mcgilllawnc – gotogc

Advice and insights from your go-to General Counsel

In this week’s Sarasota Herald-Tribune quotes data and staff members from the anti-fraud project I have directed these last five years. The series, actually an investigative special project called Selling Hope, is remarkable for a number of reasons, in particular the scope of this reporter ‘s fact-gathering from homeowner stories and myriad public records ranging from GAO reports to BBB correspondence.

These foreclosure rescue scams can seem on their face to be rather simple quick-hit cons, but this series adeptly illustrates that they can often be ‘complex and unique’ as one source phrased it, involving real estate transactions, estate planning instruments and long-term payouts.  This complexity makes it difficult to discern the scams and to rectify the damage that foreclosure rescue scams are still causing.

Kudos to Josh Salman and this paper’s online staff for sounding the alarm with this compelling series.  We in the Loan Modification Scam Prevention Network will keep working to fight this fraud.

Not taking it too far back this Thursday. Now that it is officially autumn, this is a glance back to early summer 2014.

This June was Homeownership Month, and professionals in the housing and housing finance industries ramped up the country’s focus on the ongoing distress that millions of homeowners are still suffering while trying to keep and pay for their homes.  My friend and communications director Stacie recommended that I give a talk about foreclosure rescue fraud on the DC radio show she produced. She and I both knew that people, in particular people of color, were succumbing to radio commercials from fraudsters. A  counter message on radio could help counteract these scam ads, so I agreed though it meant giving up a summertime Saturday. I am glad I did – the vaunted estates attorney Ethel Mitchell invited me on her radio show, Law Talk with Ethel Mitchell. Take a listen, the interview starts at about the 5 minute mark.

This is some truly good news from the Department of Defense!

When I was senior policy counsel at the Center for Responsible Lending (CRL) more than ten years ago I was part of the team that provided the data and helped draft the report from DoD that led to the passage of the Military Lending Act. We knew then that the act was not as broad as we would have liked, but that passing a federal 36% interest rate cap for active duty military and their dependents was a fantastic start to getting these limits in place for more loan products in the future.  That future is now!

You think 36% sounds high for a small loan? It is. Absolutely. Yet there are vicious small loan business models that purport to be unable to sustain themselves unless they charge a lot more. I believe those business models are unsustainable and should reform or go away. That reform is most likely to happen when market pressures – from regulators and from informed customers with options who know what those options are – are applied successfully.

The 36% rate is somewhat standard at the state level and has been for years, and seems to work without trapping borrowers into debt they cannot repay. The new rules from Department of Defense will build on what they have learned about lending practices targeting their personnel and will hopefully continue to clean up the financial chaos these loan products can create.

this Thursday I want to talk about something new, or new to me at least.

Triangle Art Works has graciously included me on its website as a legal resource for artists. I could not be more excited to work with Beth and company as they continue to build out a platform that provides a voice for creatives in the Southeast and brings them together with tools, collaborators and professionals they can use to reach their audiences. Now I will be right there in the creative mix spreading the good word about the importance of reading that contract – and understanding it – and fixing it – BEFORE you sign it.

If you don’t know about Triangle Art Works, you should, so go to

http://www.triangleartworks.org/artist-resources/creative-services-marketing-finance-other-services/

like, right now….

 

The search for the next class of Robert Bosch Foundation Fellowship Program Fellows is underway. The road shows will begin soon, with receptions scheduled around the country that will bring together high-potential young professionals who are curious about the cultural exchange and professional development that the Fellowship can provide. The application process is arduous, and the evaluation and placement processes for successful applicants is even more difficult, but the hard work pays off immediately and in perpetuity. Now in my second year as co-president of the Robert Bosch Fellowship Alumni Association, I get the chance to reflect almost every day on the value the Bosch Fellowship has added to my life, giving me German fluency, lifelong friendships, and a paid year outside of normal life – and my comfort zone – to focus on writing….

