Levitin and Yves Smith – TRUST=EMPTY PAPER BAG

Living Lies Narrative Corroborated by Increasing Number of Respected Economists

It has taken over 7 years, but finally my description of the securitization process has taken hold. Levitin calls it “securitization fail.” Yves Smith agrees.

Bottom line: there was no securitization, the trusts were merely empty sham nominees for the investment banks and the “assignments,” transfers, and endorsements of the fabricated paper from illegal closings were worthless, fraudulent and caused incomprehensible damage to everyone except the perpetrators of the crime. They call it “infinite rehypothecation” on Wall Street. That makes it seem infinitely complex. Call it what you want, it was civil and perhaps criminal theft. Courts enforcing this fraudulent worthless paper will be left with egg on their faces as the truth unravels now.

There cannot be a valid foreclosure because there is no valid mortgage. I know. This makes no sense when you approach it from a conventional point of view. But if you watch closely you can see that the “loan closing” was a shell game. Money from a non disclosed third party (the investors) was sent through conduits to hide the origination of the funds for the loan. The closing agent used that money not for the originator of the funds (the investors) but for a sham nominee entity with no rights to the loan — all as specified in the assignment and assumption agreement. The note and and mortgage were a sham. And the reason the foreclosing parties do not allege they are holders in due course, is that they must prove purchase and delivery for value, as set forth in the PSA within the 90 day period during which the Trust could operate. None of the loans made it.

But on Main street it was at its root a combination pyramid scheme and PONZI scheme. All branches of government are complicit in continuing the fraud and allowing these merchants of “death” to continue selling what they call bonds deriving their value from homeowner or student loans. Having made a “deal with the devil” both the Bush and Obama administrations conscripted themselves into the servitude of the banks and actively assisted in the coverup. — Neil F Garfield, livinglies.me

For more information on foreclosure offense, expert witness consultations and foreclosure defense please call 954-495-9867 or 520-405-1688. We offer litigation support in all 50 states to attorneys. We refer new clients without a referral fee or co-counsel fee unless we are retained for litigation support. Bankruptcy lawyers take note: Don’t be too quick admit the loan exists nor that a default occurred and especially don’t admit the loan is secured. FREE INFORMATION, ARTICLES AND FORMS CAN BE FOUND ON LEFT SIDE OF THE BLOG. Consultations available by appointment in person, by Skype and by phone.

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John Lindeman in Miami asked me years ago when he first starting out in foreclosure defense, how I would describe the REMIC Trust. My reply was “a holographic image of an empty paper bag.” Using that as the basis of his defense of homeowners, he went on to do very well in foreclosure defense. He did well because he kept asking questions in discovery about the actual transactions, he demanded the PSA, he cornered the opposition into admitting that their authority had to come from the PSA when they didn’t want to admit that. They didn’t want to admit it because they knew the Trust had no ownership interest in the loan and would never have it.

While the narrative regarding “securitization fail” (see Adam Levitin) seems esoteric and even pointless from the homeowner’s point of view, I assure you that it is the direct answer to the alleged complaint that the borrower breached a duty to the foreclosing party. That is because the foreclosing party has no interest in the loan and has no legal authority to even represent the owner of the debt.

And THAT is because the owner of the debt is a group of investors and NOT the REMIC Trust that funded the loan. Thus the Trust, unfunded had no resources to buy or fund the origination of loans. So they didn’t buy it and it wasn’t delivered. Hence they can’t claim Holder in Due Course status because “purchase for value” is one of the elements of the prima facie case for a Holder in Due Course. There was no purchase and there was no transaction. Hence the suing parties could not possibly be authorized to represent the owner of the debt unless they got it from the investors who do own it, not from the Trust that doesn’t own it.

This of course raises many questions about the sudden arrival of “assignments” when the wave of foreclosures began. If you asked for the assignment on any loan that was NOT in foreclosure you couldn’t get it because their fabrication system was not geared to produce it. Why would anyone assign a valuable loan with security to a trust or anyone else without getting paid for it? Only one answer is possible — the party making the assignment was acting out a part and made money in fees pretending to convey an interest the assignor did not have. And so it goes all the way down the chain. The emptiness of the REMIC Trust is merely a mirror reflection of the empty closing with homeowners. The investors and the homeowners were screwed the same way.

BOTTOM LINE: The investors are stuck with ownership of a debt or claim against the borrowers for what was loaned to the borrower (which is only a fraction of the money given to the broker for lending to homeowners). They also have claims against the brokers who took their money and instead of delivering the proceeds of the sale of bonds to the Trust, they used it for their own benefit. Those claims are unsecured and virtually undocumented (except for wire transfer receipts and wire transfer instructions). The closing agent was probably duped the same way as the borrower at the loan closing which was the same as the way the investors were duped in settlement of the IPO of RMBS from the Trust.

In short, neither the note nor the mortgage are valid documents even though they appear facially valid. They are not valid because they are subject to borrower’s defenses. And the main borrower defense is that (a) the originator did not loan them money and (b) all the parties that took payments from the homeowner owe that money back to the homeowner plus interest, attorney fees and perhaps punitive damages. Suing on a fictitious transaction can only be successful if the homeowner defaults (fails to defend) or the suing party is a holder in due course.

Trusts Are Empty Paper Bags — Naked Capitalism

student-loan-debt-home-buying

Just as with homeowner loans, student loans have a series of defenses created by the same chicanery as the false “securitization” of homeowner loans. LivingLies is opening a new division to assist people with student loan problems if they are prepared to fight the enforcement on the merits. Student loan debt, now over $1 Trillion is dragging down housing, and the economy. Call 520-405-1688 and 954-495-9867)

The Banks Are Leveraged: Too Big Not to Fail

When I was working with Brad Keiser (formerly a top executive at Fifth Third Bank), he formulated, based upon my narrative, a way to measure the risk of bank collapse. Using a “leverage” ration he and I were able to accurately define the exact order of the collapse of the investment banks before it happened. In September, 2008 based upon the leverage ratios we published our findings and used them at a seminar in California. The power Point presentation is still available for purchase. (Call 520-405-1688 or 954-495-9867). You can see it yourself. The only thing Brad got wrong was the timing. He said 6 months. It turned out to be 6 weeks.

First on his list was Bear Stearns with leverage at 42:1. With the “shadow banking market” sitting at close to $1 quadrillion (about 17 times the total amount of all money authorized by all governments of the world) it is easy to see how there are 5 major banks that are leveraged in excess of the ratio at Bear Stearns, Lehman, Merrill Lynch et al.

