Appraisal Fraud and Facts: Essential to Securitization Scam

The REMICS are mirror images of the NINJA loans — no income, no assets, no job

the borrower did not realize that the false appraisal and other deficiencies in underwriting had shifted the risk of loss to the homeowner and the investors

Editor’s Notes: Our economy and the economic structure in other countries is stuck because of the false appraisal reports that supported funding of at least $13 trillion (U.S. only) of loans that were so complex that the Chairman of the Federal Reserve, Alan Greenspan didn’t understand them nor his staff of more than 100 PhDs. They were intentionally opaque because complexity is the way you get the other side of the “deal” (the buyer) to accept your explanation of the transaction. It also is designed to avoid criminal penalties even when the scheme unravels. Getting a Judge or Jury to understand what really happened is a challenge that has been insurmountable in both civil and criminal cases and investigations.

As stated in the 2005 petition to Congress from 8,000 appraisers who did not want to “play ball” with the banks, the appraisers were faced with a choice: either they submit appraisal reports $20,000 higher than contract and earn more money for each appraisal and earn  more money through volume, OR they won’t work at all.

Developers, mortgage brokers, and the “originators” (sales organization that pretended to be the lender), sellers and homeowners needing cash in an economy where there wages and earnings were not keeping up with the cost of living —- all reacted with glee when this system went into action. As “prices” rose by leaps and bounds — fed by a flood of money and demands for more mortgages — everyone except the banks ended up crashing when the money stopped flowing. That is how we know that it was the money that made prices rise, rather than demand.

So most appraisers were both stuck and pleasantly enjoying incomes 4-10 times what they had previously received, and obediently submitted appraisal reports that were in fact unsupportable by industry standards or any other standards that a reasonable and rational lender would use — if they were lending their own money. By lending money from investors the risk of loss was entirely removed. The originators got paid regardless of whether the mortgage was paid, or went underwater or caused the homeowner to execute a strategic default.

By using the originators as surrogates at the closing, the appraisal report was accepted without the required due diligence and confirmation that would be present if you went to the old style community bank loan department. The fact is that there was NO UNDERWRITING involved as we knew it before the securitization scam. The “extra” interest charged to No DOC loans (usually 3/4%-1.5%) and the premium interest charged on NINJA (No income, no assets, no job) loans was sold to borrowers on the premise that the “lender” was taking a higher risk. But the truth is they didn’t do any due diligence or underwriting of the loans regardless of whether or not the borrower was submitting information that confirmed their income, assets and ability to pay.  Thus the premium for the “extra risk” was based upon a false premise (like all the other premises of the securitization PONZI scheme).

The normal way of judging the price of a loan (the interest rate) was the perceived risk composed of two elements: ability to repay the loan, and the value of the property if the loan is not repaid. The banks that foisted the securitization scam upon the world got rid of both: they did nothing to confirm the ability to repay because they didn’t care if the borrower could repay. And they intentionally hyped the “value” of the property far above any supportable level as is easily shown in the Case Schiller index.

This is where PRICE and VALUE became entirely different concepts. By confusing the homeowner and hoodwinking the investors with false appraisals, they were able to move more money into the PONZI Scheme, as long as investors were buying the bogus mortgage bonds issued by fictitious entities that had no assets, no income and no prospects of either one. The REMICS are a mirror image of NINJA loans.

The value of the property was not the same as the prices supported by the false appraisal reports. The prices were going up because of the sales efforts of the banks to get homeowners giddy over the the numbers, making them feel, for a few moments as though they were more wealthy than they were in reality. But median income was flat or declining, which means that the value was flat or declining.

Thus prices went up while values of the homes were going down not only because of the median income factor but because of the oversold crash that was coming. Thus the PONZI scheme left the homeowner with property that would most likely be valued at less than any value that was known during the time the homeowner owned the property, while the contract price and appraisal report “valued” the property at 2-4 times the actual value.

The outcome was obvious: when all was said and done, the banks would be holding all the money and property while the investors, taxpayers, and homeowners were all dispensable pawns whose losses came under the category of “tough luck.”

While this might seem complex, the proof of appraisal fraud is not nearly as difficult as the explanation of why the banks wanted false appraisals. In the civil actions for wrongful lending or wrongful foreclosure, the homeowner need only show that the lender intentionally deceived the borrower as to the value of the property.

And the lack of actual underwriting committees and confirmations is essentially the proof, but you would be wise to have an appraiser who can testify as an expert as to what standards apply in issuing an appraisal report, to whom the appraisal report is addressed (i.e., the “originator”). Then using the foundation for the standards apply it to the property at hand at the time the original appraisal report was issued. It might also help if you catch the “originator” getting a part of the appraisal fee (like Cornerstone Appraisals, owned by Quicken Loans).

The borrower testifies that they were relying upon the “lender” representation that the loan had been carefully reviewed, underwritten, confirmed and approved based upon market conditions, ability of the borrower to repay and the value of the property. After all it was the “lender” who was taking the risk.

Thus the borrower did not realize that the false appraisal and other deficiencies in underwriting had shifted the risk of loss to the homeowner and the investors whose money was used to fund the loan — albeit not in the way it was presented in the prospectus where the REMIC was the supposed vehicle for the funding of the loans or the purchase of the loans.

Everyone in the securitization PONZI Scheme got paid. When you look at it from the perspective described above then you probably arrive at the same conclusion I did — all that money that was made and paid and not disclosed to the borrower changes the dynamics of the deal and the undisclosed compensation and profits should be paid to the borrower who was the party with the real risk of loss.

And in fact, if you look at the Truth in Lending Act, THAT is exactly what it says — all undisclosed compensation (which is broadly defined by the Act) is refundable with treble damages. Why lawyers have not taken action on this highly lucrative and relatively easy case to prosecute is a mystery to me.

Because of the statute of limitations applied in TILA cases, the TILA cause of action might not survive, especially in today’s climate, although more and more  judges are starting to see just how badly the banks acted. I therefore recommend to attorneys to use alternative pleading and add counts under other federal statutes (RICO, etc) and state statutes of deceptive lending, and common law fraud. The action for common law fraud, is the easiest to prosecute as I see it.

The interesting aspect of this that will lead to early settlement is that the pleading is simple as to the elements of the cause of action and can easily survive a motion to dismiss, the facts are clearly going to be in dispute which makes survival on a motion for summary judgment a much higher probability, and in discovery you have a nuclear option: since your cause of action is for return or sharing of the unlawful booty that was paid, plus treble, punitive or exemplary damages, discovery into all the different parties who made money in the chain is far easier to argue than the usual defensive foreclosure case.

The other thing you have is the possibility of stating a cause of action to force the retention of the property, to protect the homeowner in the collection of damages rendered by the final verdict. A lis pendens might be appropriate, and the bond need not be much more than nominal because unless the bank or servicer has a BFP to buy the property, you can easily show that your client is already posting bond every month they pay the utilities and maintain the property.

The compensatory damages would be a measure of the difference between the actual value of the deal and the deal that was offered to the homeowner. In simple terms, it could be that the appraisal report was $250,000 higher than the actual value of the property. As a result, the damages include the $250,000 plus the interest paid on that $250,000 and where appropriate, the loss of the house in foreclosure, plus interest from the date of the fraud (i.e. the closing), attorney fees, and costs of the action.

This action might also have special applications in commercial property cases where the appraisals are known to have come in much higher than the owner or buyer had ever expected. In some cases the “appraisal” actually changed the terms of the contract on the assumption that the property was worth much more than the original offer.

Federal Reserve Money Laundering For Dirty Banks

Since the Fed can create unlimited money, why not pay off every mortgage in the land? That’s only $9.7 trillion, and if the Fed wanted to unleash an orgy of spending, that would certainly do it. Trillions in losses would be filled with “free money,” since the Fed would pay the full value of all mortgages. —- Charles Hugh Smith, Of Two Minds

It is really up to each of us to demand, require and force an accounting for the money that has been taken out of the system and stolen from creditors and borrowers BEFORE we allow another foreclosure. — Neil F Garfield, www.livinglies.me

Editor’s Note: The article below by Charles Hugh Smith from Of Two Minds, strikes with great clarity at the heart of the nonsense we are calling “foreclosure”, and which is corrupting title for decades, taking the confidence in the U.S. economy and the U.S. dollar down with it.

This is the first article I have received that actually addressed the issue that the mortgages, especially the worst ones, were paid off in full. They were paid in full because the supposed mortgage bonds that included shares of the mortgage loans were sold to the Federal Reserve 100 cents on the dollar. Now either those mortgage bonds were real or they were not real. There is nothing in between. What we know for a fact is that the entire financial industry is treating them as real.

The ownership of the bonds was transferred from the trusts, therefore, to the Federal Reserve. While there is little documentation we can see that reveals this, there is no other logical way for the Federal reserve to even claim that it was “buying” the mortgage bonds and the loans.

Either each trust became a trust solely for the Federal Reserve, or the Federal Reserve, bought the bonds directly from the investors.  But since everyone is treating the trusts as valid REMIC entities that do not exist for tax or other business purposes, then the trust did not own the bonds, and only the investors owned the bonds. But they were not paid. The Banks were paid and still allowed to foreclose — but for who?

If the banks took payments on behalf of the REMICs, then they owe a distribution to the investors whose losses, contrary to the reports from the banks become fully cured. That means the creditor on on the mortgage bond has been paid off in whole or in part. That in turn means, since a creditor can only be paid once on a debt, that the amount that SHOULD have been credited to the investors  SHOULD have reduced the receivable. The reduction in the receivable to the creditor should correspondingly reduce the payable due from the borrower. Thus no “principal reduction” should be required because the loan is already PAID.

Why then, is anyone allowing foreclosure of the mortgage loans except in the name of the Federal Reserve? This article explains it. For the full article go to Smith Article on Rule of Law

From the Smith Article:
In a nation in which rule of law existed in more than name, here’s what should have happened:

1. The scam known as MERS, the mortgage industry’s placeholder of fictitious mortgage notes, would be summarily shut down.

2. All mortgages in all instruments and portfolios, and all derivatives based on mortgages, would be instantly marked-to-market.

3. All losses would be declared immediately, and any institution that was deemed insolvent would be shuttered and its assets auctioned off in an orderly fashion.

4. Regardless of the cost to owners of mortgages, every deed, lien and note would be painstakingly delineated or reconstructed on every mortgage in the U.S., and the deed and note properly filed in each county as per U.S. law.

That none of this has happened is proof-positive that the rule of law no longer exists in America. The term is phony, a travesty of a mockery of a sham, nothing but pure propaganda. Anyone claiming otherwise: get the above done. If you can’t or won’t, then the rule of law is merely a useful illusion of a rapacious, corrupt, extractive, predatory neofeudal Status Quo.

The essence of money-laundering is that fraudulent or illegally derived assets and income are recycled into legitimate enterprises. That is the entire Federal Reserve project in a nutshell. Dodgy mortgages, phantom claims and phantom assets, are recycled via Fed purchase and “retired” to its opaque balance sheet. In exchange, the Fed gives cash to the owners of the phantom assets, cash which is fundamentally a claim on the future earnings and productivity of American citizens.

Some might argue that the global drug mafia are the largest money-launderers in the world, and this might be correct. But $1.1 trillion is seriously monumental laundering, and now the Fed will be laundering another $480 billion a year in perpetuity, until it has laundered the entire portfolio of phantom mortgages and claims.

The rule of law is dead in the U.S. It “cost too much” to the financial sector that rules the State, the Central Bank and thus the nation. Once the Fed has laundered all the phantom assets into cash assets and driven wages down another notch, then the process of transforming a nation of owners into a nation of serfs can be completed.

Here’s the Fed’s policy in plain English: Debt-serfdom is good because it enriches the banks. All hail debt-serfdom, our goal and our god!

In case you missed this:

The Royal Scam (August 9, 2009):

Once all the assets in the country had been discounted, the insiders then repatriated their money and bought their neighbor’s fortunes for pennies on the dollar, finding cheap, hungry, competitive labor, ready to compete with even 3rd world wages. The prudent, hard-working, and savers (the wrong people) were wiped out, and the money was transferred to the speculators and insiders (the right people). Massive capital like land and factories can not be expatriated, but are always worth their USE value and did not fall as much, or even rose afterwards as with falling debt ratios and low wages these working assets became competitive again. It’s not so much a “collapse” as a redistribution, from the middle class and the working to the capital class and the connected. …And the genius is, they could blame it all on foreigners, “incompetent” leaders, and careless, debt-happy citizens themselves.

But how is this legal plunder to be identified? Quite simply. See if the law takes from some persons what belongs to them, and gives it to other persons to whom it does not belong. See if the law benefits one citizen at the expense of another by doing what the citizen himself cannot do without committing a crime. Frederic Bastiat, 1850

BULK SALES OF MORTGAGE LOANS: WHAT ARE THEY BUYING?

Wall Street is gearing up to buy properties en masse from Fannie, Freddie and other holders (including the Federal Reserve. The question for these investors is what are they buying and what are they doing?

I think these sales represent an attempt to create a filler for an empty hole in the title chain. we already know that strangers to the transaction were submitting credit bids at rigged auctions of these properties. The auctions were based upon declarations of default and instructions from a “beneficiary” that popped up out of nowhere. The borrowers frequently contested the sale with a simple denial that they ever did business with the forecloser and that the chain of “assignments” were fabricated, forged, robo-signed, surrogate signed and executed by unauthroized people on behalf of unauthroized entities.

The reason the banks and servicers resorted to such illegal tactics was that they understood full well that the origination documents were fatally defective and they were papering over the defects that continually recited the validity of the preceding documents. That is putting lipstick on a pig. It is still a pig.

While apparently complex, the transaction in a mortgage loan is quite simple — money is loaned, a note is made payable to the lender and a separate agreement collateralizes the loan as guarantee for faithful performance of repayment in accordance with the terms of the note. An examination of the money trail shows that this procedure was not followed and that the practices followed and which have become institutionalized industry standards lead to grave moral hazard, fabrication, forgery and fraud. The entire matter can be easily resolved if the forecloser is required to produce original documentation and appropriate witnesses to lay the foundation of the introduction of documents starting with the funding of the loan through the present, including all receipts and disbursements relating to the loan.

Since the receipts and disbursements clearly involve third parties whose existence was not contemplated or known at the time of origination of the loan, it would probably be wise to appoint an independent receiver with subpoena powers to obtain full records from the subservicer, Master Servicer, trustee, other co-obligors or co-venturers including the investment bank that sold mortgage bonds and investors with the sole restriction that it relate to the accounting and correspondence, agreements and other media relating to the subject loan and the subject pool claiming to own the loan.

Starting from that point, (knowing all receipts and disbursements, sources and recipients, the rest is relatively uncomplicated. Either the documents follow the money trail or they don’t. If they do, then the foreclosure should proceed. If they don’t then there are discretionary decisions of the court as well as mandatory applications of law that are required to determine whether or not the discrepancies are material.

The chain of documents relied upon by the foreclosing party is neither supported by consideration nor do the origination documents recite the terms of the transaction authorized by the lender. Hence there was no meeting of the minds. At a minimum, the recorded lien is a wild deed or should otherwise be subject to invalidation or removal from county records, and the note should be excluded as evidence of the obligation. The actual obligation runs through a different chain the terms of which were never documented between the lenders and the borrower. Hence at common law, it is a demand loan, unsecured.

But the sale from a GSE or other entity creates yet another layer of paper giving the appearance that the origination documented were valid, even though the evidence strongly points in the opposite direction. The purchase of such loans or properties would thus lead to the inevitable wrongful foreclosure suits in which the property is sought to be returned to its rightful owner, and/or compensatory and punitive damages including damages for emotional distress in California.

