Friday, January 31, 2014

Jose Santos Benavides was a living Horatio Alger story. Until if all fell apart. Benavides, a Salvadoran immigrant, worked as a self-employed landscaper, saving for years until he had $15,000 that he could use as a downpayment for a four-bedroom home in Rockville. He was earning nearly six figures. A year later, as the economy soured and work dried up, Benavides lost his home in foreclosure. Benavides, his wife, and their two children moved to a cramped, two-bedroom apartment. He tried to put the nightmare behind him and rebuild his life.
Three years later, Benavides learned that the lender wanted to collect the difference between his mortgage in Rockville and what the house sold for in foreclosure. This difference -- called a deficiency -- amounted to more than $115,000, $95,000 for the debt and another $21,000 for the $19 a day interest rate the lender was charging. 
It may seem crazy that lenders can pursue individuals for debt once the bank has sold the house and is collecting payments from someone else. What’s even crazier is how long Maryland law allows the banks to wait before they decide to pursues. 
Twelve years. That’s right. Banks can wait 12 years before they decide whether to collect this debt. In the meantime, most homeowners are unaware that this is hanging over their heads. And the interest keeps growing -- at a median rate of $310 per month -- rapidly increasing the amount the individual owes the lender.  
Maryland has one of the longest timelines for collecting deficiencies in the nation. In addition to the 12 years lenders have to decide whether to collect the debt, they have another 12 years to collect, and a one-time renewal of another 12 years for a total of 36 years. That’s right-lenders have 36 years to pursue a home owner to collect a debt on a home that the individual lost years ago and the bank sold to someone else. 
Other states handle deficiencies differently. More than 10 states bar the collection of deficiency judgements. Twelve states require that a deficiency judgement be brought within three months of a foreclosure sale and Illinois, Kansas, and South Carolina require that the deficiency be sought at the time of the foreclosure. 
If Jose Santos Benavides had lived in a state where banks had to file for a deficiency judgement within six months of foreclosure, he could have acted right away to work out a payment plan with the bank or to file for bankruptcy. The $21,000 in interest charges would never have been added to his debt, and he could have taken the hit to his finances and his credit all at once, and started the process of rebuilding his financial life and his assets right away.
Instead, in November 2012, more than three years after he lost his home to foreclosure, Benavides got a legal notice saying that debt collectors were coming after him for more than $115,000 owed on his former home and giving him 30 days to respond. He filed for bankruptcy five days before Christmas in 2012, and now, several years after losing his home, he has to start rebuilding his financial life assets all over again.
Maryland needs to update its law to protect former homeowners while ensuring banks have the opportunity to pursue these debts. A bill in the General Assembly (HB 274) will reduce the timeline banks have to file for a deficiency from 12 years to 6 month. 

If you agree that 12 years is too long-contact your legislators and tell them that you support efforts to reduce the timeline to 6 months. 

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Monday, September 10, 2012

National Mortgage Settlement-More Needs to Be Done

On August 29th, the Office of Mortgage Settlement released a report on the progress five national banks have made in fulfilling their obligations under the national foreclosure settlement. The banks have committed to providing relief to beleaguered homeowners through principal reduction loan modifications, refinancing, short sales, and more.

To date, banks have done an excellent job in moving forward on short sales while there has been scant progress on principal reduction loan modifications. While this report only covers the first few months since the settlement and does not cover loan modifications that are in progress or in a trial period, the number of homeowners receiving meaningful principal reductions is still a cause for concern.

Read MCRC's short analysis and policy recommendations here:http://www.marylandconsumers.org/LinkClick.aspx?fileticket=nkJ02aij4n4%3d&tabid=38


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Wednesday, July 20, 2011

MCRC and other consumer advocates celebrate the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and call for full funding and the appointment of a director

Tomorrow is the anniversary of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Below are the remarks I made today at a press event in Baltimore calling for the ufll funding of the CFPB and the appointment of a director for the agency.

