Adam Levitin: Why the Independent Foreclosure Reviews Were Doomed to Fail
Why the Independent Foreclosure Reviews Were Doomed to Fail
Apparently part of the bank flaks’ talking points regarding the foreclosure reviews is that to the extent homeowners harmed by wrongful foreclosures, they were actually drug dealers. The message: we didn’t foreclose on anyone who didn’t deserve it. We were just foreclosing on some scumbags and doing you all a favor by getting the meth lab out of the neighborhood before it blew up. We’re part of the war on drugs.
This talking point is particularly revealing, I think, both about how seriously our largest financial institutions take sanctity of contract, and about the nature of the whole independent foreclosure review sham.
Running a meth lab in your basement may be an event of default on a mortgage–but if that’s going to be the default that triggers a foreclosure, the bank is going to have to prove that you’ve been running a meth lab on the property. The lender’s relationship with the borrower is contractual, not moral. If the borrower does something morally objectionable, it only matters if there is a breach of the contract. If sanctity of contract matters as a social principle, then even meth lab owners rights’ must be respected. We have criminal forfeitures to the government, but that doesn’t result in civil forfeitures to private lenders other than pursuant to contract. We’ve seen this vigilante foreclosure line before.