So my answer is that these buyers did not buy property or loans. They bought themselves into lawsuits that they will lose once discovery is opened up on the underlying transactions, all of which were faked. Is the government colluding with these “buyers” to fix an fixable title problem?

Federal Reserve Vs. Treasury Dept. Fight Over Shaming the Banks

STANDARD CHARTERED accused of conducting secret money laundering transactions with Iran.
“Mr Lawsky has accused the bank, which employs nearly 90,000 people worldwide, of breaking money-laundering rules and processing $250bn of transactions on behalf of Iranian clients. The regulator has given the bank until next week to “demonstrate why [the bank’s] license to operate in the state of New York should not be revoked”.
Apparently some public officials are expressing their outrage and going off the reservation. In this case of money laundering the official went around the Federal Reserve and used his position to issue a report about the illegal activities — laundering money for terrorists — about $160 billion worth, which is a drop in the bucket when you compare it to HSBC and other banks who reportedly engaged in the same activities on behalf of drug cartels. It was Benjamin Lawsky, head of the recently created New York State Department of Financial Services
The Federal Reserve is issued off because they were in “delicate negotiations” with the offender, following a policy of limiting the “shaming” of Banks that violate laws and public policy and in this case, potentially treason.
The official in this case decided that shaming and exposing Bank practices to the light of day was exactly what was needed and I agree with him. Hopefully more regulators will issue such reports regarding the massive mortgage fraud perpetrated upon the world economies. This official was obviously not feeling bound by the veil of secrecy that served as policy.
Millions of homeowners have been foreclosed, their lives ruined, and their neighbors lived ruined by unemployment and the blight of rows upon rows of vacant homes. Many of these homes homes were promptly abandoned by the Banks after foreclosure. Banks are creatures of the societies that charter them and allow them to exist. When Banks go errant acting against the interests of the society that allows them to exist they must be held with their feet to the fire.
More than 6 million homes foreclosed and it looks like another 10 million will follow unless we stop this charade. This was a direct strike against the entire society the government. It created world chaos and nearly destroyed our ability to recover and certainly delayed a recovery for decades.
 This was accomplished by fraud. Investor-lenders and homeowners were fooled into signing papers that served only as vehicles for the Banks to act as though they were principals in a transaction that never existed — while at the same time acting as intermediaries in the real transaction, leaving the borrower and lender high and dry.
While the illegal, wrongful and perhaps treasonous behavior of the Banks is allowed to continue, in order to maintain public confidence in a corrupt system, countless lives have been lost to suicide and depression. Maybe more officials will be encouraged to beat a new path to the criminals who ran these Banks and their societies into the ground.
Don’t talk to me about “delicate negotiations” when the is being used to create loss of life and mayhem across the world. I don’t want to hear about public confidence relating to the housing market and Foreclosures when practically none of the Foreclosures were ever legal, proper or moral. The fact that ordinary people cannot decipher the real fraud is no excuse for keeping them in the dark and failing to act on such behavior with law enforcement, regulation and legislation.
These banks have turned into wild beasts defeating every step we take domestically and in foreign policy. They must be stopped — and this report is a good place to start. Creditors should be paid once on each obligation. Allowing intermediaries who are supposed to facilitate transfers of  money to become “temporary principals” is a dangerous precedent. It invites moral hazard and plays on the unfortunate view that business people can reorganize their debt and other obligations while individuals are forced through hoops and ladders.
While the investor lenders thought they were covered by proper behavior in handling the vast quantities of money they handed over to the banks, their agreements were routinely ignored as the money was subjected to fast talking titans of Wall Street who took some of that money for themselves. While the investors thought they were properly protected by the documentation of loans, insurance and credit default swaps, the Banks left them buck naked with no documentation to support their ownership of specific loans and no proceeds distributed from insurance, credit defaults swaps and federal bailout.
The Banks committed the further fraud of “borrowing” the loss of the investor lenders and using it as an excuse for the bailout — a fact now corroborated in public reports.
So where is your outrage? When will you step up t the allot box, march in the streets and write a dozen letters to law enforcement and legislators to put the pressure, the accountability and the light of day on a sector that we let become half of our reported gross domestic product trading paper on on existent transactions. All I ask is the truth. What about you?

The Fed And The Treasury Are Furious That A No-Name NY Regulator Went Around Them And Attacked Standard Chartered
http://www.businessinsider.com/lawskys-go-it-alone-attack-on-standard-chartered-angers-us-regulators-2012-8

A NEW FACE in Government Activism in Securitization Scam

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Editor’s Comment:

Anyone who wants the job of being the county recorder takes a risk of being blamed for all the warts and defects that come out after they take office. So when somebody runs for public office without prior real estate experience like a Nurse, you know that community activism is on the rise and we all know why. The shell game and run-around that the banks and servicers are playing can only work so long.

The facts remain that the county recorders across the country fully understand that title is corrupted but they are mostly elected officials, a member of  a major political party and thus follow orders when told to do the Texas 2-step when it comes to removing illegal documents from the recording system or requiring proof of the authenticity of the documents and declarations in the documents.

We need many more people to run for office where it counts — the county level, get rid of the hacks who refuse to sue the banks for screwing up title, refuse to collect fees that are owed and would help the county budget, and refuse to hold those who submitted false filings accountable. THAT is where the banks have little influence. That is where they are weak politically. The lower the political office the less influence the bank has in preventing actions that would embarrass the mega banks.

Eventually the truth will all come out. It is seeping in through all the windows and doors. The logjam will break and we’ll know everything. And what we are going to find is that most mortgages were recorded without any transaction commenced between the the parties recited on the documents. We’ll find that the record is devoid of any real documentation between the real lenders (who might be impossible to determine with certainty because of commingling of funds in escrow accounts that ignored the existence of the REMICs). All that means is that the mortgages were fraudulently filed and therefore the foreclosures are invalid. There lies the path to salvation to our economy. Instead of the big boys getting a handout, the little people who were scrunched into the dirt by the boots of Wall Street titans are going to get a break.

Support with your money , effort and contacts and networking every candidate on the local level who runs for office on the platform of rejecting these illegal documents and throwing out the deeds of foreclosure based upon illegal mortgages and illegal, fabricated, forged and unauthorized documents.

Foreclosure Fraud Combatant Eyes Clerk of Court Role in Florida

By Jon Prior

Florida has been ground zero for foreclosure fraud, but even with multibillion-dollar settlements and federal consent orders, the state’s financial services industry may face new scrutiny from a community activist who’s taken a critical look at the industry and its practices.

Lisa Epstein, who’s running for clerk of court in Palm Beach County, was once an oncology nurse. For most of her career she saw her patients strike deals with their banks when they ran into debt problems, particularly with mortgage payments, once they became ill.

But when the housing crisis struck and foreclosures mounted, that changed. Banks and mortgage servicers overloaded with delinquent loans struggled with the paperwork and the complexity of linking struggling borrowers with decision-makers. To speed up the foreclosure process, reams of documentation was mishandled, signed improperly and filed at county courthouses.

In 2007, Epstein noticed her patients were no longer being helped. They were being rushed through the foreclosure system.

“That was my first hint that there was something very different,” Epstein said during a HousingWire interview.

So began her advocacy work in Florida fighting against banks and third-party firms handling the foreclosure process. In June, she was placed on the ballot for clerk of court of Palm Beach County, the third largest clerk office in the state.

If elected in August, she will be in charge of many things, including managing an overloaded docket, acting as treasurer and chief financial officer of the county’s funds, and most importantly, serving as the keeper of public record.

Her major focus will be on what she claims is a broken system, surrounding the cloudy chain of title flaws filed with the counties to this day. If state funding allows, she said she will perform wide-scale audits of the entire county database and develop reforms — even if that means shutting down the process entirely.

“I don’t know if it is fixable,” Epstein said. “But these are not truly legal instruments that convey proper property ownership. Conducting any sort of real estate transaction or sorting who really owns the loans in many cases will become an enormous legal burden because of the morass of documentation fraud.”

The Florida system remains a nightmare after the collapse of the Law Offices of David J. Stern in March 2011. Several other firms came under investigation and some settled claims before being shut down. The $25 billion foreclosure settlement involving 49 states (Oklahoma didn’t participate) includes language that will hold servicers accountable for any third-party firms that handle any aspect of a foreclosure filing.

Consent orders with the Office of the Comptroller and the Federal Reserve will also force servicers to monitor these firms, specifically Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems and Lender Processing Services ($23.87 1.23%).

New foreclosure filings in Palm Beach County increased in May by 3.6% from the previous month as servicers are looking to restart the process. The 1,356 new filings was 61% above levels seen in the year-ago period.

Both Epstein and incumbent Sharon Bock, who’s held the office since 2003 and is running for re-election, are concerned with keeping up because of pending budget cuts.

“We expect that our foreclosure division is one that will be heavily affected by these budget cuts,” Bock said in a statement accompanying the numbers last week. “My fear is if the trend of increased filings continues as it has in recent months, we will not have the ability to keep up with the volume. We will do our best, but it will be a challenge.”

Mortgage servicers have stated they’ve ended past robo-signing practices and are installing new policies to reduce risk in the system. Few, if any, borrowers, they claim, were foreclosed on improperly because of past flawed practices.

But the financial industry is watching this election closely. Should Epstein prevail, her appetite for audits and new investigations could wipe out any restart to an already backlogged foreclosure process.

Some county record keepers in other states already launched investigations of their own, some founded on faulty claims, but some may have real consequences. A report in one Massachusetts county claimed 75% of mortgage assignments were invalid. Another in San Francisco attempted to show similar results through an audit but shrivels under scrutiny through California case law.

The treasurer for the clerk of courts in two Michigan counties filed lawsuits against Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to get fees levied during the recording of foreclosure property transfers. The GSEs used a government tax status to escape the fees, an exemption now being challenged.

Epstein said she would be on board with taking all of these actions and suggested the federal government go even further with a wide-scale probe. For this, Epstein is running into a lot of pushback. Her race against Bock has become one of the most heated in the local Florida elections.

“We have to solve a fraudulent process that is hurting our property value taxes, hurting our ability to do a short sale, hurting our ability to work with lenders,” she said. “It’s hurting the faith that there would be some protection. It’s damaging our court systems and yet our court systems are allowing this go on and on.”

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It’s Down to Banks vs Society

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We are trying to rescue the creditors and restart the world that is dominated by the creditors. We have to rescue the debtors instead before we are going to see the end of this process. — Economist Steve Keen

Bankers Are Willing to Let Society Crash In Order to Make More Money

Editor’s Comment: 

I was reminded last night of a comment from a former bond trader and mortgage bundler that the conference calls are gleeful about the collapse of economies and societies around the world. Wall Street will profit greatly on both the down side and then later when asset prices go so low that housing falls under distressed housing programs and 125% loans become available in bulk. They think this is all just swell. I don’t.

The obvious intent on the part of the mega banks and servicers is to bring everything down with a crash using every means possible. When you look at the offers state and federal government programs have offered for the banks to modify, when you see the amount of money poured into these banks by our federal government in order to prop them up, you cannot conclude otherwise: they want our society to end up closed down not only by foreclosure but in any other way possible. They withhold credit from everyone except the insider’s club.

So now it is up to us. Either we take the banks apart or they will take us apart. I had a recent look at many modification proposals. In the batch I saw, the average offer from the homeowner was to accept a loan 20%-30% higher than fair market value and 50%-75% higher than foreclosure is producing. It seems we are addicted to the belief that this can’t be true because no reasonable person would act like that. But the answer is that the system is rigged so that the intermediaries (the megabanks) control what the investors and homeowners see and hear, they make far more money on foreclosures than they do on modifications, and they make far money on all the “bets” about the failure of the loan by foreclosing and not modifying.

The reason for the unreasonable behavior, as it appears, is that it is perfectly reasonable in a lending environment turned on its head — where the object was to either fund a loan that was sure to fail, or keep a string attached that would declare it as part of a failed “pool” that would trigger insurance and swaps payments.Steve Keen: Why 2012 Is Shaping Up To Be A Particularly Ugly Year

At the high level, our global economic plight is quite simple to understand says noted Australian deflationist Steve Keen.

Banks began lending money at a faster rate than the global economy grew, and we’re now at the turning point where we simply have run out of new borrowers for the ever-growing debt the system has become addicted to.

Once borrowers start eschewing rather than seeking debt, asset prices begin to fall — which in turn makes these same people want to liquidate their holdings, which puts further downward pressure on asset prices:

The reason that we have this trauma for the asset markets is because of this whole relationship that rising debt has to the level of asset market. If you think about the best example is the demand for housing, where does it come from? It comes from new mortgages. Therefore, if you want to sustain he current price level of houses, you have to have a constant flow of new mortgages. If you want the prices to rise, you need the flow of mortgages to also be rising.

Therefore, there is a correlation between accelerating and rising asset markets. That correlation applies very directly to housing. You look at the 20-year period of the market relationship from 1990 to now; the correlation of accelerating mortgage debt with changing house prices is 0.8. It is a very high correlation.

Now, that means that when there is a period where private debt is accelerating you are generally going to see rising asset markets, which of course is what we had up to 2000 for the stock market and of course 2006 for the housing market. Now that we have decelerating debt — so debt is slowing down more rapidly at this time rather than accelerating — that is going to mean falling asset markets.

Because we have such a huge overhang of debt, that process of debt decelerating downwards is more likely to rule most of the time. We will therefore find the asset markets traumatizing on the way down — which of course encourages people to get out of debt. Therefore, it is a positive feedback process on the way up and it is a positive feedback process on the way down.

He sees all of the major countries of the world grappling with deflation now, and in many cases, focusing their efforts in exactly the wrong direction to address the root cause:

Europe is imploding under its own volition and I think the Euro is probably going to collapse at some stage or contract to being a Northern Euro rather than the whole of Euro. We will probably see every government of Europe be overthrown and quite possibly have a return to fascist governments. It came very close to that in Greece with fascists getting five percent of the vote up from zero. So political turmoil in Europe and that seems to be Europe’s fate.

I can see England going into a credit crunch year, because if you think America’s debt is scary, you have not seen England’s level of debt. America has a maximum ratio of private debt to GDP adjusted over 300%; England’s is 450%. America’s financial sector debt was 120% of GDP, England’s is 250%. It is the hot money capital of the western world.

And now that we are finally seeing decelerating debt over there plus the government running on an austerity program at the same time, which means there are two factors pulling on demand out of that economy at once. I think there will be a credit crunch in England, so that is going to take place as well.

America is still caught in the deleveraging process. It tried to get out, it seemed to be working for a short while, and the government stimulus seemed to certainly help. Now, that they are going back to reducing that stimulus, they are pulling up the one thing that was keeping the demand up in the American economy and it is heading back down again. We are now seeing the assets market crashing once more. That should cause a return to decelerating debt — for a while you were accelerating very rapidly and that’s what gave you a boost in employment —  so you are falling back down again.

Australia is running out of steam because it got through the financial crisis by literally kicking the can down the road by restarting the housing bubble with a policy I call the first-time vendors boost. Where they gave first time buyers a larger amount of money from the government and they handed over times five or ten to the people they bought the house off from the leverage they got from the banking sector. Therefore, that finally ran out for them.

China got through the crisis with an enormous stimulus package. I think in that case it is increasing the money supply by 28% in one year. That is setting off a huge property bubble, which from what I have heard from colleagues of mine is also ending.

Therefore, it is a particularly ugly year for the global economy and as you say, we are still trying to get business back to usual. We are trying to rescue the creditors and restart the world that is dominated by the creditors. We have to rescue the debtors instead before we are going to see the end of this process.

