Monday, January 18, 2021
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Aspen Grove Solutions Fall From Grace

Word on the bricks is that Aspen Grove Solutions, the provider of the ABC# tracking background checks in the Mortgage Field Services Industry, may be losing the luster it has had with respect to charming the Industry. In fact, firms such as ServiceLink no longer use Aspen Grove and rely upon their own background check suite. Above and beyond the fact that the US Government provides, free of charge, all of the services Aspen Grove charges over one hundred and fifty dollars — in the case of the State of New York — through their SAM Program,  NAMFS with the apparent backing by Wells Fargo and Aspen Grove have continued their for profit venture. Aspen Grove, a foreign national firm based out of Ireland, first came on the scene in 2012 partnering with Jim Taylor whom then worked with Wells Fargo. In fact, when the National Association of Mortgage Field Services (NAMFS) first began rolling out this money grab, Foreclosurepedia reached out to Aspen Grove,

Hello Paul,
Yes, Aspen Grove is working with NAMFS to create an industry solution to the growing challenge of background checks.  The formal announcement will be made at NAMFS’ September Conference in Chicago.  Pricing details are planned to be announced then.  Wells Fargo will be one of the first lenders benefiting from this solution.  As you may already know, Jim Taylor from Wells Fargo, representatives from First Advantage, and Aspen Grove Inc. all participated in a NAMFS Leadership Conference in Dallas on July 31st.  You may wish to consider attending the NAMFS Chicago Conference to learn more.
Kind Regards,
Chandra Dickson

The most interesting thing that surrounds what we are going to discuss is the simple and salient fact that NAMFS administrative personnel, whom have access to everything pertaining to the homeowner including all manner of Personally Identifiable Information (PII), are NOT required to get ABC numbers. Foreclosurepedia documented an Operations Manager at a NAMFS member firm convicted of cocaine possession and multiple tax liens as well as a NAMFS Bronze Level supporter member firm owner whom had multiple tax liens and defrauded dozens of contractors including a volunteer firefighter. Both are apparently acceptable to Eric Miller, NAMFS Executive Director. The most heinous example, though, of turning the blind eye was when Eric Miller turned a blind eye as NAMFS Secretary Heather Berghorst got her second bankruptcy to the tune of nearly One Million Dollars even as Fifth Third Bank filed a Willful and Malicious Injury claim against her.

Double standards appear to be what powers the Industry. Spearheading that effort was  the misguided belief that Wells Fargo required background checks to begin with. Senior Vice President for Contracts and Technology, Sue Bunnell, informed Foreclosurepedia that there were no requirements for background checks of Field Service Technicians.

The steady march of collecting PII, much of which is not necessary, has continued at an alarming rate. Within months of launching, Aspen Grove began demands for wet signatures upon Social Security forms — the SSA 89 — concerns began to be voiced due to the ability of those signatures, if servers were hacked, could be used for loans, passports, and a myriad of other illegal activities. Here is Aspen Grove’s specific demand which is unseen anywhere else in the modern background check community,

Get wet signature from contact (Electronic signatures are NOT acceptable, even those done through a signature verification application.)

The plot thickened, though, as demands for more and more information and a complete refusal for transparency — including the blacklisting of Foreclosurepedia’s email address — began to concern many about the storage of the information and precisely where and how the information was stored. Even more recently, it appears that in addition to driver’s license photos, selfies of applicants are now being required.

So, what is the legal opinion on obtaining all or some of the information? Well, the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) appears to control everything. And, in fact, applicants are required to execute signatures upon FCRA forms. Moreover, the FCRA has no statutory language preventing a lifetime — other than juvenile  records — of historical criminal record searches.

To the point of requiring FCRA compliance, that is the rub as the bard would say. What I mean is that FCRA, generally speaking, pertains to employment. In fact, there are several federal cases which states as much. Probably the most seminal case is from 2012, Lamson v. EMS Energy Mktg. Serv. Inc.. Additionally, multiple district courts have ruled that the FCRA defines employment purposes as used for the purpose of evaluating consumers for employment … as an employee. In the aforementioned case in Georgia the court ruled that [U]ltimately, because employee or employment is not otherwise defined in FCRA, this court is required to apply the common law meaning of employment, which does not include independent contractors.

