Gallagher & Associates Team

Gallagher & Associates Team

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Gallagher & Associates Law Firm - Blogged

Friday, June 3, 2011

Top 10 Tips to Mortgage Modification Success -

Top 10 Tips to Mortgage Modification Success -

Can I legally make my mortgage company stop sending "inspectors" out every month? -

Can I legally make my mortgage company stop sending "inspectors" out every month? -

G&A Team Profile

Allison Wallrapp has recenly joined G&A as a law clerk. Allison is a current student at Stetson University College of Law. She was previously employed with a large statewide foreclosure law firm in Tampa.

Ms. Wallrapp graduated summa cum laude from Rollins College where she was President of the student body. Ms. Wallrapp is a member of St. Petersburg Bar Association and the Florida Association for Women Lawyers. Allison focuses on foreclosure litigation, consumer law, real estate & insurance law and business litigation.

G&A News & Notes

*Charles Gallagher was featured on Fox 13 to discuss the pending mortgage fraud settlement among all attorneys general. Fox 13

*Gallagher & Associatioes was proud to sponsor the Suncoast PBA's football game at Al Lang Stadium. The game was a benefit and fund raiser for the fallen St. Petersburg Police officers.

*Charles Gallagher authored, "Fla. Stat. 57.105 Attorneys Fees, To the Victor go the Spolis...Or do they?" in the May 2011 Paraclete.

*Ashley Elmore Drew served as the Chair for the St. Petersburg Bar's "Meet the Judges Lunch" held at the Pinellas County Courthouse.

*Gallagher & Associates was proud to sponsor the St. Petersburg Bar's Meet the Judges Lunch.

Florida Insurance Law Legislative Update

Despite public opposition, Gov. Rick Scott signed SB 408, which drastically changes property insurance for all citizens. Sen. Mike Fasano and other consumer advocates fought against the legislation as too insurer friendly. The bill includes the following changes:

·Expanding exclusions from losses covered by the Florida Hurricane Catastrophe Fund to include losses caused by perils other than a covered event, such as fire, theft, flood or rising water, as well as amounts paid for waivers of deductibles and bad faith awards.

·Limiting public adjuster compensation for reopened or supplemental claims to 20 percent of the claim payment and requiring additional disclosures.

·Requires that all sinkhole be filed within two years of the date of loss.

·Requiring insurers to provide two replacement cost coverage options for payment of personal property insurance claims.

·Requiring a policyholder to file windstorm and hurricane claims within three years

Parts of the bill that failed included provisions that would permit carriers to raise rates without state oversight and approval.

New York Attorney General Investigation

New York's Attorney General has requested information and documents from three major Wall Street banks about their mortgage securities operations during the credit boom, indicating the existence of a new investigation into practices that contributed to billions in mortgage losses. The requests were directed to Bank of America, Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley.

Several civil suits have been filed by federal and state regulators since the financial crisis erupted in 2008, some of which have generated settlements and fines, most prominently a $550 million deal between Goldman Sachs and the Securities and Exchange Commission.

But even more questions have been raised in private lawsuits filed against the banks by investors and others who say they were victimized by questionable securitization practices. Some litigants have contended, for example, that the banks dumped loans they knew to be troubled into securities and then misled investors about the quality of those underlying mortgages when selling the investments.

The possibility has also been raised that the banks did not disclose to mortgage insurers the risks in the instruments they were agreeing to insure against default. Another potential area of inquiry - the billions of dollars in credit extended by Wall Street to aggressive mortgage lenders that allowed them to continue making questionable loans far longer than they otherwise could have done.

Officials at Bank of America and Goldman Sachs declined to comment about the investigation; Morgan Stanley did not respond to a request for comment.

During the mortgage boom, Wall Street firms bundled hundreds of billions of dollars in home loans into securities that they sold profitably to investors. After the real estate bubble burst, the perception took hold that the securitization process as performed by the major investment banks contributed to the losses generated in the crisis.

Critics contend that Wall Street's securitization machine masked the existence of risky home loans and encouraged reckless lending because pooling the loans and selling them off allowed many participants to avoid responsibility for the losses that followed.

AT&T Sued for Ipad/Iphone Billing

AT&T is being sued for systematically overcharging its iPhone and iPad customers for data transactions, primarily small charges which amount to millions of dollars in revenue for the wireless carrier.

"AT&T's billing system for iPhone and iPad data transactions is like a rigged gas pump that charges for a full gallon when it pumps only nine-tenths of a gallon into your car's tank," the suit alleged. "AT&T's bills systematically overstate the amount of data used on each data transaction involving an iPhone or iPad account.