In order to successfully emerge on the other side of this this painful period with a more sustainable system, he believes the moral hazard of bailing out the banks is going to have end:

[The banks] have to suffer and suffer badly. They will have to suffer in such a way that in a decade they will be scared in order to never behave in this way again. You have to reduce the financial sector to about one third of its current size and we have to also ultimately set up financial institutions and financial instruments in such a way that it is no longer desirable from a public point of view to borrow and gamble in rising assets processes.

The real mistake we made was to let this gambling happen as it has so many times in the past, however, we let it go on for far longer than we have ever let it go on for before. Therefore, we have a far greater financial parasite and a far greater crisis.

And he offers an unconventional proposal for how this can be achieved:

I think the mistake [central banks] are going to make is to continue honoring debts that should never have been created in the first place. We really know that that the subprime lending was totally irresponsible lending. When it comes to saying “who is responsible for bad debt?” you have to really blame the lender rather than the borrower, because lenders have far greater resources to work out whether or not the borrower can actually afford the debt they are putting out there.

They were creating debt just because it was a way of getting fees, short-term profit, and they then sold the debt onto unsuspecting members of the public as well and securitized their way out of trouble. They ended up giving the hot potato to the public. So, you should not be honoring that debt, you should be abolishing it. But of course they have actually packaged a lot of that debt and sold it to the public as well, you cannot just abolish it, because you then would penalize people who actually thought they were being responsible in saving and buying assets.

Therefore, I am talking in favor of what I call a modern debt jubilee or quantitative easing for the public, where the central banks would create ‘central bank money’ (we cannot destroy or abolish the debt, which would also destroy the incomes of the people who own the bonds the banks have sold). We have to create the state money and give it to the public, but on condition that if you have any debt you have to pay your debt down — no choice. Therefore, if you have debt, you can reduce the debt level, but if you do not have debt, you get a cash injection.

Of course, this would then feed into the financial sector would have to reduce the value of the debts that it currently owns, which means income from debt instruments would also fall. So, people who had bought bonds for their retirement and so on would find that their income would go down, but on the other hand, they would be compensated by a cash injection.

The one part of the system that would be reduced in size is the financial sector itself. That is the part we have to reduce and we have to make smaller.  That is the one that I am putting forward and I think there is a very little chance of implementing it in America for the next few years not all my home country [Australia] because we still think we are doing brilliantly and all that. But, I think at some stage in Europe, and possibly in a very short time frame, that idea might be considered.

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Fine Print: The Real Story on the “$25 Billion” Multistate Settlement

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One of the things I heard from a high ranking official in state government is that only a tiny fraction of the “settlement” is translating into actual dollars from the banks to anyone. In Arizona the $1.3 billion is subject to an “earn-down” as it was described to me and the net amount turned out to be $97 million and then on the website for the attorney general of the state, the $97 million became $47 million.

So I brought up my calculator and discovered that out of the “settlement” the banks were paying themselves around $1.2 billion out of the $1.3 billion (some say it is $1.6 billion, but the net left for the state remains unchanged at $97 million) and that some of the balance of the money is “unaccounted for.” By the way this has NOTHING to do with the Arizona Department of Housing, which is as close to non-political as you can get in any government.

So in plain language, the banks are taking money from their left pocket and putting int heir right pocket and saying it was a deal. This sounds a lot like the fake claims of securitization and assignment of debt on housing, student loans, credit cards, auto loans etc. In the end, no money will move except a tiny percentage because since the banks are simply paying themselves out of their own money how bad can the accounting be for them?

In Arizona, the legislature decided, as per the terms of the “settlement” to take the money and use it as part of general operating funds leaving distressed homeowners with nothing. So now there is something of an uproar in Arizona. Here is a $1.3 billion settlement that could have reversed a downward economic spiral for the state that will be felt for decades, and we end up with only 7% of that figure and then at least half, if not all of that is being taken for uses other than homeowner relief that is essential for economic recovery.

My guess is that they will say they are stopping the move to use the homeowner relief funds for perks to corporate donors and then quietly go out and do it anyway. What is your guess?

——————————————–

By Howard Fischer, Capitol Media Services

State officials agreed Tuesday to delay the transfer of $50 million of disputed mortgage settlement funds, at least for the time being.

Assistant Attorney General David Weinzweig made the offer during a hearing where challengers were hoping to get a court order blocking the move while its legality is being decided by Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Mark Brain. Attorney Tim Hogan of the Arizona Center for Law in the Public Interest, who represents those opposed to the transfer, readily agreed.

“You don’t want to rush the judge,” said Hogan, whose clients are people he believes would be helped by the funds.

“You want him to take his time on important questions like this,” Hogan said. “And so it’s reasonable to agree not to transfer the funds for a certain period of time to give the judge the opportunity to do that.”

The move sets the stage for a hearing in August on the merits of the issue.

Weinzweig told Brain he believes the transfer, ordered by state lawmakers earlier this year, is legal. Anyway, he said, Hogan’s clients have no legal standing to challenge what the Legislature did.

The fight surrounds a $26 billion nationwide settlement with five major lenders who were accused of mortgage fraud.

Arizona’s share is about $1.6 billion, with virtually all of that earmarked for direct aid to those who are “under water” on their mortgages — owing more than their property is worth — or have already been forced out of their homes.

But the deal also provided $97 million directly to the state Attorney General’s Office. The terms of that pact said the cash was supposed to help others with mortgage problems as well as investigate and prosecute fraud.

Lawmakers, however, seized on language which also said the money can be used to compensate the state for the effects of the lenders’ actions. They said the result of the mortgage crisis was lower state revenues, giving them permission to take $50 million from the settlement to balance the budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1.

Hogan’s suit is based on his contention that the settlement terms put the entire $97 million in trust and makes Attorney General Tom Horne, who was authorized by state law to sign the deal, responsible for ensuring the cash is properly spent.

Horne urged lawmakers not to take the funds. But once the budget deal was done, he went along and took the position that, regardless of whether the cash could have been better spent elsewhere, the transfer demand is legal.

Whatever Brain rules is likely to be appealed.

The challenge was brought on behalf of two people who would benefit by the state having more money to help homeowners avoid foreclosure. The lawsuit said both are currently “at risk” of losing their homes.

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State Programs with Real Money Going Unused

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Millions for Principal Reduction and Moving Expenses and No Applicants

Editor’s Comment: 

I had the pleasure of listening last night to Michael Trailor, the Director of the Arizona Department of Housing. It was like a breath of fresh air. He was a home builder for decades and when the market crashed he went into this obscure post of this obscure state agency that turns out to have its counterparts in many if not all states. Each of these agencies has received money and authority to help homeowners and they are willing to pay down principal reductions, buy the loans and then modify and pay for moving expenses in short sales and other events.

Trailor is a plain-speaking non-politician who tells it like it is. His agency has programs based upon the premise that principal reduction is the only thing that works and he has working relationships with some small banks where his agency literally pays the principal down while the Bank shares in that loss. The small banks see the sense in it. He can’t get cooperation from the big banks and servicers.

In the meeting at Darrell Blomberg’s Tuesday Strategist presentation (every week at Macayo’s restaurant in downtown Phoenix), we heard straight talk and we heard about a number of programs that I had advocated before Trailor became director. My suggestions fell on deaf ears. Trailor’s programs are of the same variety and creativity with the objective of saving the Arizona economy from destruction.

He reported that three states got together under the same program to make the offer of sharing the reduction of principal because the banks said that Arizona was not big enough on its own to motivate the banks to participate in the program. So he got three states — Arizona, California and Nevada. The banks did the old familiar two-step with him and his counterparts in the other states and essentially refused to pparticipate. Every borrower knows that two-step by heart.

I made some suggestions for programs that could be introduced in bankruptcy court, where the power of the Banks is much less. Right now if they don’t want to modify the loan, they can’t be forced. If they don’t want to SELL the loan and then modify it as the beneficiary or mortgagee, the mega bank can and does say no (while the small bank can and does say yes).

That’s right. His agency said they would buy the loan from the bank for 100 cents on the dollar, and then modify the loan the principal and payments to something the borrower could afford and that would not lead to future foreclosures (the fate of practically all modifications). The mega banks killed the idea. Don’t you wonder why banks would contrary to the interest of a ‘lender” who can minimize their losses with government money that has already been allocated but is not yet spent?

This is exactly what I predicted back in 2008. The small banks agree because it is the smart thing to do and THEY are actually owed the money. The mega banks refuse to go along with the deal because hanging on the now invisible and non-existent trunk of an existing debt-tree are hundreds of branches of swaps, insurance and credit enhancements upon which Wall Street has made and is continuing to make billions of dollars in “trading profits” at the expense of the investors and to the detriment of the homeowners.

In other words, they sold the loan multiple times — up to 40 times as I read the data. So hanging on your $200,000 loan could be as much as $8 MILLION in derivatives, swaps etc. That could mean $8 million in claims on the proceeds of sale of the obligation or note or satisfaction of the note or obligation.

Here is my suggestion for those homeowners’ attorneys that have started a bankruptcy proceeding. Where the so-called creditor has sent out a notice of sale and has filed a motion to lift the automatic stay, apply for assistance from the Arizona Department of Housing or whatever the equivalent is in your state. If the agency agrees to assist in refinancing or buying the loan so the homeowner can stay and pay, then the bank would need to explain the basis on which they are responding negatively. After all they are being offered 100 cents on the dollar — why isn’t that enough?

Make sure you notify the Trustee and Court of the pending application made to the agency and don’t use it in a silly fashion promising things that the agency will not corroborate.

I believe that Trailor’s agency and his counterparts would respond with some program that would essentially be an offer to the supposed creditor — provided that the true creditor steps forward and can prove that they are the actual party to whom the money from the homeowner’s obligation is owed. Darrell and I are starting talks with Trailor’s agency to get specific programs that will work in bankruptcy court and maybe other situations.

Once the Notice of Sale is sent,  the “creditor” has committed itself to selling. How can they turn around and say no when they are being offered the full amount? In that court, once the “lender” has committed to selling the property they can hardly say they don’t want to sell the loan — especially if they are receiving 100 cents on the dollar. The offer would be accepted by the Trustee, I am fairly certain, and the Judge since there really is no choice.

Now here is where the fun begins. The Judge would agree as would the U.S. Trustee that only the party to whom the money is owed can get the money. Some of you might recall my frequent diatribes about who can submit a credit bid — only the actual creditor to whom the original loan is now owed or an authorized representative who submits the bid on behalf of THAT creditor.

So assuming the Trustee and Judge agree that the “creditor” who filed the Motion to Lift Stay MUST sell the loan or release it upon receiving full payment, then they are stuck with coming up with the real creditor, which is going to be impossible in many cases, difficult in virtually all other cases. Trailor is sitting on hundreds of millions of dollars to help homeowners and he can’t use it because nobody will play ball under circumstances that he “naively” thought would be a no-brainer.

For those versed in bankruptcy you know the rest. The “lender” must admit that it is not the lender, that is has no authority to represent the creditor, that it doesn’t know who the creditor is or even if one still exists. The mortgage can be attacked as not being a perfected lien on the property and the obligation is wiped out or reduced by the  final order entered in the bankruptcy court.

Now the banks and servicers are going to fight this one tooth and nail because while the loan might be $200,000, there is an average of around $4 million in derivatives and exotic credit enhancements hanging on this loan. If it is paid off, then all accounts must settle. There are going to be gains and losses, but the net effect might well be that the bank “Sold” the loan 20 times. And the best part of it is that you don’t need t prove the theft. If will simply emerge from the failure of the “lender” to conform with the order of the court approving the deal. 

This is a classic case of the scam used in the “The Producers” which has been done on Broadway and movies. You sell 10,000% of a show you know MUST fail. They select “Springtime for Hitler” right after World War II and expect it to crash. After all it is musical comedy. But the show is a spectacular success. So whereas the news of the show’s closing would have sent investors to their accountants to write it off for tax purposes, now they were all clamoring for an accounting for their share of the profits. Since the producers had sold the show 100 times over it was impossible to pay the investors and they went to jail.

THAT is the problem here. It is only if the show closes with a foreclosure that the investors will not ask for the accounting. If the show succeeds (the loan is paid off) then all the investors will want their share of the payments that are due — unless they had the misfortune of taking the wrong side of a “bet” that the loan would fail. Not many investors did that. But the investment banks that sold the show (the loan) many times over used those bets as a way of selling the show over and over again.

If I’m lying I’m dying. That is what is happening and when people realize that as homeowners they are sitting on leverage worth 20 times their loan and they use it against the banks and servicers, they will get some very nice results. Agencies like Arizona’s Department of Housing can save the day like the cavalry just by making the offer and getting a judge to enforce it and watch in merriment how the “lenders” insist that they don’t want the payment and they can’t be forced to take it. That is what happens  when you turn the conventional and reasonable lending model on its head.

So now the banks and servicers must come up with a whole new set of fabricated, forged and fraudulent documents in which the investors assigned their interest in the obligation or note or mortgage to some other entity that is now the “creditor” — but the question that will be asked by every Trustee and Judge in bankruptcy court “who paid for this, how much did they pay, and how do we know a transaction actually happened.” That is the problem with a VIRTUAL TRANSACTION. At some point, like every PONZI scheme, the house of cards falls down.

Check with Arizona Department of Housing

Of course if you are not in Arizona check with the equivalent agency in your state. Chances are they have hundreds of millions of dollars and no place to spend it for homeowners because the banks won’t agree to no-brainer solutions that any bank can and does accept if they were playing the “Securitization game.” Don’t expect the agency to march into court and save the day. The agency is not going to litigate your case for you. But they probably will give you plenty of support and encouragement and offers of real money to end this nightmare of foreclosures. You must do the work, fill out applications and get the process underway before you can go to the court with a motion that says we have a settlement vehicle pending with a state agency and you can prove it is true.

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How the Servicers and Investment Banks Cheat Investors and Homeowners

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Master Servicers and Subservicers Maintain Fictitious Obligations

Editor’s Comment: 

This article really is about why discovery and access to the information held by the Master Servicer and subservicer, investment bank and Trustee for the REMIC (“Trust”) is so important. Without an actual accounting, you could be paying on a debt that does not exist or has been extinguished in bankruptcy because it was unsecured. In fact, if it was extinguished in bankruptcy, giving them the house or payment might even be improper. Pressing on the points made in this article in order to get full rights in discovery (interrogatories, admissions and production) will yield the most beneficial results.

Michael Olenick (creator of FindtheFraud) on Naked Capitalism gets a lot of things right in the article below. The most right is that servicers are lying and cheating investors in addition to cheating homeowners.

The subservicer is the one the public knows. They are the ones that collect payments from the “borrower” who is the homeowner. In reality, they have no right to collect anything from the homeowner because they were appointed as servicer by a party who is not a creditor and has no authority to act as agent for the creditor. They COULD have had that authority if the securitization chain was real, but it isn’t.

Then you have the Master Servicers who are and should be called the Master of Ceremonies. But the Master Servicer is basically a controlled entity of the investment bank, which is why everyone is so pissed — these banks are making money and getting credit while the rest of us can’t operate businesses, can’t get a job, and can’t get credit for small and medium sized businesses.

Cheating at the subservicer level, even if they were authorized to take payments, starts with the fees they charge against the account, especially if it becomes (delinquent” or in “default” or “Nonperforming.” At the same time they are telling the investors that the loan is a performing loan and they are making payments somewhere in the direction of the investors (we don’t actually know how much of that payment actually gets received by investors), they are also declaring defaults and initiating a foreclosure.

