PTSD: A Breakdown of Securitization in the Real World

By using the methods of magicians who distract the viewer from what is really happening the banks have managed to hoodwink even the victims and their lawyers into thinking that collection and foreclosure on “securitized” loans are real and proper. Nobody actually stops to ask whether the named claimant is actually going to receive the benefit of the remedy (foreclosure) they are seeking.

When you break it down you can see that in many cases the investment banks, posing as Master Servicers are the parties getting the monetary proceeds of sale of foreclosed property. None of the parties in the chain have lost any money but each of them is participating in a scheme to foreclose on the property for fun and profit.

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It is worth distinguishing between four sets of investors which I will call P, T, S and D.

The P group of investors were Pension funds and other stable managed funds. They purchased the first round of derivative contracts sometimes known as asset backed securities or mortgage backed securities. Managers of hedge funds that performed due diligence quickly saw that that the investment was backed only by the good faith and credit of the issuing investment bank and not by collateral, debts or mortgages or even notes from borrowers. Other fund managers, for reasons of their own, chose to overlook the process of due diligence and relied upon the appearance of high ratings from Moody’s, Standard and Poor’s and Fitch combined with the appearance of insurance on the investment. The P group were part of the reason that the Federal reserve and the US Treasury department decided to prop up what was obviously a wrongful and fraudulent scheme. Pulling the plug, in the view of the top regulators, would have destroyed the investment portfolio of many if not most stable managed funds.

The T group of investors were traders. Traders provide market liquidity which is so highly prized and necessary for a capitalist economy to maintain prosperity. The T group, consisting of hedge funds and others with an appetitive for risk purchased derivatives on derivatives, including credit default swaps that were disguised sales of loan portfolios that once sold, no longer existed. Yet the same portfolio was sold multiple time turning a hefty profit but resulted in a huge liability when the loans soured during the process of securitization of the paper (not the debt). The market froze when the loans soured; nobody would buy more certificates. The Ponzi scheme was over. Another example that Lehman pioneered was “minibonds” which were not bonds and they were not small. These were resales of the credit default swaps aggregated into a false portfolio. The traders in this group included the major investment banks. As an example, Goldman Sachs purchased insurance on portfolios of certificates (MBS) that it did not own but under contract law the contract was perfectly legal, even if it was simply a bet. When the market froze and AIG could not pay off the bet, Hank Paulson, former CEO of Goldman Sachs literally begged George W Bush to bail out AIG and “save the banks.” What was saved was Goldman’s profit on the insurance contract in which it reaped tens of billions of dollars in payments for nonexistent losses that could have been attributed to people who actually had money at risk in loans to borrowers, except that no such person existed.

The S group of investors were scavengers who were well connected with the world of finance or part of the world of finance. It was the S group that created OneWest over a weekend, and later members of the S group would be fictitious buyers of “re-securitized” interests in prior loans that were subject to false claims of securitization of the paper. This was an effort to correct obvious irregularities that were thought to expose a vulnerability of the investment banks.

The D group of investors are dummies who purchased securitization certificates entitling them to income indexed on recovery of servicer advances and other dubious claims. The interesting thing about this is that the Master Servicer does appear to have a claim for money that is labeled as a “servicer advance,” even if there was no advance or the servicer did not advance any funds. The claim is contingent upon there being a foreclosure and eventual sale of the property to a third party. Money paid to investors from a fund of investor money to satisfy the promise to pay contained in the “certificate” or “MBS” or “Mortgage Bond,” is labeled, at the discretion of the Master Servicer as a Servicer Advance even though the servicer did not advance any money.

This is important because the timing of foreclosures is often based entirely on when the “Servicer Advances” are equal to or exceed the equity in the property. Hence the only actual recipient of money from the foreclosure is not the P investors, not any investors and not the trust or purported trustee but rather the Master Servicer. In short, the Master servicer is leveraging an unsecured claim and riding on the back of an apparently secured claim in which the named claimant will receive no benefits from the remedy demanded in court or in a non-judicial foreclosure.

NOTE that securitization took place in four parts and in three different directions:

  1. The debt to the T group of investors.
  2. The notes to the T and S group of traders
  3. The mortgage (without the debt) to a nominee — usually a fictitious trust serving as the fictitious name of the investment bank (Lehman in this case).
  4. Securitization of spillover money that guaranteed receipt of money that was probably never due or payable.

Note that the P group of investors is not included because they do not ever collect money from borrowers and their certificates grant no right, title or interest in the debt, note or mortgage. When you read references to “securitization fail” (see Adam Levitin) this is part of what the writers are talking about. The securitization that everyone is talking about never happened. The P investors are not owners or beneficiaries entitled to income, interest or principal from loans to borrowers. They are entitled to an income stream as loans the investment bank chooses to pay it. Bailouts or even borrower payoffs are not credited to the the P group nor any trust. Their income remains the same regardless of whether the borrower is paying or not.

Gary Dubin: Proposed Mortgage Integrity Act (MIA):

For ten years, Gary Dubin in Hawaii has been practicing law defending homeowners from foreclosure. He has preached his own version of how to combat foreclosure fraud. And he has practiced what he preached. I find his work enlightening and refreshing. So when I read his Proposed Mortgage Integrity Act (MIA) I decided to republish it in its entirety. Some of what he proposes is new but most of it, in my opinion, is a much needed tune-up of the wording of existing law.

His article and proposals are extremely well-written, objectively stated, reasonable and necessary. In my opinion Dubin’s quest  should be supported by homeowners and non homeowners alike as it proposes to correct a deficit in our legal system, our economic system, and our society. The inequality of wealth that was exacerbated by what amounts to outright theft by a handful of banks can be corrected and our economic system can be stabilized if we return to the rule of law.

I have added commentary where I thought it might help readers understand WHY homeowners should win and how the current system is rewarding theft.

Go here listen to replays of previous Gary Dubin shows and find reference documents:

By Gary Dubin

The Proposed Mortgage Integrity Act (MIA): Some Common Sense Urgently Needed Practical Institutional Reforms For A Foreclosure System Completely Out Of Service…

I am entering my tenth year as a radio commentator specializing in developments in the foreclosure field following the Mortgage Crisis of 2008.

Despite isolated legislative and judicial attempts at reform during the last ten years discussed on The Foreclosure Hour, for the vast majority of American homeowners facing foreclosure little unfortunately has really changed.

False documentation and myopic judicial oversight still predominate in foreclosure courts, while hundreds of millions of dollars in hard earned equity is literally stolen in the loan securitization process in one of the largest fraudulent transfers of wealth to a few inside traders in United States history.

[EDITOR’S NOTE: He’s right. The direct meaning of this is that a handful of investment banks received trillions in investments. Then they originated or acquired loans eventually using the fictitious name of a nonexistent trust. But it was the investment bank that was the real player.
Then they sold the debt and the paper multiple times through disguised derivatives. This disbursed claims to debt ownership to dozens of players, who eventually came to rely on the value of the paper (contract or derivative) they acquired as set by the marketplace in private transactions rather than the intrinsic value of the debt, thus freeing the investment bank from ever accounting for the debt.
In short, none of the players are desirous or expecting any payment from parties who were borrowers with a debt that has now been completely satisfied. And claimants in foreclosure neither expect nor receive the remedy (foreclosure) that lawyers claim. The proceeds of foreclosure sale never go to the party named as claimant.
So the bottom line is that the investment bank is behind everything and it has long since received multiples of its investment in the loan. Having raked in an average of $3-$4 million on each $200,000 loan “repayment” of the loan was irrelevant and unwarranted. Neither the original investors nor the borrowers are given any credit for the receipt of proceeds of sale of the debt.
But foreclosure served as a vehicle to galvanize the myth that the debt still existed (and the note and mortgage could be enforced) and was owned by at least someone in the orbit of the investment bank, when it had long since departed. Judicial oversight has both failed and refused to consider the possibility that any alleged owner of the debt has already been paid in full and many times over.
That recognition of these basic facts produces a windfall for the homeowner and a death blow to the shadow banking market is not a consequence of anything the borrowers did, but rather a consequence of running a PONZI scheme. The windfall aspect might be corrected through the use of equitable doctrines; but in all events the promissory note and mortgage cannot be enforced to collect on a debt that has been sold to third parties.
The actual truth is that the actual claims to the debt, note and mortgage are buried deep within the shadow banking market and cannot be traced because they are, according to law, private contracts that need not be registered anywhere and are transferred in trading that is never recorded anywhere. The current remedy allowed by the courts is based entirely on the premise that someone who actually owns the debt is getting paid from the proceeds of liquidation of the “collateral.” This is entirely untrue. It never happens except for instances where the original lender is still the creditor.
The declaration of delinquency or default from a lawyer purporting to represent a nonexistent trust or an existing servicer when the declaration relates to a party who is entirely removed from ownership or any right to the debt, note or mortgage is obviously fatally defective, as many court cases have demonstrated. But the players, for a fee, must pretend that the debt is real and the the note and mortgage need to be enforced. That is the origin of the need for fabrication, backdating, forgery and robosigning.]

Backlogged courts applying mostly outdated traditional mortgage concepts remain ill-equipped to protect American homeowners from mortgage abuse.

Waging a foreclosure defense is still beyond the financial means of most homeowners, and those that can find the money to hire an attorney, find that few if any attorneys are trained in foreclosure defense and those that are, are usually less than adequately competent.

New and reform minded decisions by State Supreme Courts are nevertheless rarely adhered to by many of their state trial courts.

Hundreds of billions of dollars in sanctions levied by state and federal governments against lenders and loan servicers detailing mortgagee abuses have nevertheless failed to stop such identical abuses, and sanction money earmarked to assist borrowers has been largely diverted to other State uses.

Meanwhile, there is literally a war against foreclosure defense attorneys still taking place in our courts and among attorney regulators who think homeowners in foreclosure are just deadbeats and attorneys representing them are just preying on vulnerable defendants.

The present mortgage and trust deed foreclosure systems in the States simply do not work except for lenders and pretender lenders, whereas the federal banking system, specifically the Government Sponsored Enterprises Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac as well as MERS, are the real cause of and not the cure for most of the present serious problems in the foreclosure field.

Nevertheless, the reforms that are needed are not expensive nor complex, just a matter of simple common sense adjustments to a foreclosure system that is centuries old and no longer compatible with the needs of a democratic society under siege by greedy and unscrupulous quick-buck securitization thieves.

On today’s show John and I unveil our view of the general outlines of a proposed overhaul of the foreclosure system in the States, what we call legislation wise “The Mortgage Integrity Act” (MIA for short).

We intend to present this proposal later this year in the format of model legislation for adoption by State Legislatures.

Meanwhile, we hope to get our listeners’ comments and suggestions before drafting the actual Legislation in the form of a Model Act to be sent to the judiciary committees of every State Legislature.

The Model Act will have three main parts. Part One will address the nature of the emergency, Part Two will address the enacted institutional reforms, and Part Three will address transitional issues.

Part One, to be drafted in whereas clauses, will state the following:

1. Keeping record track of and protecting interests in land within each State has historically been an exclusive State function in the United States presumably protected by the Tenth Amendment to the United States Constitution;

2. Such protection has also been a strong State public policy, affecting the economic as well as the social and political well being and health of citizens in each State since respective statehood.

3. That exclusively State function has been recently undermined by the federal government in numerous ways and is responsible for the present mortgage crisis.

4. The result has been the fostering of corruption at virtually all levels of state foreclosure systems.

5. As a result, the State Legislature hereby declares a State Emergency, requiring a restructuring of the State foreclosure system through immediate institutional reforms as well as transitional measures to safeguard the wealth and well being of our citizens from increasing confiscatory forfeitures.

6. Ironically a foreclosure system said to have its goal to stabilize real estate markets in the United States has to the contrary destabilized real estate markets in this State, driving down the value of properties and dislocating tens of thousands of homeowners annually.

Part Two, to be drafted in enactment clauses, will state the following:

1. The existing foreclosure related statutes in this jurisdiction [setting forth the affected statutes by name and number] are hereby amended, abolished and/or replaced, as follows;

2. The exercise of personal jurisdiction by State Courts shall henceforth require service of all complaints by personal service, the proof of which shall henceforth require contemporaneous photographs of those being served. Substitute service is abolished.

3. Service by publication in lieu of personal service shall require attempts to serve defendants first by certified mail, return receipt requested, and next by certification first that an independent investigative agency licensed by the State has made a diligent effort to locate the defendant and within a reasonable time no shorter than two months has failed to do so, using nationwide tracking services.

4. There shall be only one form of combined promissory note and mortgage (or deed of trust) enforced in this jurisdiction, an inseparable ‘Mortgage Note”, which shall only be valid and enforceable if and when duly recorded at a County or Statewide recording office, and which shall not be classified as a negotiable instrument, which may only be transferred by an assignment similarly required to be recorded to be valid and enforceable.

5. Recording offices shall be staffed by attorneys who shall be responsible for researching and approving the standing of all claimed holders of recordable Mortgage Notes prior to their recordation, their compensation to be adequately funded through increases in recording fees taxed upon recorders of securitized trust instruments.

6. Enforcement of Mortgage Notes shall require proof of notices of default consisting of return receipt requests together with personal knowledge affidavits attesting to preparation and mailing by the preparers and mailers.

7. Enforcement of Mortgage Notes shall also require verification of the entire loan general ledger by an independent CPA with no institutional connections, direct or indirect, to the foreclosing plaintiff or its representatives or affiliates.

8. The State Insurance Commissioner is directed to investigate providing mortgage default insurance for the benefit of homeowners.

9. There shall be a specialized foreclosure court in every County in the State, whose Judges shall be prohibited from directly or indirectly having any ownership interest in or any other connection with any financial institution.

10. Mortgage defaults shall by law be considered confidential and not disclosed to anyone other than the affected borrowers, accommodating mortgagors, and guarantors under penalty of fines and imprisonment, to avoid foreclosure blight lowering the market value of affected properties.

11. Foreclosure complaints shall similarly be considered confidential and filed under seal, to avoid foreclosure blight lowering the market value of affected properties.

12. Foreclosure auctions are hereby abolished. Properties subject to foreclosure shall be sold in the ordinary market place by licensed real estate brokers and listed in the Multiple Listing Service as directed by the Foreclosure Court.

13. Deficiency judgments are hereby abolished.

14. In cases in which the Foreclosure Court finds that there is little or no equity remaining after payments required to be made to a foreclosing plaintiff, a foreclosure defendant must vacate the premises within a reasonable time no less than 90 days or must elect to forfeit ownership in exchange for an immediate lease agreement preserving possession for a stated period of time including indefinitely as determined by the Foreclosure Court provided a monthly market leasehold rental payment is agreed to and timely paid.

15. In cases where the Foreclosure Court finds that there is substantial equity remaining after payments required to be made to a foreclosing plaintiff, a foreclosure defendant my elect to retain possession as a tenant as aforesaid and shall have the right to recover title including therefore his equity in the property within a time period of at least one year to be determined by the Foreclosure Court provided at the time of the exercise of that right the foreclosure defendant reimburses the foreclosing plaintiff for whatever amounts may then be due on the mortgage note.

Part Three, covering transitional matters, as follows:

1. The dates of effectiveness of the various enactments will have to be tailored to existing conditions and between new and existing secured loans.

2. The respective powers between the States and the federal government in various respects above will likely require negotiation and litigation. Fortunately, the United States Supreme Court has recently shown deference to the States in related issues involving financial regulation.

Please join John and me today and email us your comments and suggestions. Let us know if you think we missed anything and if there any other way you can think of to change a system so badly out of service?

Gary Victor Dubin
Dubin Law Offices
Honolulu, Hawaii 96813
Office: (808) 537-2300
Licensed in California and Hawaii

New products could increase the number of investors shorting U.S. home loans

A sluggish mortgage-bond market could be jump-started by a new service that allows investors to short home loans.

Skeptics say the rise of derivatives on credit-risk transfer notes sold by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac has echoes of the 2008 credit crisis, when the market plunged under the weight of collapsing subprime securities.

Fannie and Freddie – the biggest guarantors of U.S. home loans –  started transferring mortgage-default risk to bond funds and other investors in 2013 to help reduce risks to taxpayers according to Bloomberg. But the program has been generating more traction in recent months, after New York-based Vista Capital Advisors rolled out a pilot program that would eventually allow investors to bet on U.S. homeowner defaults.

Craig Phillips, a former BlackRock executive serving as head of financial markets advisory and client solutions for the Treasury Department, said credit-risk transfers will be core to U.S. housing policy.

The madness begins again with creative new derivatives and credit risk transfers that put the risk on the taxpayer.

PONZI SCHEMES: Liability Of Lawyers and Accountants to be Considered

“Carlo Pietro Giovanni Guglielmo Tebaldo Ponzi, (March 3, 1882 – January 18, 1949), commonly known as Charles Ponzi, was an Italian businessman and con artist in the U.S. and Canada. His aliases include Charles Ponci, Carlo and Charles P. Bianchi.[1] Born in Italy, he became known in the early 1920s as a swindler in North America for his money making scheme. Charles Ponzi promised clients a 50% profit within 45 days, or 100% profit within 90 days, by buying discounted postal reply coupons in other countries and redeeming them at face value in the United States as a form of arbitrage.[2][3] In reality, Ponzi was paying early investors using the investments of later investors. This type of scheme is now known as a “Ponzi scheme“. His scheme ran for over a year before it collapsed, costing his “investors” $20 million.” — see Wikipedia.

Editor’s Comments: The Supreme Court is going to hear a case involving a Ponzi Scheme that once upon a time was considered huge, until it was dwarfed by Madoff, which in turn was dwarfed by the Wall Street firms. The interesting thing about the original Ponzi Scheme is that it involved the promotion of false derivatives, which is exactly what happened in the mortgage meltdown.

Ponzi’s scheme was based upon the false premise that certain certificates could be purchased at one price in one place and sold at a higher price in another place because markets vary from one place to another. Had he actually believed the false premise he would have invested according to plan.

