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Nationwide Title drops libel suit against lawyer

A Tampa Bay company at the center of the nation's "robo-signing" controversy has dropped its lawsuit against a St. Petersburg attorney who claimed it improperly or illegally prepared foreclosure documents.

Nationwide Title Clearing dismissed the case Tuesday, a few days after Matthew Weidner apologized on his popular blog and deleted comments that the Palm Harbor company had called false and libelous.

Nationwide Title does not prepare foreclosure documents. Many banks, however, have authorized Nationwide employees to sign for them on assignments of mortgage, which are key in determining who has the legal right to foreclose.

"I regret and retract any statement that implies that NTC has falsified any documents or that NTC is involved in foreclosures," Weidner wrote on his blog. "I apologize to NTC and its employees for any harm caused by my posts."

Without adding any comment of its own, Nationwide Title posted Weidner's entire apology and retraction on its own blog, ntcpeople.blogspot.com.

Barbara Petersen, president of the Florida First Amendment Foundation, said proceeding with a lawsuit would have enabled Weidner and his legal team to request documents from Nationwide Title.

"I'd think they'd be very worried about discovery because basically it would open up all of their records," she said of the company.

Nationwide Title drew national attention in November when another attorney, Christopher Forrest of Sarasota, posted on YouTube videotaped depositions of three Nationwide employees describing the assembly-line process in which they sign hundreds of documents at a time, usually without reading them.

A judge ordered Forrest to remove the videos, taken as part of a foreclosure case, but other people have reposted them.

Critics say "robo-signing" has made a mockery of the legal system, and several major lenders temporarily halted foreclosures this fall because of concerns over errors and fraud in documents.

Nationwide Title drops libel suit against lawyer 01/19/11 [Last modified: Wednesday, January 19, 2011 10:07pm]
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