JPMorgan Chase, Faith Burns and the mortgage meltdown

South Minneapolis homeowner Faith Burns and her husband have found a place to live, but are still recovering financially from being foreclosed on five years ago. (Dan Olson / MPR News)

My editors will tell you I’ve never been good with numbers, and I knew I was in deep trouble when I first saw the mortgage documents JPMorgan Chase sent to south Minneapolis homeowner Faith Burns back in 2007. The lender was foreclosing on Burns saying she was behind on her payments.

We’ll hear from Faith again today in a new edition of Minnesota Sounds and Voices during Morning Edition with Cathy Wurzer. Fast forwarding to the end of the story, the bank was wrong, but Burns had to move out anyway; she’s moved on.

Chase agreed to the largest fine ever levied by the government last week — a $13 billion penalty for mortgage loan abuses leading up to the mortgage meltdown. About $4 billion or so of that amount will reportedly go to help JPMC borrowers who are having mortgage payment problems. State officials say they don’t know how many Minnesotans might get help.

The complex financial statements connected to this story were translated by the attorney Faith brought in for help.  Then-attorney Mark Ireland worked for the Foreclosure Relief Law Project, a non-profit housing advocacy group.  Now a Ramsey County Judge, Ireland looked at the documents supplied by Chase and called them, “gibberish.”

I wasn’t a complete newbie on this story.

By 2008 I’d already met a batch of public and private sector attorneys who were alarmed by the unfolding mortgage crisis and were working with lawmakers to craft legislation that would help homeowners in trouble.

I was impressed.  Some of the best minds in Minnesota’s legal profession were alarmed at what they saw on the horizon and devoted countless hours without compensation to do something about it.

The foreclosure rate is down, but  Minnesota Housing Finance Agency Commissioner Mary Tingerthal and Legal Services Advocacy Project supervising attorney Ron Elwood say we’re not out of the woods.

There are still thousands of homeowners who are in trouble.  Elwood says the challenge is finding a way to let people know there’s help available.