Here is a summary of Taibbi’s book, “The Divide”  from Amazon.com:

A scathing portrait of an urgent new American crisis
 
Over the last two decades, America has been falling deeper and deeper into a statistical mystery:
 
Poverty goes up. Crime goes down. The prison population doubles.
Fraud by the rich wipes out 40 percent of the world’s wealth. The rich get massively richer. No one goes to jail.
 
In search of a solution, journalist Matt Taibbi discovered the Divide, the seam in American life where our two most troubling trends—growing wealth inequality and mass incarceration—come together, driven by a dramatic shift in American citizenship: Our basic rights are now determined by our wealth or poverty. The Divide is what allows massively destructive fraud by the hyperwealthy to go unpunished, while turning poverty itself into a crime—but it’s impossible to see until you look at these two alarming trends side by side.
 
In The Divide, Matt Taibbi takes readers on a galvanizing journey through both sides of our new system of justice—the fun-house-mirror worlds of the untouchably wealthy and the criminalized poor. He uncovers the startling looting that preceded the financial collapse; a wild conspiracy of billionaire hedge fund managers to destroy a company through dirty tricks; and the story of a whistleblower who gets in the way of the largest banks in America, only to find herself in the crosshairs. On the other side of the Divide, Taibbi takes us to the front lines of the immigrant dragnet; into the newly punitive welfare system which treats its beneficiaries as thieves; and deep inside the stop-and-frisk world, where standing in front of your own home has become an arrestable offense. As he narrates these incredible stories, he draws out and analyzes their common source: a perverse new standard of justice, based on a radical, disturbing new vision of civil rights.
 
Through astonishing—and enraging—accounts of the high-stakes capers of the wealthy and nightmare stories of regular people caught in the Divide’s punishing logic, Taibbi lays bare one of the greatest challenges we face in contemporary American life: surviving a system that devours the lives of the poor, turns a blind eye to the destructive crimes of the wealthy, and implicates us all.

Praise for The Divide
 
“These are the stories that will keep you up at night. . . . The Divide is not just a report from the new America; it is advocacy journalism at its finest.”Los Angeles Times

“Ambitious . . . deeply reported, highly compelling . . . impossible to put down.”The New York Times Book Review
 
“Brilliant and enraging.”The Awl

California Appellate Court in Peng v. Chase: The Dissent

The Dissent in this decision by the California Court of Appeals is a thing of beauty.  CA Peng v Chase

The only party prejudiced by an illegitimate creditor-beneficiary’s enforcement of the homeowner’s debt, courts have reasoned, is the bona fide creditor-beneficiary, not the homeowner.

Such reasoning troubles me. I wonder whether the law would apply the same reasoning if we were dealing with debtors other than homeowners. I wonder how most of

us would react if, for example, a third-party purporting to act for one’s credit card company knocked on one’s door, demanding we pay our credit card’s monthly statement

to the third party. Could we insist that the third party prove it owned our credit card debt? By the reasoning of Fontenot and similar cases, we could not because, after all, we

owe the debt to someone, and the only truly aggrieved party if we paid the wrong party would, according to those cases, be our credit card company. I doubt anyone would stand

for such a thing. I think cases such as Fontenot – and their solicitude for self-proclaimed creditor beneficiaries who ask us to take on their say-so authority to foreclose on someone’s home

– are, or should be, a legacy from a bygone era. There was a time when the orderliness and regulatory oversight of the mortgage industry perhaps justified a presumption that

creditor-beneficiaries acted lawfully when they enforced a homeowner’s debt. In those days, courts excused mortgage lenders from proving their authority because we trusted

they acted properly, and we presumed that a homeowner’s challenge was typically a delaying tactic to avoid a valid foreclosure. (See e.g. Siliga v. Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems, Inc. (2013) 219 Cal.App.4th 75, 82 [“California courts have refused to allow [homeowners] to delay the nonjudicial foreclosure process by pursuing preemptive judicial actions challenging the authority of a foreclosing ‘beneficiary’ or beneficiary’s ‘agent.’ ”]; Jenkins v. JPMorgan Chase Bank, N.A. (2013) 216 Cal.App.4th 497, 511-512 [same].)

