Old Debts (or not) and Enormous Profit …

Last Monday a friend of mine received a phone call on his cell phone from an unidentified Rhode Island number. He went to college in Providence, has friends there, answered.

Script from a ‘collection’ company a few dozen times removed from the debt.

This is what he got – “Hi, Mr. Loman, this is an attempt to collect a debt, anything – yada, yada, yada … can you confirm the last four digits of your social?”


“Is it ‘5555’?”


“Okay, well, I have an account here from Verizon, you owe twelve hundred dollars.”

“I’ve never had a Verizon account.”

“Well, sure, but it could also be from -”

“Could be?”

“From any one of the following companies now part of Verizon …” the guy then read off a very long list of companies, a list that pretty much summed up the telephone industry of the 21st Century.

“No,” my friend answered.

“No? Whattaya mean, no?”

“I don’t owe anything to anyone on that list.”

“Says here you do.”

“Then it’s wrong.”

“Look, Biff, I have it right here and -”

My friend has a law degree and a long history of dealing with total BS, so it finally hit him to ask, “Wait a second, what’s the date on this supposed debt?”

The guy on the phone fumbled around, Biff could hear papers being shuffled, murmurs of other voices from the boiler room, then, “Yeah, got it here, 2003.”

“You’re calling me about a twelve year old debt?”

“Well, no, see, we just received it -”

“Yeah, well, then it sucks to be you, have a nice day, don’t ever call again.”

Continue reading Old Debts (or not) and Enormous Profit …

Contracts, French Meals, Debt, and Groucho Marx

“I don’t want to belong to any club that would accept me as one of its members.” ~ Groucho Marx

Groucho-MarxIf you’re looking for a car, or a student loan, or a credit card, or short term loan and there are investors out there dying for you to take on the debt, you have to wonder why . . . and consider deeply before joining the club.

Look at it this way: You’re walking down the street, hungry, deciding between Five Guys, In and Out Burger, and a couple of decent Chinese food take-out store fronts when the owner of a new French restaurant runs up to you, offers to set you and your friends up with a world famous 7 course meal.

You’re tempted – you’re salivating, in fact – but explain you simply can’t afford it. No sweat, he tells you, 7 courses, a couple bottles of fine wine, all the baggettes you can eat, and a dessert to die for AND you have 90 days to pay the meal off. Continue reading Contracts, French Meals, Debt, and Groucho Marx

Flow Charts, Decision Trees, Venn Diagrams, and Foreclosure Defense

decision-model-diagramI know someone who zipped through law school finals (usually the one and only grade for a class, so, hey, no pressure) by creating flow charts. Elaborate charts that, if used properly, would lead to a well organized, rational, factually-based answer. The trick for him – and anyone using it in lieu of an outline – was to properly identify the issue. Miss the issue and the flow chart was useless. Hit the issue, sit back and fill in the blanks.

Most options are, of course, at the beginning. Start with the basic issue(s) and it begins to narrow down, and down, and down to the logical end point – a logical, legally supportable result.

I thought of this last week when I was giving a short talk at the Connecticut Bar Association about foreclosure defense. I was talking about the process – always the process – and it aways came back to options. As in, what options are available to the client at what point in the process.

Like my friend’s flow charts, the options are very much front-loaded. The issue is not in doubt, but the way to a good result for the client is certainly not a straight line.

After I fielded a few questions it became pretty clear, pretty quickly, that my colleagues and I are seeing clients at the mid- to late stages of the process . . . the place where – under the flow chart scenario – the options narrow.

This is disturbing because this isn’t a legal exercise, it’s peoples’ lives. It’s their homes. It’s even more disturbing if the reason for this is because people who are going through foreclosure don’t think they have options . . . and by the time they realize they do, those options have been significantly reduced.

Either way, foreclosure defendants have a textbook worth of options at the start of the process, and need to take advantage – otherwise the flow chart looks like this:





P.T. Barnum and Consumer Debt

p t barnum's ill news4-thumb-350x470-17752Most people remember P.T. Barnum for the line – “there’s a sucker born every minute.” Great – if not cynical -line, but Barnum never said it.

I have been thinking of him in a slightly different context lately, however. Over the past two weeks or so I’ve made a series of posts on my Facebook page concerning consumer debt – all of them pretty sobering. Like the New York Times article about car repossessions and military personel.   

I seems that when cars are illegally repossessed by lenders, there is no recourse through the courts. There is a clause in many – many – financial contracts that require all disputes be settled in binding arbitration. Only. Continue reading P.T. Barnum and Consumer Debt

“They’re More Like Guidelines . . .”

I continue to get foreclosure clients at various stages of the ‘process’. Very rarely, these days, do I start with someone who just got served or, best case scenario, someone who knows they are about to go into foreclosure and wants to plan their response.