So, this begs the question, especially in light of the millions of dollars in settlements NAMFS members have made with respect to employee misclassification, does the demand to execute an FCRA application implicitly create a statutory employee?

For years, the demands of NAMFS members that Field Service Technicians are only paid by their price sheets — including all bids for overallowable items such as roofs, etc. — and that all bids must conform to NAMFS member internal guidelines obviously debunks any shred of credibility that Field Service Technicians and Inspectors are independent contractors. Moreover, though, these misclassified employees are provided the work by the NAMFS member; given specific guidance and instruction on how to perform the work for the NAMFS member; and it is mandatory that the NAMFS member software is used, makes this a classic case of employee misclassification.

Now, the FRCA gets very interesting in addressing a decision out of the Southern District of Iowa in Smith v. Mutual of Omaha Insurance Company. The case is extremely interesting in the alternate theory amendment. The Littler Law firm had this to say,

The plaintiff alleged in the amended complaint that the company had certified to the CRA that it would obtain consumer reports only for “employment purposes.”  The plaintiff thus claimed that if the company now asserted that his consumer report was not obtained for “employment purposes” via its independent contractor defense, then the company had violated Section 1681b(f) by obtaining a report for some other purpose that it had not certified to.  The company moved to dismiss this alternative theory of relief, but the court held that the plaintiff could proceed to litigate the theory.

The argument here is not whether or not NAMFS members have the right to background check, but rather how they do it and what process they use. In the instant case, NAMFS members are circumventing FCRA by cherry picking what part of the law they want to use and what part they want not used against them.

Data pre-populated on the Aspen Grove SSA-89 Forms explicitly state they are for EMPLOYMENT PURPOSES. That could be changed to state INDEPENDENT CONTRACTOR, but then Social Security would refuse the forms. the very FCRA forms themselves state the same. It becomes even more obvious that the legal process is being subverted when one starts to look at how First Advantage submits the forms.

‘Tis the season for litigation. And during COVID, the question begs how many people will continue to perform $3 inspections with zero protection from the disease or violence which will inevitably come down the pike. I mean with all of the new social welfare programs coming down the pike from the Biden Administration, why would anyone want to risk life and limb to simply enrich NAMFS members? And in light of the recent SolarWinds hack which breached virtually every US Government agency, many are asking how wise it is to allow a foreign national, like Aspen Grove Solutions, to maintain the inordinate amount of data that they do with zero oversight from Labor.

HUD Rolls Out Second Nationwide Inspection Contract

Happy Days Are Here Again for the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) when it comes to releasing contracts. In the second release of Nationwide Inspection Contracts, HUD has shown a desire to move away from community based approaches. The NATIONAL CONSTRUCTION INSPECTION SERVICES Sources Sought was just released which focuses upon Multi Family Construction Inspections. This is the excerpt from HUD,

The US Department of Housing and Urban Development will have a need to obtain the services of construction inspectors who will conduct and perform various construction inspection tasks, including reviewing change orders, payment requests, schedules, request for permission to occupy, etc. Inspections are made to evaluate the builder’s and supervisory architect’s performance, to obtain construction according to the construction contract documents, and to report on conformance with prevailing wages and other construction contract requirements. For HUD construction, inspection tasks, the contract inspectors will serve as HUD’s construction representative for completing various portions of HUD forms, procedures and other related tasks. The contract inspector’s work products will provide HUD with the field/site data necessary to make informed decisions regarding the construction phase of various HUD programs.

If interested, feel free to reach out and Retain Foreclosurepedia for your Sources Sought and Request For Proposal needs.


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PPP Loans Begin Rolling Out This Week

PPP Loan

The U.S. Small Business Administration, in consultation with the Treasury Department, announced on January 8, that the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) will re-open the week of January 11 for new borrowers and certain existing PPP borrowers. To promote access to capital, initially only community financial institutions will be able to make First Draw PPP Loans on Monday, January 11, and Second Draw PPP Loans on Wednesday, January 13. The PPP will open to all participating lenders shortly thereafter. Updated PPP guidance outlining Program changes to enhance its effectiveness and accessibility was released on January 6 in accordance with the Economic Aid to Hard-Hit Small Businesses, Non-Profits, and Venues Act.