According to the federal class-action suit, an independent consulting firm hired by plaintiff conducted a two-month study of AT&T's data usage billing practices, and discovered the carrier systematically overstated web server traffic by 7% to 14% -- and in some cases by more than 300%

As a result, an iPhone user who downloads a 50 KB website will typically be billed for 53.5 KB (a 7% price hike) to as much as 150 KB (a 300% overcharge). The suit also accuses AT&T of billing customers for non-use. "It gets worse," the suit charges. "Not only does AT&T systematically overbill for every data transaction, it also bills for phantom data traffic when there is no actual data usage initiated by the customer."

This claim was based on findings from the consulting firm, which purchased an iPhone from an AT&T store, closed all applications, disabled all notifications and services, deactivated the email and left it alone for 10 days.

"During this 10-day period, AT&T billed the test account for 35 data transactions totaling 2,292 KB of usage," the suit claims. "This is like the rigged gas pump charging you when you never even pulled your car into the station." Other tests by the consulting firm also purportedly showed that AT&T's billing system fails to accurately record the time and date of data usage, making it difficult for customers to track their usage and take advantage of their full allotment.

Although AT&T's alleged overcharges per customer are "modest," the suit says, the effect on AT&T's bottom line is "huge." AT&T has 92.8 million customers, and for the fourth quarter of 2010, reported a wireless data revenue increase of $1.1 billion, or 27.4%, from a year earlier. A "significant portion" of those revenues, the suit says, resulted from AT&T's "rigged billing system" for iPhone and iPad data usage.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Foreclosure Experts….Or Are They?

Foreclosure Experts….Or Are They?

Foreclosure Experts....Or Are They?

“Expert” foreclosure advise is seemingly available everywhere these days. But who exactly is the expert offering advice on your most precious asset, your home.

Realtors, real estate brokers, mortgage brokers, appraisers and self professed real estate experts have set up shop offering advice to distressed homeowners in default of their mortgage or in foreclosure. Consumers looking for guidance often fall into the trap of seeking advice from real estate sales professionals without appropriate credentials to render opinions on the legal implications of foreclosure. Further still are realtors or mortgage brokers that offer valuation opinions, without a state appraiser certification.

“Almost every day I speak with homeowners who are operating under some misinformation about foreclosure provided by non-attorney experts” said Attorney Charles R. Gallagher III. “Homeowners need to be careful of the source of the information and should seek the counsel of a licensed Florida attorney with foreclosure litigation experience.” “Realtors and brokers are not in a position to offer legal advice regarding foreclosure issues.”

Homeowners need to inquire on basis for such expert opinions with some pointed questions. What are your professional credentials or licenses? Do you lecture or teach on the subject? And most importantly, who has characterized you as an expert?

About G&A: “Gallagher & Associates Law Firm, P.A. is a boutique consumer law firm in offering concierge legal services to individuals, consumers and small businesses where clients have 24/7 access to their attorney. Our practice areas include foreclosure defense, insurance litigation, real estate litigation and business law and consumer litigation.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Nationwide Foreclosure Inestigation Stalls

Attorneys general negotiating the settlement of a nationwide foreclosure investigation have yet to approach banks with a proposed dollar amount that would fund principal reductions for borrowers, a state official said.

The states have agreed on some terms while failing so far to reach an accord on monetary payments by lenders, a person familiar with the talks said last week. Eight Republican attorneys general have publicly challenged the concept of principal reductions as part of a 50-state settlement.

Last month, state officials and federal agencies, including the Justice Department, submitted settlement terms to five mortgage servicers, including Bank of America Corp. (BAC) and JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPM) They called for a "substantial portion" of an unspecified monetary amount to go toward a loan modification program.

The six-month probe by the states was triggered by claims of faulty foreclosure practices following the housing collapse, which state officials said may violate their laws. Geoff Greenwood, a spokesman for Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller, a Democrat who leads the investigation, said in an interview that the states haven't presented a dollar figure to the banks, declining further comment.

Any state agreement with servicers or banks on principal reductions will depend on the size of the writedowns, the incentives for the servicers built into the settlement and other details, which continue to be sorted out, said the first person familiar with the negotiations.

"Our position has been that principal reductions are one tool in the toolbox, and should only be used in appropriate circumstances," Iowa's Miller said yesterday in an e-mailed statement.

In addition to Bank of America and JPMorgan, also taking part in those agreements were San Francisco-based Wells Fargo, New York-based Citigroup, the GMAC unit of Detroit-based Ally Financial, Aurora Bank FSB, EverBank Financial Corp., HSBC Holdings Plc, OneWest, MetLife Inc., PNC Financial Services Group Inc. (PNC), Sovereign Bank, SunTrust Banks Inc., and US Bancorp.

Iowa's Miller said earlier this month that the state effort to reach a nationwide agreement would continue "unabated."