There are a lot of reasons for this, every one of which I understand. And will probably write about in the near future.

The ramifications of this trend have really hit home over the past month or so. Recently, I spent a morning in court for a “short-calendar” day – that’s a day devoted exclusively to motions concerned with various stages of foreclosure actions. There were a little over one hundred items on the docket. One hundred decisions that a judge had to make.

Besides myself, the judge, clerk, and marshal, there were eight other people in the room. For One hundred motions. Two plaintiff attorneys representing the banks (yes, they had every case) and six defendants there to speak up.

There are two sides to every argument, but only if two sides show up. On that day, out of one hundred plus motions, the judge heard seven arguments. Ninety-three plus motions were decided by default judgement.

Connecticut state courts are jammed with foreclosure cases. It’s a sad fact and it’s not going to change anytime soon.  When overwhelmed by work, it’s basic human nature to shortcut the workpile – especially the tedious.

Any fan of Pirates of the Caribbean can tell you what happens next:

The code becomes more like guidelines instead of rules‘. I can do a lot of good at any stage of the process, and I do – but when I come in after the rules becomes guidelines stage I come in with less ammunition that I would have earlier in the process.

Received a text from a client who saw one of my videos earlier this week. She eloquently summed up the foreclosure process. And made my day…

 … it’s the fear that tends to take one’s life over but I’m happy to have you on my side, knowing that you care . . .you are a saint in the eyes of this foreclosure. Which is hell “


Expectations are funny things – personal, largely unspoken, the basis for relationships while probably one the main reasons relationships fail.

In any relationship the longer expectations are left unspoken, the more divergent they become until you get the situation below:

Foreclosure defense is rife with expectations, few of them grounded in what actually occurs during the court process.

A few years ago it was widely reported that up to 90% of people foreclosed on failed to show up at court. Period. The majority of them no doubt expected that after missing mortgage payments, everything from there on out was inevitable – a quick look around the Internet easily reinforced that – so why add the stress of spending a day in court?

Now, many people going into foreclosure are angry – at themselves, their banks, mortgage brokers, investors that bought securitized mortgage instruments, Congress, Wall Street, and on and on – a quick look around the Internet easily reinforces this.

My job with both these categories – and all the ones in between, they tend to create some very interesting Venn Diagrams (more on that later) – is managing their expectations . . .  no, that’s wrong, my job is to set their expectations.

Simply: we are not going to court to roll up in a ball and acquiesce to everything the bank’s lawyers toss at us; conversely, we are not going to court to right the wrongs of the Recession, undo securitized loans, return the financial world to the way it was in the good old days before . . .

I am going to court to get a fair and equitable deal for you and take some stress out of your life.

That’s it, anything else adds to the stress levels for all of us and can lead to perilous situations – and none of us have Bond’s ability to escape time after time.

Behind the Scenes in Foreclosure Defense . . . or Show Up Part II

In a blog post a week or so ago I wrote about the importance of showing up – a theme I’ll be writing more about in the next few days. With foreclosures it’s also important to show up – in some regard – at legislative hearings … for all the same reasons.

Cheddar, The Plague, Boom Beach, and Foreclosures

“There’s always free cheddar in the mousetrap, baby…”

tomwaitsThat’s a line from a Tom Waits’ song called, fittingly enough, God’s Away on Business.

I help people involved in really scary personal financial debacles – it doesn’t get much worse than having someone trying to take your house … unless you’ve had your identity stolen, or …

I deal in issues that became crises shortly after the Recession began and are still going strong.

People being people, no crisis has ever comesherwood_thomas_practitioner-the_charitable_pestmaster-crop and gone without someone figuring out how to gain from the misery. As far back as the Black Plague, charlatans masqueraded as doctors and roamed the streets peddling cures, charging exorbitant fees from increasingly desperate survivors.

It’s a given that whenever and wherever there’s a crisis there are the people who try to fix it, people who flee, people who suffer, and people who find a way to make easy money.

It’s no surprise then that when it comes to foreclosures the Internet is teeming with free advice, theories, legal forms, briefs, motions, magic potions.

As is the case with a lot of the Internet, the advice starts out free, little bits of ‘if you do this’ and ‘do that’ you might ‘end up with this’. Just enough free advice to get you started while jamming the courts with unsupported pleadings (more on that latter).

boombeachSomewhere along the road, of course, maybe just to cover the cost of maintaining such a helpful site, there’s a charge. That place usually occurs at a key junction of the case.  The charges will not, of course, stop there. Think a smart phone/tablet game app – if you want to win you have to start racking up in-app purchases.

Over the next few weeks I’ll be writing about this in more detail. For now, just remember, stay away from the cheddar.