The point of the article that I don’t agree with at all is the presumption that if these banks fail the economy will collapse. There is no reason for it to collapse and the dependence the author cites is an illusion. The fall of these banks will be a psychological shock world wide, and I agree it will obviously happen soon. We have 7,000 community banks and credit unions that use the exact same electronic funds transfer backbone as the major banks. There are multiple regional associations of these institutions who can easily enter into the same agreements with government, giving access at the Fed window and other benefits given to the big 5, and who will purchase the bonds of government to keep federal and state governments running. Credit markets will momentarily freeze but then relax.

Broward County Court Delays Are Actually A PR Program to Assure Investors Buying RMBS

The truth is that the banks don’t want to manage the properties, they don’t need the house and in tens of thousands of cases (probably in the hundreds of thousands since the last report), they simply walk away from the house and let it be foreclosed for non payment of taxes, HOA assessments etc. In some of the largest cities in the nation, tens of thousands of abandoned homes (where the homeowner applied for modification and was denied because the servicer had no intention or authority to give it them) were BULL-DOZED  and the neighborhoods converted into parks.

The banks don’t want the money and they don’t want the house. If you offer them the money they back peddle and use every trick in the book to get to foreclosure. This is clearly not your usual loan situation. Why would anyone not accept payment in full?

What they DO want is a judgment that transfers ownership of the debt from the true owners (the investors) to the banks. This creates the illusion of ratification of prior transactions where the same loan was effectively sold for 100 cents on the dollar not by the investors who made the loan, but by the banks who sold the investors on the illusion that they were buying secured loans, Triple AAA rated, and insured. None of it was true because the intended beneficiary of the paper, the insurance money, the multiple sales, and proceeds of hedge products and guarantees were all pocketed by the banks who had sold worthless bogus mortgage bonds without expending a dime or assuming one cent of risk.

Delaying the prosecution of foreclosures is simply an opportunity to spread out the pain over time and thus keep investors buying these bonds. And they ARE buying the new bonds even though the people they are buying from already defrauded them by NOT delivering the proceeds fro the sale of the bonds to the Trust that issued them.

Why make “bad” loans? Because they make money for the bank especially when they fail

The brokers are back at it, as though they haven’t caused enough damage. The bigger the “risk” on the loan the higher the interest rate to compensate for that risk of loss. The higher interest rates result in less money being loaned out to achieve the dollar return promised to investors who think they are buying RMBS issued by a REMIC Trust. So the investor pays out $100 Million, expects $5 million per year return, and the broker sells them a complex multi-tranche web of worthless paper. In that basket of “loans” (that were never made by the originator) are 10% and higher loans being sold as though they were conventional 5% loans. So the actual loan is $50 Million, with the broker pocketing the difference. It is called a yield spread premium. It is achieved through identity theft of the borrower’s reputation and credit.

Banks don’t want the house or the money. They want the Foreclosure Judgment for “protection”

 

People Who Were Wrong Are the Winners — SO FAR

First of all I don’t think Geithner caused the financial crisis. He certainly contributed to it but it probably would have happened even if he had not undercut Sheila Bair at every opportunity; and yes he should have listened to other people who were saying that the corruption on Wall Street had reached epic proportions.

Second, I think that neither Geithner nor his predecessor, Hank Paulson, as Treasury secretaries, had a real understanding of the crisis at any time up through today. And their bosses, Presidents Bush and Obama were even more clueless. And while they are probably culpable for their negligence and mismanagement of the crisis, the foreclosure madness would have occurred anyway.

Third, it is my belief that the culprits on Wall Street with all their tentacles stretched out across the globe were unstoppable by anyone except a good government with the resources to actually get to the bottom of it. What was missing was the desire to get rid of the problem and the naivete of the leaders in government in failing to notice that the entire banking industry was engaged in faking transactions and documents — and failing to ask why that was necessary.

Fourth my opinion is that the fault lies with the failure of anyone in government to learn anything relevant about the industries they were supposed to be regulating. If they had done so, starting in 1983 when derivatives became adolescent, the adult would have been far more tame and the crises would have been averted entirely.

Homeowners did not create the crisis. Tens of millions of homeowners did not congregate in a room thinking up 450 loan products when there were only 4 or 5. And saying they had bad judgment would absolve almost any perpetrator of economic crime because his victim was too stupid.

The laws were already in place. It was knowledgeable people that were missing. We needed and had faithful servants of the people — but as a society and as a nation each country contributed to the enormous problem that has now been created. And we will keep paying for it as banks take over all commodities we hold dear and “legally” corner the markets with stolen cash and property.

In Nocera’s article on Bankrupt Housing Policy, he points out that ” in the course of perusing another new book about the financial crisis, “Other People’s Houses,” by Jennifer Taub, an associate professor at Vermont Law School, I was reminded of an effort that took place in the spring of 2009 that could have made an enormous difference to homeowners, one that would have required no taxpayer money and might well have become law with a little energetic lobbying from the likes of, well, Tim Geithner. That was an attempt, led by Dick Durbin, the Illinois senator, to change the bankruptcy code so that homeowners who were underwater could modify their mortgages during the bankruptcy process. The moment has been largely forgotten; Taub has done us a favor by putting it back on the table.”

He goes on to say that he had correspondence with Sheila Bair who was undermined and stomped on by the Obama administration for even thinking about relief to homeowners. She was head of the FDIC and prevented from doing her job by a bankrupt policy of save the banks and damn the homeowners. “Because, as Bair told me in an email, “It would have been a powerful bargaining chip for borrowers.” Without the ability to file for bankruptcy, underwater homeowners unable to pay their mortgages were helpless to prevent foreclosures. With it, however, servicers and banks were far more likely to negotiate the debt load. And if they weren’t, a bankruptcy judge would rule on the appropriate debt to be repaid. For all the talk about the need for principal reduction, this change would have been the easiest way to get it.”

According to Adam Levitin, in the same article by Nocera, this should have been a “no-brainer.” I take that too mean that as I have explained above, brains were in short supply during the worst of what we have yet seen of the economic crisis that most of us think is not even half over. Obama may be leaving the crisis as his legacy not because he caused it but because he didn’t do anything about it — or at least anything right.

And I obviously agree with Nocera’s ending comment — “Why is it that the fear of moral hazard only applies to homeowners, and not to the banks?”

Gretchen Morgenson says Geithner admitted he was inept at times. ““We were human.” But this fails to address head-on the possibility that he was a captured regulator, a man locked into the mind-set of the very bankers he was supposed to oversee.”

Gretchen reports without objection from Geithner — “Last week, I asked Sheila C. Bair, the former chairwoman of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, for her recollection of these events. She replied with an email recalling that in 2006, she attended her first Basel Committee meeting, the international negotiations that Mr. Geithner was referring to. While there, she pushed unsuccessfully to raise bank capital levels.

Why was she unsuccessful? “I was actively undermined by the Fed, the New York Fed and the comptroller of the currency,” she said. “I later complained to Tim about the way his representative on the Basel Committee had undermined me. He was unapologetic.”

