The Devil is in the Details — The Mortgage Cannot Be Enforced, Even If the Note Can Be Enforced

Cashmere v Department of Revenue

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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Editor’s Introduction: The REAL truth behind securitization of so-called mortgage loans comes out in tax litigation. There a competent Judge who is familiar with the terms of art used in the world of finance makes judgements based upon real evidence and real comprehension of how each part affects another in the “securitization fail” (Adam Levitin) that took us by surprise. In the beginning (2007) I was saying the loans were securitized and the banks were saying there was no securitization and there was no trust.

Within a short period of time (2008) I deduced that there securitization had failed and that no Trust was getting the money from investors who thought they were buying mortgage backed securities and therefore the Trust could never be a holder in due course. I deduced this from the complete absence of claims that they were holders in due course. Whether they initiated foreclosure as servicer, trustee or trust there was no claim of holder in due course. This was peculiar because all the elements of a holder in due course appeared to be present because that is what was required in the securitization documents — at least in the Pooling and Servicing Agreement and prospectus.

If the foreclosing party was a holder in due course they would merely have to show what the securitization required — a purchase in good faith of the loan documents for value without knowledge of any of borrower’s defenses.  This would bar virtually any defense by the borrower and allow them to get a judgment on the note and a foreclosure based upon the auxiliary contract for collateral — the mortgage. But they didn’t allege that for reasons that I have described in recent articles — they could not, as part of their prima facie case, prove that any party in their “chain” had funded or paid any money for the loan.

After analyzing this case, consider the possibility that there is no party in existence who has the power to foreclose. The Trust beneficiaries clearly don’t have that right. The Trust doesn’t either because they didn’t pay anything for it. The Trustee doesn’t have that right because it can only assert the rights of the Trust and Trust beneficiaries. The servicer doesn’t have that right because it derives its authority from the Pooling and Servicing Agreement which does not apply because the loan never made it into the Trust. The originator doesn’t have the right both because they never loaned the money and now disclaim any interest in the mortgage.

Then consider the fact that it is ONLY the investors who have their money at risk but that they failed to get any documentation securing their “involuntary loans.” They might have actions to recover money from the borrower, but those actions are far from secured, and certainly subject to numerous defenses. The investors are barred from enforcing either the note or the mortgage by the terms of the instruments, the terms of the PSA and the rule of law. They are left with an unsecured common law right of action to get what they can from a claim for unjust enrichment or some other type of claim that actually reflects the true facts of the original transaction in which the borrower did receive a loan, but not from anyone represented at the loan closing.

Now we have the Cashmere case. The only assumption that the Court seems to get wrong is that the investors were trust beneficiaries because the court was assuming that the Trust received the proceeds of sale of the bonds. This does not appear to be the case. But the case also explains why the investors wanted to take the position that they were trust beneficiaries in order to get the tax treatment they thought they were getting. So here we have the victims and perpetrators of the fraud taking the same side because of potentially catastrophic results in tax treatment — potentially treating principal payments as ordinary income. That would reduce the return on investment below zero. They lost.

http://stopforeclosurefraud.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/Cashmere-v-Dept-of-Revenue.pdf

I have changed fonts to emphasize certain portion of the following excerpts from the Case decision:

“Cashmere’s investments merely gave Cashmere the right to receive specific cash flows generated by the assets of the trust at specific times. But if the REMIC trustee failed to pay Cashmere according to the terms of the investment, Cashmere had no right to sell the mortgage loans or the residential property or any other asset of the trust to satisfy this obligation. Cf. Dep’t of Revenue v. Sec. Pac. Bank of Wash. Nat’/ Ass’n, 109 Wn. App. 795, 808, 38 P.3d 354 (2002) (deduction allowed because mortgage companies transferred ownership of loans to taxpayer who could sell the oans in event of default). Cashmere’s only recourse would be to sue the trustee for performance of the obligation or attempt to replace the trustee. The trustee’s successor would then take legal title to the underlying securities or other assets of the related trust. At no time could Cashmere take control of trust assets and reduce them to cash to satisfy a debt obligation. Thus, we hold that under the plain language of the statute, Cashmere’s investments in REMICs are not primarily secured by mortgages or deeds of trust.
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“Cashmere argues that the investments are secure because the trustee is obligated to protect the investors’ interests and the trustee has the right to foreclose. But, this is not always the case. The underlying mortgages back all of the tranches, and a trustee must balance competing interests between investors of different tranches. Thus, a default in one tranche does not automatically give the holders of that tranche a right to force foreclosure. We hold that if the terms of the trust do not give beneficiaries an investment secured by trust assets, the trustee’s fiduciary obligations do not transform the investment into a secured investment.

“In a 1990 determination, DOR explained why interest earned from investments in REMICs does not qualify for the mortgage tax deduction. see Wash. Dep’t of Revenue, Determination No. 90-288, 10 Wash. Tax Dec. 314 (1990). A savings and loan association sought a refund of B&O taxes assessed on interest earned from investments in REMICs. The taxpayer argued that because interest received from investments in pass-through securities is deductible, interest received on REMICs
should be too. DOR rejected the deduction, explaining that with pass-through securities, the issuer holds the mortgages in trust for the investor. In the event of individual default, the issuer, as trustee, will foreclose on the property to satisfy the terms of the loan. In other words, the right to foreclose is directly related to homeowner defaults-in the event of default, the trustee can foreclose and the proceeds from foreclosure flow to investors who have a beneficial ownership interest in the underlying mortgage. Thus, investments in pass-through securities are “primarily secured by” first mortgages.

“By contrast, with REMICs, a trustee’s default may or may not coincide with an individual homeowner default. So, there may be no right of foreclosure in the event a trustee fails to make a payment. And if a trustee can and does foreclose, proceeds from the sale do not necessarily go to the investors. Foreclosure does not affect the trustee’s obligations vis-a-vis the investor. Indeed, the Washington Mutual REMIC here contains a commonly used form of guaranty: “For any month, if the master servicer receives a payment on a mortgage loan that is less than the full scheduled payment or if no payment is received at all, the master servicer will advance its own funds to cover the shortfall.” “The master servicer will not be required to make advances if it determines that those advances will not be recoverable” in the future. At foreclosure or liquidation, any proceeds will go “first to the servicer to pay back any advances it might have made in the past.” Similarly, agency REMICs, like the Fannie Mae REMIC Trust 2000-38, guarantee payments even if mortgage borrowers default, regardless of whether the issuer expects to recover those payments. Moreover, the assets held in a REMIC trust are often MBSs, not mortgages.

“So, if the trustee defaults, the investors may require the trustee to sell the MBS, but the investor cannot compel foreclosure of individual properties. DOR also noted that it has consistently allowed the owners of a qualifying mortgage to claim the deduction in RCW 82.04.4292. But the taxpayer who invests in REMICs does not have any ownership interest in the MBSs placed in trust as collateral, much less any ownership interest in the mortgage themselves. By contrast, a pass-through security represents a beneficial ownership of a fractional undivided interest in a pool of first lien residential mortgage loans. Thus, DOR concluded that while investments in pass-through securities qualify for the tax deduction, investments in REMICs do not. We should defer to DOR’s interpretation because it comports with the plain meaning of the statute.

“Moreover, this case is factually distinct. Borrowers making the payments that eventually end up in Cashmere’s REMIC investments do not pay Cashmere, nor do they borrow money from Cashmere. The borrowers do not owe Cashmere for use of borrowed money, and they do not have any existing contracts with Cashmere. Unlike HomeStreet, Cashmere did not have an ongoing and enforceable relationship with borrowers and security for payments did not rest directly on borrowers’ promises to repay the loans. Indeed, REMIC investors are far removed from the underlying mortgages. Interest received from investments in REMICs is often repackaged several times and no longer resembles payments that homeowners are making on their mortgages.

“We affirm the Court of Appeals and hold that Cashmere’s REMIC investments are not “primarily secured by” first mortgages or deeds of trust on nontransient residential real properties. Cashmere has not shown that REMICs are secured-only that the underlying loans are primarily secured by first mortgages or deeds of trust. Although these investments gave Cashmere the right to receive specific cash flows generated by first mortgage loans, the borrowers on the original loans had no obligation to pay Cashmere. Relatedly, Cashmere has no direct or indirect legal recourse to the underlying mortgages as security for the investment. The mere fact that the trustee may be able to foreclose on behalf of trust beneficiaries does not mean the investment is “primarily secured” by first mortgages or deeds of trust.

Editor’s Note: The one thing that makes this case even more problematic is that it does not appear that the Trust ever paid for the acquisition or origination of loans. THAT implies that the Trust didn’t have the money to do so. Because the business of the trust was the acquisition or origination of loans. If the Trust didn’t have the money, THAT implies the Trust didn’t receive the proceeds of sale from their issuance of MBS. And THAT implies that the investors are not Trust beneficiaries in any substantive sense because even though the bonds were issued in the name of the securities broker as street name nominee (non objecting status) for the benefit of the investors, the bonds were issued in a transaction that was never completed.

Thus the investors become simply involuntary direct lenders through a conduit system to which they never agreed. The broker dealer controls all aspects of the actual money transfers and claims the amounts left over as fees or profits from proprietary trading. And THAT means that there is no valid mortgage because the Trust got an assignment without consideration, the Trustee has no interest in the mortgage and the investors who WERE the original source of funds were never given the protection they thought they were getting when they advanced the money. So the “lenders” (investors) knew nothing about the loan closing and neither did the borrower. The mortgage is not enforceable by the named “originator” because they were not the lender and they did not close as representative of the lenders.

There is no party who can enforce an unenforceable contract, which is what the mortgage is here. And the note is similarly defective — although if the note gets into the hands of a party who DID PAY value in good faith without knowledge of the borrower’s defenses and DID GET DELIVERY and ACCEPT DELIVERY of the loans then the note would be enforceable even if the mortgage is not. The borrower’s remedy would be to sue the people who put him into those loans, not the holder who is suing on the note because the legislature adopted the UCC and Article 3 says the risk of loss falls on the borrower even if there were defenses to the loan. The lack of consideration might be problematic but the likelihood is that the legislative imperative would be followed — allowing the holder in due course to collect from the borrower even in the absence of a loan by the so-called “originator.”

Powers of Attorney — New Documents Magically Appear

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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BONY/Mellon is among those who are attempting to use a Power of Attorney (POA) that they say proves their ownership of the note and mortgage. In No way does it prove ownership. But it almost forces the reader to assume ownership. But it is not entitled to a presumption of any kind. This is a document prepared for use in litigation and in no way is part of normal business records. They should be required to prove every word and every exhibit. The ONLY thing that would prove ownership is proof of payment. If they owned it they would be claiming HDC status. Not only doesn’t it PROVE ownership, it doesn’t even recite or warrant ownership, indemnification etc. It is a crazy document in substance but facially appealing even though it doesn’t really say anything.

The entire POA is hearsay, lacks foundation, and is irrelevant without the proper foundation be laid by the proponent of the document. I do not think it can be introduced as a business records exception since such documents are not normally created in the ordinary course of business especially with such wide sweeping powers that make no sense — unless you recognize that they are dealing with worthless paper that they are trying desperately to make valuable.

They should have given you a copy of the settlement agreement referred to in the POA and they should have identified the original PSA that is referred to in the settlement agreement. Those are the foundation documents because the POA says that the terms used are defined in the PSA, Settlement agreement or both. I want all documents that are incorporated by reference in the POA.

If you have asked whether the Trust ever paid for your loan, I would like to see their answer.

If CWALT, Inc. or CWABS, Inc., or CWMBS, Inc is anywhere in your chain of title or anywhere else mentioned in any alleged origination or transfer of your loan, I assume you asked for those and I would like to see them too.

The PSA requires that the Trust pay for and receive the loan documents by way of the depositor and custodian. The Trustee never takes possession of the loan documents. But more than that it is important to distinguish between the loan documents and the debt. If there is no debt between you and the originator (which means that the originator named on the note and mortgage never advanced you any money for the loan) then note, which is only evidence of the debt and allegedly containing the terms of repayment is only evidence of the debt — which we know does not exist if they never answered your requests for proof of payment, wire transfer or canceled check.

If you have been reading my posts the last couple of weeks you will see what I am talking about.

The POA does not warrant or even recite that YOUR loan or anything resembling control or ownership of YOUR LOAN is or was ever owned by BONY/Mellon or the alleged trust. It is a classic case of misdirection. By executing a long and very important-looking document they want the judge to presume that the recitations are true and that the unrecited assumptions are also true. None of that is correct. The reference to the PSA only shows intent to acquire loans but has no reference or exhibit identifying your loan. And even if there was such a reference or exhibit it would be fabricated and false — there being obvious evidence that they did not pay for it or any other loan.

The evidence that they did not pay consists of a lot of things but once piece of logic is irrefutable — if they were a holder in due course you would be left with no defenses. If they are not a holder in due course then they had no right to collect money from you and you might sue to get your payments back with interest, attorney fees and possibly punitive damages unless they turned over all your money to the real creditors — but that would require them to identify your real creditors (the investors who thought they were buying mortgage bonds but whose money was never given to the Trust but was instead used privately by the securities broker that did the underwriting on the bond offering).

And the main logical point for an assumption is that if they were a holder in due course they would have said so and you would be fighting with an empty gun except for predatory and improper lending practices at the loan closing which cannot be brought against the Trust and must be directed at the mortgage broker and “originator.” They have not alleged they are a holder in course.

The elements of holder in dude course are purchase for value, delivery of the loan documents, in good faith without knowledge of the borrower’s defenses. If they had paid for the loan documents they would have been more than happy to show that they did and then claim holder in due course status. The fact that the documents were not delivered in the manner set forth in the PSA — tot he depositor and custodian — is important but not likely to swing the Judge your way. If they paid they are a holder in due course.

The trust could not possibly be attacked successfully as lacking good faith or knowing the borrower’s defenses, so two out of four elements of HDC they already have. Their claim of delivery might be dubious but is not likely to convince a judge to nullify the mortgage or prevent its enforcement. Delivery will be presumed if they show up with what appears to be the original note and mortgage. So that means 3 out of the four elements of HDC status are satisfied by the Trust. The only remaining question is whether they ever entered into a transaction in which they originated or acquired any loans and whether yours was one of them.

Since they have not alleged HDC status, they are admitting they never paid for it. That means the Trust is admitting there was no payment, which means they were not entitled to delivery or ownership of the note, mortgage, or debt.

So that means they NEVER OWNED THE DEBT OR THE LOAN DOCUMENTS. AS A HOLDER IN COURSE IT WOULD NOT MATTER IF THEY OWNED THE DEBT — THE LOAN DOCUMENTS ARE ENFORCEABLE BY A HOLDER IN DUE COURSE EVEN IF THERE IS NO DEBT. THE RISK OF LOSS TO ANY PERSON WHO SIGNS A NOTE AND MORTGAGE AND ALLOWS IT TO BE TAKEN OUT OF HIS OR HER POSSESSION IS ON THE PARTY WHO TOOK IT AND THE PARTY WHO SIGNED IT — IF THERE WAS NO CONSIDERATION, THE DOCUMENTS ARE ONLY SUCCESSFULLY ENFORCED WHERE AN INNOCENT PARTY PAYS REAL VALUE AND TAKES DELIVERY OF THE NOTE AND MORTGAGE IN GOOD FAITH WITHOUT KNOWLEDGE OF THE BORROWER’S DEFENSES.

So if they did not allege they are an HDC then they are admitting they don’t own the loan papers and admitting they don’t own the loan. Since the business of the trust was to pay for origination of loans and acquisition of loans there is only one reason they wouldn’t have paid for the loan — to wit: the trust didn’t have the money. There is only one reason the trust would not have the money — they didn’t get the proceeds of the sale of the bonds. If the trust did not get the proceeds of sale of the bonds, then the trust was completely ignored in actual conduct regardless of what the documents say. Which means that the documents are not relevant to the power or authority of the servicer, master servicer, trust, or even the investors as TRUST BENEFICIARIES.

It means that the investors’ money was used directly for fees of multiple people who were not disclosed in your loan closing, and some portion of which was used to fund your loan. THAT MEANS the investors have no claim as trust beneficiaries. Their only claim is as owner of the debt, not the loan documents which were made out in favor of people other than the investors. And that means that there is no basis to claim any power, authority or rights claimed through “Securitization” (dubbed “securitization fail” by Adam Levitin).

This in turn means that the investors are owners of the debt but lack any documentation with which to enforce the debt. That doesn’t mean they can’t enforce the debt, but it does mean they can’t use the loan documents. Once they prove or you admit that you did get the loan and that the money came from them, they are entitled to a money judgment on the debt — but there is no right to foreclose because the deed of trust, like a mortgage, is made out to another party and the investors were never included in the chain of title because the intermediaries were  making money keeping it from the investors. More importantly the “other party” had no risk, made no money advance and was otherwise simply providing an illegal service to disguise a table funded loan that is “predatory per se” as per REG Z.

And THAT is why the originator received no money from successors in most cases — they didn’t ask for any money because the loan had cost them nothing and they received a fee for their services.

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”

 

Securitization for Lawyers: How it was Written by Wall Street Banks

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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Continuing with my article THE CONCEPT OF SECURITIZATION from yesterday, we have been looking at the CONCEPT of Securitization and determined there is nothing theoretically wrong with it. That alone accounts for tens of thousands of defenses” raised in foreclosure actions across the country where borrowers raised the “defense” securitization. No such thing exists. Foreclosure defense is contract defense — i.e., you need to prove that in your case the elements of contract are absent and THAT is why the note or the mortgage cannot be enforced. Keep in mind that it is entirely possible to prove that the mortgage is unenforceable even if the note remains enforceable. But as we have said in a hundred different ways, it does not appear to me that in most cases, the loan contract ever existed, or that the acquisition contract in which the loan was being “purchased” ever occurred. But much of THAT argument is left for tomorrow’s article on Securitization as it was practiced by Wall Street banks.

So we know that the concept of securitization is almost as old as commerce itself. The idea of reducing risk and increasing the opportunity for profits is an essential element of commerce and capitalism. Selling off pieces of a venture to accomplish a reduction of risk on one ship or one oil well or one loan has existed legally and properly for a long time without much problem except when a criminal used the system against us — like Ponzi, Madoff or Drier or others. And broadening the venture to include many ships, oil wells or loans makes sense to further reduce risk and increase the likelihood of a healthy profit through volume.

Syndication of loans has been around as long as banking has existed. Thus agreements to share risk and profit or actually selling “shares” of loans have been around, enabling banks to offer loans to governments, big corporations or even little ones. In the case of residential loans, few syndications are known to have been used. In 1983, syndications called securitizations appeared in residential loans, credit cards, student loans, auto loans and all types of other consumer loans where the issuance of IPO securities representing shares of bundles of debt.

For logistical and legal reasons these securitizations had to be structured to enable the flow of loans into “special purpose vehicles” (SPV) which were simply corporations, partnerships or Trusts that were formed for the sole purpose of taking ownership of loans that were originated or acquired with the money the SPV acquired from an offering of “bonds” or other “shares” representing an undivided fractional share of the entire portfolio of that particular SPV.

The structural documents presented to investors included the Prospectus, Subscription Agreement, and Pooling and Servicing Agreement (PSA). The prospectus is supposed to disclose the use of proceeds and the terms of the payback. Since the offering is in the form of a bond, it is actually a loan from the investor to the Trust, coupled with a fractional ownership interest in the alleged “pool of assets” that is going into the Trust by virtue of the Trustee’s acceptance of the assets. That acceptance executed by the Trustee is in the Pooling and Servicing Agreement, which is an exhibit to the Prospectus. In theory that is proper. The problem is that the assets don’t exist, can’t be put in the trust and the proceeds of sale of the Trust mortgage-backed bonds doesn’t go into the Trust or any account that is under the authority of the Trustee.

The writing of the securitization documents was done by a handful of law firms under the direction of a few individual lawyers, most of whom I have not been able to identify. One of them is located in Chicago. There are some reports that 9 lawyers from a New Jersey law firm resigned rather than participate in the drafting of the documents. The reports include emails from the 9 lawyers saying that they refused to be involved in the writing of a “criminal enterprise.”

I believe the report is true, after reading so many documents that purport to create a securitization scheme. The documents themselves start off with what one would and should expect in the terms and provisions of a Prospectus, Pooling and Servicing Agreement etc. But as you read through them, you see the initial terms and provisions eroded to the point of extinction. What is left is an amalgam of options for the broker dealers selling the mortgage backed bonds.