But there is no question from anyone about the fact that the plan was unworkable and Ponzi knew it. So he never invested the money and simply relied upon continuing sales of his “securities” in a private investment scheme to fund the illusion of payments as promised; as sales progressed he was able to pay investors their expected return in order to encourage additional sales and word of mouth success. When investors stopped buying the scheme quickly collapsed. Look back on the mortgage bond market. When investors stopped buying, the entire system collapsed.

Ponzi’s derivatives were fake. They were not derivatives because he never invested in the plan. He just kept the money and managed it until the scheme collapsed. The Mortgage Bond market was virtually identical to Ponzi except that it was more complex in terms of the number of moving parts. The mortgage bonds and credit default swaps were not derivative products either because the bonds never derived their value from actual mortgage loans. The “derivatives” that were allegedly exempt from securities regulation, the insurance products that were allegedly exempt from insurance regulation, were in fact not derivatives in most cases. The REMIC tranche that issued the bonds was a creature of the investment banks and the money advanced by investors never made it to the trust.

Like Ponzi the investment banks pocketed the money and then funded only what they needed to fund to give investors the false impression that their money was being invested in the manner required by the enabling documents — the Pooling and Servicing Agreement, Prospectus and the use of an Assignment and Assumption agreement that was used to cover the movement of money. Everything they did was designed to encourage the sales of additional bogus bonds. Profits were made primarily by the cloud of players created by the Wall Street banks, while the losses from the inherent false premise of the “investment” plan fell to investors and borrowers in “loans” that were virtual gifts to cover up the theft of principal by the banks.

Now the question before the Supreme Court is not whether the principals are liable to victims of the fake investment scheme, but whether the professionals and affiliates are liable for their negligence or fraud in helping the Ponzi scheme to progress. To put it in lay terms, the question before the court is whether an accountant or lawyer for the Ponzi scheme can be liable if they negligently or knowingly assisted in the Ponzi scheme.

The very question testifies to the state of our tolerance for misbehavior and why our current foreclosure mess has failed to yield criminal prosecutions on mass fraud. Iceland put their bankers in jail and now enjoys a growing economy and a stable banking environment. In the United States there has been nothing. The FBI has stated that 80% of mortgage fraud is committed by the banks. Yet prosecutions have only been on the other 20%.

So the question is whether a lawyer or accountant negligently or knowingly assisted in defrauding the public should be liable for their actions. To put it more simply, will that lawyer or accountant be liable for actions that we know were wrong and caused and contributed to extensive damage, and without which the scheme could not have operated. The answer seems obvious — except when you consider our awe of large schemes. The larger the scheme, the less likely is the prosecution. This in turn has resulted in the incentive for Ponzi operators to become as large as possible. In turn that means the incentive to escape prosecution requires that the scheme have massive scope and injuries.

If the Supreme Court hands down a decision favorable to investors, it will likely be that the liability extends only to private investment schemes that are not fully registered with the SEC. And if that happens then investors will be able to prove the Ponzi scheme and prove the accountants and lawyers were criminally and civilly liable.

This has everything to do with the mortgages and foreclosures. If the loans were window dressing on a Ponzi scheme instead of real loans by the originators and underwritten in accordance with industry standards, then the securities (mortgage bonds) issued from Wall Street were not derivatives. The impact travels all the way down to the closing table at which the closing agent applied money from investors held by investment banks to fund loans that were doomed to failure not only because of economic factors but also because the control over whether the loans would fail lay with the investment banks — not with the borrower, the lender investor, or anyone else.

If the loans were faked — in terms of NOT being funded in accordance with the indentures on the bonds — then clarity opens up in the mortgage mess, to wit: the loans were made from the pocket of investment banks and not the REMIC trusts. They were using investor money as their own, which is why the banks received insurance proceeds and proceeds of credit default swaps, and the proceeds of sale of the bogus mortgage bonds to the Federal Reserve.

The damage to investors occurred as a result of alleged loans. But the loans were in essence payment to or on behalf of people who believed they were borrowers when in fact they were being used in the Ponzi scheme — and had been exposed to risks that they knew nothing about because despite Federal and State law to the contrary, disclosure was withheld about the identity of the parties to the “loan” transaction, the fees paid to numerous parties, and the nature of the roles of the players that created the appearance of a loan transaction and a false chain of securitization.

The investors money was used to fund the alleged loans and fees but the documentation gave the loan to the Wall Street banks — a practice prohibited by the Truth in lending Act and the deceptive lending practices acts in many states. The point here is that the documentation — the note and mortgage — were executed in favor of a party who was a non-lendor nominee of a non-lender nominee of the investor lenders. And that is why it is nearly impossible to get a valid satisfaction of mortgage on payoff or on short-sale. The “satisfaction” is directed at a recorded instrument that is a lie, which means that the mortgage was not satisfied because it was never a perfected lien in the first place. The money currently being paid on the payoff is going to parties who were strangers to the mortgage transaction.

Thus the decision by the Supreme Court in the Stanford Case could and should have impact on the auditors and attorneys and other professionals that currently enjoy a weird sort of immunity despite their obvious wrongdoing in deceiving the public and enabling the fraud. A proper audit would have revealed that bonds on the balance sheet of the banks were in fact owned by investors and were worthless creating a potential liability that should have been reported. A proper review by the ratings agency would have identified the proposed plan as nonconforming when in fact they granted a triple A rating. These “third parties” were paid to violate the standards of their profession and they knew it. Whistle blowing memos went unheeded in all  such organizations.

The ability of investors to prove the existence of a Ponzi scheme would have huge consequences on the foreclosure procedures. The focus would properly shift from “deadbeat” borrowers to felonious tricksters. A proper ruling in the Stanford case would thus open up the possibility for direct communication between investors and borrowers, enabling settlements that would enable investors to mitigate their damages on a large scale with the help of borrowers who are still willing to sign “modifications” that would result in the recording of actual perfected mortgage encumbrances eliminating nearly all of the foreclosure docket.

Stanford Ponzi Scheme Goes to Supreme Court

Deadline Approaching, U.S. Is Weighing More Charges in Madoff

Criminal Charges Expected Against BofA, Citi, JP Morgan Chase



Editor’s Note: I was sort of expecting this from the Obama administration. Like others I long suspected the Libor was rigged but it seemed like they were covering their tracks too well to be sued or prosecuted. What I was expecting was that some MAJOR action would be brought against the banks in a way that wouldn’t look political. The prosecutions directly in the mortgage scandal were a bit long in the tooth for it not to look like political timing. But Libor, closely tied to all the loans and Loan resets and all the derivatives brings us back to first base with England leading the case.
As I have stated before, it does not seem likely that the voting public will look kindly on any politician in bed with the banks. About the only thing our divided electorate can agree upon is that the Banks screwed everything up and pretty much did it intentionally. Running against the banks is the smartest political move regardless of where you are on the political spectrum. Obama, probably knowing all about this investigation but not able to comment about it until the story broke, now has a clear path to run against the Banks while Romney practically is a bank.
As the economy worsens, and it will, the blame for it is going to be laid squarely at the doorstep of the banks where it belongs. The strategy of blaming Obama for past administration errors and failure of leadership in the economy is blowing up in the face of Republicans who actually do have platforms that are electable. Their problem is like the Democrats who didn’t really talk about their core issues in past elections.

Obama will correctly be seen as leading the charge against the banks whom everyone now hates. The dominant issue of the campaign has been delivered to the incumbent wrapped in a paper bow.

A 33% Minimum Probability Of Criminal Charges Against JP Morgan In Lieborgate?

“A day of reckoning may soon be coming.” Yves Smith

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Editor’s Comment:  

Yes it is a mouthful. But it boils down to this — Barclay’s Bank in cooperation with others manipulated the actual LIBOR rates which in turn effects other rates around the world. If you take this information and apply it to any loan that supposedly was reset on the basis of interest rates, you come up with the inevitable conclusion that the resets during the period of the manipulation were probably wrong.

So if a mortgage rate went from 3% to 4% on the basis of a change in interest rates tied to the note, then the proper rate charged to the homeowner was either higher or lower than what was actually charged. If the rate changed was directly  tied to LIBOR that is the end of the argument. If the reset was based upon some other index you will find that those rates were influenced by LIBOR rates. 

In a nutshell what this means is that most notices of default and foreclosures were based upon the wrong figures. In many cases the borrower was being charged too much and the loan balance was being overstated. This effects not only the notice of default but the amount required from the borrower for redemption and the amount of the credit bid allowed (presuming that the bidder was indeed the creditor which it seems is never the case in this country). 

The bottom line is that even if all the other defects in the origination of the loan, the foreclosure of the loan, and the auction of the loan are accepted as true, the remaining defect deals with the real thing — money. Procedurally I have an issue with those who file these defensive positions in a motion to dismiss. I think a simple denial of the foreclosers allegations or implied allegations coupled with affirmative defenses is the proper thing to do, even though it puts the burden of proof as to LIBOR and other rates on the borrower. But the truth be told, the Judges are putting the burden of persuasion on the borrowers anyway. 

Yves Smith has hit on something of huge importance. 

Yes, Virginia, the Real Action in the Libor Scandal Was in the Derivatives

As the Libor scandal has given an outlet for long-simmering anger against wanker bankers in the UK, there have been some efforts in the media to puzzle out who might have won or lost from the manipulations, as well as arguments that they were as “victimless” or helped people (as in reporting an artificially low Libor during the crisis led to lower interest rate resets on adjustable rate loans pegged to Libor; what’s not to like about that?)

What we have so far is a lot of drunk under the streetlight behavior: people trying to relate the scandal to the part that is most visible and easy to understand, meaning the loan market that keys off Libor. As much as that’s a really big number ($10 trillion), it is trivial compared to the relevant derivatives. From the FSA letter to Barclays:

The Eurodollar futures contract traded on the CME in Chicago (which is the largest interest rate futures contract by volume in the world) has US dollar LIBOR as its reference rate. The value of volume of that contract traded in 2011 was over 564 trillion US dollars.

This is only one blooming exchange contract, albeit a monster of a contract. There are loads of OTC contracts in addition to that:

Interest rate derivative contracts typically contain payment terms that refer to benchmark rates. LIBOR and EURIBOR are by far the most prevalent benchmark rates used in euro, US dollar and sterling OTC interest rate derivatives contracts and exchange traded interest rate contracts.

Devil’s advocates have also argued that while Barclays submitted improper Libor rates, there’s no evidence they influenced the rates. I read the FSA document quite differently.

Recall that (so far) we have two phases of activity: one from 2005 to 2007, in which derivatives traders at Barclays would lean on the Submitters on a regular basis to place bids that would help improve the profits of positions they had on, and a later phase, during the crisis, where Barclays felt its peers were submitting lowball figures to the daily fixings and it was getting bad press for being an outlier, and it went to posting what it though were competitive, as in artificially low, data.

The earlier period looks to be far more damaging, and the regulators may have gotten only the tip of the iceberg. Readers have told me this sort of manipulation dates from at least 2001; the Economist quotes an insider saying it goes back 15 years. And with so few banks in the end influencing the rate, it isn’t hard to imagine the gaming worked. If you have 16 banks on the panel, as you did in late 2008, the top and bottom 25% of the bids are eliminated and the ones left are averaged. So it’s the average of 8 that remained that would determine the rate.

First, the FSA document suggests that it has only partial information, and it quotes e-mails and some isolated instant messages. A lot, presumably most, of the communication was verbal. But even with what the FSA presented, the traders were often and aggressively working with the submitters to influence their bids, and the FSA found in the overwhelming majority of the time the submitters cooperated. The directions were often quite specific, to hit a certain number, even to submit a figure that would be so high or so low as to get Barclays’ data point excluded from the daily calculation. The enthusiasm and frequency with which the traders were pushing the submitters, as well as the reaction in the market, suggests these efforts were having an impact:

Other individuals with no apparent vested interest in the strategy commented on the EURIBOR rates on 19 March 2007. Trader D stated in an instant message to an external trader “look at the games in EURIBOR today […] I am sure a few names made a killing”. A trader at a hedge fund communicated with Trader E, also on 19 March 2007, stating “it’s becoming dangerous to trade in 3m imms […], especially when Barclays sets the 3m very low […] it does draw attention to you guys. It doesn’t look very professional”

But how could this be? Barclays was only one of a number of banks putting in daily Libor prices.

First, the FSA account notes that Barclays was sometimes working with other banks. It would seem likely that this was more frequent than the paper trail thus far would suggest. Someone working with other banks to rig rates would probably be a bit more circumspect than in internal communications. The fact that the traders would sometimes try to have a rate put in that was intended to be knocked out of the final calculation suggests a collusive strategy.

Second, the derivative traders weren’t working just with the submitters. The report indicates that on at least on occasion, they got the cash desk to cooperate with the manipulation. And again, if the derivative traders sometimes worked with traders in other banks, they might have gotten those cash desks to play along with their scheme.

Third, their objectives for rate moving were to achieve single or a few basis points. Some examples:

Trader B explained “I really need a very very low 3m fixing on Monday – preferably we get kicked out. We have about 80 yards [billion] fixing for the desk and each 0.1 [one basis point] lower in the fix is a huge help for us.

..the Submitter responded positively on 10 November 2006, “of course we will put in a low fixing” and on 13 November indicated they would make a submission lower than the Brokers thought EURIBOR would set that day, “no problem. I had not forgotten. The brokers are going for 3.372, we will put in 36 for our contribution”

As the Economist points out:

The sums involved might have been huge. Barclays was a leading trader of these sorts of derivatives, and even relatively small moves in the final value of LIBOR could have resulted in daily profits or losses worth millions of dollars. In 2007, for instance, the loss (or gain) that Barclays stood to make from normal moves in interest rates over any given day was £20m ($40m at the time). In settlements with the Financial Services Authority (FSA) in Britain and America’s Department of Justice, Barclays accepted that its traders had manipulated rates on hundreds of occasions.

And the idea that one party’s loss from the manipulation was another’s gain is irrelevant to those on the losing side:

….banks will be sued only by those who have lost, and will be unable to claim back the unjust gains made by some of their other customers. Lawyers acting for corporations or other banks say their clients are also considering whether they can walk away from contracts with banks such as long-term derivatives priced off LIBOR.

I expect the firms involved to face a locust swarm of litigation. Lawyers may accomplish what regulators and politicians refused to do: strip the banks of ill gotten gains and bring their preening CEOs and “producers” down a few notches. A day of reckoning may finally be coming.





Virtual Finance: Turning Things Right Side Up

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Editor’s Comment:  

The article below by Lisa Pollack in the Financial Times shows an amazing understanding of securitization, derivatives and the actual path of money.  It also introduces a new term–“credit support annex (CSA).  CSAs were discussed in this blog back in 2007 and 2008 which merely made the already incomprehensible financial structure even less understandable.  But they are important because that is where actual assets, actual money and actual financial transactions are taking place. 

The article below deserves several readings.  Those that master it will understand completely the untenable position of the United States’ financial condition.  The governments of each country are constantly engaged in trading and creating derivatives, insurance, credit default swaps and other credit enhancements as they hedge all perceived risks.  The problem is that the dealer keeps on dealing whereas the original transaction remains unchanged.  In our case the US government used taxpayer dollars and private companies used shareholder dollars to pay off the original transaction—the loan from the investor lenders to the homeowner borrowers. 

The reason for the stream of fake securitization documents was to enable the dealers to keep on dealing, which they did.  In some cases they leveraged the same loan or group of loans as many as 42 times that has been documented.  Since most of these deals are undocumented we can comfortably assume that the actual figure is a multiple of 42 times given the current state of credibility of the 18 banks that dominated the mortgage securitization market. 

With each deal, the margins kept spreading in virtual dollars, while the real money remained unchanged.  When the real money was repaid to the creditor or the creditors agents (the dealers) the trunk of the tree disappeared.  The acceptance of payment by a creditor from any obligor or co-obligor extinguishes the debt.  This is black letter law in all 50 states and all federal decisions as well.  But the dealer keeps on dealing as though the trunk of the tree was still there.  In a 2-dimensional sense the dealers are drawing out branches and sub-branches of various “trades” based upon a nonexistent base (the original loan). 

The reason the banks are so scared of discovery in litigation and why they settle any case in which a judge enters an order for them to open their books is that it would be obvious to a first year accounting student that there is no substance to the subsequent trades of the dealers and no substance to their current trades since the base transaction was no longer present. 

The moment all was paid by the creditor, directly or indirectly through the investors creditors agents trading should have stopped.  Any future trades after that point were pure fraud since they pretended that the loan still existed.  All prior trades should have been required to settle immediately.  Thus eliminating the appearance of branches on a tree with an invisible trunk. 

Had the bankers been operating honestly (perhaps an oxymoron) the ground would have been clear, the paperwork exchanged, and the accounting complete, leaving some dealers “in the money” and some dealers “out of the money”.  If they were dealing honestly the amount of money “in the money” would have been equal to the amount of money “out of the money”.  The result would have been no loss, no federal bailout, no mortgages, no liens, no foreclosures, no notes, and no obligations on the original transaction. 

What arises is the possibility of a case in which a party has paid money to satisfy the creditor, directly or indirectly (through the investor creditors agents) against the homeowner for money that they actually lost.  But unless they actually purchased the loan which they did not (according to any of the paperwork I have seen or heard reported), there could be no foreclosure on any part of the debt.  In fact, while the debt or obligation might continue to exist under the law, the absence of an actual creditor seeking payment might result in the homeowner receiving a windfall.  This windfall is but a small percentage of the windfall made by the dealers who kept on dealing and were bailed out in an amount far exceeding the total of all money loaned during this 10 year period.   Thus the dealers used investor lender money to fund 13 trillion dollars in loans, experiencing no more than 2.5 trillion in defaults, while claiming and receiving no less than 16.6 trillion dollars from the federal government plus settlements on insurance, credit default swaps and credit enhancements. 

