The lenders’ weapon of choice is an arcane legal document called a confession of judgment. Before borrowers get a loan, they have to sign a statement giving up their right to defend themselves if the lender takes them to court. It’s like an arbitration agreement, except the borrower always loses. Armed with a confession, a lender can, without proof, accuse borrowers of not paying and legally seize their assets before they know what’s happened. Not surprisingly, some lenders have abused this power. In dozens of interviews and court pleadings, borrowers describe lenders who’ve forged documents, lied about how much they were owed, or fabricated defaults out of thin air.
A confession of judgment is a written agreement, signed by the defendant, that accepts the liability and amount of damages that was agreed on. A confession of judgment is a way to circumvent normal court proceedings and avoid a lengthy legal process to resolve a dispute. Signing such a confession of forfeits any of the rights the defendant has to dispute a claim in the future.