Two-year-olds often go running around the house too wildly and crash into something. They get an "ouchie" and fall down crying, but they learn from it.
That's the virtue of the "ouchie" that Bank of America, Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo and other big financiers got last year when they ran into the law after racing wildly through home foreclosure paperwork. They were caught falsifying thousands of documents and taking illegal shortcuts that were causing innocent families to lose their homes. They had to pay fines, make restitution, suspend foreclosures, and pledge to clean up their act. But, at least, they learned their lesson.
Oh, wait — these aren't 2-year-olds. They are wily bankers, and the only lesson they ever seem to learn is that shortcuts can be profitable — as long as you don't get caught. But, once again, they've been caught rushing through foreclosures, using the same old scam called "robo-signing."
To foreclose on someone's home, an authorized bank employee must sign the foreclosure document, swearing that the facts in it are true. But that requires hiring people to review each case. To avoid that cost, they take an illegal shortcut by signing the name of someone who has not read the document and might not even exist. In one Massachusetts county, for example, "Linda Green's" signature has recently appeared on some 1,300 foreclosures. Curiously, her signature was written in many different styles, and she had many different titles. Also, there's no Linda Green currently working in the mortgage banking company involved. Meanwhile, state officials say that robo-signing is, once again, "an epidemic," all across the country.
It's a federal crime to do this, yet no bank or banker has even been charged. Until we put a CEO in jail, the banking barons will never learn their lesson.
Jim Hightower is the best-selling author of Swim Against the Current: Even a Dead Fish Can Go With the Flow, on sale now from Wiley Publishing. For more information, visit jimhightower.com.