government affairs blog

OLD Gov't Affairs Blog
We stopped using this blog after the 2013 Florida Legislative Session and created a new Government Affairs Forum, which will allow us to better control distribution of information.  This one will be maintained as an archive. 

More formal bulletins, summaries of legislation, position papers and the like appear on the Government Affairs page

  • 11/06/2012 11:25 PM | Anonymous

    Here are selected results for Florida Legislative races of interest to FLTA.

    The candidates in bold understand real estate issues and have been supportive of FLTA positions in the past.

    Select 2012 Florida Legislative Races

    State Senator, District 6

    John Thrasher               REP                        132,309     59.26%

    Kathleen Trued                DEM                       90,970       40.74%

    223,279 total votes cast.

    State Senator, District 8

    Dorothy L. Hukill          REP                        97,277       56.9%

    Frank T. Bruno, Jr.          DEM                       73,691       43.1%

    170,968 total votes cast.\

    State Senator, District 10

    David Simmons              REP                        112,723     55.5%

    Leo Cruz                          DEM                       90,375       44.5%

    James Patrick Adamczyk                                WRI          0    0%

    203,098 total votes cast.

    State Senator, District 16

    Thad Altman                  REP                       138,258     62.85%

    Dominic A Fallo II          DEM                       81,730       37.15%

    219,988 total votes cast.

    State Senator, District 34

    Ellyn Bogdanoff            REP                        100,716     47.08%

    Maria Sachs                     DEM                       113,191     52.92%

    State Representative, District 41

    John Wood                     REP                        30,213       51.51%

    Karen Cooper Welzel      DEM                       28,438       48.49%

    State Representative, District 57

    Jake Raburn                  REP                        40,051       58.62%

    Bruce Barnett                  DEM                       28,276       41.38%

    State Representative, District 73

    Greg Steube                    REP                        60,575       73.63%

    Bob (Doc) McCann         NPA                       21,696       26.37%

    State Representative, District 93

    George Moraitis             REP                        39,435       54.9%

    Gerri Ann Capotosto       DEM                       32,390       45.1%

    71,825 total votes cast.

    State Representative, District 106

    Kathleen Passidomo      REP                        60,962       78.87%

    Peter Richter                    LBT                        16,332       21.13%

  • 11/05/2012 12:08 PM | Anonymous

    Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi announced her office's intention to allocate $300 million from national mortgage settlement funds distributed to the state. 

    The majority of the funds will be used to help distressed homeowners and fund housing initiatives that provide down payment assistance and foreclosure relief for borrowers.

    This distribution is in addition to the $7.5 billion in relief already allotted to Florida homeowners from the $25 billion national mortgage settlement. The settlement was reached by state AGs and the nation's largest mortgage servicers to settle robosigning and foreclosure handling issues. 

    More here

  • 11/01/2012 10:09 AM | Anonymous
    Guerard Wallace Howard, 63, Melbourne, Florida, pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud, he faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in federal prison.

    According to the plea agreement, between November 2007 and August 2011, Howard operated an illegal real estate short sale flipping business, Provincial Real Estate Administrative Services, Inc. Using Provincial, Howard made properties appear to be in poor condition during appraisals, through a scheme known as reverse staging. Reverse staging is a process wherein someone manipulates the short sale price by intentionally downgrading a property's appearance and falsely representing the condition of a property in advance of bank appraisals.

    Reverse staging is done in an effort to acquire the property at below market price. In this case, it included Howard removing receptacle plates and pulling wires from the walls to falsely represent to an appraiser that the house required rewiring; falsely representing that the house needed electrical service upgrades, and repair work. In some instances it also involved spraying the house with a foul-smelling prank product, and falsely representing to an appraiser that the odor was due to mold or other potential biohazard issues that required expensive remediation costs. The reverse staging effectively caused the lender to agree to the below market offer made by Howard through Provincial. The property was then immediately resold at a profit.

    While a title agent would not normally be aware of this type of reverse staging, the immediate resale at a profit is a red-flag.

  • 11/01/2012 10:05 AM | Anonymous

    The new Federal Housing Finance Agency short sale guides for both Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac will go into effect Nov. 1.   

    HousingWire hosted a short sale guidelines webinar, which featured senior servicing policy analyst Ryan McGuinness of Freddie Mac and operations policy director Simone Beaty of the GSE. Both discussed what services and borrowers could expect when the short sale guidelines go into effect.

    Separately, Fannie Mae reached agreements with its nine mortgage insurers to allow short sales and deed-in-lieu to be processed more efficiently. The agreements will also speed up the foreclosure prevention process.