What they are not reporting is that they don’t have the paperwork on the loan, and that the value of the portfolio is either simply over-stated, which is bad enough, or that the portfolio is worthless, which of course is worse. Meanwhile the pension fund managers do not realize that they are sitting on assets that may well have a negative value and if they don’t handle the situation properly, they might be assessed for the negative value.

It gets even worse. Since the money and the loans were not handled, paid or otherwise organized in the manner provided in the pooling and servicing agreement and prospectus, the SPV (“Trust”) does not exist and has no assets in it — but it might have some teeth that could bite the hand that fed the banks. If the REMIC was not created and the trust was not created or funded, then the investors who in fact DID put up money are in a common law general partnership. And since the Credit Default Swaps were traded using the name of  entities that identified groups of investors, the investors might be hit with an assessment to cover a loss that the “pool” can’t cover because they only have a general partnership created under common law. Their intention to enter into a deal where there was (a) preferential tax status (REMIC) and (b) limited liability would both fall apart. And that is exactly what happened.

The flip side is that the credit default swaps, insurance, credit enhancements, and so forth could have and in most cases did produce a surplus, which the banks claimed as solely their own, but which in fact should have at least been allocated to the investors up to the point of the liability to them (i.e., the money taken from them by the investment bank).

AND THAT is why borrowers should be very interested in having the investors get their money back from the trading, wheeling and dealing made with the use of the investors’ money. Think about it. The investors gave up their money for funding mortgages and yours was one of the mortgages funded. But the vehicle that was used was not a simple  one. The money taken from the investors was owed by the REMIC in whose name the trading in the secret derivative market occurred.

Now think a little bit more. If the investors get their rightful share of the money made from the swaps and insurance and credit enhancements, then the liability is satisfied — i.e., the investor got their money back with interest just like they were expecting.

But, and here is the big one, if the investor did get paid (as many have been under the table or as part of more complex deals) then the obligation to them has been satisfied in full. That would mean by definition that the obligation from anyone else on repayment to the investor was extinguished or transferred to another party. Since the money was funded from investor to homeowner, the homeowner therefore does not owe the investor any money (not any more, anyway, because the investor has been paid in full). The only valid transfer would be FROM the REMIC partnership not TO it. But the fabricated, forged and fraudulent documents are all about transferring the loan TO the REMIC that was never formed and never funded.

It is possible that another party may be a successor to the homeowner’s obligation to the investor. But there are prerequisites to that happening. First of all we know that the obligation of the homeowner to the investor was not secured because there was no agreement or written instrument of any kind in which the investor and the borrower both signed and which set forth terms that were disclosed to both parties and were the subject of an agreement, much less a mortgage naming the investor. That is why the MERS trick was played with stating the servicer as the investor. That implies agency (which doesn’t really exist).

Second we know that the SWAPS and the insurance were specifically written with expressly worded such that AIG, MBIA etc. each waived their right to get payment from the borrower homeowner even though they were paying the bill.

Third we know that most payments were made by SWAPS, insurance and the Federal Reserve deals, in which the Fed also did not want to get involved in enforcing debts against homeowners and that is why the Federal Reserve has never been named as the creditor even though they in fact, would be the creditor because they have paid 100 cents on the dollar to the investment bank who did NOT allocate that money to the investors.

Since they did not allocate that money to the investors, as servicers (subservicer and Master Servicer), they also did not allocate the payment against the homeowner borrower’s debt. If they did that, they would be admitting what we already know — that the debt from homeowner to investor has been extinguished, which means that all those other credit swaps, insurance and enhancements that are STILL IN PLAY, would collapse. That is what is happening in our own cities, towns, counties and states and what is happening in Europe. It is only by keeping what is now only a virtual debt alive in appearance that the banks continue to make money on the Swaps and other exotic instruments. But it is like a tree without the main trunk. We have only branches left. Eventually in must fall, like any other Ponzi scheme or House of Cards.

So by cheating the investors, and thus cheating the borrowers, they also cheated the Federal Reserve, the taxpayers and European banks based upon a debt that once existed but has long since been extinguished. If you waded through the above (you might need to read it more than once), then you can see that your  feeling, deep down inside that you owe this money, is wrong. You can see that the perception that the obligation was tied to a perfected mortgage lien on the property was equally wrong. And that we now have $700 trillion in nominal value of derivatives that has at least one-third in need of mark-down to zero. The admission of this inescapable point would immediately produce the result that Simon Johnson and others so desperately want for economic reasons and that the rest of us want for political reasons — the break-up of banks that are broken. Only then will the market begin to function as a more or less free trading market.

How Servicers Lie to Mortgage Investors About Losses

By Michael Olenick

A post last week reviewed a botched foreclosure for a mortgage loan in Ace Securities Home Equity Loan Trust 2007-HE4 dismissed with prejudice, meaning that the foreclosure cannot be refilled; a total loss for investors. Next, we reviewed why the trust has not yet recorded the loss despite the six month old verdict.

As an experiment, I gave my six year-old daughter four quarters. She just learned how to add coins so this pleased her. Then I told her I would take some number of quarters back, and asked her how many I should take. Her first response was one – smart kid – then she changed her mind to two, because we’d each have two and that’s the most “fair.” Having mastered the notion of loss mitigation and fairness, and because it’s not nice to torture six year-old children with experiments in economics, I allowed her to keep all four.

When presented with a similar question – whether to take a partial loss via a short-sale or principal reduction, or whether to take a larger loss through foreclosure – the servicers of ACE2007-HE4 repeatedly opt for the larger losses. While the dismissal with prejudice for the Guerrero house is an unusual, the enormous write-off it comes with through failure to mitigate a breach – to keep overall damages as low as possible – is common. When we look more closely at the trust, we see the servicer again and again, either through self-dealing or laziness, taking actions that increase losses to investors. And this occurs even though the contract that created the securitization, a pooling and servicing agreement, requires the servicer to service the loans in the best interest of the investors.

Let’s examine some recent loss statistics from ACE2007-HE4. In May, 2012 there were 15 houses written-off, with an average loss severity of 77%. Exactly one was below 50% and one, in Gary, IN, was 145%; the ACE investors lent $65,100 to a borrower with a FICO score of 568 then predictably managed to lose $94,096. In April, there were 23 homes lost, with an average loss severity of 82%, three below 50%, though one at 132%, money lent to a borrower with an original FICO score of 588.

Of course, those are the loans with finished foreclosures. There are 65 loans where borrowers missed at least four consecutive payments in the last year with yet there is no active foreclosure. Among those are a loan for $593,600 in Allendale, NJ, where the borrower has not made a payment in about four years, though they have been in and out of foreclosure a few times during that period. It’s not just the judicial foreclosure states; a $350,001 loan in Compton, CA also hasn’t made a payment in over a year and there is no pending foreclosure.

There is every reason to think the losses will be higher for these zombie borrowers than on the recent foreclosures. First, every month a borrower does not pay the servicer pays the trust anyway, though the servicer is then reimbursed the next month, mainly from payments of other borrowers still paying. This depletes the good loans in the trust, so that the trust will eventually run out of money leaving investors holding an empty bag. And on top of that, when the foreclosure eventually occurs, the servicer also reimburses himself for all sorts of fees, late fees, the regular servicing fee, broker price opinions, etc. Longer times in foreclosure mean more fees to servicers. Second, the odds are decent that the servicers are holding off on foreclosing on these homes because the losses are expected to be particularly high. Why would servicers delay in these cases? Perhaps because they own a portfolio of second mortgages. More sales of real estate that wipe out second liens would make it harder for them to justify the marks on those loans that they are reporting to investors and regulators. Revealing how depressed certain real estate markets were if shadow inventory were released would have the same effect.

These loans will eventually end up either modified or foreclosed upon, but either way there will be substantial losses to the trust that have not been accounted for. Of course, this assumes that the codes and status fields are accurate; in the case of the Guerreros’ loan the write-off – with legal fees for the fancy lawyers who can’t figure out why assignments are needed to the trust – is likely to be enormous. How much? Nobody except Ocwen knows, and they’re not saying.

Knowing that an estimated loss of 77%, is if anything an optimistic figure, even before we get to the unreported losses on the Guerrero loan, it seems difficult to understand why Ocwen wouldn’t first try loss mitigation that results in a lower loss severity. If they wrote-off half the principal of the loan, and decreased interest payments to nothing, they’d come out ahead.

Servicers give lip service to the notion that foreclosure is an option of last resort but, only when recognizing losses, do their words seem to sync with their behavior. But it’s all about the incentives: servicers get paid to foreclose and they heap fees on zombie borrowers, but even with all sorts of HAMP incentives, they don’t feel they get paid enough to do the work to do modifications. Servicers are reimbursed for the principal and interest they advance, the over-priced “forced placed insurance” that costs much more and pays out much less than regular insurance, “inspections” that sometimes involve goons kicking in doors before a person can answer, high-priced lawyers who can’t figure out why an assignment is needed to bind a property to a trust, and a plethora of other garbage fees. They’re like a frat-boy with dad’s credit-card, and a determination to make the best of it while dad is still solvent.

Despite the Obama campaign promise to bring transparency to government and financial markets, the investors in trusts remain largely unknown, so we’re not sure who bears the brunt of the cost of Ocwen’s incompetence in loss mitigation (to be fair Ocwen is not atypical; most servicers are atrocious). But, ACE2007-HE4 has a few unique attributes allowing us to guess who is affected.

ACE2007-HE4 is named in a lawsuit filed by the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA), which has sued ACE, trustee Deutsche Bank, and a few others citing material misrepresentations in the prospectus of this trust. As pointed out in the prior article, both the Guerreros’ first and second loans were bundled into the same trust – so there were definitely problems – though the FHFA does not seem to address that in their lawsuit.

With respect to ACE2007-HE4, the FHFA highlights an investigation by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), which found that Deutsche Bank “‘continued to refer customers to its prospectus materials to the erroneous [delinquency] data’”even after it ‘became aware that the static pool information underreported historical delinquency rates.”

The verbiage within the July 16, 2010 FINRA action is more succinct: “… investors in these 16 subsequent RMBS securitizations were, and continue to be, unaware that some of the static pool information .. contains inaccurate historical data which underreported delinquencies.” FINRA allowed Deutsche Bank to pay a $7.5 million fine without either admitting or denying the findings, and agreed never to bring another action “based on the same factual findings described herein.”

Despite the finding and the fine, FINRA apparently forgot to order Deutsche Bank to knock off the conduct, and since FINRA did not reserve the right to circle back for a compliance check maybe Deutsche Bank has the right to produce loss reports showing whatever they wish to.

It is unlikely that Deutsche Bank had trouble paying their $7.5 million fine since the trust included an interest swap agreement that worked out pretty well for them. Note that these swap agreements were a common feature of post 2004 RMBS. Originators used to retain the equity tranche, which was unrated. When a deal worked out, that was nicely profitable because the equity tranche would get the benefit of loss cushions (overcollateralization and excess spread). Deal packagers got clever and devised so-called “net interest margin” bonds which allowed investors to get the benefit of the entire excess spread for a loan pool. The swaps were structured to provide a minimum amount of excess spread under the most likely scenarios. But no one anticipated 0% interest rates.

From May, 2007, when the trust was issued, to Oct., 2007, neither party paid one another. In Nov., 2007, Deutsche Bank paid the trust $175,759.04. Over the next 53 months that the swap agreement remained in effect the trust paid Deutsche Bank $65,122,194.92, a net profit of $64,946,435.88. Given that Deutsche traders were handing out t-shirts reading “I’m Short Your House” when this trust was created, I can see why they’d bet against steep interest rates over the next five years, as the Federal Reserve moved to mitigate the economic fallout of their mischievousness with low interest rates.

In any event, getting back to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac (the FHFA does not disclose which), one of the GSEs purchased $224,129,000 of tranche A1 at par; they paid full freight for this fiasco. Since this trust is structured so that losses are born equally by all A-level tranches once the mezzanine level tranches are destroyed by losses, which they have been, to find the party taking the inflated losses you just need to look in the nearest mirror. Fannie and Freddie are, of course, wards of the state so it is the American taxpayer that gets to pay out the windfall to the Germans. In this we’re like Greece, albeit with lousier beaches and the ability to print more money.

If the mess with the FHFA and FINRA were not enough, ACE2007-HE4 is also an element in the second 2007 Markit index, ABX.HE.AAA.07-2, a basket of tranches of subprime trusts that – taken as a whole – show the overall health of all similar securities. This is akin to being one of the Dow-Jones companies, where a company has its own stock price but that price also affects an overall index that people place bets on. Tranche A-2D, the lowest A-tranche, is one of the twenty trusts in the index. Since ACE2007-HE4 is structured so that all A-tranches wither and die together once the mezzanine level tranches are destroyed it has the potential to weigh in on the rest of the index. Therefore, the reporting mess – already known to both the FHFA and FINRA – stands to be greatly magnified.

The problems with this trust are numerous, and at every turn, the parties that could have intervened to ameliorate the situation failed to take adequate measures.

First there is the botched securitization, where a first and second lien ended up in the same trust. Then, there is failure to engage in loss mitigation, with the result that refusing to accept the Guerrero’s short-sale offers or pleas for a modification, resulting in a more than 100% loss. Next, there is defective record-keeping related to that deficiency and others like it. And the bad practices ensnarled Fannie /Freddie when they purchased almost a quarter billion dollars of exposure to these loans. Then there’s the mismanaged prosecution by FINRA, where they did not require ongoing compliance, monitoring, or increasing fines for non-compliance. There’s the muffed FHFA lawsuit, where the FHFA did not notice either the depth of the fraud, namely two loans for the same property in the same trust, and that the reporting fraud they cited continues. I’m not sure if the swap agreement was botched, but you’d think FINRA and the FHFA would and should do almost anything to dissolve it while it was paying out massive checks every month. Finally, returning full circle, there’s the fouled up foreclosure that the borrowers fought only because negotiations failed that resulted in a the trust taking a total loss on the mortgage plus paying serious legal fees.

It is an understatement to say this does not inspire confidence in any public official, except Judge Williams, the only government official with the common sense to lose patience with scoundrels. We’d almost be better off without regulators than with the batch we’ve seen at work.

US taxpayers would have received more benefit by burning dollar bills in the Capitol’s furnace to heat the building than we received from bailing out Fannie, Freddie, Deutsche Bank, Ocwen, and the various other smaller leaches attached to the udder of public funds. We could and should have allowed the “free market” they worship to work its magic, sending them to their doom years ago. That would have left investors in a world-o-hurt but, in hindsight, that’s where they’re ending up anyway with no money left to fix the fallout. It is long past time public policy makers did something substantive to rein in these charlatans.

My six year-old daughter understands the concept of limiting losses to the minimum, and apportionment of those losses in the name of fairness. Maybe Tim Geithner should take a lesson from her about this “unfortunate” series of events, quoting Judge Williams, before wasting any more money that my daughter will eventually have to repay.

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Editor’s Comment:

It appears as though Bloomberg has joined the media club tacit agreement to ignore housing and more particularly Investment Banking or relegate them to just another statistic. The possibilities of a deep, long recession created by the Banks using consumer debt are avoiđed and ignored regardless of the writer or projection based upon reliable indexes.

Why is it that Bloomberg News refuses to tell us the news? The facts are that median income has been flat for more than 30 years. The financial sector convinced the government to allow banks to replace income with consumer debt. The crescendo was reached in the housing market where the Case/Schiller index shows a flash spike in prices of homes while the values of homes remained constant. The culprit is always the same — the lure of lower payments with the result being the oppressive amount of debt burden that can no longer be avoided or ignored. The median consumer has neither the cash nor credit to buy.

