Phoenix Breaking News: NACA’s Save the Dream Tour Personnel Threaten Mandelman Matters Reporters: “Leave or We’ll Have You Arrested”.
Originally posted in October 2009.
Mandelman Matters field reporters, Brook Parsons and Phil Winter, tried to attend the Neighborhood Assistance Corporation of America’s (“NACA’s) “Save the Dream Tour, held this weekend in Phoenix, Arizona at the Phoenix Convention Center. They were wearing Mandelman Matters shirts, which were in stark contrast to everyone wearing the bright red NACA shirts proclaiming the nonprofit organization’s opposition to predatory lending.
NACA’s Save the Dream events look to be produced by Tony Robbins, Amway, and a traveling evangelical tent show, no offense to traveling evangelical tent shows. The NACA Red-Shirts are devout believers in what they’re doing and the atmosphere is one in which people come to the microphone to tell the crowd how they’ve been saved… I mean how their home has been saved.
Brooks and Phil set up their camera at the bottom of the escalator on the second floor, and were almost immediately approached by a NACA representative. She told them that they needed to speak with NACA officials upstairs, so Phil went upstairs where he would meet with Bruce Marks, NACA’s CEO.
Brooks’ stayed put, hoping to speak with homeowners who had attended the event to see how it went, and whether anyone was actually getting their loans modified that day, as the advertisements promised. He spoke with roughly 20 attendees, asking them how it had gone and whether they had received “same day solutions,” or a loan modification “on the spot,” as claimed by the organization on television, online, and in the media.
He told each person that Mandelman Matters was on the same page and very supportive of people getting their loans modified and asked if any would be willing to leave their contact information, so that Mandelman Matters could follow up in a few weeks to see how things were progressing as a result of attending the NACA event. Only 7 of the attendees agreed to do so, before NACA personnel noticed that someone was asking questions of attendees. Some declined to speak with Brooks, saying that they were concerned that by talking to Brooks, they could jeopardize their own loan modifications.
It was only a matter of eight minutes before the first NACA representative showed up to tell Brooks he would have to leave. And 10 minutes after that, Brooks was face-to-face with a very large man of African America descent with one cloudy eye who became physically intimidating and threatened to have him arrested if he didn’t leave immediately.
When Brooks replied that he thought the convention center to be a building open to the public and that he had a right to be there… the bully became more aggressive… and was now being surrounded by more than a dozen other NACA Red-Shirts who clearly were intent on his leaving immediately. The large NACA Red-Shirt bully was now calling security, saying “I’m with him now. I’m detaining him until you arrive.”
Very shortly the head of security for the Phoenix Convention Center appeared and told Brooks he had to leave the premises or he would be arrested… that NACA had rented out the convention center, and that he was not welcome. Brooks pointed out that the NACA event was being held on the third floor, and that he was on the second. But the head of security said that it didn’t matter, he was to leave or he would be arrested.
Apparently the other estimated 40,000 people that attended the event were welcome, but Brooks who wanted to ask people how things were going… was not.
Brooks decided that since security did have the authority to ask him to leave, he would do so, and he did. Outside he was approached by one of the NACA Red-Shirts who had walked out with the security guard; his name was Jim and he said he was from Boston, where NACA is headquartered.
Brooks asked if he could stand off of the convention center property, but still in front of the building, but the security guard said that he could only stand on either side street, roughly 75 yards away, either to the north or the south, but not to the west, which is in front of the entrance to the building.
He said that Brooks would have stand within six feet of the street, to either the north, on Monroe, or to the south, on Washington, but it was not okay to be within the same six feet of the street if standing on the west facing street, 2ndStreet, which is the street at the front of the convention center where attendees were exiting, and therefore could be approached for comment. Brooks was told that he could not set up a camera in front of the building under any circumstances, only on the streets to the north or south, and within six feet of the street.
Jim followed Brooks over to a wall at the edge of the property where Brooks decided to sit down and wait for his partner who was still inside talking to Bruce Marks. Jim told Brooks that he would have to leave the property all the way, but Brooks said no… he would wait for his partner right where he was. Jim started explaining that it was his job to contact the local and regional politicians in an attempt to get them to attend, and he was quite candid in saying that none had attended, and further that there had only been two politicians that had attended all of the NACA events on the Save the Dream Tour to-date.
