Some 244 lawsuits were tracked in Mortgage Daily's fourth-quarter 2011 Mortgage Litigation Index the highest number since the index's 2007 launch.
Foreclosure cases dominated quarterly mortgage litigation activity and show no sign of relenting. Case count jumped from 218 in the third quarter and 151 in the fourth-quarter 2010. Among categories to show the worst deterioration were criminal, servicing and mortgage fraud. But investor actions slowed.
"Unfortunately, the phenomena that led to the surge in litigation in the fourth quarter of 2011 have only intensified in 2012, suggesting that we are unlikely to see a significant decline in litigation in the near term," Christopher Willis, a partner at Ballard Spahr LLP, who prepared an analysis of the data.
Criminal cases climbed to 57 from the third quarter's 34; activity on litigation related to mortgage servicing grew to 70 cases from 51; and mortgage fraud cases, those typically involving insiders at mortgage firms or a foreclosure-rescue scheme, increased to 23 from just five during the previous quarter.
Meanwhile, cases related to fees leapt to 17 in the fourth quarter from the prior period's two. Another category with a big increase was "title," which expanded to 46 cases from 31.