Each year we hear predictions of a recovery in the housing market, or that green shoots are appearing. We congratulate ourselves on avoiding the abyss. But the predictions and the congratulations are either premature or they will forever be wrong.

The financial sector is allowed to play in our economy for only one reason— to provide capital to satisfy the needs of business for innovation, growth and operations. Instead, we find ourselves with bloated TBTF myths, the capital drained from our middle and lower classes that would be spent supporting an economy of production and service. That money has been acquired and maintained by the financal sector giants, notwithstanding the reports of layoffs.

From any perspective other than one driven by ideology one must admit that the economy has undergone a change in its foundation — and that these changes are ephemeral and cannot be sustained. With GDP now reliant on figures from the financial sector which for the longest time hovered around 16%, our “economy” would be 50% LESS without the financial sector reporting bloated revenues and profits just as they contributed to the false spike in prices of homes. Bloated incomes inflated the stampede of workers to Wall Street.

Investigative reporting shows that the tier 2 yield spread premium imposed by the investment bankers — taking huge amounts of investment capital and converting the capital into service “income” — forced a structure that could not work, was guaranteed not to work and which ultimately did fail with the TBTF banks reaping profits while the rest of the economy suffered.

The current economic structure is equally unsustainable with income and wealth inequality reaching disturbing levels. What happens when you wake up and realize that the real economy of production of goods and service is actually, according to your own figures, worth 1/3 less than what we are reporting as GDP. How will we explain increasing profits reported by the TBTF banks? where did that money come from? Is it real or is it just what we want to hear want to believe and are afraid to face?


People Have Answers, Will Anyone Listen?

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Editor’s Comment: 

Thanks to Home Preservation Network for alerting us to John Griffith’s Statement before the Congressional Progressive Caucus U.S. House of Representatives.  See his statement below.  

People who know the systemic flaws caused by Wall Street are getting closer to the microphone. The Banks are hoping it is too late — but I don’t think we are even close to the point where the blame shifts solidly to their illegal activities. The testimony is clear, well-balanced, and based on facts. 

On the high costs of foreclosure John Griffith proves the point that there is an “invisible hand” pushing homes into foreclosure when they should be settled modified under HAMP. There can be no doubt nor any need for interpretation — even the smiliest analysis shows that investors would be better off accepting modification proposals to a huge degree. Yet most people, especially those that fail to add tacit procuration language in their proposal and who fail to include an economic analysis, submit proposals that provide proceeds to investors that are at least 50% higher than the projected return from foreclosure. And that is the most liberal estimate. Think about all those tens of thousands of homes being bull-dozed. What return did the investor get on those?

That is why we now include a HAMP analysis in support of proposals as part of our forensic analysis. We were given the idea by Martin Andelman (Mandelman Matters). When we performed the analysis the results were startling and clearly showed, as some judges around the country have pointed out, that the HAMP loan modification proposals were NOT considered. In those cases where the burden if proof was placed on the pretender lender, it was clear that they never had any intention other than foreclosure. Upon findings like that, the cases settled just like every case where the pretender loses the battle on discovery.

Despite clear predictions of increased strategic defaults based upon data that shows that strategic defaults are increasing at an exponential level, the Bank narrative is that if they let homeowners modify mortgages, it will hurt the Market and encourage more deadbeats to do the same. The risk of strategic defaults comes not from people delinquent in their payments but from businesspeople who look at the principal due, see no hope that the value of the home will rise substantially for decades, and see that the home is worth less than half the mortgage claimed. No reasonable business person would maintain the status quo. 

The case for principal reductions (corrections) is made clear by the one simple fact that the homes are not worth and never were worth the value of the used in true loans. The failure of the financial industry to perform simple, long-standing underwriting duties — like verifying the value of the collateral created a risk for the “lenders” (whoever they are) that did not exist and was present without any input from the borrower who was relying on the same appraisals that the Banks intentionally cooked up so they could move the money and earn their fees.

Many people are suggesting paths forward. Those that are serious and not just positioning in an election year, recognize that the station becomes more muddled each day, the false foreclosures on fatally defective documents must stop, but that the buying and selling and refinancing of properties presents still more problems and risks. In the end the solution must hold the perpetrators to account and deliver relief to homeowners who have an opportunity to maintain possession and ownership of their homes and who may have the right to recapture fraudulently foreclosed homes with illegal evictions. The homes have been stolen. It is time to catch the thief, return the purse and seize the property of the thief to recapture ill-gotten gains.

Statement of John Griffith Policy Analyst Center for American Progress Action Fund

Before

The Congressional Progressive Caucus U.S. House of Representatives

Hearing On

Turning the Tide: Preventing More Foreclosures and Holding Wrong-Doers Accountable

Good afternoon Co-Chairman Grijalva, Co-Chairman Ellison, and members of the caucus. I am John Griffith, an Economic Policy Analyst at the Center for American Progress Action Fund, where my work focuses on housing policy.

It is an honor to be here today to discuss ways to soften the blow of the ongoing foreclosure crisis. It’s clear that lenders, investors, and policymakers—particularly the government-controlled mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac—must do all they can to avoid another wave of costly and economy-crushing foreclosures. Today I will discuss why principal reduction—lowering the amount the borrower actually owes on a loan in exchange for a higher likelihood of repayment—is a critical tool in that effort.

Specifically, I will discuss the following:

1      First, the high cost of foreclosure. Foreclosure is typically the worst outcome for every party involved, since it results in extraordinarily high costs to borrowers, lenders, and investors, not to mention the carry-on effects for the surrounding community.

2      Second, the economic case for principal reduction. Research shows that equity is an important predictor of default. Since principal reduction is the only way to permanently improve a struggling borrower’s equity position, it is often the most effective way to help a deeply underwater borrower avoid foreclosure.

3      Third, the business case for Fannie and Freddie to embrace principal reduction. By refusing to offer write-downs on the loans they own or guarantee, Fannie, Freddie, and their regulator, the Federal Housing Finance Agency, or FHFA, are significantly lagging behind the private sector. And FHFA’s own analysis shows that it can be a money-saver: Principal reductions would save the enterprises about $10 billion compared to doing nothing, and $1.7 billion compared to alternative foreclosure mitigation tools, according to data released earlier this month.

4      Fourth, a possible path forward. In a recent report my former colleague Jordan Eizenga and I propose a principal-reduction pilot at Fannie and Freddie that focuses on deeply underwater borrowers facing long-term economic hardships. The pilot would include special rules to maximize returns to Fannie, Freddie, and the taxpayers supporting them without creating skewed incentives for borrowers.

Fifth, a bit of perspective. To adequately meet the challenge before us, any principal-reduction initiative must be part of a multipronged

To read John Griffith’s entire testimony go to: www.americanprogressaction.org/issues/2012/04/pdf/griffith_testimony.pdf


Greek Banker Gets 8 Years

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Editor’s Comment: 

This former chief of Aspis was convicted of having the unmitigated temerity to forge and fabricate documents. Of course this guy only forged a handful of documents and only created a few documents out of whole cloth. He apparently had not read the Wall Street playbook all the way through — where they have each act committed by a person or company that doesn’t know anything or at least can claim “plausible deniability.” Wall Street causes hundreds of thousands of documents to be forged, fabricated, robosigned and misrepresented in court every day. But here we leave them (Jamie Dimon) on the Board of the NY Federal Reserve which essentially sets all standards in the Federal Reserve system.

8 years. If we multiply the size of the crime, Dimon and others should collectively get around 8 million years of jail, which could, if we changed the law, include his progeny after additional human evolution had taken place. Where is your outrage?

Former Greek Bank Chief Jailed in Anti-Fraud Drive

(Reuters) – A former bank chief was sentenced to eight years jail on Monday for fraud and forgery, court officials said, the first major conviction resulting from an anti-corruption drive ahead of a parliamentary election on Sunday. An Athens court convicted Pavlos Psomiadis, former chief of small banking and insurance group Aspis, on charges of forging documents to keep his business afloat.

Corruption and cronyism are endemic in Greece. But no politician or senior businessman had been convicted in recent years, fuelling popular frustration with mainstream parties that pledge to uphold the debt-laden country’s international bailout and remain in the euro zone.

“He was found guilty of fraud and forgery,” a court official said. The conviction stemmed from a forged letter of credit for over 550 million euros ($729 million) that Psomiadis submitted to regulators in 2009.

Aspis was one of the first business groups to fall prey to the country’s economic crisis. T-bank (AMBr.AT), a small lender that emerged from the wreckage of the group, was nationalized late last year under the terms of the country’s EU/IMF bailout.

Monday’s decision was the latest in a string of judicial moves as angry voters turn to smaller parties to punish the main conservatives and socialists whom they blame for the economic crisis and chronic corruption.

Earlier in April, a former defense minister was jailed pending trial on money laundering and bribery charges.

Last month, a Greek prosecutor filed felony charges against a prominent banker over a financial scandal that led to the EU/IMF-funded nationalization of small lender Proton Bank (PRBr.AT).

Securitization – The Undead Heart of The Shadow Banking Machine

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Editor’s Comment: 

The article below was written by David Malone of the Golem XIV: Author of the Debt Generation, website, and was submitted to this blog by ELLEN BROWN

Ellen is an attorney and the author of eleven books, including Web of Debt: The Shocking Truth About Our Money System and How We Can Break Free. Her websites are webofdebt.com and ellenbrown.com.  She is also chairman of the Public Banking Institute.

Securitization – The Undead Heart of The Shadow Banking Machine

At the centre of all debates about the Banking crisis, the shadow Banking system and the bank bail-outs is Debt. For a long time I have been arguing that what this debt is, is in fact a new, bank created, bank issued and ultimately bank debased debt-backed currency. And the collapse in value of this unregulated currency IS the crisis. Its cause and its logic.

In order to explain why I think this and why I do not think ‘fixing’ the banking system back to any semblance of how it was, just prior to the crash, will be anything other than a disaster, I have to explain how debt is turned into money. And how, clever as this process is, it also contains within it the seeds of its own undoing.

To do so I have to take you into the undead heart of the machine – securitization. Securitization is what animates the global financial and shadow banking system in whose shadow we now live. It is how modern finance turns debt into money. It is the impious alchemical dream of turning lead to gold, water into wine.

When Securitization was invented it soon wrested control of the money supply away from nations and gave it to the banks. Nations still printed and controlled their currency. But securitization gave banks the ability to print their own currency. And this new securitized currency, based on debt, was theirs to print, control, spend, and ultimately to debase. In short, it gave banks a power to rival nations. It is worth, therefore, understanding its outlines at least. Please don’t panic. Like most financial stuff its not nearly as difficult as the priesthood would have you believe.

So here we go into the hocus-pocus world of debt finance.

The Banker’s problem.

We start with a debt. It could be a loan extended to a corporation or a mortgage. We’ll go with a mortgage. A mortgage is a debt and a promise to pay that debt. This was the bedrock of traditional banking. The bank lent out cash in return for a greater amount to be paid back, but in installments over 25-30 years. Of course over the years there were risks of inflation and default if the debtor lost their job or died. These are ‘credit risks’ that were the stuff of traditional banking.

Traditional ‘credit risk’ banking was a slow business – and that was the problem.

All debts were ‘held to maturity’ (to the end of the mortgage) by the bank. All the debts/mortgages were therefore dead end deals. In that they generally did not, could not, lead to anything else. Money went out. A debt was held in its place and the money slowly came back. The bank’s profit came from what was and is called, ‘the spread’ between the rate of interest the bank charges on the money it has lent out and the interest the bank pays on the money it borrows. The main places the banks ‘borrowed’ was from central banks, from investors – either share holders or bond holders and most importantly from their own depositors. You can see that the scope for banks to grow in size wealth and power, was constrained by the rate of flow of real money in to the bank and the turn over of loans.

For banking to really grow the amount of money to borrow and the turn-over of loans had to be increased. Securitization did both these things. It cut the umbilical to an older gentler age.

The last hold-out of the barter system.

In a funny way banking was the very last hold out of the barter system. The bank gave you money – very modern – but in return you gave the bank a lien/a claim on your property. You bartered your house and a promise to give a steady stream from your income as collateral for cash. You got cash from the deal which you could spend – and used it to buy the property. But the bank did not get cash. In fact it got something it could not spend. It got an agreement to pay. And you if the debt defaulted then the bank got a house. Now that is barter.

The genius of securitization finally did away with the barter element of banking. It did so by turning mortgages (debt agreement) into money. Nothing short of modern alchemy.

This is how it works.

The key difference between debt and money is that you can spend money. So what do you have to do to debt to be able to spend it?

Three things: Standardize it and Guarantee it and when you have done these two, the third, Liquefy it, will follow of its own accord.

So first –

Standardize it

Think of a pocket full of coins. What makes them work is that they are all the same. Same metal, same designs, same issuer, same bank behind them, same value. Everyone knows what they are getting when they accept a standard coin. So everyone is happy to accept them knowing that the next person will also be happy.

Now think of a mortgage. Now imagine you have a pocket full of these. Which banks do. Each one is unique. Unique amount, unique collateral (the house) and unique credit risks of the particular person paying back the loan. The skill of the banker was to assess all these variables. The short-coming was that the end product was a pocket full of different and unique debt agreements. Like having a pocket full of different coins in different currencies. Very difficult to get people to accept random coins as payment.

Step one in securitization is to deal with that problem. Basically by melting the mortgages down to their base metal and recasting them.

And recasting them does one other critical job.  The problem with mortgages its that sometimes the borrower defaults and the bank loses some of the money it lent out. To put it in terms of our coin analogy, in every pocket-full there will be one which turns out to be a tin plug. But which one?

Securitization solves this problem.

The failure rate of mortgages, any loan in fact, is a matter of probability. Melting down and recasting the mortgages spreads the loss evenly. If you expect one mortgage in every hundred to default that would mean anyone buying a mortgage from you would have a one in a hundred chance of getting the one that will deafult and end up with a worthless piece of paper. But in securitization all hunderd mortgages are sliced in to an hundred peices and each securitiy gets one piece each from each mortgage. Now when that one in a hundred defaults the loss is evenly spread.

Suddenly there is no unknown. There is a mathematically expressible probability that the whole pool will lose one hundredth of its value. That is easy to calculate into the value/worth/price of the bundle. And one hundredth of that loss will turn up in each of the recast slices. Mortgages go in. Securities come out. Each made from the melted and recast value of all the mortgages in the pot. Each is stamped into the same form with the same worth. You have convert unique debt agreements into a standard coinage of known value. Suddenly you have a pocket full of money.

Standardizing is the first step towards inventing a new form of money. You have ceased bartering your cash in return for a dead end debt, and instead converted the debt back into money. And rather fabulously this money YOU control. The central bank doesn’t control how much gets printed. You do. All you have to do is print up debt agreements and securitize them. And you can potentially print as much as you like whenever you like. It really is a license to print money.

That is a security in its simplest possible form. But if you would like to be able to spend this money you have to now guarantee it. Step two.

Guarantee it

All money that isn’t actually made of gold or silver is actually a promissory note or debt. It is debt issued by the central bank and backed by the CB’s and the Nation’s promise to honour that note. Weird isn’t it. Here we are talking about how to turn debt to money. When all along it’s actually how to turn one kind of debt into another one. The difference between the two debts is how spend-able it is. How spend-able it is, is sometimes called its fungability or liquidity. I only mention this so you know what is really meant when bankers use these terms.

Anyway back to the chase. Money is money because it is guaranteed by the central bank and the state, to be always, 100% of the time, worth what the coin or note says it is worth and therefore will always be accepted as payment. The question here, is how exactly does this promise work? What is it the CB is promising to do.