I think the old presumption no longer withstands the press of current events.

Servicers Have Duty of Care to Borrower in Modifying Loans When Nymark Factors Are Met (California)

In federal district court in California, a magistrate judge has issued two decisions refusing loan servicers’ bid to dismiss a homeowner’s negligence claims, as related to loan modification efforts.  The magistrate judge parses the divergent legal authority and sides with the finding of a duty on behalf of the servicer when certain factors are met.
The facts alleged in this case are nearly as egregious as those alleged in Garcia, and the court finds that Plaintiffs have sufficiently alleged this claim. The loan modification was intended to affect them (e.g., the loan modification would have reduced their monthly mortgage payments), the harm from mishandling their application was foreseeable (e.g., Plaintiffs applied for a loan modification (or at least tried to apply for one) to avoid foreclosure), their injury was certain to occur (e.g., Plaintiffs’ application allegedly was never even submitted by the so-called “single point of contact,” and obviously this means that it would not be granted), the connection between Wells Fargo’s conduct and Plaintiffs’ loss of their home is close (e.g., Plaintiffs relied on Wells Fargo’s representation that the foreclosure would not occur while their application was pending, so their failure to appear at the trustee’s sale was not surprising), Wells Fargo’s alleged role in this debacle would subject them to moral blame (e.g., Plaintiffs allege that Wells Fargo tricked them into defaulting on the Second Loan so that Wells Fargo could string them along with respect to the loan modification on the First Loan so it could foreclose under the Second Loan), and the same public policy considerations cited in Garcia apply here as well. While a lender may not have a duty to modify the loan of any borrower who applies for a loan modification, a lender surely has a duty to submit a borrower’s loan modification application once the lender has told the borrower that it will submit it, as well as a duty to not foreclose upon a borrower’s home while the borrower’s loan modification is being considered once the lender has told the borrower that it won’t foreclose during this time and to ignore all foreclosure-related notices. In short, taking Plaintiffs’ allegations as true at this stage, the court fails to see, even in a cynical world, how Wells Fargo’s role could possibly be described as a “conventional” one that relates to the “mere” lending of money. Its role went beyond that. The court rejects Wells Fargo’s argument that it had no duty to Plaintiffs in this situation.
Rijhwani v. Wells Fargo Home Mortgage, Inc., C 13-05881 LB, 2014 WL 890016 (N.D. Cal. Mar. 3, 2014)
Defendants next move to dismiss Plaintiffs’ fourth claim for negligence. See Motion, ECF No. 5 at 6; Complaint, ECF No. 1, ¶¶ 69–77. The elements of a negligence cause of action are (1) the existence of a duty to exercise due care, (2) breach of that duty, (3) causation, and (4) damages. See Merrill v. Navegar, Inc., 26 Cal.4th 465, 500 (2001). Under California law, as Defendants point out, lenders generally do not owe borrowers a duty of care unless their involvement in the loan transaction exceeds the scope of their “conventional role as a mere lender of money.” See Nymark v. Heart Fed. Savings & Loan Ass’n, 231 Cal.App.3d 1089, 1095–96 (1991) (citations omitted). To determine “whether a financial institution owes a duty of care to a borrower-client,” courts must balance the following non-exhaustive factors:
[1] the extent to which the transaction was intended to affect the plaintiff, [2] the foreseeability of harm to him, [3] the degree of certainty that the plaintiff suffered injury, [4] the closeness of the connection between the defendant’s conduct and the injury suffered, [5] the moral blame attached to the defendant’s conduct, and [6] the policy of preventing future harm.
Id. at 1098 (quotation marks and citations omitted).4
