Alumnus Fights to Stem Tide of
"Robo-Signer" Foreclosures:
Thomas Cox ('69) filed suit in Maine that led to national foreclosure freeze

During the housing bubble, it was pretty easy to get a mortgage even if you couldn't really afford it. But when the bubble burst, millions of people lost their jobs and could no longer pay for those mortgages. In many cases, homes became worth less than their mortgages, making it difficult to sell or refinance.

The result was that approximately 4 million Americans lost their homes to foreclosures, according to The New York Times. Making matters worse, there are claims that the foreclosure processes used by some of the largest banks were improper or even fraudulent. At the heart of many cases—and investigations by 50 state attorneys general—is a type of bank employee that has come to be called a "robo-signer," meaning someone who robotically signs foreclosure documents without checking their accuracy.

Thomas Cox ('69) of Portland, Maine was one of the first attorneys to take on a robo-signer lawsuit, and his success in Maine against GMAC Mortgage has led the way for attorneys around the country in similar suits.

He explains that his work in this area began after a 10-year retirement from his practice in which he, ironically, represented banks. Volunteering for Pine Tree Legal Services' Maine Attorneys Saving Homes program, he happened to pull the file for Nicolle Bradbury's foreclosure case.

Her file was one of many in which he had begun to see a suspicious pattern in the foreclosure paperwork. "When I got to Nicolle Bradbury's file, I decided I wasn't going to let that one go," says Cox.

While deposing the "robo-signer," Cox says the bank employee admitted many improprieties with the paperwork. "Astonishingly, he even admitted that when he's all done, he signs papers and somebody else picks them up and takes them down the hall to the notary who then signs a certification that [the signer] personally appeared and was sworn before her, which was fundamentally untrue."

So he began filing sanctions motions in several cases, including the Bradbury case. Cox says he also went to the Maine attorney general, who issued a civil subpoena for GMAC to hand over information pertaining to its foreclosure practices. In addition, he joined forces with other attorneys to initiate a class action suit against GMAC.

Within a few months, GMAC published an announcement that it had stopped all foreclosures around the country. "GMAC's [foreclosure freeze] was followed by JP Morgan Chase, Wells Fargo, Bank of America and a bunch of others in in the fall of 2010. My goal was to take care of Maine and get GMAC's misconduct stopped here, but it went national, which was fine by me," says Cox.

While many people would opt for retirement at this point, Cox says he's staying in the fight. "There is no doubt in my mind that I'm on the right side and I believe in what I'm doing and my ability to make a difference," he explains.

In honor of his work, he was awarded the 2012 BU Law Alumni Pro Bono Award at a ceremony at the Law School in April.

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