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Broward judge ignores tainted bank documents to justify foreclosures, watchdog report charges

gundersen

By Noreen Marcus, FloridaBulldog.org

Broward Circuit Judge Andrea Gundersen, who runs the court’s foreclosure docket, often rules for banks and against homeowners even when the banks use sketchy documents, a consumer watchdog charges in a recent report.

Released in May, the report got scant attention until Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Beatrice Butchko took the dramatic step of holding Bank of America, the Bank of New York Mellon and their lawyer in contempt for failing to answer questions about possible fraud in a foreclosure case.

The Third District Court of Appeal in Miami tabled the case. If the banks eventually win, nurse Julie Nicolas will lose her North Miami Beach home of nearly 30 years.

andrea gundersen
Broward foreclosure Judge Andrea Gundersen

The report by the nonprofit Floridians for Honest Lending (FHL) targets robo-signing, the discredited and illegal practice of treating foreclosure papers like assembly line goods.

Endorsements that establish the lender’s legal right to foreclose are stamped and processed robotically. The “signer,” a bank executive, could not possibly know what’s in the papers and vouch for their validity, as is legally required.

In 2012, findings of mortgage loan misconduct, including robo-signing, were supposedly resolved with a $25-billion settlement between the five biggest mortgage servicers and, on the other side, 49 state attorneys general and the Justice Department.

Robo-signing never ended

The next year a dozen U.S. mortgage lenders, most prominently Bank of America and its subsidiary Countrywide Financial, agreed to end robo-signing as part of a $9.3-billion settlement with the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency.

But the FHL report based on 2019-2020 South Florida court records shows that illegal robo-signing persists. For example, stacks of mortgage loans originated by the notorious Countrywide bear the signatures of three bank executives–if the papers were legit, a trio that could boast of superhuman powers.

“It’s the same shit now,” said a foreclosure defense lawyer who practices in Broward and commented anonymously, fearing retaliation. “It’s the same names over and over. Clearly, from court records, what’s on the documents are stamps. That’s the evidence right there.”

Laura Wagner

Consumer activist Laura Wagner, executive director of FHL, drew a connection between the predatory mortgage lending that fueled the 2008 economic meltdown and current practices.

“The banks got caught buying subprime loans at a discount. They made a bet on it and then they realized they made a bad bet, but it was a whole lot of money,” she said.

Now the banks are using all available means, including robo-signing and other abusive tactics, to tap into the enormous value of outstanding mortgage loans, according to Wagner. “So they want everyone to turn a blind eye to it.”

Little media, regulatory scrutiny

The report states, “The banks’ reckless greed left millions of properties with mortgages and promissory notes corrupted and the chain of title on those properties broken, putting trial judges in the uncomfortable position of either taking the banking industry to task for these forged documents or kicking a family out of their home.

“Unfortunately, with little scrutiny from the media, legislators, or regulators, our court system has heavily favored the latter.”

FHL researchers looked at foreclosure complaints filed in Broward and Miami-Dade state courts in 2019 and found 369 with one of a handful of names stamped on the endorsement line. Gundersen handled 217 of the cases in Broward, closed 126 of them and never once ruled for a defendant homeowner.

Consistent with the numbers, Gundersen treats bank lawyers much more courteously  than homeowners’ lawyers who challenge suspicious documents, according to the report. It describes how she sometimes orders boat-rocking defense lawyers to pay their wealthy adversaries’ attorney fees.

She doesn’t conduct foreclosure trials, but oversees pre-trial maneuvers and then sends a relatively few cases to Senior Judge Barry Stone for trial. “I respect him and like him and he actually tries to follow the law,” the anonymous Broward defense lawyer said.

The problem is that Gundersen skews discovery and other preliminary matters toward the banks, the lawyer said. “You have to deal with her first and she’s awful to borrowers’ counsel.” No one knows how many arguable defenses Gundersen derails so that they never reach Stone.

JQC investigation of Gundersen?

The FHL report says in April alone Gundersen disqualified herself 19 times when she was accused of pro-bank bias. It says homeowners complained about her to the Judicial Qualifications Commission, which investigates judges for ethics violations.

Confidentiality rules prevent Florida Bulldog from verifying the claim that the JQC is reviewing Gundersen’s actions.

Broward Chief Judge Jack Tuter, speaking for the court and Gundersen, responded to the FHL report. He did not address criticisms of her attitude and approach.

Broward Chief Judge Jack Tuter

Tuter said he’s unaware of any problems involving questionable mortgage paperwork, but “this issue did arise some years ago during the foreclosure crisis. Several opinions from the Fourth District Court of Appeal in West Palm Beach regarding the trustworthiness of records custodians helped to give clarity to what judges could consider.