Defendants argue that Chase was under no duty to provide a loan modification because it did not exceed the scope of its conventional role as a mere lender of money. Motion at 6–7. Defendants counter that numerous California federal and state courts have applied the six-factor test articulated in Nymark “to find mortgage servicers have a duty, including this Court.” Opp’n at 14–15 (citing Chancellor v. OneWest Bank, No. C 12–01068 LB, 2012 WL 1868750, at *13 (N.D.Cal. May 22, 2012)). Indeed, as the state and federal district court cases cited by the parties demonstrate, courts are divided on the question of when lenders owe a duty of care to borrowers in the context of the submission of and negotiations related to loan modification applications and foreclosure proceedings.5 Compare Motion, ECF No. 5 at 6–7 and Reply, ECF No. 13 at 3–4 (citing Diunugala v. JP Morgan Chase Bank, N.A., No. 12cv2106–WQH–NLS, 2013 WL 5568737, at *4 (S.D.Cal. Oct. 3, 2013) (finding Jolley (cited by the Rowlands) inapposite in the context of “a residential home loan and related loan servicing issues” and granting motion to dismiss negligence claim against lender and servicer that used wrong underwriting standards when reviewing loan modification application); Rockridge Trust v. Wells Fargo, N.A., No. C–13–01457 JCS, 2013 WL 5428722, at *35–36 (N.D. Cal. Sept. 25, 2013) (noting divergent opinions, collecting cases, and holding that loan modification is a traditional money lending activity that does not give rise to a duty of care); Sanguinetti v. CitiMortgage, Inc., No. C 12–5424 SC, 2013 WL 4838765, at *4–5 (N.D.Cal. Sept. 11, 2013) (dismissing negligence claim based on lender’s duty of care to follow proper loan modification procedures where alleged duty arose from consent judgment between lender and California and federal governments regarding mortgage practices); Hosseini v. Wells Fargo Bank, N.A., No. C–13–02066 DMR, 2013 WL 4279632, at *7 (N.D.Cal. Aug. 9, 2013) (dismissing negligence claim for failure to establish duty of care based on lender’s “undertaking the loan modificiation process and requesting and accepting documentation” from plaintiffs); Armstrong v. Chevy Chase Bank, FSB, No. 5:11–cv–05664 EJD, 2012 WL 4747165, at *4 (N.D.Cal. Oct. 3, 2012) (loan modification is a traditional money lending activity); Nymark, 231 Cal.App.3d at 1096–97 (court found that a lender owed the plaintiff no duty because the lender performed an appraisal of the plaintiff’s property “in the usual course and scope of its loan processing procedures to protect [the lender's] interest by satisfying [itself] that the property provided adequate security for the loan”); and Wagner v. Benson, 101 Cal.App.3d 27, 35 (Cal.Ct.App.1980) (court rejected the plaintiffs’ negligence claim that was based on their allegation that the lender was negligent “in loaning money to them, as inexperienced investors, for a risky venture over which the [lender] exercised influence and control”)); with Opp’n, ECF No. 11 at 14–15 (citing McGarvey v. JP Morgan Chase Bank, N.A., No. 2:13–cv–01099–KJMEFB, 2013 WL 5597148, at *6 (E.D Cal. October 11, 2013) (denying motion to dismiss because, once it offered a loan modification and processed her application, servicer could have duty of care to deceased borrower’s daughter to exercise ordinary care in processing loan modification request); Jolley v. Chase Home Finance, LLC, 213 Cal.App. 4th 872 (2013) (holding that there was a triable issue of material fact as to whether Chase owed Jolley a duty of care in servicing a construction loan, which was disbursed in installments depending on progress towards completion); Trant v. Wells Fargo Bank, N.A., No. 12–cv–164–JM–WMC, 2012 WL 2871642, at *6–7 (S.D.Cal. July 12, 2012) (finding duty of care because lender acted outside the scope of the typical lender-borrower relationship where employees ensured plaintiffs they would receive at least a temporary modification); Kennedy v. Wells Fargo Bank, N.A., No. No. CV 11–4635 DSF (PLAx), 2011 WL 4526085, at *4 (C.D.Cal. Sept. 28, 2011) (applying the six-factor test and finding that the totality of the circumstances favored finding a duty of care at the motion to dismiss stage); Ansanelli v. JP Morgan Chase Bank, N.A., No. C 10–03892 WHA, 2011 WL 1134451, at *7 (N.D.Cal. Mar. 28, 2011) (finding sufficient active participation by the servicer to create a duty where the defendant offered “an opportunity to plaintiffs for loan modification and to engage with them concerning the trial period plan,” which was “precisely ‘beyond the domain of a usual money lender’ ”); Garcia v. Ocwen Loan Servicing, LLC, No. C 10–0290 PVT, 2010 WL 1881098 (N.D.Cal. May 10, 2010) (finding that a servicer had a duty of care to a borrower under the Nymark factors).
