I know that I have reviewed and used Lynn’s solid work on the mass fabrication of documents by the servicers, third party service providers like LPS, and their minions. The banks persecuted her for uncovering the fraud, and even tried to go after her son. So I was pleased that she recovered an $18 million settlement for her False Claims Act complaint.
I like this piece by Matt Stoller published on Naked Capitalism regarding Lynn Symoniak’s good work and the long-deserved relief she deserves:
While Dodd-Frank passed in 2010, most of the action in 2009 was on the House side. Then in 2010, the Senate took it up, and we could move on to other issues. Near the middle of 2010, I encountered that strange document again. Over the course of that year, I had developed a set of contacts with bloggers and ex-regulators who had helped on various pieces of Dodd-Frank, and they started letting me know of forgeries and fraud in the foreclosure process. The real problem I had was connecting that directly to the capital markets. A few reports starting coming out about foreclosure fraud, with the real kickoff a Gretchen Morgenson column in the summer. Yves Smith of Naked Capitalism began describing strange legal theories around securitization and foreclosures. One day, it clicked. Holy shit foreclosures are where the financial system meets the real economy, and the bank servicers are chewing through our entire housing stock.
Meanwhile, that strange set of documents kept resurfacing. And those documents, which showed obvious forgeries side by side with easy to comprehend descriptions, turned out to be pivotal evidence. Rep. Grayson used them in a speech on MERS in Sept, 2010. Lynn Symoniak was the person who put them together. She had been waging a frustrating, agonizing, multi-year fight against banks who had been lying and deceiving millions of people around the housing market. Some of the staffers who had been working on banking began to work internally on generating hearings to pressure regulators, and there were a slew of hearings in late 2010.
Wells Fargo executives came in for a briefing at that time, and told staffers that they were the good bank, the Warren Buffett owned bank. They didn’t dare robosign. Of course I had seven robosigned affidavits in my inbox by Wells, courtesy of among others Lynn. I ended up yelling at those executives and calling them out as liars, though it didn’t matter because the writing was on the wall for the 2010 elections. Man that was a lonely briefing, as everyone else seemed to be looking to get a job with Wells (the banking staffer of the Congressman who fought against the Fed audit is now the head lobbyist for Wells, incidentally). That loneliness, that social isolation, really gets to you. I know at times, it’s gotten to every single person fighting the banks. And they know it, and use it.
Going up against the banks is not easy. What these banks do to ensure that their opponents (their real opponents, not the pliant risk-averse operations like the Center for Responsible Lending) are weak is starve them of funds, over-lawyer them, smear them with PR, and basically do anything they can to ensure that it is painful, lonely, agonizing, and horrible to stand up for your rights and the rights of others. Another one of these heroic figures, Lisa Epstein, was smeared in a juvenile report put out by the Florida Inspector General back in January. Florida attorneys June Clarkson and Theresa Edwards were fired by Attorney General Pam Bondi, and their reputations savaged. There’s a lot more to the story, of course. It’s just a very narrow slice of what I saw.
I don’t particularly like the settlement. First of all it’s complex, thus it presents a natural territorial advantage for those with many lawyers. Second of all, it doesn’t address one of the root problems, which is that bank servicers cannot actually do their jobs properly because they haven’t invested in either the people or the personnel to do it. And there are many more problems, of course.
That said, a small group of people really can change the world. Lynn did so. I was privileged enough to witness her integrity and competence. That she will no longer be financially persecuted, that she will have succeeded in doing well by doing good, means something.