Florida Foreclosure King Investigated For Questionable Practices

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(MIAMI) -- A former paralegal with Florida's largest foreclosure law practice has told state investigators that the firm routinely signed court paperwork without reading it, misdated records, forged signatures and passed around notary stamps in the rush to foreclose on homes.

"This is just the beginning really," the paralegal, Tammie Lou Kapusta, told "It's the tip of an extreme iceberg."

The allegations are the latest leveled against the firm of multimillionaire attorney David J. Stern, who has amassed a fortune foreclosing on the homes of struggling families on behalf of lenders. The 50-year-old Stern even considered naming his $20-million yacht "Su Casa Es Mi Casa – Your House is My House," an acquaintance told The New York Times. After his wife and others reportedly cautioned against it, Stern settled on "Misunderstood." He denied to the newspaper that he considered "Su Casa Es Mi Casa."

"From David Stern's perspective, he's a lawyer given defaulted mortgages to foreclose in a court proceeding," said his lawyer, Jeffrey Tew.  "So it's really wrong to vilify him. Let's put it this way, there is a well-organized defense bar who is making a lot of money keeping people in their homes."

But it's the booming mortgage-servicing industry that is under legal scrutiny. Some 40 state attorneys general are expected to announce this week a joint investigation into the industry in hopes of pressuring financial institutions to rewrite a sea of troubled loans.

Across the nation, mortgage-servicers, which include units of major banks such as Bank of America Corp., have been accused of submitting fraudulent documents in thousands of foreclosure proceedings.

In Florida, Stern is a foreclosure king, operating the large law firm plus a foreclosure processing company and other support businesses that he recently sold off.

His Plantation, Fla., firm, which filed 70,382 foreclosure cases last year, is the largest of three under investigation by state Attorney General Bill McCollum for allegedly filing improper documents with courts to hasten the overloaded foreclosure process.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Call for Foreclosure Moratorium Already Rejected by White House

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The White House has signaled rejection of a national moratorium on home foreclosures as attorneys general from 40 states called Wednesday for a national investigation into the process. 

Some banks have already halted foreclosures because of allegations banks and mortgage companies hired unqualified workers to essentially rubberstamp foreclosure paperwork.  In some cases, so-called "robo-signers" approved thousands of foreclosures a day.  Many people who had faithfully made their payments received foreclosure notices.

White House Advisor David Axelrod told CBS Face The Nation over the weekend the problem is a serious one, but an outright moratorium would cause difficulties in cases where a foreclosure is justified and should proceed.  Number two House Republican Eric Cantor said on Fox News Sunday a national moratorium would remove protection lenders need and "shut down the housing industry."  Democrat and Florida Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz backs a foreclosure moratorium, telling Fox the problem has been "extremely vexing" in her state.

Axelrod says the White House is pushing lenders to speed up their review process to find the bad paperwork and save paid-up homeowners from that shock at the mailbox. 

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Celebrate Your Wedding at McDonald's

Photo Courtesy - PRNewsFoto(HONG KONG) -- Several McDonald’s restaurants in Hong Kong will soon be offering the ultimate Happy Meal to couples: catered wedding receptions.

The experience costs just a few hundred dollars and includes party balloons, kiddie party favors for guests, a baked apple pie wedding cake and catering from the restaurant’s menu.  Alcohol will not be allowed, but guests will be able to toast to the couple’s happiness with soft drinks.

McDonald’s Hong Kong executive Helen Cheung tells the South China Morning Post the company decided to offer wedding packages at three locations, beginning January 1, after a couple tied the knot at a McDonald’s where they met and others inquired about a similar experience.

Cheung says the McDonald’s locations will also be accepting reservations for engagement and wedding anniversary parties.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


FCC Proposing New Cell Phone Rules to Avoid 'Bill Shock'

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The Federal Communications Commission will propose new rules for cell phone companies on Wednesday, requiring them to notify consumers before and when they incur costly coverage charges, which often lead to so-called “bill shock.”

The rules would require "over-the-limit" alerts, "out-of-the-country" alerts, and allow consumers to set personal usage caps.

“Surveys show that 30 million Americans -- one out of every six mobile phone users -- have experienced bill shock, and it’s a real problem that we need to tackle,” FCC chairman Julius Genachowski told ABC News.  “How much is a megabyte?  Consumers are confused.  They don’t have the information they need and they run into real trouble at the end of the month,” he added.

Genachowski noted several examples, from a father in Virginia who got a bill for $400 when his son sent too many text messages, to a man in Massachusetts who got an $18,000 bill when his data plan trial expired without warning.

Genachowski said, “Why shouldn’t consumers who are reaching the limits of their data plans get an alert that says, ‘You’re reaching the limit of your data plan’?"
A spokesman for the wireless industry trade group CTIA opposes the new rules, saying many companies already give the warnings and that average bill prices have fallen in the past year.

“The problem is that’s the exception, not the rule,” Genachowski said. 

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Department of Transportation: Long Tarmac Delays Down Since 2009

Photo Courtesy - Delta Airlines(WASHINGTON) -- According to new numbers from the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, there was only one flight with a tarmac delay of more than three hours in August 2010, compared to 66 delayed flights in August 2009. 

The number of lengthy delays has plummeted since the Department of Transportation began to enforce the new aviation consumer rule on April 29.  The rule prohibits U.S. airlines from permitting an aircraft to remain on the tarmac for more than three hours without deplaning passengers.  The Department of Transportation will investigate delays that exceed the three-hour limit.

There have only been eight tarmac delays in excess of three hours from May through August of this year.  During the same four-month period last year, there were 529 flights delayed for more than three hours.

"These numbers show that the tarmac delay rule is protecting  passengers from being trapped indefinitely aboard and airplane -- with little or no increase in canceled flights," U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said.  "Also, it shows that the hard work the airlines are putting into implementing the rule is paying off.  With the summer travel season behind us, it appears that the rule is working as planned."