*9 In light of the divergent case law, the undersigned recently issued an opinion weighing the lines of authority. See Rijhwani v. Wells Fargo Home Mortgage, Inc., No. C 13–05881 LB, 2014 WL 8900016, at *14–17 (N.D.Cal. Mar. 3, 2014). The court found (and reaffirms here) that Garcia is persuasive and instructive. As the court explained, in Garcia :
the defendant had [at least twice] cancelled the trustee’s sale to allow time for processing the plaintiff’s application. The defendant asked the plaintiff to submit various documents in connection with the loan modification request. The plaintiff did so, but upon receiving the documents, the defendant routed them to the wrong department. Later, the plaintiff’s agent received a recorded message indicating documents were missing, but the message did not identify which ones were missing. For the next several weeks, the plaintiff’s agent repeatedly tried to contact the defendant to determine which documents were missing, but he was unable to speak with any of the defendant’s employees. The plaintiff’s agent was finally able to actually speak with one of the defendant’s employees, but it was too late. The employee informed the plaintiff’s agent that the home had been sold at a trustee’s sale the day before.
The court concluded that at least five of the six factors cited above weighed in favor of finding that the defendant owed the plaintiff a duty of care in processing the plaintiff’s loan modification application. Id. at *3–4.
Id. at *16–17. Similarly, in Rijhwani, the court found that the Nymark factors supported finding a duty of care and denied the motion to dismiss the plaintiff’s negligence claim. Id. at *17.
The court reaches the same conclusion on the factors here.6 First, the loan modification was intended to affect the Rowlands because it would have reduced their mortgage payments. The Rowlands’ allegations are stronger than those in many of the cases finding a duty of care because (at least as alleged) Chase did not just mishandle a loan modification application. Instead, it mishandled an approved loan modification agreement that Chase representatives repeatedly stated was “complete” and “in place.” See, e.g., Complaint ¶¶ 15–18, 23. Second, the harm in mishandling a loan modification agreement is foreseeable from the outset (and Chase’s alleged breaches continued even while Ms. Rowland reported the ongoing emotional distress from Chase’s delays and collection efforts). Third, the injury was certain to occur in that the principal balance would not be reduced, penalties would accrue, and Ms. Rowland reported the ongoing emotional distress. Fourth, the connection between Chase’s alleged conduct and the injury is obviously direct and immediate. Fifth, Chase’s conduct would subject it to moral blame. Finally, as the Garcia court explained, recent statutory enactments demonstrate “[t]he existence of a public policy in favor of preventing future harm to home loan borrowers.” Garcia, 2010 WL 1881098, at *3 (citing Cal. Civ.Code § 2923.6). In Rijhwani, this court held that a lender has a “surely has a duty to submit a borrower’s loan modification application once the lender has told the borrower that it will submit it.” Rijhwani at *17. Here, where Chase offered the Rowlands a loan modification, admitted its repeated errors, and transferred the servicing rights shortly thereafter, public policy supports the existence of a duty. See Complaint ¶ 40. As in Rijhwani, and at the pleadings stage, Chase’s role is not merely “a ‘conventional’ one that relates to the ‘mere’ lending of money.” Plaintiffs state a claim.
Rowland v. JPMorgan Chase Bank, N.A., C 14-00036 LB, 2014 WL 992005 (N.D. Cal. Mar. 12, 2014)

