LA Times: California foreclosure aid fund swells, but banks hesitate: PRINCIPAL CORRECTION

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EDITOR’S NOTE: The problem I have with this kind of reporting is the presumption that the using a lower amount of principal as the amount due under the mortgage is some sort of gift to homeowners. It is “PRINCIPAL CORRECTION” not principal reduction. The appraised value of the property at the start of the homeowner’s deal was wrong. Professional appraisers from across the country have confirmed that. The petition from 8,000 licensed appraisers to congress predicted the problem and complained that they were not being hired because they refused to falsify the appraisal. In each case the the appraisal was inflated using non-industry methods of appraisal.

  • In each case the value used at closing turned out to be at least 20% higher than the amount that could have been used even if one were to use the “high side.”
  • In each case the homeowner relied on the appraisal to complete the deal.
  • In each case the homeowner received assurances that the property would further appreciate.
  • In each case the fair market value was supposed to be verified by the lender which is why homeowners are allowed to and encouraged to rely on it.
  • In each case the pretender lender created the illusion of an underwriting process where the borrower believed that the party designated as the “lender” was equally at risk to the homeowner.
  • In each case the party designated as the “lender” did not advance any funds for the loan.
  • In each case the real source of the money used to fund the loan was mentioned or disclosed at the closing.
  • In each case, the homeowner was completely unaware that the party designated as the “lender” had no risk.
  • In each case the homeowner was completely unaware that the party designated as the “lender” was standing in a a straw-man for the real lender.
  • In each case neither the named nominee beneficiary nor the party designated as the “lender” had any financial interest in the loan other than the fee they were receiving as vehicles for the sale of securities.

So the notion that the current fair market value is some sort of gift to homeowners is completely false and simply a restatement of the deception that defrauded homeowners in the first instance. The press and other sources on this insist on using the words “Principal reduction” when they should be using the words “principal correction.” It isn’t a gift — it is a correction of a wrong that is being made right. That’s what justice is intended to provide.

California foreclosure aid fund swells, but banks hesitate

The state’s Keep Your Home plan has grown to $2 billion from $700 million. However, mortgage servicers haven’t officially agreed to participate in the principal reduction part of the program.

By Alejandro Lazo and E. Scott Reckard, Los Angeles Times

November 10, 2010

Federal funding for a California plan that helps borrowers facing foreclosure has snowballed to $2 billion, enough to potentially help more than 100,000 homeowners.

But the program lacks formal agreements with the nation’s largest banks and investors, and their cooperation is needed to make the proposed effort broadly successful.

Out of the three major mortgage servicers — Bank of America Corp., Wells Fargo & Co. and JPMorgan Chase & Co. — only Bank of America has told the state that it will participate in a central part of its Keep Your Home program that would reduce the principal balance of certain troubled mortgages, and even BofA has yet to sign an agreement. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have declined to participate in the principal reduction part of the plan.

The Keep Your Home program, which uses federal funds reserved for the 2008 rescue of the financial system, is intended for low- and moderate-income people who own only one property. To qualify in Los Angeles County, a family of four couldn’t earn more than $75,600. The maximum benefit for any household participating in the program is $50,000.

The biggest part of the plan gives $875 million in temporary financial help to homeowners who have seen their paychecks cut or have lost their jobs. The program would provide as much as $3,000 a month for six months to cover home payments, including principal, interest, insurance and homeowner association dues.

Another piece would provide as much as $15,000 to help homeowners get current on their mortgages, and another would provide assistance to move for those people who can’t afford to remain in their homes. Most of the big banks and Fannie and Freddie have signaled that they’re willing to participate with these parts of the plan.

But the most controversial part of the program, and the one most difficult for banks and investors to sign on to, dedicates $790 million to principal reduction. This would write down the value of an estimated 25,135 “underwater” mortgages, which are loans in which homeowners owe more on their properties than what they are worth.

The California plan — as well as programs created by Nevada and Arizona — would pay lenders $1 for every dollar of mortgage debt forgiven. Experts say reducing principal on such underwater loans would go far to reducing foreclosures in the three states because home values have fallen so steeply that homeowners are tempted to walk away from their obligations.

But the financial industry has been reluctant to participate in government-administered programs that would require them to reduce the amount that borrowers owe them.

“If you can’t do the principal write-down, you are limited in what you can do,” said Dan Immergluck, an associate professor at the Georgia Institute of Technology, who studied the different state plans developed with the federal bailout money.

“It is one thing for them to agree not to write down principal when they are being asked to foot the whole bill,” he said, “but when the states are agreeing to match this 50-50, it seems rather ridiculous of the servicers and the investors not to agree to this.”

Diane Richardson, director of legislation for the state’s housing finance agency, which created the California plan, said she expects other lenders to follow Bank of America’s lead once the program is underway.

“Once the program gets going, and other lenders see how successful it is, I think others will come aboard,” she said. The Keep Your Home program was slated to begin Nov. 1, but the launch was pushed back until early next year because the effort grew in complexity and size from when it was announced in February.

Originally, five states in which home values had dropped more than 20% since 2006 were selected to receive $1.5 billion from the Treasury Department’s Troubled Asset Relief Program. The program grew to cover states with high unemployment, which included California, and more federal money was added. California was initially slated to receive $700 million when the Treasury approved the state’s plan in July. Then even more money was added, resulting in a $7.6-billion program involving 18 states and the District of Columbia.

