Legalprise, the 'Google' of foreclosures, swamped with search requests
Legalprise, a startup launched to track court records, has suddenly found its foreclosure data in hot demand as the nation's mortgage industry sorts out the robo-signing scandal. Based in West Palm Beach, Fla., Legalprise is the brainchild of 28-year-old Jay Hollenkamp, a 2007 law school graduate with entrepreneurial drive and 44-year-old Michael Olenick, a former Silicon Valley computer programmer with a law degree. The pair has created a searchable database of every foreclosure filing and every related docket entry for five states with plans to expand it to cover the 23 states where foreclosures are part of a judicial process. Ultimately, the company's goal is a nationwide, searchable repository of legal documents and public records. Demand for the startup's data could grow exponentially with Wednesday's announcement that all 50 state attorneys general will launch a collective probe into the mortgage industry's robo-signing controversy. The company has already reached out to several attorneys general to let them know of the existence and availability of the database. Robo-signing could put firm on map "We didn't set out to make a fraud database," said Olenick. "We set out to make a data-tracking database." Added Hollenkamp: "We happened to have a pre-existing database, and then the world blew up (with the robo-signing controversy). We are two guys in a room and only one of us can do software programming." Ally Financial, formerly GMAC, started a domino effect last month when it said it would review its foreclosure filings after it came to light that an employee was signing thousands of documents without reviewing them, spawning the scandal's "robo-signer" moniker. JPMorgan Chase was one of the first big mortgage lenders to halt foreclosures. As the foreclosure scandal spread, Legalprise realized it could mine its data to uncover fraud, including mediations that didn't happen and foreclosure notices that were not serviced. It can look at who is filing cases and who has stopped. There was a clear cutoff in foreclosure filings from JPMorgan Chase, for example, when the mortgage giant instituted its foreclosure moratorium whereas the database shows that Ally Financial, formerly GMAC, has continued to file foreclosure cases while it reviews its filing procedures. As lawyers investigate cases of faulty foreclosure documents, requests for data have skyrocketed. "We have way more lawyers asking for data than what we can push out," Olenick said. But he and Hollenkamp see their client base growing beyond the handful of foreclosure defense attorneys that now pay the bills to others, including mortgage lenders and law enforcement. How it formed The startup got moving when Olenick heard from a foreclosure defense attorney in South Florida who wanted a database to be able to track foreclosure cases across multiple jurisdictions as the housing crisis took hold with a vengeance in Florida. "There was no central repository to track civil (court records)," Olenick told HousingWire. So Olenick began building and indexing a database of just one county and then continued to add to it. "Most people who track foreclosures, track the case filings," Hollenkamp said. Legalprise, conversely, can look at the docket of each case and what it contains. The company's database is being expanded as it adds clients who want a particular state added. Legalprise has about 75-85% of Florida covered, as well as all of Connecticut, Ohio, Indiana and Illinois. Hollenkamp describes it this way: "It is like Google for foreclosure lawsuits." For now, the operate out of a "classic startup dump" but that, too, could change as they contemplate whether the time is right to seek out venture capital. "We are seeing how popular this database has become," said Hollenkamp. Write to Kerry Curry.