Jim sat down with Brooks as they waited for Phil to arrive; he was obviously trying to be a “nice guy”. Brooks explained that Mandelman Matters was on the side of homeowners and should be on the same side as NACA, but that we wanted to see how effective NACA’s approach was in relationship to its claims of providing “same day solutions,” and an “80% success rate”.
Jim chuckled saying that there was no way that Brooks would be allowed to do that. He also said in a hushed voice that NACA’s success rate was nowhere near that high because, “even though NACA has agreements with the major lenders and servicers, they don’t honor their binding agreements.” Not surprisingly, Jim declined to provide his last name.
NACA advertises that they have “special agreements” with lenders and servicers, but as yet Mandelman Matters has been unable to determine which lenders and servicers they’re referring to, and what those agreements actually say.
Meanwhile, upstairs in the office occupied by Bruce Marks, Phil was spending time talking to the man who would be king of the loan modification. Bruce Marks gave Phil a fair amount of time, maybe 15 minutes. But at the end of the day, he said, “As you can imagine, we just can’t allow any one to be here. You could be here trying to modify loans, we don’t know. So we’re going to have to ask you to leave.”
Phil said that he knew that people in general simply weren’t getting the help that they need as far as loan modifications go, and Bruce agreed, saying, “Well you can see we’re doing them here.”
Phil replied, “Well, I’d sure love to know how you’re getting them done, because I’ve seen how hard they are to get.” Marks replied: “Yeah, everybody would.”
Marks asked Phil what he saw as being missing at the event. Phil thought to himself, “Underwriters?” Marks continued, “Politicians. Not one of the Phoenix politicians showed up.”
While Phil was talking with Marks a woman came into his office crying tears of joy. “Thank you, thank you,” she said. “I’ve been trying to get my loan modified for eight months now, and I was finally able to do it today… because of you.” She referred to Marks as being “Christ-like” for doing what he was doing.
Marks said that it costs NACA between $700,000 and $1 million to hold a Save the Dream event, which made me wonder what Christ paid to get people to the Sermon on the Mount?
Bruce has a reputation for being a champion of the people, and I’ve read about him going after the banks like no other. I thought he might make a pretty good idol for me at one point in time. Truth be told, I’d love it to still work out that way… but I’m starting to lose faith.
I don’t know what the law would say about Bruce and Phil getting thrown out of the Phoenix Convention Center when the event is one that is open to the public. I guess they could ask someone to stop filming, or disturbing the peace, but can they tell someone to stop talking to others in attendance? Or stop watching what’s going on? I’m not so sure. I’ll have to check with an attorney.
Even more importantly, why would they want to? Why would they find it necessary to do so? Are observers not welcome at NACA events? If you attend one, should you be careful not to talk to the other homeowners for fear of being tossed out as a disturbance, or arrested for trespassing? It seems odd to me, but I suppose that’s just me.
Look, NACA makes some pretty outrageous claims… 80% success rate, same day solutions… and free. Here’s what it says on the NACA Website:
NACAs Home Save Program is nationally recognized as the most effective solution for homeowners with an unaffordable mortgage providing such solutions nationwide as the largest such organization.
NACA has legally binding agreements with all the major lenders/servicers covering over 90% of homeowners to achieve to a restructure or forbearance and is advocating against others. All of NACA’s services are Free. NACA also provides for free a forensic audit to determine any violations in obtaining your current mortgage.
Legally binding agreements with all the major lenders/servicers? And covering 90% of all homeowners? Why even President Obama doesn’t have all that! Why do we even need HAMP anyway… we’ve got NACA.
Also, I was under the impression that forensic audits, which look for violations in TILA, the Truth in Lending Act and RESPA, the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act, were largely a waste of time.
Julie Greenfield, a banking compliance attorney who is a recognized expert in TILA and RESPA violations states, “They (forensic audits) are a waste of time. For one thing, the statute of limitations for disclosure (TILA) violations is one year and all of the loans we’re talking about are more than a year old. And on rescission violations, where there is a three-year period in which the loan can be rescinded, you have to be able to refinance the property and return the principal. If you can’t do that, then you can’t rescind. Rescission means returning to the status quo ante, the way it was before, and if you can’t return the principal you can return to the way it was before you bought the property.