Remarks for CFPB Anniversary
Marceline White, Executive Director, Maryland Consumer Rights Coaltion (MCRC)
July 20, 2011
Good morning. My name is Marceline White, and I am the Executive Director of the Maryland Consumer Rights Coalition (MCRC). MCRC is a statewide consumer coalition that advances and protects fairness and justice for Maryland consumers through research, education, and advocacy. 
Needless to say, given our mission, I’m delighted to be here today. MCRC advocates for statewide policies that protect Maryland families. Recently we produced a film “Stealing Trust” which captures the voices of hard-working Marylanders who’ve lost their homes, their life savings, and their capacity to trust others to mortgage lenders, debt settlement companies, and unscrupulous home contractors. 
The Marylanders in our film illustrate the need for stronger oversight and regulations. Despite playing by the rules, they lost everything to unscrupulous businesses. No one was watching out for their interests. The CFPB will. It has a simple mandate-provide American families with the information they need to make clear choices about financial products.
Maryland families, like those across the country, have been hard-hit by the economic recession. Families that are struggling to do the right thing-save their homes, pay off their debts, and maintain good credit-find themsleves further and further behind. Today, many Maryland families that work hard and play by the rules find themselves a divorce, a death, a job loss, or a medical emergency away from poverty.
It is abundantly clear that the unregulated markets may work for Wall Street but not for the majority of Maryland families. We need the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau so that there is an agency looking out for our financial health so that we can continue to work hard and build assets, rather than lose our assets to peddlers of dangerous financial products which were designed to deceive. 
Congress has a clear choice-they can confirm a director so that the CFPB can do the work that it was mandated to do, or they can stall progress for millions of families around the country. Main Street has spoken and it supports this new agency-the question remains whether or the Congress which bailed out millionaires and banks will now attend to the the needs of millions of working families. 
MCRC believe that the following areas are critical ones for the CFPB to address:
  • Research into disparate impacts-there has been some research into the disparate impacts of foreclosures based on race, sex, ethnicity and geography. This type of research is critical and should be employed in all sectors so that policymakers can use the data to design appropriate policies and programs.
  • Clear contracts-contracts should be simple and accessible so that consumers can make a real, informed choices. No one should have to be a lawyer or have a Ph.D to understand their mortgage or their credit card statement.
  • Accountability and Consequences-if consumers fail, we face consequences-we lose our homes; our credit scores decline, our wages are garnished. Banks, lenders, financial institutions and others need to be held accountable for their mistakes and face meaningful consequences.
MCRC will continue to advocate for Maryland consumers and partner with state leaders and others to promote the work of the CFPB.
Thank you

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Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Elizabeth Warren in Baltimore-Support the CFPB and follow their work

We had a great night at last Thursday’s Town Hall event featuring White House adviser Elizabeth Warren, as more than 400 Marylanders crowded in to Baltimore’s downtown public library to give a hero’s welcome to Professor Warren, MCRC Executive Director Elizabeth Warren and the other consumer advocates at the forum hosted by Rep. Elijah Cummings 
 The large and enthusiastic crowd spilled out even of the overflow room the library created for the event as it gave several standing ovations to the architect of the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Here’s a link to The Sun’s article on the “rock star treatment” the crowd gave Prof. Warren:
MCRC Executive Director Marceline White won strong applause for her remarks on MCRC’s work to protect Maryland consumers and on what the new CFPB can do to help consumers most. She told the crowd about our new documentary film “Stealing Trust” on victims of financial fraud in Maryland and gave copies of the film to Prof. Warren, Rep. Elijah Cummings and Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown as “a reminder as you fight for the Consumer Protection Bureau of who you are fighting for.” You can read Marceline’s remarks here:
Two of the consumers featured in our film, Kevin Matthews and Lee Tarver, were also on hand to lend the weight of their personal stories of abuse by financial predators to the case for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. The forum also gave MCRC staff people a chance to meet dozens of consumers and hear their own concerns and complaints.
In her remarks last Thursday, Prof. Warren stressed that one of the best ways consumers can support her work and support the new CFPB is to go the agency’s website and contribute to its work. You can check out the CFPB’s web site here:
You can also learn more about the stories Kevin Matthews, Lee Tarver and the other consumers featured in our film “Stealing Trust” have to tell by attending one of our upcoming film screenings. The next presentation is just days away. It will happen:
  • Monday July 11 at 6 p.m. at the Southeast Anchor Library, 3601 Eastern Avenue, Baltimore, MD.
Other July film screenings include:
  • Monday July 25 at Noon at the Annie E. Casey Foundation, 503 N. Charles St., Baltimore MD.
  • Tuesday July 26 at 7 pm at the Montgomery County Civic Building, One Veteran’s Plaza, Silver Spring MD.

