But the recent revelations of robo-signing prompted outrage and nationwide calls for investigations.
"We didn't know the full breadth of what was happening behind the scenes until now," said Phillip R. Robinson, executive director of Civil Justice, a Baltimore nonprofit that helps homeowners in foreclosure. "When you have these kinds of issues, the integrity of the system has been damaged."
Mortgage servicers say the information included in court filings is correct even if the process might not have been.
"We believe the accuracy of the factual loan information contained in the affidavits was not affected by whether or not the signer had personal knowledge of the precise details," JPMorgan Chase said in a recent statement. "The affidavits were prepared by appropriate personnel with knowledge of the relevant facts based on their review of the company's books and records."
Thomas A. Cox, a Maine attorney who helped bring robo-signing to light, has heard that argument from servicers and he disagrees. He said he's seen "a lot of mistakes" in case files — from how much is owed to whether homeowners were given notice.
"Any homeowner and their family losing a house is a tragedy," said Cox, who is retired and is working pro bono. "To have those people start wondering if it was done fairly, and if they got a fair shake, is really compounding the tragedy."
Baltimore Sun reporters Larry Carson, Nick Madigan and Andrea F. Siegel contributed to this article.