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Chain of Title: How Three Ordinary Americans Uncovered Wall Street's Great Foreclosure Fraud

4.22  ·  Rating details ·  567 ratings  ·  106 reviews
In the depths of the Great Recession, a cancer nurse, a car dealership worker, and an insurance fraud specialist helped uncover the largest consumer crime in American history—a scandal that implicated dozens of major executives on Wall Street. They called it foreclosure fraud: millions of families were kicked out of their homes based on false evidence by mortgage companies
Kindle Edition, 320 pages
Published May 17th 2016 by New Press, The (first published April 5th 2016)
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"Some rob you with a six gun, some with a fountain pen..."

Accurate records of ownership and sale are at the heart of all systems of trade and commerce. This cuneiform tablet from Sumer, dating c. 2600 BCE, records the sale of a field and a house

In Tang Dynasty China, property records included the price, descriptions of area in exchange, official signatures and names of witnesses.

Land ownership deeds are among the oldest written documents in Colonial Ame
Sarah Jaffe
Mar 10, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I knew David Dayen was one of the sharpest writers out there on financial crimes and foreclosure fraud. What I didn't know was that he could turn that story into a fast-paced thriller with emotional heft that finally makes clear just how bad "robosigning" was. Maybe the best book I've read this year.
Jun 23, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, non-fiction
The fundamental story of Chain of Title is an interesting and important one. Here's how it goes:

In order to make more money from loans, financial institutions wanted to bundle them into financial products. Buying a share of a bundle of 1,000,000 loans gets you all of the upside in terms of return, but basically none of the risk. (That was the theory, in any case.)

The problem is that our system for tracking ownership of real estate is very slow and involves a lot of manual signing and physical p
I found this to be a fascinating book. David Dayen tells the story of three Florida homeowners as they discover that banks have been lying about signatures. Lisa Epstein, a nurse, learns that the bank foreclosing on her could not prove it had legally obtained the loan. Lisa met Michael Redman, a car salesman, and encouraged him to published an online guide as to how to find information online about who had the loan on their homes. The two of them connected with Lynn Szymoniak, an attorney, who i ...more
Dana Stabenow
Nov 09, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The very inside story of the colossal mortgage foreclosure fraud scheme of the Oughts in Florida and all around the country, through the eyes of three victims, ordinary mortagers who were illegally foreclosed upon and who became activists in the cause of exposing said fraud. If you ever want to trust a financial institution again don't read this book. If you ever want to trust the government again don't read this book. If you want to confirm all of your deepest suspicions, have at it. Dayen says ...more
Susan Turchick
Jul 04, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
For any one who doesn't believe that the "BIG BANKERS" belong in jail for all the issues which resulted in a housing bubble, read about the foreclosure crisis afterwards and you just might change your mind.

Sickening, disheartening, and just plain hard to believe. However, I do believe it. The foreclosures problem is NOT just because a lot of people bought too much home with financial products that they didn't understand. It is NOT about deadbeats. It is about a financial and justice system in t
Mal Warwick
Jun 28, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
Recent events have made us all aware that police officers sometimes act outside the law, not just in fiction but in reality. But what about their bosses and their bosses’ bosses? And the judges, attorneys general, and Justice Department officials who are supposed to oversee the administration of the law? How do we find out about it when they act outside the law — and what can we do in response?

David Dayen explores that question in Chain of Title, an expose of the criminal conduct that ran rampan
Feb 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Unreal!!! This happened Right in my back yard!
Aug 22, 2016 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This was ultimately a disappointing book for a number of reasons; not sure where to start. The author was more concerned about weaving a narrative about good and evil, and hand picking snippets of evidence which supported his view than providing the critical analysis I sought.

A sad fact is that many people did have their mortgages foreclosed, and there was a great deal of fraud in inducing people to enter into mortgages that they couldn't afford. Had the author focused on this, he would have ha
Hazel Bright
Oct 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Wow. This book had a better plot and characters than much of the fiction I have read. Both inspiring and depressing, it describes the impact a few dedicated people can have on their world, and also the stranglehold that big banks have on our entire legal and political system (the book spans periods of Republican and Democratic political dominance, and the Democrats do not come up smelling entirely like a rose). Fascinating discussion of the impact of a lot of arcane wheeling and dealing by the b ...more
Jesse Field
Oct 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: learn
If you have any doubt that foreclosure fraud is one of the more fraught, and fascinating, problems of American life today, this intense triple profile by David Dayem will clear it up. The book is jam packed with hair-raising material, deftly drawing forth a portrait of fraud occurring to individuals, to the Florida region, and to the USA as a whole. And these events are not, as Obama administration officials like David Axelrod or Timothy Geithner likely to say, unfortunate but necessary and cont ...more
Lindsay Nixon
Jun 09, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Holy shiitake. This book. It reads like a thriller but it's real life, as hard as it is to believe. It's The Big Short on steroids. A deep look into how and why the housing crisis happened. It's an octopus with many flying limbs and heads but the monster still persists.

This book helped me better understand this last election, why America is so divided right now, and Florida. Yes, Florida. Holy shiitakes gas that been in crisis. There are so many people in pain needing answers and someone to bla
Brian Cubbage
May 15, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A fine look at the foreclosure crisis in the United States in the run-up to, and especially after, the financial crash of 2008. Dayen follows three individuals who combat the shame and isolation brought about by their own foreclosure cases by uncovering the massive fraud at the heart of most mortgages issued in the United States in the last fifteen years.

Although the account focuses a lot on the mass-manufacturing of fraudulent documents that came to be known as "robo-signing," Dayen makes clear
There are a lot of enjoyable reads out there, and while I have to say that while David Dayen's "Chain of Title" is one of the most important books of the year, it is far from an enjoyable read.

