What is a ROBO signer? We used to know it as a “rubber stamp” – a signature used by a second party, attesting that the authorized party has knowledge of the documents being “signed.” In recent days this term has become associated with the signatures appearing on foreclosure documents, because some of these second parties have used ROBO signers to sign – on behalf of the authorized party — over 400 documents per day.
That wouldn’t be a lot of signatures if you were on a book tour – but these are not trivial documents. For example, in a foreclosure the authorized party is attesting to the facts surrounding the foreclosure — that all of the documents are true and correct, that proper notice has been given to all parties, and that publication has been made in accordance with the law.
IMAGINE what could happen if the people who authorized these signatures didn’t actually verify or do any of the things they were attesting to.
IMAGINE that the person who signed (under penalty of perjury) that they had read the documents hadn’t actually read them.
IMAGINE that the notary, who swore under penalty of perjury that the signatory personally appeared before them, had actually never met the signatory.
IMAGINE that this happened to tens of thousands of homeowners between 2007 and the present.
NOW … try to wrap your head around the fact that this high-volume widespread business practice is REAL, not imaginary. ROBO signing has been happening across the U.S. for over four years — and is continuing with NO regulatory or governmental intervention.
It’s mind-boggling, isn’t it?
What could compel ordinary people, in the name of efficiency, to sign documents under false pretenses – thereby submitting bald face lies to the court? Was it the money? I don’t think so. These people weren’t paid that much. Were these people not the brightest bulbs in the enterprise? I think that’s part of it.
The people implementing these programs were hired with no experience, and were given no training – they were instructed to do as they were told. Many of these people had no banking experience whatsoever. A shortage of common sense was clearly a contributing factor.
Is this a case of willful ignorance? You bet — they were just following orders! If the bank told them to do it, that somehow made it OK. In their minds, the ROBO signers were just doing their job.
Willful ignorance not only gives employees the false comfort that what they are doing is “OK,” it transfers the responsibility. If they were to acknowledge otherwise, they would be compelled to do something about it — which may cost them their jobs. So instead, the blinders go up, and life goes on.
Remember, it wasn’t ignorance on the part of the bank management. They knew EXACTLY what they were doing – and they’re still doing it.
Picture this: One of these people, while being deposed, tells the attorney that they were just following orders (where have we heard that before?) On the surface, it’s the ROBO signers who did it – unaccountable automatons who signed thousands of documents. Not only did the ROBO signers lie under oath when stating they had read the documents, they also forged many signatures. On one point, everyone agrees — the ROBO signers were out of control.
Returning to reality, it’s important to remember that humans controlled the ROBO signers. Two degrees removed from the ROBO signers were the humans that enabled banks to foreclose on homes as fast as the automatons could execute the documents. I don’t question the legal rights of banks to foreclose — but I believe that a statement of fact issued by software puts justice on a slippery slope.
Included in the victims of the automation enabled by ROBO signers are the thousands of homeowners nationwide who lost their homes to foreclosure mistakenly. In many cases these homeowners were actively working with the bank to modify and restructure their loans.
The ROBO “efficiencies” are only one more bucket in the legal tsunami inundating the real-estate markets. Many “big” banks were excoriated in the press for their ROBO signers, but to what correction? It appears almost none. Many courts have accepted the ex post proof of legal rights as a defense for ex ante legal shenanigans – damn the lies, fallout, and perjury.
What has not been addressed is that the law was broken. The laws were broken tens of thousands of times, and not one bank has been criminally charged.
No deed can be assigned, and no assignment of a deed or mortgage can be valid if signed by a ROBO signer. In addition, the notary is liable if they verified the signing of documents that they did not witness. The trail of liability is mind numbing.
Consider the problem of title. Clear title cannot be derived from a fraud. The law is VERY clear here, which I expect will develop into multiple liabilities for title insurance companies. Unfortunately, the storm is still gathering.
Ultimately, the casualties will include the homeowners, the notary bonds (like those ever pay), those who bought CDO’s with ROBO signed documents in the portfolio, the Federal Government who chose to insure losses sustained by the banks, and the Title Insurance Companies who are now insuring the title on homes that have been resold out of a foreclosure based upon ROBO signed documents. A perfect storm of litigation set in motion because some professionals in our field failed to foresee a foreseeable problem — and in the spirit of efficiency, when asked to attest to the facts, made computers their proxy.
“Cheap and Cheerful” solutions are rarely cheerful, and almost never cheap. Coming to a theater near you, “The Revenge of the ROBO Signers.”
By Carrier Bekker, Bekker Compliance