Lawyer who exposed robo-signing wins $100,000

A Maine lawyer who once worked for banks was honored for his 'encore career' work for homeowners. When documents looked wrong, he dug deeper and discovered a national scandal.

By Teresa at MSN Real Estate Dec 13, 2012 6:09AM

© Getty ImagesFor many years, Thomas Cox worked as a lawyer helping banks foreclose on the homes of small-business owners who had borrowed to keep their businesses going.


After a while, he grew depressed, retired from his work as a lawyer and became a carpenter.


In 2008, he came back to law, this time on the other side of the table, working for no pay with a Maine legal aid organization to help low-income residents fight foreclosure.


Post continues below

He was one of five Americans honored last week with a $100,000 Purpose Prize, which is awarded to people 60 and older who are making a difference.

Cox definitely has made a difference in the foreclosure realm: He was one of the first to uncover the robo-signing scandal – the bank practice of hiring people to sign affidavits and other documents without even reading them, let alone verifying if they were true.

"As a lawyer, I have this passion for the legal system and justice and fairness," Cox says in his bio at, a nonprofit organization that promotes "second acts for the greater good." "Part of what drives me so hard is that I’m outraged by the abuse of the legal system – by corporate America, by the country’s biggest financial institutions – and I’m embarrassed that my profession participated in creating that outrage. ... I want to do what I can to fix it."

Cox's efforts were the subject of a 2010 New York Times story, which chronicled how he exposed a "limited signing officer" for GMAC (which later became Ally Financial) named Jeffrey Stephan, who signed perhaps 10,000 mortgage documents a month. The Times quotes from Cox's court filing:

When Stephan says in an affidavit that he has personal knowledge of the facts stated in his affidavits, he doesn’t. When he says that he has custody and control of the loan documents, he doesn’t. When he says that he is attaching "a true and accurate" copy of a note or a mortgage, he has no idea if that is so, because he does not look at the exhibits. When he makes any other statement of fact, he has no idea if it is true. When the notary says that Stephan appeared before him or her, he didn’t.

Once these practices came to light, lenders began halting foreclosure cases. The exposure of the widespread practice led to the $25 billion settlement involving the federal government, major lenders and state attorneys general.


Cox plans to continue his work with Maine Attorneys Saving Homes, a network of volunteer lawyers. He plans to use most of his prize money toward his efforts to train and recruit volunteer lawyers to help homeowners in foreclosure cases.

Mar 18, 2014 8:18AM
Thomas Cox, you are a true American patriot. Thank you for exposing banking corruption and bringing the light of justice into the industry. We are indeed grateful.
Dec 29, 2012 9:57PM

Corporate America is out of control.....and OWNS our politicans with their lobbyists and bribes.


This country would be far better off if we did away wih corporations and only had companies. The tax loops holes would mostly be gone, we would have better products, and there would be more responsibility for all this dishonesty.

Dec 29, 2012 7:28PM

Google Zietgiest. Watch the movies especially the first one, then the addendum..


While I don't subscibe to all points of view aired in the vids, a lot of facts are hard to ignore and do become food for thought...


We are ripe for a true cultural revolution and this may be a start...

Dec 29, 2012 3:24PM

The problem is the Banks sold,securitze,created (Derivatives which essentially are nothing)the loans multiple times,and in addition were given a BAILOUT.


People do me a favor lookup the word DERIVATIVES?


After they(BANKS) made billions dollars out of the fraud and bailout,the Banks also betted against themselves by buying Insurance and continuing selling the the fraudulent notes,FINANCIAL INSTRUMENTS..


None of the FRAUDSTERS WERE PROSECUTED. The very Banks that created the FRAUD now want to foreclose and do not have legal standing to foreclose.


WHAT A JOKE...................  

