Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Mortgage-servicing Squaliforme takes yet another swing

The seemingly-endless legal saga of Robert John Wright passed another milestone on Tuesday, December 12th, more than 10 years since Bank of America and EMC Mortgage began their relentless and apparently illegal pursuit of his home.

Looking at what’s available in the court records, one can discern that Wright has not only done a lot of his own work over the years (including an appeal to the Supreme Court) but he’s also had a number of attorneys from time to time over the years, including Washington DC’s “Pro bono lawyer of the year,” Rawle Andrews. As it turns out, looking at the case histories in the Dallas courthouse, he’s even been represented by one of the area’s most prestigious firms – for a while, that is.

That’s what probably tripped him up in the long run. The more EMC spent the more they couldn’t afford to lose. They have to spend everything it takes, and obviously will; a precedent ruling against EMC in these cases could attract the plaintiff’s bar in very large numbers.

In one facet of the on-going brush war, Michael Swartzendruber of Fulbright and Jaworski’s Dallas office testified EMC brought F&J in because of who was representing Wright at that time, one Bobby Rubbarts of Hughes and Luce. Good lawyerin’ costs big bucks in that part of Texas.

But Wright, of course, was penniless (he more recently has filed an indigency motion to obtain a transcript of his trial, so that status apparently hasn’t changed), and Rubbarts must have thought there was plenty of fire under all the smoke being generated by EMC’s counsel of record at that time.

Rubbarts took on the Wright case pro bono in 2003, EMC added F&J to their team and the trial actually got going in early December of 2004. After the Judge appeared to run out of patience and time during the trial, she ordered them back into a third settlement conference which took place just before Christmas of '04.

They apparently reached an accord but Wright was disputing that in later filings. According to the property tax rolls, EMC obtained the property in January of 2005. According to the forum, Wright has apparently been in the house since then and is now out.

What went wrong with the settlement is the subject of yet another round of motions and hearings that surfaced in late 2005 and have crawled along ever since, with one of the appeals ending in a rather bizarre scenario if one reads the appeals court ruling – he apparently didn’t pay the fee at the time he filed the appeal. The court record of the dismissal says he was notified twice but given the stakes involved it’s hard to imagine he’d have come this far and then simply let it drop by not paying the fee. But stranger things have happened in this case.

Wright also filed a bankruptcy petition (pro se), late in October, apparently in part to stave off the earlier massive legal-expense ruling he lost. EMC won a round that is still destined for appeal and went after Wright for F&J’s legal expenses. We’re talking well into six-figures in legal expenses for just F&J’s team which is led by Swartzendruber.

EMC, through F&J of course, filed and obtained a lift of the automatic stay after a hearing. Turns out, though, Wright isn’t the owner any more and hasn’t been since January of 2005. To make a long story shorter, EMC apparently obtained a Writ of Possession a few weeks ago.

Now, to say EMC was stupid in this case is an understatement. All told, in ten years, this squaliforme has probably poured out nearly a half-million dollars in legal expenses alone, knowing full well it will never recoup them. At a time where lenders are allegedly worried about the growth in foreclosures, they were willing to spend anything to get this house (which is on the tax rolls for $240,340). Even the $6M loss to the Starks hasn't persuaded them to change the way they play the equity-theft game.

From this distance, it seems All EMC would have had to have done is fix some rather simple accounting screw-ups that Bank of America made when EMC bought the loan. But that isn’t what EMC is in the business to do. In most cases, they get the property and equity much faster. As with most cases that actually involve a lawsuit, they decided to try and spend Wright into oblivion, and when they ran up against attorneys willing to put up a fight, they had to keep spending and spending. Which means there is plenty to hide. Stealing people’s homes can be expensive business and is best done out of the light of day.

Something tells me it ain’t over.

The Honorable Judge Roy Bean

1 comment:

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