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Thursday, June 23, 2011

Town Hall Meeting, Film Screenings Offer Chance to Fight Back against Financial Predators


Town Hall Event with Elizabeth Warren just one week away
Please join us on Thursday June 30 at 6:30 pm at the Enoch Pratt Central Library in downtown Baltimore for a special Town Hall Meeting. Hosted by Rep. Elijah Cummings, the forum will feature White House Adviser and leading consumer advocate Elizabeth Warren speaking about “Fighting for America’s Working and Middle Class Families.” Here’s a link to a flyer about the event:
Professor Warren is the architect of the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and a powerful voice for honest and transparent financial practices. She will explain how the new bureau will help consumers get the kind of clear and accurate information about mortgages, credit cards and other financial products that will protect us against predatory financial practices and why the enemies of financial reform are so determined to cripple the agency before it even starts its work. 
We’re proud and excited that MCRC Executive Director Marceline White will be one of just a handful of speakers to share the program with Professor Warren. 
Marceline will talk about the role the new CFPB can play in protecting Maryland consumers  and about our work to prevent abusive mortgage lenders, debt settlement companies,  contractors and other financial predators from ripping off Marylanders. 
MCRC  Film Screenings:
 “Stealing Trust: Marylanders Speak Out on Frauds, Scams and Financial Abuses”
For a powerful look at the devastating impact illegal foreclosures and other predatory financial practices have had on families and vulnerable consumers across Maryland, please also join us for one of the upcoming screenings of our new documentary film, “Stealing Trust.”
The film tells the poignant stories of Maryland families that have lost their homes, their life savings and even their capacity to trust others to mortgage lenders, debt settlement companies, and unscrupulous home contractors and explains how some consumers have successfully fought back.
Our next screenings will be:
  • Tuesday June 28 at 7 p.m. at Red Emma’s Bookstore, 800 St. Paul St., Baltimore MD. 
  • Monday July 11 at 6 p.m. at the Southeast Anchor Library, 3601 Eastern Ave., Baltimore MD.
“Stealing Trust” has been praised by film critic Michael Sragow on The Baltimore Sun’s film blog and featured in the City Paper’s Weekly Calendar.  WEAA-FM’s Marc Steiner Show featured the the film in its June 13 broadcast and Marc Steiner repeatedly urged listeners to check out our fine film. You can hear Marceline White and several of the consumers in the film discuss the project and their experiences with financial predators by clicking on the podcast of the show:
We will be scheduling additional film screenings around the state throughout the summer and fall. 
Please watch this space and our twitter and facebook posts for word about a screening near you.

