Here's some great news: Marysville's Jacob Bradburn, a 32-year-old crane operator, won a pre-trial summary judgement against Bank of America last week overturning his 2009 foreclosure. Snohomish County Superior Court judge George Bowden ruled that Bank of America's actions had been "unfair and deceptive" and voided the foreclosure. Bowden writes:
I was troubled... that [Bradburn] was told that he should stop making his mortgage payments so that he could qualify for refinancing with Bank of America (BANA) and that once he fell behind he not only wasn’t approved for that refinance but then found himself unable to bring his mortgage loan current or resolve what he believed was a dispute about how much he was behind.
"They called me every day asking me if I wanted to refinance or get caught back up on the loans," Bradburn told me by phone today. "I’d say yeah, whatever it takes to save my house. And they would never tell me how to do it... I never qualified for loan modification." The scenario is reminiscent of Phyllis Walsh, a south Seattle woman who, according to her suicide note and family members, thought she was refinancing her mortgage with US Bank, but was actually being foreclosed upon. As I reported in October, Walsh killed herself two days before she was to be evicted from her home.
Citing ongoing litigation, a spokesman for Bank of America wouldn't comment on the ruling. And Bradburn's lawyer, Scott Stafne, cautioned against too much optimism, pointing out that the bank can still appeal. But he says it's "one of the first cases that I know of where a Superior Court has held a sale which took place four years ago to be void." It's also a strike against the widespread practice of having companies that have an incentive to foreclose act as the "trustee" on the home—in this case it was ReconTrust, which itself is a subsidiary of Bank of America. They're supposed to be neutral under state law; I'll have more on that in a future post.
If Goldman Sachs is a great vampire squid—apologies to Matt Taibbi—then Bank of America is a headcrab. The bank has a history of playing dirty tricks: its personnel boasted of spying on and trolling Anonymous activists, stalled homeowners it was supposed to help, as Bloomberg News reported, "with repeated requests for paperwork and incorrect income calculations," and "systematically lied to homeowners, fraudulently denied loan modifications, and paid their staff bonuses for deliberately pushing people into foreclosure," according to whistleblowers.
"I think Bank of America tries to abuse their power too much," says Bradburn. "Everybody bows down to them and all they get is a slap on the hand." But Bradburn didn't bow down, and he's hoping that means a settlement that enables him to buy another home.