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How One Local Official in North Carolina Is Trying to Hold Wall Street Giants Accountable for Widespread Fraud

Jeff Thigpen is trying to restore the rule of law in one North Carolina county.

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So the question is, what do you do then? We pooled all that information together and gave it to the 50 state attorney general investigation and federal regulators. And what we’re saying in our lawsuit is basically three things. We want an investigator to look into our records and find the extent of this problem. We want the banks and the people listed to fix it. We’re not asking for $100 million; we’re asking for corrected documents to stand by. For 4,519 people, who paid good money to get their paperwork done right, they didn’t get their paperwork done right. Of course the last thing is don’t do this anymore. We need to stop this kind of way of transacting commerce.

Basically what we’re saying is we want them to stop this whole industry of robo-signing. What we want to do is rediscover and recommit to having transparency, clarity, and as a result of doing that we can get the certainty which all of us want in these land transactions. The byproduct will be that it tells the American public that we actually do believe in the concept of transparency and fair dealing in these transactions and we need to begin to rebuild trust, particularly as it relates to a lot of these people who are indicated in the suit. 

JH: Now I don’t know how big the budget is for Guilford County government, but is this not beyond your scope? Don’t you need some help with this as far as just basic resources go? 

JT: Absolutely. Forty-eight states of the country have budget problems. Guilford County in North Carolina is no different. We were able to find these documents, the 4,500, but it may by no means be all of it. I think our position is basically that this is almost like an environmental spill. Basically if you break it, you fix it. If you spill it, you clean it up, and you pay to do it. We’re saying you all submitted these documents, and we want you to fix it. We will assist as best we can, but the suit basically says it’s their problem and they need to take care of it. By doing that they’re going to be helping us get the public record straight and fix it. Right now we believe there’s a big problem.

JH: Jeff, let me ask you this. Down on the ground a lot of listeners may not be experts in real estate law. How does the fact that you don’t necessarily have good, trustworthy titles to a lot of properties in Guilford County affect homeowners and homebuyers when you have this questionable chain of title? How does this play out in the real world?

JT: People make mortgage payments to pay off their properties. As it’s gone in history you can go back and look at public records and be able to figure out who owns the property from 1771 in Guilford County to the present. When you have clarity and transparency in that it helps buyers and sellers and lenders, it helps consumers know the rights in property transactions. As a result of that it makes the transfer and enjoyment of the property that you have easy. Property is the child of the laws you live under. You don’t own anything without a system of laws that protect your rights to enjoy it. If you don’t have those kinds of laws in place you just have people who occupy land.

When the system has problems in it at this level there’s no confidence or risk-taking. Commerce stops. A lot of the reasons the foreclosures have been held up is because the paperwork is not in order. When that happens it can bring this whole piece of our financial system to a grinding halt. That’s huge.

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