“I have every confidence Judge Gundersen is following that line of cases and if this is a significant issue again, we would hope the Fourth District would once again render decisions if we are not getting this right,” he said in a statement.

FHL also reviewed records in Miami-Dade Circuit Court, where foreclosure cases are blind-filed and assigned to whichever civil division judge’s name comes up, rather than going to a designated foreclosure judge.

The researchers found that since Jan. 1, 2019, 310 Miami-Dade houses with robo-signed endorsements were sold at auction — 21 of them during the pandemic, according to the report.

The Bruce Jacobs problem

Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Jennifer Bailey, who heads the court’s civil division, responded with this statement:  “In each case where a house was sold, a presiding judge reviewed the evidence in the case and entered judgment, after which a foreclosure sale is set. If a party disagreed with the judgment and felt that the judgment was entered in error, the remedy is an appeal.

“To our knowledge, no error was demonstrated in any case that went to sale,” Bailey said in her statement.

Bruce Jacobs

Miami-Dade judges who look to the Third District Court of Appeal for guidance on how to deal with foreclosure fraud may see the Bruce Jacobs problem instead.

Jacobs, the Miami lawyer who represents Julie Nicolas in Butchko’s high-profile case, has made it his mission to expose any loan-servicing flaws that hurt his foreclosure defense clients. He has accused Gundersen and other judges of pro-bank bias and fought to disqualify them from hearing his cases.

The organized Bar doesn’t like Jacobs’ confrontational style and may be on the verge of silencing him. In an ethics hearing, Jacobs was found guilty of impugning the integrity of the courts; the referee will send a punishment recommendation to the Florida Supreme Court this month.

Conduct ‘beyond the pale’

Akerman, the law firm that opposes Jacobs in the Nicolas case, convinced the Third District to pause trial court proceedings while the firm attacks Butchko and her contempt order. Akerman lawyers were quick to note the fact that Third District judges have twice accused Jacobs of ethics violations.

This passage from the court’s 2018 opinion in Aquasol Condo Assn. vs. HSBC Bank suggests the judges will not listen dispassionately to his arguments in the Nicolas case:

“Mr. Jacobs’ conduct … violated not only the Rules Regulating the Florida Bar and the Rules of Appellate Procedure, but the most elementary norms of civility and professionalism.

“While judges and attorneys over the course of their career are subjected to isolated instances of incivility, the instant misconduct is beyond the pale, different not simply in degree but in kind. It is egregious misconduct which can be neither excused nor ignored.”

One has to wonder if the outraged response to Jacobs’ combative approach obscures his message: Mortgage banks are using abusive and illegal tactics to separate homeowners from their homes.

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  • The Judges are corrupt, plain and simple. I was the victim of Robo-“stamper” in Colorado and had so much evidence against Chase (WaMu loan) they left me alone and although they tried, they never foreclosed. BTW, I WAS paying my mortgage all along, but they STILL filed to foreclose.

    Ever since MERS has been in place, the “BANKSTERS” have been getting away with murder with regards to falsifying documents with Florida, Colorado and California being the worst of the Judges who go along with this modern day robbery.

    I lost the securitization chain on my loan after it was sold (and the bank was paid off). FIVE TIMES! In other words, the bank was paid my mortgage amount 5 X’s, (and who knows how many more times my Note was sold.) Yet, as in tens of thousands of cases, the bank still wants more and forecloses of mostly innocent buyers.

    Watch the movie “The Big Short” to get the flavor of what happened in 2008.

    Personally, I think these Judges should be indicted for collusion and racketeering.

    Anyone wants a copy of a newsletter that one of the biggest eat Robosigning firms puts out, let me know. In it, you’ll see they handed out monetary awards to Law firms for the highest number of foreclosures and “BK” cases….. in the millions of dollars. I sent most of my material to Nick Timerios at the Wall Street Journal, who later called me to confirm it and my source. Within weeks, Gretchen Morgensen of the WSJ wrote a series of articles on the fraud and abuse by the banks.

    Despite this continuing nightmare, not a single banister or judge had gone to jail.

