Howard County

Howard immigrant who lost home to mistake settles case

A Howard County man who lost his townhouse in a refinancing foul-up six years ago has settled the matter before trial, giving him enough money for a down payment on a new house, a lawyer in the case said.

Kwaku Atta Poku, 59, a Ghanaian immigrant who runs a taxi business, settled with the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. and a third party in the spring, a few months before his lawsuit seeking $34 million in damages and compensation was scheduled to go to trial in U.S. District Court.


"I'm very grateful at least they got me something to start my life over with," said Atta Poku, who said he could not give any specifics about the settlement terms.

Gerald M. Richman, an Ellicott City lawyer who acted as Atta Poku's co-counsel in the case, said he could not disclose details, but he said the settlement would "permit [Atta Poku] to make a significant down payment on a house." He said the lawyers in the case agreed to forgo their fees and accept only compensation for expenses.


The case contributed to Maryland foreclosure law reform, and Atta Poku attended Gov. Martin O'Malley's bill-signing ceremony in Annapolis in 2008.

An FDIC spokesman said the agency does not comment on litigation. Atta Poku's chief lawyer, Scott C. Borison, did not return a message.

The federal agency became the defendant in the case when Washington Mutual Bank declared bankruptcy, Richman said. The bank insisted at first that the original mortgage was not paid off in a refinancing in 2001. Atta Poku's lawyers argued that the bank had mishandled the transaction, failing to ensure that the new loan was used to pay off the original mortgage of $97,500.

Atta Poku continued to make his monthly payments, but could not prove that he had paid off the original loan. The bank foreclosed in 2005, eventually putting him, his wife and four children out of their house. In a court hearing early this year, the title company engaged in the refinancing agreed that Atta Poku had done nothing wrong.

Early this year, after several of Atta Poku's lawsuits were dismissed on technical grounds, a federal judge ruled that Atta Poku was entitled to a trial. The proceeding was scheduled to begin this month, but the parties held a settlement conference by phone in May and the case was dismissed in June.

A report on the status of the case filed in U.S. District Court last month shows that Atta Poku agreed to a settlement with a third party other than the FDIC. Atta Poku said he did not know who the third party is. Neither did Richman, who was reached while on vacation.

Atta Poku built a new life in Maryland after coming to this country in 1992, but his financial fortunes sank after the foreclosure. He said that he was trying to rebuild his business after losing his taxi license for a while.