Gretchen has not been given the resources to prove the corruption on Wall Street, but she knows it is there and as the fourth estate the NY Times should have provided her with a blank check for what would have been a Pulitzer or even a Nobel prize. for now we can only agree with her — “We were the lenders of last resort and should have been paid an enormous premium for the use of our money. We were not.”

There are suddenly a spate of articles on what went wrong because Geithner wrote a book and is selling it enhancing his own fortunes while he presided over the worst hit the middle class has had in our history.

Here is what investigators should have been looking for:

Behind door number 1 were the fools. These are the money managers who for reasons the defy explanation did no due diligence and bought empty mortgage bonds issued by a trust that was never going to receive the money, the loans or the property.

Behind door number 2 were the wolves of Wall Street including all the different brokers, dealers, banks, rating agencies and insurers, all the mortgage brokers, real estate brokers, and closing agents and title companies all in league to take as much money as they could out of the system and the hide it behind shadow money equivalent to ten times all the actual money in the world.

Behind door number 3 are the victims. These are the people who knew nothing about mortgages, derivatives or anything else. In the end they were convinced by super salespeople that they could never understand how they could afford the loan nor could they even understand why they must do it anyway. In Florida alone 10,000 such sales people were convicted felons. And yet when we talk of moral hazard we speak of people, and not banks. Why is that?

Ken McLeod Files Complaints Against Notaries: 3 Licenses Revoked so far

So far he is three for three and he has no plans to stop filing complaints against notaries who signed false, fabricated affidavits. Ken McLeod (Arizona) is about the best investigator for economic crimes that I have ever come across. I won’t publish his number because the last time I did that he was swamped with calls and couldn’t do his work. If you can get to him, hire him. He has helped my law firm in a variety of ways sometimes tracking down witnesses within minutes and even telling us where they were standing at that moment. And he is devoted to bringing down this false system of foreclosures based upon false documents, false debts, and false testimony.

“The robo-signing notaries need to be stripped of their professional licenses.  I fully intend to file a complaint against every single notary who ever signed a false affidavit in Arizona.  It may take me years, but, this is how it’s done.  One at a time until they are all gone.

“Notice the Garcia revocation.  The notary presented after the fact falsified logs to try to cover his ass.  His other problems were accepting expired passports as proof of idea.  He even acknowledged the demand by a ‘detective’ but made a (wrong) legal decision he didn’t have to comply.

“Revocation of these commissions will have to be disclosed by these notaries any time they need a bond or apply for a government job.

The subtext for this is that if the notaries were committing crimes or violations of the rules and regulations governing their licenses as notaries, then two things are true: (1)  if a false notarization was affixed by a notary in order to record a document in public records or to authenticate an affidavit as testimony, then the document or affidavit needs to be expunged from the record or coupled with a notation that the affidavit or document was falsely notarized, and  (2) if the document was falsely notarized and is therefore not effective for the purpose for which it was improperly recorded, then any action based upon that recordation is void or voidable.

The one thing that I need to remind readers is that a false notary does not completely invalidate a document. It may invalidate the recording and it may imply that the entire document was false. But it doesn’t prove the entire document was false. For example, if you in fact signed a mortgage and a note and the mortgage was required to have two witnesses and a notary, you have a contract regardless of whether or not it was recorded.  The failure to provide the proper notarization does not nullify the instrument. When the notarization was not fraudulent, and affidavit attached to the instrument will suffice to correct the problem.

Luz Anaya Notary revocation letter from AZ SOS 09232013

Letter from AZ SOS revocation of notary commission Felix Garcia

Gloria Cramer AZ SOS Revocation Letterdated 1-20-2014

Unconscionable and Negligent Conduct in Loan Modification Practices

JOIN US EVERY THURSDAY AT 6PM Eastern time on The Neil Garfield Show. We will discuss the Stenberger decision and other important developments affecting consumers, borrowers and banks. We had 561 listeners so far who were on the air with us or who downloaded the show. Thank you — that is a good start for our first show. And thank you Patrick Giunta, Esq. (Broward County Attorney) as our first guest. For more information call 954-495-9867.

In the case of Wane v. Loan Corp. the 11th Circuit struck down the borrower’s attempt to rescind. The reasoning in that case had to do with whether the originator was the real lender. I think, based upon my review of that and other cases, that the facts were not totally known and perhaps could have been and then included in the pleading. It is one thing to say that you don’t think the originator actually paid for the loan. It is quite another to say that a third party did actually pay for the loan and failed to get the note and mortgage or deed of trust executed properly to protect the real source of funds. In order to do that you might need the copy of the wire transfer receipt and wire transfer instructions and potentially a forensic report showing the path of “securitization” which probably never happened.

The importance of the Steinberger decision (see prior post) is that it reverts back to simple doctrines of law rather the complexity and resistance in the courts to apply the clear wording in the Truth in Lending Act. The act says that any statement indicating the desire to rescind within the time limits set forth in the statute is sufficient to nullify the mortgage or deed of trust by operation of law unless the alleged creditor/lender files an action within the prescribed time limits. It is a good law and it covers a lot of the abuses that we see in the legal battleground. But Judges are refusing to apply it. And that includes Appellate courts including the 9th Circuit that wrote into the statute the requirement that the money be tendered “back to the creditor” in order for the rescission to have any legal effect.

The 9th Circuit obviously is saying the they refuse to abide by the statute. The tender back to the creditor need only be a statement that the homeowner is prepared to execute a note and mortgage in favor of the real lender. To tender the money “back” to the originator is to assume they made the loan, which ordinarily was not the case. The courts are getting educated but they are not at the point where they “get it.”

But with the Steinberger decision we can get similar results without battling the rescission issue that so far is encountering nothing but resistance. That case manifestly agrees that a borrower can challenge the authority of those who are claiming money from him or her and that if there are problems with the mortgage, the foreclosure or the modification program in which the borrower was lured into actions that caused the borrower harm, there are damages for the “lender” to pay. The recent Wells Fargo decision posted a few days ago said the same thing. The logic behind that applies to the closing as well.

So lawyers should start thinking about more basic common law doctrines and use the statutes as corroboration for the common law cause of action rather than the other way around. Predatory practices under TILA can be alleged under doctrines of unconscionability and negligence. Title issues, “real lender” issues can be attacked using common law negligence.

Remember that the common allegation of the “lenders” is that they are “holders” — not that they are holders in due course which would require them to show that they paid value for the note and that they have the right to enforce it and collect because the money is actually owed to them. The “holders” are subject to claims detailed in the Steinberger decision without reference to TILA, RESPA or any of the other claims that the courts are resisting. As holders they are subject to all claims and defenses of the borrower. And remember as well that it is a mistake to assume that the mortgage or deed of trust is governed by Article 3 of the UCC. Security instruments are only governed by Article 9 and they must be purchased for value for a party to be able to enforce them.