Mortgage Fraud is So Much More Than Lies on a Mortgage Application

Mortgage fraud, especially the mortgage fraud that has wiped out the wealth of countless American families and stripped them of their homes and security, is so much more than the FBI would credit it to be.  We have pondered Professor Bill Black’s questions of why in the hell the FBI would join forces with the Mortgage Bankers ASsociation in defining fraud.  And here we have a report from the Department of Justice, also utilizing this myopic and anemic definition of fraud, a definition which purposefully exempts broad swaths of fraud for which Wall Street, and the financial industry would be (and have been and continue to be) culpable:

David Dayen wrote a piece on Yves Smith’s financial blog, Naked Capitalism today, in response to the “interesting” and wildly unimpressive report put out by the Inspector General on Mortgage Fraud recently.  This piece is a must-read in its entirety but he says,

“Mortgage fraud” is a limiting term: There’s a yawning gap between “mortgage fraud,” in the context of how the IG presents it in this report, and the full breadth of fraud and deception at the heart of the crisis. Mortgage fraud, per the definition used by the FBI and the IG, is very specifically mortgage origination fraud, the misrepresentation used to get people into loans. That includes misrepresentation by borrowers, such as lying on a loan application, but also the actions of lenders falsely documenting income or wildly inflating appraisals. In later years, mortgage fraud came to include “foreclosure rescue” schemes, where illicit actors claim to be able to get loan modifications for borrowers for a fee, and then abscond with the money and do nothing for the borrowers.

You can clearly see that this focuses on a small corner of the much more widespread fraud that has gone on for over a decade now. And it inherently, by definition, leaves the biggest Wall Street actors out of the equation. When the DoJ, FBI, or this IG report talks about mortgage fraud, they’re not talking about:

•Securitization fraud, the knowing packaging of worthless loans into bonds to unsuspecting investors;
•Securitization fail, the improper conveyance of mortgages into trusts, breaking the chain of title on the loans;
•False Claims Act fraud, where servicers collect on FHA insurance or other government benefits with faulty loans;
•Tax fraud, through setting up REMICs and then not following the guidelines with mortgages and notes, yet still benefiting from the tax status;
•Servicer-driven fraud, like the mass misplacement of loan modification documents in order to push people into default, the bonuses given for foreclosures, dual tracking, improper fee pyramiding, imposition of fees not included in the mortgage documents, lost payments, people getting foreclosed on because they underpaid by ten cents, etc.;
•Forced-place insurance fraud, the kickback scheme to saddle borrowers with lapsed insurance with junk policies that cost several orders of magnitude more;
•Foreclosure fraud, the mass production of false documents to prove ownership over loans with a questionable paper trail;
•Robo-signing, the notarization of thousands of court statements a day by line workers who know nothing about the underlying loan information;
•Breaking and entering by “property preservation” specialists who illegally break into occupied homes and occasionally ransack them in the name of “keeping watch” over properties thought to be abandoned.

I could go on. Even housing discrimination, whereby minority borrowers were charged higher interest rates and non-prime loans (even when they qualified for prime), is not incorporated into this definition of “mortgage fraud” (DoJ has actually prosecuted a fair bit of this discrimination through the Civil Rights division, but nobody’s gone to jail for it IIRC). The litany above implicates mega-banks who sold the securities, servicers (until recently, typically the arms of mega-banks) who serviced the loans, trustee mega-banks who managed the deals, and so forth. Mortgage fraud under the DoJ definition implicates fast-money, fly-by-night lenders that imploded when the whole scheme went kablooey. More recently it involves foreclosure rescue scams, which the interview subjects say flat-out in the IG report don’t involve enough money for them to consider prosecution.

That’s not true of the various types of bank-driven frauds. And without corrupt securitization feeding the need for lots of loans, there would have been far less corrupt lenders, if any. But as Gretchen Morgenson pointed out, the IG report specifically excludes securities fraud from this overview. This is on page 2 of the report:

Some observers use the term “mortgage fraud” to include mortgage-backed securities fraud, which involves wrongdoing related to the packaging, selling, and valuing of residential and commercial mortgage-backed securities. However, the FBI considers this type of misconduct to be a form of securities fraud and not mortgage fraud; therefore, we did not include as part of the scope of this audit.

That’s an absurd justification. This was all part of the same overall scheme. Even if the DoJ did a “good” job on mortgage fraud as defined by this report, it wouldn’t have touched Wall Street, because the definition mostly comprises lying on loan applications. In a way, the FBI’s compartmentalizing here shows how the law enforcement apparatus was never going to get to the bottom of the scandal. They placed a false frame on it, one that inherently goes after the little guy and not the bigger players.