Somehow the windfall of the bankers has been made to appear more politically acceptable than the windfall to homeowners whose tax dollars paid for the windfall received by the dealers.  What a country!!

The reason for the opportunity of a windfall to homeowners is that the dealers created a false chain of documents to enable them to achieve windfalls.  The only way they could prevent homeowners from sharing in that windfall of multiple payments on the same debt was through the process of foreclosure.  In foreclosure, the debt was made to appear as properly documented and owned by the investor lenders.  In fact, the debt was made to appear as though it still existed when in fact it did not exist at all.  Most judges, attorneys, and homeowners, cannot conceive of a scenario in which the mere application of law would provide an opportunity to homeowners to share in the windfalls of dealers who continued to make deals with the full intent of depriving both the investor lenders and the homeowner borrowers of any right to participate in this windfall.  The rubber stamped order of the usual foreclosure judge seals one more deal.  It pitches the bad loan over the fence and forces an investor to accept the bad loan even though he was expressly assured of receiving good loans that were properly underwritten.  These judges do not realize that they are underwriting a windfall to the dealers of virtual money while the participants in the real money transaction both got screwed. 

The Bank of England gets economical with its derivatives

by Lisa Pollack

Isn’t it annoying when particular clients insist on being treated differently to everyone else? Like, just because your client is well, England, or Italy, or some other sovereign nation, doesn’t make them ‘special’. It’s also kind of annoying when they make regulations that make business tougher for banks and then still expect to be treated differently.

Interestingly though, the Bank of England just stopped asking for one such special exception when it comes to certain derivatives that it enters into on behalf of the nation in order to best manage its balance sheet and the Treasury’s foreign exchange reserves.

With any such derivatives contract, it’s a zero sum game. When marking the transactions to market, if one party is up £1m (“in-the-money”), that means the other party is down £1m (“out-of-the-money”).

In the normal course of things, the out-of-the-money counterparty would post collateral with the in-the-money-counterparty. This keeps everyone happy because it guarantees performance under the contract. The exact rules around posting collateralare determined by an agreement between them called a “credit support annex” (CSA). The majority of CSAs are “two-way”, meaning that both parties have to post collateral as and when they are out-of-the-money.

But, sovereigns never really went for that. Instead, they have “one-way” CSAs. They expect their counterparties to post collateral with them, but they don’t expect to have to post collateral themselves. Banks were, more-or-less, willing to put up with this when counterparty risk was less of a concern and things were going a lot better for them generally. Before, say, the latest wave of regulation that takes an especially dim view of uncollateralised exposures.

Regulations aside though, there has always been something of a funding problem with trades like these (with sovereigns) since banks tend to hedge their trades.

In the above, we show that the Bank of England has entered into a swap with a dealer, e.g. an interest rate swap to hedge rates exposure. The dealer does another trade, or series of trades, with the dealer on the far left of the diagram to hedge the swap with the Bank of England.

Some time later, the dealer is in-the-money on the trade with the Bank of England, and out-of-the-money on the trade with the other dealer. This puts the dealer in a really uncomfortable position — collateral has to be posted with the other dealer, but the Bank of England doesn’t post any collateral.

The news release from the Bank of England on Thursday indicates that it will start to post such collateral in the future.

Up until now, the only other examples of sovereign nations we know of that do something similar are Ireland and Portugal.

So why did the central bank decide on this change?

It seems they primarily did it to get better pricing on the derivatives contracts. It’s quite simple — the costs to the banks of putting the swaps together for sovereigns rose. It’s more expensive for banks to fund themselves, i.e. to get that collateral to post to their counterparties. It’s also more expensive to have uncollateralised exposure in terms of regulatory capital. The banks have been passing on these costs to their sovereign clients.

The Bank of England therefore concluded that it was cheaper to start posting collateral, as it should make the prices they are offered come down.

In Risk’s coverage of the announcement, they had this rough estimate of the price differential:

The UK bank’s swaps trader says the funding charge associated with one-way CSAs could add as much as 10 basis points to a longer-dated trade. The head of the sovereign, supranational and agency (SSA) desk at one large European bank says it could reach 20bp.

And well, seeing as the central bank has a lot of bonds sitting in its reserves anyway, hell, why not?

The best part of the Risk article, in FT Alphaville’s opinion, is that they asked Alan Sheppard, the Bank of England’s head of risk management, about what he thought of the likely interpretation that the move is a kind of “back-door state support”. In response:

The BoE’s Sheppard doesn’t see it that way. “That would be a very strange interpretation. There is some value in the funding option implicit in a one-way CSA, but the way the market has developed, the price has gone beyond the value it has for us. What we’re actually doing is stopping paying the banks for an option that we don’t value as highly as it costs them to provide, so we’re giving them less money rather than more,” he says.

In other words: this works for the Bank of England cause they’re thinking it’ll save them money.

Good for them, then… right?

The likely point of contention will be that there are central banks out there that are way more into their derivatives use than the Bank of England is, and they have made no such indication that they will post collateral in the future, despite a lot of lobbying by banks on the matter.

Italy, for example, has a huge swap portfolio. This is a big issue not just because of the funding issue we mentioned above, but also because banks usually hedge their uncollateralised exposure by buying credit default swaps on the sovereign, which causes the spreads to widen further (with all that protection buying pressure), and then can feedback to the price the sovereign pays to fund itself in the bond market.

Or, at least, that’s one of the rallying cries of banks… who may well have a point, unfortunately. Arguably, some not-so-well thought out regulation drives quite a lot of this.

In any case, the last time FT Alphaville took a thorough look at this, we produced this table using data from the European Banking Authority’s 2011 stress test (with end-2010 data, click to expand):

This shows the “direct sovereign exposures in derivatives” measured in fair values (millions). When the number is positive, the bank (listed on the left) is in-the-money and would like to get some collateral from the sovereign (in the columns). As can be seen, Italy is seriously out-of-the-money to the banks and yet the banks are in the painful position of not receiving collateral.

Now look at the UK exposures. There isn’t much, is there?

These figures aren’t current (end-2010) and they don’t include non-European banks. But the general point that we wish to make is this: the Bank of England doesn’t have too much riding on this, the reserves are just sitting there, and it is likely to bring down the cost of transactions. In other words, it might not be as big a deal as it may be made out to be.

Sorry if the lack of drama disappoints you…





Everyone Else Knows: Why Do We Continue To Ignore It?

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Editor’s Comment:

In a short article by Patrick Jenkins in the Financial Times (Doubts Over Lending Push), it seems that everyone in Europe understands the problem well, and that the the consequences are dire but are unsure about what to do about it. Here in the United States housing is the elephant in the living room that nobody really wants to talk about. European leaders don’t like talking about it either but they are doing it anyway. Maybe they actually care what happens next unlike American politicians who seem to enjoy creating catastrophes, then handing power over to the other party and blaming them for the results.

Mitt Romney and Barack Obama are battling it out over economic policies and whether lower taxes and fiscal stimulus will benefit the economy. Mitt wants to cut what is left of federal and state spending thus deepening the depression or recession or whatever it is. Barack wants to stimulate economic growth with more money. How about this: they are both wrong. And the Europeans, for all their chaotic political intrigues, are zooming in on the cure a lot faster than we are because we won’t even talk about it.

Both candidates seem to think that cheaper money and more of it delivered to the banks and large corporations will stimulate borrowing and commerce. But Graeme Leach, chief economist at the Institute of Directors boiled it down to one simple sentence: “Companies alarmed by the euro crisis will not be eager to borrow, regardless of the cost.” It is obviously obvious to anyone with a brain that companies are not going to borrow unless they think they need the money.

And they are not going to think they need the money unless demand is going up. With unemployment topping out near Great Depression levels, why would anyone think that commerce can be revived? Add in the fact that real wages have declined over the last 30 years and you can easily see why companies won’t borrow unless they think they can make money increasing their debt burden. Who does the buying — fairies? It’s consumers, stupid, and they are broke, tapped out on credit, and have very little confidence in their prospects.

The Europeans actually understand that there is a difference between the real economy and the one reported in the newspapers. The real one is where a strong middle class has savings and resources and they buy things. The one in the newspapers is all about paper and trades with companies buying and selling each other and “bets” being made on who is right about bonds, stocks and other crazy financial “innovations.”

Virtually half of the GDP published by Washington is made up of paper trades where the typical citizen is left out of the equation altogether. So here is a repeat of my prediction regarding the stock market: either it will “crash” in a correction that is congruent with actual commerce levels or the financial institutions and rating agencies will continue to rate and recommend securities of companies whose substance is gone —- called zombies in the FI article.

BOA is one such Zombie institution. It’s broke. Everyone knows it’s broke and yet they persist on pretending that it is just fine. Then they want consumers to express confidence in the economy or government. Why should they?

Everyone understands that the problem is housing and the fraudulent printing of “money” by private banks dwarfing any real money supply that is supplied by world governments. $700 TRILLION is traded as cash equivalents while world governments, even with quantitative easing have issued less than $70 TRILLION in real currency. Why would anyone think that taxes or stimulus or quantitative easing (printing money) could even nick the side of this barn. We are being forced to sustain a false tree of money on which thousands of branches are hanging onto a trunk that is not there and never was. Fear is now the dominant word that describes the behavior of world leaders and the leaders of central banks.

Here is the solution and it is the application of justice at the same time: since the mortgage papers contained lies and did not disclose the identity of the lender nor the actual terms of repayment, there is no law in existence that would allow such a transaction to become  an encumbrance on the land.

Add to that the fact that the transaction recited never took place because the borrower was actually doing business with a stranger where money DID exchange hands but was never documented, and you have the answer: the mortgages are invalid, the notes are invalid and the the banks having been already paid several times over for a loss they never incurred but instead foisted upon pension funds and sovereign wealth funds from other nations, let’s call it a day.

I don’t care if people get an unfair advantage or perk for being a victim in this scheme. I don’t care if this interferes with the ideology of personal responsibility (which is being ignorantly applied to this situation). I care about the country, our society and what will happen if our economy can’t come up off the ground. I care that too many people are underemployed or unemployed. I care that average savings are zero and that most Americans have suffered a grievous loss of wealth.

I care that there are not enough people to buy things because they don’t have any money. Rescind the so-called mortgage transactions, let the branches of derivatives and credit default swaps and other bets and enhancements fall to the ground. It’s not as bad as you think. Most of the bets settle out to zero exchanges because with certain exceptions the bets are balanced.

The world will not end if we give homeowners their homes free and clear of any encumbrance. The governments could even prosper if they took an interest in those mortgages they already purchased (or think they purchased) and imposed a fair mortgage with fair terms based upon realistic current market conditions in housing and finance. Then people would be returned to their former status in far less time, the rate of commerce would improve, the real economy would recover and the fake economy and the people who go with it can take a hike or go to jail, if we dare to put them there.





OK LAWYERS, STEP UP TO THIS ONE — It is literally a no- brainer

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Editor’s Comment: The very same people who so ardently want us to remain strong and fight wars of dubious foundation are the ones who vote against those who serve our country. Here is a story of a guy who was being shot at and foreclosed at the same time — a blatant violation of Federal Law and good sense. When I practiced in Florida, it was standard procedure if we filed suit to state that the defendant is not a member of the armed forces of the United States. Why? Because we don’t sue people that are protecting our country with their life and limb.

It IS that simple, and if the banks are still doing this after having been caught several times, fined a number of times and sanctioned and number of times, then it is time to take the Bank’s charter away. Nothing could undermine the defense and sovereignty of our country more than to have soldiers on the battlefield worrying about their families being thrown out onto the street.

One woman’s story:

My husband was on active duty predeployment training orders from 29 May 2011 to 28 August 2011 and again 15 October 2011 to 22 November 2011. He was pulled off the actual deployment roster for the deployment date of 6 December 2011 due to the suspension of his security clearance because of the servicer reporting derogatory to his credit bureau (after stating they would make the correction). We spoke with the JAG and they stated those periods of service are protected as well as nine months after per the SCRA 50 USC section 533.

We have been advised that a foreclosure proceeding initiated within that 9 month period is not valid per the SCRA. I have informed the servicer via phone and they stated their legal department is saying they are permitted to foreclose. They sent a letter stating the same. I am currently working on an Emergency Ex Parte Application for TRO and Preliminary Injunction to file in federal court within the next week. It is a complicated process.

The servicer has never reported this VA loan in default and the VA has no information. That is in Violation of VA guidelines and title 38. They have additionally violated Ca Civil Code 2323.5. They NEVER sent a single written document prior to filing NOD 2/3/2012. They never made a phone call. They ignored all our previous calls and letter. All contact with the servicer has been initiated by us, never by them. This was a brokered deal. We dealt with Golden Empire Mortgage. They offered the CalHFA down payment assistance program in conjunction with their “loan” (and I use that term loosely). What we did not know was that on the backside of the deal they were fishing for an investor.

Over the past two years CalHFA has stated on numerous occasions they do not own the 1st trust deed. Guild (the servicer) says they do. I have a letter dated two weeks after closing of the loan saying the “servicing” was sold to CalHFA. Then a week later another letter stating the “servicing” was sold to Guild. Two conflicting letters saying two different things. The DOT and Note are filed with the county listing Golden Empire Mortgage as the Lender, North American Title as the Trustee and good old MERS as the Nominee beneficiary.

There is no endorsement or alonge anywhere in the filing of the county records. We signed documents 5/8/2008 and filings were made 5/13/2008. After two years of circles with Guild and CalHFA two RESPA requests were denied and I was constantly being told “the investor, the VA and our legal department” are reviewing the file to see how to apply the deferrment as allowed by California law and to compute taxes and impound we would need to pay during that period. Months of communications back in forth in 2009 and they never did a thing. Many calls to CalHFA with the same result. We don;t own it, call Guild, we only have interest in the silent 2nd.

All of a sudden in December 2011 an Assignment of DOT was filed by Guild from Golden Empire to CalHFA signed by Phona Kaninau, Asst Secretary MERS, filed 12/13/2011. om 2/3/2012 Guild filed a Cancellation of NOD from the filing they made in 2009 signed by Rhona Kaninau, Sr. VP of Guild. on the same date Guild filed a substitution of trustee naming Guild Admin Corp as the new trustee and Golden Empire as the old trustee, but on out DOT filed 5/13/2008 it lists North American Title as the Trustee. First off how can Rhona work for two different companies.

Essentially there is no fair dealing in any of this. Guild is acting on behalf of MERS, the servicing side of their company, and now as the trustee. How is that allowed? Doesn;t a trustee exist to ensure all parties interests are looked out for? It makes no sense to me how that can be happening. On the assignment I believe there is a HUGE flaw… it states ….assigns, and transfers to: CalHFA all beneficial interest…..executed by Joshua as Trustor, to Golden Empire as Trustee, and Recordeed….. how can you have two “to’s” .. shouldn’t after Trustor it say FROM???? Is that a fatal flaw???

And then looking at the Substitution it states “Whereas the undersigned present Beneficiary under said Deed of Trust” (which on the DOT at that time would show MERS but on the flawed assignment says Golden Empire was the trustee), it then goes on the say “Therefore the undersigned hereby substitutes GUILD ADMIN CORP” and it is signed “Guild Mortgage Company, as agent for CalHFA”, signed by Rhona Kaninau (same person who signed the assignment as a MERS Asst Secretary). I mean is this seriously legal??? Would a federal judge look at this and see how convoluted it all is?

I appreciate the offer of the securitization discount but in out current economic situation and having to pay $350 to file a federal case we just can’t afford it right now. I hope you will keep that offer open. Will this report cover tracking down a mortgage allegedly backed by CalHFA bonds? This is their claim.

Thank you so much for your assistance. This is overwhelming. Do you have any attorneys here in Southern California you world with I might be able to talk to about what they would charge us for a case like this?

Now They See the Light — 40% of Homes Underwater

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Editor’s Comment:

They were using figures like 12% or 18% but I kept saying that when you take all the figures together and just add them up, the number is much higher than that. So as it turns out, it is even higher than I thought because they are still not taking into consideration ALL the factors and expenses involved in selling a home, not the least of which is the vast discount one must endure from the intentionally inflated appraisals.

With this number of people whose homes are worth far less than the loans that were underwritten and supposedly approved using industry standards by “lenders” who weren’t lenders but who the FCPB now says will be treated as lenders, the biggest problem facing the marketplace is how are we going to keep these people in their homes — not how do we do a short-sale. And the seconcd biggest problem, which dovetails with Brown’s push for legislation to break up the large banks, is how can we permit these banks to maintain figures on the balance sheet that shows assets based upon completely unrealistic figures on homes where they do not even own the loan?

Or to put it another way. How crazy is this going to get before someone hits the reset the button and says OK from now on we are going to deal with truth, justice and the American way?

With no demographic challenges driving up prices or demand for new housing, and with no demand from homeowners seeking refinancing, why were there so many loans? The answer is easy if you look at the facts. Wall Street had come up with a way to get trillions of dollars in investment capital from the biggest managed funds in the world — the mortgage bond and all the derivatives and exotic baggage that went with it. 

So they put the money in Superfund accounts and funded loans taking care of that pesky paperwork later. They funded loans and approved loans from non-existent borrowers who had not even applied yet. As soon as the application was filled out, the wire transfer to the closing agent occurred (ever wonder why they were so reluctant to change closing agents for the convenience of the parties?).

The instructions were clear — get the signature on some paperwork even if it is faked, fraudulent, forged and completely outside industry standards but make it look right. I have this information from insiders who were directly involved in the structuring and handling of the money and the false securitization chain that was used to cover up illegal lending and the huge fees that were taken out of the superfund before any lending took place. THAT explains how these banks are bigger than ever while the world’s economies are shrinking.

The money came straight down from the investor pool that included ALL the investors over a period of time that were later broker up into groups and the  issued digital or paper certificates of mortgage bonds. So the money came from a trust-type account for the investors, making the investors the actual lenders and the investors collectively part of a huge partnership dwarfing the size of any “trust” or “REMIC”. At one point there was over $2 trillion in unallocated funds looking for a loan to be attached to the money. They couldn’t do it legally or practically.