 

black chick in foreign land

30 Aug 2001

alright-

inspired by the fabulous Candice and her splendiferous travelogues, i impart to you my collected experiences of the last month – if you dont care please delete now…
First off – i like Germany and i love Berlin – there is so much to do here and not once have i been forced to eat native German Speise (that’s food) – i have had no trouble what so ever finding a suitable mojito and cheap grocery stores are in abundance (we’re talking a bottle of wine, slab of camembert, cucumber, jar of nutella, bread, lettuce, pasta, sauce and yogurt all for about 7 bucks) -

last week was the semi-annual Long Night of the Museums – sounds ominous i know but get this – for 12 DM (6 bucks) from 6 pm last Sat night to 2 AM on Sun i had my choice of 100 museums, plus a shuttle service between them all… since i did not leave my apt until 10pm, i limited myself to the Museumsinsel (the Museum Island), which is a pice of land in the center of Berlin surrounded by the Spree (said “Shpray”) River – on the Museumsinsel stands the Berliner Dom (really old gorgeous cathedral), the Pergamon (ancient architecture – we’re talking huge chunks of Greek temples and whatnot), the Old Natíonal Gallery (first rate Caravaggio exhibit right now, as well as more ancient stuff) and the New National Gallery (well its closed for renov. right now – they use it in the meantime as a screen for openair movies) -

at midnight the Insel was packed – there were jugglers and acrobats and lovers and snack carts everywhere – there were beers and dogs, and kids and grannies….the Fernsehturm (the big strikingly ugly tv tower that dominates Berlins skyline) glowed Deutsche Telekom Pink – the Caravaggio exhibit was complemented by the string quartet that played for us while we browsed – and the Dom served up heavenly Gregorian chant from midnight to 2, after which came a short service and a free breakfast, of course….

There is no shortage of outdoor activity here – the Volksparks are many, as well as the lakes (Seen und Bäder) – most are just a short train or bike ride away – i have been running in Tiergarten (literally ‘Animal Garden’) a huge green space smack in the middle of town and bordered by most of the most recognizable landmarks – the Siegesäule (column with gold Victory on top), Brandenburger Tor (big gate with greenish Victory in chariot on top), rather scary statue of Bismarck flanked by lions and big strapping bo-hunk farmboy types… but i digress -

yeah – i have been going to class too – today was the last day (and writing you guys is my idea of celebrating) we took a 7 hour test – hmph too much like work – pretty much sucked – and earlier this week a friend and i trekked out to the Freie Universität Berlins to check out the law library – sounds too much like work you say – not so! not ten minutes into our browsing the computerized catalog we are approached by the dear Henning (some of you know the story) and off we go to lunch – one hour gone just like that – i am happy to report that one lunch, two coffee breaks and four hours later, i managed to come away with much needed info on German civil law as well as tentative plans to cook dinner for 8 this Thanksgiving….

Bad things about Berlin? the sewer stinks. so what, you say – the ‘what’ is that the stench has an annoying habit of wafting up through the grates, as well as your plumbing, when you least expect it – i am well armed with incense from the Winterfeldplatz Market….oh, and people here cannot park to SAVE THEIR LIVES – such itty bitty cars they have – the Smart car (a Mercedes, by the by)is half the size of a Civic hatchback – yet and still, the Berliners bump their way in and out of parking spaces (parallel and non) – at least twice i have seen people (one man, one woman) directing a driver into a parallel parking space – twice in 3 weeks! when is the last time you saw a MAN take orders from a WOMAN on how to get into a parallel parking space? i am so glad i left Boyfriend at home…

phone usage here is rather spendy, and the bureacracy is murderous…everyone is required to register their address with an official office – the piece of paper you get upon registration is required for seemingly everything (“oh – your passport – oh, but it doesn’t have your address – sorry, can’t give you your cell phone/library card/bank account/luggage/first born child/ etc.”)

all in all – i am taking it light here and it feels fine – i have met with my soon-to-be boss at Deutsche Bank – he is a big strapping fellow with experience in N. American banks (he knows finacial covenants – how can this go wrong?) – i start work Oct 1. – the question has already been asked – would i consider staying on after my fellowship? DUDE – i pled the fifth….

I move into my permanent apt the first week of Oct – it is a one bedroom in Schöneberg (nice area of town – like Dupont, if one gets one’s drift) with plenty room for guests – so please come see me….
my credit in this fabu internet cafe is expiring soon so i better go

Ulla – mein Deutsch wird immer besser, und Du bist immer vermisst – noch weiter, ich habe UHU für dich gekauft….

next time – politics (*groan*)

bis bald (til soon) y’all
Yolanda D. McGill, Esq.
Bosch Fellow 2001-2002

CIMG0722

Back in the summer of 2008 Germany was enthralled with the promise of Barack Obama. Obama gave a speech in Berlin in July. The crowd pressing against the fences surrounding the Siegesaeule (Victory Column) stretched all the way up the multi-lane boulevard StraBe des 17. Juni from the column back to the Brandenburg Gate. Now the ‘transatlantic relationship’ between Germany and the U.S. is strained for a number of reasons.

