Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Michigan Eviction King Dave Trott-- Far More Vile Than A Teabagger


If House Democrats were absolutely certain that it was imperative that they not gain any seats in November-- and that they just could not leave anything to chance-- there would be no better plan of operation than appointing Steve Israel to chair the DCCC. Although Pelosi has admiringly described him as reptilian, Israel is more accurately viewed as grotesquely corrupt, completely incompetent, dedicated to stocking the Democratic caucus with anti-family Big Business shills like himself, and desperate to play footsie with the Republicans

Michigan's 11th CD is one of dozens of good cases in point. Israel, primarily due to his obsessive hatred of Muslims, already botched the district for the Democrats once before, ignoring a strong progressive candidate, Dr. Syed Taj, and allowing a pathetic and weak teabagger extremist, Kerry Bentivolio, to win. Obama won the district handily in 2008 but the Republican state legislature gerrymandered Democratic towns like Belleville, Westland and Redford out and stuck in some deep red areas of central Oakland County, giving it a more Republican-tinge, though not prohibitively so. It's still winnable for a Democrat, especially for a good progressive fighting against either Bentivolio or the Establishment cut-out the Boehner-Cantor wing of the party is running against him, Dave Trott, an especially despicable foreclosure and eviction expert. See that effective ad up top? It's very powerful-- and, of course, did not come from the DCCC or any of the Steve Israel-allied PACs. Nope, the ad was done by some teabaggers on behalf of Bentivolio.

August 5th is primary day for Michigan. Bentivolio and Trott, two really unpalatable candidates square off. But so do 4 Democrats. Steve Israel recruited another CIA spy, "mystery meat" conservative Bobby McKenzie. Progressives have been rallying around radio personality Nancy Skinner and two vanity candidates, Bill Roberts (a LaRouche psychopath) and Anil Kumar (a urologist). By recruiting McKenzie, Israel blew the chance to win the 11th back. Sunday, the Detroit Free Press just absolutely destroyed Trott's credibility as a general election candidate. He can still win the Republican primary, of course, where his kind of sociopathic behavior in not just permissible, not actually admired.
In a commercial for his congressional campaign, David Trott tells of joining his mom and dad’s business in 1985 and later taking the helm.

“The business grew from six people to 1,800,” Trott says, as the camera shows him, dressed in an open-collared shirt, in a light-filled room, before shifting to scenes of people working in a warehouse setting and an office. “I’m a job creator.”

Trott never identifies what the family business does. The stock footage used in the political ad shows what appears to be manufacturing or shipping.

In reality, Trott is an attorney and his specialty is foreclosing on homes on behalf of banks and other lenders-- as many as 80,000 in Michigan in a single year, by his own count, during the peak of the housing crisis. His Farmington Hills law firm, Trott & Trott, is Michigan’s largest foreclosure law firm and one of the biggest in the country. Financial disclosure statements he filed in December as part of his congressional campaign show the financial holdings of Trott and his wife, Kathleen, are worth at least $60.2 million and possibly as much as $204.9 million.

Trott became a leader in the foreclosure industry that boomed in 2008 when the housing market went bust by buying up companies needed to complete a foreclosure from beginning to end. And he profits at each step of the process.

Besides his law firm that handles legal work, Trott owns or has a financial interest in the document company that processes paperwork, a newspaper that publishes required legal notices, the title companies that do the deed work, and a large real estate firm that sometimes handles the homes on which his clients have foreclosed.

…[C]ritics say his one-stop-shopping approach sometimes works against struggling homeowners.

“The only way he makes money is to take people’s homes,” said attorney Valerie Moran, who helped a retired nurse keep her Walled Lake home after a two-year legal battle.

Trott declined to discuss that case and those of several other Michigan families interviewed by the Free Press, some of whom were able to stop their foreclosures through legal battles with Trott’s law firm and the banks.

“This firm has never been subject to a significant judgment, and no court has ever sanctioned the firm for unethical conduct,” he said.

His job, Trott said, is to do what is in the best interests of the banks that hire him, whether that’s negotiating a loan modification or taking a house through foreclosure. If he put his own interests or those of the homeowners ahead of the banks, his clients would fire him, he said.

…[Mark] Rozier, like tens of thousands of other Michiganders, lost his home to foreclosure during the housing crisis. After a three-year legal battle with Trott’s law firm and the bank, the notice arrived last Christmas Eve. He was evicted in January and moved his wife, who is on kidney dialysis, his bedridden mother, and his uncle, who has Down syndrome and is in a wheelchair, into a neighbor’s empty duplex across the street.

With the neighborhood in decline, his former house was only worth $10,000 when the foreclosure was filed-- even though Rozier, 49, owed $48,000 on the mortgage, money taken out in part to fund the improvements. He’d started missing his $634 monthly payments in 2009 when his wife, Nomora, a nurse’s aide, went into kidney failure and could no longer work.

Rozier said he scraped up $8,000 to try to keep it.

The bank, through Trott’s law firm, refused that offer, and spent three years and thousands of dollars in legal fees, taking the home away from him, Rozier and his attorney said.

JPMorgan Chase & Co. spokeswoman Amy Bonitatibus said the bank tried to work with the Roziers early on but that Rozier made the cash offer too late, after the house had been foreclosed upon. The bank spent little on legal fees because the case stalled after a judge halted the eviction for a year, she said.

“We worked hard to keep the customer in his home,” she said.

The home is now for sale for $4,900. Most of the $8,000 Rozier said he had saved up at the time of the foreclosure went to other bills, including medical payments for his sick wife.

“I hope someday we can go back home,” Rozier said wistfully in a recent interview. “That maybe somebody will let me buy back my house.”