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Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Call your Senators to support the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau

Less than one year after Congress passed the Dodd-Frank Wall St. reform and consumer protection law, the U.S. Senate is poised this week to consider two amendments to the Economic Development Revitalization Act (S. 782) that could deal a crippling blow to financial reform.  Concerned consumers need to tell our Senators that banking reform, and the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, need to be implemented not undermined.
An amendment sponsored by Kansas Rep. Sen. Jerry Moran would gut the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau before it even begins its work by eliminating its independent leadership and funding basis. It would replace the agency’s independent director with a six-member board dominated by many of the same regulatory agencies that failed to protect consumers during the recent financial crisis and  give the same Congress where many Republicans strongly oppose the very existence of the agency complete control of its funding.
The Dodd-Frank law carefully designed the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to give it enough protection from political pressure from the financial services industry that it would be able to stand up for consumers while making it fully accountable to the president and the American people. The Moran amendment would destroy that balance. 
But South Carolina Senator Jim DeMint’s amendment goes even further: It would repeal the entire Wall St. Reform Act, including the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the derivatives trading reforms and other reforms Congress belatedly passed in 2010 to protect consumers from the kind of abuses that caused the devastating financial collapse of 2008.
Over the last four years, more than 10 million Americans have lost their homes to foreclosures. Almost 14 million people are officially unemployed today, and millions more have given up hope and stopped  looking for work. As the nation struggles to emerge from the hardest economic times in 70 years, we need strong protections against the kind of predatory financial practices that did so much to cause the crisis.
In May, the Republican majority in the House of Representatives passed three amendments that would badly weaken financial reform and the new CFPB. Now the Senate needs to stand up for U.S. consumers.
Please call Sen. Barbara Mikulski’s office at 202.224.4654 and Sen. Ben Cardin’s office at 202.224.4524 to tell Maryland’s Senators that they need to make Wall St. reform work and to defend the new agency whose job is to defend the interests of consumers. 

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Monday, June 13, 2011

Foreclosure news below and MCRC Film TOMORROW

MCRC Film Screening Event:
 “Stealing Trust: Marylanders Speak Out on Frauds, Scams and Financial Abuses”

The Huffington Post reports this morning that New York State’s Attorney General has launched a new probe of the mortgage security practices of banking giant Bank of America that calls into question the legality of thousands of foreclosures. This study is just part of a larger investigation about whether Wall St. and the banking industry followed the law in creating mortgage securities investigation that could lead to trillions of dollars in additional losses from the housing crisis that continues to devastate our economy.
Please join us tomorrow night to get a powerful look at the devastating impact illegal foreclosures and other predatory financial practices have had on families and vulnerable consumers across Maryland in the next screening of our documentary film, “Stealing Trust.”

The screening will be:
•    Tues. June 14 at 6:30 p.m. at the Enoch Pratt Central Library, 400 Cathedral St., Baltimore, MD.

The film tells the poignant stories of Maryland families that have lost their homes, their life savings and even their capacity to trust others to mortgage lenders, debt settlement companies, and unscrupulous home contractors and explains how some consumers have successfully fought back.

This afternoon you can hear MCRC Executive Director Marceline White and two of the consumers featured in the film discuss the film and talk about our work to protect Maryland consumers on the Marc Steiner Show on at 5 pm on WEAA-FM 88.9 in Baltimore. You can also listen on-line on WEAA’s web site @ http://www.weaa.org/
Please tune in and call the Steiner Show at 410-319-8888 to share your thoughts about what consumer protection issues are most important to you.

We’re excited by the very positive response the film won at our premiere event in May at Baltimore’s Creative Alliance. Sun film critic Michael Sragow has praised “crusading documentary” and compared it to the landmark film “American Casino” on his film blog:
We hope you’ll join us Tues. June 14 to see the film for yourself and to talk with MCRC leaders about what consumers and citizens across the state can do to fight back and to protect themselves against financial predators.

We will also be showing the film around the Baltimore area and across the state this Summer and Fall. Screening dates include:
•    June 28 at 7 p.m. at Red Emma’s Bookstore, 800 St. Paul St., Baltimore MD.
•    July 11 at 6 p.m. at the Southeast Anchor Library, 3601 Eastern Ave., Baltimore MD.

Please watch this space along with our website and our facebook and twitter pages for word about other screenings and a film event near you.

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