The only way this could be accomplished is if the borrowers thought the deal was so cheap that they were giving the money away and that the value of their home had so increased in value that it was safe to use some of the equity for investment purposes of other expenses. So they invented more than 400 loans products successfully misrepresenting and obscuring the fact that the resets on loans went to monthly payments that exceeded the gross income of the household based upon a loan that was funded based upon a false and inflated appraisal that could not and did not sustain itself even for a period of weeks in many cases. The banks were supposedly too big to fail. The loans were realistically too big to succeed.

Now Wall Street is threatening to foreclose on anyone who walks from this deal. I say that anyone who doesn’t walk from that deal is putting their future at risk. So the big shadow inventory that will keep prices below home values and drive them still further into the abyss is from those private owners who will either walk away, do a short-sale or fight it out with the pretender lenders. When these people realize that there are ways to reacquire their property in foreclosure with cash bids that are valid while the credit bid of the pretender lender is invlaid, they will have achieved the only logical answer to the nation’s problems — principal correction and the benefit of the bargain they were promised, with the banks — not the taxpayers — taking the loss.

The easiest way to move these tremendous sums of money was to make it look like it was cheap and at the same time make certain that they had an arguable claim to enforce the debt when the fake payments turned into real payments. SO they created false and frauduelnt paperwork at closing stating that the payee on teh note was the lender and that the secured party was somehow invovled in the transaction when there was no transaction with the payee at all and the security instrumente was securing the faithful performance of a false document — the note. Meanwhile the investor lenders were left without any documentation with the borrowers leaving them with only common law claims that were unsecured. That is when the robosigning and forgery and fraudulent declarations with false attestations from notaries came into play. They had to make it look like there was a real deal, knowing that if everything “looked” in order most judges would let it pass and it worked.

Now we have (courtesy of the cloak of MERS and robosigning, forgery etc.) a completely corrupted and suspect chain of title on over 20 million homes half of which are underwater — meaning that unless the owner expects the market to rise substantially within a reasonable period of time, they will walk. And we all know how much effort the banks and realtors are putting into telling us that the market has bottomed out and is now headed up. It’s a lie. It’s a damned living lie.

One in Three Mortgage Holders Still Underwater

By John W. Schoen, Senior Producer

Got that sinking feeling? Amid signs that the U.S. housing market is finally rising from a long slumber, real estate Web site Zillow reports that homeowners are still under water.

Nearly 16 million homeowners owed more on their mortgages than their home was worth in the first quarter, or nearly one-third of U.S. homeowners with mortgages. That’s a $1.2 trillion hole in the collective home equity of American households.

Despite the temptation to just walk away and mail back the keys, nine of 10 underwater borrowers are making their mortgage and home loan payments on time. Only 10 percent are more than 90 days delinquent.

Still, “negative equity” will continue to weigh on the housing market – and the broader economy – because it sidelines so many potential home buyers. It also puts millions of owners at greater risk of losing their home if the economic recovery stalls, according to Zillow’s chief economist, Stan Humphries.

“If economic growth slows and unemployment rises, more homeowners will be unable to make timely mortgage payments, increasing delinquency rates and eventually foreclosures,” he said.

For now, the recent bottoming out in home prices seems to be stabilizing the impact of negative equity; the number of underwater homeowners held steady from the fourth quarter of last year and fell slightly from a year ago.

Real estate market conditions vary widely across the country, as does the depth of trouble homeowners find themselves in. Nearly 40 percent of homeowners with a mortgage owe between 1 and 20 percent more than their home is worth. But 15 percent – approximately 2.4 million – owe more than double their home’s market value.

Nevada homeowners have been hardest hit, where two-thirds of all homeowners with a mortgage are underwater. Arizona, with 52 percent, Georgia (46.8 percent), Florida (46.3 percent) and Michigan (41.7 percent) also have high percentages of homeowners with negative equity.

Turnabout is Fair Play:

The Depressing Rise of People Robbing Banks to Pay the Bills

Despite inflation decreasing their value, bank robberies are on the rise in the United States. According to the FBI, in the third quarter of 2010, banks reported 1,325 bank robberies, burglaries, or other larcenies, an increase of more than 200 crimes from the same quarter in 2009. America isn’t the easiest place to succeed financially these days, a predicament that’s finding more and more people doing desperate things to obtain money. Robbing banks is nothing new, of course; it’s been a popular crime for anyone looking to get quick cash practically since America began. But the face and nature of robbers is changing. These days, the once glamorous sheen of bank robberies is wearing away, exposing a far sadder and ugly reality: Today’s bank robbers are just trying to keep their heads above water.

Bonnie and Clyde, Pretty Boy Floyd, Baby Face Nelson—time was that bank robbers had cool names and widespread celebrity. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Jesse James, and John Dillinger were even the subjects of big, fawning Hollywood films glorifying their thievery. But times have changed.

In Mississippi this week, a man walked into a bank and handed a teller a note demanding money, according to broadcast news reporter Brittany Weiss. The man got away with a paltry $1,600 before proceeding to run errands around town to pay his bills and write checks to people to whom he owed money. He was hanging out with his mom when police finally found him. Three weeks before the Mississippi fiasco, a woman named Gwendolyn Cunningham robbed a bank in Fresno and fled in her car. Minutes later, police spotted Cunningham’s car in front of downtown Fresno’s Pacific Gas and Electric Building. Inside, she was trying to pay her gas bill.

The list goes on: In October 2011, a Phoenix-area man stole $2,300 to pay bills and make his alimony payments. In early 2010, an elderly man on Social Security started robbing banks in an effort to avoid foreclosure on the house he and his wife had lived in for two decades. In January 2011, a 46-year-old Ohio woman robbed a bank to pay past-due bills. And in February of this year, a  Pennsylvania woman with no teeth confessed to robbing a bank to pay for dentures. “I’m very sorry for what I did and I know God is going to punish me for it,” she said at her arraignment. Yet perhaps none of this compares to the man who, in June 2011, robbed a bank of $1 just so he could be taken to prison and get medical care he couldn’t afford.

None of this is to say that a life of crime is admirable or courageous, and though there is no way to accurately quantify it, there are probably still many bank robbers who steal just because they like the thrill of money for nothing. But there’s quite a dichotomy between the bank robbers of early America, with their romantic escapades and exciting lifestyles, and the people following in their footsteps today: broke citizens with no jobs, no savings, no teeth, and few options.

The stealing rebel types we all came to love after reading the Robin Hood story are gone. Today the robbers are just trying to pay their gas bills. There will be no movies for them.

The Reporter Who Saw it Coming

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Editor’s Comment:

By Dean Starkman

Mike Hudson thought he was merely exposing injustice, but he also was unearthing the roots of a global financial meltdown.

Mike Hudson began reporting on the subprime mortgage business in the early 1990s when it was still a marginal, if ethically challenged, business. His work on the “poverty industry” (pawnshops, rent-to-own operators, check-cashing operations) led him to what were then known as “second-lien” mortgages. From his street-level perspective, he could see the abuses and asymmetries of the market in a way that the conventional business press could not. But because it ran mostly in small publications, his reporting was largely ignored. Hudson pursued the story nationally, via a muckraking book, Merchants of Misery (Common Courage Press, 1996); in a 10,000-word expose on Citigroup-as-subprime-factory, which won a Polk award in 2004 for the small alternative magazine Southern Exposure; and in a series on the subprime leader, Ameriquest, co-written as a freelancer, for the Los Angeles Times in 2005. He continued to pursue the subject as it metastasized into the trillion-dollar center of the Financial Crisis of 2008—briefly at The Wall Street Journal and now at the Center for Public Integrity. Hudson, 52, is the son of an ex-Marine and legendary local basketball coach. He started out on rural weeklies, covering championship tomatoes and large fish and such, even produced a cooking column. But as a reporter for The Roanoke Times he turned to muckraking and never looked back. CJR’s Dean Starkman interviewed Hudson in the spring of 2011.

Follow the ex-employees

The great thing about The Roanoke Times was that there was an emphasis on investigation but there was also an emphasis on storytelling and writing. And they would bring in lots of people like Roy Peter Clark and William Zinsser, the On Writing Well guy. The Providence Journal book, the How I Wrote the Story, was a bit of a Bible for me.

As I was doing a series on poverty in Roanoke, one of the local legal aid attorneys was like, “It’s not just the lack of money—it’s also what happens when they try to get out of poverty.” He said basically there are three ways out: they bought a house, so they got some equity; they bought a car so they could get some mobility; or they went back to school to get a better job. And in every case, he had example after example of folks, who because they were doing just that, had actually gotten deeper in poverty, trapped in unbelievable debt.

His clients often dealt with for-profit trade schools, truck driving schools that would close down; medical assistant’s schools that no one hired from; and again and again they’d be three, four, five, eight thousand dollars in debt, and unable to repay it, and then of course prevented from ever again going back to school because they couldn’t get another a student loan. So that got me thinking about what I came to know as the poverty industry.

I applied for an Alicia Patterson Fellowship and proposed doing stories on check-cashing outlets, pawn shops, second-mortgage lenders (they didn’t call themselves subprime in those days). This was ’91. We didn’t have access to the Internet, but I came across a wire story about something called the Boston “second-mortgage scandal,” and got somebody to send me a thick stack of clips. It was really impressive. The Boston Globe and other news organizations were taking on the lenders and the mortgage brokers, and the closing attorneys, and on and on.

I was trying to make the story not just local but national. I had some local cases involving Associates [First Capital Corp., then a unit of Ford Motor Corp.]. Basically, it turned out that Ford Motor Company, the old-line carmaker, was the biggest subprime lender in the country. The evidence was pretty clear that they were doing many of the same kinds of bait-and-switch salesmanship and, in some cases, pure fraud, that we later saw take over the mortgage market. I felt like this was a big story; this is the one! Later, investigations and Congressional hearings corroborated what I was finding in ’94, ’95, and ’96. And it seems so self-evident now, but I learned that finding ex-employees often gives you a window into what’s really going on with a company. The problem has always been finding them and getting them to talk.

I spent the better part of the ‘90s writing about the poverty industry and about predatory lending. As a reporter you don’t want to be defined by one subject. So I was actually working on a book about the history of racial integration in sports, interviewing old Negro-league baseball players. I was really trying to change a little bit of how I was moving forward career-wise. But it’s like the old mafia-movie line: every time I think I’m out, they pull me back in.

Subprime goes mainstream

In the fall of 2002, the Federal Trade Commission announced a big settlement with Citigroup, which had bought Associates, and at first I saw it as a positive development, like they had nailed the big bad actor. I’m doing a 1,000-word freelance thing, but of course as I started to report I started hearing from people who were saying that this settlement is basically giving them absolution, and allowed them to move forward with what was, by Citi standards, a pretty modest settlement. And the other thing that struck me was the media was treating this as though Citigroup was cleaning up this legacy problem, when Citi itself had its own problems. There had been a big magazine story about [Citigroup Chief Sanford I.] “Sandy” Weill. It was like “Sandy’s Comeback.” I saw this and said, ‘Whoa, this is an example of the mainstreaming of subprime.’

I pitched a story about how these settlements weren’t what they seemed, and got turned down a lot of places. Eventually I went to Southern Exposure and called the editor there, Gary Ashwill, and he said, “That’s a great story, we’ll put it on the cover.” And I said, “Well how much space can we have?” and he said, “How much do we need?” That was not something you heard in journalism in those days.

I interviewed 150 people, mostly borrowers, attorneys, experts, industry people, but the stuff that really moves the story are the former employees. Many of them had just gotten fired for complaining internally. They were upset about what had gone on—to some degree about how the company treated them, but usually very upset about how the company had pressured them and their co-workers to mistreat their customers.

As a result of the Citigroup stuff, I got a call from a filmmaker [James Scurlock] who was working on what eventually became Maxed Out, about credit cards and student loans and all that kind of stuff. And he asked if I could go visit, and in some cases revisit, some of the people I had interviewed and he would follow me with a camera. So I did sessions in rural Mississippi, Brooklyn and Queens, and Pittsburg. Again and again you would hear people talk about these bad loans they got. But also about stress. I remember a guy in Brooklyn, not too far from where I live now, who paused and said something along the lines of: ‘You know I’m not proud of this, but I have to say I really considered killing myself.’ Again and again people talked about how bad they felt about having gotten into these situations. It was powerful and eye-opening. They didn’t understand, in many cases, that they’d been taken in by very skillful salesmen who manipulated them into taking out loans that were bad for them.

If one person tells you that story, you say okay, well maybe it’s true, but you don’t know. But you’ve got a woman in San Francisco saying, “I was lied to and here’s how they lied to me,” and then you’ve got a loan officer for the same company in suburban Kansas saying, “This is what we did to people.” And then you have another loan officer in Florida and another borrower in another state. You start to see the pattern.

People always want some great statistic [proving systemic fraud], but it’s really, really hard to do that. And statistics data doesn’t always tell us what happened. If you looked at some of the big numbers during the mortgage boom, it would look like everything was fine because of the fact that they refinanced people over and over again. So essentially a lot of what was happening was very Ponzi-like—pushing down the road the problems and hiding what was going on. But I was not talking to analysts. I was not talking to high-level corporate executives. I was not talking to experts. I was talking to the lowest level people in the industry— loan officers, branch managers. I was talking to borrowers. And I was doing it across the country and doing it in large numbers. And when you actually did the shoe-leather reporting, you came up with a very different picture than the PR spin you were getting at the high level.

One day Rich Lord [who had just published the muckraking book, American Nightmare: Predatory Lending and the Foreclosure of the American Dream, Common Courage Press, 2004) and I went to his house. We were sitting in his study. Rich had spent a lot of time writing about Household [International, parent of Household Finance], and I had spent a lot of time writing about Citigroup. Household had been number one in subprime, and then CitiFinancial/Citigroup was number one. This was in the fall of 2004. We asked, well, who’s next? Rich suggested Ameriquest.

I went back home to Roanoke and got on the PACER—computerized court records—system and started looking up Ameriquest cases, and found lots of borrower suits and ex-employee suits. There was one in particular, which basically said that the guy had been fired because he had complained that Ameriquest business ethics were terrible. I just found the guy in the Kansas City phone book and called him up, and he told me a really compelling story. One of the things that really stuck out is, he said to me, “Have you ever seen the movie Boiler Room [2000, about an unethical pump-and-dump brokerage firm]?”

By the time I had roughly ten former employees, most of them willing to be on the record, I thought: this is a really good story, this is important. In a sense I feel like I helped them become whistleblowers because they had no idea how to blow the whistle or what to do. And Ameriquest at that point was on its way to being the largest subprime lender. So, I started trying to pitch the story. While I had a full-time gig at the Roanoke Times, for me the most important thing was finding the right place to place it.

The Los Angeles Times liked the story and teamed me with Scott Reckard, and we worked through much of the fall of 2004 and early 2005. We had thirty or so former employees, almost all of them basically saying that they had seen improper, illegal, fraudulent practices, some of whom acknowledged that they’d done it themselves: bait-and-switch salesmanship, inflating people’s incomes on their loan applications, and inflating appraisals. Or they were cutting and pasting W2s or faking a tax return. It was called the “art department”—blatant forgery, doctoring the documents. You know, it was pretty eye-opening stuff. One of the best details was that many people said they showed Boiler Room—as a training tape! And the other important thing about the story was that Ameriquest was being held up by politicians, and even by the media, as the gold standard—the company cleaning up the industry, reversing age-old bad practices in this market. To me, theirs was partly a story of the triumph of public relations.

Leaving Roanoke

I’d been in Roanoke almost 20 years as a reporter, and so, what’s the next step? I resigned from the Roanoke Times and for most of 2005 I was freelancing fulltime. I made virtually no money that year, but by working on the Ameriquest story, it helped me move to the next thing. I interviewed with The Wall Street Journal [and was hired to cover the bond market]. Of course I came in pitching mortgage-backed securities as a great story. I could have said it with more urgency in the proposal, but I didn’t want to come off as like an advocate, or half-cocked.

Daily bond market coverage is their bread-and-butter, and it’s something that needs to be done. And I tried to do the best I could on it. But I definitely felt a little bit like a point guard playing small forward. I was doing what I could for the team but I was not playing in a position where my talents and my skills were being used to the highest.

I wanted to do a documentary. I wanted to do a book [which would become The Monster: How a Gang of Predatory Lenders and Wall Street Bankers Fleeced America—and Spawned a Global Crisis, Times Books, 2010]. I felt like I had a lot of information, a lot of stuff that needed to be told, and an understanding that many other reporters didn’t have. And I could see a lot of the writing focused on deadbeat borrowers lying about their income, rather than how things were really happening.

Through my reporting I knew two things: I knew that there were a lot of predatory and fraudulent practices throughout the subprime industry. It wasn’t isolated pockets, it wasn’t rogue lenders, it wasn’t rogue employees. It was really endemic. And I also knew that Wall Street played a big role in this, and that Wall Street was driving or condoning and/or profiting from a lot of these practices. I understood that, basically, the subprime lenders, like Ameriquest and even like Countrywide, were really just creatures of Wall Street. Wall Street loaned these companies money; they then made loans; they off-loaded the loans to Wall Street; Wall Street then sold them [as securities to investors]. And it was just this magic circle of cash flowing. The one thing I didn’t understand was all the fancy financial alchemy—the derivatives, the swaps, that were added on to put them on steroids.

It’s clear that people inside a company, one or two or three people, could commit fraud and get away with it, on occasion, despite the best efforts of a company. But I don’t think it can happen in a widespread way when a company has basic compliance systems in place. The best way to connect the dots from the sleazy practices on the ground to people at high levels was to say, okay, they did have these compliance people in place; they had fraud investigators, loan underwriters, and compliance officers. Did they do their jobs? And if they did, what happened to them?