“And as far as RESPA goes,” Julie continues, “I don’t know how anyone would think that they’d find things like kickbacks in someone’s loan documents. It’s not like they itemize things like that. Even when a forensic audit uncovers something that could be considered some sort of violation, it’s not an actionable violation… nothing that’s going to make a lender ot servicer say, oh, I better hurry up and give this person a modification.”
Also, I was under the impression that NACA modifies loans at no cost to the borrower, but now I’m not so sure of that either. I received the following from one of my readers today:
“It’s true they don’t charge an upfront fee, but were you aware that they do charge a $50-60 per month Membership Fee that’s included with the modified payment? And, you have to agree to pay this for a certain time period, between 5-10 yrs, based on your loan amount that amounts to another $3-6k per loan they modify!”
Oh, good Lord. Can this be true? Well, here’s what I got from the NACA Website:
NACA Membership gives you access to the Best Mortgage Program in America and helps you become active in the fight for economic justice in our communities. To learn more about NACA you can attend a free NACA Workshop. Remember that while NACA services are free you will need to participate in support of NACA’s mission.
To become a Member:
Pay the annual dues ($20 per household for 2009)
You will need to either fax your signed Membership Agreement and Authorization or bring them together with your annual Membership dues and $10 per credit report to your first counseling sessions at your local office. We prefer check or money order.
NACA provides you with an unprecedented post-purchase program, which includes continued assistance and counseling from NACA, the opportunity for active involvement in your neighborhood, and the ability to impact national issues.
There are two major components to NACA’s Post Purchase Program. First, the Membership Assistance Programprovides comprehensive individual assistance to protect you from foreclosure. NACA provides comprehensive financial counseling, payment agreements, and financial assistance for as long as you have a mortgage through NACA.
Second, the Neighborhood Stabilization Committees (NSCs) helps you keep your neighborhood safe from drugs, violence, predatory lenders and other destabilizing influences, and facilitate the continued involvement of NACA homeowners in their communities and in nationwide activities. NACA is continuing to develop other post-purchase programs for its members to improve their access to equal credit opportunities and economic justice.
The Homeowner Member dues of $50 a month for between five and ten years, depending on the mortgage amount as stated below, provides you with access to NACA’s unprecedented and comprehensive post-purchase program – Membership Assistance Program (MAP). The Homeowner Membership dues funds MAP and once you have completed payments you become a lifetime NACA Member. The Homeowner Membership dues costs much less than mortgage insurance, while providing you substantially more of a benefit. See the chart below for a comparison between Private Mortgage Insurance fees and the Homeowner Membership fees (which are included in the monthly mortgage payment).
What’s going on with NACA?
Inquiring minds want to know, and I definitely have an inquiring mind. Bruce Marks says he’s all about the borrowers, and perhaps he is. He certainly says a lot of stuff I would readily agree with, but the way he advertises his events, the secrecy and muscle that surrounds those events, and the idea that somehow his organization has contracts with lenders and servicers that make any difference whatsoever, all bother me.
I need some numbers. I need to know how many loans NACA modifies and how many of those loans are modified permanently, as opposed to forbearance agreements. The say they have 700,000 members. At $20 a year, that’s $14 million. And then there are the monthly payments of $50. I don’t even want to start adding that up, but it’s a lot, I’ll tell you that. Add in the $16 million the government just coughed up so that NACA could provide counseling services, and one quickly realizes that NACA is a big organization.
I guess that alone isn’t a bad thing. It’s a big country after all. I guess you have to be big in order to avoid being called a scam these days. But I will say this… I’ve met quite a few small firms that help people get their loans modified, lawyers and others that help people when no one else has been able to do so. And yet, the government seems intent on calling them scams because they charge their clients a fee for the services they provide.
Well, one thing I’ve learned from NACA so far… trying to get loans modified is NOT free in any sense of the word. And I don’t really care how big NACA is, it’s not big enough to address the needs of 12 million homeowners over the next couple of years. Only the power of America’s small businesses can possibly do that, and they can’t be expected to work for free any more than can Bruce Marks’ NACA.
Is there anyone out there that’s had a mortgage modified through NACA?
If so, get in touch with me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’d love to hear your story, good or bad.