ProPublica Rounds Up the Best Reporting on the Foreclosure Crisis

Journalism in the public interest.
Feb. 17 2012 2:45 PM

Robo-Signing, Foreclosure Mills, and Problems at Fannie Mae

ProPublica’s look back at the stand-out reporting on the foreclosure crisis. 

A foreclosed home sits boarded up in Islip, N.Y.

Spencer Platt/Getty Images

The housing crisis in the U.S. has now been going on nearly five years, with ongoing revelations about misdeeds by banks and others. Here’s a roundup of the best reporting on the crisis, collected by ProPublica.

Lucrative Fees May Deter Efforts To Alter Loans, New York Times, July 2009
Banks and other mortgage servicers have made big bucks on the fees associated with delinquent loans, due to rules one Federal Reserve Bank of Boston paper called a “perverse incentive to foreclose rather than modify.” This piece surveys the homeowners caught in purgatory – and why the servicers seemed to want to keep them there.


Fannie and Freddie’s Foreclosure Barons, Mother Jones, August 2010
One of the first stories to shed light on a “foreclosure mill”: A Florida law firm tore through cases as quickly as possible while frequently signing off on dodgy documents.  The firm has since been shut down.

Grave Errors as Undead Rework Loans, Wall Street Journal, July 2010
Homeowner Sarah Larson, a 33-year-old acupuncturist, tried to get a break on her $1,055-a-month mortgage from Bank of America. The bank requested three important documents: bank statements, a utility bill, and her death certificate.  Such snafus affected many applicants to the Home Affordable Modification Program.

Mortgage Mess: Shredding the Dream, Businessweek, October 2010
Carelessness on the part of banks, combined with underinvestment in backend infrastructure, contributed to paperwork errors and lost promissory notes that many argue worsened the housing crisis.

Ties to Insurers Could Land Mortgage Servicers in More Trouble, American Banker, November 2010 
Here’s another way that mortgage servicers have profited off of struggling homeowners: by forcing them to pay for expensive and unnecessary insurance policies.

The Next Housing Shock, 60 Minutes, April 2011
This piece investigates the prevalence of “robo-signing,” focusing on one company where a number of employees signed one woman’s name to thousands of documents because her name was short. None of the major banks agreed to talk to 60 Minutes



Slate Plus Early Read: The Self-Made Man

The story of America’s most pliable, pernicious, irrepressible myth.

Rehtaeh Parsons Was the Most Famous Victim in Canada. Now, Journalists Can’t Even Say Her Name.

Mitt Romney May Be Weighing a 2016 Run. That Would Be a Big Mistake.

Amazing Photos From Hong Kong’s Umbrella Revolution

Transparent Is the Fall’s Only Great New Show

The XX Factor

Rehtaeh Parsons Was the Most Famous Victim in Canada

Now, journalists can't even say her name.


Lena Dunham, the Book

More shtick than honesty in Not That Kind of Girl.

What a Juicy New Book About Diane Sawyer and Katie Couric Fails to Tell Us About the TV News Business

Does Your Child Have Sluggish Cognitive Tempo? Or Is That Just a Disorder Made Up to Scare You?

  News & Politics
Sept. 29 2014 11:45 PM The Self-Made Man The story of America’s most pliable, pernicious, irrepressible myth.
Sept. 29 2014 7:01 PM We May Never Know If Larry Ellison Flew a Fighter Jet Under the Golden Gate Bridge
Dear Prudence
Sept. 29 2014 3:10 PM The Lonely Teetotaler Prudie counsels a letter writer who doesn’t drink alcohol—and is constantly harassed by others for it.
  Double X
Sept. 29 2014 11:43 PM Lena Dunham, the Book More shtick than honesty in Not That Kind of Girl.
  Slate Plus
Slate Fare
Sept. 29 2014 8:45 AM Slate Isn’t Too Liberal, but … What readers said about the magazine’s bias and balance.
Brow Beat
Sept. 29 2014 9:06 PM Paul Thomas Anderson’s Inherent Vice Looks Like a Comic Masterpiece
Future Tense
Sept. 29 2014 11:56 PM Innovation Starvation, the Next Generation Humankind has lots of great ideas for the future. We need people to carry them out.
  Health & Science
Medical Examiner
Sept. 29 2014 11:32 PM The Daydream Disorder Is sluggish cognitive tempo a disease or disease mongering?
Sports Nut
Sept. 28 2014 8:30 PM NFL Players Die Young. Or Maybe They Live Long Lives. Why it’s so hard to pin down the effects of football on players’ lives.