The options all lead down roads that are absolutely opposite to what any real party in interest would allow or give their consent or agreement. The lenders (investors) would never have agreed to what was allowed in the documents. The rating agencies and insurers and guarantors would never have gone along with the scheme if they had truly understood what was intended. And of course the “borrowers” (homeowners) had no idea that claims of securitization existed as to the origination or intended acquisition their loans. Allan Greenspan, former Federal Reserve Chairman, said he read the documents and couldn’t understand them. He also said that he had more than 100 PhD’s and lawyers who read them and couldn’t understand them either.

Greenspan believed that “market forces” would correct the ambiguities. That means he believed that people who were actually dealing with these securities as buyers, sellers, rating agencies, insurers and guarantors would reject them if the appropriate safety measures were not adopted. After he left the Federal Reserve he admitted he was wrong. Market forces did not and could not correct the deficiencies and defects in the entire process.

The REAL document is the Assignment and Assumption Agreement that is NOT usually disclosed or attached as an exhibit to the Prospectus. THAT is the agreement that controls everything that happens with the borrower at the time of the alleged “closing.” See me on YouTube to explain the Assignment and Assumption Agreement. Suffice it to say that contrary to the representations made in the sale of the bonds by the broker to the investor, the money from the investor goes into the control of the broker dealer and NOT the REMIC Trust. The Broker Dealer filters some of the money down to closings in the name of “originators” ranging from large (Wells Fargo, Countrywide) to small (First Magnus et al). I’ll tell you why tomorrow or the next day. The originators are essentially renting their names the same as the Trustees of the REMIC Trusts. It looks right but isn’t what it appears. Done properly, the lender on the note and mortgage would be the REMIC Trust or a common aggregator. But if the Banks did it properly they wouldn’t have had such a joyful time in the moral hazard zone.

The PSA turned out to be the primary document creating the Trusts that were creating primarily under the laws of the State of New York because New York and a few other states had a statute that said that any variance from the express terms of the Trust was VOID, not voidable. This gave an added measure of protection to the investors that the SPV would not be used for any purpose other than what was described, and eliminated the need for them to sue the Trustee or the Trust for misuse of their funds. What the investors did not understand was that there were provisions in the enabling documents that allowed the brokers and other intermediaries to ignore the Trust altogether, assert ownership in the name of a broker or broker-controlled entity and trade on both the loans and the bonds.

The Prospectus SHOULD have contained the full list of all loans that were being aggregated into the SPV or Trust. And the Trust instrument (PSA) should have shown that the investors were receiving not only a promise to repay them but also a share ownership in the pool of loans. One of the first signals that Wall Street was running an illegal scheme was that most prospectuses stated that the pool assets were disclosed in an attached spreadsheet, which contained the description of loans that were already in existence and were then accepted by the Trustee of the SPV (REMIC Trust) in the Pooling and Servicing Agreement. The problem was that the vast majority of Prospectuses and Pooling and Servicing agreements either omitted the exhibit showing the list of loans or stated outright that the attached list was not the real list and that the loans on the spreadsheet were by example only and not the real loans.

Most of the investors were “stable managed funds.” This is a term of art that applied to retirement, pension and similar type of managed funds that were under strict restrictions about the risk they could take, which is to say, the risk had to be as close to zero as possible. So in order to present a pool that the fund manager of a stable managed fund could invest fund assets the investment had to qualify under the rules and regulations restricting the activities of stable managed funds. The presence of stable managed funds buying the bonds or shares of the Trust also encouraged other types of investors to buy the bonds or shares.

But the number of loans (which were in the thousands) in each bundle made it impractical for the fund managers of stable managed funds to examine the portfolio. For the most part, if they done so they would not found one loan that was actually in existence and obviously would not have done the deal. But they didn’t do it. They left it on trust for the broker dealers to prove the quality of the investment in bonds or shares of the SPV or Trust.

So the broker dealers who were creating the SPVs (Trusts) and selling the bonds or shares, went to the rating agencies which are quasi governmental units that give a score not unlike the credit score given to individuals. Under pressure from the broker dealers, the rating agencies went from quality culture to a profit culture. The broker dealers were offering fees and even premium on fees for evaluation and rating of the bonds or shares they were offering. They HAD to have a rating that the bonds or shares were “investment grade,” which would enable the stable managed funds to buy the bonds or shares. The rating agencies were used because they had been independent sources of evaluation of risk and viability of an investment, especially bonds — even if the bonds were not treated as securities under a 1998 law signed into law by President Clinton at the behest of both republicans and Democrats.

Dozens of people in the rating agencies set off warning bells and red flags stating that these were not investment grade securities and that the entire SPV or Trust would fail because it had to fail.  The broker dealers who were the underwriters on nearly all the business done by the rating agencies used threats, intimidation and the carrot of greater profits to get the ratings they wanted. and responded to threats that the broker would get the rating they wanted from another rating agency and that they would not ever do business with the reluctant rating agency ever again — threatening to effectively put the rating agency out of business. At the rating agencies, the “objectors” were either terminated or reassigned. Reports in the Wal Street Journal show that it was custom and practice for the rating officers to be taken on fishing trips or other perks in order to get the required the ratings that made Wall Street scheme of “securitization” possible.

This threat was also used against real estate appraisers prompting them in 2005 to send a petition to Congress signed by 8,000 appraisers, in which they said that the instructions for appraisal had been changed from a fair market value appraisal to an appraisal that would make each deal work. the appraisers were told that if they didn’t “play ball” they would never be hired again to do another appraisal. Many left the industry, but the remaining ones, succumbed to the pressure and, like the rating agencies, they gave the broker dealers what they wanted. And insurers of the bonds or shares freely issued policies based upon the same premise — the rating from the respected rating agencies. And ultimate this also effected both guarantors of the loans and “guarantors” of the bonds or shares in the Trusts.

So the investors were now presented with an insured investment grade rating from a respected and trusted source. The interest rate return was attractive — i.e., the expected return was higher than any of the current alternatives that were available. Some fund managers still refused to participate and they are the only ones that didn’t lose money in the crisis caused by Wall Street — except for a period of time through the negative impact on the stock market and bond market when all securities became suspect.

In order for there to be a “bundle” of loans that would go into a pool owned by the Trust there had to be an aggregator. The aggregator was typically the CDO Manager (CDO= Collateralized Debt Obligation) or some entity controlled by the broker dealer who was selling the bonds or shares of the SPV or Trust. So regardless of whether the loan was originated with funds from the SPV or was originated by an actual lender who sold the loan to the trust, the debts had to be processed by the aggregator to decide who would own them.

In order to protect the Trust and the investors who became Trust beneficiaries, there was a structure created that made it look like everything was under control for their benefit. The Trust was purchasing the pool within the time period prescribed by the Internal Revenue Code. The IRC allowed the creation of entities that were essentially conduits in real estate mortgages — called Real Estate Mortgage Investment Conduits (REMICs). It allows for the conduit to be set up and to “do business” for 90 days during which it must acquire whatever assets are being acquired. The REMIC Trust then distributes the profits to the investors. In reality, the investors were getting worthless bonds issued by unfunded trusts for the acquisition of assets that were never purchased (because the trusts didn’t have the money to buy them).

The TRUSTEE of the REMIC Trust would be called a Trustee and should have had the powers and duties of a Trustee. But instead the written provisions not only narrowed the duties and obligations of the Trustee but actual prevented both the Trustee and the beneficiaries from even inquiring about the actual portfolio or the status of any loan or group of loans. The way it was written, the Trustee of the REMIC Trust was in actuality renting its name to appear as Trustee in order to give credence to the offering to investors.

There was also a Depositor whose purpose was to receive, process and store documents from the loan closings — except for the provisions that said, no, the custodian, would store the records. In either case it doesn’t appear that either the Depositor nor the “custodian” ever received the documents. In fact, it appears as though the documents were mostly purposely lost and destroyed, as per the Iowa University study conducted by Katherine Ann Porter in 2007. Like the others, the Depositor was renting its name as though ti was doing something when it was doing nothing.

And there was a servicer described as a Master Servicer who could delegate certain functions to subservicers. And buried in the maze of documents containing hundreds of pages of mind-numbing descriptions and representations, there was a provision that stated the servicer would pay the monthly payment to the investor regardless of whether the borrower made any payment or not. The servicer could stop making those payments if it determined, in its sole discretion, that it was not “recoverable.”

This was the hidden part of the scheme that might be a simple PONZI scheme. The servicers obviously could have no interest in making payments they were not receiving from borrowers. But they did have an interest in continuing payments as long as investors were buying bonds. THAT is because the Master Servicers were the broker dealers, who were selling the bonds or shares. Those same broker dealers designated their own departments as the “underwriter.” So the underwriters wrote into the prospectus the presence of a “reserve” account, the source of funding for which was never made clear. That was intentionally vague because while some of the “servicer advance” money might have come from the investors themselves, most of it came from external “profits” claimed by the broker dealers.

The presence of  servicer advances is problematic for those who are pursuing foreclosures. Besides the fact that they could not possibly own the loan, and that they couldn’t possibly be a proper representative of an owner of the loan or Holder in Due Course, the actual creditor (the group of investors or theoretically the REMIC Trust) never shows a default of any kind even when the servicers or sub-servicers declare a default, send a notice of default, send a notice of acceleration etc. What they are doing is escalating their volunteer payments to the creditor — made for their own reasons — to the status of a holder or even a holder in due course — despite the fact that they never acquired the loan, the debt, the note or the mortgage.

The essential fact here is that the only paperwork that shows actual transfer of money is that which contains a check or wire transfer from investor to the broker dealer — and then from the broker dealer to various entities including the CLOSING AGENT (not the originator) who applied the funds to a closing in which the originator was named as the Lender when they had never advanced any funds, were being paid as a vendor, and would sign anything, just to get another fee. The money received by the borrower or paid on behalf of the borrower was money from the investors, not the Trust.

So the note should have named the investors, not the Trust nor the originator. And the mortgage should have made the investors the mortgagee, not the Trust nor the originator. The actual note and mortgage signed in favor of the originator were both void documents because they failed to identify the parties to the loan contract. Another way of looking at the same thing is to say there was no loan contract because neither the investors nor the borrowers knew or understood what was happening at the closing, neither had an opportunity to accept or reject the loan, and neither got title to the loan nor clear title after the loan. The investors were left with a debt that could be recovered probably as a demand loan, but which was unsecured by any mortgage or security agreement.

To counter that argument these intermediaries are claiming possession of the note and mortgage (a dubious proposal considering the Porter study) and therefore successfully claiming, incorrectly, that the facts don’t matter, and they have the absolute right to prevail in a foreclosure on a home secured by a mortgage that names a non-creditor as mortgagee without disclosure of the true source of funds. By claiming legal presumptions, the foreclosers are in actuality claiming that form should prevail over substance.

Thus the broker-dealers created written instruments that are the opposite of the Concept of Securitization, turning complete transparency into a brick wall. Investor should have been receiving verifiable reports and access into the portfolio of assets, none of which in actuality were ever purchased by the Trust, because the pooling and servicing agreement is devoid of any representation that the loans have been purchased by the Trust or that the Trust paid for the pool of loans. Most of the actual transfers occurred after the cutoff date for REMIC status under the IRC, violating the provisions of the PSA/Trust document that states the transfer must be complete within the 90 day cutoff period. And it appears as though the only documents even attempted to be transferred into the pool are those that are in default or in foreclosure. The vast majority of the other loans are floating in cyberspace where anyone can grab them if they know where to look.

Miami Sues JPMorgan Over Discriminatory Lending Practices

As further corroboration of the articles on this site and an infinite number of mainstream and not-so-mainstream sites, the banks sold mortgage bonds to investors under the presumption that the risk of loss was nearly zero. If done properly, securitization works. It gives a greater opportunity to more people to get home loan and other kinds of credit financing. And we now know that the primary target of many campaigns was to get new “customers” to take a loan (even if the bank wouldn’t give them a bank account) and in a huge number of cases consisted of those people who were faced with language, education and cultural challenges. Any fool would know that if you are going to do business who are restricted by such challenges, things are not likely to turn out as planned. The City of Miami thinks there is something wrong with that plan. So do I.

It is easy to see why scam artists would target such people. They are easy to convince because the con man convinces them he or she is trustworthy. The “customer” comes to rely on the seller for information about whatever it is he or she is selling. In conventional terms it might be selling insurance on a weekly payment basis or selling an annuity for a large down payment made from the proceeds of life insurance. The insurance turns out not to be real or, in less pernicious cases, the insurance doesn’t cover nearly what was promised by the seller. In any event the Seller makes money because the customer gives money to him or her. The money goes into his or her pocket and they are able to live off their ill-gotten gains.

All this gets a whole lot less obvious when the “seller” is trying to “give” money to the customer and have the customer sign loan papers. Why would anyone give up the money knowing that the loan has a larger risk of failing because the customer is challenged in some ways that make it less likely they will have employment, less likely they will have savings and less likely that they will be able to pay the interest, much less the principal amount “loaned?” It sounds like a fool’s errand — lending money to people who are not likely to pay the money back. And yet, the banks did exactly that and employed tens of thousands (10,000 convicted felons in Florida alone) to sell such loans.

The key question is not whether the banks did it to make money. The answer is obvious. Of course they were making money — but how when they were getting agreements to pay the loan from people who would never pay it back — often because after the teaser period was over it was obvious on its face that nobody in their financial circumstance could pay more than their entire household income? The only rational answer is that the banks had no risk and that they made all their money on the front end AND when the loan failed by betting against the loans they were selling to unsuspecting investors. And the only way they could pull off that maneuver is to intervene in the lending process such that the investor and borrower never meet up. And the only way they could avoid disgorgement of their illegally obtained profits from “proprietary trading” and “fees” is to foreclose on as many mortgages as possible.

So when you take the entire program on its face, you can see that foreclosure was an integral part of their profit model because it cuts off the rights of borrowers, investors, insurers etc. from demanding disgorgement of illegally obtained compensation that was never disclosed at closing — an absolute requirement under the Truth in Lending Act. And they knew the day would come when everything would collapse and the proof of that is that they were betting on exactly that to happen.

And they knew that they would be destroying documents, “losing” documents etc such that they would be fabricating those documents with such advanced technology that the borrower never realized that he was being shown a document he had never seen before, much less signed. And finally, they knew they would be fined and censured. No matter — they simply used investor money again to pay fines and damages that were caused by the banks put are being paid by still unsuspecting investors. (except for people like Vincent Fiorillo bond manager at DoubleLine who has had enough of this game).

The Miami suit needs to result in discovery that digs deep into the books of JPMorgan to see just how much money was made on each of those bad loans (bad for both the investors and the borrowers) to see just how much money they made, how they made it and how much they made. The results will astonish most casual observers. The bottom line is that the banks made profits that were higher than anytime in history but they weren’t really “profits.” They were proceeds of theft.

It should all be disgorged and the communities that were decimated by the Bank should be restored. That is the RIGHT thing, especially when you learn that many of the “loans” were the result of hard sell, midnight visits signing piles of documents the customer had no way of understanding and no opportunity to read even if they could understand them. Add to that the refi’s were really homes that were paid off or  nearly paid off. If they had just been left alone, the same people would have actual positive net worth and would never have faced foreclosure.

JPMorgan sued by Miami over mortgage discrimination

  • At issue are alleged predatory lending practices in minority neighborhoods since at least 2004 which Miami blames for causing waves of foreclosures in the housing bust. After issuing high-cost loans to minorities, JPMorgan (JPM -0.3%), says the city, refused to refinance on the same eased terms extended to others.
  • The lawsuit follows a similar one launched a few weeks ago by Los Angeles.  Wells Fargo, Citi, and BofA face similar charges.
 Read more at Seeking Alpha:

http://seekingalpha.com/currents/post/1802293?source=ipadportfolioapp_email

AMGAR

After years of writing about the AMGAR program, people are finally asking about this program. So here is a summary of the program. As usual I caution you against using my articles as the final word on any subject. Before you make any decisions about your loans, whether you are in foreclosure, collection or otherwise you should seek competent legal counsel who is licensed in the jurisdiction in which the collateral is located. Also for those who think they would invest in such a program, you should seek both legal advice and consult with a person qualified and licensed as a financial adviser. And for full disclosure, this plan does include an equity provision and fees to the livinglies team.

The AMGAR program was first developed by me when I was living in Arizona where, after the 2008-2009 crash, the state was facing a $3 Billion deficit. The Chairman of the Arizona House Judiciary Committee invited me to testify about possible solutions to the foreclosure crisis, which at that time was just ramping up. So I developed a program that I called the Arizona Mortgage Guarantee and Resolution plan, which was dubbed “AMGAR.” Now the acronym stands for American Mortgage Guarantee and Resolution program. In Arizona it was mostly a governmental program with some private enterprise components.

For a while it looked as though Arizona would adopt the program and pass the necessary legislation to do it. All departments of the legislative and executive branches of government had examined it carefully and concluded that I was right both as to its premises and its results.

The objective was to tax and fine the various entities that were “trading” in loans improperly, illegally and failing to report it as taxable income, as well as failing to pay the fees associated with filing such transfers in the County records of each county.

The State would essentially call the bluff of the banks, which was already obvious in 2008 — they did not appear to have any ownership interest in the loans upon which they initiated foreclosures.

Thus the State and private investors would offer to pay off the mortgage at the amount demanded if the foreclosing party could prove ownership and the balance (it was already known that the banks had received a lot of money from both public and private sources that reduced the loss and thus should have reduced the balances owed to investors, which in turn reduces the balance owed from borrowers).

The offer to pay off the the money claimed due by the forecloser was on behalf of the homeowner who would enter into an agreement with AMGAR for a new, real, valid mortgage at fair market value with industry standard terms instead of the exotic mortgages that borrowers were lured into signing when they understood practically nothing about the loan. The State would levy a tax or enforce existing taxes against the participants in the alleged securitization plan for the trading they had been doing. The State would foreclose on the tax liens thus opening the door to settlements that would reduce the amount expended on paying off the old loan.

The AMGAR program would receive a mortgage and note equal to what was actually paid out to the foreclosing parties, which was presumed to be discounted sharply because of their inability to prove ownership and balance. Hence the state would receive a valid note and mortgage for every penny they paid and it would receive the taxes and fees that were due and unpaid, and then sell these clean mortgages into the secondary market place. Both the legislative and executive branches of Arizona government — all relevant departments — concluded that the plan would erase the $3 Billion Arizona deficit and put a virtual halt on foreclosures that had already turned new developments into ghost towns.

But the plan went dark when certain influential Republicans in the state apparently received the word from the banks to kill the program.

Not to be deterred from what I considered to be a bold, innovative program aimed at the truth about the hundreds of thousands of wrongful foreclosures, I embarked on a persistent plan of to raise interest and capital to put the program into use. This time the offer to payoff the old loan would come from (1) homeowners who could afford to make the offer and (2) investors who were willing to assume the apparent risk of paying $700,000 as a payoff, only to receive a mortgage and note equal to a much lower fair market value. But the new plan had a kicker for investors to assume that risk.

The plan worked for the few people who were homeowners, in foreclosure and who had the resources to make the offer. Unlike the buyback issue raised by Martha Coakley last week, the plan avoided any possible rule prohibiting the homeowner from getting the house back and in fact employed existing laws permitting the borrower to pay off the loan rather than suffer the loss of the property.

The offer specifies what constitutes proof for purposes of the offer and thus avoids varying interpretations by judges who might think one presumption or another carries the day for the banks. This plan requires actual transactional proof of payments for the origination and acquisition of the loan, and actual disclosure of the loss mitigation payments received by or on behalf of the creditors (investors).

As expected, the banks tried to say that they didn’t have to accept the money. They wanted the foreclosure. But nobody bought that argument. The myth that the bank was “reclaiming” the property was just that — a myth. The bank never owned the property. It was interesting watching the bank back peddle on producing proof that it MUST have had if it brought foreclosure proceedings. But they didn’t have it because it didn’t exist.

Banks claimed to have loaned money to the homeowner and thus were entitled to payment first, or failing that, THEN foreclosure. And what has resulted is an array of confidential settlements in which I cannot reveal the contents without putting the homeowner in danger of losing their home. Suffice it to say they were satisfied.

The reason I am writing about this again is that the latest development is a series of investors have approached me with a request for development of a plan that would put AMGAR into effect. They are looking for profit so that is what I am giving them in the new plan. This has not yet been launched but there are several iterations of the plan that may be offered through one or more entities. You might say this plan is published for comment although we are already processing candidates for which the plan would be used.

If I am right, along with everyone else who says the mortgages, assignments, transactions are all fake with no canceled checks, wire transfer receipts or anything else showing that they funded the origination or acquisition of the loan, then it follows that at the very least the mortgage is an unenforceable document even if it is recorded.

