The firestorm is still raging over revelations that loan-servicing companies employed “robo-signers” to churn out affidavits used to foreclose on massive numbers of homes. The controversy has managed to shut down foreclosures by at least four major lenders (the banks may think the storm is raining something other than fire), and, as we’ve already written, it has set all 50 state attorneys general and the plaintiffs bar on the warpath.

But while the full extent of the fallout for banks, loan servicers and homeowners is not yet known, the origins of the robo-signing controversy are becoming clearer. As readers of The New York Times learned in a front-page story on Friday, the allegations that lenders engaged in questionable practices began to crystallize after a mostly retired lawyer in Maine, Thomas Cox, deposed a GMAC Mortgage employee in June in a foreclosure case for a Portland nonprofit called Pine Tree Legal Assistance.

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