    More from Housing Wire

  • 10/29/2012 9:58 AM | Anonymous
    Two Orlando area attorneys have pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit bank and wire fraud in connection with a scheme that artificially inflated the sales prices of condominium units through the use of nominee purchasers.

    These "straw buyers" obtained  loans on condominium units they had no intention of inhabiting and were usually paid a sum of money for the use of their identities and credit scores.  In any inflated value scheme, the problem is always how to get the "spread" out of your trust account. 

    They accomplished this with a combination of "kick-backs" to Realtors and the straw buyers after the condominium units were sold, and disguising payments as decorator's allowances" or other miscellaneous charges on the closing statements. 

    They also paid a 25% monthly fee to a co-conspirator involved with the development of the three condominium conversion projects for all of the closings done for units in the three developments. These payments were not disclosed on closing statements.

    Here's another indictment in which the inflated value "spread"  was falsely described  as "management fees" or "marketing fees."   

    The Moral of the Story:  Be very suspicious of processing any payment which has the effect of reducing or offsetting a portion of the purchase price to the buyer, or to any payment which you are told shouldn't be shown on the closing statement. 

  • 10/29/2012 9:45 AM | Anonymous
    While a bit vague, the description in Attorney General Pam Bondi's press release suggests the complicity of the closing agent. 

    "This scheme operated with straw buyers who used their names and credit to purchase numerous properties. Once the loan had been secured and records reflected a price well over the actual price paid to the seller, a variety of financial exchanges would take place to make the purchase appear legitimate. The laundered money would then go back to the closing agent's escrow account and be characterized in the records as the cash brought to the closing by the straw buyer."

    Would your staff have spotted this?  Or helped facilitate it?

  • 10/25/2012 9:13 AM | Anonymous
    While Foreclosures nationally are down 12.9% compared to the third quarter of 2011.   In contrast, foreclosures in Tampa are up 43.18% and in Miami up 10.52% over the corresponding quarter. 

  • 10/25/2012 9:10 AM | Anonymous
    U.S. housing regulator Edward DeMarco is likely to lose his job overseeing government-controlled mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac if President Barack Obama wins re-election, the Financial Times reported on Wednesday.

    Many liberal advocacy groups and Democrats on Capitol Hill have pressed Obama to replace DeMarco, the acting director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency who has denied requests from the White house to implement a housing rescue program that reduces mortgage principal for troubled homeowners.

    The Financial Times, citing people familiar with the matter, said that due to DeMarco's unwillingness to be as aggressive as the White House would like on certain policies and past clashes over the execution of anti-foreclosure efforts, the administration hopes to oust him in the coming months.

  • 10/25/2012 9:03 AM | Anonymous
    The United States filed a fraud lawsuit against Bank of America Corp, accusing it of causing taxpayers more than $1 billion of losses by selling thousands of toxic mortgage loans to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

    Wednesday's case, originally brought by a whistleblower, is the U.S. Department of Justice's first civil fraud lawsuit over mortgage loans sold to the big mortgage financiers, which were bailed out in 2008.

  • 10/24/2012 3:40 PM | Anonymous
    We are pleased to report that the U.S. Attorney's office for the Middle District of Florida has continued to aggressively prosecute mortgage and real estate frauds.  (Some of you will recognize the name the prosecuting attorney, Tom Palermo, who spoke at the FLTA convention two years ago and at a Real Property Section CLE on Mortgage Fraud).

    These two cases are of particular value to title agents because the news releases go into detail about how the fraud was structured.   Hopefully this will help each of us spot the next "Bad" deal that walks into our office -- and avoid it. 

    While there were many other red flags in the Lebron and Gogolewski cases, the key element of that fraud was the near simultaneous closing of a short sale and a "flip" at a much higher price.  While "Buy Low, Sell High" may be the American way, the U.S. Secret Service and the FBI have been known to view this (if not disclosed to the both the short selling lender and the new lender in writing) as the failure to disclose a material fact in connection with a federally insured loan, and/or as bank fraud.   

    There were two policy claims settled in the Edwards and Allen prosecution.  (this case explains all of those "Be careful with Powers of Attorney" bulletins)  I'm sure the insurers involved will have some pointed questions to ask of that agent and will likely be looking to their E&O coverage to cover part of the loss.  (I don't know about any claims in the LeBron case, but would expect a CPL claim at a minimum).    

    Criminal prosecution of the closing agents involved is not out of the question under either of these fact patterns.  Depending on how much you know (or how willfully blind you or your staff is to the obvious facts), it is very easy to cross the line from being a victim to being a co-conspirator. 

    So I urge each of you to print these news releases and use them as training tools at your next staff meeting.   It might save you from big claims -- or worse!

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