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Google Invests in Transmission of Offshore Wind Power

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(NEW YORK) -- Google announced it will invest in a $5 billion backbone transmission project to establish connection to future offshore wind power turbines along the mid-Atlantic coast in an effort to accelerate the use of wind power as a renewable energy source.  The Atlantic Wind Connection (AWC) will consist of 350 miles of undersea cables off the coast of northern New Jersey down to southern Virginia, which will connect 6,000 megawatts of offshore wind, enough to power approximately 1.9 million households. 

“Google is very excited about this investment and this project because it does two things.  It can dramatically accelerate the deployment of renewable energy and it also offers us attractive returns for our capital,” Rick Needham, the Green Business Operations Director for Google, said.

The AWC will help mid-Atlantic states meet their renewable energy goals and create jobs in the wind energy sector.  Oceana, an ocean conservation group, estimates that development of wind energy off the Atlantic coast could create between 133,000 and 212,000 U.S. jobs.

“This is the foundation, this is the spark that’s going to light a new industry, new opportunity, new jobs for the east coast,” Robert Mitchell, CEO of Trans-Elect Development Company, said.

In addition to receiving Google’s pledge to provide funding for the startup of the project, the AWC is led by Trans-Elect, an independent transmission development company, and sponsored by Good Energies and Marubeni Corporation.  Construction of the AWC is expected to start in 2013 after the project has acquired proper permits on the federal, state and local levels and has undergone an environmental review.  The projected completion date of the first stage, which will span from New Jersey to Delaware, is 2016, and the second phase, which will link the remainder of the mid-Atlantic region down to Virginia, would be completed by 2020.

The AWC will use high voltage direct current (HVDC) transmission technology, making this the first attempt to connect multiple points, both on land and on platforms located at sea, along the HVDC line.  On-shore wind farms typically use high voltage alternating current (HVAC) technology, which is more expensive, has higher losses and uses more copper than HVDC lines.  A typical onshore wind turbine produces 1.5 megawatts.  However, offshore wind turbines are larger and easier to transport to sea, giving them the capacity to produce anywhere from 5 to 10 megawatts each.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


GMAC Mortgage to Review Foreclosure Procedures in 50 States

Photo Courtesy - GMAC Mortgage dot com(MINNEAPOLIS) -- GMAC Mortgage announced Tuesday that is has "engaged several leading legal and accounting firms to conduct independent reviews of its foreclosure procedures in each of the 50 states."

A statement from GMAC emphasized the seriousness of foreclosure and the need to restore confidence in the process. 

Reviews of foreclosure sale files will consider the timeliness, substance and appropriateness of the foreclosure and also whether or not the file is "in good order and complies with all laws and requirements of the state jurisdiction."

To date, GMAC has not found evidence of inappropriate foreclosures.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Wells Fargo: Reviewing Foreclosure Affidavits; No Suspension

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- A spokesperson for Wells Fargo Home Mortgage told ABC News that the lender/loan servicer is reviewing the foreclosure affidavits for all pending foreclosures.

The bank specifically says it is not issuing a moratorium on foreclosures, but simply reviewing the legal documentation for the foreclosures it is currently processing.

“Foreclosure is truly a last resort,” said the spokesperson.  “Delaying foreclosures can be damaging because properties cannot be resold to stabilize markets and home prices.”

The spokesperson said Wells Fargo first attempts to contact a delinquent homeowner within 14 days of the first missed payment.  Their current procedure for foreclosures has the bank calling delinquent customers on average 77 times and sending on average 48 letters before the foreclosure is completed.

They are reviewing the documents by order of “proposed foreclosure sale date” – meaning a property that will be put on the market in November is getting a look before one that is likely to be put on the market in December.

While the review has found no affidavits which are not in compliance with the bank’s standards or legal requirements thus far, they will resubmit any affidavits which are found to be non-compliant.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Pfizer Buying Maker of EpiPen, Pain Meds

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Pfizer is buying King Pharmaceuticals, the maker of the EpiPen emergency drug system and pain drugs containing elements meant to prevent misuse of the drug.  The $3.6 billion dollar cash deal has Pfizer beginning a tender offer, paying $14.25 per share, which represents a 40 percent premium on King's Monday closing price.

In addition to the EpiPen, King makes pain medicines like Skelaxin and Embeda, along with drugs used in the veterinary field.  Pfizer Chief Executive Jeffrey Kindler issued a statement saying the combination of Pfizer and King's portfolios is "highly complementary." 

The King deal represents Pfizer's first major purchase since it bought Wyeth last year. 

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio



Gap Listens to Customers: Bring Back the Blue Box

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Marka Hansen, president of Gap Brand North America, announced Monday that the popular clothing company would change its logo back to its iconic blue box just one week after introducing a new, modern logo on its website,

After the new logo's reveal, Gap consumers spoke out against the change on blogs, message boards and the company's Facebook fan page.  Last Friday, Hansen responded to the complaints on The Huffington Post, explaining Gap, Inc.'s decision to update the logo after more than 20 years. 

"Our brand and our clothes are changing and rethinking our logo is part of aligning with that," she wrote.  Hansen later added, "We chose this design as it's more contemporary and current.  It honors our heritage through the blue box while taking it forward."

However, after allowing fans to share their feedback about the change on Gap's Facebook page, Hansen announced the new logo's recall.

"Last week we moved to address the feedback and began exploring how we could tap into all the the passion.  Ultimately, we've learned just how much energy there is around our brand.  All roads are leading us back to the blue box, so we've made the decision not to use the new logo on any further," Hansen said in a statement.

Gap, Inc. plans to bring the classic logo back across all channels.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio