New Seminar Announced

Minnesota 8 Hour Prelicense Closer Course

Minnesota MapCompleted!

Date: Monday, March 3rd, 2014
8am – 5pm

Location:
Country Inn and Suites
3505 Vadnais Center Drive (1st exit North of 694 on Hwy 35E)
St Paul MN 55110
Reservations: 1 (800) 596-2375       US/Canada Toll-free
Cost is $249.00. Includes book, materials and lunch.

To register click here…

Louisiana Upholds Ban on Gay Marriage, While Court says Ban on Gay Marriage Unconstitutional in IL and WI

gay marriage flag ringsA federal Louisiana judge upholds  bans on gay marriage and refuses to recognize gay marriages performed elsewhere;  meanwhile, in Chicago, a federal appeals court says  ban on gay marriages is unconstitutional in Illinois and Wisconsin.  What a mess.

I teach real estate classes, and spend a lot of time on properly preparing documents. I have learned to recommend that when a gay couple is going into title, the deeds, mortgages, and other documents should properly state e.g. “Chris Jones and  Alex Smith, married to each other in the state of Minnesota.”   After all, they are not husband and wife, they may not be considered to be married to each other in Louisiana, and they are not simply “Chris Jones and Alex Smith, married” because  they could both be married, but not to each other. It is a sad state of affairs that the legal community and others are spending too much time on.  All fifty states are confused. But item by item, it is getting settled. Why not settle it once and for all! The US Supreme needs to deal with this and the sooner the better.  Consider these:

  • The IRS has litigated. US v Windsor ,  A gay couple, Windsor and Spyer, were lawfully married in Ontario, Canada, in 2007. Spyer died in 2009, leaving her entire estate to Windsor. Windsor sought to claim the federal estate tax exemption for surviving spouses. She was barred from doing so by Section 3 of DOMA (codified at 1 U.S.C. § 7), which provided that the term “spouse” only applied to marriages between a man and woman. The IRS found that the exemption did not apply to same-sex marriages, denied Windsor’s claim, and compelled her to pay $363,053 in estate taxes. It took a lot of time, effort, money and litigation to resolve this.
  • Corporations are confused.  What is the rule?  Recently, In Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc., the court found that closely held corporations do not have to comply with the Affordable Care Act requirement that insurance plans cover women’s contraception if it conflicts with the religious beliefs of the business owner. Could that opinion could lead to corporations seeking exemptions from anti-discrimination laws based on religious beliefs against gays?
  • Hospitals are confused: . Is a life-long partner in a state that bans same sex marriage, able to visit their partner or make decisions for them in the ICU?  In states that do not recognize gay marriage, gay spouses are not considered next of kin for the purposes of hospital visitation and emergency medical decisions
  • Death: If one partner dies in a state that bans same sex marriage, the other partner is not entitled to bereavement leave from work, to file wrongful death claims, or to automatically inherit their shared home, assets, or personal items.
  • Divorce: Unmarried couples do not have access to the courts, structure, or guidelines in times of break-up, including rules for how to handle shared property, child support, and alimony, or protecting the weaker party and kids. Ok, they were married in Canada, but live in Lousiana and want a divorce – what do they do?

 

Yesterday, several gay-rights organizations, 15 states and 30 businesses submitted friend of the court briefs to the U.S. Supreme Court asking the justices to take up Utah’s marriage case and rule in favor of the three same-sex couples fighting to outlaw gay marriage bans once and for all. The US Supreme court needs to address this once and for all, and they can’t have it both ways.

 

Watch out for the Three A’s – Advertising, Affiliation, and Authorization

 

Word of  Caution for affiliated entities:  besides dealing with Federal Laws such as RESPA and the CFPB, consumer laws in each respective state need to be dealt with when advertising, disclosing relationships and explaining programs. When one doesn’t do their homework, it can cause serious penalties as demonstrated below.

On August 12, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB or Bureau) entered into a consent order with an online mortgage company, its affiliated appraisal company, and its chief executive officer; they agreed to pay $20.8 million to settle allegations of deceptive advertising and illegal lending practices. This particular action, In the Matter of Amerisave Mortgage Corporation et al., reflects the CFPB’s continued focus on mortgage lending and online advertising practices. As such, this enforcement action provides a window into potential pitfalls that third-party marketers, including online lead generators, mortgage lenders, and brokers can encounter when advertising mortgages online. A very good article by Venable LLP, shown recently  in Lexology.  Read the full Lexology article here.

