In 2007 then-Ohio Attorney General Marc Dann was among the first officials in the nation to recognize that years of predatory mortgage lending and Wall Street greed was about to devastate the housing market and bring the U.S. economy to the brink of collapse.

Now the filmmakers at Red Point Digital have produced and are preparing to release The Con, a documentary that chronicles the crisis, the people crushed by it, and those like Marc Dann who attempted to stop the economic carnage and hold those responsible for it accountable. Marc plays a prominent role because he, unlike federal officials, actually formed a criminal investigation task force that led to arrests and prosecutions of the scam artists who came close to utterly destroying the American Dream.

You can watch a trailer of The Con by clicking on the pic above. We’ll let you know when the full movie is released.

And just in case you think all is right with the world ten years after the crash, read the following piece about the ongoing foreclosure crisis in Ohio…

“The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated.” American author and humorist Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain) commenting on his supposed demise in 1897.

Unfortunately, the same thing can be said of the supposed demise of the housing crisis that’s cost millions of Americans their homes, savings, and peace of mind. Yes, like everyone else, I’ve seen the stories touting the economic recovery that’s sweeping the nation, but a number of things prevent me from adding my voice to the chorus singing Happy Days are Here Again.

First, there’s my own experience: distressed homeowners contact my firm every day desperately searching for a way to save their homes.. According to media reports, the only thing I should be hearing in my office are crickets, but the opposite is true.

Second, there’s the 2016 presidential election. I normally avoid the temptation—my spouse would call it a compulsion—to be overtly political in these columns, but pundits of all persuasions point to the economy and working class angst as the main reasons Donald Trump won. It’s not a coincidence that the voters who handed him the keys to the Oval Office live in states like Ohio that have been hit hard by a housing crisis that’s supposed to be over.

Except it isn’t, as a new report issued by Attom Data Solutions clearly shows. According to the company’s figures, nearly 20% of Ohio homeowners are underwater, i.e. they owe more than their houses are worth. The numbers are even more depressing when you look at the negative equity statistics city-by-city: Cleveland, 22.9%; Akron, 20.3%; Dayton, 20.3%; Toledo, 20.0%. If that data set isn’t bleak enough for you consider this: Columbus and Cincinnati are among the cities with the fastest rate of growth in underwater mortgages in the nation.

All of which explains why my phones will be ringing incessantly for some time to come.

I have often written about the economic toll the ongoing housing crisis already has and, based on the Attom report, will continue to extract from individuals, families, and entire communities in Ohio and other states. What we don’t talk about often enough is its impact on domestic relations law.

Let me explain…

Fifteen years ago, when I ran a law firm located in a strip plaza just outside Youngstown, Ohio, domestic relations work made up a considerable portion of my practice. Then, fighting over the equity in the marital home often led two people who had once been madly in love to regard each other with disdain that bordered on downright hate. But, in the end, at least one or both parties walked away with some cash and/or a home at the end of the day.

In 2008 the housing market collapsed and the situation changed. Although I had stopped doing domestic work, colleagues who did told me couples regularly engaged in “I don’t want it, you can have it” battles to determine which spouse would be stuck with a residence that was tens of thousands of dollars or more underwater. Divorce and dissolution proceedings ground to a halt as couples struggled to find a way to deal with crushing debt and the consequences of foreclosure. When people mired in this type of situation finally were divorced they ended up homeless and deeply in debt.

Nine years later not much has changed. The stress caused by attempting to bail out a home that’s underwater not only destroys marriages, it forces people who want to separate to stay together, increases the negative financial impact that often accompanies divorce, and makes it even harder for both parties to get on with their lives.

That’s why we readily agree to work with couples and attorneys who call us to help resolve mortgage and negative equity issues. They trust us to act as honest, impartial professionals who know how to delay, defend and deal with the aftermath of foreclosures. Whether we negotiate loan modifications, arrange short sales, ensure that mortgage companies have legal standing to foreclose, or use Regulations X and Z to hold financial institutions accountable when they break the rules, we extricate homeowners from situations that appeared hopeless and put them in a position to build a brighter future for themselves and their families.

That’s what makes foreclosure defense the most satisfying work I’ve done since I graduated law school. But I have to admit that I dream of the day when my phone’s not ringing because that would mean the housing crisis had ended, mortgage lenders and servicers were acting responsibly, and all was right with the world.

I know, it’s not going to happen, but I can dream can’t I? Until then, we at the Dann Law Firm will just keep doing what we do: helping people deal with the ongoing nightmare that is the housing crisis.

*Originally posted in on December 7, 2017.