As a German scholar and someone vested in maintaining the strength of the ties between these two great countries I am compelled to remind my fellow Americans of the way things were and can be again.

For your consideration: one of the dozens of wonderful images I captured that sunny July day in Berlin, and an article by Dr. Keith Allen shedding light on Germany’s own recent engagement in spying and interrogations in this new age of fighting ‘terror’.

I had to re-post this short article and clip I saw today on Huffington Post because I am so glad that John Oliver would take the time to highlight the problem of payday loans and the payday loan industry.

Don’t get me started, I could tell you some serious war stories about how these people somehow defend the way they make billions of dollars for their friends and families (many of these companies are closely held) by ripping it from the hands and accounts of struggling working folks $30 – $100 at the time. Getting stuck in the payday ‘circle of misery’ is a death by a thousand cuts if there ever was one.

Once a person understands the loan product and the industry – the transaction is not as simple or straightforward as it first appears, and intentionally so – that person can’t distance himself fast enough. I wish more Americans knew just how dangerous these things can be, and all the work being done to rein them in. Don’t worry John, their day will come.

Foreclosure rescue fraud is STILL a big problem. It is hard to believe. I have been working hard with dozens of national level partners to try to stop homeowners losses to crooks who pretend to offer solutions only to steal money. That’s the bad news, for sure.

The good news is that our work – ‘our’ meaning the Loan Modification Scam Prevention Network – has not been in vain. The LMSPN partners continue to fight, now six years after the housing crisis began. The message is getting out to homeowners where they need to go for help. Homeowners are watching for red flags (even where there are none – I spent an hour yesterday convincing a scared homeowner that the NC Housing Finance Agency was legitimate and was not out to steal his equity) and are still reporting scams into our national Loan Modification Scam database managed by my client, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law.

Better still, the enforcement agency partners are coming out swinging, with each case bigger than the last. The criminal charges in the indictment handed down yesterday in Manhattan could result in 20 years of jail time per count – seems almost a fair punishment for stealing over $18.5 million – and hope for saving their home – from over 8,000 distressed homeowners.

Homeowners usually report dealing with only one person or entity, but many of the more egregious fraud allegations are ultimately lodged against complex multi-state operations; the information we gather and cross-reference in the scam database helps all LMSPN partners identify who is working with whom even across state lines. So the scammers keep going back to the trough, stealing and destabilizing because distressed homeowners are big money for them. But the hits to them keep on coming. Good news indeed.

There are many reasons I wish to improve my efficiency and form when it comes to written expression. Most of those reasons are professional, but not all.  Here is part of the draft of a dedication and book jacket that I found, written in longhand and folded neatly in a small plain white envelope, as I went through my mother’s personal effects after she died suddenly on this day back in 2006…

To my daughter, Dineine, and the unwavering steadfastness, devotion and support of my giving and loving friends, Ms. G, Mr. C and Mr. D.

‘Silent Tears’ is a look into the life of Angel, who beats insurmountable tests of the mind, heart, body and soul.

Angel had always believed that life is for the living and only the strong can survive. With strong parents she had been taught that all things are possible. 

But then came the real test of life…

 

As the jacket text continues, it becomes clear (to me, at least) that this book was meant to be semi-autobiographical. My mom was a complicated woman, and if I could flesh out her personal narrative it would likely be a riveting read. It’s no tribute of course if I can’t do her story justice, but I think sometimes it would be really worthwhile to try.

I love the role of general counsel.

It places a lawyer in a position to guide and support corporate decisions in a manner that will help the company grow and succeed. The work of a general counsel is always interesting because he or she sees and touches every single legal issue the company faces. Every. Single. Issue.

If you think that sounds like a tall order you would be right, which is why the typical GC has several years, and types, of experience before taking on the job. God bless our local paper the Independent Weekly ( Indyweek ) and the formidable Bob Geary, who anointed me general counsel of my think tank when I gave this interview back in 2005 about the payday lenders we were in the process of running out of our state. I was mortified!  While I am a hard worker and admit that I aspired early to the role, I do try for self-awareness at all times. I was a mere senior policy counsel in 2005, only six years out of law school!

Thankfully for the job I had then, as well as some of the successes I have enjoyed since, the REAL general counsel had a good sense of humor about the whole thing. No harm done, and maybe this mislabeling even helped point me in the general counsel direction. Of course, I framed the article (it’s, uh, hanging in my living room…).

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