If things go according to plan, then the bank will be forced to either put up or shut up in court — either providing the reasonable proof required by the commitment or offer or suffer a dismissal or judgment for the homeowner. It would not be up to the Judge to state what proof was required. Instead the Judge would only be called upon to determine that the bank had failed to properly respond — giving information they should have had all along. The debt might theoretically exist payable to SOMEONE, but it wouldn’t be secured debt and therefore not subject to foreclosure. The mortgage encumbrance in the public records could then be removed by a court order. Title would be cleared.

Investors would be taking what appears to be a giant risk but obviously perception of the risk is declining.   If the bank comes up with verifiable proof of ownership and balance (according to the terms of the offer or commitment), then the investor pays the bank and gets back a note and mortgage for much less. If the bank loses and the mortgage encumbrance is removed as a result of the assumption of that risk, then the investor gets a fee — 30% of the original loan balance expressed in a new mortgage and note at market rates over 30 years.

So the payoff is quite large to the investors if their assumptions are correct. If they are incorrect they lose all the expenses advanced for the homeowner, all the expenses of selection and potentially the money they put in escrow or the court registry to show proof that the offer is real.

We are currently vetting potential candidates for this program both from the homeowner side and the investor side. This type of investment while potentially lucrative, poses a large risk of loss. People should not invest in such a program unless they do not rely on the money invested for their income or lifestyle. They should be qualified investors as specified by SEC rules even if the SEC rules don’t apply. No money will be accepted and no homeowner will be signed up for the program until we have concluded all registrations necessary for launching the program.

Homeowners who want to be considered as candidates for this program should acquire a title and securitization report, plus a review by our staff, including myself.

You should have a title and securitization report anyway, in my opinion. If you already have one then send it to neilfgarfield@hotmail.com. If you don’t have such a report but would like to obtain one call 954-495-9867 or 520-405-1688 to order the report and review. If you already know someone who does this work, then call them, but a review by a qualified person with a financial background is important as well as a review by a qualified, licensed attorney.

Fannie and Freddie Slammed by Massachusetts AG

Martha Coakley gets it. Read her letter. Being a politician she does not say that the abstract fear of strategic defaults on all loans across the board is absurd. Well, actually she does say it. Principal reductions and ending patently illegal policies preventing homeowners from buying back their own property at auction are at the center of the solution to the foreclosure mess along with one more thing: things will change when we get the answer to the question IF THESE POLICIES HURT LENDERS, INVESTORS AND BORROWERS, WHY WOULD ANYONE LISTEN TO A THIRD PARTY WHO BENEFITS?

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As the new head of the Federal Agency administrating Fannie and Freddie, Watts, replacing DeMarco, signals a major change in policy and regulations. The question is whether he means it. There is no doubt at the White House that the economy will continue to be dragged down by foreclosures. Their answer to the problem lies in modifications with “principal reductions” and loosening some standards for lending and securitization.

While the modification policies should be changed, this isn’t enough. Modification has been used as a tool of Wall Street to lure unwary borrowers into the illusion of immediate relief only to be faced with terms that are worse than the borrowers had before when underwriting was virtually nonexistent — albeit with some fees and other “skin in the game” restrictions that could slow up some of the continuing securitization fraud.

The issue is still the same and the fear is still there — will the entire system collapse if we stop putting the full brunt of the foreclosure mess on the backs of unsophisticated homeowners who were induced to buy loan products that were filled with false pretenses, false assumptions and nonexistent review, verification and other underwriting procedures.

At this point, considering the rampant appraisal fraud, homeowners should be given an opportunity to regain equity and have some skin in the game — as opposed to the all or nothing proposition they are fighting in court with complete strangers to their transactions 000 alleged by parties relying on evidentiary presumptions rather than real facts of each transaction.

In 2007 I proposed amnesty for everyone and that everyone share in the the losses from civil and perhaps criminal fraud caused by the banks taking money from investors and applying it to loans that were guaranteed to fail and then scaring government into thinking that the world would end if they were called on this predatory and illegal practice on the basis of being too big too fail.

Too big to fail is a myth. First, the banks can’t collapse because they are cash rich off shore. Trillions were siphoned out of pension funds, taxpayers and insurers and guarantors taking so much money that the federal reserve had to engage in various schemes of direct and disguised quantitative easing (like buying mortgage bonds that were worthless at 100% of par value). The losses claimed by the banks were also fictional.

At this point everyone at the levers of power knows the truth. The trusts were never funded and the trusts never acquired the loans. This places the investors in the position of being undifferentiated and unattached creditors for loans they funded but were never  given proper documentation in the form of notes payable tot he investors and mortgages pledging collateral to the investors, leaving them as unsecured creditors.

But now the government is committed financially to a policy of continuing fraud started by the banks which is the same thing that is happening in court. The issue is not whether a deadbeat homeowner will get a free house (that is a choice presented by the banks in a false set of presumptions). despite the dire straits of investors in worthless and fraudulent mortgage bonds, homeowners are mostly willing to offer new notes and new mortgages that reflect economic reality. No, those deadbeats are nothing of the sort. They are hard working, play by the rules people who simply want a fair deal and they are willing to shoulder the loss forced on them by the banks.

Want to test it out? Call us about our AMGAR project — 7 years in the making — in which we call the bluff of the banks. It takes money, but the investors are starting to line up to help, and the homeowners with independent assets to offer the money rather than the foreclosure are racking up wins in case after case. Watch the banks back peddle as they reject the money in favor of their much needed foreclosure judgment and sale so they can report the loan was a bust — and therefore the money the banks received in servicer payments to the investors, insurance tot he banks, guarantees and other proceed from other obligors won’t need to be paid back.

And if played properly, the tax revenue due from the banks for violations of the REMIC provisions, part of which will fall on investors who fail to make their case against the broker dealers who sold them that mortgage crap, will more than offset the lack of revenue on Federal and State levels. All they need to do is give up on too big to fail and give up on thinking that killing the middle class is a good idea because the burden must fall somewhere. In fraud, the burden falls on the perpetrators not the victims although it is rare that restitution ever equals the loss. Virtually every foreclosure is merely the court’s complicity in the continuing fraud.

Remember the playbook of the bank attorneys into undermine your confidence until the very last second when they submit their voluntary dismissal in court. Call their bluff, offer the money based upon YOUR terms or the terms of an investor who is willing to make the commitment. Your terms require proof of ownership and proof of balance after credits for third party payments. you will find they don’t own the loan and the balance of the loan has already been paid down or paid off entirely.

Don’t just file motions to enforce discovery. File motions with affidavits from forensic analysts that explain why you need what you are asking for. You’ll get the order. And as soon as you get the order, the offers of settlement will start pouring in.

For information and further assistance please call 520-405-1688 or 954-495-9867. We provide help and guidance to professionals that know foreclosure defense, foreclosure offense, modifications, short-sales, Hardest Hit Funds and other Federal, State and private programs. Remember to ask about AMGAR. It is time to strike back. Let the other side start feeling the pain.

see http://www.nytimes.com/2014/05/14/business/Melvin-Watt-shifts-course-on-fannie-mae-and-freddie-mac.html?ref=business&_r=0

 

Fatal Flaws in the Origination of Loans and Assignments

The secured party, the identified creditor, the payee on the note, the mortgagee on the mortgage, the beneficiary under the deed of trust should have been the investor(s) — not the originator, not the aggregator, not the servicer, not any REMIC Trust, not any Trustee of a REMIC Trust, and not any Trustee substituted by a false beneficiary on a deed of Trust, not the master servicer and not even the broker dealer. And certainly not whoever is pretending to be a legal party in interest who, without injury to themselves or anyone they represent, could or should force the forfeiture of property in which they have no interest — all to the detriment of the investor-lenders and the borrowers.
There are two fatal flaws in the origination of the loan and in the origination of the assignment of the loan.

As I see it …

The REAL Transaction is between the investors, as an unnamed group, and the borrower(s). This is taken from the single transaction rule and step transaction doctrine that is used extensively in Tax Law. Since the REMIC trust is a tax creature, it seems all the more appropriate to use existing federal tax law decisions to decide the substance of these transactions.

If the money from the investors was actually channeled through the REMIC trust, through a bank account over which the Trustee for the REMIC trust had control, and if the Trustee had issued payment for the loan, and if that happened within the cutoff period, then if the loan was assigned during the cutoff period, and if the delivery of the documents called for in the PSA occurred within the cutoff period, then the transaction would be real and the paperwork would be real EXCEPT THAT

Where the originator of the loan was neither legally the lender nor legally a representative of the source of funds for the transaction, then by simple rules of contract, the originator was incapable of executing any transfer documents for the note or mortgage (deed of trust in nonjudicial states).

If the originator of the loan was not the lender, not the creditor, not a party who could legally execute a satisfaction of the mortgage and a cancellation of the note then who was?

Our answer is nobody, which I know is “counter-intuitive” — a euphemism for crazy conspiracy theorist. But here is why I know that the REMIC trust was never involved in the transaction and that the originator was never the source of funds except in those cases where securitization was never involved (less than 2% of all loans made, whether still existing or “satisfied” or “foreclosed”).

The broker dealer never intended for the REMIC trust to actually own the mortgage loans and caused the REMIC trust to issue mortgage bonds containing an indenture for repayment and ownership of the underlying loans. But there were never any underlying loans (except for some trusts created in the 1990’s). The prospectus said plainly that the excel spreadsheet attached to the prospectus contained loan information that would be replaced by the real loans once they were acquired. This is a practice on Wall Street called selling forward. In all other marketplaces, it is called fraud. But like short-selling, it is permissible on Wall Street.

The broker dealer never intended the investors to actually own the bonds either. Those were issued in street name nominee, non objecting status/ The broker dealer could report to the investor that the investor was the actual or equitable owner of the bonds in an end of month statement when in fact the promises in the Pooling and Servicing Agreement as to insurance, credit default swaps, overcollateralization (a violation of the terms of the promissory note executed by residential borrowers), cross collateralization (also a violation of the borrower’s note), guarantees, servicer advances and trust or trustee advances would all be payable, at the discretion of the broker dealer, to the broker dealer and perhaps never reported or paid to the “trust beneficiaries” who were in fact merely defrauded investors. The only reason the servicer advances were paid to the investors was to lull them into a false sense of security and to encourage them to buy still more of these empty (less than junk) bonds.

By re-creating the notes signed by residential borrowers as various different instruments, and there being no limit on the number of times it could be insured or subject to receiving the proceeds of credit default swaps, (and with the broker dealer being the Master Servicer with SOLE discretion as to whether to declare a credit event that was binding on the insurer, counter-party etc), the broker dealers were able to sell the loans multiple times and sell the bonds multiple times. The leverage at Bear Stearns stacked up to 42 times the actual transaction — for which the return was infinite because the Bear used investor money to do the deal.

Hence we know from direct evidence in the public domain that this was the plan for the “claim” of securitization — which is to say that there never was any securitization of any of the loans. The REMIC Trust was ignored, thus the PSA, servicer rights, etc. were all nonbinding, making all of them volunteers earning considerable money, undisclosed to the investors who would have been furious to see how their money was being used and the borrowers who didn’t see the train wreck coming even from 24 inches from the closing documents.

Before the first loan application was received (and obviously before the first “closing” occurred) the money had been taken from investors for the expressed purpose of funding loans through the REMIC Trust. The originator in all cases was subject to an assignment and assumption agreement which made the loan the property and liability of the counter-party to the A&A BEFORE the money was given to the borrower or paid out on behalf of the borrower. Without the investor, there would have been no loan. without the borrower, there would have been no investment (but there would still be an investor left holding the bag having advanced money for mortgage bonds issued by a REMIC trust that had no assets, and no income to pay the bonds off).

The closing agent never “noticed” that the funds did not come from the actual originator. Since the amount was right, the money went into the closing agent’s escrow account and was then applied by the escrow agent to fund the loan to the borrower. But the rules were that the originator was not allowed to touch or handle or process the money or any overpayment.

Wire transfer instructions specified that any overage was to be returned to the sender who was neither the originator nor any party in privity with the originator. This was intended to prevent moral hazard (theft, of the same type the banks themselves were committing) and to create a layer of bankruptcy remote, liability remote originators whose sins could only be visited upon the aggregators, and CDO conduits constructed by CDO managers in the broker dealers IF the proponent of a claim could pierce a dozen fire walls of corporate veils.

NOW to answer your question, if the REMIC trust was ignored, and was a sham used to steal money from pension funds, but the money of the pension fund landed on the “closing table,” then who should have been named on the note and mortgage (deed of trust beneficiary in non-judicial states)? Obviously the investor(s) should have been protected with a note and mortgage made out in their name or in the name of their entity. It wasn’t.

And the originator was intentionally isolated from privity with the source of funds. That means to me, and I assume you agree, that the investor(s) should have been on the note as payee, the investor(s) should have been on the mortgage as mortgagees (or beneficiaries under the deed of trust) but INSTEAD a stranger to the transaction with no money in the deal allowed their name to be rented as though they were the actual lender.

In turn it was this third party stranger nominee straw-man who supposedly executed assignments, endorsements, and other instruments of power or transfer (sometimes long after they went out of business) on a note and mortgage over which they had no right to control and in which they had no interest and for which they could suffer no loss.

Thus the paperwork that should have been used was never created, executed or delivered. The paperwork that that was created referred to a transaction between the named parties that never occurred. No state allows equitable mortgages, nor should they. But even if that theory was somehow employed here, it would be in favor of the individual investors who actually suffered the loss rather than the foreclosing entity who bears no risk of loss on the loan given to the borrower at closing. They might have other claims against numerous parties including the borrower, but those claims are unliquidated and unsecured.

The secured party, the identified creditor, the payee on the note, the mortgagee on the mortgage, the beneficiary under the deed of trust should have been the investor(s) — not the originator, not the aggregator, not the servicer, not any REMIC Trust, not any Trustee of a REMIC Trust, and not any Trustee substituted by a false beneficiary on a deed of Trust, not the master servicer and not even the broker dealer. And certainly not whoever is pretending to be a legal party in interest who, without injury to themselves or anyone they represent, could or should force the forfeiture of property in which they have no interest — all to the detriment of the investor-lenders and the borrowers.

Why any court would allow the conduits and bookkeepers to take over the show to the obvious detriment and damage to the real parties in interest is a question that only legal historians will be able to answer.

The Step Transaction and Single Transaction Doctrine

Jim Macklin and Dan Edstrom did a great job of packing a great deal of information into 28 minutes of talk time on the Neil Garfield Show last night. I am taking a couple of weeks off the show to do some common follow-up procedures to my heart surgery two years ago. Jim Macklin stepped in and did a great job of getting information into the hands of lawyers and other listeners in what turned out to be a mini-seminar on how to apply Federal tax law to the issue of ownership of the the loan. It should be heard more than once to get all the nuances they presented.

Their point was that all the binding commitments were in place before the mortgage bonds were sold and before any loans were even considered for approval. The bottom line is that the customary practice in the finance industry was to sell forward — i.e., sell the bonds based upon loans that either did not exist or had not yet been acquired by the REMIC trusts. THEN they went out originating loans and acquiring loans.

As we have previously discussed here and elsewhere, the trusts and the trustee never even had a bank account through which the “pass through” assets and income would be funneled to investors. But that only adds fuel to the fire that Edstrom and Macklin were talking about. From a federal tax law perspective, which should pre-empt any state interpretation, the loans belonged to the investors from the start — not the trusts.

The trusts could only be used as a representative entity in litigation if they were funded with the investors’ money. Our research strongly supports the conclusion that no such funding took place. In fact, our research indicates the funding of the trust with the investors money was impossible because no trust accounts were ever created.

Thus you have the “straight line” that goes from the investors to the borrower. This goes directly to the issue of standing. Because once it is established that the consideration for the only real single transaction flowed from the investors to the borrower, no transaction between intermediaries were true.

They were false transactions supported by fabricated documents with no payment of consideration. Article 9 of the UCC completely supports this interpretation along with decisions interpreting federal tax law as to the real parties in interest. As a result the issue of standing is resolved — only the investors have standing to collect on the loans for which borrowers concede they received the money or the benefit.

The assignments shown in court are between intermediary parties who had no actual transaction with no actual payment or consideration because the payment or consideration had already passed through binding commitments set up by the so-called securitization scheme. By not funding the trusts, the broker dealers were free to use the money as they wished and they did.

They broke every rule in the underwriting book because they were traveling under a different set of rules than the investors or the borrowers thought. Because they had promised to make the payments due under the trust document — the pooling and servicing agreement — and because their binding commitments to make the payments for principal, interest, taxes and insurance already existed prior to the sale the mortgage bonds and prior to the loan to the borrower (see servicer advances, trust advances etc.).

As a result, the investors who should have been on the notes and mortgages were deprived of the documentation they were promised in the PSA. In plain language the mortgage documents and the bond documentation were pure fabrications without any underlying transaction between the parties to those transactions. No transaction between the investor and the trust. And no transaction between the “lender” on the note and mortgage and the borrower.

Hence the allegation of investors in their claims against the broker dealers that the note and mortgage is unenforceable to the detriment of the investors, who are left with common law claims for recovery of damages without any security instrument to protect them. hence the claim that borrowers are being sued by intermediaries who were strangers to the ACTUAL transaction with REAL consideration and terms to which both lender and borrower were bound. The terms agreed by the lenders were vastly different than the terms disclosed to borrowers. There was no meeting of the minds.

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.

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  • DON’T ASSUME YOUR LOAN IS IN DEFAULT — IT PROBABLY ISN’T EVEN IF YOU DIDN’T MAKE A PAYMENT!

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  • DON’T ASSUME YOU ARE UNDERWATER — YOU HAVE CLAIMS THAT MAY MORE THAN OFFSET THE LOSS!

  • DON’T ASSUME YOU HAVE A MORTGAGE — YOU MAY HAVE A DEBT BUT IT PROBABLY IS UNSECURED!

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Don’t be so fast to leave your home just because you are “behind”. Those payments might not be due at all or if they are, they are probably not owed to the people you are paying.

We are very pleased with the responses from our devoted readers, many of whom are direct contributors to this site. The insights, forms and analysis from the many soldiers — lawyers and laymen alike has made this site the premier resource for assisting distressed homeowners in gaining relief — sometimes total relief — from Mortgages based upon false appraisals, using predatory lending practices and withholding vital information from borrowers at the closing table.

How many borrowers would have signed on the dotted line if they had known that they were signing a ticket for unprecedented and unjustified fees and profits earned by unknown parties — sometimes as much as the mortgage itself?

How many investors would have put up the money if they had known that only some of it was being used to fund mortgage transactions and that the rest was being kept as fees, profits and reserves to pay them out of their own money? EDUCATE YOURSELF! DOWNLOAD THE ATTORNEY WORKBOOK WITH FORMS, DISCUSSION, PRESENTATION SLIDES, GRAPHS, GLOSSARY AND STATUTES OR BUY THE LAWYER\’S DVD CLE FULL-DAY SEMINAR SET

The victims here are all homeowners and all consumers and all investors and all  taxpayers. The companies seeking to foreclose never owned the mortgage, note or obligation. They have no right to your property or the proceeds of sale to your property. Use this blogsite as your resource to educate yourself. Consult with local counsel. AT LEAST START WITH A LOAN SPECIFIC TITLE SEARCH WITHOUT COMMENTARY AND SEE FOR YOURSELF WHERE THE BREAKS ARE IN THE CHAIN OF TITLE. SUBSCRIBE AS A MEMBER TO GET MULTIPLE BENEFITS AND DISCOUNTS Get a forensic review NOT just a “TILA loan audit” and challenge EVERYTHING!

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MEDIATIONS, MODIFICATIONS, SHORT-SALES AND SETTLEMENTS

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AUTHORITY AND AGENCY

In “Fair Game” Gretchen Morgenson continues to unravel the failing process of “saving homes” while the world ignores the simple truth that legally the homes are in no jeopardy but for the pranks and illusions created by the pretender lenders.

  • There is no valid foreclosure, auction, mediation, modification, short-sale, satisfaction of mortgage, release and re-conveyance, or even settlement with a party to whom the money is not owed and a party owning no rights under the security instrument (the mortgage or deed of trust).

It is all an illusion given reality by repetition not by truth. It is fraud ignored by courts who naturally find it far more likely that a deadbeat homeowner is trying to trick the court than a world class bank or someone pretending to be an agent of a world class bank. But in the end, whether title moves by foreclosure or any of the procedures mentioned above, there is no clear title. There is clouded, fatally defective title and a settlement with a party lacking any power to even be in the room.

This is why I have maintained that lawyers err when they do not aggressively (on the front end despite the rules requiring mediation etc.) insist on proof of authority to represent and proof of agency and proof that a decision-maker is in the room. If those elements are not satisfied, there can be deal — only the appearance of a deal.It is entirely possible that not even the lawyer has authority to represent and that the lawyer has conflicts of interest when you make the challenge. If a lawyer asserts he represents a party you have a right to demand proof of that. I’ve seen dozens of cases unravel at just that point.

