Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The Passion of the Underdog

Suing banks is my favorite sport behind boxing.

"I'm the best ever. I'm the most brutal and vicious, and most ruthless champion there's ever been. There's no one that can stop me. There's never been anybody as ruthless! There's no one like me. There's no one that can match me. My style is impetuous, my defense is impregnable, and I'm just ferocious. I want your heart!" - Mike Tyson, June 24, 2000 [paraphrased]

I take particular pleasure in extracting as much money and inflicting as much damage against Wall Street as the law allows.

The following story explains the fuel for my passion.

Act One - The Bank Loan
In 1996, I moved from apartments in Hillsboro to a trailer park in Aloha.

From 1991 to 1995, I switched schools six times.

My mom purchased a mobile home with an interest-only mortgage loan from Washington Mutual.

She hoped to eventually build equity and liked having her own space to garden.

With any luck, the mobile home's value would rise as the loan officer predicted and she would eventually upgrade to a stick-built home.

Washington Mutual started as a home loan mortgage company after the great Seattle fire in 1889. It's motto was "The Friend of the Family." Cite: Huffington Post

My mom made her mortgage payments for eight years without incident.

Act Two - Eviction
In 2004 I was studying for finals at OSU when my mom called with disturbing news.

She said a California developer bought the trailer park lot and sent all the tenants notices of eviction.

The notices warned that all mobile homes would be demolished in exactly one year if they weren't moved.

My mom and the other tenants quickly discovered that banks weren't making loans to move mobile homes and existing parks weren't accepting new tenants.

Across the country, land values were skyrocketing as subprime lending spurred unprecedented levels of new home construction.

As a result, developers started buying up trailer park lots and evicting tenants as fast as possible to make way for more profitable condos and row houses.

By mid 2005, my mom and hundreds of her co-tenants had no choice but to leave the park and abandon their homes.

Act Three - Bankruptcy
My mom contacted Washington Mutual about mortgage refinancing or modification options. The bank's only advice: file bankruptcy before its attorneys garnished her wages.

My family was poor but my mom always prided herself in having good credit.

In fact, her bankruptcy petition (Case No. 05-37773-tmb7) schedule F was blank. She had no credit cards, medical bills, payday loans, or other unsecured debts to speak of.

Her sole reason for filing was Washington Mutual's threat of a wage garnishment. She was morally and financially devastated.

As a student of economics and disciple of capitalism, I was torn.

Within a year, my mom and old neighbors were suddenly homeless and bankrupt, through no real fault of their own. The bank and developer's actions were ruthless but legal.

The developer was within its rights to demolish the tenants' mobile homes, provided it gave proper notice.

And the bank was within its rights to garnish the tenants' wages because the law that protected stick-built homeowners from deficiency judgments didn't apply to mobile homeowners.

My passion turned from outrage to revenge and I set out to become a consumer protection attorney.

Below is a quote from my 2005 law school application to Willamette:

"I want to expose poor families to good financial advice, from how to use credit cards to achieving the dream of home ownership, and empower them with the financial knowledge many in the entitled class take for granted."

During law school I fantasized about legally taking from banks with the same ruthlessness and disregard for fairness that Washington Mutual and the California developer took from the trailer park tenants.

So long as it was legal, I wanted to inflict as much collateral damage as I could.

Fortunately, my dream came true and I now make my living passionately litigating against banks on behalf of the underdog.

Ironically, the morally bankrupt corporations that fueled my passion to attend law school became financially bankrupt before I had time to pass the bar and exact my revenge.

After 120 years in business, Washington Mutual collapsed in 2008.

The subprime market scandal of 2007 hit before the California developer could subdivide the park.

The mobile homes were leveled in 2006. The lot still sits vacant.

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