Zillow and Trulia Join Forces

Online giants Zillow and Trulia are joining forces in a stock deal worth $3.5 billion.  Zillow is the acquiring company, and Trulia CEO Pete Flint will continue to head Trulia’s operations but will report to Zillow CEO Spencer Rksascoff.  The company will continue to operate both websites, which reportedly attract more than 130 million visitors each month.

Over the past decade, these two online portals have challenged the traditional real estate brokerage model by making lots of real estate-related information available on the web—information that was previously available only through real estate agents.

And agents have been paying sizeable fees to be represented on these sites—some agent teams reportedly spending over $20,000 per month.

$7 Billion being Paid to Settle Mortgage Claims

Citigroup will pay a total of $7 billion, including a record $4 billion fine to the Department of Justice (DOJ) for charges related to the packaging, marketing, sale, and issuance of residential mortgage-backed securities (RMBS.) The deal was reached after months of negotiations – between Citigroup and a division of the Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force consisting of state and federal authorities, and financial regulators.

Why it matters: The settlement arguably is the product of a hard-line approach taken by the Department of Justice, providing the largest civil penalty ever. U.S.

Attorney General Eric Holder characterized Citi’s conduct as “egregious,” adding that “the bank’s activities contributed mightily to the financial crisis that devastated our economy in 2008.” Holder also stated that the deal does not absolve Citi or its employees of possible criminal charges.

Read more at Lexology and Citibank

CFPB Turns Three and Shows its Stuff

This is a great article from Lexology, showing the power and focus of the CFPB. Early on I was not a fan of the CFPB,
but as time goes by, their policing powers have been excellent. Good for the consumer and good for “cleaning up” the
type of problems we had that ended in the crisis of 2008.

Among the details the article shows some of the results of the CFPB police:

Penalties / Consumer Relief Obtained
• Amount of penalties ordered to be paid in enforcement actions (total): $150 million
• Highest civil money penalty ordered to date: $27.5 million
• Amount ordered to be returned to consumers: $4.6 billion (more than half of which is mortgage servicing related).

To read the entire article, click here

Mortgage Fraudsters Continue to Pay

Mortgage fraudsters continue to pay as can be seen in yet another federal trial. The FDIC and CFPB are hard at work with the DOJ and a host of others continuing to clean up the mortgage debacle from the 2008 Crash. I hope that the severe penalties and continuing cleanup will make other fraudsters think twice. It seems you can’t regulate ethics, but perhaps punishment will suffice.

After an 11-day trial, a jury found a husband and wife guilty of conspiracy and bank fraud that totaled $49.6 million.
Domenico “Dom” and Mae Rabuffo were convicted of participating in an elaborate scheme to defraud banks of tens of millions of dollars in connection with a development known as Hampton Springs in Glenville’s Big Ridge community. The crimes are alleged to have occurred between 2003 and 2008.
Dom Rabuffo, 77, of Miami, and Mae Rabuffo, 75, of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and Williston Park, N.Y., were found guilty of conspiracy to commit bank fraud and wire fraud affecting a financial institution. Dom Rabuffo was charged with multiple counts of bank fraud.
Sentencing by Chief U.S. District Judge Kevin Moore is expected to take place Sept. 25. They each face a maximum of 30 years in prison for each count.
read more at the Sylva Herald

IRS manual now over 70,000 pages – SERIOUSLY?

My friend Kathy Howe sent me this and I thought I’d share it. I was surprised at the statistics.

IRS manual now over 70,000 pages

“The income tax system in the United States is a sprawling mass of provisions spread across dozens of volumes and has been called everything from a ‘disaster’ to an ‘abomination.'”