The historically successful Paycheck Protection Program served as an economic lifeline to millions of small businesses and their employees when they needed it most,” said Administrator Jovita Carranza.  “Today’s guidance builds on the success of the program and adapts to the changing needs of small business owners by providing targeted relief and a simpler forgiveness process to ensure their path to recovery.” “The Paycheck Protection Program has successfully provided 5.2 million loans worth $525 billion to America’s small businesses, supporting more than 51 million jobs,” said Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin.  “This updated guidance enhances the PPP’s targeted relief to small businesses most impacted by COVID-19.  We are committed to implementing this round of PPP quickly to continue supporting American small businesses and their workers.”

This round of the PPP continues to prioritize millions of Americans employed by small businesses by authorizing up to $284 billion toward job retention and certain other expenses through March 31, 2021, and by allowing certain existing PPP borrowers to apply for a Second Draw PPP Loan.

Key PPP updates include:

    • PPP borrowers can set their PPP loan’s covered period to be any length between 8 and 24 weeks to best meet their business needs;
    • PPP loans will cover additional expenses, including operations expenditures, property damage costs, supplier costs, and worker protection expenditures;
    • The Program’s eligibility is expanded to include 501(c)(6)s, housing cooperatives, destination marketing organizations, among other types of organizations;
    • The PPP provides greater flexibility for seasonal employees;
    • Certain existing PPP borrowers can request to modify their First Draw PPP Loan amount; and
    • Certain existing PPP borrowers are now eligible to apply for a Second Draw PPP Loan.

A borrower is generally eligible for a Second Draw PPP Loan if the borrower:

    • Previously received a First Draw PPP Loan and will or has used the full amount only for authorized uses;
    • Has no more than 300 employees; and
    • Can demonstrate at least a 25% reduction in gross receipts between comparable quarters in 2019 and 2020.

If you are an International Association of Field Service Technicians (IAFST) Member, reach out directly and we will assist you in your application process. All others may Retain Foreclosurepedia and we would be glad to assist!


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Sedition Quelled At US Capital Is Only The Beginning

Three terms are being bandied around the internet with respect to yesterday’s storming of the US Capital by Trump supporters:  Insurrection, Sedition, and a failed coup — coup d’état. All, in their own right, are correct. Insurrection, the act of rebellion or revolt, is a crime under 18 U.S.C. § 2383 and holds up to ten years in prison. Sedition is a little bit more complicated as it requires two or more people to conspire to prevent, hinder, or delay by force the execution of any law of the United States, at its appropriate legal section, and is located at 18 U.S.C. § 2384. And finally, a coup — or a failed one here — generally pertains to the overthrow of an existing government by a small or fringe group. It is more of a description than a law. All of these characteristics we witnessed — as did the world — yesterday in Washington DC.

Sedition differs from treason (defined in Article III of the U.S. Constitution) in a fundamental way. While seditious conspiracy is generally defined as conduct or language inciting rebellion against the authority of a state, treason is the more-serious offense of actively levying war against the United States or giving aid to its enemies. Another way of looking at it is that seditious conspiracy often occurs before an act of treason.

With this in mind and building upon the irony of ironies that the Trump Administration just signed legislation requiring a mandatory 10 year prison sentence for anyone destroying government property, by and through both 18 U.S.C. § 1361, buttressed by Trump’s Executive Order issued on 26 June 2020 on Protecting American Monuments, Memorials, and Statues and Combating Recent Criminal Violence, certainly sets the stage for the Trials of the Century. In totality, The Daily Beast summed up the potential criminal charges as such,

    • 18 U.S.C. § 2385. Seditious Conspiracy. If “two or more people… conspire… by force to prevent, hinder, or delay the execution of any law of the United States, or by force to seize, take, or possess any property of the United States contrary to the authority thereof,” penalties are fines and twenty years imprisonment.
    • 18 U.S.C. § 1361. Destruction of Government Property. If the damage exceeds $100, penalties are fines up to $250,000 and ten years imprisonment.
    • 18 U.S.C. § 111. Assaulting Federal Officers. Fines vary, 20 years imprisonment.
    • 18 U.S.C. § 351. Assault on Members of Congress. One year imprisonment.
    • 41 CFR 102-74.380. Creating a Hazard on Federal Property. Penalties vary.
    • 36 CFR 2.34 (and elsewhere). Disorderly Conduct. 90 days imprisonment, $300 fine.