California, which accounts for 21% of the nation’s foreclosure activity, is the largest recipient of the bailout money. Homeowners in the Golden State also remain deeply underwater, according to recent data. In California, 27.9% of homeowners who owned single-family residences were underwater at the end of the third quarter, according to data released Wednesday by real estate information site Zillow.com. In Los Angeles County, 17.4% of borrowers owed more on their mortgages than what their homes were worth.

Even as the state struggles to get big lenders to sign on, the program has provoked complaints that it’s a giveaway to the banks. Critics say property values have fallen so steeply that much troubled mortgage debt is not worth 50 cents on the dollar. Foreclosures on these homes are so costly that the banks will come out ahead financially by writing down loan balances to keep borrowers in the homes, they contend.

“I don’t think we should have to be paying the lenders,” said Prentiss Cox, a professor at the University of Minnesota Law School Clinic. “We have already paid them in the form of the bailout, and it seems to me what we need is enforced loan modification, because that is in everyone’s interest.”

Critics also are unhappy that homeowners who refinanced their homes to take cash out of their properties will not be allowed to participate in the program. That will exclude many African American and Latino borrowers in low-income communities who were hustled into loans they did not understand or could not afford, said Yvonne Mariajimenez, deputy director of Neighborhood Legal Services of Los Angeles County.

These borrowers were “enticed by predatory lenders to refinance and pull out equity to pay medical debt, fix their houses and the like,” Mariajimenez said. “A disproportionate number were people of color that live in minority communities.”

Getting banks to write down principal has proved difficult through government programs, though some lenders have done it through their own proprietary initiatives. The federal government’s loan modification program, which is also funded by money from TARP, has always allowed loan servicers to forgive principal on troubled mortgages, but has never required them to do so.

Proponents of forgiving principal say this is a serious flaw. They contend that debt forgiveness is the only workable way to address the problem created by underwater loans.

alejandro.lazo@latimes.com

scott.reckard@latimes.com

11 Responses

  1. If that goes through gutting TILA, making it rescission-proof, there’s nothing stopping predatory lending….it’s an all out war now folks.

    When consumer protectionist laws are reshaped, gutted, and shifted in favor of the obvious criminals on a seemingly daily basis, it’s time to gear up for the next level…REVOLT! A march on either D.C. or Wall street, for all intents and purposes they’re the same these days. These so called legislators need to feel the heat and realize that their jobs are in danger, and they will HAVE to come to the conclusion that prisons need to start overflowing with banksters if they want to remain in office.

    Letters to reps need to shift from oh please mr. senator to….WE THE PEOPLE DEMAND CRIMINAL PROSECUTIONS….NOW!

  2. California, which accounts for 21% of the nation’s foreclosure activity, is the largest recipient of the bailout money.

    PLEASE 1 PERSON TELL ME YOU GOT A SINGLE DOLLAR IN BAILOUT $$

    PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE 1 person!!!???????

  3. sorry wrong page
    -http://blogs.alternet.org/speakeasy/2010/11/16/the-feds-new-foreclosure-predator-bailout/

  4. i want to say..IT HAS BEEN AN HONOR TO FIGHT BESIDE EVERYONE HERE!!!
    NOW WTF IS THIS?
    huh??????

    The Fed’s New Foreclosure Predator Bailout

    November 16, 2010
    Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System
    20th Street and Constitution Avenue, N.W.

    Washington, D.C. 20551

    Re:
    Withdrawal Request for the Proposed Truth-in-Lending Mortgage Regulations
    (FRB Docket No. R-1390)

    http://ourfinancialsecurity.org/2010/11/letter-to-withdraw-rescission-rule/

  5. Well, we have finally reached the end. The banks are now owning and running casinos. It is unbelievable, but I guess they need income after they have crashed the economy. Gambling is about all you get from a bank these days. They don’t adhere to the law, and the servicers business model is entirely outside the law. The servicers needs to be put out of business all together. The laws need to be strictly adhered to. How come our laws are just blown away with the breeze? http://www.challengingforeclosure.com Sirak@challengingforeclosure.com

  6. The A Man,
    They should be forced to do laundry at the Federal Prison!
    Charlie,
    GOOD FOR YOU … Your message did not go unnoticed!

  7. I think the Atttorney General of Iowa Mr Miller and his friend Proff. Levitin gets it. He is gonna give Chris Dodd and his coworkers at Bank of America a shelacking.

    He is gonna expose this big Ponzi scheme.

    The bottom line is the banksters cannot afford a loan modification. It will expose their Ponzi scheme.

    We are the least of the banksters problems. The Investors are gonna expose them and they have the money.

    NEVER AGAIN

  8. I DID A ZABASEARCH.COM AND CAME UP WITH ONLY 1 NAME IN THE U.S.

    E. JOHNSON-SECK
    911 FOUNTAIN DR.
    WYLIE, TX 75098
    PH: 972 442 8207

    rabosignor for Indymac Bank, Indymac Mers, Indymac Onewest, and any other who needed a warm body to finish a fraudulent document trail

  9. We are a small problem for the banks. They are now forced to run casinos in vegas. They are finished including deutsche bank. They arent getting richer they are getting broker.

    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703628204575619044069421202.html?mod=WSJ_hp_MIDDLENexttoWhatsNewsForth

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