All of this is predicated on real facts that you can prove. So you need forensic research and analysis. The more specific you are in your allegations, the more difficult it will be for the trial court to throw your claims and defenses out of court because they are hypothetical or too speculative.

Question: who do we sue? Answer: I think the usual suspects — originator, servicers, broker dealer, etc. but also the closing agent.

THE NEIL GARFIELD SHOW STARTS THIS THURSDAY AND EVERY THURSDAY AT 6PM

Thanks to the folks at Blog Talk Radio, we are finally going back on the air on a weekly basis every Thursday at 6PM Eastern Time, 3PM Pacific Time, and if there is no operator error (that would be me), the shows will be saved as Podcasts and you can listen to them anytime you want. IT’S FREE! (Except for the sponsors).

Our intended audience includes, investors who were duped out of their money to buy bogus mortgage bonds, investors or buyers of resales or foreclosures who think they have clear title but don’t, and homeowners as investors who stand to lose not only their investment but their entire lifestyle. We all know what the banks did was wrong. We all know that what they are still doing is wrong.

Let’s get together and do some work on how to convince a judge or prosecutor that Wall Street corruption does make a difference and should never be allowed.

Click in to tune in at The Neil Garfield Show

Or call in at (347) 850-1260, 6pm Thursdays

You know the subject — the biggest economic crime in human history and the price investors and homeowners are paying for it. You know the goal — claiming your rights, defending your home and recover damages from wrongful foreclosure and predatory loan practices. The format of the 30 minute show will be news, analysis (or guest interview), and question and answer. It is just like the old teleconferences we had, only better. You can start a chat with me on the side, call in for a question, or write in comments.

Come learn the new system with me and don’t laugh at me when I screw it up. I’m very sensitive 🙂 Come learn something you didn’t know. We will be covering the latest info on what works and what doesn’t and why.

The show is sponsored by Livinglies, GTC Honors, and the law firm of Garfield, Kelley and White, LLC with main offices in Tallahassee and additional offices in Broward County and Dade County.

Additional sponsors are invited. Not all offers of sponsorship will be accepted, in the sole discretion of the Show’s Host.

This show is for general information only and not to be used as a substitute for real advice from a licensed lawyer who practices in the geographical area in which your property is located or transaction occurred. The show is not a solicitation or offer of services.

Countrywide Found Guilty of Fraud, JPM Criminal Responsibility for Madoff PONZI Scheme

“The words PONZI SCHEME and FRAUD applied to the mortgage meltdown has been largely dismissed by policy makers, law enforcement and regulators. Instead we heard the terms RISKY BEHAVIOR and RECKLESSNESS. Now law enforcement has finally completed its investigation and determined that those who set the tone and culture of Wall Street were deeply involved in the Madoff PONZI scheme and were regularly committing FRAUD in the creation and sale of mortgage bonds and the underlying “DEFECTIVE” loans. The finding shows that these plans were not risky nor reckless. They were intentional and designed to deceive and cause damage to everyone relying upon their false representations. The complex plan of false claims of securitization is now being pierced making claims of “plausible deniability” RISKY and RECKLESS.

And if the loans were defective there is no reason to believe that this applies only to the loans claimed to be in default. It applies to all loans subject to false claims of securitization, false documentation for non existent transactions, and fraudulent collection practices by reporting and collecting on balances that were fraudulently stated in the first instance. At this point all loans are suspect, all loan balances stated are suspect, and all Foreclosures based on these loans were frauds upon the court, should be vacated and the homeowner reinstated to ownership of the property and possession of the property. All such loans should have the loan balance adjusted by the courts for appropriate set off in denying the borrowers the benefit of the bargain that was presented to them.

“It is now difficult to imagine a scenario where the finding of the intentional use and creation of defective mortgages will not trickle down to all mortgage litigation. The Countrywide decision is the first that expressly finds them guilty of creating defective loans. It is impossible to believe that Countrywide’s intentional acts of malfeasance won’t spread to the investment banks that used Countrywide as the aggregator of defective loans (using the proprietary desk top underwriting software for originators to get approval). The reality is coming up, front and center. And Judges who ignore the defenses of homeowners who were of course defrauded by the same defective mortgages are now on notice that bias towards the banks simply doesn’t work in the real world.” — Neil F Garfield,www.livinglies.me October 24, 2013

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By Neil F Garfield, Esq. Tallahassee, Florida October 24, 2013. If the mortgages were defective and were used fraudulently to gain illicit profits it is not possible to avoid the conclusions that homeowners are among the victims. By using false appraisals the huge banks created the illusion of rising prices. This was manipulation of market prices just as the banks were found guilty of manipulating stated market rates for interbank lending “LIBOR” and use of the manipulated pricing to trade for further benefit knowing that the reality was different. The banks have continued this pattern behavior and are still doing it, and laying fines as a cost of doing business in the manipulation and ownership of natural resources. They are a menace to all societies on the planet. The threat of that menace must be removed In the face of a clear and present danger posed by the real world knowledge that where an opportunity arises for “moral hazard” the banks will immediately use it causing further damage to government, taxpayers, consumers and investors.

None of it was disclosed or even referenced at the alleged loan closing with borrowers despite federal and state laws that require all such undisclosed profits and compensation to be disclosed or suffer the consequence of required payment to the borrower of all such undisclosed compensation. The borrowers are obviously entitled to offset for the false appraisals used by lenders to induce borrowers to accept defective loan products.

Further, borrowers have a clear right of action for treble damages for the pattern of conduct that constituted fraud as a way of doing business. In addition, borrowers can now be scene through a clear lens — that they are entitled to the benefit of the bargain that they reasonably thought they were getting. That they were deceived and coerced into accepting defective loans with undisclosed players and undisclosed compensation and undisclosed repayment terms raises the probability now that borrowers who present their case well, could well start getting punitive damages awards with regularity. It’s easy to imagine the closing argument for exemplary or punitive damages — “$10 billion wasn’t enough to stop them, $25 billion wasn’t enough to stop of them, so you, members of the jury, must decide what will get their attention without putting them out of business. You have heard evidence of the tens of billions of dollars in profits they have reported. It’s up to you to decide what will stop the banks from manipulating the marketplace, fraudulently selling defective loans to borrowers and pension funds alike with the intention of deceiving them and knowing that they would reasonably rely on their misrepresentations. You decide.”

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U.S. prepares to take action against JPMorgan over Madoff
In what would be an almost unheard of move when it comes to U.S. banks, the FBI and the U.S. attorney’s office are in talks with JPMorgan (JPM) about imposing a deferred prosecution agreement over allegations that the bank turned a blind eye to Bernie Madoff’s Ponzi scheme, the NYT reports.
Authorities would suspend criminal charges against JPMorgan but impose a fine and other concessions, and warn the bank that it will face indictments over any future misconduct.
However, the government has not decided to charge any current or former JPMorgan employees.
The report comes as the bank holds talks with various regulators over a $13B deal to settle claims about its mortgage practices.