We often hear CB’s referred to as the lender of last resort. In many ways it is better to think of them as a buyer of last resort. In the final analysis the CB promise and guarantee ultimately means the CB will itself accept those coins from you. So YOU will never be left holding a worthless piece of paper or scrap of metal. You need never fear being left with worthless coins because the CB which issues the stuff guarantees to accept them, buy them back from you. As long as everyone knows this then no one is afraid to accept and hold the stuff. And this is the Liquidity of realm money.

What the CB will give you in return for the money you eventually tender back to them, is another knotty problem. At the least we, the CB would say, will accept our notes and coins as payment for any debts you have. (Now I know this doesn’t make the problem go away. But don’t blame me for the short-comings of money. They were problems before I came along!)

So for the purposes of our discussion here, when you tender a coin for payment, no one is going to say to you, “Oh, no thanks. I don’t trust those things. Haven’t you got something else?”

Except, of course, when the credibility of that CB guarantee itself is called into question – sovereign default. When that happens the spend-able value of those notes and coins evaporates like a kiss on the wind. Which is exactly the risk the Bank bail-outs are forcing on us all. Just ask the Greeks, Latvians and Icelanders.

This problem of a guarantee is a serious problem for securitization and for the shadow banking system. Because the shadow banking system and the system of securitization does not have access to the Central Banks and their ultimate promise ‘to accept as payment’. For the simple reason that the CB did not issue the securitized debt/money. So why should they promise? They do, of course, accept some of the securities as collateral for getting a loan of ‘real’ money. But the promise-to-buy is not without conditions and can be withdrawn. Securitized debt-money does not benefit from the guarantee that the CB will be the purchaser of last resort for their currency. Thus securities are NOT guaranteed the way the CB’s own money is.

So the question is, what promise or guarantee could the bankers come up with to take the place of the CB promise? Who or what could be the buyer of last resort to stand behind their securitized money?

The answer is ingenious and/or foolish depending on your temperament and the situation. In ‘good’ times the answer works. The problem is in bad times it doesn’t. AT ALL.

But in good times, the answer is that the ‘market’ promises to be the buyer of last resort. Now of course the market is also the issuer as well. Which makes it rather circular. But as long as everyone in the market – the banks, money market funds, pension funds, rating agencies will accept the securitized debt as money then there is your promise. There is no promise by one single all powerful God who will redeem all promises. In place there is a promise that in a vast market there will always be enough buyers to buy and redeem whatever the market needs to move. Redemption without God. Good trick.

You standardize the debts, you guarantee someone will always accept them as payment and you automatically get the last ingredient for free – liquidity. And with liquidity the whole thing runs like a mighty river.

The point is that unlike the original debt we now have a tradable asset that is a kind of currency. The more readily it can be sold the more ‘liquid’ it is as an asset and the more it is like money/cash. Which is a good trick. Because debt is a dead end. Whereas cash is the open road.

So in place of a single God-like promise, there is a market of groomed and powdered god-lets who collectively have pretensions to being a god – and this ‘market god’ ‘guarantees’ that there will always be some god-let who wants to buy securitized debt. Now you can see where all the talk of ‘frozen credit markets’ comes from. What they are really saying is that the ‘market’s’, the god-let’s, promise, turned out to be good only as long as it wasn’t really needed, when times were good, but was worthless as soon as it was needed. That detail was presumably somewhere in the very small print.

And indeed down in the small print you find out that the undeclared complication running through all is RISK. It was there when I said ‘one in a hundred mortgages will default’. Seemed so reasonable when I said it, didn’t it? That was where the devil crept in. Who says it is always one in a hundred?

This is where we get to all the AAA rating stuff. This is where the dark side of securitization lurks.

PART TWO TO FOLLOW.

How the Goldman Vampire Squid Just Captured Europe

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Editor’s Comment:

Guest Writer:  Ellen Brown

Ellen is an attorney and the author of eleven books, including Web of Debt: The Shocking Truth About Our Money System and How We Can Break Free. Her websites are webofdebt.com and ellenbrown.com.  She is also chairman of the Public Banking Institute.

How the Goldman Vampire Squid Just Captured Europe

By Ellen Brown, Truthout | News Analysis

The Goldman Sachs coup that failed in America has nearly succeeded in Europe – a permanent, irrevocable, unchallengeable bailout for the banks underwritten by the taxpayers.

In September 2008, Henry Paulson, former CEO of Goldman Sachs, managed to extort a $700 billion bank bailout from Congress. But to pull it off, he had to fall on his knees and threaten the collapse of the entire global financial system and the imposition of martial law; and the bailout was a one-time affair. Paulson’s plea for a permanent bailout fund – the Troubled Asset Relief Program or TARP – was opposed by Congress and ultimately rejected.

By December 2011, European Central Bank President Mario Draghi, former vice president of Goldman Sachs Europe, was able to approve a 500 billion euro bailout for European banks without asking anyone’s permission. And in January 2012, a permanent rescue funding program called the European Stability Mechanism (ESM) was passed in the dead of night with barely even a mention in the press. The ESM imposes an open-ended debt on EU member governments, putting taxpayers on the hook for whatever the ESM’s eurocrat overseers demand.

The bankers’ coup has triumphed in Europe seemingly without a fight. The ESM is cheered by euro zone governments, their creditors and “the market” alike, because it means investors will keep buying sovereign debt. All is sacrificed to the demands of the creditors, because where else can the money be had to float the crippling debts of the euro zone governments?

There is another alternative to debt slavery to the banks. But first, a closer look at the nefarious underbelly of the ESM and Goldman’s silent takeover of the ECB….

The Dark Side of the ESM

The ESM is a permanent rescue facility slated to replace the temporary European Financial Stability Facility and European Financial Stabilization Mechanism as soon as member states representing 90 percent of the capital commitments have ratified it, something that is expected to happen in July 2012. A December 2011 YouTube video titled “The shocking truth of the pending EU collapse!” originally posted in German, gives such a revealing look at the ESM that it is worth quoting here at length. It states:

The EU is planning a new treaty called the European Stability Mechanism, or ESM: a treaty of debt…. The authorized capital stock shall be 700 billion euros. Question: why 700 billion?… [Probable answer: it simply mimicked the $700 billion the US Congress bought into in 2008.][Article 9]: “,,, ESM Members hereby irrevocably and unconditionally undertake to pay on demand any capital call made on them … within seven days of receipt of such demand.” … If the ESM needs money, we have seven days to pay…. But what does “irrevocably and unconditionally” mean? What if we have a new parliament, one that does not want to transfer money to the ESM?…

[Article 10]: “The Board of Governors may decide to change the authorized capital and amend Article 8 … accordingly.” Question: … 700 billion is just the beginning? The ESM can stock up the fund as much as it wants to, any time it wants to? And we would then be required under Article 9 to irrevocably and unconditionally pay up?

[Article 27, lines 2-3]: “The ESM, its property, funding and assets … shall enjoy immunity from every form of judicial process…. ” Question: So the ESM program can sue us, but we can’t challenge it in court?

[Article 27, line 4]: “The property, funding and assets of the ESM shall … be immune from search, requisition, confiscation, expropriation, or any other form of seizure, taking or foreclosure by executive, judicial, administrative or legislative action.” Question: … [T]his means that neither our governments, nor our legislatures, nor any of our democratic laws have any effect on the ESM organization? That’s a pretty powerful treaty!

[Article 30]: “Governors, alternate Governors, Directors, alternate Directors, the Managing Director and staff members shall be immune from legal process with respect to acts performed by them … and shall enjoy inviolability in respect of their official papers and documents.” Question: So anyone involved in the ESM is off the hook? They can’t be held accountable for anything? … The treaty establishes a new intergovernmental organization to which we are required to transfer unlimited assets within seven days if it so requests, an organization that can sue us but is immune from all forms of prosecution and whose managers enjoy the same immunity. There are no independent reviewers and no existing laws apply? Governments cannot take action against it? Europe’s national budgets in the hands of one single unelected intergovernmental organization? Is that the future of Europe? Is that the new EU – a Europe devoid of sovereign democracies?

The Goldman Squid Captures the ECB

Last November, without fanfare and barely noticed in the press, former Goldman executive Mario Draghi replaced Jean-Claude Trichet as head of the ECB. Draghi wasted no time doing for the banks what the ECB has refused to do for its member governments – lavish money on them at very cheap rates. French blogger Simon Thorpe reports:

On the 21st of December, the ECB “lent” 489 billion euros to European Banks at the extremely generous rate of just 1% over 3 years. I say “lent,” but in reality, they just ran the printing presses. The ECB doesn’t have the money to lend. It’s Quantitative Easing again.The money was gobbled up virtually instantaneously by a total of 523 banks. It’s complete madness. The ECB hopes that the banks will do something useful with it – like lending the money to the Greeks, who are currently paying 18% to the bond markets to get money. But there are absolutely no strings attached. If the banks decide to pay bonuses with the money, that’s fine. Or they might just shift all the money to tax havens.

At 18 percent interest, debt doublesin just four years. It is this onerous interest burden – not the debt itself – that is crippling Greece and other debtor nations. Thorpe proposes the obvious solution:

Why not lend the money to the Greek government directly? Or to the Portuguese government, currently having to borrow money at 11.9%? Or the Hungarian government, currently paying 8.53%. Or the Irish government, currently paying 8.51%? Or the Italian government, who are having to pay 7.06%?

The stock objection to that alternative is that Article 123 of the Lisbon Treaty prevents the ECB from lending to governments. But Thorpe reasons:

My understanding is that Article 123 is there to prevent elected governments from abusing Central Banks by ordering them to print money to finance excessive spending. That, we are told, is why the ECB has to be independent from governments. OK. But what we have now is a million times worse. The ECB is now completely in the hands of the banking sector. “We want half a billion of really cheap money!!” they say. OK, no problem. Mario is here to fix that. And no need to consult anyone. By the time the ECB makes the announcement, the money has already disappeared.

At least if the ECB was working under the supervision of elected governments, we would have some influence when we elect those governments. But the bunch that now has their grubby hands on the instruments of power are now totally out of control.

Goldman Sachs and the financial technocrats have taken over the European ship. Democracy has gone out the window, all in the name of keeping the central bank independent from the “abuses” of government. Yet, the government is the people – or it should be. A democratically elected government represents the people. Europeans are being hoodwinked into relinquishing their cherished democracy to a rogue band of financial pirates, and the rest of the world is not far behind.

Rather than ratifying the draconian ESM treaty, Europeans would be better advised to reverse Article 123 of the Lisbon treaty. Then, the ECB could issue credit directly to its member governments. Alternatively, euro zone governments could re-establish their economic sovereignty by reviving their publicly owned central banks and using them to issue the credit of the nation for the benefit of the nation, effectively interest free. This is not a new idea, but has been used historically to very good effect, e.g. in Australia through the Commonwealth Bank of Australia and in Canada through the Bank of Canada.

Today, the issuance of money and credit has become the private right of vampire rentiers, who are using it to squeeze the lifeblood out of economies. This right needs to be returned to sovereign governments. Credit should be a public utility, dispensed and managed for the benefit of the people.

To add your signature to a letter to parliamentarians blocking ratification of the ESM, click here.

TBTF Banks Bigger than Ever — How is that possible in a recession?

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Editor’s Comment: 

The pernicious effect of the banks and the difficulty of regulating them across transnational and state borders has led to a growing nightmare that history will repeat itself sooner than later.

This is to rocket science — it is recognition. We have median income still declining in what is still by most measures a recession that is about to get worse. Yet the largest banks are reporting record profits. What that means is that Wall Street is making more money “trading paper” than the rest of the country is making doing actual commerce — i.,e. the making and selling of goods of services.

This is another inversion of common sense. But it is explainable. 4 years ago I predicted that as the recession depressed the earnings of most companies the banks would nonetheless show increased profits. The reason was simply that using Bermuda, Bahamas, Cayman Islands the banks siphoned off most of the credit market liquidity through the tier 2 yield spread premium. The tier 2 YSP was really the money the banks made by selling crappy loans as good loans from aggregators to the investors — and then failed to document any part of the real transactions where money exchanged hands. In some case the YSP “trading profit” exceed the amount of the loan.

So now they are able to feed those “trading profits” back into their system a little at a time reporting ever increasing profits while the the real world goes to hell. So tell, me, what is it going to take to get you to to go to the streets, write the letters and demand that justice be done and allow, for the first time, investors and borrowers to get together and reach settlements in lieu of foreclosures? Don’t you see that whether you are rich or poor, renting or owning, that all of this is going to bring down your wealth and buying power. The Federal Reserve has already tripled the U.S. Currency money supply giving all the benefit to the TBTF banks. It seems to me that as group the American citizens are far more too big to fail than any industry or company.

Evil prospers when good people do nothing. 

Big Five Banks larger than before crisis, bailout

WASHINGTON —

Two years after President Barack Obama vowed to eliminate the danger of financial institutions becoming “too big to fail,” the nation’s largest banks are bigger than they were before the credit crisis.

Five banks — JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, Citigroup, Wells Fargo and Goldman Sachs — held $8.5 trillion in assets at the end of 2011, equal to 56 percent of the U.S. economy, according to the Federal Reserve.

Five years earlier, before the financial crisis, the largest banks’ assets amounted to 43 percent of U.S. output. The Big Five today are about twice as large as they were a decade ago relative to the economy, sparking concern that trouble at a major bank would rock the financial system and force the government to step in as it did during the 2008 crunch.

“Market participants believe that nothing has changed, that too-big-to-fail is fully intact,” said Gary Stern, former president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.

That specter is eroding faith in Obama’s pledge that taxpayer-funded bailouts are a thing of the past. It also is exposing him to criticism from Federal Reserve officials, Republicans and Occupy Wall Street supporters, who see the concentration of bank power as a threat to economic stability.

As weaker firms collapsed or were acquired, a handful of financial giants emerged from the crisis and have thrived. Since then, JPMorgan, Goldman Sachs and Wells Fargo have continued to swell, if less dramatically, thanks to internal growth and acquisitions from European banks shedding assets amid the euro crisis.

The industry’s evolution defies the president’s January 2010 call to “prevent the further consolidation of our financial system.” Embracing new limits on banks’ trading operations, Obama said then that taxpayers wouldn’t be well “served by a financial system that comprises just a few massive firms.”

Simon Johnson, a former chief economist of the International Monetary Fund, blames a “lack of leadership at Treasury and the White House” for the failure to fulfill that promise. “It’d be safer to break them up,” he said.

The Obama administration rejects the criticism, citing new safeguards to head off further turmoil in the banking system. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner says the U.S. “financial system is significantly stronger than it was before the crisis.” He credits a flurry of new regulations, including tougher capital and liquidity requirements that limit risk-taking by the biggest banks, authority to take over failing big institutions, and prohibitions on the largest banks acquiring competitors.

The government’s financial system rescue, beginning with the 2008 Troubled Asset Relief Program, angered millions of taxpayers and helped give rise to the tea-party movement. Banks and bailouts remain unpopular: By a margin of 52 to 39 percent, respondents in a February Pew Research Center poll called the bailouts “wrong” and 68 percent said banks have a mostly negative effect on the country.

The banks say they have increased their capital backstops in response to regulators’ demands, making them better able to ride out unexpected turbulence. JPMorgan, whose chief executive officer, Jamie Dimon, this month acknowledged public “hostility” toward bankers, boasts of a “fortress balance sheet.” Bank of America, which was about 50 percent larger at the end of 2011 than five years earlier, says it has boosted capital and liquidity while increasing to 29 months the amount of time the bank could operate without external funding.

“We’re a much stronger company than we were heading into the crisis,” said Jerry Dubrowski, a Bank of America spokesman. The bank, based in Charlotte, says it plans to shrink by year-end to $1.75 trillion in risk-weighted assets, a measure regulators use to calculate how much capital individual banks must hold.