The home that Rozier put his heart and earnings into has since been stripped by vandals of its copper wiring, plumbing and kitchen cabinets. The front door and side doors have been kicked in, and it is taking on the look of all the other homes in the neighborhood-- one of despair.

…[The] inability to deal with the onslaught of defaults proved Trott’s good fortune.

For lenders looking to take back a home from a delinquent borrower, Trott & Trott offered a unique one-stop-shopping business model.

For Trott, there was money to be made on each foreclosure that came through his business empire-- in 2009, by his own accounting, he handled 80,000 in Michigan alone. The banks paid his firm a flat fee for each foreclosure completed-- exactly how much, Trott won’t say.

Filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission show that beyond his firm’s legal fees, Trott’s businesses generated hundreds of millions of dollars for him and his business partners.

Two aspects of Trott’s work-- legal notice publishing and foreclosure file processing-- generated $344.3 million in business between 2007 and 2012 for Dolan Media. The Minneapolis-based information company partnered with Trott on numerous projects, including partial ownership of Detroit Legal News Publishing, according to the SEC filings.

Trott’s business was so valuable, Detroit Legal News took out a $15-million life insurance policy on Trott and paid him a $500,000 annual consulting fee, as long as his law firm provided at least 1,000 foreclosure notices per month, the SEC filings show.

Trott also helped create a foreclosure file processing company, now known as NDeX. He sold his stake to Dolan Media for $10.5 million four years ago but continued to run it until February 2013, earning about $264,000 annually, the SEC filing shows. Dolan also paid about $646,000 annually to lease office space for NDeX in Trott’s headquarters on Northwestern Highway.

As the economy recovered and foreclosures fell, Dolan Media sold back the Michigan part of the NDeX business to Trott last year for an undisclosed sum. In March, Dolan filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy to reduce its debt.

In 2009, the federal government launched massive housing assistance programs to try to stem the avalanche of foreclosures; Michiganders alone lost 500,000 homes during the crisis. The assistance was available through banks. Trott’s firm was hired by the banks to bargain in good faith with borrowers to modify loans with incentives such as reduced principal, lower interest rates or longer payback periods.

But in state and federal lawsuits reviewed by the Free Press, dozens of delinquent borrowers complained that they were turned down for minor problems, such as misplaced documents, confusion over deadlines or poor communication.

Trott, in recent interviews, said that although his firm had the authority to assist homeowners in stopping foreclosures-- and was even required by state law to meet with troubled homeowners to discuss their options-- he preferred to defer to the banks and mortgage companies, which often gave the thumbs down to new deals… [H]e acknowledged that he makes more money by foreclosing than by stopping the process with a loan modification.

…In 2012, the U.S. Justice Department sued the nation’s top five banks for mishandling foreclosures and failing to adequately assist struggling homeowners in obtaining money they were entitled to under federal programs-- loan modifications typically handled through foreclosure law firms such as Trott & Trott.

The banks-- Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo, Citigroup and Ally Financial-- eventually settled the suit, agreeing to pay $25 billion but without admitting wrongdoing. Trott was not named in the suit and did not participate in any settlement.

“In the course of their servicing and oversight of mortgage loans the banks violated federal laws, program requirements and contractual requirements governing loss mitigation,” the Justice Department charged in the suit, adding the banks engaged in “unfair, unlawful, and deceptive practices” in how they treated troubled homeowners facing foreclosures.

“It was nothing but a charade,” said attorney Ryan Stearn, who has represented dozens of homeowners suing Trott & Trott and the banks, sometimes successfully alleging that they were entitled to loan modifications under the laws but were wrongly turned away. “The banks weren’t even capable of processing the sheer volume of loan modification requests that were coming in. They didn’t have enough underwriters.”

…It’s unclear how much Trott and his companies make on each foreclosure, and he declined to say. But lawsuits and other public records provide some hints.

A lawsuit filed by James and Melissa Dahl of Swartz Creek listed some of the fees that Trott & Trott charged on behalf of their lender, Bank of America, and that were passed on to them. Trott charged $1,152 for legal work and $260 for a title search.

The Dahls were making regular payments on their home after obtaining a loan modification in March 2010, but at the behest of the bank, Trott & Trott sold the house anyway at a sheriff’s sale in 2013. Three months later, after the couple sued, the bank gave the house back to them in a letter “rescinding” the sale, but the Dahls didn’t get reimbursed for any of the fees.

The Dahls are continuing to sue Trott & Trott and the bank for alleged violations of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, claiming intentional infliction of emotional distress. Bank of America declined to discuss the matter because the litigation has not been resolved.

“These people had money; these weren’t deadbeats who couldn’t make their payments. They did everything they were supposed to do,” said their attorney, Adam Alexander. Trott & Trott and the banks “are just bulldozing people out of their houses. They don’t want loans; they want foreclosures.”
And of course, the House Republicans are totally excited about Dave Trott joining their ranks. They are eager to kick poor, deranged Bentivolio to the curb and replace him with an icon of sociopathic greed and avarice. They're moving from a reindeer rancher and Santa Claus actor to Ebenezer Scrooge himself! And they know they don't have to worry about Steve Israel and the DCCC, an totally ineffective force incapable of even winning a seat like this.

UPDATE: Birmingham

We asked the progressive in the race, Nancy Skinner, if she knew anything about Trott. Did she ever! "David Trott and are both from Birmingham. We both went to U of M. I used my business degree to literally rebuild disaster-stricken communities as models of sustainability (and won a Presidential award for it) and Trott used his degree to accelerate the housing meltdown and destroy communities." I suspect that Oakland and Wayne County woman arer already viewing Trott as heartless and despicable and will rally behind Nancy. The "empathy contrast" is too great even for Republican women to resist.

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