Countrywide found guilty in U.S. mortgage suit
A federal jury has found Bank of America’s (BAC -2.1%) Countrywide unit liable for defrauding Fannie Mae (FNMA +22%) and Freddie Mac (FMCC +19.4%) by selling them thousands of defective mortgages.
The judge will determine the amount of the penalty – the U.S. has requested $848M, the gross loss to the GSEs as calculated by its expert witness.
The suit centered on Countrywide’s HSSL – High Speed Swim Lane – program instituted in August 2007, says the government, to keep the music playing as the property market was falling apart.

DOJ probes nine leading banks over sale of mortgage debt
The Department of Justice is reportedly investigating nine major banks over the sale of problematic mortgage bonds, although the probes are for civil infractions rather than criminal ones.
The banks are Bank of America (BAC), Citigroup (C), Credit Suisse (CS), Deutsche Bank (DB), Goldman Sachs (GS), Morgan Stanley (MS), RBS (RBS), UBS (UBS) and Wells Fargo (WFC).
The inquiries span U.S. attorney’s offices from California to Massachusetts, and come as JPMorgan tries to reach a multi-billion dollar settlement over the issue.

LAST CHANCE FOR JUSTICE

“We are still in the death grip of the banks as they attempt to portray themselves as the bulwarks of society even as they continue to rob us of homes, lives, jobs and vitally needed capital which is being channeled into natural resources so that when we commence the gargantuan task of repairing our infrastructure we can no longer afford it and must borrow the money from the thieves who created the gaping hole in our economy threatening the soul of our democracy.” Neil Garfield, livinglies.me

We all know that dozens of people rose to power in Europe and Asia in the 1930’s and 1940’s who turned the world on its head and were responsible for the extermination of tens of millions of people. World War II still haunts us as it projected us into an arms race in which we were the first and only country to kill all the people who lived in two cities in Japan. The losses on both sides of the war were horrendous.
Some of us remember the revelations in 1982 that the United States actively recruited unrepentant Nazi officers and scientists for intelligence and technological advantages in the coming showdown with what was known as the Soviet Union. Amongst the things done for the worst war criminals was safe passage (no prosecution for war crimes) and even new identities created by the United States Department of Justice. Policy was created that diverted richly deserved consequences into rich rewards for knowledge. With WWII in the rear view mirror policy-makers decided to look ahead and prepare for new challenges.

Some of us remember the savings and loans scandals where banks nearly destroyed everything in the U.S. marketplace in the 1970’s and 1980’s. Law enforcement went into high gear, investigated, and pieced together the methods and complex transactions meant to hide the guilt of the main perpetrators in and out of government and the business world. More than 800 people went to jail. Of course, none of the banks had achieved the size that now exists in our financial marketplace.

Increasing the mass of individual financial institutions produced a corresponding capacity for destruction that eclipsed anything imagined by anyone outside of Wall Street. The exponentially increasing threat was ignored as the knowledge of Einstein’s famous equation faded into obscurity. The possibilities for mass destruction of our societies was increasing exponentially as the mass of giant financial service companies grew and the accountability dropped off when they were allowed to incorporate and even sell their shares publicly, replacing a system, hundreds of years old in which partners were ultimately liable for losses they created.

The next generation of world dominators would be able to bring the world to its knees without firing a shot or gassing anyone. Institutions grew as malignancies on steroids and created the illusion of contributing half our gross domestic product while real work, real production and real inventions were constrained to function in a marketplace that had been reduced by 1/3 of its capacity — leaving the banks in control of  $7 trillion per year in what was counted as gross domestic product. Our primary output by far was trading paper based upon dubious and fictitious underlying transactions; if those transactions had existed, the share of GDP attributed to financial services would have remained at a constant 16%. Instead it grew to half of GDP.  The “paradox” of financial services becoming increasingly powerful and generating more revenues than any other sector while the rest of the economy was stagnating was noted by many, but nothing was done. The truth of this “paradox” is that it was a lie — a grand illusion created by the greatest salesmen on Wall Street.

So even minimum wage lost 1/3 of its value adjusted for inflation while salaries, profits and bonuses were conferred upon people deemed as financial geniuses as a natural consequence of believing the myths promulgated by Wall Street with its control over all forms of information, including information from the government.

But calling out Wall Street would mean admitting that the United States had made a wrong turn with horrendous results. No longer the supreme leader in education, medical care, crime, safety, happiness and most of all prospects for social and economic mobility, the United States had become supreme only through its military strength and the appearance of strength in the world of high finance, its currency being the world’s reserve despite the reality of the ailing economy and widening inequality of wealth and opportunity — the attributes of a banana republic.

All of us remember the great crash of 2008-2009. It was as close as could be imagined to a world wide nuclear attack, resulting in the apparent collapse of economies, tens of millions of people being reduced to poverty, tossed out of their homes, sleeping in cars, divorces, murder, riots, suicide and the loss of millions of jobs on a rising scale (over 700,000 per month when Obama took office) that did not stop rising until 2010 and which has yet to be corrected to figures that economists say would mean that our economy is functioning at proper levels. Month after month more than 700,000 people lost their jobs instead of a net gain of 300,000 jobs. It was a reversal of 1 million jobs per month that could clean out the country and every myth about us in less than a year.

The cause lay with misbehavior of the banks — again. This time the destruction was so wide and so deep that all conditions necessary for the collapse of our society and our government were present. Policy makers, law enforcement and regulators decided that it was better to maintain the illusion of business as usual in a last ditch effort to maintain the fabric of our society even if it meant that guilty people would go free and even be rewarded. It was a decision that was probably correct at the time given the available information, but it was a policy based upon an inaccurate description of the disaster written and produced by the banks themselves. Once the true information was discovered the government made another wrong turn — staying the course when the threat of collapse was over. In a sense it was worse than giving Nazi war criminals asylum because at the time they were protected by the Department of Justice their crimes were complete and there existed little opportunity for them to repeat those crimes. It could be fairly stated that they posed no existing threat to safety of the country. Not so for the banks.

Now as all the theft, deceit and arrogance are revealed, the original premise of the DOJ in granting the immunity from prosecution was based upon fraudulent information from the very people to whom they were granting safe passage. We have lost 5 million homes in foreclosure from their past crimes, but we remain in the midst of the commission of crimes — another 5 million illegal, wrongful foreclosures is continuing to wind its way through the courts.

Not one person has been prosecuted, not one statement has been made acknowledging the crimes, the continuing deceit in sworn filings with regulators, and the continuing drain on the economy and our ability to finance and capitalize on innovation to replace the lost productivity in real goods and services.

