Ask Your Bank to Produce the Note!

Produce the Note!Do you know who holds the promissory note to your mortgage? The legal document that shows that you really owe that debt? Really, are you sure? So many mortgages have been securitized, sliced and diced, sold and resold, that the paper trail from your local bank to Wall Street is murky and flawed. In some instances, the promissory note may even have been destroyed.

Every day the financial crisis continues to hit home for families being foreclosed upon. Last month, there were 347,420 foreclosure filings across America, and the rate shows no signs of slowing. The unemployment rate is now driving these tragic foreclosures and 11 million Americans are at risk of losing their homes.

Housing advocates have struggled in vain to get families legal representation, to get a new law passed so that middle class families in bankruptcy court can have their first mortgages modified, the same way that rich families can have their second mortgage modified, but Congress failed to help homeowners with any meaningful reforms.

Follow the Paper Trail

Now, with allegations of widespread fraud in the foreclosure process -- which goes beyond issues of “robo-signing” into serious issues of false or mistaken accounting, false affidavits and more, some housing advocates are taking a new tact -- recommending that all Americans figure out who really holds their mortgage, and if all paperwork is proper and legal.

National People’s Action (NPA) and the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) are taking the lead in the “Produce the Note” campaign. This is just step one. As NPA leader George Goehl puts it: “First, all lenders need to prove that they actually own all of the mortgages for which they claim ownership and prove they are not guilty of fraudulently kicking families out of their homes. Then they need to immediately institute principal reduction programs to bring mortgages down to their real market value and provide long-term forbearance programs for families struggling with unemployment.”

Marci Kaptur Saw it Coming

By taking up the "Produce the Note" campaign, housing advocates are finally recognizing the wisdom of Congresswoman Marci Kaptur (D-Ohio) who, almost two years ago, listened to her constituents and figured out that the banks were not following proper legal procedures. In a famous speech, Kaptur took to the House floor and told her constituents in the hard-hit area of Toledo, not to let any bank put them out of their home until they "put their finger on the note" and produced legal proof of ownership.

At the time, some inside-the-beltway housing groups pooh-poohed the idea, but times have changed. Now multiple state attorneys general have documented widespread fraud in the processing of mortgages and their findings are front page news. Today, unaccountably, Kaptur is in a tough race against a Tea Party candidate and Nazi-reenactor Rich Iott. Kaptur has stood with her constituents at every step of this crisis, voting against the bailout and battling the big banks and the Obama administration with equal fervor. See her grill Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke or U.S. Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner about the crisis and the impact of their policies on working families.

So, if you don’t know who holds the promissory note to your mortgage, or even if you do, think about asking the big banks and financial institutions to Produce the Note! Click here to send a letter to your mortgage servicer today. It is not the end of our list of demands, but it is a good first step.

Mary Bottari

Mary Bottari is a reporter for the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD). She helped launch CMD's award-winning ALEC Exposed investigation and is a two-time recipient of the Sidney Prize for public interest journalism from the Sidney Hillman Foundation.