In late 2010, at the Center for Public Integrity, I got a tip about a whistleblower case involving someone who worked at a high level at Countrywide. This is Eileen Foster, who had been an executive vice president, the top fraud investigator at Countrywide. She was claiming before OSHA that she was fired for reporting widespread fraud, but also for trying to protect other whistleblowers within the company who were also reporting fraud at the branch level and at the regional level, all over the country. The interesting thing is that no one in the government had ever contacted her! [This became “Countrywide Protected Fraudsters by Silencing Whistleblowers, say Former Employees,” September 22 and 23, 2011, one of CPI’s best-read stories of the year; 60 Minutes followed with its own interview of Foster, in a segment called, “Prosecuting Wall Street,” December 14, 2011.] It was very exciting. We worked really hard to do follow-up stories. I did about eight stories afterward, many about General Electric, a big player in the subprime world. We found eight former mortgage unit employees who had tried to warn about abuses and whom management had shunted aside.

I just feel like there needs to be more investigative reporting in the mix, and especially more investigative reporting—of problems that are going on now, rather than post-mortems or tick-tocks about financial disasters or crashes or bankruptcies that have already happened.

And that’s hard to do. It takes a real commitment from a news organization, and it can be a high-wire thing because you’re working on these stories for a long time, and market players you’re writing about yell and scream and do some real pushback. But there needs to be more of the sort of early warning journalism. It’s part of the big tent, what a newspaper is.

DO You Want It To Slow Down or to Stop

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Someone sent me a story about a guy who did one of those “California” stops at a stop sign, rolling through at a slightly slower speed than he had been going. A policeman stops him and informs the driver he had not made a full stop. The driver replied that he had made a rolling stop which is the same thing — after all he had slowed down because of the stop sign. The police officer invites him out of the car whereupon the policeman commences beating the driver around the head and body and then says to to the driver “Do you want me to slow down or do you want me to stop?”

The story is funny —sort of — because it makes a point. And I would make the same point about the foreclosures. Do we want a slow down in stealing of property away from people through foreclosures, even short-sales and other delays, or do we just want them to stop. The answer for me is that I want them to stop — except in those cases where the loan was between a normal borrower and a normal lender whose name is properly on the paperwork and who actually loaned the money.

Slowing down the pace of foreclosures because of the presence of forgeries, fabrications and fraud is not the answer. Stopping them and reversing the ones that occurred is the answer. And giving HAMP an actual chance to work (or some other mediated settlement) is the rest of the answer.

These “loans” are between parties who have no documentation as to their positions (the investor/lenders and the homeowner/borrowers) and whose presence was unknown to the other because of cloaks and subterfuge by investment bankers. The chain of documentation refers to a loan from an originator who never loaned a dime and never booked the loan as a receivable on their balance sheet in most cases. And so the entire chain of documents leading up the “securitization” chain are empty documents referring to transactions that never occurred and thus could never result ina perfected security interest in the property.

The solution is what homeowners are offering — converting an undocumented unsecured interest into a documented, secured interest reflecting current economic realities and that will provide the investor/lenders with far greater benefits than foreclosure which leads to ghost towns, bull dozing neighborhoods and other societal problems all for the single purpose of justifying taking every penny as fees for banks, servicers and other parties in the chain, which now, under the April 12 Bulletin from the CFPB, are to be considered just as responsible as banks and servicers.

It should be noted that the homeowners are in most instances offering MORE than the home is worth as the principal due on the note and waiving all other litigation rights.

So do we want it slowed down or stopped. Do we want speed or justice. Do we want the common man to be given back a chance at happiness and prosperity or do we want theft of wealth from the common man to be rewarded with amnesty and further subsidies?

WSJ: Home Ownership at 15 Year Low

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Editor’s Comment:

If you read what the realtors are putting out these days you would have the impression that the housing Market is at bottom, that this is the time to buy (all realtors say that all the time) and that the Market has nowhere to go but up. Reality Check: that is exactly what they said in 2011, 2010, 2009, etc. Meanwhile the Market keeps going down because the median income (the ability to pay for housing) of the average person is going down each month. Case/Schiller have proven in an analysis and chart that goes back to the 1880’s that home prices and median income are inextricably linked.

The banks also want you to think the Market has hit bottom and they are journalists and other shills to say so. The faster they get rid of the real estate the less likely they think it will be that the old homeowner will come back and reclaim the property.

But the Wall Street Journal reports that home ownership is at a 15 year low while assets and income at the banks are at an all-time high. 1998 was the last year we saw so few people owning their own home. Take a look at the purported balance sheets of banks then and now. You will understand the figures — the degree to which the banks siphoned money out of the economy. Remember the only reason we let Wall Street exist is that it is supposedly the capitalist engine providing liquidity to consumers and small business owners alike who buy the things that are made.

Before we developed amnesia about why Wall Street exists and it’s job, the financial sector contributed 16% of this nation’s Gross Domestic Product. Now it is up near 50% which means we are reporting revenues and profits based upon derivatives whose value is derived from other derivatives and after a while you finally get to a real transaction where somebody made something and somebody bought something.

This is unsustainable and more reminiscent of the total lack of understanding that French aristocracy demonstrated when starving people from the streets chopped their heads off with the collusion of the merging merchant class. The control of our society by the banks will stop because it is impossible to sustain. What is surprising is that the lopsided figures in our economy don’t produce more outcries and predictions of disaster which undoubtedly will come to pass unless the bankers are put back in their place at 16% of GDP. That means someone in power needs to trim back the TBTF banks by 2/3. It’s a tall order, but somebody needs to do it.

 It is not as hard as it seems. Most of the assets reported on the balance sheets of the TBTF banks are fake anyway.



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At least one point emerging from all this information is that the basic concepts of default, performing loans and non-performing loans have been perverted by the securitization hoax. If Wall Street’s intention had been something other than deception, all of this would be clear as a bell. But what they were looking for was a way to take money from investors and not give it back, take houses from homeowners and not account for it, and take taxpayer money for losses than never occurred.

I have already written about the fact that the bonds given to the investors (actually non-existent, because they were “uncertificated”) contained vastly different parties and terms than the note signed by homeowners. There are several reasons this is important.

The investor/lenders are the only real source of funds and the only people who actually were at risk to lose money if they were not repaid. Somehow Wall Street managed to insert itself as a mere intermediary and actually claim the houses, the debts and force fees on both investors and homeowners that were improper, undisclosed, illegal and unconscionable.

For purposes the bailout, they took the investor loss and claimed it as their own, taking taxpayer money in the trillions to bailout their ailing enterprises. Most investors received nothing out of that money. And for sure, no borrower ever received a credit for money received on their obligation even though the government waived rights of subsrogation against the homeowner. So the debt was paid by the government and the borrower still owed it, making the obligation worth far more because it was being repaid several times over.

For all other purposes Wall Street took the loans receivables as their own without ever having advanced any money to the borrowers or to the investors for purchase of the obligation. In order to keep the investors placated they made sure the investors continued to get paid regardless of what was really happening with most of the money. They did this first, by using the investors own money to send them payments as though they were from borrowers. That is a fact and it is right in the prospectus of most “securitized” pools (which contain nothing of value).

They did the same thing with insurance, credit default swaps, cross-collateralization payments, over-collateralization payments, etc., and sold the same borrower obligation several times over (as much as 40 times over) by changing the apparent terms of the loan to look like another loan, or by covering the “sale” with language that made it look like a hedge product, like a credit default swap, synthetic CDO, or insurance. In each case, the money was received, sometimes courtesy of the U.S. Government, under an express waiver of subrogation, which means that the payor agreed that this payment ends the matter.

The loss was covered by an actual payment of money but neither the investor/lender nor the homeowner/borrower was ever given the information to allocate it to their bond or note or obligation. But so far, the Banks have succeeded in covering this up. So far, neither the investors nor the borrowers have fully realized that they are entitled to an accounting for ALL money transactions relating to the investors bond and the homeowners loan.

The reason is simple. As for the investor, they don’t want to pay the money to the investor and they don’t want the investor knowing how much money was made using the investor’s partnership (REMIC) in name only. As for the borrower, they don’t want the borrower getting credit for what the investor did or should have received as a result of the payments that were due under the bond. This would defeat the ability of the Wall Street to treat loans as being in default when in fact they were either paid in full or paid ahead.

Thus far, the banks have succeeded in directing the attention of the courts, the lawyers and the pro se litigants to the very narrow accounting provided by servicers as to the payments made by ONLY the borrower. When the time comes that the government payments, the insurance payments, the servicer payments, the counterparty payments, and the proceeds of other credit enhancements are taken into account, the picture will change. It will be obvious that virtually none of the amounts demanded in foreclosures, none of the amounts shown in the end of month statements on loans, and none of the distribution reports to investors were true, correct or even well-intentioned.  

by Consumer in NJ

Maybe you don’t understand the point of the cut/pasting of the original 11 bank credit facility who started this mess connecting Lawyers Title Corporation, LandAmerica, Commonwealth, TD Financial Services, etc.

In good faith, I’ll continue sharing good information. I’m a researcher not a blogger. I’m a consumer harmed finding loopholes that harmed the economy transaction by transaction. What are you doing in good faith? Anyone who is a consumer not a blogger who understand and wants to be the ghost writer fine meanwhile I’m not seeing in the bulic domain the information I’m sharing that is important to how the economy harmed by money laundering a crime against the nation collective acts intentional collaboration, collusion methodical movement of cash right out of the nation c/o Mortgage Servicers affilaites of national banks. Thank you Office of the Comptroller of the Currency Hawke, Duggan, and who is the new guy? .

You need an attorney who knows the law. How are you going to know if you have a good attorney? How will you ask educated questions if the attorney has fiduciary interests of others ?

RED FLAG, attorney who promises you a loan modification connected to REO Lender’s reo broker, lender, dealer agaent affilaite beneficiary of the subservicer, robo-mill default lenders ?

RED FLAG attorney who says you don’t have to pay anything upfront.

Foreclosure was scary until Foreclosuregate. What is scary now is what Congress and the President, has not done about the OCC and CFPA c/o Federal Reserve.

What you don’t understand will hurt you.

We all proved that we are stupid people who signed stupid contracts. The Court will say a prudent buyer beware.

Obligor (Seller of loan) on your behalf signed mortgage backed note separating at time of ‘purchase’ of financial product the note from the debt. The Servicer c/o Purchaser sold back servicing rights takes possession of pledged asset cash of promissory note borrower co-signed.

The Tempory Lender recorded as the only document ‘Mortgage/Deed of Trust’ proves we did not understand that the ‘TRUST’ Cash paid by Purchaser separated the Note and DEED at time of purchase of ‘mortgage’ a financial product placed into public domain.

Alert all you whippersnappers signing the same documents today, ask for access to all of the related governing agreements between Seller and Purchaser, Obligor, Beneficiary, etc.which were intentionally witheld by the Obligor from all who come before you. Make an educated decision that its ok your property deed and note are separated..

The Obligor has the OBLIGATION to pay all principal and interest payments on a debt. We are the debtor c/o Obligor who allowed affilaites as third parties to Sell Loans purchased by …

Because you did not seek a copy of the Obligor’s contract and Agreements Sale & Serive Agrement, Loan Purchase Agreement, etc., and now don’t care to review agreements available on the public domain SECINFO . Com, and FFIEC . GOV Federal Reserve System reveals how the money moves to/from Parent Chase Manhattan Corporation 1998, 1998 with entity – data processing servicer is the Federal Reserve System Classification – Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems, Inc. (MERS). and all MERS Members then by default c/o FREDDIE MAC shareowner are ‘affiliates’ of national banks Mortgage Servicers (Norwest Mortgage, inc, Americas Servicing Co, Premier Asset Services, Wells Fargo Home MOrtgage, Chase Home Lending, GMAC Mortgage Corp of IA, ….
You don’t understand what I’m taling about. Sorry. Call be happy to help you understand what you don’t know that is harming you, your famaily, friends, neighbors, your municipality, your state and nation.

Keep complaining that you don’t understand. I won’t give up.
I don’t wany anyone to roll over and lose their home through ignorance for if you do you are part of the problem and allowing the perpetrators to continue harm the economy one mortgage at a time. ITts bad enough both Houses of Congress, The OCC, The Federal Reserve, 12 Federal Home Mortgage Loan Corporations, FHA, HUD, and they pulled over federal taxes from you for the Consumer Financial Protection Agency who all protect government interest of only GINNEMAE guaranteed loans and self interests of all private wealth institutional bankers and institutional investors. Do you think the FEDERAL RESERVE is the ‘Central Bank’? Nope sorry its not. Do you thing the FHMA lawsutis protect non-conforming loans NOPE does not.

In default, you do not lay down like a dog because your scared.
You don’t have to listen to some REO broker quick move into an apartment
Does the party standing before the court Plaintiff have the right as note holder in due course to take the property. That is all a foreclosure is.due to default (hardship) (loss of job) (sickness) (divorce) all the top 5 stressors in life. My intentions as a consumer harmed to help reveal the loopholes which harmed our economy.

The Agreements governing your mortgage did not start and stop the day you signed the mortgage promissory note.

By the way the Temporay Lender aka Seller of the Loan already authorized the loan and ordered the cash from a purchaser before you signed the promissory note. WHich means legally the loans was already signed and you are a what co-signor?

The harm to the economy methodical c/o money laundering. Corportions are perpetual entities, whose assets include, contracts, agreements, registration statements, T-1 Indenture, Trusts, etc., assets as receivables think of it like if you die and had money a house a busienss a car, another house, another buisness. How would the estate be assigned a value? The business a value? That may help you understand the one loan combined with all loans 2003-2008 which harmed the economy by laundering cash right under the noses of each federal regulatory agency c/o OCC.

2. Seller is sole owner of Loan
Seller has authority to Sell, transfer and assign the same …(see manual not attached)
Seller attests there has been no Assignment, sale or hypothecation thereof by Seller
except the usual hypothecation of the documents in connection with Seller’s normal banking transactions in the conduct of its business.

Hypothecation new word: (for me)

What Does Hypothecation Mean?
When a person pledges a mortgage as collateral for a loan, it refers to the right that a banker has to liquidate goods if you fail to service a loan.

The term also applies to securities in a margin account used as collateral for money loaned from a brokerage.

You are said to “hypothecate” the mortgage when you pledge it as collateral for a loan

New Word: Rehypothecation:
When a broker pledges hypothecated client owned securities in a margin account to secure a bank loan. Rehypothecation also known as a margin loan. Related terms (Banking, Brokers, Pledged Asset, Hypothecation.

Pledged Asset

What Does Pledged Asset Mean?
An asset that is transferred to a lender for the purpose of securing debt.

The lender of the debt maintains possession of the pledged asset, but does not have ownership unless default occurs.

A pledged asset is returned to the borrower when all conditions of the debt have be satisfied.

Home buyers can sometimes pledge assets, such as securities, to lending institutions in order to reduce the necessary down payment. Thus, these securities would not have to be sold in order to meet the down-payment requirements, allowing for any capital appreciation while maintaining the associate mortgage benefits.

Related terms Capital appreciation; Collateral; Default; Hypothecation, Loan, Mortgage, Rehypothecation …
Bonds, Fixed Income, Personal Finance

WHAT ABOUT ‘Sub-Sovereign Obligation – SSO”
What Does Sub-Sovereign Obligation – SSO Mean?

A form of debt obligation issued by hierarchical tiers below the ultimate governing body of a nation, country, or territory. This form of debt comes from bond issues and is issued by states, provinces, cities or towns in order to fund municipal and local projects.

Also referred to as a “municipal (muni) debt obligation”.

This form of debt obligation is commonly created by municipalities in order to meet funding requirements. Issuing bodies are responsible for their own debt issues, which can carry significant risk depending on the financial health of the municipality.

WHAT ABOUT ALL THOSE ‘NIMS’ IN REMIS? Hmmm. Relate back to the ‘cash’ taken out of ‘TRUST’ custody of a pension fund or municipality, c/o Non-Deposit Trust Company Non-Member ‘cash’ purchaser ordered by ‘seller’ originator deposits ‘cash’ c/o depositor individual bank closing agent, …for a new Loan.
If existing loan is placed in default and not really paid off (during a refinance) there are a lot of ifs, but the loan can be placed in forced default over 90-120 days and repurchased depending upon ‘agreements. What does your agreement say? Read a simple one from 9/24/1998 re Countrywide Purchaser and E-Loans Seller (Originator). Google Purchase.
A debt collector robo-firm c/o subservicer instructed by Servicer c/o Investors/Owner of ‘mortgage note’ Pleged Asset

Trying to take your property. How? What in writing gives them the right to attach the debt to the Pledged Asset?
Master Servicer ‘agreeded’ in REMIC SERVICER who purchased servicign rights was in control after 90 days.

A 90 day default common for REMICS, there are other defaults that can occur between buisness entities seller and purchaser.

If mortgage affixed a MIN# that affiliate of a national bank’s Mortgage Servicer did not register transactions at RETAIL with County Clerk/Recorder because the ASSIGNMENT/Mortgage Promissory Note borrower signed with Temporay Lender is the Assignment, statutory taxes paid by borrower for credit line increase in a documented called a mortgage promissory note like an amendment to the exisint mortgage if a refiance – a loan modiifcation.

MERS MEMBERS by default are automaticfally affiliates of a National Bank’s Mortgage Servicer. Keep in mind the OCC since 2003 has protected all MERS MEMBERS c/o Federal Reserve private wealth managers who assigned visitorial powers c/o Supremacy Clause trump State Attorney Generals trying to enfoce laws can’t secure evidence related to any transactions ‘cash’ attached to ‘Mortgage Servicers affilaites of national banks. Chase Bank NA all MERS MEMBERS affiliates of natioanl banks Chase, Wells Fargo BanK NA, GMAC Bank c/o NASCOR dba Wells FArgo Asset Securities Corp. That is one joint venture governing loan originated c/o affiliates of these banks may do business in the names of these banks and the depositor ‘Wells Fargo Asset Securities Corp’….