We are still in the death grip of the banks as they attempt to portray themselves as the bulwarks of society even as they continue to rob us of homes, lives, jobs and vitally needed capital which is being channeled into natural resources so that when we commence the gargantuan task of repairing our infrastructure we can no longer afford it and must borrow the money from the thieves who created the gaping hole in our economy threatening the soul of our democracy. If the crimes were in the rear view mirror one could argue that the policy makers could make decisions to protect our future. But the crimes are not just in the rear view mirror. More crimes lie ahead with the theft of an equal number of millions of homes based on false and wrongful foreclosures deriving their legitimacy from an illusion of debt — an illusion so artfully created that most people still believe the debts exist. Without a very sophisticated knowledge of exotic finance it seems inconceivable that a homeowner could receive the benefits of a loan and at the same time or shortly thereafter have the debt extinguished by third parties who were paid richly for doing so.

Job creation would be unleashed if we had the courage to stop the continuing fraud. It is time for the government to step forward and call them out, stop the virtual genocide and let the chips fall where they might when the paper giants collapse. It’s complicated, but that is your job. Few people lack the understanding that the bankers behind this mess belong in jail. This includes regulators, law enforcement and even judges. but the “secret” tacit message is not to mess with the status quo until we are sure it won’t topple our whole society and economy.

The time is now. If we leave the bankers alone they are highly likely to cause another crash in both financial instruments and economically by hoarding natural resources until the prices are intolerably high and we all end up pleading for payment terms on basic raw materials for the rebuilding of infrastructure. If we leave them alone another 20 million people will be displaced as more than 5 million foreclosures get processed in the next 3-4 years. If we leave them alone, we are allowing a clear and present danger to the future of our society and the prospects for safety and world peace. Don’t blame Wall Street — they are just doing what they were sent to do — make money. You don’t hold the soldier responsible for firing a bullet when he was ordered to do so. But you do blame the policy makers that him or her there. And you stop them when the policy is threatening another crash.

Stop them now, jail the ones who can be prosecuted, and take apart the large banks. IMF economists and central bankers around the world are looking on in horror at the new order of things hoping that when the United States has exhausted all other options, they will finally do the right thing. (see Winston Churchill quote to that effect).

But forget not that the ultimate power of government is in the hands of the people at large and that the regulators and law enforcement and judges are working for us, on our nickle. Action like Occupy Wall Street is required and you can see the growing nature of that movement in a sweep that is entirely missed by those who arrogantly pull the levers of power now. OWS despite criticism is proving the point — it isn’t new leaders that will get us out of this — it is the withdrawal of consent of the governed one by one without political affiliation or worshiping sound sound biting, hate mongering politicians.

People have asked me why I have not until now endorsed the OWS movement. The reason was that I wanted to give them time to see if they could actually accomplish the counter-intuitive result of exercising power without direct involvement in a corrupt political process. They have proven the point and they are likely to be a major force undermining the demagogues and greedy bankers and businesses who care more about their bottom line than their society that gives them the opportunity to earn that bottom line.

New Fraud Evidence Shows Trillions Of Dollars In Mortgages Have No Owner
http://thinkprogress.org/economy/2013/08/13/2460891/new-fraud-evidence-shows-trillions-of-dollars-in-mortgages-have-no-owner/

ELIZABETH WARREN AND JOHN MCCAIN TEAM UP TO REIGN IN BANKS

Go to www.msnbc.com. CONTACT YOUR SENATORS AND CONGRESSMEN AND WOMEN. LET THEM KNOW THEY ALREADY HAVE YOUR SUPPORT FOR THIS LAW AND THAT THEY DON’T NEED TO SELL THEMSELVES TO GET SUPPORT FROM THEIR CONSTITUENCY.

MSNBC had a segment today in which they interviewed Elizabeth Warren about a new set of laws reinstating the old style of Chinese walls. There are probably similar interviews on other channels with Senator Warren or Senator McCain and others. Just go to your favorite news channel and look it up. Their approach has bi partisan support because of its simplicity and its history. Historically it is merely a tune-up of the old laws to include definitions of new financial products that did not exist and were not adequately considered in the 1930’s when EVERYONE AGREED THE RESTRICTIONS WERE NEEDED.

Bottom Line: RETURN TO THE BORING BANK SAFETY WITHOUT BOOMS AND BUSTS FROM 1930’s into the 1990’s: leading republicans and democrats are stepping out of gridlock into agreement. They want to stop Wall Street from access to checking and savings accounts for use in high risk investment banking because that is what brought us to the brink and some say brought us Into the abyss. And it would stop commercial banks that are depository institutions for your checking and savings accounts from using your money on deposit in ways where there is a substantial risk of loss that would require FDIC ((taxpayer) intervention.

Banking should be boring. In the years when restrictions were in place we only had one serious breach of banking practices — the S&L Scandal in the 1980’s. But it didn’t threaten the viability of our entire economy and more than 800 people were serving prison terms when the dust cleared. Of course Bankers saw prison terms as an invasion of their business practices and regulation as unnecessary.

But the simple reason for bipartisan support is that the public is enraged that the mega banks (too big to fail) have GROWN 30% SINCE THE 2007-2008 while the people on Main Street are losing jobs, homes, businesses, families (divorce), thus stifling an already grievously injured economy because credit and cash are now scarce — unless you are a mega bank that made hundreds of billions or even trillions of dollars because they were able to create an illusion (securitization) and at the same time, knowing it was an illusion, they bet heavily using extreme leverage on the illusion being popped.

They made it so complex as to be intimidating to even bank regulators. So no wonder borrowers could not realize or even contemplate that their mortgage was not a perfected lien, so they admitted it. Foreclosure defense attorneys made the same mistake and added to it by admitting the default without knowing who had paid what money that should have been allocated to the loan receivable account of the borrower that was supposedly converted for a note receivable from the borrower to a bond receivable from an asset pool that supposedly owned the note receivable account.

The complexity made it challenging to enforce regulations and laws. The complexity was hidden behind curtains for reasons of “privacy”. The real reason is that as long as bankers know they are acting behind a curtain, they are subject to moral hazard. In this case it erupted into the largest PONZI scheme in human history.

And the proof of that just beginning to come out in the courts as judges are confronted with an absurd position — where the banks “foreclosing” on homes and businesses want delays and the borrower wants to move the case alone; and where those same banks want a resolution (FORECLOSURE OR BUST) that ALWAYS yields the least possible mitigation damages, the least coverage for the alleged loss on the note because they would be liable for all the money they made on the bond. Just yesterday I was in Court asking for expedited discovery and the Judge’s demeanor changed visibly when the Plaintiff seeking Foreclosure refused to agree to such terms. The Judge wanted to know why the defendant borrower wanted to speed the case up while the Plaintiff bank wanted to slow it down.