Dec 29, 2012 1:31PM
Responsibility001, you do not understand the process. Before a lender can take advantage of the FC clauses in the mortgage documents, it must prove certain facts to the court or other public official, facts which are laid out in the article. This is usually done through documentation and affidavit, a sworn statement of truth. If the affidavit is not personally signed and attested, the facts therein are unproven, and the lender has no right to proceed under the mortgage to foreclose. In many cases, people were not in default or their payments had been misdirected or refused outright or they were not even the borrowers or the company seeking to foreclose was not the true holder of the mortgage. It was a total mess, brought on by "bundling" mortgages and selling them, reselling them, "securitizing" them, and lots of times the original documents were lost, assignments were never recorded, etc., etc. So for a company to robo-sign foreclosure documents, for lawyers to participate in that, was unethical, illegal, fraudulent and in violation of so many regulations and codes it boggles the mind. Are you saying that in these circumstances anyone accused of being in default should just fall on their sword?
Dec 29, 2012 1:11PM
I dont understand if you dont pay your mortguage why would you expect not to beet foreclosed on?? Are We adults or children and when do we take responsibility for our commitments??? No one should just Live in a Home and not pay everyone looses.
Dec 29, 2012 10:27AM
deficitsdon'tmattercheny:Go take your pysch meds-you need them. Not only are you wrong, you are also a fool. But your name says it all and also tells where your loyalty lies. Try battling lay-offs and cancer. We didn't all over buy. And by the way where are all of your job creators, because they haven't done squat in YEARS!!!
Dec 29, 2012 10:24AM
I want some of what you have been smoking. Then I could ignore reality too.
Dec 29, 2012 10:21AM
I want to know why Skank Of America and the rest of them won't be prosecuted-ever. Wait I know-it's because they own the politicians-both parties. We got screwed out of our home, but since we aren't the 1% or a corporation we don't count. We are part of the class action lawsuit and maybe we will be lucky to get a little bit.. I know there are people out there who blame us, but we didn't over buy. Some of us have been "blessed" with lay offs and cancer.
Dec 29, 2012 10:19AM
I have been waiting for over 4 yrs for the bank to foreclose.  It is ridiculous and I cannot move on with my life or rebuild credit until they do.  All this legal crap has made it take so long.  It is hurting more than helping. 
Dec 29, 2012 9:42AM


A telephone robot would call give a sales pitch then say  "press one to accept offer", "press two to decline", "press three to talk with a representative". A parental role model would call me to the phone and instruct me to press one, presumably so they could claim that they never pressed the button.  Would that make me a "limited signing officer"?


Wouldn't instructing someone else to press "do you accept the terms of the agreement" button imply that they did accept the terms of the offer and the person actually pressing or signing ,in this matter, was acting as the principal's agent?

Dec 29, 2012 7:01AM

Why punish the 'job creators'? Is it envy? Why don't YOU go out and steal, cheat and kill and get your own money instead of trying to punish hardworking job creating Republicans?


This will just hurt the job creators and make things more expensive in the long run and it will cost JOBS!!!  Regulations kill jobs, forcing corporations to actually follow regulations kills even more jobs!!!


What do you think is going to happen when the wealthy can no longer steal from the middle class and cheat the poor? They will all move!!! 


 Let Corporations regulate themselves, they will do the right thing if you just give them the chance, too many people have seen that movie ' Erin Brokovitch' and think that actually happened, it did not... all those children dying of cancer was propaganda, they died of ummm premature old age ya that's it. Oh and don't forget there is no proven link between smoking and lung cancer.


Dec 29, 2012 6:23AM
He deserves a lot MORE reward money!
Dec 29, 2012 3:37AM
Mr. Cox is a true patriot, has the integrity to a higher standard and to follow his convictions....I'm sure his journey exposing these atrocities were not without personal sacrifice.

Thank you Mr. Cox for your gallant efforts.

Dec 29, 2012 3:28AM
Please help us to maintain a healthy and vibrant community by reporting any illegal or inappropriate behavior. If you believe a message violates theCode of Conductplease use this form to notify the moderators. They will investigate your report and take appropriate action. If necessary, they report all illegal activity to the proper authorities.
100 character limit
Are you sure you want to delete this comment?


Powered by



Find local plumbers, electricians, contractors and more.