The foreclosure mills play musical chairs but they are forgetting that this fraud on the court may come back and haunt them with liability, discipline and even criminal charges. They keep their options open until they absolutely are forced to name a pretender lender. That lawyer standing in the room has generally spoken to nobody other than a secretary in his own firm. he doesn’t know the client, or any representative of the client. He or she presumed to be authorized to represent the client because the file was given to him or her.

Think I am kidding. Try it out on Deutsch Bank or U.S. Bank or BONY-Mellon. Demand that the lawyer produce incontrovertible proof that their client knows the case even exists and that this lawyer represents them.

From what I am seeing, this interrupts the flow of plausible deniability. Nobody high up in the food chain wants to come in and say they have personal knowledge or that they have anything to do with these foreclosures. They just want their monthly fee for pretending to be Trustee over a pool that was never created, much less funded. They will try to use affidavits from people who know nothing and who are probably not even employed by the “client.” Even if they are employed a quick inquiry will reveal that the signatory lacks authority to hire legal counsel and has no personal knowledge of the case.

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September 18, 2010

When Mortgage Mediation Is a Gamble

By GRETCHEN MORGENSON

NEVADA — one of the states where home prices went stratospheric during the housing mania — is now reporting some of the nation’s most horrifying foreclosure figures. Last week, RealtyTrac said that 1 in every 84 households in the state had received a foreclosure notice in August, 4.5 times the national average.

To mitigate this continuing disaster, the Nevada Assembly created a foreclosure mediation program last year. Intended to help keep families in their homes, the program brings together troubled borrowers and their lenders to negotiate resolutions.

The program began on July 1, 2009, and in its first year, 8,738 requests for mediation were received and 4,212 completed, according to the state’s Administrative Office of the Courts. Some 668 borrowers gave up their homes and 445 were foreclosed upon in the period.

“We are the only state that requires the bank to do something — they must come to the table if the homeowner elects mediation,” said Verise V. Campbell, who administers the program. “We are now touted as the No. 1 foreclosure mediation program around the country. The program is working.”

During its first year, 2,590 cases — more than 60 percent of completed mediations — resulted in agreements between borrower and lender, Ms. Campbell said. But when asked how many actually wound up assisting homeowners through permanent loan modifications, she said her office did not track that figure.

Most of these agreements, say lawyers who have worked in Nevada’s program, were probably for temporary modifications like those that have frustrated borrowers elsewhere — you know, the kind of plan that lasts only three months until the bank decides that the borrower does not qualify for a permanent modification.

Clearly, the Nevada program is superior to the White House’s Home Affordable Modification Program, where borrowers have trouble even reaching lenders by phone. Forcing banks to meet with borrowers is definitely a good step.

But some mediators who have participated in the Nevada program and some lawyers who represent borrowers in it say it has flaws that may give the banks an advantage over borrowers.

Patrick James Martin, a lawyer in Reno who is a certified public accountant and an arbitrator for the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, was an early mediator in the program. In a recent letter to Nevada’s state court administrator, Mr. Martin expressed concern that the program favored lenders.

“I really felt the lenders didn’t have too much interest in having the program work,” Mr. Martin said in an interview. “A lawyer would show up for the lender with none of the documents required by the program. When they got into the mediation, they would call somebody in a bullpen someplace who had a computer handy and the borrower might or might not qualify for modification. No discussion, no negotiation.”

Mr. Martin said he no longer received cases to mediate.

Another experienced mediator, who declined to be identified because he feared reprisals, was removed from the system after he recommended sanctions for banks that did not meet their obligations under the program. These duties include showing up, bringing pertinent documents and having authority to negotiate with the borrower.

After this mediator made a petition for sanctions in a case this year, Ms. Campbell sent him and the other parties in the matter a letter saying that the recommendation was not a “valid Foreclosure Mediation Program document.” The letter, on Supreme Court of Nevada stationery, also stated that nothing in the law that established the mediation program “requires or permits a mediator to recommend specific sanctions.”

But the statute governing mediations in Nevada clearly specifies that if a lender does not participate in the mediation in good faith, by failing to appear, for example, “the mediator shall prepare and submit to the mediation administrator a petition and recommendation concerning the imposition of sanctions” against the lender. The court then has the power to issue sanctions, which can include forcing a loan modification.

Keith Tierney is a veteran real estate lawyer who was until recently a mediator in the program. He, too, stopped receiving mediation assignments after recommending sanctions against lenders in a number of cases. He said that a program official told him last week that he was no longer eligible because he issued a petition and recommendation for sanctions, even though that is what the law allows.

When asked why she believed that such recommendations were not allowed, Ms. Campbell said mediators who issued them were not following the program rules as interpreted by Nevada’s Supreme Court.

But Mr. Tierney said: “The statute trumps rules. Every attorney in the world knows that if a rule is in contradiction to a statute, the rule is null and void.”

Administering the program gives Ms. Campbell great power. She issues certificates allowing foreclosures to take place after mediations occur. And while she said such certificates were submitted only when mediators’ statements showed they should be, mistakes have happened.

ONE woman went through a mediation in which the lender didn’t provide necessary documents and the mediator noted it, according to legal documents. Under the rules, no certificate is supposed to be issued in such a circumstance, but shortly afterward, the borrower received notice of a trustee sale. Ms. Campbell’s office had issued a certificate allowing foreclosure; only by filing for bankruptcy could the borrower stop it.

Ms. Campbell said such problems were rare. The state doesn’t produce data that would allow her assertion to be verified.

Ms. Campbell is not a lawyer and is not a veteran of the housing or banking industries. Before overseeing the mediation program, she worked in the casino industry. She worked for a Chinese company developing a gambling property in Macau and was director of administration for the Cosmopolitan Resort and Casino in Las Vegas.

Ms. Campbell said that her position involved administrative duties, not legal insight, and that her experience overseeing large projects amply prepared her to manage the Nevada mediation program.

But David M. Crosby, the lawyer who represented the borrower whose case resulted in an erroneous foreclosure action, said significant questions remained about the program. Among them, he said, was the role that Ms. Campbell played in the process.

“Does she just do administrative stuff or does she make decisions?” he asked. “That doesn’t seem well decided.”


GMAC HALTS FORECLOSURES ADMITTING FALSE AFFIDAVITS

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From testimony in a Chase case, same as dozens of others I have seen —-

Q. So if you didn’t review any books, records, and documents or computerized records, how is it that you had personal knowledge of all the matters contained therein?

A. Well, I have personal knowledge that my staff has personal knowledge. That is our process.

KEEP IN MIND that these admitted facts now are the same facts treated with incredulity and derision from the bench and opposing counsel. The Judges were wrong. The foreclosures were wrong. Now what? How will homeowners and counsel be treated in court now? Will the Judge still think the homeowner is trying to get out of a legitimate debt or will the Courts start to allow these cases to heard on their MERITS instead of improper PRESUMPTIONS? Will the courts start following rules of evidence or will they continue to give the “benefit of the doubt” (i.e., and improper presumption) to the foreclosure mill that fabricated documents with false affidavits?

The tide is turning from defending borrowers to prosecuting damage claims for slander of title, fraud, appraisal fraud, and criminal prosecutions by state, local and federal law enforcement. GMAC is only the first of the pretender lenders to admit the false representations contained in pleadings and affidavits. The methods used to to obtain foreclosure sales were common throughout the industry. The law firms and fabrication mills will provide precious little cover for the culprits whose interests they served. AND now that millions of homes were foreclosed, their position is set and fixed — they can no longer “fix” the problem by manipulating the documents.

The bottom line is that GMAC mortgagors who “lost” their homes still own them, as I have repeatedly opined on these pages. The damages are obvious and the punitive damages available are virtually inevitable. Maybe Judges will change their minds about applying TILA and RESPA, both of which amply cover this situation. Maybe those teeth in those statutes do NOT lead to windfall gains for homeowners but only set things right.

These people can move back into their homes in my opinion and even taken possession from those who allegedly purchased them, since the title was based upon a fatal defect in the chain. Whether these people will end up owing any money and whether they might still be subject to foreclosure from SOMEBODY is not yet known, but we know that GMAC-sponsored foreclosures are now admitted to be defective. There is no reason to suppose that GMAC was any different from any of the other pretender lenders who initiated foreclosure sales either on false pleading or false instructions using the power of sale in non-judicial states.

Those hundreds of millions of dollars earned by the foreclosure mills, those tens of billions of wealth stolen from homeowner are all up for grabs as lawyers start to circle the kill, having discovered that there is more money here than any personal injury or malpractice suit and that anyone can do it with the right information on title and securitization.

With subpoenas coming in from law enforcement agencies around the country, GMAC is the first to crumble, aware that the choice was to either take a massive commercial hit for damages or face criminal charges. Finger pointing will start in earnest as the big boys claim plausible deniability in a scheme they hatched and directed. The little guys will flip on them like pancakes as they testify under oath about the instructions they received which they knew were contrary to law and the rules governing their licenses and charters. Real Estate Brokers, licensed appraisers, licensed mortgage mortgage brokers, notaries, witnesses, title agents and their collective title and liability insurance carriers will soon discover that their licenses, livelihood and reputations are not only at risk but almost certainly headed for a major hit.

There can be no doubt that all GMAC cases will be affected by this action although GMAC has thus far limited the instruction to judicial states. In non-judicial states, most of the foreclosures were done without affidavits because they were uncontested. GMAC will now find small comfort that they didn’t use affidavits but merely false instructions to “Trustees” whose status was acquired through the filing of “Substitution of Trustee” documents executed by the same folks who falsified the affidavits in the judicial states. But the fact is that GMAC was not the creditor and obtained title through a “credit bid.” THEY CAN’T FIX THIS! Thus the transfer of title was void, in my opinion, or certainly voidable.

The denial that the affidavit contained false information is patently false — and, as usual, not under oath (see below). GMAC takes the position that the affidavits were “inadvertently” signed (tens of thousands of them) by persons without knowledge of their truth or falsity and that the action is taken only to assure that the mortgage holder is actually known. So the fight isn’t over and don’t kid yourself. They are not all going to roll over and play dead. Just take this as another large step toward the ultimate remedy — reinstatement of people in their homes, damage awards to people who were defrauded, and thus restoration of hundreds of billions of dollars of wealth back into the economic sector where money is spent and the economy actually works for people who don’t trade false papers at the expense of pensioners and homeowners around the world.

September 20, 2010

GMAC Halts Foreclosures in 23 States for Review

By DAVID STREITFELD

GMAC Mortgage, one of the country’s largest and most troubled home lenders, said on Monday that it was imposing a moratorium on many of its foreclosures as it tried to ensure they were done correctly.

The lender, which specialized in subprime loans during the boom, when it was owned by General Motors, declined in an e-mail to specify how many loans would be affected or the “potential issue” it had identified with them.

GMAC said the suspension might be a few weeks or might last until the end of the year.

States where the moratorium is being carried out include New York, Connecticut, New Jersey, Illinois, Florida and 18 others, mostly on the East Coast and in the Midwest. All of the affected states are so-called judicial foreclosure states, where courts control the interactions of defaulting homeowners and their lenders.

Since the real estate collapse began, lawyers for homeowners have sparred with lenders in those states. The lawyers say that in many cases, the lenders are not in possession of the original promissory note, which is necessary for a foreclosure.

GMAC, which has been the recipient of billions of dollars of government aid, declined to provide any details or answer questions, but its actions suggest that it is concerned about potential liability in evicting families and selling houses to which it does not have clear title.

The lender said it was also reviewing completed foreclosures where the same unnamed procedure might have been used.

Matthew Weidner, a real estate lawyer in St. Petersburg, Fla., said he interpreted the lender’s actions as saying, “We have real liability here.”

Mr. Weidner said he recently received notices from the opposing counsel in two GMAC foreclosure cases that it was withdrawing an affidavit. In both cases, the document was signed by a GMAC executive who said in a deposition last year that he had routinely signed thousands of affidavits without verifying the mortgage holder.

“The Florida rules of civil procedure are explicit,” Mr. Weidner said. “If you enter an affidavit, it must be based on personal knowledge.”

The law firm seeking to withdraw the affidavits is Florida Default Law Group, which is based in Tampa. Ronald R. Wolfe, a vice president at the firm, did not return calls. The firm is under investigation by the State of Florida, according to the attorney general’s Web site.

Real estate agents who work with GMAC to sell foreclosed properties were told to halt their activities late last week. The moratorium was first reported by Bloomberg News on Monday. Bloomberg said it had obtained a company memorandum dated Friday in which GMAC Mortgage instructed brokers to immediately stop evictions, cash-for-key transactions and sales.

Nerissa Spannos, a Fort Lauderdale agent, said GMAC represents about half of her business — 15 houses at the moment in various stages of foreclosure.

“It’s all coming to a halt,” she said. “I have so many nice listings and now I can’t sell them.”

The lender’s action, she said, was unprecedented in her experience. “Every once in a while you get a message saying, ‘Take this house off the market. We have to re-foreclose.’ But this is so much bigger,” she said.

Ally Says GMAC Mortgage Mishandled Affidavits on Foreclosures

By Dakin Campbell and Lorraine Woellert – Sep 21, 2010

Ally Financial Inc., whose GMAC Mortgage unit halted evictions in 23 states amid allegations of mishandled affidavits, said its filings contained no false claims about home loans.

The “defect” in affidavits used to support evictions was “technical” and was discovered by the company, Gina Proia, an Ally spokeswoman, said in an e-mailed statement. Employees submitted affidavits containing information they didn’t personally know was true and sometimes signed without a notary present, according to the statement. Most cases will be resolved in the next few weeks and those that can’t be fixed will “require court intervention,” Proia said.

“The entire situation is unfortunate and regrettable and GMAC Mortgage is diligently working to resolve the situation,” Proia said. “There was never any intent on the part of GMAC Mortgage to bypass court rules or procedures. Nor do these failures reflect any disrespect for our courts or the judicial processes.”

State officials are investigating allegations of fraudulent foreclosures at the nation’s largest home lenders and loan servicers. Lawyers defending mortgage borrowers have accused GMAC and other lenders of foreclosing on homeowners without verifying that they own the loans. In foreclosure cases, companies commonly file affidavits to start court proceedings.

“All the banks are the same, GMAC is the only one who’s gotten caught,” said Patricia Parker, an attorney at Jacksonville, Florida-based law firm, Parker & DuFresne. “This could be huge.”

No Misstatements

Aside from signing the affidavits without knowledge or a notary, “the sum and substance of the affidavits and all content were factually accurate,” Proia wrote in the e-mail. “Our internal review has revealed no evidence of any factual misstatements or inaccuracies concerning the details typically contained in these affidavits such as the loan balance, its delinquency, and the accuracy of the note and mortgage on the underlying transaction.”

Affidavits are statements written and sworn to in the presence of someone authorized to administer an oath, such as a notary public.

GMAC told brokers and agents to halt evictions tied to foreclosures on homeowners in 23 states including Florida, Connecticut and New York and said it may have to take “corrective action” on other foreclosures, according to a Sept. 17 memo. Foreclosures won’t be suspended and will continue with “no interruption,” Proia said in a statement yesterday.

10,000 a Week

In December 2009, a GMAC Mortgage employee said in a deposition that his team of 13 people signed “a round number of 10,000” affidavits and other foreclosure documents a month without verifying their accuracy. The employee said he relied on law firms sending him the affidavits to verify their accuracy instead of checking them with GMAC’s records as required. The affidavits were then used to complete the process of repossessing homes and evicting residents.

Florida Attorney General William McCollum is investigating three law firms that represent loan servicers in foreclosures, and are alleged to have submitted fraudulent documents to the courts, according to an Aug. 10 statement. The firms handled about 80 percent of foreclosure cases in the state, according to a letter from Representative Alan Grayson, a Florida Democrat.

“It appears that the actions we have taken and the attention we’ve paid to this issue could have had some impact on the actions that GMAC took today, but we can’t take full credit,” Ryan Wiggins, a spokeswoman for McCollum, said yesterday in a telephone interview.

‘Committed Fraud’

In August, Florida Circuit Court Judge Jean Johnson blocked a Jacksonville foreclosure brought by Washington Mutual Bank N.A. and JPMorgan Chase Bank, which had purchased the failed bank’s assets, and Shapiro & Fishman, the companies’ law firm. Documents eventually showed that the mortgage on the house was in fact owned by Washington-based Fannie Mae.

WaMu and the law firm “committed fraud on this court,” Johnson wrote. JPMorgan had presented a document prepared by Shapiro showing the mortgage was sold directly to WaMu in April 2008.

Tom Ice, founding partner of Ice Legal PA in Royal Palm Beach, Florida, said a fourth law firm representing GMAC in recent weeks has begun withdrawing affidavits signed by the GMAC employee.

“The banks are sitting up and taking notice that they can’t use falsified documents in the courtroom,” Ice said. “There may be others doing the same thing. They’re going to come back and say, ‘We’d better withdraw these,’” Ice said in a telephone interview.

Alejandra Arroyave, a lawyer with Lapin & Leichtling, a law firm in Coral Gables, Florida, who represented the employee at his December 2009 deposition, didn’t respond to a request for comment. A phone call to the employee wasn’t returned.

Mortgage Market

GMAC ranked fourth among U.S. home-loan originators in the first six months of this year, with $26 billion of mortgages, according to Inside Mortgage Finance, an industry newsletter. Wells Fargo & Co. ranked first, with $160 billion, and Citigroup Inc. was fifth, with $25 billion.

Iowa Assistant Attorney General Patrick Madigan said the implications of Ally’s internal review and the GMAC employee’s deposition could be “enormous.”

“It would call into question whether other servicers have engaged in similar practices,” Madigan said in a telephone interview. “It would be a major disruption to the foreclosure pipeline.”

To contact the reporters on this story: Dakin Campbell in San Francisco at dcampbell27@bloomberg.net; Lorraine Woellert in Washington at lwoellert@bloomberg.net.

3 CASES THAT SHOW WE ARE ON THE RIGHT TRACK

SUBMITTED BY BRIAN

Three cases that show we are on the right track.
Indymac is a bad group that is going down further.

http://www.scribd.com/doc/37596878/Paul-Nygen-Judgement-Against-Lenders-09-15-10

http://www.scribd.com/doc/37617034/FDIC-Indymac-V-Van-Dellen-Complaint-Officers-of-Indymac-sued-by-FDIC-Onewest-Bank-states-106-of-the-108-loans-are-non-performing-Must-be-to-the

http://www.scribd.com/doc/37618538/Indymac-Certificate-ShareHolder-Class-Action-9th-Circuit-Interlocutory-Order-certifying-the-6th-Amended-Complaint

44 Million in Poverty and Climbing

livinglies-newsletter-provides-more-strategic-info

top-posts-and-pages

RECOVERY HELD HOSTAGE BY WALL STREET AND POLITICIANS

THIS IS WHAT I WANTED AVOID. WE ARE FAST APPROACHING THIRD WORLD STATUS, FORMER WORLD LEADER. AND THE REASON IS SIMPLE, WALL STREET OWNS THE GOVERNMENT PROCESS. THE RESULT IS THAT THE ONLY RIGHTFUL STIMULUS PACKAGE THAT WOULDN’T COST THE TAXPAYERS A DIME IS BEING BLOCKED. WAKE UP, AMERICA! IT DOESN’T HAVE TO BE THIS WAY!

THE RIGHTFUL RETURN OF EQUITY TO HOMEOWNERS AMOUNTING TO TRILLIONS OF DOLLARS (WITHOUT A DIME MORE FROM TAXPAYERS) WOULD PRODUCE ALL THE STIMULUS NECESSARY TO JUMP START OUR ECONOMY FROM REVERSE GEAR TO FORWARD. IT WOULDN’T CURE EVERYTHING BUT IT WOULD ALLOW EVERYTHING TO GO RIGHT OVER TIME.

In the article below the gruesome details are shown and we all know that when it comes to bad news, the government tends to understate it and when it comes to good news, the government tends to overstate it. 4 million people have been officially added to those living below the poverty level. The total is now 44 million people, many of them children, and the government concedes this number is going to rise.

So let’s just put politics aside for a moment and focus on practicality. Just how close do the flood waters have to come to your front door before you stop caring how they got there and who else would benefit if you drained the swamp?

About 15% of our population, the highest in decades, is officially below the poverty line and the real figure is nearly twice that because of families that have had to move in together or because they couldn’t be located to be counted. In the same period of time it took us to get there, Wall Street grew from 15% of our our economy to 44%. Those kinds of result are impossible without government complicity and intentionally channeling the money from 98% of Americans to the top 2%.

