The employees behind the foreclosure crisis

A housing counselor speaks on foreclosure prevention to distressed homeowners at a housing fair in Thornton, Colo.

TEXT OF INTERVIEW

Bob Moon: First glances can be deceiving -- if you skimmed past this morning's headline on foreclosures. Yes, the rate did fall in October, and it's tempting to read that as "fewer homeowners are struggling." But RealtyTrac says the numbers were skewed by the logjam over questionable paperwork.

Despite complaints that unqualified workers have been signing off on thousands of foreclosures per month, banks seem to be keeping the bar rather low.

Marian Wang is a reporter and blogger at ProPublica. She's been checking some job listings posted for foreclosure experts. Marian, thanks for joining us.

Marian Wang: Thanks for having me.

Moon: So what types of qualifications does one need to be a specialist in foreclosures?

Wang: The types are varied, depending on who's hiring. We looked at, for instance, GMAC -- now Ally Financial -- and that bank for instance was hiring a foreclosure specialist and wanted a college degree and three to four years of experience. But then Chase for instance was hiring a quality specialist, someone who would make sure that foreclosures were processed correctly and they were only asking for high school diplomas. So it really depended.

Moon: And is it necessarily required that you should have a higher skill set to understand what's going on with these foreclosure documents?

Wang: That was the criticism. And that was a lot of what came out after the foreclosure scandal blew up, is that a lot of them weren't particularly educated. And we don't know, but perhaps that would have helped. I think a lot of the problem with the so-called "Burger King kids" -- as they were called at JPMorgan -- is that in many cases they didn't even know what a mortgage was. To be fair, it is highly technical, but something like an affidavit, which you are handling every single day, you should know what that is and know how to process it.

Moon: The jobs that you looked at, is it clear where those workers are going?

Wang: In many cases, it was. For instance the one that we saw with GMAC was pretty clear. And Chase, we saw one from Chase that was looking for also only high school education. But some of them, with the staffing agencies, it is really unclear where they're going. I talked to one of them and the staffing agency seem to hiring for a foreclosure law firm. Like some of the ones that we have been seeing and hearing about and are currently being investigated.

Moon: What should these banks be looking for? What does it actually take, do you think, to process these kinds of foreclosure documents?

Wang: I mean, it definitely requires someone who can communicate well; I think that has been one of the main problems with this process, is that you have one arm of the bank trying to help the homeowner stay in his or her home and you have another arm that is trying to work on behalf of the banks or investors to try and foreclose. A lot of people are very skeptical right now; judges as well as foreclosure defense attorneys are just skeptical that even if they hire more people and refile these documents, that the problem won't actually be fixed, because it is, in their opinion, a much deeper structural problem.

Moon: Marian Wang is a reporter and blogger at ProPublica. Thanks for joining us.

Wang: Thanks for having me.

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