That’s how the Tax Foundation begins its report “Putting a Face on America’s Tax Returns.”
The report discloses that it takes Americans up to 7 billion work hours each year to complete the paperwork required by the IRS, and it costs individual and corporate taxpayers more than $165 billion annually to comply with the income tax code.
In 1913, the federal income tax started as four pages of forms and instructions. Today, the tax code spans more than 70,000 pages.
A year before the United States entered World War II, excise taxes on such items as gasoline and cigarettes were the largest source of revenue for the federal government, followed by Social Security payroll taxes, then corporate income taxes.
Today, individual income taxes are the top source of revenue, expected to amount to $1.38 trillion this year, followed by social insurance taxes ($1.02 trillion), corporate income taxes ($380 billion), and excise taxes ($93 billion).

“While only about 14 percent of taxpayers earn more than $100,000, they pay the vast majority of all income taxes in America today.”
About half of all tax filers earn less than $30,000 a year — 26 percent earn less than $15,000, and 21 percent make between $15,000 and 30,000. Just 3 percent of filers earn between $200,000 and $499,000, and only 1 percent make $500,000 or more.
Taxpayers earning less than $100,000 a year account for 18 percent of all income taxes, while those earning more than $100,000 pay more than 80 percent of the taxes.
Those earning $1 million or more annually make 11 percent of all income, but pay 23 percent of income taxes, while those earning between $200,000 and $1 million account for 17 percent of income and 32 percent of income taxes.
Filers making $30,000 or less receive more back from the IRS than they pay in income taxes due to the Earned Income Tax Credit and other preferences. They account for 11 percent of income and minus-6 percent of income taxes paid.
Looked at another way, the top 1 percent of earners pay 37.4 percent of income taxes, the top 10 percent pay 70.6 percent, and the bottom 90 percent pay 29.4 percent.
The bottom 20 percent of earners receive $8.13 in federal spending for every dollar they pay in federal taxes. The top 20 percent receive $0.25.

Title Insurers Warned Of Too Many Blanket Exceptions

A Wisconsin State Journal article writes that the Wisconsin Insurance Commissioner Ted Nickel has warned homebuyers in a bulletin that they need to be careful about “blanket exceptions” in title insurance policies.

He wrote that title insurance companies

“have begun to use broad ‘blanket exceptions’ in their title insurance policy form for owners and (consumers), which exclude from coverage the most common encumbrances … that could generally be discovered during a public records search.”

The majority of title insurance policies exclude coverage of the type of information that cannot be found in public records, but there have been some that exempt even public record search results, Nickel said, leaving “little to no coverage for the consumer and does not warn the consumer that the title they are purchasing may have defects.”

The commissioner’s office said title insurance policies typically exclude coverage of “encumbrances” that can’t be discovered via a public records search. But state law says that a policy can be rejected that is “misleading because its benefits are too restricted to achieve the purposes for which the policy is sold.”

CFPB Suggests $550 Million in Redress from SunTrust

Well, it’s not over yet! We are still plagued by our faulty history with bad loans from unclean lenders.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, HUD, Dept of Justice and 49 state attorneys general filed a proposed federal court order against Richmond, Virginia-based SunTrust Mortgage, Inc.
According to a CFPB press release, the order alleges that SunTrust “took advantage of homeowners with servicing shortcuts and unauthorized fees … deceived homeowners about foreclosure alternatives and improperly denied loan modifications,” and “engaged in illegal foreclosure practices.” If signed by the presiding judge, the order would provide at least $500 million in relief to borrowers who are underwater with their loans, among $50 million in other penalties. Full article at the cfpb site

Public Records – Lawyer Wants to Broadcast his Divorce Court Trial on You Tube

I know this is a bit off the topic for my standard Public Records comments. Obviously abstractors make their living investigating public records.

But how far do we go with “telling it all?” An attorney in Utah wants to broadcast his divorce, as in D~I~V~O~R~C~E on YouTube. My first thought is that he doesn’t like his wife and wants to embarrass her. My second thought is perhaps he is a divorce court lawyer, looking for business. His comments are that he is trying to help the public understand the divorce process. I personally thing that’s going too far.

Although for those who like to peep into the lives of others, I’m sure there would be takers. What do you think? Next thing we know there will be a requirement to search YouTube for Divorce proceedings.

Info On Home Closing

Home Closing 101: An Educational Initiative of the American Land Title Association