Of course, as we see, DoJ couldn’t even be bothered to get the small spade work done (which could have led them to the top). And if they wouldn’t prosecute small-time fraud, they weren’t going to prosecute anything.

He goes on to explain how the DoJ doesn’t even collect proper metrics on its investigation of “mortgage fraud” and then discusses how DoJ explicitly deprioritized the prosecution of mortgage fraud, how it lied to Congress about its prosecutions, and how it took credit for Neil Barofsky’s (former Special Inspector General of the TARP and author of book reviewed here, Bailout) collar of Taylor Bean’s CEO, Lee Farkas, just about the only noteworthy prosecution of a bank executive in the wake of the mortgage tsunami.

Wells Fargo Manual for Fabricating Foreclosure Documents

One of the country’s largest banks designed a specific, formal process for falsifying paperwork when its foreclosure efforts were impeded by missing documents, according to documents filed in a New York court earlier this week.

Naked Capitalism: New Lawsuit Alleges Wells Fargo Has Manual for Mass Fabrication of Foreclosure Documents

NY Post Article:  Wells Fargo Made Up On-Demand Foreclosure Papers Plan

Wells Fargo Manual

Bill Black’s TED Talk on Bank Recipes for Fraud

California Supreme Court Refuses to Depublish Glaski Decision

You remember Glaski, in which a California Appeals Court found that borrowers have standing to challenge void assignments of their loans, even if they were not a party to or a beneficiary of the assignment.

In Glaski, the court held that a borrower has standing to challenge an assignment if the defect would void it, but not when it is merely voidable by the assignor. In Glaski, the WaMu Securitized Trust was formed under and governed by New York law, under which a statute provides that every conveyance or other trustee act in contravention of the trust is void. The Glaski court joined other courts in reading the statute literally and held that acceptance of a note and mortgage by the trustee after the date the trust closed would be void. Thus, Glaski stated a claim for wrongful foreclosure by alleging that the transfer was ineffective.

Hence began the banks’ feverish efforts to depublish Glaski.  Why?  Because in many jurisdictions, unpublished authority cannot be cited, and lacks the precedential authority of a published decision.

Today, the California Court declined to depublish Glaski, after receiving reams and reams of briefing on the issue.

Strangely, some of California’s trial courts have refused to follow Glaski, raising the issue of whether they are violating principles of stare decisis.

Doing the Servicer Bounce is a Disservice to Homeowners

The New York Times Dealbook reports on a new wave of mortgage complaints—borrowers in the midst of loan modification being bounced to new servicers.

Full article here.

Excerpt:

A growing number of homeowners trying to avert foreclosure are confronting problems on a new front as the mortgage industry undergoes a seismic shift.

Shoddy paperwork, erroneous fees and wrongful evictions — the same abuses that dogged the nation’s largest banks and led to a $26 billion settlement with federal authorities in 2012 — are now cropping up among the specialty firms that collect mortgage payments, according to dozens of foreclosure lawsuits and interviews with borrowers, federal and state regulators and housing lawyers.

These companies are known as servicers, but they do far more than transfer payments from borrowers to lenders. They have great power in deciding whether homeowners can win a mortgage modification or must hand over their home in a foreclosure.

And they have been buying up servicing rights at a voracious rate. As a result, some homeowners are mired in delays and confronting the same heartaches, like the peculiar frustration of being asked for the same documents over and over again as the rights to their mortgage changes hands

19mortgage-tmagArticle-v2

 

 

Katherine Porter, who was appointed by the California attorney general to oversee the national mortgage settlement, says complaints about mortgage transfers have surged, adding that the servicing companies have “overpromised and underdelivered.” Her office alone has received more than 300 complaints about servicing companies in the last year.

Top officials with the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which oversees the specialty servicers, are scrutinizing the sales to ensure that homeowners don’t get lost in the shuffle.

“The process should be seamless for consumers,” said Steve Antonakes, a deputy director at the agency.