  • Great reporting Florida Bulldog. The obligation of the Press is to hold the government accountable. The Broward County Courthouse is a rigged system with mostly Senior Judges put in place as agents for the bank. These mostly are fictitious foreclosures (clouded titles) hold the homeowner hostage by extortion (pay or seize inflated/illegal debt). Banker ommission of material non-disclosure AB RULE 1122 manufactured documents. BOFA not a servicer but a PAYEE AGENT of a direct stock investment portfolio. The state court does not have subject matter jurisdiction over IRS/SEC tax matter partner schemes -; using the homeowners SS# 1099 (a) the homeowner becomes (Creditor/partner) turned Renter (Ordinary) PASS THROUGH INVESTOR. CHIEF Judge Jack Tutor knows – many ederly targeted – RIGGED DEFSULT. Broward county judges become illegal debt collection agent. Amendment 4 and 14 illegal government seizures of homestead The right to known – Color of Law title 18 sec 242, 241. Pull all the files on LAZARUS, LEBOW, GUNDERSON then we can proceed to Federal Courts. President John F. Kennedy warned about the monolithic enterprise (secret societies). THE COVERUP is worse than the crime. Sundquist v. Bank of America – Judge Christopher Klein. The “Corporate Hose’ attacks foreclosure defence so the homeowner has no representation to protect their property up against the corporate beast. I have all the evidence you need. Find me.

  • Thank you. Good article.

  • Thank You for fighting for our Constitutional Rights!

    You all are making a difference.

  • These aren’t judges. These are bank stooges. Impeach them and disbar their crooked asses.

  • Stunningly hypocritical-“the instant misconduct is beyond the pale, different not simply in degree but in kind. It is egregious misconduct which can be neither excused nor ignored.”…Should be applied to crooked or inept k judges who ignore crimes, and take offense when called out on it like petty little tyrants.
    THE NMS called for an end to robo-siging/forgery-the states were to be sure courts removed forged documents from files, and redress for aggrieved homeowners was also supposed to be addressed. Instead the $25 billion got swept into general funds and fc mills and judges worked out a lucrative home theft RICO dance, ignoring forgery and perjury and fatally broken chains of title (see statute of frauds etc)……and now its claimed somebody like Bruce can impugn their integrity? Really? How? Have they not monumentally and arrogantly done so themselves already?
    Find a member of the public who has dealt with the courts and has ANY confidence in them or their legitimacy. I’ll wait.

  • The moment the courts accepted that an agent and not the actual plaintiff, could institute unlawful foreclosure actions in the name of trusts that either never legally existed or ceased to legally exist, the deck remained stacked against the owners of real property. This second phase of unlawful foreclosures will now be at the hands of LLC’s created solely for the purpose of falsely claiming to be a servicer of a non-existing loan to recover hundreds of thousands at foreclosure sales. Who would pay $50k to make $500k at a foreclosure sale? The idea that a non-interested party can claim to be the servicer of a loan that doesn’t exist, put forced place insurance in place and pay property taxes in advice together with legal fees to make it appear to the court they have a valid claim, is the new “robbery in progress” across America. For judges to allow unlawful actions to run amuck in their courtrooms while they wear the rob is not only a smack in the face to them personally and the judiciary as a whole, it is borderline complicit, especially when it sends or allows its investigative arm (the bar association) to target defense attorneys who are obligated to put on the most zealous defense possible.

  • Here in Wisconsin, the Supreme Court went out of their way to throw the Real Property laws in the garbage can. The bias of the Judiciary NATIONWIDE against homeowners in support of THEIR OWN BANK STOCK HOLDINGS HAS BEEN SHOW TO BE CANCER IN THIS COUNTRY!
    Judiciary misconduct known as “abuse of discretion” resulting in THE ABUSE OF HOMEOWNER RIGHTS is more than “commonplace”, it is the MODUS OPERANDI of these kangaroo courts.

  • This IS a massive racketeering operation completed WITH THE HELP of the Circuit Courts, the US Bankruptcy Courts, the US Bankruptcy Trustee’s Office, the Federal Appeals Courts, and law enforcement nationwide.

  • To the editor: When the next election approaches, could you please print a list of articles mentioning judges/candidates in your recent articles, to remind us of who/what we are voting for? So little info is available when considering down-ballot candidates, especially judges who wrap themselves in the “canons of ethics” to avoid answering any meaningful questions.

    Please someone, step up and run against Gunderson.

  • Thank you for this well-researched and written report and for amplifying the issues!!! The American Property Owners Network , a new non-profit umbrella organization for efforts to make justice happen for homeowners in our courts, will certainly broadcast this article!!!!

  • Holy shit, the banks foreclosed on a homeowner that never missed a payment! That sent a chill down my spine. Could happen to anyone.

  • We made it for 12 years fighting this shit until we gave up the house my in-laws built and died in. During that time the bankers got the Florida legislature to end the Statute of Limitations for banks which allows them to refile after losing over and over. Real life Groundhog Day. How can you fight a neverending fraud supported by our government and campaign donations by banks and lawyers? The Florida Bar disbarred our lawyer too, mainly because he kept winning and pissing off judges statewide. Racketeering 101.

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