It’s not that our people are stupid. The reason we have to wait for everyone to get mad enough is that everyone is trying so hard to stay afloat for themselves and their families that they don’t have luxury of reading, analysis and staying informed. Their news comes in tiny sound bites that say nothing but inflame the passions, because that is about all we have time for. But just like you don’t have to worry about crime until there is a home invasion in YOUR home, suddenly the pendulum swings the other way as we go into defensive and offensive mode to put down this takeover of the government and economy.

It’s happening. You can see it in politics as incumbents get hammered, as well they should, in new groups forming just to get heard or just to get the the existing person in office out and somebody, anybody else in. Voter anger is only part of this. Civil incidents are rising and will continue to rise until the vast majority of people start believing that the government is keeping the peace and the government is returning the piece of the American pie to its people.

What I think is the only legally, ethically and morally right thing to do is the only practical thing to do to drain the swamp before everyone ends up below the poverty line regardless of their current apparent economic condition. The economy needs the injection of trillions of dollars in individual wealth to start a REAL RECOVERY and the government doesn’t have it and can’t print it without causing even worse conditions than we now have.

Those trillions of dollars are locked up in the bondage of bogus claims by bogus intermediaries who are holding REO property from fraudulent foreclosures and who are adding to that pile of wealth every day because the judicial system is letting them. It is true that a complete change of policy that gives the middle class and poor the benefit of the bargain they thought there were getting when they accepted the “loan product” that they were sold, along with a fraudulent appraisal and fraudulent claims that the appraisal had been verified in the underwriting process that had been fraudulently claimed to have taken place.

The trick of this scheme was to make absolutely certain that the loans pools failed. That is what they did. And to make it fail-safe they put conditions in the pools that even if they were largely performing they could still be declared in default and collect money on insurance, counter-party risk obligations (credit default swaps) etc. But they knew that virtually all the loans would fail because regardless of the borrower’s ability to pay, which they sought to recruit at as a low a standard as they could find, they knew the borrower would not WANT to pay because the  deal turned out to be like one of those car deals where you drive off the lot and you already lost 20%, drive another 100 miles and you lost 25% and so on.

Practically every borrower thought when they accepted these deals that they had equity in the deal. Practically none of them did actually have equity. They had a loss and it got worse with each passing month and every dollar they put into the home. That loss was Wall Street’s gain. By any legal standard that I know that gain was illicitly obtained and should be re turned to the borrowers. If the borrowers were offered a deal where they ended up with at least part of the equity they were sold, the foreclosures would end, the housing market would rebound, the consumers would have money, the economy would start recovering and Wall Street would shrink back to where it belongs — a small portion of a vibrant economy that actually makes things of value that people want and actually performs services that people want and will pay for.

Free house? Maybe, if that is what it takes put the deal right after they robbed the homeowner blind. In most cases, no it won’t take that much. And in all cases the free houses are being given to intermediaries who never invested a dime in the deal would stop. The free houses that are being greedily split up by disinterested parties who have been paid multiple times on a transaction that never should have happened in the first place would also stop. Wall Street would groan and scream and call it socialism, as though ANY system of government or economics would allow the institutionalization of theft and the socialization (payment with citizens money) of losses.

We already paid for those losses by socializing the ridiculous machinations of Wall Street. Shouldn’t we get something for our investment? Shouldn’t there be some sort of exit strategy that leaves the economy right side up? And shouldn’t there be a day of reckoning for those caused this catastrophe?

  • What would be so bad if that day of reckoning also was the day we put things right with homeowners?

  • What would be so bad if some homeowners made out a little better than the Wall Street thieves who caused this mess, especially if it produced a healthy economy?

  • Do we really WANT our neighbors home to go down in flames when we know it will cause fire damage to our own home, just because he was smoking in bed, drunk, passed out?

  • When do we get practical about this and simply say, we want the economy right-side up, we want our society free and controlled by the people and for the people and if that ends up offending some souls out there, they’ll get over it or they won’t. Who cares?

September 16, 2010

Recession Raises Poverty Rate to a 15-Year High

By ERIK ECKHOLM

The percentage of Americans struggling below the poverty line in 2009 was the highest it has been in 15 years, the Census Bureau reported Thursday, and interviews with poverty experts and aid groups said the increase appeared to be continuing this year.

With the country in its worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, four million additional Americans found themselves in poverty in 2009, with the total reaching 44 million, or one in seven residents. Millions more were surviving only because of expanded unemployment insurance and other assistance.

And the numbers could have climbed higher: One way embattled Americans have gotten by is sharing homes with siblings, parents or even nonrelatives, sometimes resulting in overused couches and frayed nerves but holding down the rise in the national poverty rate, according to the report.

The share of residents in poverty climbed to 14.3 percent in 2009, the highest level recorded since 1994. The rise was steepest for children, with one in five affected, the bureau said.

The report provides the most detailed picture yet of the impact of the recession and unemployment on incomes, especially at the bottom of the scale. It also indicated that the temporary increases in aid provided in last year’s stimulus bill eased the burdens on millions of families.

For a single adult in 2009, the poverty line was $10,830 in pretax cash income; for a family of four, $22,050.

Given the depth of the recession, some economists had expected an even larger jump in the poor.

“A lot of people would have been worse off if they didn’t have someone to move in with,” said Timothy M. Smeeding, director of the Institute for Research on Poverty at the University of Wisconsin.

Dr. Smeeding said that in a typical case, a struggling family, like a mother and children who would be in poverty on their own, stays with more prosperous parents or other relatives.

The Census study found an 11.6 percent increase in the number of such multifamily households over the last two years. Included in that number was James Davis, 22, of Chicago, who lost his job as a package handler for Fed Ex in February 2009. As he ran out of money, he and his 2-year-old daughter moved in with his mother about a year ago, avoiding destitution while he searched for work.

“I couldn’t afford rent,” he said.

Danise Sanders, 31, and her three children have been sleeping in the living room of her mother and sister’s one-bedroom apartment in San Pablo, Calif., for the last month, with no end in sight. They doubled up after the bank foreclosed on her landlord, forcing her to move.

“It’s getting harder,” said Ms. Sanders, who makes a low income as a mail clerk. “We’re all pitching in for rent and bills.”

There are strong signs that the high poverty numbers have continued into 2010 and are probably still rising, some experts said, as the recovery sputters and unemployment remains near 10 percent.

“Historically, it takes time for poverty to recover after unemployment starts to go down,” said LaDonna Pavetti, a welfare expert at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a liberal-leaning research group in Washington.

Dr. Smeeding said it seemed almost certain that poverty would further rise this year. He noted that the increase in unemployment and poverty had been concentrated among young adults without college educations and their children, and that these people remained at the end of the line in their search for work.

One indirect sign of continuing hardship is the rise in food stamp recipients, who now include nearly one in seven adults and an even greater share of the nation’s children. While other factors as well as declining incomes have driven the rise, by mid-2010 the number of recipients had reached 41.3 million, compared with 39 million at the beginning of the year.

Food banks, too, report swelling demand.

“We’re seeing more younger people coming in that not only don’t have any food, but nowhere to stay,” said Marla Goodwin, director of Jeremiah’s Food Pantry in East St. Louis, Ill. The pantry was open one day a month when it opened in 2008 but expanded this year to five days a month.

And Texas food banks said they distributed 14 percent more food in the second quarter of 2010 than in the same period last year.

The Census report showed increases in poverty for whites, blacks and Hispanic Americans, with historic disparities continuing. The poverty rate for non-Hispanic whites was 9.4 percent, for blacks 25.8 percent and for Hispanics 25.3 percent. The rate for Asians was unchanged at 12.5 percent.

The median income of all households stayed roughly the same from 2008 to 2009. It had fallen sharply the year before, as the recession gained steam and remains well below the levels of the late 1990s — a sign of the stagnating prospects for the middle class.

The decline in incomes in 2008 had been greater than expected, and when the two recession years are considered together, the decline since 2007 was 4.2 percent, said Lawrence Katz, an economist at Harvard. Gains achieved earlier in the decade were wiped out, and median family incomes in 2009 were 5 percent lower than in 1999.

“This is the first time in memory that an entire decade has produced essentially no economic growth for the typical American household,” Mr. Katz said.

The number of United States residents without health insurance climbed to 51 million in 2009, from 46 million in 2008, the Census said. Their ranks are expected to shrink in coming years as the health care overhaul adopted by Congress in March begins to take effect.

Government benefits like food stamps and tax credits, which can provide hundreds or even thousands of dollars in extra income, are not included in calculating whether a family’s income falls above or below the poverty line.

But rises in the cost of housing, medical care or energy and the large regional differences in the cost of living are not taken into account either.

If food-stamp benefits and low-income tax credits were included as income, close to 8 million of those labeled as poor in the report would instead be just above the poverty line, the Census report estimated. At the same time, a person who starts a job and receives the earned income tax credit could have new work-related expenses like transportation and child care. Unemployment benefits, which are considered cash income and included in the calculations, helped keep 3 million families above the line last year, the report said, with temporary extensions and higher payments helping all the more.

The poverty line is a flawed measure, experts agree, but it remains the best consistent long-term gauge of need available, and its ups and downs reflect genuine trends.

The federal government will issue an alternate calculation next year that will include important noncash and after-tax income and also account for regional differences in the cost of living.

But it will continue to calculate the rate in the old way as well, in part because eligibility for many programs, from Medicaid to free school lunches, is linked to the longstanding poverty line.

Reporting was contributed by Rebecca Cathcart in Los Angeles, Emma Graves Fitzsimmons in Chicago, Malcolm Gay in St. Louis, Robert Gebeloff in New York and Malia Wollan in San Francisco.


UNDISCLOSED MIDDLE: Repurchase Obligation in the Mortgage Loan Purchase Agreement

FROM ANONYMOUS, MY FAVORITE CONTRIBUTOR 🙂

EDITOR’S NOTE: I would be better off and so would our readers if I could be as succinct in my writing as Anonymous. Somehow it always takes me longer to say what he does in a few sentences. Use HIS version instead of mine whenever possible. My version is more academic and runs the risk of putting the Judge to sleep.

  • This piece written by Anonymous underscores the BASIC point that needs to be made from the start: the TOTAL agreement between lender and borrower consists of far more than the loan closing documents.
  • The fact that the rest of the documents were withheld doesn’t mean they weren’t involved, signed, executed and delivered. It means they were not disclosed when the applicable federal and state statutes as well as common law required them to be disclosed.
  • The old school Judges and lawyers are confused ONLY because they fail to recognize this basic truth.
  • Once they accept the fact that the borrower signed a note but the lender received a bond from a party not involved in the borrower’s closing, it all falls into place.
  • There is no nexus between borrower and lender without recognizing the obvious — there were parties, documents, agreements and corresponding duties and obligations existing in the UNDISCLOSED MIDDLE.
  • The single transaction rule once applied, clears up all confusion. No money from investor – NO DEAL. No borrower to accept loan — NO DEAL. SINGLE TRANSACTION if there ever was one.
  • But perhaps the single most important point Anonymous makes is that the alleged assignment, transfer, endorsement etc of the note never took actually place which means that the title (encumbrance — mortgage or deed of trust) is and remains in the name of the originating “lender” to whom no money is owed. A classical case of an unperfected security interest.

From Anonymous: “Repurchase and stipulations is contained within the same Mortgage Loan Purchase Agreement – it is not a separate contract – it is the same document and contract under the stated Trust and SEC filings. Thus, none of the note endorsements were actually “without recourse.”

However, many of the repurchase demands were not executed because the banks often looked the other way – until they became massive – and the originators were shut down.

Most of the endorsements were in blank – only when they knew there was no longer any recourse, are the notes actually endorsed to the trustee. But, they did not know this at the time of the trust set-up.

And, the notes are executed before foreclosure – they are sold at steep discounts to the servicer and removed from the trust – at this point there is no recourse..

It is at the inception of the trust – that the notes were not actually negotiable. Thus, the trust never actually owned the notes – they did not have to – because only the receivables are passed-through.

If there was a separate contract for Repurchases – it would have had to have been filed with the SEC – along with other documents. There was no separate contract – the Repurchase agreement was part of the Mortgage Loan Purchase Agreement – they were one and the same.

Taxation of Securitized Trusts

TAXATION OF SECURITIZED TRUSTS(2)

For those litigators advanced enough in their knowledge of accounting and taxation, you will uncover here and upon closer search of this blog and other resources that a rich store of materials can be used to great effect in attacking the pretender lenders, but you really must know what you are talking about and you must pick your choice of strategy very carefully. Since our friends are not the only ones reading this blog, I will reserve further comment for those who retain expert services.

FROM JOSE

Pinnacle, Indymac, Wells, Cendant through PHH, with head quarters in PA, First Magnus Financial, J.P. Morgan Chase, all used this detour to make trillions of dollars and then come back to us the TAX payers through or Corrupt Congress people for a bail out. Come on.

Yes there is gold, but most lawyer I have talked to, are for some reason freaked at the idea of going into Federal Court.
That is where TILA has teeth

REad This: Now We are Getting Down to Business

My only comment is that this is an excellent piece of reporting by Bernstein and Eisinger at ProPublica that should be read and used as the basis for understanding what is going into your legal memorandums across the country. GREAT JOB!!

The Wall Street Money Machine
Banks’ Self-Dealing Super-Charged Financial Crisis

by Jake Bernstein and Jesse Eisinger
ProPublica, Aug. 26, 10:09 p.m.

Over the last two years of the housing bubble, Wall Street bankers perpetrated one of the greatest episodes of self-dealing in financial history.

Faced with increasing difficulty in selling the mortgage-backed securities that had been among their most lucrative products, the banks hit on a solution that preserved their quarterly earnings and huge bonuses:

They created fake demand.

A ProPublica analysis shows for the first time the extent to which banks — primarily Merrill Lynch, but also Citigroup, UBS and others — bought their own products and cranked up an assembly line that otherwise should have flagged.

The products they were buying and selling were at the heart of the 2008 meltdown — collections of mortgage bonds known as collateralized debt obligations, or CDOs.

As the housing boom began to slow in mid-2006, investors became skittish about the riskier parts of those investments. So the banks created — and ultimately provided most of the money for — new CDOs. Those new CDOs bought the hard-to-sell pieces of the original CDOs. The result was a daisy chain that solved one problem but created another: Each new CDO had its own risky pieces. Banks created yet other CDOs to buy those.

Individual instances of these questionable trades have been reported before, but ProPublica’s investigation, done in partnership with NPR’s Planet Money, shows that by late 2006 they became a common industry practice.

Click to see how frequently the banks turned to their best customers — their own CDOs.
An analysis by research firm Thetica Systems, commissioned by ProPublica, shows that in the last years of the boom, CDOs had become the dominant purchaser of key, risky parts of other CDOs, largely replacing real investors like pension funds. By 2007, 67 percent of those slices were bought by other CDOs, up from 36 percent just three years earlier. The banks often orchestrated these purchases. In the last two years of the boom, nearly half of all CDOs sponsored by market leader Merrill Lynch bought significant portions of other Merrill CDOs.

ProPublica also found 85 instances during 2006 and 2007 in which two CDOs bought pieces of each other’s unsold inventory. These trades, which involved $107 billion worth of CDOs, underscore the extent to which the market lacked real buyers. Often the CDOs that swapped purchases closed within days of each other, the analysis shows.

There were supposed to be protections against this sort of abuse. While banks provided the blueprint for the CDOs and marketed them, they typically selected independent managers who chose the specific bonds to go inside them. The managers had a legal obligation to do what was best for the CDO. They were paid by the CDO, not the bank, and were supposed to serve as a bulwark against self-dealing by the banks, which had the fullest understanding of the complex and lightly regulated mortgage bonds.

It rarely worked out that way. The managers were beholden to the banks that sent them the business. On a billion-dollar deal, managers could earn a million dollars in fees, with little risk. Some small firms did several billion dollars of CDOs in a matter of months.

“All these banks for years were spawning trading partners,” says a former executive from Financial Guaranty Insurance Company, a major insurer of the CDO market. “You don’t have a trading partner? Create one.”

Get ProPublica’s latest headlines and major investigations delivered to your inbox.The executive, like most of the dozens of people ProPublica spoke with about the inner workings of the market at the time, asked not to be named out of fear of being sucked into ongoing investigations or because they are involved in civil litigation.

Keeping the assembly line going had a wealth of short-term advantages for the banks. Fees rolled in. A typical CDO could net the bank that created it between $5 million and $10 million — about half of which usually ended up as employee bonuses. Indeed, Wall Street awarded record bonuses in 2006, a hefty chunk of which came from the CDO business.

The self-dealing super-charged the market for CDOs, enticing some less-savvy investors to try their luck. Crucially, such deals maintained the value of mortgage bonds at a time when the lack of buyers should have driven their prices down.

But the strategy of speeding up the assembly line had devastating consequences for homeowners, the banks themselves and, ultimately, the global economy. Because of Wall Street’s machinations, more mortgages had been granted to ever-shakier borrowers. The results can now be seen in foreclosed houses across America.

The incestuous trading also made the CDOs more intertwined and thus fragile, accelerating their decline in value that began in the fall of 2007 and deepened over the next year. Most are now worth pennies on the dollar. Nearly half of the nearly trillion dollars in losses to the global banking system came from CDOs, losses ultimately absorbed by taxpayers and investors around the world. The banks’ troubles sent the world’s economies into a tailspin from which they have yet to recover.

It remains unclear whether any of this violated laws. The SEC has said that it is actively looking at as many as 50 CDO managers as part of its broad examination of the CDO business’ role in the financial crisis. In particular, the agency is focusing on the relationship between the banks and the managers. The SEC is exploring how deals were structured, if any quid pro quo arrangements existed, and whether banks pressured managers to take bad assets.

The banks declined to directly address ProPublica’s questions. Asked about its relationship with managers and the cross-ownership among its CDOs, Citibank responded with a one-sentence statement:

“It has been widely reported that there are ongoing industry-wide investigations into CDO-related matters and we do not comment on pending investigations.”

None of ProPublica’s questions had mentioned the SEC or pending investigations.

Posed a similar list of questions, Bank of America, which now owns Merrill Lynch, said:

“These are very specific questions regarding individuals who left Merrill Lynch several years ago and a CDO origination business that, due to market conditions, was discontinued by Merrill before Bank of America acquired the company.”

This is the second installment of a ProPublica series about the largely hidden history of the CDO boom and bust. Our first story looked at how one hedge fund helped create at least $40 billion in CDOs as part of a strategy to bet against the market. This story turns the focus on the banks.

Merrill Lynch Pioneers Pervert the Market

By 2004, the housing market was in full swing, and Wall Street bankers flocked to the CDO frenzy. It seemed to be the perfect money machine, and for a time everyone was happy.

Homeowners got easy mortgages. Banks and mortgage companies felt secure lending the money because they could sell the mortgages almost immediately to Wall Street and get back all their cash plus a little extra for their trouble. The investment banks charged massive fees for repackaging the mortgages into fancy financial products. Investors all around the world got to play in the then-phenomenal American housing market.

Click to see how the CDO daisy chain worked.
The mortgages were bundled into bonds, which were in turn combined into CDOs offering varying interest rates and levels of risk.

Investors holding the top tier of a CDO were first in line to get money coming from mortgages. By 2006, some banks often kept this layer, which credit agencies blessed with their highest rating of Triple A.

Buyers of the lower tiers took on more risk and got higher returns. They would be the first to take the hit if homeowners funding the CDO stopped paying their mortgages. (Here’s a video explaining how CDOs worked.)

Over time, these risky slices became increasingly hard to sell, posing a problem for the banks. If they remained unsold, the sketchy assets stayed on their books, like rotting inventory. That would require the banks to set aside money to cover any losses. Banks hate doing that because it means the money can’t be loaned out or put to other uses.

Being stuck with the risky portions of CDOs would ultimately lower profits and endanger the whole assembly line.

The banks, notably Merrill and Citibank, solved this problem by greatly expanding what had been a common and accepted practice: CDOs buying small pieces of other CDOs.

Architects of CDOs typically included what they called a “bucket” — which held bits of other CDOs paying higher rates of interest. The idea was to boost overall returns of deals primarily composed of safer assets. In the early days, the bucket was a small portion of an overall CDO.

One pioneer of pushing CDOs to buy CDOs was Merrill Lynch’s Chris Ricciardi, who had been brought to the firm in 2003 to take Merrill to the top of the CDO business. According to former colleagues, Ricciardi’s team cultivated managers, especially smaller firms.

Merrill exercised its leverage over the managers. A strong relationship with Merrill could be the difference between a business that thrived and one that didn’t. The more deals the banks gave a manager, the more money the manager got paid.