That addresses the actual participants whom physically participated. What is going to prove to be far more interesting, though, is whether or not the newly seated and Democratically controlled Congress and White House, under the Biden Administration, have the stomach to take to task those within their own ranks whom spurned on this abomination. Donald Trump aside — his reign of terror has been self evident as its own record for 4 years — I am curious about statements such as those from Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s henchman, whom had this to say as he fired up the angry mob and pointed them towards the Capital,

Over the next 10 days, we get to see the machines that are crooked, the ballots that are fraudulent. And if we’re wrong, we will be made fools of. But if we’re right, and lot of them will go to jail. So — let’s have trial by combat” — Giuliani

And as Senators Josh Hawley and Ted Cruz hopped up the masses, prepping them for the Gladiator event of the Century overseen by the Emperor Whom Wore No Clothes Trump, the reality is their play for rebellion has now been seen for what it is. These Trumpian hacks are now no more glamorous than the same pedestrian scum they co-habitate with in their White Nationalist gutters.

Early on the play was to lay the blame off on Antifa. It was the age old playbook of octogenarian white men whom, to this day, stroke their Bibles like pedophiles groom children.

The Washington Post completely debunked the arguments submitted by Rep. Matt Gaetz and other democracy hating Republicans that Antifa was responsible. All the usual media pundits had gathered, like the Klan burning crosses, to pontificate on how no Trump supporters were involved in the storming of the Capital. In fact Gaetz, when asked about the Washington Times article he quoted from — and has since issued a retraction — stated he did not even know if the article was true. In fact, a simple perusal of all available social media and photos well document the fact that Trump flags, Confederate flags, and neo Nazi regalia were all that was seen — not a single Anarchist flag to break the monotony.

For the first time since 28 March 2020, the wanna be tin pot dictator Trump has decided to scurry away to Camp David. In fact this is only the third time he has visited. And much like how Rome burned down as Nero fiddled away, Trump himself has attempted to burn down the Hallowed Halls of Democracy; however, he didn’t have the stomach to watch it, in person. Since his indefinite ban on Facebook, Instagram, and his partial ban from Twitter, Trump has been watching his Cabinet burn down around him. Albeit token resignations, many such as Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao have resigned. Even Mike Mulvaney, Trump’s Reichmarshal, whom destroyed any semblance of democracy at half a dozen federal agencies, had no stomach for the Trumpian rebellion. Fact of the matter is that these are all simply rats jumping ship. And there is no soft peddling of this. Much like his meteoric rise, Trump’s burning out is #Epic.

There can be no aid and comfort to the enemy; there can be no equanimity between those whom support a democracy and those whom foment violent revolution.

The scene of what appeared to be vestal virgins escorting the mahogany boxes — click the link to see the photo as it is surreal — containing the State’s Electoral Votes, as Trump’s violent mob descended, is a photo that should make the cover of Time Magazine. And as those mahogany boxes are much like the containers of the holy sacrament of our democracy, one begins to truly understand how sacred our experiment in government is. We are just a blip on the radar when compared to a global history and yet we have a commanding control over the world. Like Druids orderly evacuating as the Romans were at the Gates, the Electoral Votes were saved. And Congress knew that. That is why they knew that they must conclude their sacred duties the same day much like a sacrifice, once begun, must come to a conclusion.

While Trump’s hope to pit the masses against themselves so that they would never hope to come together to overthrow his yoke of tyranny, the opposite transpired.

It was a day that will forever live in infamy. Moreover, though, investigations are sorely needed to take a long, hard look at how the most powerful Nation on Earth was incapable of protecting its legislators. And that investigation needs to be transparent — none of the classified or non public bantering. No last minute report redacted. We need a brutal excoriation and we all need to suffer it. We must embark upon — and complete in the first 100 days of the Biden Administration — this journey for the healing to begin. Anything less is a travesty and will ultimately doom our young Nation. We must not become preoccupied with penalties before we know the crimes. We must, penultimately,  experience this as Americans together and not divided by ethnic, gender, or religious affiliations.

Were there orders to stand down the Capital Police? Were there orders to not conduct a comprehensive threat assessment? And most importantly, which heads need to be publicly displayed upon the pike of public sentiment to ensure that this never happens again?

