Chain of Title

How Three Ordinary Americans Uncovered Wall Street’s Great Foreclosure Fraud

The “gripping” (The New York Times) and “Hitchcockian” (Publishers Weekly) story of how a nurse, a car dealership worker, and a forensic expert took on the nation’s largest banks

“If you’re looking for a book . . . that will get your heart pumping and your blood boiling—add this one to your list.”
—Senator Elizabeth Warren

Winner of the Ida and Studs Terkel Prize

A Kirkus Reviews and The Week best book of the year, David Dayen’s Chain of Title is a riveting work that recalls A Civil Action, Erin Brockovich, and Flash Boys, recounting how three ordinary Floridians—a car dealership worker, a cancer nurse, and an insurance fraud specialist—helped uncover the largest consumer crime in American history, challenged the most powerful institutions in America, and—for a brief moment—brought the corrupt financial industry to its knees.

Lisa Epstein, Michael Redman, and Lynn Szymoniak did not work in government or law enforcement. They had no history of anticorporate activism. Instead they were all foreclosure victims, and while struggling with their shame and isolation they committed a revolutionary act: closely reading their mortgage documents, discovering the deceit behind them, and building a movement to expose it. Harnessing the power of the Internet, they revealed how the financial crisis and subsequent recession were fundamentally based upon a series of frauds that kicked millions out of their homes because of false evidence by mortgage companies that had no legal right to foreclose. As Rolling Stone’s Matt Taibbi noted: “Chain of Title is a sweeping work of investigative journalism that traces the arc of a criminally underreported story in
America, the collapse of the rule of law in the home mortgage industry.”


“In the wake of the devastating 2008 financial crisis, David Dayen has become one of the nation’s most knowledgeable, astute and important voices in identifying the culprits and documenting the efforts to protect them. His new book is one of the most important yet written on the causes of that crisis, the abject failures of the political class to punish the wrongdoers, and the dangerous refusal on the part of the nation’s elite to safeguard against future and even worse meltdowns.”
—Glenn Greenwald
“David Dayen first wrote about foreclosures as a scruffy blogger and consistently beat almost every established financial reporter to the story. Now he has written the best history of that shameful period. The mortgage industry spent untold millions to spread the story they created from whole cloth after the crisis hit: families who lost their homes were mostly undeserving spendthrifts trying to shirk just debts. Chain of Title tells the real story and the real story should offend the sense of justice of every American with a conscience.”
—Former congressman Brad Miller (D-NC), original co-author of the section of the Dodd-Frank Act that created the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau
“Gripping. . . . The homeowners’ stories are emotional roller coasters, which Dayen meticulously reports.”
The New York Times Book Review
“Enraging and enlightening.”
The Philadelphia Inquirer
Chain of Title is a sweeping work of investigative journalism that traces the arc of a criminally underreported story in America, the collapse of the rule of law in the home mortgage industry. By following three victims of illegal foreclosure practices, Dayen humanizes and brilliantly illuminates a vast scam unseen by the public because it’s been indecipherable to everyone but a few industrious housing lawyers—as he shows, even judges don’t understand it. The nightmare scavenger-hunt pursued by homeowners like Lisa Epstein leads to a horror-ending: behind the dream of home ownership lies a lawless jungle, owned and operated by banks, where there are no rules to protect families and their property.”
—Matt Taibbi, author of The Divide
“An inspiring, well-rendered, deeply reported, and often infuriating account.”
Kirkus Reviews
“Dayen elevates a muckraking exposé of fraudulent foreclosures to Hitchcockian levels of suspense. . . . Meticulously researched, enthralling, and educational, this addition to the literature of the Great Recession calls out for its own big-screen adaptation.”
Publishers Weekly
“This is the story, one of its characters tells us, of an unlikely ‘crime scene’: the real estate courts of Florida, where professional fraudsters greased the skids to kick people out of their houses in order to prop up Wall Street’s profits, while judges looked the other way. And, it is the story of a prairie fire—begun by ordinary Americans who brilliantly and courageously fought back when our leaders refused to do so. All in all, it is one of the best books about the law and American life that I ever have read.”
—Rick Perlstein, author of Nixonland and The Invisible Bridge

News and Reviews

Democracy Now!

Amy Goodman talks with author of Chain of Title, David Dayen, in regards to President-elect Donald Trump’s cabinet picks Steven Mnuchin and Wilbur Ross for Democracy Now!

Dissent Magazine

Mike Konczal reviews Chain of Title in Dissent Magazine

The Philadelphia Inquirer

Jake Blumgart reviews Chain of Title in The Philadelphia Inquirer

The Week

The Week calls Chain of Title "excellent and absolutely infuriating"


Books by David Dayen

Life in the Age of Corporate Power

David Dayen

Goodreads Reviews