Every rolling 12 month period, the ‘debt’ serviced, the servicer posts asset ‘receivables’ for 12 months…

Select Servicers maintain huge portfolios of many loans.
The servicer may have made an agreement to pay the P&I pending sale of REO property c/o subservicer for example GMAC Mortgage Corporation who will advance funding as a Tempoary Lender c/o REO Lender of Premier Asset Services affilaite – who is that? an affiliate of a Mortgage Servicer of a national bank, Welsl Fargo Bank NA. Hmmm.

You need to understand what was once illegible to me the agreements and decphier the relationship to secure evidence and to figure out if documents you have are accuate business statements you can pursue through the courts seeking disclosure of the agreements that govern the transactions.

if you want ‘evidence’ there is NO one answer fits all.

You each have a ‘Loan’ 0123456789 that went through an ‘origination’

During that origiantion, a purchaser and seller’ depending upon the governing agreement, exchanged cash. The written agreements provide the ‘agency’ authority. Look for your evidence. Look for loopholes. Find ‘evidence’ or you’ll lose.

Go back — go back — go back and find the original agreements.

1998 is a good place to start, when the integrated networks in place for Origiantions already existed and operating, over the CLOUD, portals connecting bank closing agents, title and settlement agents, MERS Members, TD Servicers, First America, Fideltiy, DocX, LPS, LSI, eLynx, etc., and all of the robo-firms in agreement with all the sub-servicers, servicers, ….

Example: Lawyers Title Services bank closing agents, title agenies, virtual notary services c/o title and settlemetn agencies, etc.

Select a simple one where you don’t have any paradigmns and read and you’ll understand better. Your preconceived ideas divert and hide the truth.

MERS exists c/o Chase Manhttan Corp as Parent of Mortgage Electronic Systems, Inc. Yes you read correct. What does that mean? The ‘joint venture’ between FREDDIE MAC, Chase, WFC, GMAC (private). The dollars ‘income’ flowed to Chase c/o Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems, Inc.

All MERS MEMBERS by default ‘affiliates’ of national banks, federal associations, federal savings banks… 3/13/2000 when Financial Holding Companies now parent money flows through Federal Reserve System in light of day between ‘Real Estate Industry’, ‘Insurance Industry’ and ‘Banking Industry’.

Google Purchase Loan Agreement
Loan Purchase Agreement
Countrywide Home Loans Inc.
E-Loans Inc.





PARTIES AGREE:Seller & Purchaser

“Related terms’ Collateral, Loan, Mortgage, Pledged Asset, Rehypothecation …

1. ELIGIBLE LOANS SELLER MUST BE APPROVED QUALIFIED AND/OR LICENSED TO ORIGINATE SUCH LOANS – so we can assume E-Loans has affiliates who are qualifed in all 50 states.

-Loans sold include
Conforming Conventional (GINNE MAE), Jumbo…not guaranteed by Ginne Mae,, Second Mortgage Loan Program (what is that resale of purcahsed loans after 120 days?), etc. Each defined with a unique set of rules.

GinneMae the only government guaranteed loans regulations govern conforming loanos conforming loans, and all non-conforming loans are considered Alt-A Loans (1) missing GSE requirement (no income verification). How do you know if your loan was conforming or not? Ask? Secure discover and find LPS ‘Non-Conforming’ printed on reports.

Whether conforming or non-conforming all of the loans from Sellter will be purchased by purchaser Countrywide in accordance with this Loan Purchase Agreement, and manual not attached herewith, that you get only if you are an affiliate, member, subscriber, vendors, servicer, whatever.

Have you read your agreements that govern the loan you signed as borrower? It was signed before you signed by the Seller who issued the insurance c/o Temporay Lender, the commitment to issue cash or accept cash, insurance for the event of a default. A default in some agreements may be the interest and late payment fee’ after 90 days if not paid places the loan in forced default. You know how they sent back checks for partial payments the servicer refused to take anything but the total amount owned? Why not take some? Because once 90 days in default, the loanos may be resold and repurchased.

Do you know what the Seller is responsible for? Look at a real agreement and look up the vernacular you don’t understand don’t apply what you think the work ‘lender’ and ‘temporary lender’ mean. And Pretender Lender is not a financial term. Temporary lender is a financial business entity role of some business entity who makes money in 3 different ways. Does not mean all Temporay Lenders do all that.

Countrywide Purchaser of Loans and E-Loans the Seller agree

1. Seller shall fully underwrite each Loan (prior to submission to Countrywide)

9/24/1998 Loan Purchase Agreement refers to ‘must use’ if avaialble’ a Countrywide-approved automated-underwriting system for underwriting the loan.

2. Commitment to Purchase Loaons
Seller may commit to sell a Loan to purchaser Countrywide (refer to manual we don’t have)

Countrywide will confirm conditions of sale of Loan to Countrywide, deliver confirmation Commitment to Seller, set for terms of transaction, Countrise ‘purchaser’ will pay for each Loan (refer to manual affects Purchase Price).

Terms of Commitment
Including Purchase Price Effective Period
Seller is approved by Countrywide to sell Loanos to Country wide on a bulk sale basis …
Countrywide and ‘Seller’ E-Loans shall execute Addendum to ‘Loan Purchase Agreement (BULK SALES) which will be attached and incorporated into this Agreement by reference (not attached).

Countrywide has right (BUT NOT OBLIGATION) to underwrite any Loan submitted for purchase

Seller’s repurchase obligations under Section 9 hereof… 270 days later…

Seller delivers to Countrwide appraisal of real estate security for each Loan
Appraisal signed by a qualified appraiser (see manual not attached) prior to Countrywides approval to purchase loan.

4. Delivery of Loan Documents

When is a loan deemed ‘delivered’ to Countrywide

A) if it is received by Countrywide within the Commitment Period

B) if Loan in compliance with Delivery of Closed Loans and Funding Documentation (see manual not attached)

C) Loan has no outstanding conditions that prevent Countrywide from FUNDING purchase. Example: failure to deliver within 120 days of Loan purchased (forward sold) any of the required documentation Countrywide Assessment fee of $50 per month after initial 120 day grace period. $50 if 1 or more documents.
Failure to deliver to Countrywide one or more of the original documents specified in Delivery of Closed Loans (see manual not attached) within 270 days from date the Loan was purchased by Countrywide shall obligate SELLER to repurchase Loan pursurant to Section 7 of this Agreement.

5. Payment of Purchase Price and Seller’s Wire Instructions
Countrywide Purchaser shall after receipt of loan documentation package TILA – HUD etc., deliver the Purchase Price (less any fees or discounts due to Countrwide)

Commitment to Seller
Seller’s wire instructions ‘Order Cash for Loanj0123456789;’ or in accordance with any bailee letter or trust receipt submittted with the Loan 01234567890 (all as determined in the ‘sole’ and ‘abosolute’ discretion of Countrywide.

6. Sellers Obligations, Representations & Warranties
Seller prepresents and warrrants each Loan offered for sale (purchase by Countrywide)

1 Loan documents duly executed by trustor/mortgagor
Loan documents acknowledged and recorded;

each Loan is valid
Each Loan complies with all cirterial (see manual not attached)
Note and Deed of Trust/Mortgage constitute4 entire Agreement between trustor/mortgagor and the beneficiary/mortgagee

There is no verbal understanding or written modification which would affect terms of note or deed of trust/mortgage

except by written instrument delivered

and expressly made known to the beneficiary/mortgagee and recorded if recording is necessary to protect interests of beneficiary/mortgagee.

2. Seller is sole owner of Loan
Seller has authority to Sell, transfer and assign the same …(see manual not attached)
Seller attests there has been no Assignment, sale or hypothecation thereof by Seller
except the usual hypothecation of the documents in connection with Seller’s normal banking transactions in the conduct of its business.

Hypothecation new word: (for me)

What Does Hypothecation Mean?
When a person pledges a mortgage as collateral for a loan, it refers to the right that a banker has to liquidate goods if you fail to service a loan.

The term also applies to securities in a margin account used as collateral for money loaned from a brokerage.

You are said to “hypothecate” the mortgage when you pledge it as collateral for a loan

New Word: Rehypothecation:
When a broker pledges hypothecated client owned securities in a margin account to secure a bank loan. Rehypothecation also known as a margin loan. Related terms (Banking, Brokers, Pledged Asset, Hypothecation.

Pledged Asset

What Does Pledged Asset Mean?
An asset that is transferred to a lender for the purpose of securing debt.

The lender of the debt maintains possession of the pledged asset, but does not have ownership unless default occurs.

A pledged asset is returned to the borrower when all conditions of the debt have be satisfied.

Home buyers can sometimes pledge assets, such as securities, to lending institutions in order to reduce the necessary down payment. Thus, these securities would not have to be sold in order to meet the down-payment requirements, allowing for any capital appreciation while maintaining the associate mortgage benefits.

Related terms Capital appreciation; Collateral; Default; Hypothecation, Loan, Mortgage, Rehypothecation …
Bonds, Fixed Income, Personal Finance

There are 2 defaults going on at the same time with Countrywide

Simple explanation provided by Investopedia

What Does Default Mean?
1. The failure to promptly pay interest or principal when due. Default occurs when a debtor is unable to meet the legal obligation of debt repayment. Borrowers may default when they are unable to make the required payment or are unwilling to honor the debt.

2. The failure to perform on a futures contract as required by an exchange. Investopedia explains Default

1. Defaulting on a debt obligation can place a company or individual in financial trouble. The lender will see a default as a sign that the borrower is not likely to make future payments. For example, if Company XYZ is unable to make a coupon payment on its bonds, the bondholders would place XYZ in bankruptcy. This would give the company an opportunity to claim XYZ’s assets as a form of repayment for the debt.

2. Defaulting on a futures contract occurs when one party does not fulfill the obligations set forth by the agreement. The default usually involves not settling the contract by the required date. A person in the short position will default if he or she fails to deliver the goods at the end of the contract. The long position defaults when payment is not provided by the settlement date.



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EDITOR’S COMMENT: With 7,000 community banks and credit unions, an electronic funds transfer infrastructure enabling even the smallest bank to provide wide access ATM, internet and other conveniences, you would think that the best insurance we have against financial collapse is to make certain that the small and medium sized banks make it through this crisis — especially since they didn’t cause the problem.

But just as MasterCard and Visa adopted policies that created preferred treatment to the megabanks and forced the smaller banks to pay for the same infrastructure that was being used against them in the “free market”, the FED has adopted policies that are window dressing meant to show fairness and neutrality when in fact the FED policies are squarely in the corner of mega banks who consistently use their power and influence over the payment networks and the federal reserve to raise barriers to entry just high enough to prevent meaningful competition.

So hundreds of banks were given access to the Fed Window, but unlike their megabank counterparts, they had to come up with REAL COLLATERAL instead of bogus mortgage bonds. This policy made absolutely certain that the small banks would not start lending ahead of the mega banks and start taking back market share. It also made certain that the small banks would not start growing at the expense of the megabank share of the market which is now placed somewhere around 70%.

Thus the very same people and institutions and caused the mess we are in, and who have created a title conflagration that might never be solved as long as we continue to keep ourselves blinded by the myth and spin coming from Wall Street and government, THOSE are the people who are essentially MAKING POLICY contrary to their lip service of preserving, maintaining and promoting a free market. In a free market, the small and medium sized banks would have been given a better chance to step up to the plate and take back market share after the horrible behavior of those who have dominated the marketplace for thirty years. In a free market, the resolution of the mortgage bond issue, derivatives, and synthetic collateralized debt obligation instruments like credit default swaps, would have been achieved without causing any pain to anyone other than the people who created the problem. Instead the pain is still spreading to all the citizens of our country and around the world.

Fed Help Kept Banks Afloat, Until It Didn’t


WASHINGTON — During the frenetic months of the financial crisis, the Federal Reserve stretched the limits of its legal authority by lending money to more than 100 banks that subsequently failed.

The loans through the so-called discount window transformed a little-used program for banks that run low on cash into a source of long-term financing for troubled institutions, some of which borrowed regularly from the Fed for more than a year.

The central bank took little risk in making the loans, protecting itself by demanding large amounts of collateral. But propping up failing banks can increase the eventual cleanup costs for the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation because it keeps struggling banks afloat, allowing them to get even deeper in debt. It also can clog the arteries of the financial system, tying up money in banks that are no longer making new loans.

County Bank, the largest bank in Merced County, California, took a $4.8 million loan from the discount window in March 2008 after announcing the first annual loss in its 30-year history, news that prompted depositors to withdraw $52 million.

By the fall of 2008, the bank was borrowing regularly from the Fed, taking more than two dozen loans in amounts that peaked above $60 million. It continued borrowing until the day it failed, taking a final loan for $55 million on Friday, Feb. 6, 2009.

Thomas Hawker, the former chief executive, said that the loans helped keep the bank in business, providing needed cash as deposits dwindled. But he said that it was clear in retrospect that County Bank was dead on its feet the whole time, thanks to its once-lucrative focus on financing construction of new homes in the Central Valley of California.

“I think in most cases it is a lifeline that kind of provides a bridge to survival,” said Mr. Hawker, who left the bank in 2008. “In the case here, Merced County was ground zero for everything that could possibly have gone wrong with the economy.”

The discount window is a basic feature of the central bank’s original design, intended to mitigate bank runs and other cash squeezes. But access to it historically has been limited to healthy banks with short-term problems.

Those limits moved from custom to law in 1991, when Congress formally restricted the Fed’s ability to help failing banks. A Congressional investigation found that more than 300 banks that failed between 1985 and 1991 owed money to the Fed at the time of their failure. Critics said the Fed’s lending had increased the cost of those failures.

The central bank was chastened for a generation but in 2007, facing a new banking crisis, the Fed once again started to broaden access to the discount window. It reduced the cost of borrowing and started offering loans for longer terms of up to 30 days.

More than one thousand banks have taken advantage. A review of federal data, including records the Fed released last week, shows that at least 111 of those banks subsequently failed. Eight owed the Fed money on the day they failed, including Washington Mutual, the largest failed bank in American history.

The Fed has said that it complied fully with the law in all of its emergency loans, and that its actions, including lending from the discount window, were intended to limit the impact of the crisis.

Charles Calomiris, a finance professor at Columbia University who has studied discount window lending during previous crises, said the Fed had not released enough information for the public to determine whether some of the recipients were propped up inappropriately and should have been allowed to fail more quickly.

“Do we know whether the Fed did that? No, we don’t,” he said. “But the Fed has become more politicized than at any point in its history, and I do worry very much that a lot of Fed discount window lending may just be part of a political calculation.”

In some cases the Fed’s lending had clear benefits, whether or not the loans meant going beyond the mandate.

The F.D.I.C. almost always seizes banks on Friday evenings, so the new owners have two days before reopening. In some cases the Fed kept banks alive until the next Friday. The Bank of Clark County in Vancouver, Wash., took its first discount window loan on Monday, Jan. 12, 2009. It borrowed $8 million Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, then $14 million on Thursday and Friday. Then the F.D.I.C. closed its doors.

In other cases, the Fed stopped lending to banks as the extent of their financial problems became clear. Alton Gilbert, a former official at the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis who wrote a widely cited study of the Fed’s discount window lending in the 1980s, said that few banks failed with Fed loans on their books during the recent crisis. The central bank often suspended lending several months before they failed.

Still, some experts said additional scrutiny was warranted for a subset of banks that received sustained support even though they faced clear problems.

The most frequent visitors at the window were three subsidiaries of FBOP, a bank holding company based in Oak Park, Ill.

Park National Bank in Chicago borrowed regularly from April 2008 until the day of its failure in October 2009, taking 129 loans in amounts that peaked at $345 million — the longest period of sustained support for any bank that failed during the crisis. Park used some of the money to finance the acquisition of assets from other banks, expanding its own balance sheet and potentially increasing the cost of its eventual failure. Bloomberg News first reported the details of the Fed’s discount window lending to the company.

Two other failed banks owned by FBOP also took more than 100 loans from the discount window, California National Bank of Los Angeles and Pacific National Bank of San Francisco, although both stopped borrowing several months before failing.

Marvin Goodfriend, a professor of economics at Carnegie Mellon University, said that such lending placed the Fed in the inappropriate position of deciding the fate of individual banks, choices that he said should be made by elected officials.

“What I think is the lesson from this is that the Congress needs to clarify the boundaries of independent Fed credit policy,” Professor Goodfriend said. “There should be a mechanism so that the Fed doesn’t have to make these decisions on behalf of taxpayers.”


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The fact that Wall Street is so intent on doing this can only indicate one thing: they intend to do it again. Wake up America!


Note: One of the things that Warren brings out in the video is that the disclosure forms come much too late in the process. The obvious effect is that besides being confusing  on their face, there is very little time for consumer to study or get help understanding the disclosure statements. Early rendition and delivery of the disclosure statements would add to the barrier of committing consumer fraud. By requiring early delivery, the “lender” would not be able to argue later that the borrower was informed of the terms and signed anyway, even when the consumer never had any real opportunity to look at those forms. Now we have to argue that the delivery of the forms was under circumstances where the consumer was meant not to understand the transaction. Warren’s goal addresses that head-on.

EDITORIAL COMMENT: The only wrong with this editorial from the NY Times is that they seem to limit it to Republicans. I’ll agree that Republicans are leading the charge, but many Democrats are in the pack racing for ways to please Wall Street which is throwing money around like confetti. By making it a Republican vs. Democrat issue, the editorial diverts us from the point — that the Dodd-Frank bill is under attack and they intend to chip away at it in pieces by denying appropriations and otherwise tangling up the works so that it doesn’t work.

Who Will Rescue Financial Reform?

In what passes for self-restraint these days, House Republicans have been insisting that they do not intend to repeal last year’s Dodd-Frank financial reform law.

Not in one fell swoop, anyway.

A direct assault on Dodd-Frank would be so blatantly biased toward banks that it would be sure to provoke a public backlash. So the Republican plan is to delay and disrupt reform. The effort is partly ideological — an insistence that regulation is unnecessary, no matter the evidence to the contrary. It is also a campaign fund-raising ploy, because Wall Street will reward the opponents of reform. Of course, Democrats are themselves not indifferent to Wall Street campaign cash, which raises the question of how effectively they will counter the Republicans’ aims. Here are areas to watch.

