Robo-Signing, Foreclosure Mills, and Problems at Fannie Mae

ProPublica’s look back at the stand-out reporting on the foreclosure crisis. 

A foreclosed home sits boarded up in Islip, N.Y.

Spencer Platt/Getty Images

The housing crisis in the U.S. has now been going on nearly five years, with ongoing revelations about misdeeds by banks and others. Here’s a roundup of the best reporting on the crisis, collected by ProPublica.

Lucrative Fees May Deter Efforts To Alter Loans, New York Times, July 2009
Banks and other mortgage servicers have made big bucks on the fees associated with delinquent loans, due to rules one Federal Reserve Bank of Boston paper called a “perverse incentive to foreclose rather than modify.” This piece surveys the homeowners caught in purgatory – and why the servicers seemed to want to keep them there.


Fannie and Freddie’s Foreclosure Barons, Mother Jones, August 2010
One of the first stories to shed light on a “foreclosure mill”: A Florida law firm tore through cases as quickly as possible while frequently signing off on dodgy documents.  The firm has since been shut down.


Grave Errors as Undead Rework Loans, Wall Street Journal, July 2010
Homeowner Sarah Larson, a 33-year-old acupuncturist, tried to get a break on her $1,055-a-month mortgage from Bank of America. The bank requested three important documents: bank statements, a utility bill, and her death certificate.  Such snafus affected many applicants to the Home Affordable Modification Program.

Mortgage Mess: Shredding the Dream, Businessweek, October 2010
Carelessness on the part of banks, combined with underinvestment in backend infrastructure, contributed to paperwork errors and lost promissory notes that many argue worsened the housing crisis.

Ties to Insurers Could Land Mortgage Servicers in More Trouble, American Banker, November 2010 
Here’s another way that mortgage servicers have profited off of struggling homeowners: by forcing them to pay for expensive and unnecessary insurance policies.

The Next Housing Shock, 60 Minutes, April 2011
This piece investigates the prevalence of “robo-signing,” focusing on one company where a number of employees signed one woman’s name to thousands of documents because her name was short. None of the major banks agreed to talk to 60 Minutes