Shady Practices by Banks Still Happen in Foreclosure Trials
Much was made in the media about banks’ habits of forging documents, using fake stamps, and altering dates in order to prove that they owned the loans that they were trying to foreclose on during the housing crisis. But very little attention has been given to the banks’ other ways of deceiving the courts and defrauding homeowners: The use of the professional witness.
How The Use of Professional Witnesses Began
When the foreclosure crisis began, there were very few trials in foreclosure cases in Florida. Banks either got their foreclosure before any trial was needed, or else, for the homeowners who were smart enough to get legal help and mount a defense, the cases would just linger in the courts for years.
This was because banks had no idea how to even try a foreclosure case. They did not know about the loans they were foreclosing on, and thus, would not be able to present any admissible evidence in a trial. So, rather than go to trial, the cases just sat, doing nothing.
Of course, courts don’t like cases sitting forever, and courts have an interest in moving cases along as fast as possible. Courts needed to find a way to get these stagnant foreclosure cases moving again. Their solution was to set as many of them for trial as possible. Thus, the courts forced the banks to figure out a way that they could try these cases.
Banks Recruit Witnesses
The banks’ solution was the creation of the professional witness, sometimes called “testiliars” (as opposed to “testifiers”). These were individuals whose sole job was to testify in trials—sometimes multiple trials every day, and hundreds per week. They were trained (or at least the banks tried to train them) to give the answers judges were looking for, and to be prepared for foreclosure defense attorneys’ questions.
These witnesses had nothing to do with the homeowner’s loans, and knew nothing about the homeowner’s file. In many cases, the banks’ professional witnesses didn’t even start working for the bank until long after the foreclosure case had even been filed (which of course was many years after the loan had originally been given). Some had never stepped foot inside the banks’ offices. Many were given ridiculous, plainly made up job titles.
No Personal Knowledge
This was the problem: The law says that a witness in court must have personal knowledge about the evidence he or she is giving. Despite knowing so little about the facts of any case, these witnesses gave stock answers, sometimes even impressive sounding answers, to hide that they had no personal knowledge about the case.
If an insurance company used a professional witness to go around the country and testify in car accident cases that the Defendant was not negligent, or that the accident didn’t happen the way the victim said it did, you would probably see how silly that was. The witness couldn’t possibly testify about car accidents that he or she knew nothing about. But banks did just this, and it continues happening even today.
We come to trial prepared to deal with these fake witnesses. Contact Jacobs Legal to speak with one of our Miami consumer rights attorneys today.