DERIVATIVES Budget cuts could cripple the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission — which share the vital task of regulating the multitrillion-dollar derivatives market. The budget impasse in Washington has already frozen the agencies’ budgets, even as their rule-writing duties have exploded. Worse, prevailing Republican rhetoric, adopted in part by Democrats, portends more budget cuts, which would leave the agencies unable to enforce current rules, let alone new ones. Settling for less than President Obama’s requested amounts for the agencies would be acquiescing in the derailment of Dodd-Frank.

CONSUMER PROTECTION The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, arguably the most innovative of the reforms, has been under constant attack by banks — and Republicans. Most recently, a House hearing on the bureau that was billed as an oversight session was instead a hazing of Elizabeth Warren, the Harvard law professor and consumer advocate chosen by Mr. Obama to set up the agency. Republican objections boiled down to charges that the agency — and Ms. Warren — have too much power. Ms. Warren’s rebuttals were clear and persuasive. Mr. Obama could define the debate further — and demonstrate his professed support for the bureau — by going on the offensive and nominating Ms. Warren as its official director. Senate Republicans have said that they would object, but it is their own credibility that would be at risk in opposing so qualified a candidate.

REPEAL BY ANOTHER NAME House Republicans have unveiled several bills to undo Dodd-Frank piece by piece. One would rewrite the law so that the C.F.P.B would be run by a five-member bipartisan board, rather than one director, a recipe for delay and division. Another would exempt an array of derivatives users from the new rules, perpetuating the deregulated market.

Yet another bill would repeal a requirement for private equity firms to register with the S.E.C, in effect ignoring the systemic risks in leveraged pools of private capital. And one would repeal a requirement that publicly traded companies disclose the ratio of a chief executive’s pay to that of a typical employee, a move that would deprive analysts of data to detect bubbles that correlate to skewed pay. The list goes on.

Dodd-Frank is no cure-all, but properly implemented and enforced, it would close dangerous regulatory gaps. That won’t happen if Republicans get their way — and they will, unless the fight is engaged in no uncertain terms. Democrats in Congress need to unite behind the law and Obama officials should denounce the antireform effort for what it is: an attempt to weaken Dodd-Frank on behalf of those who brought us the financial crisis.


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SEE Liquidity_trap

This is a call for application of existing law, not for the ideological shifting of wealth. If people get their cars and houses back that were taken illegally, we will have the capacity to invest, to restart commerce, and prosper. If we keep people enslaved in fictitious debt, we will have succeeded in destroying the promise of the American democratic experiment. Our system is based upon the ultimate power being with the people who are governed, not with the people who do the governing. Somehow we lost that and instead of the government being fearful of public reaction, the people are fearful of government reaction. We need to “man-up” or “citizen-up”, take back that power, and apply existing laws without malice or ideological agendas that change our constitution.”

“The liquidity trap, in Keynesian economics, is a situation where monetary policy is unable to stimulate an economy, either through lowering interest rates or increasing the money supply. Liquidity traps typically occur when expectations of adverse events (e.g., deflation, insufficient aggregate demand, or civil or international war) make persons with liquid assets unwilling to invest.” Wikipedia

EDITOR’S COMMENT: In plain language our status quo is that nobody is investing in the economy to the degree necessary to stimulate an economic recovery. Fiscal or monetary policy from the Federal Reserve and U.S. Treasury can’t do anything about it because their control over monetary supply and the financial industry has been all but eliminated. Allowing the fake mortgage bonds and fake mortgages to be treated as though they had real value grants a 10:1 advantage to Wall Street over government. The nominal value and market value, as traded currently, of derivatives based upon the receivables or value derived from loans supposedly backed by mortgages is up to ten times more than the current monetary supply coming from government. Wall Street has issued more currency than the government, so THEY control monetary and fiscal policy.

In short, Wall Street is running the show because we let them create “currency” out of the bogus notes and mortgages, the derivatives, the mortgage bonds, and all the other contracts and hedge products — all based upon a fictitious scheme of “securitization” where there were no actual transfers and where there were no actual binding contracts between the real lenders and the real borrowers.

Yet the myth persists and is nearly universally accepted that if we let those false instruments fall back to earth, the entire financial system will crash. Scare tactics. This is no longer a contest between people with conflicting projections. The reality is upon us. Wall Street has all the investment capital  to rebuild infrastructure, create jobs, educate our workers, stimulate innovation, and put America back on track actually making physical objects you can touch or performing services that people want. Wall Street has it because we let them have it even though they achieved this status by violating every law of, federal and state imaginable, even though they lied, cheated and continue to steal in the “foreclosure” market.

Our system lacks credibility — otherwise those with money would be investing in it. They are not investing and they are not lending for one simple reason — they are doing better trading paper amongst themselves and creating fictitious profits which is increasing the fictitious wealth of the top2,000 people in America. We lack credibility because we are not telling the truth and we are not owning up to the fact that we were captured in a coup d’etat that was quietly achieved by Wall Street, our new government.

We lack credibility because as long as that condition persists, we won’t have a real economy of manufacturing and services. It’s not longer a prediction. It’s now a fact. And the people we call our “government” are merely cogs in a wheel taking orders from a “higher power” than the constitution. They take their orders from Wall Street.

No, this is not a call for socialism. It isn’t socialism or communism to take away a stolen car and return it to its rightful owner — but it it IS redistribution of wealth. That is why government exists — to make sure the bully in the school yard doesn’t grab everyone’s lunch and scream “Mine!”

This is a call for application of existing law, not for the ideological shifting of wealth. If people get their cars and houses back that were taken illegally, we will have the capacity to invest, to restart commerce, and prosper. If we keep people enslaved in fictitious debt, we will have succeeded in destroying the promise of the American democratic experiment. Our system is based upon the ultimate power being with the people who are governed, not with the people who do the governing. Somehow we lost that and instead of the government being fearful of public reaction, the people are fearful of government reaction. We need to “man-up” or “citizen-up”, take back that power, and apply existing laws without malice or ideological agendas that change our constitution.


Yes, We’re In A Liquidity Trap

Some comments on various blog posts ask what evidence we have that liquidity trap economics is any different from normal economics. Um, the answer is staring us in the face: the failure of interest rates to rise despite very large budget deficits:


If you had told most people, back in 2007, that the federal government would soon be running budget deficits in the vicinity of 10 percent of GDP, most of them would have predicted soaring interest rates. In fact, quite a few people did predict just that — and in some cases lost a lot of money for their investors.

But it hasn’t happened. Short rates have stayed near zero; long rates have fluctuated with changing views about the prospects for recovery, but stayed consistently below historical norms. That’s exactly what those of us who understood liquidity-trap economics predicted, right from the beginning.

I don’t know what more evidence you could ask for. After all, interest rates are what the liquidity trap is all about.

Deceptive Lobbying on Derivatives

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EDITOR’S COMMENT: Once again Simon JOhnson hits the nail on the head. Those of you who want a more sophisticated picture of this mortgage mess along with the macro-economic view would do well to visit

With the latest move in New York allowing legal aid to homeowners in foreclosure, the number of contested cases is going to go through the roof. If other states follow, the battle will be on, not in pieces but across the country. The entire securitization infrastructure is an illusion. It is written, but next to the facts, it is a piece of fiction. At least a quarter of the $600 trillion in notional value of derivatives is based on home mortgages that are fatally defective, where liability is in doubt and the amount demanded is far off the actual amount due after set-offs due to the borrower under law.

The only thing left for the mega banks to do is to try to push a legislative reset button, even if it is illegal, immoral, and unconstitutional. They want to scare the hell out of us telling us that if we even touch their system, another 130,000 jobs will be lost. It is is now well-established that this was a planted article with absolutely nothing to back it up. Johnson hits them where it hurts in his comment (see below).

Today's Economist

Simon Johnson, the former chief economist at the International Monetary Fund, is the co-author of “13 Bankers.”

On Capitol Hill this week, a serious debate is under way about whether to carry out an important part of the new Dodd-Frank rules for derivatives – with hearings in the House on Tuesday and in the Senate on Thursday.

Much of the discussion has focused on the report produced by Keybridge Research for a group called the Coalition for Derivatives End Users that purports to show the dangers of extending the rules to nonfinancial companies (the so-called end users in this context).

In testimony on Tuesday before the House Financial Services Committee, Gary Gensler, the chairman of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, pleased the Republican majority by saying the rules should not apply to nonfinancial companies that buy derivatives but “only on transactions between financial entities.”

Representative Spencer Bachus, Republican of Alabama and the committee’s chairman, responded: “I want to applaud Chairman Gensler. Members on the majority think it’s critically important that we don’t impose margin or clearing requirements on end users.”

Yet the Keybridge Research report – as exposed by Andrew Ross Sorkin in The New York Times on Tuesday – engaged in an extraordinary, shocking misrepresentation, asserting its credibility by claiming affiliations with respected academics who have now asked that their names be removed from the consulting firm’s Web site. Some of those listed as advisers said they had had no relationship with the firm.

The report is, in fact, pure lobbying disguised as research. For their own self-interest, the big banks want customers who can undertake derivatives transactions without reasonable constraints – and these banks want to disguise this self-interest in a veneer of social interest.

Republican committee members cited the report in arguing against the rules.

This coalition for end users does not represent the best interests of such actual end users; rather, it is a front for the big banks that dominate the market in over-the-counter derivatives.

The coalition has no good arguments to back up its assertions that properly implementing Dodd-Frank will result in significant job losses. In fact, as Mr. Sorkin reports, Keybridge has serious credibility problems.

As Joseph E. Stiglitz, a Nobel laureate in economic science, points out to Mr. Sorkin, at the heart of the report is a preposterous argument – that if we subsidize insurance, jobs will be created.

If someone made this point in regard to fire insurance or property and casualty insurance (particularly for American companies, which these days have around $2 trillion in cash), they would be dismissed out of hand. But the mystique – and confusion – surrounding derivatives is such that the material in this report will be taken seriously by many on Capitol Hill.

The only people who can really gain from this subsidy are the bankers who buy and sell derivatives. The actual end users are being duped by the banks. Perhaps you don’t feel bad about that – but such duping is very dangerous for financial-system stability. (See this post by my colleague John Parsons, who cuts nicely to the analytical heart of the matter – and who also dismisses the Keybridge report.)

The acknowledgment by so many firms that they have weak risk models is revealing and extremely worrisome (see Section 4.3 on page 4 of the report).

These firms are apparently relying on the banks to advise them on risk, but the banks have a strong vested interest in a more highly leveraged financial system. That leaves the nonfinancial firms gambling recklessly with their investors’ money. I hope tough questions will be asked about this at annual general meetings and in boardrooms.

The high level of profit in over-the-counter derivatives gives it all away. The real end users should bring in truly independent economic consultants, who can tell them that this level of profit is a clear indication that the market for O.T.C. derivatives is nowhere near competitive.

The end users are being ripped off – and then providing political support to the banks responsible for it. A serious management failure – and the issue of fiduciary responsibility – is clear at the nonfinancial firms surveyed in the Keybridge report.

We are looking at market power masquerading as lobbying on behalf of customers. This would be a laughable combination – were it not for the fact that this coalition did immeasurable damage to financial regulation last year, and is dead set on further undermining Mr. Gensler and his colleagues at the C.F.T.C. in the coming weeks.

We need responsible restraint in the over-the-counter derivatives market, in the face of the banks’ fierce determination to prevent this.


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Representative Stephen Lynch, Democrat of Massachusetts, warned: “You think regulation is costly? How about the $7 trillion we just lost from not regulating the derivatives markets.”

EDITOR’S NOTE: Our institutions are compromised with moral hazard every way you turn. The FDA, running mostly on money from fees paid by drug and medical supply companies (who then turn around and hire the same FDA people who approve so-called blockbuster drugs) supposedly reviews test results and approves labeling without doing any independent testing of their own. And people die. The federal and state agencies regulating banks, insurance companies, oil companies all run the same way — funded by fees paid by the companies they regulate and then the people who were the regulators end up employed by the companies they were regulating.

Somehow we seem to expect that this “system” will provide us with protection from thieves and those indifferent to whether we live or die, as long as they make a profit. This isn’t a system. It is a scam on the American public. Except that with the financial crisis it ended up affecting the world. With Congress regulating its own ethics, and with money being the principal religion in Washington, D.C. it is a huge challenge to even offer a conjecture of a favorable outcome.

In the mortgage mess, it was the rating agencies who were funded by fees paid by investment bankers who told the rating agency how to analyze the “low-risk” derivatives and give them AAA ratings — while at the same time the same investment firms had paid lobbyists to make sure they were not regulated at all when it came to derivatives and credit default swaps and other “custom” exotic financial products. It was the appraisers who were funded by fees generated by “lenders” (most of whom were merely acting as mortgage brokers) in order to generate fee revenue for merely pretending to underwrite loans. It is quite natural that the appraisals and ratings were so favorable to the scheme — the people who were doing the appraising and ratings were being paid to see things the way their “benefactors” wanted them to see it.

The two “protections” — ratings for investors and appraisals for homeowners — were reasonably relied upon to their combined detriment. What was promoted as an independent third party evaluation became an in-house marketing tool. So the investigations and the charges against individuals will skim the surface just enough for government to say they did something but not so much to make sure it never happens again. The larger problem is that each iteration of this cycle ends up in a worse debacle than the one before it.

So it should come as no small surprise that the SEC operates the same way. Funded by fees paid by companies who are regulated by the SEC, the SEC spawns future employees of the law firms and investment banking firms that are the subject or should be subjected to scrutiny and compliance with applicable laws, rules and regulations. Not content with virtually total control over the dominant currency of the world — collateralized debt obligations — and not content with being virtually unregulated, the banks are now seeking to choke off the last vestige of any hope that our financial system will ever regain stature. In a word, they seek to stop funding from Congress just to make sure there is nobody who legally touch them. In other words, the mega banks are willing to pay the fees to the U.S. Government (fees meant for SEC enforcement), provided the government doesn’t use that money to fund the SEC which is the only real agency with teeth.

Running on Empty


The new financial regulation law gave the Securities and Exchange Commission a big new job to police hedge funds, derivatives dealers and credit agencies — some of the main culprits in the financial meltdown. It authorized raising the commission’s budget to $2.25 billion, over five years. Now Congress is threatening to deny the S.E.C. the necessary financing to carry out its duties.

What makes this even more absurd is that the S.E.C. doesn’t cost taxpayers a dime. Its budget, like that of other financial regulators, is covered by fees assessed on Wall Street firms. While the other regulators decide their own financing needs, Congress sets the S.E.C.’s budget.

The agency’s budget was due to rise $200 million this year to $1.3 billion, but hasn’t because of the across-the-board freeze in discretionary spending. If House Republicans get their way and roll back spending to 2008 levels, the S.E.C. budget would fall to $906 million.

Mary Schapiro, the chairwoman of the S.E.C., warns that more budget cutting will hamstring its ability to carry out its usual duties of policing increasingly complex securities markets — let alone discharge its new responsibilities. A group of lawyers representing the financial companies regulated by the S.E.C. sent a letter to lawmakers urging them to increase the commission’s budget. Otherwise, they warn, the markets will lose investors’ trust. “The regulator of our capital markets is running almost on empty,” they wrote.

The S.E.C. needs better technology and more employees. S.E.C. officials have pointed out that it took the commission three months to understand what happened during last May’s “flash crash,” because it took that long for its computers to handle all the trading data. The number of investment advisers that the S.E.C. must police has grown by half over the past decade and trading volume has doubled. In the years running up to the financial crisis, the commission’s staff declined.

Ms. Schapiro planned to hire 800 employees this year to beef up enforcement and meet the agency’s new duties. Those plans are on hold. The commission has also started cutting back on investigations and is considering canceling technology upgrades, including new data management systems and a new digital forensics lab.

The S.E.C.’s recent record was tarnished by its failure to uncover Bernard Madoff’s gargantuan Ponzi scheme, and it was caught off guard by the collapse of Bear Stearns and Lehman Brothers. The Bush administration’s lax approach to regulation should bear much of the blame. But a lack of qualified investigators was also a big problem. If the commission is to do its job right, it needs the resources to do it.


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Notable Quotes:

“The men share a common goal: to protect the interests of big banks in the vast market for derivatives, one of the most profitable — and controversial — fields in finance. They also share a common secret: The details of their meetings, even their identities, have been strictly confidential.”

“big banks influence the rules governing derivatives through a variety of industry groups. The banks’ latest point of influence are clearinghouses like ICE Trust, which holds the monthly meetings with the nine bankers in New York.”

“The banks also required ICE to provide market data exclusively to Markit, a little-known company that plays a pivotal role in derivatives. Backed by Goldman, JPMorgan and several other banks, Markit provides crucial information about derivatives, like prices.”

“None of the three clearinghouses would divulge the members of their risk committees when asked by a reporter. But two people with direct knowledge of ICE’s committee said the bank members are:

  • Thomas J. Benison of JPMorgan Chase & Company;
  • James J. Hill of Morgan Stanley;
  • Athanassios Diplas of Deutsche Bank;
  • Paul Hamill of UBS;
  • Paul Mitrokostas of Barclays;
  • Andy Hubbard of Credit Suisse;
  • Oliver Frankel of Goldman Sachs;
  • Ali Balali of Bank of America; and
  • Biswarup Chatterjee of Citigroup.”


EDITOR’S ANALYSIS: For those of us tracking the strategies employed in courtrooms across the country and various foreclosure tactics, it has been obvious that there has been a single governing hand that is controlling the action. Hidden under the rubric of a risk control committee, this group actually makes all key decisions that affect the largest segment of the marketplace and thus the rest of the markets. These banks are operating for themselves, not in the interests of performing the service that Wall Street was always intended to do — create increasingly fluid access to the capital markets for businesses to innovate, start, grow, finance and merge.

