Thu Dec 6, 2012, 11:00 PM
HiPointDem (20,729 posts)
Former foreclosure lawyer wins prize for fighting foreclosures, exposing robosigning
The timing couldn’t have been better when Thomas Cox walked into the offices of Pine Tree Legal Assistance, a Maine nonprofit where he had periodically volunteered during his long career as a private practice lawyer for banks that specialized in debt collection and foreclosures. Pine Tree was just about to launch a new organization called Maine Attorneys Saving Homes, to provide legal assistance for low-income homeowners facing foreclosure in the state....
Maine Attorneys Saving Homes would soon have an impact far beyond Maine. When Cox delved into foreclosure affidavits (sworn statements), he detected blatantly fraudulent practices by banks. He discovered that their affidavits were signed by witnesses who knew nothing about the documents' contents... By exposing the practice, which soon became known as “robo-signing,” Cox blew the lid off systematic foreclosure fraud by not only GMAC, but some of the country’s biggest banks....
Born near Philadelphia and raised in St. Louis with his sister by a single mother... Cox first lived in Maine to attend Colby College...He went to law school at Boston University, got married, graduated in 1969 and took his first job as a public defender. He moved back to Maine in 1970 and joined a small law firm, where he became a debt collector and expert in bankruptcy law. He learned to foreclose upon individuals and businesses that failed to pay their debts, and even wrote a step-by-step foreclosures manual...
In 1980 he and five colleagues started their own firm. Later that decade, the savings and
loan scandal broke, fueled by banks’ speculative lending activities... Cox found himself threatening to foreclose upon the homes of small-business owners who had put their homes up as collateral against commercial loans....“You had to shut down your feelings and do your job. It is not nice work, hurting people.”
Cox’s moral distress took a harsh toll. After the savings and loan scandal...he felt increasingly alienated by a changing business culture that valued the bottom line above all: “I saw the whole shift in the industry to not caring about quality work and just caring about money, about pure profit...” He struggled with depression so deep that it led to divorce from his wife and estrangement from his young sons for five years. He retired in 1999 and underwent intensive therapy for the next four years, eventually re-entering the workforce in a wholly different field: home carpentry... But his desire to be involved in law never left. That’s why he eventually walked into Pine Tree’s offices – and into the opportunity to help homeowners...
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