The Best, Most Revealing Reporting on the Foreclosure Crisis

By Wire News Sources on February 18, 2012

by Blair Hickman

The housing crisis in the U.S. has been going on nearly five years, with still regular revelations about misdeeds by banks and others. Here’s our roundup of standout reporting on the crisis.

Lucrative fees may deter efforts to alter loans, The New York Times, July 2009

Banks and other mortgage servicers have made big bucks on the fees associated with delinquent loans, because of rules that one Federal Reserve Bank of Boston paper called a “perverse incentive to foreclose rather than modify.” This piece surveys the homeowners caught in purgatory – and why the servicers seemed to want to keep them there.

Fannie and Freddie’s foreclosure barons, Mother Jones, August 2010

One of the first stories to shed light on a “foreclosure mill.” A Florida law firm tore through cases as quickly as possible, while frequently signing off on dodgy documents. The firm has since been shut down.

Grave errors as undead rework loans, The Wall Street Journal, July 2010

Homeowner Sarah Larson, a 33-year-old acupuncturist, tried to get a break on her ,055-a-month mortgage from Bank of America. The bank requested three important documents: bank statements, a utility bill and her death certificate. She replied: “I am not sending a death certificate because I am not deceased. I am currently still living."

Mortgage mess: Shredding the dream, Businessweek, October 2010
How banks’ carelessness and underinvestment in back-end infrastructure contributed to paperwork errors and lost promissory notes that many argue worsened the housing crisis.

Ties to insurers could land mortgage servicers in more trouble, American Banker, November 2010

Here’s another way that mortgage servicers have profited from struggling homeowners: by forcing them to pay for expensive and unnecessary insurance policies.

The next housing shock, CBS' "60 Minutes," April 2011

This piece investigates the prevalence of “robo-signing,” focusing on one company where a number of employees signed one woman’s name to thousands of documents because her name was short. None of the major banks agreed to talk to "60 Minutes."

Obama’s efforts to aid homeowners, boost housing market fall far short of goals, The Washington Post, October 2011

This in-depth, inside look shows the internal debate behind the Obama administration’s stumbling efforts to deal with the worst housing crisis since the Great Depression.

Raging against the foreclosure machine, iWatch News, The Center for Public Integrity, January 2012

From the beginning of the foreclosure mess, struggling homeowners often defaulted due to accounting and paperwork errors by the mortgage servicing industry. Servicers claimed they’d addressed the systemic problem. But as this piece shows, the “veterans of the foreclosure wars” tell a very different story.

A mortgage tornado warning, unheeded, The New York Times, February 2012

Years before the crisis, a wealthy Florida businessman, who had lost his home in a questionable foreclosure, unearthed and compiled a “dossier of improprieties" on Fannie Mae. In retrospect, it looks like a blueprint for today’s crisis — and raises several questions about how deep and how far back our mortgage problems go.

We at ProPublica also have long been digging into the administration’s stumbling efforts and how Wall Street machinations ultimately super-charged the crisis.

If you have other great foreclosure reporting, email us at MuckReads@ProPublica.org or tweet it with the hashtag #muckreads.


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