As the head of Merrill’s CDO business, Ricciardi also wooed managers with golf outings and dinners. One Merrill executive summed up the overall arrangement: “I’m going to make you rich. You just have to be my bitch.”

But not all managers went for it.

An executive from Trainer Wortham, a CDO manager, recalls a 2005 conversation with Ricciardi. “I wasn’t going to buy other CDOs. Chris said: ‘You don’t get it. You have got to buy other guys’ CDOs to get your deal done. That’s how it works.’” When the manager refused, Ricciardi told him, “‘That’s it. You are not going to get another deal done.’” Trainer Wortham largely withdrew from the market, concerned about the practice and the overheated prices for CDOs.

Ricciardi declined multiple requests to comment.

Merrill CDOs often bought slices of other Merrill deals. This seems to have happened more in the second half of any given year, according to ProPublica’s analysis, though the purchases were still a small portion compared to what would come later. Annual bonuses are based on the deals bankers completed by yearend.

Ricciardi left Merrill Lynch in February 2006. But the machine he put into place not only survived his departure, it became a model for competitors.

As Housing Market Wanes, Self-Dealing Takes Off

By mid-2006, the housing market was on the wane. This was particularly true for subprime mortgages, which were given to borrowers with spotty credit at higher interest rates. Subprime lenders began to fold, in what would become a mass extinction. In the first half of the year, the percentage of subprime borrowers who didn’t even make the first month’s mortgage payment tripled from the previous year.

That made CDO investors like pension funds and insurance companies increasingly nervous. If homeowners couldn’t make their mortgage payments, then the stream of cash to CDOs would dry up. Real “buyers began to shrivel and shrivel,” says Fiachra O’Driscoll, who co-ran Credit Suisse’s CDO business from 2003 to 2008.

Faced with disappearing investor demand, bankers could have wound down the lucrative business and moved on. That’s the way a market is supposed to work. Demand disappears; supply follows. But bankers were making lots of money. And they had amassed warehouses full of CDOs and other mortgage-based assets whose value was going down.

Rather than stop, bankers at Merrill, Citi, UBS and elsewhere kept making CDOs.

The question was: Who would buy them?

The top 80 percent, the less risky layers or so-called “super senior,” were held by the banks themselves. The beauty of owning that supposedly safe top portion was that it required hardly any money be held in reserve.

That left 20 percent, which the banks did not want to keep because it was riskier and required them to set aside reserves to cover any losses. Banks often sold the bottom, riskiest part to hedge funds. That left the middle layer, known on Wall Street as the “mezzanine,” which was sold to new CDOs whose top 80 percent was ultimately owned by … the banks.

“As we got further into 2006, the mezzanine was going into other CDOs,” says Credit Suisse’s O’Driscoll.

Get ProPublica’s latest headlines and major investigations delivered to your inbox.This was the daisy chain. On paper, the risky stuff was gone, held by new independent CDOs. In reality, however, the banks were buying their own otherwise unsellable assets.

How could something so seemingly short-sighted have happened?

It’s one of the great mysteries of the crash. Banks have fleets of risk managers to defend against just such reckless behavior. Top executives have maintained that while they suspected that the housing market was cooling, they never imagined the crash. For those doing the deals, the payoff was immediate. The dangers seemed abstract and remote.

The CDO managers played a crucial role. CDOs were so complex that even buyers had a hard time seeing exactly what was in them — making a neutral third party that much more essential.

“When you’re investing in a CDO you are very much putting your faith in the manager,” says Peter Nowell, a former London-based investor for the Royal Bank of Scotland. “The manager is choosing all the bonds that go into the CDO.” (RBS suffered mightily in the global financial meltdown, posting the largest loss in United Kingdom history, and was de facto nationalized by the British government.)

Source: Asset-Backed Alert
By persuading managers to pick the unsold slices of CDOs, the banks helped keep the market going. “It guaranteed distribution when, quite frankly, there was not a huge market for them,” says Nowell.

The counterintuitive result was that even as investors began to vanish, the mortgage CDO market more than doubled from 2005 to 2006, reaching $226 billion, according to the trade publication Asset-Backed Alert.

Citi and Merrill Hand Out Sweetheart Deals

As the CDO market grew, so did the number of CDO management firms, including many small shops that relied on a single bank for most of their business. According to Fitch, the number of CDO managers it rated rose from 89 in July 2006 to 140 in September 2007.

One CDO manager epitomized the devolution of the business, according to numerous industry insiders: a Wall Street veteran named Wing Chau.

Earlier in the decade, Chau had run the CDO department for Maxim Group, a boutique investment firm in New York. Chau had built a profitable business for Maxim based largely on his relationship with Merrill Lynch. In just a few years, Maxim had corralled more than $4 billion worth of assets under management just from Merrill CDOs.

In August 2006, Chau bolted from Maxim to start his own CDO management business, taking several colleagues with him. Chau’s departure gave Merrill, the biggest CDO producer, one more avenue for unsold inventory.

Chau named the firm Harding, after the town in New Jersey where he lived. The CDO market was starting its most profitable stretch ever, and Harding would play a big part. In an eleven-month period, ending in August 2007, Harding managed $13 billion of CDOs, including more than $5 billion from Merrill, and another nearly $5 billion from Citigroup. (Chau would later earn a measure of notoriety for a cameo appearance in Michael Lewis’ bestseller “The Big Short,” where he is depicted as a cheerfully feckless “go-to buyer” for Merrill Lynch’s CDO machine.)

Chau had a long-standing friendship with Ken Margolis, who was Merrill’s top CDO salesman under Ricciardi. When Ricciardi left Merrill in 2006, Margolis became a co-head of Merrill’s CDO group. He carried a genial, let’s-just-get-the-deal-done demeanor into his new position. An avid poker player, Margolis told a friend that in a previous job he had stood down a casino owner during a foreclosure negotiation after the owner had threatened to put a fork through his eye.

Chau’s close relationship with Merrill continued. In late 2006, Merrill sublet office space to Chau’s startup in the Merrill tower in Lower Manhattan’s financial district. A Merrill banker, David Moffitt, scheduled visits to Harding for prospective investors in the bank’s CDOs. “It was a nice office,” overlooking New York Harbor, recalls a CDO buyer. “But it did feel a little weird that it was Merrill’s building,” he said.

Moffitt did not respond to requests for comment.

Under Margolis, other small managers with meager track records were also suddenly handling CDOs valued at as much as $2 billion. Margolis declined to answer any questions about his own involvement in these matters.

A Wall Street Journal article ($) from late 2007, one of the first of its kind, described how Margolis worked with one inexperienced CDO manager called NIR on a CDO named Norma, in the spring of that year. The Long Island-based NIR made about $1.5 million a year for managing Norma, a CDO that imploded.

“NIR’s collateral management business had arisen from efforts by Merrill Lynch to assemble a stable of captive small firms to manage its CDOs that would be beholden to Merrill Lynch on account of the business it funneled to them,” alleged a lawsuit filed in New York state court against Merrill over Norma that was settled quietly after the plaintiffs received internal Merrill documents.

NIR declined to comment.

Banks had a variety of ways to influence managers’ behavior.

Some of the few outside investors remaining in the market believed that the manager would do a better job if he owned a small slice of the CDO he was managing. That way, the manager would have more incentive to manage the investment well, since he, too, was an investor. But small management firms rarely had money to invest. Some banks solved this problem by advancing money to managers such as Harding.

Chau’s group managed two Citigroup CDOs — 888 Tactical Fund and Jupiter High-Grade VII — in which the bank loaned Harding money to buy risky pieces of the deal. The loans would be paid back out of the fees the managers took from the CDO and its investors. The loans were disclosed to investors in a few sentences among the hundreds of pages of legalese accompanying the deals.

In response to ProPublica’s questions, Chau’s lawyer said, “Harding Advisory’s dealings with investment banks were proper and fully disclosed.”

Citigroup made similar deals with other managers. The bank lent money to a manager called Vanderbilt Capital Advisors for its Armitage CDO, completed in March 2007.

Vanderbilt declined to comment. It couldn’t be learned how much money Citigroup loaned or whether it was ever repaid.

Yet again banks had masked their true stakes in CDO. Banks were lending money to CDO managers so they could buy the banks’ dodgy assets. If the managers couldn’t pay the loans back — and most were thinly capitalized — the banks were on the hook for even more losses when the CDO business collapsed.

Goldman, Merrill and Others Get Tough

When the housing market deteriorated, banks took advantage of a little-used power they had over managers.

Source: Thetica Systems
The way CDOs are put together, there is a brief period when the bonds picked by managers sit on the banks’ balance sheets. Because the value of such assets can fall, banks reserved the right to overrule managers’ selections.

According to numerous bankers, managers and investors, banks rarely wielded that veto until late 2006, after which it became common. Merrill was in the lead.

“I would go to Merrill and tell them that I wanted to buy, say, a Citi bond,” recalls a CDO manager. “They would say ‘no.’ I would suggest a UBS bond, they would say ‘no.’ Eventually, you got the joke.” Managers could choose assets to put into their CDOs but they had to come from Merrill CDOs. One rival investment banker says Merrill treated CDO managers the way Henry Ford treated his Model T customers: You can have any color you want, as long as it’s black.

Once, Merrill’s Ken Margolis pushed a manager to buy a CDO slice for a Merrill-produced CDO called Port Jackson that was completed in the beginning of 2007: “‘You don’t have to buy the deal but you are crazy if you don’t because of your business,’” an executive at the management firm recalls Margolis telling him. “‘We have a big pipeline and only so many more mandates to give you.’ You got the message.” In other words: Take our stuff and we’ll send you more business. If not, forget it.

Margolis declined to comment on the incident.

“All the managers complained about it,” recalls O’Driscoll, the former Credit Suisse banker who competed with other investment banks to put deals together and market them. But “they were indentured slaves.” O’Driscoll recalls managers grumbling that Merrill in particular told them “what to buy and when to buy it.”

Other big CDO-producing banks quickly adopted the practice.

A little-noticed document released this year during a congressional investigation into Goldman Sachs’ CDO business reveals that bank’s thinking. The firm wrote a November 2006 internal memorandum about a CDO called Timberwolf, managed by Greywolf, a small manager headed by ex-Goldman bankers. In a section headed “Reasons To Pursue,” the authors touted that “Goldman is approving every asset” that will end up in the CDO. What the bank intended to do with that approval power is clear from the memo: “We expect that a significant portion of the portfolio by closing will come from Goldman’s offerings.”

When asked to comment whether Goldman’s memo demonstrates that it had effective control over the asset selection process and that Greywolf was not in fact an independent manager, the bank responded: “Greywolf was an experienced, independent manager and made its own decisions about what reference assets to include. The securities included in Timberwolf were fully disclosed to the professional investors who invested in the transaction.”

Greywolf declined to comment. One of the investors, Basis Capital of Australia, filed a civil lawsuit in federal court in Manhattan against Goldman over the deal. The bank maintains the lawsuit is without merit.

By March 2007, the housing market’s signals were flashing red. Existing home sales plunged at the fastest rate in almost 20 years. Foreclosures were on the rise. And yet, to CDO buyer Peter Nowell’s surprise, banks continued to churn out CDOs.

“We were pulling back. We couldn’t find anything safe enough,” says Nowell. “We were amazed that April through June they were still printing deals. We thought things were over.”

Instead, the CDO machine was in overdrive. Wall Street produced $70 billion in mortgage CDOs in the first quarter of the year.

Many shareholder lawsuits battling their way through the court system today focus on this period of the CDO market. They allege that the banks were using the sales of CDOs to other CDOs to prop up prices and hide their losses.

“Citi’s CDO operations during late 2006 and 2007 functioned largely to sell CDOs to yet newer CDOs created by Citi to house them,” charges a pending shareholder lawsuit against the bank that was filed in federal court in Manhattan in February 2009. “Citigroup concocted a scheme whereby it repackaged many of these investments into other freshly-baked vehicles to avoid incurring a loss.”

Citigroup described the allegations as “irrational,” saying the bank’s executives would never knowingly take actions that would lead to “catastrophic losses.”

In the Hall of Mirrors, Myopic Rating Agencies

The portion of CDOs owned by other CDOs grew right alongside the market. What had been 5 percent of CDOs (remember the “bucket”) now came to constitute as much as 30 or 40 percent of new CDOs. (Wall Street also rolled out CDOs that were almost entirely made up of CDOs, called CDO squareds.)

The ever-expanding bucket provided new opportunities for incestuous trades.

It worked like this: A CDO would buy a piece of another CDO, which then returned the favor. The transactions moved both CDOs closer to completion, when bankers and managers would receive their fees.

Source: Thetica Systems
ProPublica’s analysis shows that in the final two years of the business, CDOs with cross-ownership amounted to about one-fifth of the market, about $107 billion.

Here’s an example from early May 2007:

•A CDO called Jupiter VI bought a piece of a CDO called Tazlina II.
•Tazlina II bought a piece of Jupiter VI.
Both Jupiter VI and Tazlina II were created by Merrill and were completed within a week of each other. Both were managed by small firms that did significant business with Merrill: Jupiter by Wing Chau’s Harding, and Tazlina by Terwin Advisors. Chau did not respond to questions about this deal. Terwin Advisors could not reached.

Just a few weeks earlier, CDO managers completed a comparable swap between Jupiter VI and another Merrill CDO called Forge 1.

Forge has its own intriguing history. It was the only deal done by a tiny manager of the same name based in Tampa, Fla. The firm was started less than a year earlier by several former Wall Street executives with mortgage experience. It received seed money from Bryan Zwan, who in 2001 settled an SEC civil lawsuit over his company’s accounting problems in a federal court in Florida. Zwan and Forge executives didn’t respond to requests for comment.

After seemingly coming out of nowhere, Forge won the right to manage a $1.5 billion Merrill CDO. That earned Forge a visit from the rating agency Moody’s.

“We just wanted to make sure that they actually existed,” says a former Moody’s executive. The rating agency saw that the group had an office near the airport and expertise to do the job.

Rating agencies regularly did such research on managers, but failed to ask more fundamental questions. The credit ratings agencies “did heavy, heavy due diligence on managers but they were looking for the wrong things: how you processed a ticket or how your surveillance systems worked,” says an executive at a CDO manager. “They didn’t check whether you were buying good bonds.”

One Forge employee recalled in a recent interview that he was amazed Merrill had been able to find buyers so quickly. “They were able to sell all the tranches” — slices of the CDO — “in a fairly rapid period of time,” said Rod Jensen, a former research analyst for Forge.

Forge achieved this feat because Merrill sold the slices to other CDOs, many linked to Merrill.

The ProPublica analysis shows that two Merrill CDOs, Maxim II and West Trade III, each bought pieces of Forge. Small managers oversaw both deals.

Forge, in turn, was filled with detritus from Merrill. Eighty-two percent of the CDO bonds owned by Forge came from other Merrill deals.

Citigroup did its own version of the shuffle, as these three CDOs demonstrate:

•A CDO called Octonion bought some of Adams Square Funding II.
•Adams Square II bought a piece of Octonion.
•A third CDO, Class V Funding III, also bought some of Octonion.
•Octonion, in turn, bought a piece of Class V Funding III.
All of these Citi deals were completed within days of each other. Wing Chau was once again a central player. His firm managed Octonion. The other two were managed by a unit of Credit Suisse. Credit Suisse declined to comment.

Not all cross-ownership deals were consummated.

In spring 2007, Deutsche Bank was creating a CDO and found a manager that wanted to take a piece of it. The manager was overseeing a CDO that Merrill was assembling. Merrill blocked the manager from putting the Deutsche bonds into the Merrill CDO. A former Deutsche Bank banker says that when Deutsche Bank complained to Andy Phelps, a Merrill CDO executive, Phelps offered a quid pro quo: If Deutsche was willing to have the manager of its CDO buy some Merrill bonds, Merrill would stop blocking the purchase. Phelps declined to comment.

The Deutsche banker, who says its managers were independent, recalls being shocked: “We said we don’t control what people buy in their deals.” The swap didn’t happen.

The Missing Regulators and the Aftermath

In September 2007, as the market finally started to catch up with Merrill Lynch, Ken Margolis left the firm to join Wing Chau at Harding.

Chau and Margolis circulated a marketing plan for a new hedge fund to prospective investors touting their expertise in how CDOs were made and what was in them. The fund proposed to buy failed CDOs — at bargain basement prices. In the end, Margolis and Chau couldn’t make the business work and dropped the idea.

Why didn’t regulators intervene during the boom to stop the self-dealing that had permeated the CDO market?

No one agency had authority over the whole business. Since the business came and went in just a few years, it may have been too much to expect even assertive regulators to comprehend what was happening in time to stop it.

While the financial regulatory bill passed by Congress in July creates more oversight powers, it’s unclear whether regulators have sufficient tools to prevent a replay of the debacle.

In just two years, the CDO market had cut a swath of destruction. Partly because CDOs had bought so many pieces of each other, they collapsed in unison. Merrill Lynch and Citigroup, the biggest perpetrators of the self-dealing, were among the biggest losers. Merrill lost about $26 billion on mortgage CDOs and Citigroup about $34 billion.

Additional reporting by Kitty Bennett, Krista Kjellman Schmidt, Lisa Schwartz and Karen Weise.

The Truth? Read Matt Taibbi in Rolling Stone

EDITOR’S NOTE: How refreshing to see someone who approached this not with caution but with a desire for truth. Read this and you will understand a lot more about the Great Recession.
“The “Pig in the Poke” scam is another key to the entire bailout era. After the crash of the housing bubble — the largest asset bubble in history — the economy was suddenly flooded with securities backed by failing or near-failing home loans. In the cleanup phase after that bubble burst, the whole game was to get taxpayers, clients and shareholders to buy these worthless cats, but at pig prices.

“The only reason such apathy exists, however, is because there’s still a widespread misunderstanding of how exactly Wall Street “earns” its money, with emphasis on the quotation marks around “earns.” The question everyone should be asking, as one bailout recipient after another posts massive profits — Goldman reported $13.4 billion in profits last year, after paying out that $16.2 billion in bonuses and compensation — is this: In an economy as horrible as ours, with every factory town between New York and Los Angeles looking like those hollowed-out ghost ships we see on History Channel documentaries like Shipwrecks of the Great Lakes, where in the hell did Wall Street’s eye-popping profits come from, exactly? Did Goldman go from bailout city to $13.4 billion in the black because, as Blankfein suggests, its “performance” was just that awesome? A year and a half after they were minutes away from bankruptcy, how are these assholes not only back on their feet again, but hauling in bonuses at the same rate they were during the bubble?
Con artists have a word for the inability of their victims to accept that they’ve been scammed. They call it the “True Believer Syndrome.” That’s sort of where we are, in a state of nagging disbelief about the real problem on Wall Street. It isn’t so much that we have inadequate rules or incompetent regulators, although both of these things are certainly true. The real problem is that it doesn’t matter what regulations are in place if the people running the economy are rip-off artists. The system assumes a certain minimum level of ethical behavior and civic instinct over and above what is spelled out by the regulations. If those ethics are absent — well, this thing isn’t going to work, no matter what we do. Sure, mugging old ladies is against the law, but it’s also easy. To prevent it, we depend, for the most part, not on cops but on people making the conscious decision not to do it.
By  Matt Taibbi
Feb 17, 2010 5:43 PM EST

On January 21st, Lloyd Blankfein left a peculiar voicemail message on the work phones of his employees at Goldman Sachs. Fast becoming America’s pre-eminent Marvel Comics supervillain, the CEO used the call to deploy his secret weapon: a pair of giant, nuclear-powered testicles. In his message, Blankfein addressed his plan to pay out gigantic year-end bonuses amid widespread controversy over Goldman’s role in precipitating the global financial crisis.

The bank had already set aside a tidy $16.2 billion for salaries and bonuses — meaning that Goldman employees were each set to take home an average of $498,246, a number roughly commensurate with what they received during the bubble years. Still, the troops were worried: There were rumors that Dr. Ballsachs, bowing to political pressure, might be forced to scale the number back. After all, the country was broke, 14.8 million Americans were stranded on the unemployment line, and Barack Obama and the Democrats were trying to recover the populist high ground after their bitch-whipping in Massachusetts by calling for a “bailout tax” on banks. Maybe this wasn’t the right time for Goldman to be throwing its annual Roman bonus orgy.

Not to worry, Blankfein reassured employees. “In a year that proved to have no shortage of story lines,” he said, “I believe very strongly that performance is the ultimate narrative.”

Translation: We made a shitload of money last year because we’re so amazing at our jobs, so fuck all those people who want us to reduce our bonuses.