They operate without any regulation. Quite the contrary. The decisions from this group actually effect both legislation that is proposed and passed and the rules and regulations of agencies that are supposed to be acting as referees to make sure the players don’t run amok. They dictate to government rather than the other way around and they create the strategies affect every individual in this country and many other countries. They are in essence a single virtual bank acting as though they are separate, each with profit centers that are strictly controlled by this elite group.

The upcoming WikiLeaks disclosures may have some references to this group which is comprised of the largest banks in the world and which exclude other large banks from membership, like Bank of New York/Mellon. Together they control the direction of the recession and how power is exercised by governments and central bankers around the world. That is because together they control nominal wealth many times the total currency in the world and “market value” that is roughly equal, at a minimum, to 2/3 of the GDP of the entire world.

We are at a crossroad whether we want to admit it or not. Either we simply give up and let bankers rule the world, or we stop them, disassemble them and bring them down to a size where they can be and are in fact regulated. But the choice is not up to government which now is owned by them as well. The choice is entirely up to the people — all the people — who ultimately, for the moment, have the power to dismiss the exercise of this kind of ultra vires power and bring things back to normal. Whatever we do, we are headed for turbulent times. The only real question is whether those turbulent times will be leading us down a path of abandoning our nation of laws or whether it will be as Teddy Roosevelt did, devoted to taking back the power for the people, by the people.


A Secretive Banking Elite Rules Trading in Derivatives


On the third Wednesday of every month, the nine members of an elite Wall Street society gather in Midtown Manhattan.

The men share a common goal: to protect the interests of big banks in the vast market for derivatives, one of the most profitable — and controversial — fields in finance. They also share a common secret: The details of their meetings, even their identities, have been strictly confidential.

Drawn from giants like JPMorgan Chase, Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley, the bankers form a powerful committee that helps oversee trading in derivatives, instruments which, like insurance, are used to hedge risk.

In theory, this group exists to safeguard the integrity of the multitrillion-dollar market. In practice, it also defends the dominance of the big banks.

The banks in this group, which is affiliated with a new derivatives clearinghouse, have fought to block other banks from entering the market, and they are also trying to thwart efforts to make full information on prices and fees freely available.

Banks’ influence over this market, and over clearinghouses like the one this select group advises, has costly implications for businesses large and small, like Dan Singer’s home heating-oil company in Westchester County, north of New York City.

This fall, many of Mr. Singer’s customers purchased fixed-rate plans to lock in winter heating oil at around $3 a gallon. While that price was above the prevailing $2.80 a gallon then, the contracts will protect homeowners if bitterly cold weather pushes the price higher.

But Mr. Singer wonders if his company, Robison Oil, should be getting a better deal. He uses derivatives like swaps and options to create his fixed plans. But he has no idea how much lower his prices — and his customers’ prices — could be, he says, because banks don’t disclose fees associated with the derivatives.

“At the end of the day, I don’t know if I got a fair price, or what they’re charging me,” Mr. Singer said.

Derivatives shift risk from one party to another, and they offer many benefits, like enabling Mr. Singer to sell his fixed plans without having to bear all the risk that oil prices could suddenly rise. Derivatives are also big business on Wall Street. Banks collect many billions of dollars annually in undisclosed fees associated with these instruments — an amount that almost certainly would be lower if there were more competition and transparent prices.

Just how much derivatives trading costs ordinary Americans is uncertain. The size and reach of this market has grown rapidly over the past two decades. Pension funds today use derivatives to hedge investments. States and cities use them to try to hold down borrowing costs. Airlines use them to secure steady fuel prices. Food companies use them to lock in prices of commodities like wheat or beef.

The marketplace as it functions now “adds up to higher costs to all Americans,” said Gary Gensler, the chairman of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, which regulates most derivatives. More oversight of the banks in this market is needed, he said.

But big banks influence the rules governing derivatives through a variety of industry groups. The banks’ latest point of influence are clearinghouses like ICE Trust, which holds the monthly meetings with the nine bankers in New York.

Under the Dodd-Frank financial overhaul, many derivatives will be traded via such clearinghouses. Mr. Gensler wants to lessen banks’ control over these new institutions. But Republican lawmakers, many of whom received large campaign contributions from bankers who want to influence how the derivatives rules are written, say they plan to push back against much of the coming reform. On Thursday, the commission canceled a vote over a proposal to make prices more transparent, raising speculation that Mr. Gensler did not have enough support from his fellow commissioners.

The Department of Justice is looking into derivatives, too. The department’s antitrust unit is actively investigating “the possibility of anticompetitive practices in the credit derivatives clearing, trading and information services industries,” according to a department spokeswoman.

Indeed, the derivatives market today reminds some experts of the Nasdaq stock market in the 1990s. Back then, the Justice Department discovered that Nasdaq market makers were secretly colluding to protect their own profits. Following that scandal, reforms and electronic trading systems cut Nasdaq stock trading costs to 1/20th of their former level — an enormous savings for investors.

“When you limit participation in the governance of an entity to a few like-minded institutions or individuals who have an interest in keeping competitors out, you have the potential for bad things to happen. It’s antitrust 101,” said Robert E. Litan, who helped oversee the Justice Department’s Nasdaq investigation as deputy assistant attorney general and is now a fellow at the Kauffman Foundation. “The history of derivatives trading is it has grown up as a very concentrated industry, and old habits are hard to break.”

Representatives from the nine banks that dominate the market declined to comment on the Department of Justice investigation.

Clearing involves keeping track of trades and providing a central repository for money backing those wagers. A spokeswoman for Deutsche Bank, which is among the most influential of the group, said this system will reduce the risks in the market. She said that Deutsche is focused on ensuring this process is put in place without disrupting the marketplace.

The Deutsche spokeswoman also said the banks’ role in this process has been a success, saying in a statement that the effort “is one of the best examples of public-private partnerships.”

Established, But Can’t Get In

The Bank of New York Mellon’s origins go back to 1784, when it was founded by Alexander Hamilton. Today, it provides administrative services on more than $23 trillion of institutional money.

Recently, the bank has been seeking to enter the inner circle of the derivatives market, but so far, it has been rebuffed.

Bank of New York officials say they have been thwarted by competitors who control important committees at the new clearinghouses, which were set up in the wake of the financial crisis.

Bank of New York Mellon has been trying to become a so-called clearing member since early this year. But three of the four main clearinghouses told the bank that its derivatives operation has too little capital, and thus potentially poses too much risk to the overall market.

The bank dismisses that explanation as absurd. “We are not a nobody,” said Sanjay Kannambadi, chief executive of BNY Mellon Clearing, a subsidiary created to get into the business. “But we don’t qualify. We certainly think that’s kind of crazy.”

The real reason the bank is being shut out, he said, is that rivals want to preserve their profit margins, and they are the ones who helped write the membership rules.

Mr. Kannambadi said Bank of New York’s clients asked it to enter the derivatives business because they believe they are being charged too much by big banks. Its entry could lower fees. Others that have yet to gain full entry to the derivatives trading club are the State Street Corporation, and small brokerage firms like MF Global and Newedge.

The criteria seem arbitrary, said Marcus Katz, a senior vice president at Newedge, which is owned by two big French banks.

“It appears that the membership criteria were set so that a certain group of market participants could meet that, and everyone else would have to jump through hoops,” Mr. Katz said.

The one new derivatives clearinghouse that has welcomed Newedge, Bank of New York and the others — Nasdaq — has been avoided by the big derivatives banks.

Only the Insiders Know

How did big banks come to have such influence that they can decide who can compete with them?

Ironically, this development grew in part out of worries during the height of the financial crisis in 2008. A major concern during the meltdown was that no one — not even government regulators — fully understood the size and interconnections of the derivatives market, especially the market in credit default swaps, which insure against defaults of companies or mortgages bonds. The panic led to the need to bail out the American International Group, for instance, which had C.D.S. contracts with many large banks.

In the midst of the turmoil, regulators ordered banks to speed up plans — long in the making — to set up a clearinghouse to handle derivatives trading. The intent was to reduce risk and increase stability in the market.

Two established exchanges that trade commodities and futures, the InterContinentalExchange, or ICE, and the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, set up clearinghouses, and, so did Nasdaq.

Each of these new clearinghouses had to persuade big banks to join their efforts, and they doled out membership on their risk committees, which is where trading rules are written, as an incentive.

None of the three clearinghouses would divulge the members of their risk committees when asked by a reporter. But two people with direct knowledge of ICE’s committee said the bank members are: Thomas J. Benison of JPMorgan Chase & Company; James J. Hill of Morgan Stanley; Athanassios Diplas of Deutsche Bank; Paul Hamill of UBS; Paul Mitrokostas of Barclays; Andy Hubbard of Credit Suisse; Oliver Frankel of Goldman Sachs; Ali Balali of Bank of America; and Biswarup Chatterjee of Citigroup.

Through representatives, these bankers declined to discuss the committee or the derivatives market. Some of the spokesmen noted that the bankers have expertise that helps the clearinghouse.

Many of these same people hold influential positions at other clearinghouses, or on committees at the powerful International Swaps and Derivatives Association, which helps govern the market.

Critics have called these banks the “derivatives dealers club,” and they warn that the club is unlikely to give up ground easily.

“The revenue these dealers make on derivatives is very large and so the incentive they have to protect those revenues is extremely large,” said Darrell Duffie, a professor at the Graduate School of Business at Stanford University, who studied the derivatives market earlier this year with Federal Reserve researchers. “It will be hard for the dealers to keep their market share if everybody who can prove their creditworthiness is allowed into the clearinghouses. So they are making arguments that others shouldn’t be allowed in.”

Perhaps no business in finance is as profitable today as derivatives. Not making loans. Not offering credit cards. Not advising on mergers and acquisitions. Not managing money for the wealthy.

The precise amount that banks make trading derivatives isn’t known, but there is anecdotal evidence of their profitability. Former bank traders who spoke on condition of anonymity because of confidentiality agreements with their former employers said their banks typically earned $25,000 for providing $25 million of insurance against the risk that a corporation might default on its debt via the swaps market. These traders turn over millions of dollars in these trades every day, and credit default swaps are just one of many kinds of derivatives.

The secrecy surrounding derivatives trading is a key factor enabling banks to make such large profits.

If an investor trades shares of Google or Coca-Cola or any other company on a stock exchange, the price — and the commission, or fee — are known. Electronic trading has made this information available to anyone with a computer, while also increasing competition — and sharply lowering the cost of trading. Even corporate bonds have become more transparent recently. Trading costs dropped there almost immediately after prices became more visible in 2002.

Not so with derivatives. For many, there is no central exchange, like the New York Stock Exchange or Nasdaq, where the prices of derivatives are listed. Instead, when a company or an investor wants to buy a derivative contract for, say, oil or wheat or securitized mortgages, an order is placed with a trader at a bank. The trader matches that order with someone selling the same type of derivative.

Banks explain that many derivatives trades have to work this way because they are often customized, unlike shares of stock. One share of Google is the same as any other. But the terms of an oil derivatives contract can vary greatly.

And the profits on most derivatives are masked. In most cases, buyers are told only what they have to pay for the derivative contract, say $25 million. That amount is more than the seller gets, but how much more — $5,000, $25,000 or $50,000 more — is unknown. That’s because the seller also is told only the amount he will receive. The difference between the two is the bank’s fee and profit. So, the bigger the difference, the better for the bank — and the worse for the customers.

It would be like a real estate agent selling a house, but the buyer knowing only what he paid and the seller knowing only what he received. The agent would pocket the difference as his fee, rather than disclose it. Moreover, only the real estate agent — and neither buyer nor seller — would have easy access to the prices paid recently for other homes on the same block.

An Electronic Exchange?

Two years ago, Kenneth C. Griffin, owner of the giant hedge fund Citadel Group, which is based in Chicago, proposed open pricing for commonly traded derivatives, by quoting their prices electronically. Citadel oversees $11 billion in assets, so saving even a few percentage points in costs on each trade could add up to tens or even hundreds of millions of dollars a year.

But Mr. Griffin’s proposal for an electronic exchange quickly ran into opposition, and what happened is a window into how banks have fiercely fought competition and open pricing. To get a transparent exchange going, Citadel offered the use of its technological prowess for a joint venture with the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, which is best-known as a trading outpost for contracts on commodities like coffee and cotton. The goal was to set up a clearinghouse as well as an electronic trading system that would display prices for credit default swaps.

Big banks that handle most derivatives trades, including Citadel’s, didn’t like Citadel’s idea. Electronic trading might connect customers directly with each other, cutting out the banks as middlemen.

So the banks responded in the fall of 2008 by pairing with ICE, one of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange’s rivals, which was setting up its own clearinghouse. The banks attached a number of conditions on that partnership, which came in the form of a merger between ICE’s clearinghouse and a nascent clearinghouse that the banks were establishing. These conditions gave the banks significant power at ICE’s clearinghouse, according to two people with knowledge of the deal. For instance, the banks insisted that ICE install the chief executive of their effort as the head of the joint effort. That executive, Dirk Pruis, left after about a year and now works at Goldman Sachs. Through a spokesman, he declined to comment.

The banks also refused to allow the deal with ICE to close until the clearinghouse’s rulebook was established, with provisions in the banks’ favor. Key among those were the membership rules, which required members to hold large amounts of capital in derivatives units, a condition that was prohibitive even for some large banks like the Bank of New York.

The banks also required ICE to provide market data exclusively to Markit, a little-known company that plays a pivotal role in derivatives. Backed by Goldman, JPMorgan and several other banks, Markit provides crucial information about derivatives, like prices.

Kevin Gould, who is the president of Markit and was involved in the clearinghouse merger, said the banks were simply being prudent and wanted rules that protected the market and themselves.

“The one thing I know the banks are concerned about is their risk capital,” he said. “You really are going to get some comfort that the way the entity operates isn’t going to put you at undue risk.”

Even though the banks were working with ICE, Citadel and the C.M.E. continued to move forward with their exchange. They, too, needed to work with Markit, because it owns the rights to certain derivatives indexes. But Markit put them in a tough spot by basically insisting that every trade involve at least one bank, since the banks are the main parties that have licenses with Markit.

This demand from Markit effectively secured a permanent role for the big derivatives banks since Citadel and the C.M.E. could not move forward without Markit’s agreement. And so, essentially boxed in, they agreed to the terms, according to the two people with knowledge of the matter. (A spokesman for C.M.E. said last week that the exchange did not cave to Markit’s terms.)

Still, even after that deal was complete, the Chicago Mercantile Exchange soon had second thoughts about working with Citadel and about introducing electronic screens at all. The C.M.E. backed out of the deal in mid-2009, ending Mr. Griffin’s dream of a new, electronic trading system.

With Citadel out of the picture, the banks agreed to join the Chicago Mercantile Exchange’s clearinghouse effort. The exchange set up a risk committee that, like ICE’s committee, was mainly populated by bankers.

It remains unclear why the C.M.E. ended its electronic trading initiative. Two people with knowledge of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange’s clearinghouse said the banks refused to get involved unless the exchange dropped Citadel and the entire plan for electronic trading.

Kim Taylor, the president of Chicago Mercantile Exchange’s clearing division, said “the market” simply wasn’t interested in Mr. Griffin’s idea.

Critics now say the banks have an edge because they have had early control of the new clearinghouses’ risk committees. Ms. Taylor at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange said the people on those committees are supposed to look out for the interest of the broad market, rather than their own narrow interests. She likened the banks’ role to that of Washington lawmakers who look out for the interests of the nation, not just their constituencies.

“It’s not like the sort of representation where if I’m elected to be the representative from the state of Illinois, I go there to represent the state of Illinois,” Ms. Taylor said in an interview.

Officials at ICE, meantime, said they solicit views from customers through a committee that is separate from the bank-dominated risk committee.

“We spent and we still continue to spend a lot of time on thinking about governance,” said Peter Barsoom, the chief operating officer of ICE Trust. “We want to be sure that we have all the right stakeholders appropriately represented.”

Mr. Griffin said last week that customers have so far paid the price for not yet having electronic trading. He puts the toll, by a rough estimate, in the tens of billions of dollars, saying that electronic trading would remove much of this “economic rent the dealers enjoy from a market that is so opaque.”

“It’s a stunning amount of money,” Mr. Griffin said. “The key players today in the derivatives market are very apprehensive about whether or not they will be winners or losers as we move towards more transparent, fairer markets, and since they’re not sure if they’ll be winners or losers, their basic instinct is to resist change.”

In, Out and Around Henhouse

The result of the maneuvering of the past couple years is that big banks dominate the risk committees of not one, but two of the most prominent new clearinghouses in the United States.

That puts them in a pivotal position to determine how derivatives are traded.

Under the Dodd-Frank bill, the clearinghouses were given broad authority. The risk committees there will help decide what prices will be charged for clearing trades, on top of fees banks collect for matching buyers and sellers, and how much money customers must put up as collateral to cover potential losses.

Perhaps more important, the risk committees will recommend which derivatives should be handled through clearinghouses, and which should be exempt.

Regulators will have the final say. But banks, which lobbied heavily to limit derivatives regulation in the Dodd-Frank bill, are likely to argue that few types of derivatives should have to go through clearinghouses. Critics contend that the bankers will try to keep many types of derivatives away from the clearinghouses, since clearinghouses represent a step towards broad electronic trading that could decimate profits.

The banks already have a head start. Even a newly proposed rule to limit the banks’ influence over clearing allows them to retain majorities on risk committees. It remains unclear whether regulators creating the new rules — on topics like transparency and possible electronic trading — will drastically change derivatives trading, or leave the bankers with great control.

One former regulator warned against deferring to the banks. Theo Lubke, who until this fall oversaw the derivatives reforms at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, said banks do not always think of the market as a whole as they help write rules.

“Fundamentally, the banks are not good at self-regulation,” Mr. Lubke said in a panel last March at Columbia University. “That’s not their expertise, that’s not their primary interest.”

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