Salon contributing writer Dayen illuminates how, during the past 10 years, home buyers ended up illegally evicted from their residences as the result of dishonesty, greed, and heartlessness involving mortgage lenders, mortgage servicers, investment bankers, and unscrupulous lawyers.
Because the painstakingly documented scheme consists of highly technical maneuvering related to mortgage documents and land records, the author tells the saga mainly through the individual cases of three home buyers—originally strangers to each other—who educated themselves to fight back: Lisa Epstein, a cancer nurse; Michael Redman, an auto dealership employee; and Lynn Szymoniak, a lawyer who investigates insurance fraud. Dayen chronicles their financially and physically draining campaigns to save their homes from illegal foreclosures and battle on behalf of millions of additional individuals. The author begins with Epstein's case, followed by Redman’s; one-third of the way into the narrative, the two of them meet Szymoniak, and Dayen describes how they pooled their meager resources to raise public consciousness at huge personal sacrifice. The author populates the book with hundreds of other individuals, many of them villains, cowards, or clueless men and women, many of whom had the authority to halt the fraudulent behaviors. In addition, the author occasionally addresses readers directly about the mechanics of the foreclosures, which have affected all 50 states but have been concentrated in Florida, California, Nevada, and Arizona. Wisely, though, Dayen rarely shifts the focus from the instructive, compelling sagas of his principals. Although the efforts of the whistle-blowers have educated countless citizens facing foreclosure—including the massive reach of a 60 Minutes episode—hundreds of thousands of houses remain empty as the former residents scrape by in what they hope are temporary quarters. Dayen relates how prosecutors, judges, and the Department of Justice have caved to powerful mortgage industry donors while illegal foreclosures continue.
An inspiring, well-rendered, deeply reported, and often infuriating account.