Goldman wasn’t alone. The nation’s six largest banks — all committed to this balls-out, I drink your milkshake! strategy of flagrantly gorging themselves as America goes hungry — set aside a whopping $140 billion for executive compensation last year, a sum only slightly less than the $164 billion they paid themselves in the pre-crash year of 2007. In a gesture of self-sacrifice, Blankfein himself took a humiliatingly low bonus of $9 million, less than the 2009 pay of elephantine New York Knicks washout Eddy Curry. But in reality, not much had changed. “What is the state of our moral being when Lloyd Blankfein taking a $9 million bonus is viewed as this great act of contrition, when every penny of it was a direct transfer from the taxpayer?” asks Eliot Spitzer, who tried to hold Wall Street accountable during his own ill-fated stint as governor of New York.

Beyond a few such bleats of outrage, however, the huge payout was met, by and large, with a collective sigh of resignation. Because beneath America’s populist veneer, on a more subtle strata of the national psyche, there remains a strong temptation to not really give a shit. The rich, after all, have always made way too much money; what’s the difference if some fat cat in New York pockets $20 million instead of $10 million?

The only reason such apathy exists, however, is because there’s still a widespread misunderstanding of how exactly Wall Street “earns” its money, with emphasis on the quotation marks around “earns.” The question everyone should be asking, as one bailout recipient after another posts massive profits — Goldman reported $13.4 billion in profits last year, after paying out that $16.2 billion in bonuses and compensation — is this: In an economy as horrible as ours, with every factory town between New York and Los Angeles looking like those hollowed-out ghost ships we see on History Channel documentaries like Shipwrecks of the Great Lakes, where in the hell did Wall Street’s eye-popping profits come from, exactly? Did Goldman go from bailout city to $13.4 billion in the black because, as Blankfein suggests, its “performance” was just that awesome? A year and a half after they were minutes away from bankruptcy, how are these assholes not only back on their feet again, but hauling in bonuses at the same rate they were during the bubble?

The answer to that question is basically twofold: They raped the taxpayer, and they raped their clients.

The bottom line is that banks like Goldman have learned absolutely nothing from the global economic meltdown. In fact, they’re back conniving and playing speculative long shots in force — only this time with the full financial support of the U.S. government. In the process, they’re rapidly re-creating the conditions for another crash, with the same actors once again playing the same crazy games of financial chicken with the same toxic assets as before.

That’s why this bonus business isn’t merely a matter of getting upset about whether or not Lloyd Blankfein buys himself one tropical island or two on his next birthday. The reality is that the post-bailout era in which Goldman thrived has turned out to be a chaotic frenzy of high-stakes con-artistry, with taxpayers and clients bilked out of billions using a dizzying array of old-school hustles that, but for their ponderous complexity, would have fit well in slick grifter movies like The Sting and Matchstick Men. There’s even a term in con-man lingo for what some of the banks are doing right now, with all their cosmetic gestures of scaling back bonuses and giving to charities. In the grifter world, calming down a mark so he doesn’t call the cops is known as the “Cool Off.”

To appreciate how all of these (sometimes brilliant) schemes work is to understand the difference between earning money and taking scores, and to realize that the profits these banks are posting don’t so much represent national growth and recovery, but something closer to the losses one would report after a theft or a car crash. Many Americans instinctively understand this to be true — but, much like when your wife does it with your 300-pound plumber in the kids’ playroom, knowing it and actually watching the whole scene from start to finish are two very different things. In that spirit, a brief history of the best 18 months of grifting this country has ever seen:

CON #1 THE SWOOP AND SQUAT

By now, most people who have followed the financial crisis know that the bailout of AIG was actually a bailout of AIG’s “counterparties” — the big banks like Goldman to whom the insurance giant owed billions when it went belly up.

What is less understood is that the bailout of AIG counter-parties like Goldman and Société Générale, a French bank, actually began before the collapse of AIG, before the Federal Reserve paid them so much as a dollar. Nor is it understood that these counterparties actually accelerated the wreck of AIG in what was, ironically, something very like the old insurance scam known as “Swoop and Squat,” in which a target car is trapped between two perpetrator vehicles and wrecked, with the mark in the game being the target’s insurance company — in this case, the government.

This may sound far-fetched, but the financial crisis of 2008 was very much caused by a perverse series of legal incentives that often made failed investments worth more than thriving ones. Our economy was like a town where everyone has juicy insurance policies on their neighbors’ cars and houses. In such a town, the driving will be suspiciously bad, and there will be a lot of fires.

AIG was the ultimate example of this dynamic. At the height of the housing boom, Goldman was selling billions in bundled mortgage-backed securities — often toxic crap of the no-money-down, no-identification-needed variety of home loan — to various institutional suckers like pensions and insurance companies, who frequently thought they were buying investment-grade instruments. At the same time, in a glaring example of the perverse incentives that existed and still exist, Goldman was also betting against those same sorts of securities — a practice that one government investigator compared to “selling a car with faulty brakes and then buying an insurance policy on the buyer of those cars.”

Goldman often “insured” some of this garbage with AIG, using a virtually unregulated form of pseudo-insurance called credit-default swaps. Thanks in large part to deregulation pushed by Bob Rubin, former chairman of Goldman, and Treasury secretary under Bill Clinton, AIG wasn’t required to actually have the capital to pay off the deals. As a result, banks like Goldman bought more than $440 billion worth of this bogus insurance from AIG, a huge blind bet that the taxpayer ended up having to eat.

Thus, when the housing bubble went crazy, Goldman made money coming and going. They made money selling the crap mortgages, and they made money by collecting on the bogus insurance from AIG when the crap mortgages flopped.

Still, the trick for Goldman was: how to collect the insurance money. As AIG headed into a tailspin that fateful summer of 2008, it looked like the beleaguered firm wasn’t going to have the money to pay off the bogus insurance. So Goldman and other banks began demanding that AIG provide them with cash collateral. In the 15 months leading up to the collapse of AIG, Goldman received $5.9 billion in collateral. Société Générale, a bank holding lots of mortgage-backed crap originally underwritten by Goldman, received $5.5 billion. These collateral demands squeezing AIG from two sides were the “Swoop and Squat” that ultimately crashed the firm. “It put the company into a liquidity crisis,” says Eric Dinallo, who was intimately involved in the AIG bailout as head of the New York State Insurance Department.

It was a brilliant move. When a company like AIG is about to die, it isn’t supposed to hand over big hunks of assets to a single creditor like Goldman; it’s supposed to equitably distribute whatever assets it has left among all its creditors. Had AIG gone bankrupt, Goldman would have likely lost much of the $5.9 billion that it pocketed as collateral. “Any bankruptcy court that saw those collateral payments would have declined that transaction as a fraudulent conveyance,” says Barry Ritholtz, the author of Bailout Nation. Instead, Goldman and the other counterparties got their money out in advance — putting a torch to what was left of AIG. Fans of the movie Goodfellas will recall Henry Hill and Tommy DeVito taking the same approach to the Bamboo Lounge nightclub they’d been gouging. Roll the Ray Liotta narration: “Finally, when there’s nothing left, when you can’t borrow another buck . . . you bust the joint out. You light a match.”

And why not? After all, according to the terms of the bailout deal struck when AIG was taken over by the state in September 2008, Goldman was paid 100 cents on the dollar on an additional $12.9 billion it was owed by AIG — again, money it almost certainly would not have seen a fraction of had AIG proceeded to a normal bankruptcy. Along with the collateral it pocketed, that’s $19 billion in pure cash that Goldman would not have “earned” without massive state intervention. How’s that $13.4 billion in 2009 profits looking now? And that doesn’t even include the direct bailouts of Goldman Sachs and other big banks, which began in earnest after the collapse of AIG.

CON #2 THE DOLLAR STORE

In the usual “DollarStore” or “Big Store” scam — popularized in movies like The Sting — a huge cast of con artists is hired to create a whole fake environment into which the unsuspecting mark walks and gets robbed over and over again. A warehouse is converted into a makeshift casino or off-track betting parlor, the fool walks in with money, leaves without it.

The two key elements to the Dollar Store scam are the whiz-bang theatrical redecorating job and the fact that everyone is in on it except the mark. In this case, a pair of investment banks were dressed up to look like commercial banks overnight, and it was the taxpayer who walked in and lost his shirt, confused by the appearance of what looked like real Federal Reserve officials minding the store.

Less than a week after the AIG bailout, Goldman and another investment bank, Morgan Stanley, applied for, and received, federal permission to become bank holding companies — a move that would make them eligible for much greater federal support. The stock prices of both firms were cratering, and there was talk that either or both might go the way of Lehman Brothers, another once-mighty investment bank that just a week earlier had disappeared from the face of the earth under the weight of its toxic assets. By law, a five-day waiting period was required for such a conversion — but the two banks got them overnight, with final approval actually coming only five days after the AIG bailout.

Why did they need those federal bank charters? This question is the key to understanding the entire bailout era — because this Dollar Store scam was the big one. Institutions that were, in reality, high-risk gambling houses were allowed to masquerade as conservative commercial banks. As a result of this new designation, they were given access to a virtually endless tap of “free money” by unsuspecting taxpayers. The $10 billion that Goldman received under the better-known TARP bailout was chump change in comparison to the smorgasbord of direct and indirect aid it qualified for as a commercial bank.

When Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley got their federal bank charters, they joined Bank of America, Citigroup, J.P. Morgan Chase and the other banking titans who could go to the Fed and borrow massive amounts of money at interest rates that, thanks to the aggressive rate-cutting policies of Fed chief Ben Bernanke during the crisis, soon sank to zero percent. The ability to go to the Fed and borrow big at next to no interest was what saved Goldman, Morgan Stanley and other banks from death in the fall of 2008. “They had no other way to raise capital at that moment, meaning they were on the brink of insolvency,” says Nomi Prins, a former managing director at Goldman Sachs. “The Fed was the only shot.”

In fact, the Fed became not just a source of emergency borrowing that enabled Goldman and Morgan Stanley to stave off disaster — it became a source of long-term guaranteed income. Borrowing at zero percent interest, banks like Goldman now had virtually infinite ways to make money. In one of the most common maneuvers, they simply took the money they borrowed from the government at zero percent and lent it back to the government by buying Treasury bills that paid interest of three or four percent. It was basically a license to print money — no different than attaching an ATM to the side of the Federal Reserve.

“You’re borrowing at zero, putting it out there at two or three percent, with hundreds of billions of dollars — man, you can make a lot of money that way,” says the manager of one prominent hedge fund. “It’s free money.”

Which goes a long way to explaining Goldman’s enormous profits last year. But all that free money was amplified by another scam:

CON #3 THE PIG IN THE POKE

At one point or another, pretty much everyone who takes drugs has been burned by this one, also known as the “Rocks in the Box” scam or, in its more elaborate variations, the “Jamaican Switch.” Someone sells you what looks like an eightball of coke in a baggie, you get home and, you dumbass, it’s baby powder.

The scam’s name comes from the Middle Ages, when some fool would be sold a bound and gagged pig that he would see being put into a bag; he’d miss the switch, then get home and find a tied-up cat in there instead. Hence the expression “Don’t let the cat out of the bag.”

The “Pig in the Poke” scam is another key to the entire bailout era. After the crash of the housing bubble — the largest asset bubble in history — the economy was suddenly flooded with securities backed by failing or near-failing home loans. In the cleanup phase after that bubble burst, the whole game was to get taxpayers, clients and shareholders to buy these worthless cats, but at pig prices.

One of the first times we saw the scam appear was in September 2008, right around the time that AIG was imploding. That was when the Fed changed some of its collateral rules, meaning banks that could once borrow only against sound collateral, like Treasury bills or AAA-rated corporate bonds, could now borrow against pretty much anything — including some of the mortgage-backed sewage that got us into this mess in the first place. In other words, banks that once had to show a real pig to borrow from the Fed could now show up with a cat and get pig money. “All of a sudden, banks were allowed to post absolute shit to the Fed’s balance sheet,” says the manager of the prominent hedge fund.

The Fed spelled it out on September 14th, 2008, when it changed the collateral rules for one of its first bailout facilities — the Primary Dealer Credit Facility, or PDCF. The Fed’s own write-up described the changes: “With the Fed’s action, all the kinds of collateral then in use . . . including non-investment-grade securities and equities . . . became eligible for pledge in the PDCF.”

Translation: We now accept cats.

The Pig in the Poke also came into play in April of last year, when Congress pushed a little-known agency called the Financial Accounting Standards Board, or FASB, to change the so-called “mark-to-market” accounting rules. Until this rule change, banks had to assign a real-market price to all of their assets. If they had a balance sheet full of securities they had bought at $3 that were now only worth $1, they had to figure their year-end accounting using that $1 value. In other words, if you were the dope who bought a cat instead of a pig, you couldn’t invite your shareholders to a slate of pork dinners come year-end accounting time.

But last April, FASB changed all that. From now on, it announced, banks could avoid reporting losses on some of their crappy cat investments simply by declaring that they would “more likely than not” hold on to them until they recovered their pig value. In short, the banks didn’t even have to actually hold on to the toxic shit they owned — they just had to sort of promise to hold on to it.

That’s why the “profit” numbers of a lot of these banks are really a joke. In many cases, we have absolutely no idea how many cats are in their proverbial bag. What they call “profits” might really be profits, only minus undeclared millions or billions in losses.

“They’re hiding all this stuff from their shareholders,” says Ritholtz, who was disgusted that the banks lobbied for the rule changes. “Now, suddenly banks that were happy to mark to market on the way up don’t have to mark to market on the way down.”

CON #4 THE RUMANIAN BOX

One of the great innovations of Victor Lustig, the legendary Depression-era con man who wrote the famous “Ten Commandments for Con Men,” was a thing called the “Rumanian Box.” This was a little machine that a mark would put a blank piece of paper into, only to see real currency come out the other side. The brilliant Lustig sold this Rumanian Box over and over again for vast sums — but he’s been outdone by the modern barons of Wall Street, who managed to get themselves a real Rumanian Box.

How they accomplished this is a story that by itself highlights the challenge of placing this era in any kind of historical context of known financial crime. What the banks did was something that was never — and never could have been — thought of before. They took so much money from the government, and then did so little with it, that the state was forced to start printing new cash to throw at them. Even the great Lustig in his wildest, horniest dreams could never have dreamed up this one.

The setup: By early 2009, the banks had already replenished themselves with billions if not trillions in bailout money. It wasn’t just the $700 billion in TARP cash, the free money provided by the Fed, and the untold losses obscured by accounting tricks. Another new rule allowed banks to collect interest on the cash they were required by law to keep in reserve accounts at the Fed — meaning the state was now compensating the banks simply for guaranteeing their own solvency. And a new federal operation called the Temporary Liquidity Guarantee Program let insolvent and near-insolvent banks dispense with their deservedly ruined credit profiles and borrow on a clean slate, with FDIC backing. Goldman borrowed $29 billion on the government’s good name, J.P. Morgan Chase $38 billion, and Bank of America $44 billion. “TLGP,” says Prins, the former Goldman manager, “was a big one.”

Collectively, all this largesse was worth trillions. The idea behind the flood of money, from the government’s standpoint, was to spark a national recovery: We refill the banks’ balance sheets, and they, in turn, start to lend money again, recharging the economy and producing jobs. “The banks were fast approaching insolvency,” says Rep. Paul Kanjorski, a vocal critic of Wall Street who nevertheless defends the initial decision to bail out the banks. “It was vitally important that we recapitalize these institutions.”

But here’s the thing. Despite all these trillions in government rescues, despite the Fed slashing interest rates down to nothing and showering the banks with mountains of guarantees, Goldman and its friends had still not jump-started lending again by the first quarter of 2009. That’s where those nuclear-powered balls of Lloyd Blankfein came into play, as Goldman and other banks basically threatened to pick up their bailout billions and go home if the government didn’t fork over more cash — a lot more. “Even if the Fed could make interest rates negative, that wouldn’t necessarily help,” warned Goldman’s chief domestic economist, Jan Hatzius. “We’re in a deep recession mainly because the private sector, for a variety of reasons, has decided to save a lot more.”

Translation: You can lower interest rates all you want, but we’re still not fucking lending the bailout money to anyone in this economy. Until the government agreed to hand over even more goodies, the banks opted to join the rest of the “private sector” and “save” the taxpayer aid they had received — in the form of bonuses and compensation.

The ploy worked. In March of last year, the Fed sharply expanded a radical new program called quantitative easing, which effectively operated as a real-live Rumanian Box. The government put stacks of paper in one side, and out came $1.2 trillion “real” dollars.

The government used some of that freshly printed money to prop itself up by purchasing Treasury bonds — a desperation move, since Washington’s demand for cash was so great post-Clusterfuck ’08 that even the Chinese couldn’t buy U.S. debt fast enough to keep America afloat. But the Fed used most of the new cash to buy mortgage-backed securities in an effort to spur home lending — instantly creating a massive market for major banks.

And what did the banks do with the proceeds? Among other things, they bought Treasury bonds, essentially lending the money back to the government, at interest. The money that came out of the magic Rumanian Box went from the government back to the government, with Wall Street stepping into the circle just long enough to get paid. And once quantitative easing ends, as it is scheduled to do in March, the flow of money for home loans will once again grind to a halt. The Mortgage Bankers Association expects the number of new residential mortgages to plunge by 40 percent this year.

CON #5 THE BIG MITT

All of that Rumanian box paper was made even more valuable by running it through the next stage of the grift. Michael Masters, one of the country’s leading experts on commodities trading, compares this part of the scam to the poker game in the Bill Murray comedy Stripes. “It’s like that scene where John Candy leans over to the guy who’s new at poker and says, ‘Let me see your cards,’ then starts giving him advice,” Masters says. “He looks at the hand, and the guy has bad cards, and he’s like, ‘Bluff me, come on! If it were me, I’d bet everything!’ That’s what it’s like. It’s like they’re looking at your cards as they give you advice.”

In more ways than one can count, the economy in the bailout era turned into a “Big Mitt,” the con man’s name for a rigged poker game. Everybody was indeed looking at everyone else’s cards, in many cases with state sanction. Only taxpayers and clients were left out of the loop.

At the same time the Fed and the Treasury were making massive, earthshaking moves like quantitative easing and TARP, they were also consulting regularly with private advisory boards that include every major player on Wall Street. The Treasury Borrowing Advisory Committee has a J.P. Morgan executive as its chairman and a Goldman executive as its vice chairman, while the board advising the Fed includes bankers from Capital One and Bank of New York Mellon. That means that, in addition to getting great gobs of free money, the banks were also getting clear signals about when they were getting that money, making it possible to position themselves to make the appropriate investments.

One of the best examples of the banks blatantly gambling, and winning, on government moves was the Public-Private Investment Program, or PPIP. In this bizarre scheme cooked up by goofball-geek Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, the government loaned money to hedge funds and other private investors to buy up the absolutely most toxic horseshit on the market — the same kind of high-risk, high-yield mortgages that were most responsible for triggering the financial chain reaction in the fall of 2008. These satanic deals were the basic currency of the bubble: Jobless dope fiends bought houses with no money down, and the big banks wrapped those mortgages into securities and then sold them off to pensions and other suckers as investment-grade deals. The whole point of the PPIP was to get private investors to relieve the banks of these dangerous assets before they hurt any more innocent bystanders.

But what did the banks do instead, once they got wind of the PPIP? They started buying that worthless crap again, presumably to sell back to the government at inflated prices! In the third quarter of last year, Goldman, Morgan Stanley, Citigroup and Bank of America combined to add $3.36 billion of exactly this horseshit to their balance sheets.

This brazen decision to gouge the taxpayer startled even hardened market observers. According to Michael Schlachter of the investment firm Wilshire Associates, it was “absolutely ridiculous” that the banks that were supposed to be reducing their exposure to these volatile instruments were instead loading up on them in order to make a quick buck. “Some of them created this mess,” he said, “and they are making a killing undoing it.”

CON #6 THE WIRE

Here’s the thing about our current economy. When Goldman and Morgan Stanley transformed overnight from investment banks into commercial banks, we were told this would mean a new era of “significantly tighter regulations and much closer supervision by bank examiners,” as The New York Times put it the very next day. In reality, however, the conversion of Goldman and Morgan Stanley simply completed the dangerous concentration of power and wealth that began in 1999, when Congress repealed the Glass-Steagall Act — the Depression-era law that had prevented the merger of insurance firms, commercial banks and investment houses. Wall Street and the government became one giant dope house, where a few major players share valuable information between conflicted departments the way junkies share needles.

One of the most common practices is a thing called front-running, which is really no different from the old “Wire” con, another scam popularized in The Sting. But instead of intercepting a telegraph wire in order to bet on racetrack results ahead of the crowd, what Wall Street does is make bets ahead of valuable information they obtain in the course of everyday business.

