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Chain of Title: How Three Ordinary Americans Uncovered Wall Street's Great Foreclosure Fraud Hardcover – May 17, 2016
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A Kirkus Best Book of 2016
Chain of Title is a careful documentation of the mortgage fraud at the heart of the 2008 financial crisis. . . If you’re looking for a book to read over Labor Day weekend one that will that will get your heart pumping and your blood boiling and that will remind you why we’re in these fights add this one to your list.”
Senator Elizabeth Warren
Prepare to be surprised, and angry the homeowners' stories are emotional roller coasters. Dayen skillfully narrates a slow reveal and sprinkles in some lively metaphors.”
The New York Times Book Review
Enraging and enlightening.”
An inspiring, well-rendered, deeply reported, and often infuriating account.”
Kirkus Reviews (starred)
Hitchcockian... Meticulously researched, enthralling, and educational, this addition to the literature of the Great Recession calls out for its own big-screen adaptation.”
"Note: Dave Dayen's magnificent Chain of Title is essential to understanding how people became victims of the kind of rigged casino that made the Steve Mnuchins rich…”
"This is the story, one of its characters tells us, of an unlikely crime scene’: the real estate courts of Florida, where professional fraudsters greased the skids to kick people out of their houses in order to prop up Wall Street’s profits, while judges looked the other way. And, it is the story of a prairie firebegan by ordinary Americans who brilliantly and courageously fought back when our leaders refused to do so. All in all, it is one of the best books about the law and American life that I ever have read."
Rick Perlstein, author of Nixonland and The Invisible Bridge
"In the wake of the devastating 2008 financial crisis, David Dayen has become one of the nation’s most knowledgeable, astute and important voices in identifying the culprits and documenting the efforts to protect them. His new book is one of the most important yet written on the causes of that crisis, the abject failures of the political class to punish the wrongdoers, and the dangerous refusal on the part of the nation’s elite to safeguard against future and even worse meltdowns."
"Chain of Title is a sweeping work of investigative journalism that traces the arc of a criminally underreported story in America, the collapse of the rule of law in the home mortgage industry. By following three victims of illegal foreclosure practices, Dayen humanizes and brilliantly illuminates a vast scam unseen by the public because it’s been indecipherable to everyone but a few industrious housing lawyersas he shows, even judges don’t understand it. The nightmare scavenger-hunt pursued by homeowners like Lisa Epstein leads to a horror-ending: behind the dream of home ownership lies a lawless jungle, owned and operated by banks, where there are no rules to protect families and their property."
Matt Taibbi, author of The Divide
"David Dayen first wrote about foreclosures as a scruffy blogger and consistently beat almost every established financial reporter to the story. Now he has written the best history of that shameful period. The mortgage industry spent untold millions to spread the story they created from whole cloth after the crisis hit: families who lost their homes were mostly undeserving spendthrifts trying to shirk just debts. Chain of Title tells the real story and the real story should offend the sense of justice of every American with a conscience."
Former congressman Brad Miller (D-NC), original co-author of the section of the Dodd-Frank Act that created the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau
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This is the bad, The good is the story of how three ordinary people, themselves victims, learned more housing law than most lawyers know, and were better detectives than anyone they could have hired. With the help of the internet which linked them with others confronting the same issues, and with the assistance of a few professionals, within and outside government, they enabled and led a movement which uncovered massive frauds and, after overcoming many obstacles, both bureaucratic and political, they eventually forced the system to take notice and begin action. It would be nice to say that their triumph was complete, culminating in an ending happy enough to make up for the many costs, including relationship costs, they paid along the way, but that would be overstating their gains and understating ways in which despite their efforts the system fell short.
How far short did the system fall? You will have to read the book to find out. You will be happy you did. The book is a page turner and a testimony to the extraordinary that ordinary people sometimes find in themselves.
I'd like to relay some additional information regarding Lisa and Michael. I first saw Lisa at the December 2010 Florida Bar event mentioned in the book. Matt Weidner and Greg Clark had arranged a private meeting of approximately 150 foreclosure defense attorneys. Almost all of Florida's best defense firms were there. Stopa, Ice, Ticktin, you name it... Shortly after we each introduced ourselves, some complex legal discussions ensued. Lisa, with her signature scarf, was engaged in all of it. It was so easy to see that her passion was genuine. She eagerly wanted fairness, decency and justice for all, and had more than enough energy to charge up all of us in the room! Shortly after that, while in the office on a Sunday afternoon, I took a break to look at Michael's site. I did this many times throughout the day. (I did the same with Matt Weidner's site as well.) I recall reading an editorial piece that "Michael Redman" himself had written. It was incredible. The subject of the story was not nearly as important as the impact it had on me. I vividly remember the notions of truth and justice that Michael wrote about in this one particular piece bringing me to tears. I was a huge fan of both of theirs and told them that many times.
Long before we formally worked together in the office, we helped a very sweet woman, who is a hospice nurse and mother of an autistic child, save her home. When this client first came to me for help, judgment had already been entered and a sale date was around the corner. The case had winnable issues but the prior lawyer dropped the ball and the time to appeal had passed. I moved to vacate the judgment on what I initially felt were solid grounds. Judge Diana Lewis carefully considered my motion at a special set hearing; however, she ultimately made what I believe was the correct legal ruling in denying the relief I was requesting. I called Lisa and asked if she and Michael could help. A sale date was coming and the law could not help this client. They both sprung into action and asked others to send e-mails and make calls. Within a few days, I got a call from a woman who told me she was from the office of the CEO of JPMorgan Chase. She told me that word had just come down from the highest authority in her office - I took that to mean Jamie Dimon. Before I could say a word, she quickly told me the judgment against my client would be vacated and her loan would be modified to favorable terms of xxxx dollars per month, which would include PITI. A few weeks later, Lisa, Michael and I met for breakfast and then walked into the courtroom to watch the bank ask the court to vacate the judgment and dismiss their own case. That client is still living in her home.... That was the beginning of the three of us saving many, many homes together but never again was it done in that way. (Unfortunately, we are no longer working together.)
I learned in that experience that there are many ways to fight back in this movement. Each of us, activists, lawyers, judges, journalists and writers, can help. So with that in mind, keep up the great work!
Lastly, on a personal note, thank you. Based on a number of changes over the past few months, a person would have to be completely out-to-lunch to not see a major paradigm shift in this cause. The law coming out of the appellate courts is making it harder and harder to win and the foreclosure case load continues to decrease. In other words, there are less people to serve and, for the time being, less ways to serve them. Lately, I've been reminiscing over the past seven years and pondering where my desire to serve others might next take me. Your book has helped me tremendously to reflect, retool and recharge. I am fairly certain I will turn to your book again in the years ahead for that same purpose.
We have already begun suing financial institutions under a different framework, consumer protection statutes. One thing we can count on - banks will continue to break the law. Thankfully, there are still laws on the books that "consumers," with the right help, can use to fight back. Foreclosure fraud is but one of many examples of their illegal behavior. I am by no means abandoning the fight to help people save their homes but I look forward to bringing the fight to the banks on a different front!