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As election approaches, anti-foreclosure activists ramp up rhetoric against Trott

Sarah Cwiek
Michigan Radio

Republican candidate for Congress David Trott was the subject of some street theater this week.

Trott is running for the U.S. House seat in Metro Detroit’s 11th district.

He’s also a former co-owner of the Trott & Trott law firm, which specializes in home foreclosure work on behalf of banks. It prospered during the recent housing crisis, foreclosing on up to 80,000 homes in 2009 alone.

Many homeowners who have dealt with Trott & Trott accuse the firm of deceptive, unethical business practices. A group calling themselves “Trott survivors” shared their stories during a mock trial in front of a Birmingham bank.

Their “testimony” was a series of accusations outlining Trott & Trott’s “dishonest and destructive” tactics, like stonewalling on loan modifications, dual tracking (pursuing foreclosure while also negotiating modifications), improper notice, and document fraud.

Ray Mandry said he sought a mortgage modification after he had several major surgeries and lost his job in 2011. He qualified, and a representative from the Wayne County Department of Foreclosure Prevention reached out to Trott & Trott.

“[Trott and Trott] promised to set up a meeting, since we could in fact pay what we needed to pay with a modification,” Mandry said. “He was promised those meetings, and they never came. Calls to Trott & Trott and the bank went unanswered. We never received any further communication, in spite of our efforts, until the sheriff’s notice was posted on our door.”

Mandry was able to keep his home, but only after a two-year court battle.

Jerry Cullers told a similar story. He was trying negotiate a modification with his bank, but “Trott & Trott went behind our back, trying to get a sheriff’s sale going.”

“We didn’t find out about the sheriff’s sale until after the bank called us back and said, ‘Well, we have to put this on hold because we need to talk to our lawyers,’” Cullers said. “Not knowing that their lawyers were from Trott & Trott.”

And Cullers said when he went to court, Trott’s lawyers urged him to sign a “consent form” they said would delay a sheriff’s sale. But the judge later told Cullers he had effectively signed away his house.

“Trott & Trott’s lawyers will sit back and tell you anything to get your home away from you,” Cullers said.  “If you think I would sign a piece of paper giving up my home…no, there’s no way on God’s earth I would do this.”

Trott’s campaign dismissed the accusations as part of a pattern of “negative attacks by losing campaigns.”

"No one wants to foreclose,” Trott’s campaign said in an emailed statement. “The law firm represents clients and handles paperwork for clients.  The firm has and continues to help thousands of Michigan families keep their homes through loan modifications and short sales."

Trott has denied engaging in any illegal or unethical practices, and points out that the firm has “never been subject to a significant judgment, and no court has ever sanctioned the firm for unethical conduct.”

However, five major US banks have paid out billions in settlements after the US Justice Department found they engaged in illegal practices during the foreclosure crisis—including many of the same practices Trott & Trott has been accused of.

Trott has also acknowledged making more money off foreclosures than loan modifications, but said actions he took were always on behalf of the banks he worked for.

Trott is expected to win in the heavily-Republican 11th district, though he is in a 3-way race.

He faces Democrat Bobby McKenzie, and current Republican 11th district Congressman Kerry Bentivolio, who’s waging a write-in campaign after Trott defeated him in the primary.

Sarah Cwiek joined Michigan Public in October 2009. As our Detroit reporter, she is helping us expand our coverage of the economy, politics, and culture in and around the city of Detroit.
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