Say you’re working for the commodities desk of a big investment bank, and a major client — a pension fund, perhaps — calls you up and asks you to buy a billion dollars of oil futures for them. Once you place that huge order, the price of those futures is almost guaranteed to go up. If the guy in charge of asset management a few desks down from you somehow finds out about that, he can make a fortune for the bank by betting ahead of that client of yours. The deal would be instantaneous and undetectable, and it would offer huge profits. Your own client would lose money, of course — he’d end up paying a higher price for the oil futures he ordered, because you would have driven up the price. But that doesn’t keep banks from screwing their own customers in this very way.

The scam is so blatant that Goldman Sachs actually warns its clients that something along these lines might happen to them. In the disclosure section at the back of a research paper the bank issued on January 15th, Goldman advises clients to buy some dubious high-yield bonds while admitting that the bank itself may bet against those same shitty bonds. “Our salespeople, traders and other professionals may provide oral or written market commentary or trading strategies to our clients and our proprietary trading desks that reflect opinions that are contrary to the opinions expressed in this research,” the disclosure reads. “Our asset-management area, our proprietary-trading desks and investing businesses may make investment decisions that are inconsistent with the recommendations or views expressed in this research.”

Banks like Goldman admit this stuff openly, despite the fact that there are securities laws that require banks to engage in “fair dealing with customers” and prohibit analysts from issuing opinions that are at odds with what they really think. And yet here they are, saying flat-out that they may be issuing an opinion at odds with what they really think.

To help them screw their own clients, the major investment banks employ high-speed computer programs that can glimpse orders from investors before the deals are processed and then make trades on behalf of the banks at speeds of fractions of a second. None of them will admit it, but everybody knows what this computerized trading — known as “flash trading” — really is. “Flash trading is nothing more than computerized front-running,” says the prominent hedge-fund manager. The SEC voted to ban flash trading in September, but five months later it has yet to issue a regulation to put a stop to the practice.

Over the summer, Goldman suffered an embarrassment on that score when one of its employees, a Russian named Sergey Aleynikov, allegedly stole the bank’s computerized trading code. In a court proceeding after Aleynikov’s arrest, Assistant U.S. Attorney Joseph Facciponti reported that “the bank has raised the possibility that there is a danger that somebody who knew how to use this program could use it to manipulate markets in unfair ways.”

Six months after a federal prosecutor admitted in open court that the Goldman trading program could be used to unfairly manipulate markets, the bank released its annual numbers. Among the notable details was the fact that a staggering 76 percent of its revenue came from trading, both for its clients and for its own account. “That is much, much higher than any other bank,” says Prins, the former Goldman managing director. “If I were a client and I saw that they were making this much money from trading, I would question how badly I was getting screwed.”

Why big institutional investors like pension funds continually come to Wall Street to get raped is the million-dollar question that many experienced observers puzzle over. Goldman’s own explanation for this phenomenon is comedy of the highest order. In testimony before a government panel in January, Blankfein was confronted about his firm’s practice of betting against the same sorts of investments it sells to clients. His response: “These are the professional investors who want this exposure.”

In other words, our clients are big boys, so screw ’em if they’re dumb enough to take the sucker bets I’m offering.

CON #7 THE RELOAD

Not many con men are good enough or brazen enough to con the same victim twice in a row, but the few who try have a name for this excellent sport: reloading. The usual way to reload on a repeat victim (called an “addict” in grifter parlance) is to rope him into trying to get back the money he just lost. This is exactly what started to happen late last year.

It’s important to remember that the housing bubble itself was a classic confidence game — the Ponzi scheme. The Ponzi scheme is any scam in which old investors must be continually paid off with money from new investors to keep up what appear to be high rates of investment return. Residential housing was never as valuable as it seemed during the bubble; the soaring home values were instead a reflection of a continual upward rush of new investors in mortgage-backed securities, a rush that finally collapsed in 2008.

But by the end of 2009, the unimaginable was happening: The bubble was re-inflating. A bailout policy that was designed to help us get out from under the bursting of the largest asset bubble in history inadvertently produced exactly the opposite result, as all that government-fueled capital suddenly began flowing into the most dangerous and destructive investments all over again. Wall Street was going for the reload.

A lot of this was the government’s own fault, of course. By slashing interest rates to zero and flooding the market with money, the Fed was replicating the historic mistake that Alan Greenspan had made not once, but twice, before the tech bubble in the early 1990s and before the housing bubble in the early 2000s. By making sure that traditionally safe investments like CDs and savings accounts earned basically nothing, thanks to rock-bottom interest rates, investors were forced to go elsewhere to search for moneymaking opportunities.

Now we’re in the same situation all over again, only far worse. Wall Street is flooded with government money, and interest rates that are not just low but flat are pushing investors to seek out more “creative” opportunities. (It’s “Greenspan times 10,” jokes one hedge-fund trader.) Some of that money could be put to use on Main Street, of course, backing the efforts of investment-worthy entrepreneurs. But that’s not what our modern Wall Street is built to do. “They don’t seem to want to lend to small and medium-sized business,” says Rep. Brad Sherman, who serves on the House Financial Services Committee. “What they want to invest in is marketable securities. And the definition of small and medium-sized businesses, for the most part, is that they don’t have marketable securities. They have bank loans.”

In other words, unless you’re dealing with the stock of a major, publicly traded company, or a giant pile of home mortgages, or the bonds of a large corporation, or a foreign currency, or oil futures, or some country’s debt, or anything else that can be rapidly traded back and forth in huge numbers, factory-style, by big banks, you’re not really on Wall Street’s radar.

So with small business out of the picture, and the safe stuff not worth looking at thanks to the Fed’s low interest rates, where did Wall Street go? Right back into the shit that got us here.

One trader, who asked not to be identified, recounts a story of what happened with his hedge fund this past fall. His firm wanted to short — that is, bet against — all the crap toxic bonds that were suddenly in vogue again. The fund’s analysts had examined the fundamentals of these instruments and concluded that they were absolutely not good investments.

So they took a short position. One month passed, and they lost money. Another month passed — same thing. Finally, the trader just shrugged and decided to change course and buy.

“I said, ‘Fuck it, let’s make some money,'” he recalls. “I absolutely did not believe in the fundamentals of any of this stuff. However, I can get on the bandwagon, just so long as I know when to jump out of the car before it goes off the damn cliff!”

This is the very definition of bubble economics — betting on crowd behavior instead of on fundamentals. It’s old investors betting on the arrival of new ones, with the value of the underlying thing itself being irrelevant. And this behavior is being driven, no surprise, by the biggest firms on Wall Street.

The research report published by Goldman Sachs on January 15th underlines this sort of thinking. Goldman issued a strong recommendation to buy exactly the sort of high-yield toxic crap our hedge-fund guy was, by then, driving rapidly toward the cliff. “Summarizing our views,” the bank wrote, “we expect robust flows . . . to dominate fundamentals.” In other words: This stuff is crap, but everyone’s buying it in an awfully robust way, so you should too. Just like tech stocks in 1999, and mortgage-backed securities in 2006.

To sum up, this is what Lloyd Blankfein meant by “performance”: Take massive sums of money from the government, sit on it until the government starts printing trillions of dollars in a desperate attempt to restart the economy, buy even more toxic assets to sell back to the government at inflated prices — and then, when all else fails, start driving us all toward the cliff again with a frank and open endorsement of bubble economics. I mean, shit — who wouldn’t deserve billions in bonuses for doing all that?

Con artists have a word for the inability of their victims to accept that they’ve been scammed. They call it the “True Believer Syndrome.” That’s sort of where we are, in a state of nagging disbelief about the real problem on Wall Street. It isn’t so much that we have inadequate rules or incompetent regulators, although both of these things are certainly true. The real problem is that it doesn’t matter what regulations are in place if the people running the economy are rip-off artists. The system assumes a certain minimum level of ethical behavior and civic instinct over and above what is spelled out by the regulations. If those ethics are absent — well, this thing isn’t going to work, no matter what we do. Sure, mugging old ladies is against the law, but it’s also easy. To prevent it, we depend, for the most part, not on cops but on people making the conscious decision not to do it.

That’s why the biggest gift the bankers got in the bailout was not fiscal but psychological. “The most valuable part of the bailout,” says Rep. Sherman, “was the implicit guarantee that they’re Too Big to Fail.” Instead of liquidating and prosecuting the insolvent institutions that took us all down with them in a giant Ponzi scheme, we have showered them with money and guarantees and all sorts of other enabling gestures. And what should really freak everyone out is the fact that Wall Street immediately started skimming off its own rescue money. If the bailouts validated anew the crooked psychology of the bubble, the recent profit and bonus numbers show that the same psychology is back, thriving, and looking for new disasters to create. “It’s evidence,” says Rep. Kanjorski, “that they still don’t get it.”

More to the point, the fact that we haven’t done much of anything to change the rules and behavior of Wall Street shows that we still don’t get it. Instituting a bailout policy that stressed recapitalizing bad banks was like the addict coming back to the con man to get his lost money back. Ask yourself how well that ever works out. And then get ready for the reload.

WORLD HUNGER PROVIDES PROOF OF FINANCIAL DERIVATIVES INFLATING PRICES

One of the hardest things for people to get their minds around is how borrowers were defrauded. The nagging question keeps coming to mind “But you DID sign the loan and take the money, didn’t you?” Yes you did, but you did it because of a representation and virtual guarantee from several parties at the closing table who knew the appraisal was a lie, that you were believing it, that you relied on it, and that you never would have done a deal where the real appraised fair market value was far less than the amount of the loan.

So then the question becomes “How can you be sure the appraisal was inflated? Were all appraisals inflated? How do you know that?” Answers: Read on, YES, Read On, in that order.

I start with the proposition that the only legitimate factors that cause changes in housing prices (up or down) are changes in supply and demand, rising costs or labor and materials and related services. Anything else is a manipulation UNLESS it is thoroughly disclosed in language that a normal reasonable person would understand. Even if such disclosure is made and the deal goes through BOTH parties would be defrauding someone by definition, to wit: they are agreeing that the stated price or value of the property is inflated but they are doing the deal anyway.

How could anyone inflate the price of a house without everyone knowing it? ANSWER: By inflating the entire market in that geographical area. Note that during the securitization era, ONLY the places that were targeted had sharply rising prices, sometimes from one month to the next. Other places, like Seneca Falls, NY (highlighted in NY Times article) were not not affected by either the boom or bust except indirectly where they are dealing with decreased services from the state and county resulting from budget deficits resulting from an expectation of rising revenues based upon the apparent rise in tax appraised value.

How does one inflate values of any commodity or property in the entire relevant marketplace? ANSWER: By creating false liquidity (i.e, availability of money) and by speculation pushing up the “value” of the derivatives and other hedge products which in turn raises the value of the actual commodity, or in our case, the actual house. Since the cost of the money decreases, despite government attempts to raise interest rates, and speculation is allowed without supervision, the speculators control the market on the way up and on the way down. They win on both sides because they are controlling the events. That is not a free market. That is a privately controlled market.

So the reason I am sure that false appraisals were the rule, not just the norm are as follows:

  1. There was no abnormal trends or changes in demand, supply, or costs — except that supply actually outpaced demand by a factor of at least 200%. Thus prices should have probably dropped as developers increased competition for buyers. There is no observable reason for prices to rise, much less at the pace seen in the period 2002-2007. By all public accounts it will be at least 2030 before the current inventory of houses are sold. This level of overbuilding is unprecedented and cannot be tied to an expectation of increased demand but rather an expectation that the seller controlled the transaction and collectively with loan brokers, originators, aggregators, and investment bankers would do anything to close the deal even if it meant having the borrower sign for a loan that called for NO PAYMENTS.
  2. 8,000 certified licensed appraisers signed a petition to Congress in 2005 complaining they were being coerced into justifying the deal rather than actually estimating fair market value. They feared they would be blacklisted from all the deals because an honest appraisal would have slowed down sales of homes and sales of financial products to borrowers.
  3. This was a complete reversal of practices existing before the securitization era. The value of the collateral was the Lender’s only guarantee of repayment. hence the tendency was to minimize the estimate of fair market value. Once the risk of repayment was eliminated “lenders” (i.e., mortgage brokers and originators) were under pressure to close loan transactions dollar volumes. The easiest way of doing that was to increase the value of the properties. The more this practice took hold of meeting the contract terms  which were always disclosed to the appraiser (contrary to prior practice) the easier it became, since the “comparables” used by the appraisers were produced by the same practice, incentives and pressures. As the mortgage bonds were sold in increasing dollar volumes, the pressure to place investment dollars increased exponentially. Incentives for mortgage brokers and originators to close deals at any level of risk or terms increased proportionately. Marketing and selling of loan products became big business, with large fees and apparently no risk as the managers of such companies perceived it. The upward pressure to increase the size of loans directly resulted in an upward pressure on sale prices and the perception of “value” in the marketplace. A snowball effect was thus created producing a spike in housing prices that is completely unprecedented in the history of housing since the 1870’s when such measurements began to  be recorded. No other boom or bust cycle in any part of the country had ever experienced spikes of this magnitude.
  4. Starting 3-4 loan products in the 1970’s, the number of possible loan products has skyrocketed to over 400 different kinds of loans — a bewildering array that increases asymmetry of information — causing the buyer to depend and rely upon the more sophisticated side (“lender”) for information about the loan product they were steered into.
  5. The number of loan originating companies masquerading as actual lenders went from 1 (Household Finance, now HSBC) to hundreds during the entire securitization period (circa 1990-2008) and then back down again as most of them went out of business, liquidated, or went bankrupt. New business start-ups would not  have flooded the market but for the virtual certainty of high fees without regard to whether the product worked or not (i.e., whether the loan was repaid or not).
  6. The amount of money attributable to derivatives that increased availability of loans increased from zero in 1983 to more than $30 trillion in 2007 — twice the Gross National Product of this country.
  7. I see no reason for price increases other than the flood of money into certain marketplaces, which in turn gave some color of verification of an appraisal that was plainly wrong, inflated, and where fees for such appraisals increased geometrically.

Yes they were virtually all inflated. That was the requirement. Just as the rating agencies falsely inflated the value and risk of the mortgage bonds that were used to attract the $30 trillion in capital used to flood the marketplace, the appraisers likewise inflated the appraisals of the value and thus the risk to the borrowers AND investors. The proof is simply in the present situation where prices have fallen by as much as 80%. This is further corroborated by the price levels before the flood of money into the marketplace. The final verification is that median income was flat during this period. Most economists and housing experts agree that ultimately median income is the main determinant in housing prices.

How do I know this is true? It is the only workable explanation that is being offered, even including comments, reports and statements issued by the financial services industry.

For an example of how this has worked against the poorest, starving people of the world, see the following, which demonstrates that the Wall Street process, if unregulated, leads to bizarre social and financial consequences.

//

Johann Hari: How Goldman gambled on starvation

Speculators set up a casino where the chips were the stomachs of millions. What does it say about our system that we can so casually inflict so much pain?

Friday, 2 July 2010

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By now, you probably think your opinion of Goldman Sachs and its swarm of Wall Street allies has rock-bottomed at raw loathing. You’re wrong. There’s more. It turns out that the most destructive of all their recent acts has barely been discussed at all. Here’s the rest. This is the story of how some of the richest people in the world – Goldman, Deutsche Bank, the traders at Merrill Lynch, and more – have caused the starvation of some of the poorest people in the world.

It starts with an apparent mystery. At the end of 2006, food prices across the world started to rise, suddenly and stratospherically. Within a year, the price of wheat had shot up by 80 per cent, maize by 90 per cent, rice by 320 per cent. In a global jolt of hunger, 200 million people – mostly children – couldn’t afford to get food any more, and sank into malnutrition or starvation. There were riots in more than 30 countries, and at least one government was violently overthrown. Then, in spring 2008, prices just as mysteriously fell back to their previous level. Jean Ziegler, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, calls it “a silent mass murder”, entirely due to “man-made actions.”

Earlier this year I was in Ethiopia, one of the worst-hit countries, and people there remember the food crisis as if they had been struck by a tsunami. “My children stopped growing,” a woman my age called Abiba Getaneh, told me. “I felt like battery acid had been poured into my stomach as I starved. I took my two daughters out of school and got into debt. If it had gone on much longer, I think my baby would have died.”

Most of the explanations we were given at the time have turned out to be false. It didn’t happen because supply fell: the International Grain Council says global production of wheat actually increased during that period, for example. It isn’t because demand grew either: as Professor Jayati Ghosh of the Centre for Economic Studies in New Delhi has shown, demand actually fell by 3 per cent. Other factors – like the rise of biofuels, and the spike in the oil price – made a contribution, but they aren’t enough on their own to explain such a violent shift.

To understand the biggest cause, you have to plough through some concepts that will make your head ache – but not half as much as they made the poor world’s stomachs ache.

For over a century, farmers in wealthy countries have been able to engage in a process where they protect themselves against risk. Farmer Giles can agree in January to sell his crop to a trader in August at a fixed price. If he has a great summer, he’ll lose some cash, but if there’s a lousy summer or the global price collapses, he’ll do well from the deal. When this process was tightly regulated and only companies with a direct interest in the field could get involved, it worked.

Then, through the 1990s, Goldman Sachs and others lobbied hard and the regulations were abolished. Suddenly, these contracts were turned into “derivatives” that could be bought and sold among traders who had nothing to do with agriculture. A market in “food speculation” was born.

So Farmer Giles still agrees to sell his crop in advance to a trader for £10,000. But now, that contract can be sold on to speculators, who treat the contract itself as an object of potential wealth. Goldman Sachs can buy it and sell it on for £20,000 to Deutsche Bank, who sell it on for £30,000 to Merrill Lynch – and on and on until it seems to bear almost no relationship to Farmer Giles’s crop at all.

If this seems mystifying, it is. John Lanchester, in his superb guide to the world of finance, Whoops! Why Everybody Owes Everyone and No One Can Pay, explains: “Finance, like other forms of human behaviour, underwent a change in the 20th century, a shift equivalent to the emergence of modernism in the arts – a break with common sense, a turn towards self-referentiality and abstraction and notions that couldn’t be explained in workaday English.” Poetry found its break with realism when T S Eliot wrote “The Wasteland”. Finance found its Wasteland moment in the 1970s, when it began to be dominated by complex financial instruments that even the people selling them didn’t fully understand.

So what has this got to do with the bread on Abiba’s plate? Until deregulation, the price for food was set by the forces of supply and demand for food itself. (This was already deeply imperfect: it left a billion people hungry.) But after deregulation, it was no longer just a market in food. It became, at the same time, a market in food contracts based on theoretical future crops – and the speculators drove the price through the roof.

Here’s how it happened. In 2006, financial speculators like Goldmans pulled out of the collapsing US real estate market. They reckoned food prices would stay steady or rise while the rest of the economy tanked, so they switched their funds there. Suddenly, the world’s frightened investors stampeded on to this ground.

So while the supply and demand of food stayed pretty much the same, the supply and demand for derivatives based on food massively rose – which meant the all-rolled-into-one price shot up, and the starvation began. The bubble only burst in March 2008 when the situation got so bad in the US that the speculators had to slash their spending to cover their losses back home.

When I asked Merrill Lynch’s spokesman to comment on the charge of causing mass hunger, he said: “Huh. I didn’t know about that.” He later emailed to say: “I am going to decline comment.” Deutsche Bank also refused to comment. Goldman Sachs were more detailed, saying they sold their index in early 2007 and pointing out that “serious analyses … have concluded index funds did not cause a bubble in commodity futures prices”, offering as evidence a statement by the OECD.

How do we know this is wrong? As Professor Ghosh points out, some vital crops are not traded on the futures markets, including millet, cassava, and potatoes. Their price rose a little during this period – but only a fraction as much as the ones affected by speculation. Her research shows that speculation was “the main cause” of the rise.

So it has come to this. The world’s wealthiest speculators set up a casino where the chips were the stomachs of hundreds of millions of innocent people. They gambled on increasing starvation, and won. Their Wasteland moment created a real wasteland. What does it say about our political and economic system that we can so casually inflict so much pain?

If we don’t re-regulate, it is only a matter of time before this all happens again. How many people would it kill next time? The moves to restore the pre-1990s rules on commodities trading have been stunningly sluggish. In the US, the House has passed some regulation, but there are fears that the Senate – drenched in speculator-donations – may dilute it into meaninglessness. The EU is lagging far behind even this, while in Britain, where most of this “trade” takes place, advocacy groups are worried that David Cameron’s government will block reform entirely to please his own friends and donors in the City.

Only one force can stop another speculation-starvation-bubble. The decent people in developed countries need to shout louder than the lobbyists from Goldman Sachs. The World Development Movement is launching a week of pressure this summer as crucial decisions on this are taken: text WDM to 82055 to find out what you can do.

The last time I spoke to her, Abiba said: “We can’t go through that another time. Please – make sure they never, never do that to us again.”

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