That's because Dayen's book will have you enraged pretty much cover to cover.

In "Chain of Title," Dayen writes compellingly of perhaps the greatest domestic scandal in the last fifty years in America - the undermining of the American dream of home ownership through fraud, thanks to the mortgage industry an
Sara G
May 31, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This book is a fascinating look at what actually happened in the early 2000s when the US economy went into a recession and it seemed like everyone was losing their homes. I remember it vividly because it happened right in my backyard and at a very formative time in my life. I finished school and wanted to get set up with my adult life, but everything in our economy was headed to hell in a handbasket. (I believe this is why millennials like myself are so resistant to homeownership, too - we saw o ...more
It’s terrifying how easy it is to take advantage of people.

Looking forward to when my mortgage is paid off.
Jun 29, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Hello, would you like to be very angry about stuff? Might I recommend: "Chain of Title: How Three Ordinary Americans Uncovered Wall Street's Great Foreclosure Fraud!"
Jul 06, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Sometimes hard to read due to narrative flow, most times because of content. Dear god, how demoralizing
Athan Tolis
As advertised, this is the story of how a nurse, a car salesman and a sixties-activist-turned-lawyer took on the Great Foreclosure Machine and lost, but not before landing a good few punches.

I consider myself knowledgeable on both the causes of the recent financial crisis and on the particulars of the mortgage debacle. I’ve read both “House of Debt” by Mian and Sufi (which Larry Summers himself called “book of the year” when it came out, despite the fact that it condemns his policies) and “Bailo
Kathy Dalton
The book is clearly one-sided and has an agenda. It's obviously not objective. Big banks and politicians and judges are bad...rogue individuals questioning the "machine" are good. If you can deal with that baseline, this book is for you.

That caveat aside, this book provides a thoroughly detailed look at how mortgage fraud happened on such a massive scale. It calls into question the ready acceptance of office workers everywhere to simply do as told and not ask questions. "Oh, you want me to sign
Not surprisingly, it ended badly. Despite rampant malfeasance and fraud and crime, the banks, in the end, get away with it all. For some reason, a homeowner, wondering who actually owns the title and mortgage on their house, is the one considered the deadbeat when banks fail to provide a paper trail and are assumed guilty. Even if they were trying to "get their house for free", it still shouldn't excuse the evil the banks did, all with the powers that be, all the way up to President Obama, looki ...more
Jun 29, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Chain of Title does an excellent job of telling the story of the collapse of the housing bubble and the massive problems with fraud and other bad behaviors by the banks, foreclosure firms, and other players in the industry. It's probably not wise for me to share all my thoughts and opinions about this book given its relevance to my job, but I will say that this book helped me understand some things I'd never quite grasped before, gave me useful context for understanding some things I'd already k ...more
Feb 15, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: kindle-finished
More like 4.5. This is a jaw draw dropping story. One - if you followed the news 2008-2012 - you likely know a lot of the parts. But Dayen, brings them altogether into a well written and heart breaking story of just how bad the mortgage, banking industries are and how little our courts and government is interested in doing about it.
Sep 20, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
4.5 stars

A damning look at how companies fudged paperwork and constantly lied to force foreclosures. Well written. Really effective to use the story of three different people to crystallize what this was like. Gets a bit repetitive in the middle, but highly enjoyable.
Jun 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
In the rush of information from a 24-hour news cycle it's difficult to hold on to the small cumulative facts that stream by as part of a major news story. There's a shortage of long-form journalism, either in print or in broadcasting, that can bring an event into full and unflinching focus. That's where a book like Chain of Title is especially valuable.

David Dayen places three "ordinary Americans" in the center of this book about the housing/banking crisis of 2007-2008. The most powerful charact
Alex Radtke
Jan 12, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
David Dayen makes at least one point very clear in Chain of Title, when morality trumps law, it is often to kick those who are down. Who cares about small things like proper paperwork when people are trying to get FREE HOUSES (despite the fact that most people were stretching themselves to the limit to make payments). It is vividly illustrated throughout that the legal system rarely seeks protects individuals, especially when our horrific and rapacious financial system is involved. Dayen should ...more
Collin Lysford
Jun 21, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I think the 2008 financial crisis has a lot of excellent lessons to teach about fragility, network effects, and just how strange the global economy really is. And I thought I had a handle on what caused after reading the (also excellent) All the Devils are Here: The Hidden History of the Financial Crisis: the link between lenders and creditors was severed, the remixed finanical packages outran regulations and obscured the true degree of leveraqge and everyone passed the problem around assuming t ...more
Mar 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Once this got going, I could hardly put it down. I know understand more the whole issue of "robosigning," and why it was needed. One underlying argument of the book is that the current system is so flawed, and so corrupted, that clear title to homes is at risk for decades to come. This story focuses on a few figures who ended up in foreclosure, and their own journeys are interesting. They don't completely deal with the issue of "deadbeats," a perception that only a morally flawed person doesn't ...more
Jul 10, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Interesting story of the housing bubble burst of 2008 and the subsequent foreclosure fraud epidemic. Lots of well researched detail about how the fraud was perpetrated and how the Obama administration and other key political figures dealt with the all powerful banks. There is a lot of personal detail about the grass-roots whistle blowers at the center of this book as a means of humanizing a very numbers and legal jargon heavy story. My only misgiving is that this book ran a little long with the ...more
Andrew Skretvedt
Mar 30, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: seen-at-library
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David Dayen is a journalist who writes about economics and finance. He is the author of Chain of Title: How Three Ordinary Americans Uncovered Wall Street's Great Foreclosure Fraud, winner of the Studs and Ida Terkel Award. He is a contributing writer to and The Intercept, and a weekly columnist for The Fiscal Times and The New Republic. He also writes for The American Prospect, Vice, Th ...more

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