Docket Management

Attorney Fee Sanctions

Monday, February 28, 2011

BOA Settles Class Action Overdraft Suit

Bank of America has agreed to a $410 million settlement in nationwide class action lawsuits alleging that banks have abusive and excessive overdraft fee policies.

The suits, consolidated before U.S. District Court Judge James Lawrence King in Miami, sought to recover millions of dollars in fees charged to consumers on debit card purchases.

Last spring, Bank of America said it would stop charging those fees. Instead, customers could only make debit card purchases if they had enough money in their accounts. Other banks targeted in the lawsuit include Citibank, JPMorgan Chase, U.S. Bank, Wells Fargo and Wachovia, which merged with it.

The bank limits the number of overdraft fees a customer can receive to four a day from 10 a day. Bank of America also said it extended deposit cut-off times to 8 p.m. and reduced the length of deposit holds, which allows customers quicker access to deposited funds.

Additional Foreclosure Firms Investigated

The Florida Attorney General's Office has requested information from three additional law firms in connection with allegations of foreclosure fraud. The Attorney General requested documents and information from Albertelli Law, Kahane & Associates and Law Offices of Daniel Consegura.

Prior to this request, the Attorney General made the same request of Law Offices of David Stern, Shapiro & Fishman, Law Offices of Marshall C. Watson and Florida Default Law Group in connection with similar investigations.

Many of bank and mortgage lender clients of David Stern's firm have terminated their relationship with the firm and sought replacement counsel amidst allegations of fraudulent document practices.

Mozillo Criminal Case Closed

After paying a $22.5 million fine, and after Bank of America footed the bill for a $45 million settlement on his behalf, the Department of Justice has closed its criminal investigation of former Countrywide CEO Angelo Mozilo.

In October Mozillo settled a civil lawsuit with the Securities and Exchange Commission for $67.5 million, while not admitting or denying fault for his actions, which the SEC alleged helped bring about the financial meltdown.

The U.S. Justice Department closed the investigation of Mozilo that began in 2008, determining that those same actions made by Mozilo while he was CEO of the company were not criminal. But other investigations of Mozilo are still underway.

Last week Rep. Darrell Issa requested a subpoena be issued to Bank of America, which bought Countrywide in 2008, regarding the "Friends of Angelo" program that offered preferential loan terms to lawmakers and government officials, allegedly in exchange for political favors.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Foreclosure Mediations Fail

In 2010 the Supreme Court of Florida passed an administrative order that required early mediation in all residential foreclosure cases. However, the statistics show that the program has not proved to be effective.

Statewide, there were 13,417 cases referred to mediation between March and June, according to a state report. Of those, 768, or 1 percent, resulted in the borrower and lender coming to an agreement. That could include a loan modification or a short sale.

HAMP Revamp

HAMP Revamp

House Republicans introduced a bill in January to end HAMP, the Obama administration's main foreclosure-prevention effort, calling the White House program a "colossal failure."

Rep. Jim Jordan (R., Ohio) introduced the bill to terminate the Treasury Department's Home Affordable Modification Program immediately. He was joined by Rep. Darrell Issa (R., Calif.), chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, and Rep. Patrick McHenry (R., N.C.).

Critics say the government hasn't been aggressive enough in preventing foreclosures. The government should do more, they say, to press banks to write down principal balances to assist homeowners who owe far more on their properties than their homes are worth.

Only 522,000 homeowners were enrolled in HAMP loan modifications and were making payments on time as of the end of last month, the Treasury Department said. That is far short of the original goal of helping as many as four million homeowners.

About 793,000 homeowners, or roughly 54% of the nearly 1.5 million who have enrolled since spring 2009, have dropped out of the program.

Consumer Warning: Debit Cards

Consumer Warning: Debit Cards

Banking experts have warned that the days of free debit card use are may be up. Bank of America, US Bank and other banks have indicated they plan to implement fees and limitations in connection with the use of debit cards.

Bank of America Corp., the biggest debit-card issuer, said earlier this month that it will begin charging retail customers checking-account fees unless they maintain minimum balances, make regular deposits, use credit cards or take advantage of online services.

U.S. Bancorp executives hinted that later this year, debit cards might no longer be a free product at the bank. That would make it the first bank to adopt such fees. They hhinted that to recapture revenue that most likely will be lost from recent legislative changes and proposals, the bank might change its checking account pricing, reduce rewards and "perhaps" add a debit card fee, among other action items. U.S. Bank is just the latest bank to announce new checking account fees in reaction to regulation.

Another one of these expected changes is the reintroduction of the minimum account balance requirement. With this, if a consumer makes too many purchases and slips below a predetermined amount in their checking account, they could be hit with a big penalty fee. Pay special attention to any mailings from your bank as they are required to provide written notice of any account changes.