And because of all the multiple sales, the insurance funds, the proceeds of credit default swaps, because the initial money funding mortgages came from depositors (“investors”), and all the money from the Federal Reserve who is still paying off these bond receivables 100 cents to the dollar — all that money amounting to far more than the loans to borrowers — because it related to the bond receivable, the banks think they can withhold allocation of that money to the receivable until after foreclosure and avoid refunding all the excess payments to the borrower the investor and everyone else who paid money in this scheme. And the system is letting them because it is difficult to distinguish between the note receivable and the bond receivable and the asset pool that issued the bond to the actual lender/depositor.

Senators Warren and McCain and others want to put an end to even the illusion that such an argument would even be entertained. Support them now if not for yourselves then for your children and grandchildren.

Why Everyone Should Support Principal Corrections on Mortgages

First, let’s talk to the guy that says homeowners shouldn’t get a break because it would be unfair to him. After all he paid his mortgage and he is still paying his mortgage and nobody is helping him, right? Wrong. Everyone who has a mortgage is getting a federal subsidy. They get to pay less in taxes and the more they owe, the less taxes they pay. That is the interest deduction for home ownership. So the question is not whether homeowners should get help, because they all get help. And if the guy who still has his home doesn’t wake up to the fact that foreclosures mean fewer homeowners and fewer homeowners means that those who want to eliminate the home mortgage interest deduction will get more traction. They already have a number of people in high places who would like this federal subsidy eliminated because it does nothing for big business and big banking. Putting your support into whatever it takes for people to stay in their homes and pay on mortgages, even if they are lower, means more people that would join you in opposition to eliminating the interest deduction. Oppose them and it will cost you thousands of dollars in additional taxes.

Next, those who are ideologically opposed to any relief for someone who stops paying on a loan. They say that if we don’t hold the borrower’s feet to the fire, we will undermine the entire concept of credit because borrowers would think they could walk away from any debt and would do so. The evidence is in. Most borrowers don’t want to walk from their debt. They want the deal they were sold on by the banks — an affordable loan. They didn’t get it because the originators were not acting as banks. The originators were getting paid for signatures not good loans. What is undermining the credit industry is that nobody trusts the creditors and won’t take the deal on hedge products and swaps. It isn’t that the financial world trusts the borrower any more or any less. They don’t trust the banks because they corrupted the loan underwriting process and because it was the banks who screwed up real estate title and obscured the ownership of loans thus freezing the once liquid credit markets that were running very well on the Uniform Commercial Code. Now we are parsing words and splitting hairs — what is a possessor, holder, holder in due course, what is the effect of fabricated loans, assignments, substitutions, notices, auctions, credit bids, deeds and evictions? If you want confidence in the credit markets restored, we must show that we can control the banks so they can’t do this again.

The main reason everyone should support principal correction is that it is a correction. The values used were pure fabrication created to induce pension funds to throw money down a rabbit hole called a “REMIC POOL” and to induce the homeowner into thinking that he was getting the deal of a lifetime. That was fraud. And in this country when someone is defrauded we take the bounty away from the perpetrators and return it to the victims.

Az Sheriff Spends 2200 Hours on Birth Certificate — None on Foreclosure Docs

I know this is a very hot political topic and that to some people it matters a great deal where Obama was born. I question the idiocy of an Arizona sheriff spending 2200 hours of cold case time on a birth certificate from Hawaii. The amazing revelation to me is that this sheriff has shown that he could take apart the “layering” on hundreds of thousands of recorded documents filed in support of fraudulent foreclosures.

So here we have a sheriff sitting on mountains of eviction papers, serving those papers, and even forcing homeowners out of their homes at gun point, knowing full well that the evictions are based upon false declarations of fact in fabricated documents. And he could prove it and charge the culprits. Instead he limits his inquiry into a Hawaiian birth certificate. What am I missing?

NY Times: Borrowers are not deadbeats

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Free Houses Go To Banks Not Borrowers

Kamala D. Harris, the attorney general of California, is adamant that homeowners are not looking to abuse the system. “I have met with these families,” she said, “and every single one of them wants to pay to stay in their homes.”

EDITOR’S COMMENT: The Attorney General of the state of California is not the only one who has come to the conclusion that the “free house” mythology has been turned on its head.  All the Attorney Generals in all the states know that homeowners are victims and the banks are the predators in our current situation.

Taking their cue from political strategists, the banks have preempted the accusation that they are stealing homes with a widespread and repeated lie that homeowners are seeking a “free house”. 

In 2008 and 2009 I gave extended formal and informal testimony before law enforcement officials and law makers proving that free houses were only going to the banks with no exceptions.  In every case where I have interviewed or heard from the many thousands of homeowners whom we have helped at livinglies the homeowner was always willing to pay to stay.  In fact they were always willing to accept a mortgage balance in excess of the fair market value of the home.  

We all know the values were wrong when the mortgages were originated.  We all know who the experts were who used those values to sell bogus mortgage bonds and bogus mortgage loans.  It wasn’t the homeowners, it wasn’t the pension funds, it was and continues to be the banks who still control the servicers, the trustees, foreclosure specialists that act strictly in accordance with the instructions of the banks that caused this mess.

The bottom line is that until the facts catch up with the myth promulgated by the banks, the bulk of the risk of loss caused by the banks will be avoided by the banks, with the further result being that the risk of loss is completely absorbed by the US taxpayer and homeowners.  Homeowners have demonstrated with hundreds of thousands of requests for modifications that they are willing to pay far more than the proceeds of foreclosure as reported to the pension funds and other investors.  The entire securitization scheme and the entire foreclosure scheme is a living lie.  

The banks control the narrative because we insist on believing that we are different than the guy down the street.  As long as we actively search for ways to separate ourselves from others, to make ourselves different than, or better than another, that’s the myth and the chasm they can exploit.  When we realize that we are all the same, and we are all getting screwed in the same way, by the same people then things will change.  Hats off to the Occupy Movement for providing each of us with the opportunity to help ourselves by standing up for our neighbor.  The Occupy Movement operates in the context of the best American traditions of civil disobedience.

Moral Hazard: A Tempest-Tossed Idea

By 

THE reports outraged America: In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, people who fled the ravaged Gulf Coast were spending disaster relief, paid for by taxpayers, on tattoos, $800 handbags and trips to topless bars.

It turned out that few, if any, Katrina evacuees actually did any such thing. A vast majority used debit cards issued by FEMA to buy necessities like food and clothing. But the damage was done: FEMA swore that it would never hand out money like that again.

Behind this brouhaha was an idea that Americans seem particularly preoccupied with. It is called “moral hazard” — an obscure insurance term that has taken on new currency in our troubled economy. We’ve heard a lot about moral hazard lately, first in connection with the bailouts for big banks, and now with efforts to help homeowners who got in over their heads.

