Not Much Experience Needed to Foreclose on People’s Homes, According to ProPublica Research
By Marian Wang ProPublica
For years, banks and other companies handling foreclosures have turned to cheap labor to process the growing volume of foreclosures. At JPMorgan Chase, they were called “Burger King kids”—walk-in workers hired to handle foreclosure proceedings. Many barely knew what a mortgage was and had only high-school educations.
Prompted by a Financial Times article about banks hiring foreclosure experts , we went on a few job sites to browse the listings ourselves, just to see if the qualifications for new hires have changed since the foreclosure-document scandal first surfaced.
What we found is that it varies, depending on the company hiring. Requirements for many foreclosure jobs—often advertised by staffing or temp agencies—still offer low pay and require little education. Some of the brand-name banks include in their job listings language about “compliance with [proper] procedures” and regulations. Most didn’t post pay.
One legal staffing agency advertised a number of foreclosure openings, including a “Supervisor of Foreclosure Department .” The listed base pay? “$10.00-$12.00/Hour.” High-school education required. When I called this agency, the Legal Group, I was told that the agency deals primarily with law firms or the legal departments of corporations.
“Our client information is confidential, so I cannot share the names of our clients with you,” an agency representative explained. (Banks often outsource parts of the foreclosure process to foreclosure law firms, which take cases before courts in states where a court order is necessary to foreclose. Read our primer on the players  in the foreclosure scandal.)
One law firm in Tampa is seeking an “Evening Foreclosure Supervisor.” It promises $17 to $22 an hour for candidates with at least two years of supervisory or management experience and “knowledge of the entire foreclosure process.” The firm appears to be working around the clock — the listing specifies that the evening shift runs from “1:30pm to 10pm.”
Another staffing agency seeks college grads for “IMMEDIATE ENTRY LEVEL Foreclosure Processing opportunities with an outstanding company in the Baltimore region,” promising $12 to $13 an hour. The position requires no experience, but:
Extraordinarily FAST and ACCURATE typing is a MUST!
Ability to be WILDLY PRODUCTIVE in a fast paced DYNAMIC envionment [sic] is a MUST!
Outstanding MULTI-TASKING ability is a must!
Banks hoping to allay concerns about robo-signing and other foreclosure-processing errors are also hiring. Ally Financial, formerly known as GMAC, is hiring a “foreclosure specialist,” a position that “requires a college degree and 3-4 years experience in Mortgage Banking.”
But Ally, the company whose GMAC Mortgage Unit played a part in setting off the scandal, seemed to have loftier requirements than others. Take this job listing from Chase posted two days ago seeking a “Quality Specialist” to review foreclosure documentation. The job description says the worker will be responsible for ensuring “compliance with affidavit certification and notification procedures.” But under qualifications, two years of lending experience, some college experience, and prior experience in foreclosure processing are listed as “preferred” or “strongly desired.” Only a high-school diploma is required.
Bank of America, the nation’s largest servicer, appears to be hiring temporary foreclosure specialists through a staffing agency. Required skills include a high-school diploma and either some college experience or “two years of foreclosure or bankruptcy experience outside of Bank of America.” Included in the job description: “Reconcile financial transactions to ensure maximum recovery for BAC [Bank of America Corporation].”
American Home Mortgage Servicing, too, requires only a high-school diploma or GED, with a year of experience in banking or mortgage servicing “preferred.”
And Nationstar Mortgage—a big subprime lender that’s servicing for Fannie Mae—is seeking foreclosure specialists with similar requirement —“college degree preferred,” plus “1 year of experience in foreclosures.” (Reuters reported last month that Fannie and Freddie, frustrated with mistakes by the banks, have reassigned some of their portfolios to specialist servicers like Nationstar.)
On Thursday, a Florida foreclosure mill announced it had laid off more than 500 workers—70 percent of its staff—due to “recent turbulence in the mortgage industry.” Employees at the Law Offices of David J. Stern—which is currently under investigation by the Florida attorney general for fraudulent foreclosure practices—may be out of work, but for those hundreds laid off, at least within the industry at large, there’s no shortage of employers who are hiring.
Marian Wang is ProPublica’s first reporter-blogger. She previously worked for Mother Jones, where she spearheaded the magazine’s social media strategy. Since graduating with honors from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism in 2007, she worked in Chicago as a freelance investigative reporter and blogger for The Chicago Reporter, Chi-Town Daily News, and ChicagoNow. She now lives in New York.
Story published with permission of Pro Publica Inc. Original Publication November 5, 2010. Creative Commons.