Unto the next generation, there will be no removing the stain of which the Republicans have left by and through the vocal few and the deafening silence of the many. To say that the Democrats could not have bought this kind of PR is an understatement. The tragedy is that many Republicans may very well be good people. The analogy, though, is not dissimilar to how the German people embraced Nazism by remaining silent as they witnessed the atrocities committed by the few. Rage Against The Machine puts it most eloquently in their song entitled, The Cult Of Personality. And whether it is right or wrong; whether or not America’s sordid history of slavery, brutality, and violence are horrific, it is immaterial. I say this because this is a rallying cry which will be heard for decades. And make no mistake that the US Government — which has nothing to do with Political Party — will make the most of it.

While all are praising the social media giant’s banning of Trump from their platforms, it most assuredly is a dangerous and slippery slope.

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes is a Latin phrase found in the work of the Roman poet Juvenal from his Satires. In essence, it means And Whom Will Watch The Watchers. It is a good question. And if you want any indication how bad it is going to get, look no further than witnessing whether or not only the rioters are prosecuted. If we do not purge those within the Halls of Power whom either overtly or through deliberate indifference allowed these actions to build up and ultimately transpire, then, I submit, we are all doomed and America, that Great Beacon of Light, has sadly begun to dim on the distant horizon.

Corporate America Gets Hit With The Truth In 2020

This entry is part 1 of 1 in the series Employee Misclassification

 

Two foundational myths of Corporate America were dispelled during COVID in 2020. The first is that Trickle Down Economics — tax breaks to the rich — do not work. In a landmark, 50 year global study by London School of Economics and King’s College of London, it was found that tax cuts for the rich perpetuated inequality, while simultaneously increasing the wealth of the 1%, without having any significant effect on jobs or growth. Nothing trickled down. Here is how the report, entitled The Economic Consequences of Tax Cuts for the Rich put it,

We find that major reforms reducing taxes on the rich lead to higher income inequality as measured by the top 1% share of pre-tax national income. The effect remains stable in the medium term. In contrast, such reforms do not have any significant effect on economic growth and unemployment.

Additionally, the Republican party has argued, backed by the now disgraced Trump Administration, that the more generous unemployment benefits, which provide $600 per week above state unemployment insurance payments, would disincentivize work. In fact, a newly released report from Yale, completely debunks this theory. In their report entitled, Employment Effects of Unemployment Insurance Generosity During the Pandemic, this is how they opined,

We find that that the workers who experienced larger increases in UI generosity did not experience larger declines in employment when the benefits expansion went into effect. Additionally, we find that workers facing larger expansions in UI benefits have returned to their previous jobs over time at similar rates as others. We find no evidence that more generous benefits disincentivized work either at the onset of the expansion or as firms looked to return to business over time.

What we do know, is that while hundreds of millions of people have lost their jobs, their homes, and even the ability to obtain food and clothing, the richest 651 people on Earth profited over $1 Trillion dollars during the COVID pandemic in 2020. In a Press Release released by the Americans For Tax Fairness and the Institute For Policy Studies entitled, NET WORTH OF U.S. BILLIONAIRES HAS SOARED BY $1 TRILLION— TO TOTAL OF $4 TRILLION—SINCE PANDEMIC BEGAN, and accompanying spreadsheet here we learn,

The collective wealth of America’s 651 billionaires has jumped by over $1 trillion since roughly the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic to a total of $4 trillion at market close on Monday, December 7, 2020.

Foreclosurepedia, with this article, kicks off its Series discussing the perils of Employee Misclassification and the ramifications of prolonged Remote Worker settings with respect to both Gig Workers and Labor within the Mortgage Field Services Industry. We also resubmit our landmark Employee Misclassification White Paper which I proffered back in 2018 and is now beginning to unfold the revelations I predicted then. This, coming on the heels of weekly, near 1 Million new unemployment claims filings, staggering infections and prolific death counts, was foretold as early as February, 2020, when Foreclosurepedia sounded the alarm bells over COVID all the while as National Association of Mortgage Field Services (NAMFS) remained silent for nearly 90 days. The continued refusal of NAMFS members to properly protect Labor upon their federal jobsites; the continued refusal of NAMFS members to pay prevailing wage; and the continued refusal of NAMFS members to orchestrate Industry-wide testing mandates has not gone unseen. Foreclosurepedia submits that NAMFS member actions will ultimately create superspreader events as we witnessed in Illinois, as well as continue to deteriorate the ability of Labor placing food on the table ensuring a perpetuation of domestic violence and children starving behind closed doors.

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