Still, the banking industry has become increasingly concentrated since the 1980s. Today’s 6,291 commercial banks are less than half the number that existed in 1984, according to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. The trend intensified during the crisis as JPMorgan acquired Bear Stearns and Washington Mutual; Bank of America bought Merrill Lynch; and Wells Fargo took over Wachovia in deals encouraged by the government.

“One of the bad outcomes, the adverse outcomes of the crisis, was the mergers that were of necessity undertaken when large banks were at-risk,” said Donald Kohn, vice chairman of the Federal Reserve from 2006-2010. “Some of the biggest banks got a lot bigger, and the market got more concentrated.”

In recent weeks, at least four current Fed presidents — Esther George of Kansas City, Charles Plosser of Philadelphia, Jeffrey Lacker of Richmond and Richard Fisher of Dallas — have voiced similar worries about the risk of a renewed crisis.

The annual report of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas was devoted to an essay by Harvey Rosenblum, head of the bank’s research department, “Why We Must End Too Big to Fail — Now.”

A 40-year Fed veteran, Rosenblum wrote in the report released last month: “TBTF institutions were at the center of the financial crisis and the sluggish recovery that followed. If allowed to remain unchecked, these entities will continue posing a clear and present danger to the U.S. economy.”

The alarms come almost two years after Obama signed into law the Dodd-Frank financial-regulation act. The law required the largest banks to draft contingency plans or “living wills” detailing how they would be unwound in a crisis. It also created a financial-stability council headed by the Treasury secretary, charged with monitoring the system for excessive risk-taking.

The new protections represent an effort to avoid a repeat of the crisis and subsequent recession in which almost 9 million workers lost their jobs and the U.S. government committed $245 billion to save the financial system from collapse.

The goal of policy makers is to ensure that if one of the largest financial institutions fails in the next crisis, shareholders and creditors will pay the tab, not taxpayers.

“Two or three years from now, Goldman Sachs should be like MF Global,” said Dennis Kelleher, president of the nonprofit group Better Markets, who doubts the government would allow a company such as Goldman to repeat MF Global’s Oct. 31 collapse.

Dodd-Frank, the most comprehensive rewriting of financial regulation since the 1930s, subjected the largest banks to higher capital requirements and closer scrutiny. The law also barred federal officials from providing specific types of assistance that were used to prevent such firms from failing in 2008. Instead, the Fed will work with the FDIC to put major banks and other large institutions through the equivalent of bankruptcy.

“If a large financial institution should ever fail, this reform gives us the ability to wind it down without endangering the broader economy,” Obama said before signing the act on July 21, 2010. “And there will be new rules to make clear that no firm is somehow protected because it is too big to fail.”

Officials at the Treasury Department, the Fed and other agencies have spent the past two years drafting detailed regulations to make that vision a reality.

Yet the big banks stayed big or, in some cases, grew larger. JPMorgan, which held $2 trillion in total assets when Dodd-Frank was signed, reached $2.3 trillion by the end of 2011, according to Federal Reserve data.

For Lacker, the banks’ living wills are the key to placing the financial system on sounder footing. Done right, they may require institutions to restructure to make their orderly resolution during a crisis easier to accomplish, he said.

Neil Barofsky, Treasury’s former special inspector general for the Troubled Asset Relief Program, calls the idea of winding down institutions with more than $2 trillion in assets “completely unrealistic.”

It’s likely that more than one bank would face potential failure during any crisis, he said, which would further complicate efforts to gracefully collapse a giant bank. “We’ve made almost no progress on ending too big to fail,” he said.

OCC Review Getting Few Takers

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Demand an Administrative Hearing

Very few people have asked for a review of their wrongful foreclosures. Maybe it is because we are all war-weary from this constant barrage of illegal activity from the banks. But there are avenues to travel, whether your foreclosure is past, present or even future. While the OCC review process has some restrictions announced, it nonetheless allies to all foreclosures whether they like it or not. They are the regulatory agency for certain types of banks and servicers, just like OTS, and the Federal Reserve. If one of their chartered and regulated members commits an atrocity, the agency is required by law to do something about it.

And one more thing. The OCC should be setting up review panels and administrative hearing processes because you can be sure that homeowners are not going to agree with the “review” that is conducted by the bank that is accused of committing the error, which is what the “review process” is all about. Why not ask a rapist to investigate whether he did it or if she was just asking for it?

This stuff is not just made up out of my head. It comes from the Administrative Procedures Act and its likeness in the federal, state and even local systems where any government agency is involved.

So if you are alleging wrongdoing in ANY foreclosure — past, present or future — you should be making your allegations. What do you allege? That is where the COMBO product linked next to my picture comes in and there are other people who do similar work although it is true that the title companies are trying their best to obscure the searches for title information. Getting a loan specific title analysis and a loan specific securitization analysis should provide you with enough information to allege wrongful foreclosure. Getting a Forensic Analysis and loan level analysis might also be helpful in rounding out the allegations.

Here are just a few items to get you going:

  • The debt wasn’t due
  • The debt wasn’t due to the party who  foreclosed
  • The party who foreclosed misrepresented itself as the owner of the debt
  • The debt was paid in full by insurance, credit default swaps or federal bailouts
  • The monthly payment was paid by the servicer to the creditor (or the party they claim is the creditor) at the same time that the servicer was declaring a default to the borrower. If the creditor was getting paid, where is the default?
  • The credit bid was submitted by a party who was not a creditor and therefore should have paid cash at the auction
  • The auction was conducted by an employee or agent of the party seeking to foreclose
  • Payments were improperly applied or were not applied
  • Charges were illegal and unfair and were the reason for the foreclosure
  • You were tricked into foreclosure by the pretender lender’s agent telling you had to skip payments before you could be considered for modification. (known in the industry as dual tracking)
  • The “lender” failed to comply with Reg Z on rescission
  • The loan violated TILA, RESPA
  • The “lender” failed to comply with RESPA

 

Accepted for Value: The Scam That Makes Things Worse

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Editor’s Comment: 

The term “Snake Oil Salesman” has been used for centuries to describe a person selling a worthless product for a high profit to the salesman with no benefit to the purchaser.  There are a number of scam artists that are touring the nation, and even live here in the Phoenix Valley, with snake oil that is worse than simply getting stuck with a bottle of crap.  They are using, among other phrases, “accepted for value”.  

These schemes all involve not paying a bill by the individual creating of money out of thin air.   It sounds ridiculous because it is ridiculous–but it could land you in prison.  

The scam artist(s) get a bunch of people together in a scripted meeting at which shills are hired to pose as skeptics and the scam artist(s) quote or misquote various statutes, rules, regulations and court cases in which they make it appear as though you have every much the right to create money as the government of the society in which you live.  The shills eventually admit that they were “wrong” and accept to purchase the service.  Leading the victim into believing they are just joining other people who seem to know what they are talking about.

They all charge fees and they frequently convince desperate people who are looking for an escape valve that this scheme will work or somehow delay the collection of a bill or debt.  The purchaser is left not only with a bottle of crap but with late charges, interest, cancelation of services, foreclosure, eviction and potentially prison.  There is no part of the “AFV” movement that has any truth or legitimacy.

It is simply a scam to relieve desperate people from the last money they have.  I have avoided addressing this issue because I did not want to give them any publicity.  But I find that as time goes on more and more people are getting increasingly desperate and desperate people have skewed judgement.  They hear want they want to believe and they are willing to pay for it.  

In this country there are laws, rules and regulations concerning the creation of currency and cash equivalents.  None of them allow a single individual to create money.  There is no exception to this statement and anyone who tells you contrary is either directly lying to you or repeating a lie they heard.  Keep your money and find another way to move on from the desperate straits in which you find yourself.  Seek the advice of actual licensed attorneys, actual licensed accountants and actual licensed other professionals who are required to tell you the truth or they will lose their license and lose their livelihood.  They will never tell you this is valid.

Just because someone tells you they are a lawyer or an accountant does not mean they are any of those things–even if they show you the finest looking parchment paper to prove their assertion.  An inquiry to the appropriate regulatory authority will confirm or deny whether this person is an actual licensed professional.

Any scheme involving the nonpayment of a legitimate debt or the nonpayment of an illegitimate debt created by the banks in the mortgage meltdown will remain an obligation enforceable against you until it is payed in full with real money or waived by the real creditor.  That waiver includes an involuntary court order which finds that the alleged creditor is no creditor at all or that the debt has either been paid or converted behind the “curtain of securitization.”

How Wall Street Perverted the 4 Cs of Mortgage Underwriting

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For thousands of years since the dawn of money credit has been an integral part of the equation.  Anytime a person, company or institution takes your money or valuables in exchange for a promise that it will return your money or property or pay it to someone else (like in a check) credit is involved.  Most bank customers do not realize that they are creditors of the bank in which they deposit their money.  But all of them recognize that on some level they need to know or believe that the bank will be able to make good on its promise to honor the check or pay the money as instructed. 

Most people who use banks to hold their money do so in the belief that the bank has a history of being financially stable and always honoring withdrawals.  Some depositors may look a little further to see what the balance sheet of the bank looks like.   Of course the first thing they look at is the amount of cash shown on the balance sheet so that a perspective depositor can make an intelligent decision about the liquidity or availability of the funds they deposit. 

So the depositor is in essence lending money to the bank upon the assumption of repayment based upon the operating history of the bank, the cash in the bank and any other collateral (like FDIC guarantees).

As it turns out these are the 4 Cs of loan underwriting which has been followed since the first person was given money to hold and issued a paper certificate in exchange. The paper certificate was intended to be used as either a negotiable instrument for payment in a far away land or for withdrawal when directly presented to the person who took the money and issued the promise on paper to return it.

Eventually some people developed good reputations for safe keeping the money.  Those that developed good reputations were allowed by the depositors to keep the money for longer and longer periods.  After a while, the persons holding the money (now called banks) realized that in addition to charging a fee to the depositor they could use the depositor’s money to lend out to other people.  The good banks correctly calculated the probable amount of time for the original depositor to ask for his money back and adjusted loan terms to third parties that would be due before the depositor demanded his money.

The banks adopted the exact same strategy as the depositors.  The 4 Cs of underwriting a loan—Capacity, Credit, Cash and Collateral—are the keystones of conventional loan underwriting. 

The capacity of a borrower is determined by their ability to repay the debt without reference to any other source or collateral.  For the most part, banks successfully followed this model until the late 1990s when they discovered that losing money could be more profitable than making money.  In order to lose money they obviously had to invert the ratios they used to determine the capacity of the borrower to repay the money.  To accomplish this, they needed to trick or deceive the borrower into believing that he was getting a loan that he could repay, when in fact the bank knew that he could not repay it.  To create maximum confusion for borrowers the number of home loan products grew from a total of 5 different types of loans in 1974 to a total of 456 types of loans in 2006.  Thus the bank was assured that a loss could be claimed on the loan and that the borrower would be too confused to understand how the loss had occurred.  As it turned out the regulators had the same problem as the borrowers and completely missed the obscure way in which the banks sought to declare losses on residential loans.

Like the depositor who is trusting the bank based upon its operating history, the bank normally places its trust in the borrower to repay the loan based upon the borrowers operating history which is commonly referred to as their credit worthiness, credit score or credit history.  Like the capacity of the borrower this model was used effectively until the late 1990s when it too was inverted.  The banks discovered that a higher risk of non-payment was directly related to the “reasonableness” of charging a much higher interest rate than prevailing rates.  This created profits, fees and premiums of previously unimaginable proportions.  The bank’s depositors were expecting a very low rate of interest in exchange for what appeared as a very low risk of nonpayment from the bank.  By lending the depositor’s money to high risk borrowers whose interest rate was often expressed in multiples of the rate paid to depositors, the banks realized they could loan much less in principal than the amount given to them by the depositor leaving an enormous profit for the bank.  The only way the bank could lose money under this scenario would be if the loan was actually repaid.  Since some loans would be repaid, the banks instituted a power in the master servicer to declare a pool of loans to be in default even if many of the individual loans were not in default.  This declaration of default was passed along to investors (depositors) and borrowers alike where eventually both would in many, if not most cases, perceive the investment as a total loss without any knowledge that the banks had succeeded in grabbing “profits” that were illegal and improper regardless if one referred to common law or statutory law.

Capacity and credit are usually intertwined with the actual or stated income of the borrower.  Most borrowers and unfortunately most attorneys are under the mistaken belief that an inflated income shown on the application for the loan, subjects the borrower to potential liability for fraud.  In fact, the reverse is true.  Because of the complexity of real estate transactions, a history of common law dating back hundreds of years together with modern statutory law, requires the lender to perform due diligence in verifying the ability of the borrower to repay the loan and in assessing the viability of the loan.  Some loans had a teaser rate of a few hundred dollars per month.  The bank had full knowledge that the amount of the monthly payment would change to an amount exceeding the gross income of the borrower.   In actuality the loan had a lifespan that could only be computed by reference to the date of closing and the date that payments reset.  The illusion of a 30-year loan along with empty promises of refinancing in a market that would always increase in value, led borrowers to accept prices that were at times a multiple of the value of the property or the value of the loan.  Banks have at their fingertips numerous websites in which they can confirm the likelihood of a perspective borrower to repay the loan simply by knowing the borrower’s occupation and geographical location.  Instead, they allowed mortgage brokers to insert absurd income amounts in occupations which never generate those levels of income.  In fact, we have seen acceptance and funding of loans based upon projected income from investments that had not yet occurred where the perspective investment was part of a scam in which the mortgage broker was intimately involved.  See Merendon Mining scandal.

The Cash component of the 4 Cs.  Either you have cash or you don’t have cash.  If you don’t have cash, it’s highly unlikely that anyone would consider a substantial loan much less a deposit into a bank that was obviously about to go out of business.   This rule again was followed for centuries until the 1990s when the banks replaced the requirement of cash from the borrower with a second loan or even a third loan in order to “seal the deal”.  In short, the cash requirement was similarily inverted from past practices.  The parties involved at the closing table were all strawmen performing fees for service.  The borrower believed that a loan underwriting was taking place wherein a party was named on the note as the lender and also named in the security instrument as the secured party. The borrower believed that the closing could never have occurred but for the finding by the “underwriting lender” that the loan was proper and viable.  The people at the closing table other than the borrower, all knew that the loan was neither proper nor viable.  In many cases the borrower had just enough cash to move into a new house and perhaps purchase some window treatments.  Since the same credit game was being played at furniture stores and on credit cards, more money was given to the borrower to create fictitious transactions in which furniture, appliances, and home improvements were made at the encouragement of retailers and loan brokers.  Hence the cash requirement was also inverted from a positive to a negative with full knowledge by the alleged bank who didn’t bother to pass this knowledge on to its “depositors” (actually, investors in bogus mortgage bonds). 

Collateral is the last of the 4 Cs in conventional loan underwriting.  Collateral is used in the event that the party responsible for repayment fails to make the repayment and is unable to cure it or work out the difference with the bank.  In the case of depositors, the collateral is often viewed as the full faith and credit of the United States government as expressed by the bank’s membership in the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC).  For borrowers collateral refers to property which they pledge can be used or sold to satisfy obligation to repay the loan.  Normally banks send one or even two or three appraisers to visit real estate which is intended to be used as collateral.  The standard practice lenders used was to apply the lower appraisals as the basis for the maximum amount that they would lend.  The banks understood that the higher appraisals represented a higher risk that they would lose money in the event that the borrower failed to repay the loan and property values declined.  This principal was also used for hundreds of years until the 1990s when the banks, operating under the new business model described above, started to run out of people who could serve as borrowers.  Since the deposits (purchases of mortgage bonds) were pouring in, the banks either had to return the deposits or use a portion of the deposits to fund mortgages regardless of the quality of the mortgage, the cash, the collateral, the capacity or any other indicator that a normal reasonable business person would use.  The solution was to inflate the appraisals of the real estate by presenting appraisers with “an offer they couldn’t refuse”.  Either the appraiser came in with an appraisal of the real property at least $20,000 above the price being used in the contract or the appraiser would never work again.  By inflating the appraisals the banks were able to move more money and of course “earn” more fees and profits. 

