Meet the Robin Hood of Foreclosures


Shelby, North Carolina is an unlikely place for the last stand of the foreclosure resistance movement, but that just might be where it happens.

Hundreds of lawyers have descended on the small town to learn the most effective ways of taking on big banks on behalf of small homeowners. And they’re winning more and more cases.

Who’s behind the movement? A new American folk hero, judging by how his supporters tell the story.

Homeowners are hurting, despite the fact that foreclosures dropped a bit in October (though they numbered more than 300,000) and major lenders like Bank of America (Stock Quote: BAC) and JP Morgan (Stock Quote: JPM) temporarily halted their foreclosures in response to the robo-signing scandal.

“October marks the 20th consecutive month where over 300,000 U.S. homeowners received a foreclosure notice,” said James J. Saccacio, chief executive officer at RealtyTrac. “The numbers probably would have been higher except for the fallout from the recent 'robo-signing' controversy, which is the most likely reason for the 9% monthly drop in REOs we saw from September to October, and which may result in further decreases in November."

But after big banks fix their documentation problems, expect foreclosures to ramp up again by the end of the year.

When they do, O. Max Gardner will be waiting for them. Gardner has his gun sights set on big mortgage lenders, and he’s so serious about the foreclosure mess that he has trained over 500 lawyers on his blueprint for taking on big banks time and time again.

The 65-year-old attorney has spent the last four years building an army of foreclosure experts to battle big banks over their foreclosure practices. It’s a holy mission on behalf of average Americans who normally might not stand a chance against behemoths like Bank of America or JP Morgan Chase.

"My clients are desperate. They have insurmountable financial problems, and I'm able to give them a remedy and an answer and an assurance it's going to be all right. That's pretty rewarding stuff," said Gardner in an Oct. 28 interview with Reuters.

From his rural North Carolina mansion, or “bed and breakfast,” as Gardner calls it, he charges $7,775 per person for a five day seminar on how to beat mortgage lenders at their own game. About 12 attorneys at a time attend the sessions, Reuters reports.

While there, attorneys learn the inside tricks of the consumer bankruptcy trade, including how to present evidence at a foreclosure hearing, how to demand that lenders produce all of the right paperwork (or else), and figuring out the intricacies of foreclosure fees.

After they leave the boot camp, lawyers remain on Gardner’s e-mail list and gain access to his voluminous foreclosure database. Most go on to represent homeowners in court against big mortgage lenders.

Now, with the robo-signing scandal bringing case after case before foreclosure judges, a wave of legal specialists are descending on courtrooms all over America. They’re pushing back, suing lenders, and generally making life miserable for banks and other mortgage companies. Or their legal departments, at least.

Historically, delinquent homeowners haven’t had much leverage against giant banks. But thanks to a 65-year-old “Robin Hood” down in Shelby, those days may well be over.

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