Moral hazard sounds like the name of a video game set in a bordello, but in economic terms it refers to the undue risks that people are apt to take if they don’t have to bear the consequences. In other words, if the money is free, why not spend it on a designer purse? If you know that you’ll be bailed out, why not roll the dice on some tricky mortgage investments — or splurge on a home that you can’t really afford?

Moral hazard became part of the national conversation in the financial crisis of 2008, when ordinary Americans wondered why they should rescue banks that helped drive the economy off a cliff. Now those same banks point to moral hazard to explain why they can’t do more to help people with mortgages. And it’s not just banks — the Tea Party movement was inspired by outrage over a government plan to, as Rick Santelli put it in a famous rant on CNBC, “subsidize the losers’ mortgages.”

The cherished American ideal of self-reliance has a flip side: discomfort with the idea of bailouts and safety nets. The notion that even a small portion of such aid might find its way to the undeserving can be enough to scuttle support, or restrict help so drastically that few can use it. The specter of moral hazard haunts a basic tension in American life: to what extent are people responsible for their own problems? The more trouble you’re in, moral hazard suggests, the less we should help.

Bankers say that generously easing loan terms or reducing mortgages outright would only encourage homeowners who can pay to pretend they can’t. It would also, the bankers say, send a dangerous message: a financial commitment isn’t really a commitment. Economists and policy makers say the bankers are right — but only to a point. Shaun Donovan, the secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, said that there was a “nugget of truth” to the moral hazard argument. But he also said that only about 10 or 15 percent of Americans who can still pay their mortgages try to walk away from their debt. Most troubled homeowners, like the Katrina victims, are genuinely hard up.

Kamala D. Harris, the attorney general of California, is adamant that homeowners are not looking to abuse the system. “I have met with these families,” she said, “and every single one of them wants to pay to stay in their homes.”

Still, the $26 billion deal that authorities struck with banks this month over foreclosure abuses — a main element of which will require the banks to reduce homeowner debt — angers some. Homeowners who keep paying their mortgages, even if their homes have lost value, reasonably wonder why neighbors who weren’t as responsible are getting help.

On the other hand, the problems in the housing market are a problem for all of us. Many economists and housing experts agree that the debt that now looms over homeowners is holding back a broad recovery.

Since the settlement was announced, pressure has mounted for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the mortgage giants whose loans are not eligible for the deal, to allow debt relief for their borrowers as well. But concerns over moral hazard, among other things, have held them back.

MORAL hazard has long been used to explain why social safety nets like welfare, unemployment insurance and workers’ compensation should be less generous. It is almost always applied to the recipients, rather than the providers, of such benefits. A lot of energy has gone into arguing that higher workers’ comp payments, for example, make workers careless. Far less is said about how lower workers’ comp invites moral hazard for employers by, say, making them less attentive to workplace safety.

Economists have longcomplained that moral hazard could easily be described in more neutral language, like “misaligned incentives.” But the term, with its implied judgment, has stuck.

It seems to have originated in the 19th-century insurance industry. (Hazard was a popular game of dice.) Insurers drew a bright line between natural hazards, like storms, and moral hazards, like playing with matches, that stemmed from what the 1867 edition of the Aetna Guide to Fire Insurance called “carelessness and roguery.”

Today, insurers battle moral hazard with co-pays and deductibles. If you have health insurance, you are, based on the theory of moral hazard, less likely to avoid smoking, and more likely to go to the doctor for a common cold. But in a 2005 article in The New Yorker, titled “The Moral Hazard Myth,” Malcolm Gladwell noted that people with insurance do not check into hospitals for their enjoyment, and that people without insurance forgo preventive care that could save thousands of dollars. Moral hazard also overlooks the noneconomic costs of risky actions like smoking — costs like ruined lungs, suffering and death.

“The economics of moral hazard work to convince us that, however well intentioned, social responsibility is a bad thing,” Tom Baker, a law professor at the University of Pennsylvania, wrote in “On the Genealogy of Moral Hazard,” a historical account published in 1996. “Moral hazard signifies the perverse consequences of well-intentioned efforts to share the burdens of life, and it also helps deny that refusing to share those burdens is mean-spirited or self-interested.”

That is not to say that there is no such thing as moral hazard. Economists point to a 2008 settlement in which Countrywide Financial announced that it would modify subprime loans for people who were delinquent. Suddenly, many of Countrywide’s subprime customers stopped paying.

But remedies can be designed to reduce moral hazard, said Adam J. Levitin, a Georgetown University law professor and mortgage expert. He points out that Countrywide, now owned by Bank of America, offered help only to those in default, instead of to all those who were given suspect loans. In the case of the debit cards, an investigation found that FEMA neither checked the identity of recipients nor told them how the money could be spent.

Under the new foreclosure settlement, only homeowners who were already delinquent will be eligible for principal reduction.

Plenty of other factors keep homeowners from trying to shirk commitments, said Elyse D. Cherry, C.E.O. of a community development group, Boston Community Capital. Ruined credit makes it harder to borrow money, get an apartment and, with employers increasingly doing credit checks, find a job. Moving is hard on families. And then there are the larger social costs: pockmarked neighborhoods and declining property values.

Moral hazard, Ms. Cherry said, “is hogwash.” That is an interesting view coming from a woman who runs what might be considered a petri dish for moral hazard. Boston Community Capital buys homes that have gone into foreclosure, then sells them back to the original owner at a price they can afford. If homeowners later sell at a profit, they must split the proceeds with Boston Community Capital.

Presumably anyone who heard about the program, which is small, would be tempted to default. Banks are so sensitive to this possibility that many forbid the resale of a foreclosed home to its original owner, even though it would make no difference to the banks’ bottom line.

But usually, the clients have defaulted long before hearing about the program. Some, in fact, are packed and waiting for eviction.

Consider the case of one Boston Community client. In one view, she might seem like a classic case of moral hazard — the kind of person many Americans are loath to help. When the banks offered to lend her money against the rising value of her home, she happily accepted. Now she owes $400,000 on a house worth closer to $100,000. Aiding her now might only encourage that type of behavior.

Another view is that she is a working person striving for the American Dream. She had every reason to believe that her bankers knew more about finance than she did. She paid a contractor for renovations; he absconded. When the recession hit, her work dried up and her home’s value dropped. Now, she’d love to buy back the home for its current market price.

WHICH view is correct?

Ms. Cherry answers that question with a question: Does it matter? Moral hazard, she said, has been used to fend off solutions long enough.

“Let’s assume that the guy who says, ‘I paid my mortgage; why shouldn’t she pay hers?’ wins, right?” Ms. Cherry said. “Now what do we do? How is that a strategy for getting out of the problem that we’re in?”



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