The appraisals were the weakest link in the false scheme of securitization launched by the banks and still barely understood by regulators.  As the number of potential borrowers dwindled and even with the help of developers raising their prices by as much as 20% per month the appearance of a rising market collapsed in the absence of any more buyers.

Since all the banks involved were holding an Ace High Straight Flush, they were able to place bets using insurance, credit default swaps and other credit enhancements wherein a movement of as little as 8% in the value of a pool would result in the collapse of the entire pool.  This created the appearance of losses to the banks which they falsely presented to the U.S. government as a threat to the financial system and the financial security of the United States.  Having succeeded in terrorizing the executive and legislative branches and the Federal Reserve system, the banks realized that they still had a new revenue generator.  By manufacturing additional losses the government or the Federal Reserve would fund those losses under the mistaken belief that the losses were real and that the country’s future was at stake.  In fact, the country’s future is now at stake because of the perversion of the basic rules of commerce and lending stated above.  The assumption that the economy or the housing market can recover without undoing the fraud perpetrated by the banks is dangerous and false.  It is dangerous because more than 17 trillion dollars in “relief” to the banks has been provided to cover mortgage defaults which are at most estimated at 2.6 trillion.  The advantage given to the megabanks who accepted this surplus “aid” has made it difficult for community banks and credit unions to operate or compete.   The assumption is false because there is literally not enough money in the world to accomplish the dual objectives of allowing the banks to keep their ill gotten gains and providing the necessary stimulus and rebuilding of our physical and educational infrastructure.  

The simple solution that is growing more and more complex is the only way that the U.S. can recover.  With the same effort that it took in 1941 to convert an isolationist largely unarmed United States to the most formidable military power on the planet, the banks who perpetrated this fraud should be treated as terrorists with nothing less than unconditional surrender as the outcome.  The remaining 7,000 community banks and credit unions together with the existing infrastructure for electronic funds transfer will easily allow the rest of the banking community to resume normal activity and provide the capital needed for a starving economy. 

See article:  www.kcmblog.com/2012/04/05/the-4-cs-of-mortgage-underwriting-2

Student Loans Are The Next Major Crack in Our Finance

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Disclosure to Student Borrowers: www.nytimes.com/2012/04/08/opinion/sunday/disclosure-to-student-borrowers.html?_r=1&ref=todayspaper

Editor’s Comment: 

“We have created a world of finance in which it is more lucrative to lose money and get paid by the government, than to make money and contribute to society.  In the Soviet Union the government ostensibly owned everything; in America the government is a vehicle for the banks to own everything.”—Neil F Garfield LivingLies.me

While the story below is far too kind to both Dimon and JPMorgan, it hits the bulls-eye on the current trends. And if we think that it will stop at student loans we are kidding ourselves or worse. The entire student loan mess, totaling more than $1 trillion now, was again caused by the false use of Securitzation, the abuse of government guaranteed loans, and the misinterpretation of the rules governing discharge ability of debt in bankruptcy.

First we had student loans in which the government provided financing so that our population would maintain its superior position of education, innovation and the brains of the world in getting technological and mechanical things to work right, work well and create new opportunities.

Then the banks moved in and said we will provide the loans. But there was a catch. Instead of the “private student” loan being low interest, it became a vehicle for raising rates to credit card levels — meaning the chance of anyone being able to repay the loan principal was correspondingly diminished by the increase in the payments of interest.

So the banks made sure that they couldn’t lose money by (a) selling off the debt in securitization packages and (b) passing along the government guarantee of the debt.  This was combined with the nondischargability of the debt in bankruptcy to the investors who purchased these seemingly high value high yielding bonds from noncapitalized entities that had absolutely no capacity to pay off the bonds.  The only way these issuers of student debt bonds could even hope to pay the interest or the principal was by using the investors’ own money, or by receiving the money from one of several sources — only one of which was the student borrower.

The fact that the banks managed to buy congressional support to insert themselves into the student loan process is stupid enough. But things got worse than that for the students, their families and the taxpayers. It’s as though the courts got stupid when these exotic forms of finance hit the market.

Here is the bottom line: students who took private loans were encouraged and sold on an aggressive basis to borrow money not only for tuition and books, but for housing and living expenses that could have been covered in part by part-time work. So, like the housing mess, Wall Street was aggressively selling money based upon eventual taxpayer bailouts.

Next, the banks, disregarding the reason for government guaranteed loans or exemption from discharge ability of student loan debt, elected to change the risk through securitization. Not only were the banks not on the hook, but they were once again betting on what they already knew — there was no way these loans were going to get repaid because the amount of the loans far exceeded the value of the potential jobs. In short, the same story as appraisal fraud of the homes, where the prices of homes and loans were artificially inflated while the values were declining at precipitous rate.

Like the housing fraud, the securitization was merely trick accounting without any real documentation or justification.  There are two final results that should happen but can’t because Congress is virtually owned by the banks. First, the guarantee should not apply if the risk intended to be protected is no longer present or has significantly changed. And second, with the guarantee gone, there is no reason to maintain the exemption by which student loans cannot be discharged in bankruptcy. Based on current law and cases, these are obvious conclusions that will be probably never happen. Instead, the banks will claim losses that are not their own, collect taxpayer guarantees or bailouts, and receive proceeds of insurance, credit default swaps and other credit enhancements.

Congratulations. We have created a world of finance in which it is more lucrative to lose money and get paid by the government, than to make money and contribute to the society for which these banks are allowed to exist ostensibly for the purpose of providing capital to a growing economy. So the economy is in the toilet and the government keeps paying the banks to slap us.

Did JPMorgan Pop The Student Loan Bubble?

Back in 2006, contrary to conventional wisdom, many financial professionals were well aware of the subprime bubble, and that the trajectory of home prices was unsustainable. However, because there was no way to know just when it would pop, few if any dared to bet against the herd (those who did, and did so early despite all odds, made greater than 100-1 returns). Fast forward to today, when the most comparable to subprime, cheap credit-induced bubble, is that of student loans (for extended literature on why the non-dischargeable student loan bubble will “create a generation of wage slavery” read this and much of the easily accessible literature on the topic elsewhere) which have now surpassed $1 trillion in notional. Yet oddly enough, just like in the case of the subprime bubble, so in the ongoing expansion of the credit bubble manifested in this case by student loans, we have an early warning that the party is almost over, coming from the most unexpected of sources: JPMorgan.

Recall that in October 2006, 5 months before New Century started the March 2007 collapsing dominoes that ultimately translated to the bursting of both the housing and credit bubbles several short months later, culminating with the failure of Bear, Lehman, AIG, The Reserve Fund, and the near end of capitalism ‘we know it’, it was JPMorgan who sounded a red alert, and proceeded to pull entirely out of the Subprime space. From Fortune, two weeks before the Lehman failure: “It was the second week of October 2006. William King, then J.P. Morgan’s chief of securitized products, was vacationing in Rwanda. One evening CEO Jamie Dimon tracked him down to fire a red alert. “Billy, I really want you to watch out for subprime!” Dimon’s voice crackled over King’s hotel phone. “We need to sell a lot of our positions. I’ve seen it before. This stuff could go up in smoke!” Dimon was right (as was Goldman, but that’s another story), while most of his competitors piled on into this latest ponzi scheme of epic greed, whose only resolution would be a wholesale taxpayer bailout. We all know how that chapter ended (or hasn’t – after all everyone is still demanding another $1 trillion from the Fed at least to get their S&P limit up fix, and then another, and another). And now, over 5 years later, history repeats itself: JPM is officially getting out of student loans. If history serves, what happens next will not be pretty.

American Banker brings us the full story:

U.S. Bancorp (USB) is pulling out of the private student loans market and JPMorgan Chase (JPM) is sharply reducing its lending, as banking regulators step up their scrutiny of the products.

JPMorgan Chase will limit student lending to existing customers starting in July, a bank spokesman told American Banker on Friday. The bank laid off 24 employees who make sales calls to colleges as part of its decision.

The official reason:

“The private student loan market is continuing to decline, so we decided to focus on Chase customers,” spokesman Thomas Kelly says.

Ah yes, focusing on customers, and providing liquidity no doubt, courtesy of Blythe Masters. Joking aside, what JPMorgan is explicitly telling us is that it can’t make money lending out to the one group of the population where demand for credit money is virtually infinite (after all 46% of America’s 16-24 year olds are out of a job: what else are they going to?), and furthermore, with debt being non-dischargable, this is about as safe a carry trade as any, even when faced with the prospect of bankruptcy. What JPM is implicitly saying, is that the party is over, and all private sector originators are hunkering down, in anticipation of the hammer falling. Or if they aren’t, they should be.

JPM is not alone:

Minneapolis-based U.S. Bank sent a letter to participating colleges and universities saying that it would no longer be accepting student loan applications as of March 29, a spokesman told American Banker on Friday.

“We are in fact exiting the private student lending business,” U.S. Bank spokesman Thomas Joyce said, adding that the bank’s business was too small to be worthwhile.

“The reasoning is we’re a very small player, less than 1.5% of market share,” Joyce adds. “It’s a very small business for the bank, and we’ve decided to make a strategic shift and move resources.”

Which, however, is not to say that there will be no source of student loans. On Friday alone we found out that in February the US government added another $11 billion in student debt to the Federal tally, a run-rate which is now well over $10 billion a month an accelerating: a rate of change which is almost as great as the increase in Apple market cap. So who will be left picking up the pieces? Why the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, funded by none other than Ben Bernanke, and headed by the same Richard Cordray that Obama shoved into his spot over Republican protests, when taking advantage of a recessed Congress.

“What we are likely to see over the next few months is a lot of private education lenders rethinking the product, particularly if it appears that the CFPB is going to become more activist,” says Kevin Petrasic, a partner with law firm Paul Hastings.

“Historically there’s been a patchwork of regulation towards private student lenders,” he adds. “The CFPB allows for a more uniform and consistent approach and identification of the issues. It also provides a network, effectively a data-gathering base that is going to enable the agency to get all the stories that are out there.”

The CFPB recently began accepting student loan complaints on its website.

“I think there’s going to be a lot of emphasis and focus … in terms of what is deemed to be fair and what is over the line with collections and marketing,” Petrasic says, warning that “the challenge for the CFPB in this area is going to be trying to figure out how to set consumer protection standards without essentially eviscerating availability of the product.”

And with all private players stepping out very actively, it only leaves the government, with its extensive system of ‘checks and balances’, to hand out loans to America’s ever more destitute students, with the reckless abandon of a Wells Fargo NINJA-specialized loan officer in 2005. What will be hilarious in 2014, when taxpayers are fuming at the latest multi-trillion bailout, now that we know that $270 billion in student loans are at least 30 days delinquent which can only have one very sad ending, is that the government will have no evil banker scapegoats to blame loose lending standards on. And why would they: after all it is this administration’s sworn Keynesian duty to make every student a debt slave in perpetuity, but only after they buy a lifetime supply of iPads. Then again by 2014 we will have far greater problems (and for most in the administration, it will be “someone else’s problem”).

For now, our advice – just do what Jamie Dimon is doing: duck and hide for cover.

Oh, and if there is a cheap student loan synthetic short out there, which has the same upside potential as the ABX did in late 2006, please advise.

ZeroHedge: Fed Balance Sheet Unwinds as Auction of Toxic Bonds Fails

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EDITORIAL NOTE: This comes as no surprise to anyone except those at the Fed. Bernanke and especially the New York Federal Reserve still have not caught up with the reality that the toxic bonds are worthless of worth less than they thought by a long shot. It also continues to confuse the issue of who actually owns the bonds, and therefore who owns the undivided shares of the loans in the pools that issued the Mortgage Backed Securities (MBS).

The essential reality is that the transfers required by law and the PSA in each deal were never made. The darker reality is that they couldn’t be made because the obligation was between the borrower and the investors as a group and not with the REMIC which by definition is a conduit.

Since the borrower received the loan from the investors, the obligation arises by operation of law to the investors. But the paperwork with the borrower says otherwise. And the paperwork with the investor sets forth the blueprint for transfer of the loans by “sale” from entities that could never own the obligations because the investors already owned the obligation. Transfers between intermediaries were meaningless and the marketplace is realizing this and refusing to put a “value” on this procedure.

And the reason for the defects in the paperwork is simply that if that the investors were properly identified as creditors from the beginning, the intermediaries would not have had the “opportunity” to claim the loans, sell and trade them under exotic instruments and put the MBS in their balance sheets as though they owned those assets when in fact they never did. And of course they never had a dime in the deal — they didn’t loan the money, they never bought the loan.

Actually the only intermediary that has any money in the deal is the servicer that was making payments even if it did not receive payments from the borrower.

The legal consequence of this mess is uncertain, not as to what the law requires, but whether the law will be applied. It is clear that the Fed is claiming ownership or control over the mortgage bonds and just as clear that without legal transfers of the loans, the bonds were backed by nothing.

That leaves the mortgage originator with the security and the obligation and possibly the note running to other entities. hence the obligation is owed to the investors, the note may be invalid because it was never made payable to any legal creditor and the security instruments secures a debt to the originator that does not exist.

And now from Zerohedge …

Is The Fed’s Balance Sheet Unwind About To Crash The Market, Again?

Submitted by Tyler Durden on 01/13/2012 – 01:58

AIG American International Group Bond China Exchange Traded Fund Failed Auction High Yield Investment Grade M2 New York Fed Reality Recession Recoupling Sovereigns

Almost six months ago we discussed the dramatic shifts that were about to occur (and indeed did occur) the last time the New York Fed tried to unwind the toxic AIG sludge that is more prosaically known as Maiden Lane II. At the time, the failure of a previous auction as dealers were unwilling to take up even modest sizes of the morose mortgage portfolio was the green light for a realization that even a small unwind of the Fed’s bloated balance sheet would not be tolerated by a deleveraging and unwilling-to-bear-risk-at-anything-like-a-supposed-market-rate trading community.

Today, we saw the first glimmerings of the same concerns as chatter of Goldman’s (and others) interest in some of the lurid loans sent credit reeling. As the WSJ reports, this meant the Fed had to quietly seek confirming bids (BWICs) from other market participants to judge whether Goldman’s bid offered value.

The discreteness of the enquiries sent ABX and CMBX (the credit derivative indices used to hedge many of these mortgage-backed securities) tumbling with ABX having its first down day since before Christmas and its largest drop in almost two months. The knock-on effect of the potential off-market (or perhaps more reality-based) pricing that Goldman is bidding this time can have (just as it did last time when the Fed halted the auction process as the market could not stand the supply) dramatic impacts as dealers seek efficient (and critically liquid) hedges for their worrisome inventories of junk.

The underperformance (and heavy volume) in HYG (the high-yield bond ETF we spend so much time discussing) since the new-year suggests one such hedging program (well timed and hidden by record start-of-year fund inflows from a clueless public which one would have thought would raise prices of the increasingly important bond ETF) as the market’s ramp of late is very reminiscent of the pre-auction-fail-and-crash we saw in late June, early July last year as credit markets awoke to the reality of their own balance sheet holes once again.

 

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