BLOOMBERG: Mortgage Crisis Still Unresolved, New Crisis Looming

No two financial crises are ever quite the same. The next one won’t be like the last. But history teaches lessons, and there’s no excuse for ignoring them.

Regulators have done a lot to reform the financial system since the 2008 crisis, but they still haven’t fixed the market where the trouble started: U.S. mortgages. It’s an omission they need to put right before the next crisis hits.

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see https://www.bloomberg.com/view/articles/2018-04-30/america-s-mortgage-market-is-still-broken

David Shipley, Senior Editor for Bloomberg Views has hit the nail on the head. While there are some errors in his article, they are understandable.

He’s right when he says that the servicers lacked the necessary incentives and resources and still lack those incentives and resources. But when he talks about “delinquencies” he fails to grasp the fact that those “delinquencies” are based upon a debt that neither the servicer nor its client is authorized to administer.

This failure of perception is understandable. It is difficult to to accept the fact that the debt went up in smoke and therefore no creditor has authorized the administration or collection of the debt. It is challenging to accept the notion that the banks engineered this scheme so they could step in as if they were creditors without actually saying so.

But he gets very close when he says

Private-label mortgages (which aren’t guaranteed by the government) were packaged into securities with extremely poor mechanisms for deciding who — investors, packagers or lenders — would take responsibility for bad or fraudulent loans.

The whole idea was to make it unclear who would be injured by nonpayment of a debt. That was how the banks, as intermediaries, transformed themselves into apparent principals and how entities created the illusion of self proclaimed servicers. Or as Shipley puts it

The parties involved in securitizations became embroiled in legal battles about who owed what to whom — litigation that goes on to this day.

So even amongst the principals of the scheme coined as “securitization fail” (Adam Levitin) there is no agreement and in fact fierce court battles as to the identity of the injured party. In other words their pleadings in court constitute admissions that are inconsistent with the pleadings in foreclosure cases. If there is no identified party with injury then there is no legal standing.

What is clear now is that the money taken from investors was not used to fund REMIC trusts, that the REMIC Trusts never bought any debts and in fact never bought any of the dubious paper that was issued in connection with origination or transfer of the “loans.” Those investors were largely not becoming beneficiaries of the trust; instead they were becoming creditors of the trust.

Knowing that, investors are stuck — if they blow the whistle on the diversion of their money into a completely different “investment” than the one they thought they were buying, they are undermining their potential claim based upon the “security” offered by the mortgages. And they are undercutting the value of the certificates they bought. That is what threatens a large segment of the shadow banking market.

The fix that Shipley thinks should happen will never come to fruition because the government has been convinced that a fix would eviscerate the shadow banking market where derivatives are traded. Nobody knows what the outcome will be if that market fails.

But in the meanwhile current policy reflects a decision to let investors and borrowers take the entire brunt of the scheme that ultimately left the banks in solid control and rising profits despite small settlements compared to the amount of money siphoned out of the US economy. So the Federal reserve and American taxpayers continue the bailout by lending support to the false presumption that the RMBS derivatives are based upon mortgage loans owned by a trust.

Shipley narrowly misses the point when he says

Advancing payments to investors when loans go delinquent — a core responsibility of servicers — demands a lot of cash. It also requires ample capital to absorb possible losses on servicing rights, an asset whose value can quickly evaporate if defaults and prepayments eat into expected fees.

Think about it. Why would a company guarantee payments from a third party? Who would take that risk on loans known to be at best fragile? Where is the money coming from to make those payments? Is it really the “servicer.” And if the money is “recovered” as “servicer advances” when the property is liquidated, is the foreclosure really a disguised suit to force the recovery of servicer advances rather than a true foreclosure — contrary to the interests of the certificate holders?

And if Ocwen was actually entitled to receive and expected to receive recovery of servicer advances why would it be teetering on the edge of bankruptcy? The more likely scenario is that subservicers like Ocwen have nothing at all to do with servicer advances. They don’t make them, they don’t initiate them and they don’t collect them. The Wall Street playbook has the real puppet masters hidden behind several layers of curtains. Ocwen, like so many others, is just there to get tossed under the bus to make people happy that they extracted a pound of flesh — except there was no skin in the game.

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