PTSD: A Breakdown of Securitization in the Real World

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

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

Let us help you plan for trial and draft your foreclosure defense strategy, discovery requests and defense narrative: 202-838-6345. Ask for a Consult or check us out on www.lendinglies.com. Order a PDR BASIC to have us review and comment on your notice of TILA Rescission or similar document.
I provide advice and consultation to many people and lawyers so they can spot the key required elements of a scam — in and out of court. If you have a deal you want skimmed for red flags order the Consult and fill out the REGISTRATION FORM.
A few hundred dollars well spent is worth a lifetime of financial ruin.
PLEASE FILL OUT AND SUBMIT OUR FREE REGISTRATION FORM WITHOUT ANY OBLIGATION. OUR PRIVACY POLICY IS THAT WE DON’T USE THE FORM EXCEPT TO SPEAK WITH YOU OR PERFORM WORK FOR YOU. THE INFORMATION ON THE FORMS ARE NOT SOLD NOR LICENSED IN ANY MANNER, SHAPE OR FORM. NO EXCEPTIONS.
Get a Consult and TERA (Title & Encumbrances Analysis and & Report) 202-838-6345 or 954-451-1230. The TERA replaces and greatly enhances the former COTA (Chain of Title Analysis, including a one page summary of Title History and Gaps).
THIS ARTICLE IS NOT A LEGAL OPINION UPON WHICH YOU CAN RELY IN ANY INDIVIDUAL CASE. HIRE A LAWYER.
========================

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rating Agencies Finally Drawing Fire They Richly Deserve — But Will They be Prosecuted?

“The Justice Department claims that the faulty projections were not simply naïveté, but rather a deliberate effort to produce inflated, fraudulent ratings. “The complaint asserts that S.& P. staff chose not to update computer programs because the changes would have led to harsher ratings, and a potential loss of business,” (e.s.)

“I was there. It is not possible that companies like S&P, Fitch and other rating agencies didn’t know how to do securities analysis — they invented it. The S&P Book was widely used as a shorthand method of evaluating a stock or bond for decades before I arrived on Wall Street. They were known and trusted for their data and their crunching of data. It isn’t possible that they wouldn’t know that the ratings were artificially inflated. They were only concerned with collecting fees and covering their behinds with “plausible deniability.”What they gave up was the their reputation for truth and clarity. Now they can’t be trusted.

And the same goes triple for the investment banks who brought those bogus mortgage bonds to market. Wall Street is a small place. Everyone but the customers and borrowers knew what was going on and everyone knew a huge bust was coming. If they knew and the regulators knew, why did they allow it play out when the warning signs were already clear in the early 2000’s.” Neil F Garfield, www.livinglies.me

CHECK OUT OUR EXTENDED DECEMBER SPECIAL!

What’s the Next Step? Consult with Neil Garfield

For assistance with presenting a case for wrongful foreclosure or to challenge whoever is taking your money every month, please call 520-405-1688, customer service, who will put you in touch with an attorney in the states of Florida, Tennessee, Georgia, California, Ohio, and Nevada. (NOTE: Chapter 11 may be easier than you think).

Editor’s Analysis: When you see movies like Too Big to Fail and read any of the hundreds of books published on the great recession, you must be left with a sense of outrage  and/or disappointment that our government and our major banks tacitly approved of the illegal activities undertaken by all the participants in what turned out to be a PONZI scheme covered over by a fraudulent scheme they called “Securitization.”

Despite some people raising the concern that the homeowners were hit hardest by the criminal enterprise, any concern for them vanished in the face of an invalid assumption by Hank Paulson and Ben Bernanke that the economy would fail and society would fall apart if they didn’t bail out the banks. If anything, the behavior of the banks was the equivalent of NOT bailing them out because they never honored their part of the bargain — increasing the flow of capital into the economy through loans and investments. While that understanding should have been reduced to writing, it was obvious that the banks would lend out money with extra capital infused into their balance sheet. Except they didn’t.

And the world didn’t end, but there was chaos all over the world because the banks were and continue sitting on a bounty that has not been subject to any audit or accounting.

As I expected, the rating agencies are now being sued not for negligence but for intentionally skewing the ratings knowing that stable managed funds were restricted from investing in anything but the safest securities (meaning the highest rating from a qualified rating agency). It is the same story as the appraisers of real property who were pressured into inflating and then re-inflating the prices of property whose value was left far behind. Both the rating agencies and the appraisers who participated in this illicit scheme caved in to threats from Wall Street that they would never see any business again if they didn’t “play ball.”

The very structure and the actual movement of money and documents would tip off an amateur securities analyst. Starting with the premise of securitization and an understanding of how it works (easily obtained from numerous sources) any analysis would have revealed that something was wrong. Securities analysis is not just sitting at a desk crunching numbers. It is investigation.

Any investigation at random picking apart the loan deals, the diversion of title from the REMIC trusts, the diversion of money from the investors to a mega-account in which the investors’ money was indiscriminately commingled, thus avoiding the REMICs entirely, would lead to the inevitable conclusion that even the highest rated tranches and the highest rated bonds, were a complete sham. Indeed internal memos at S&P shows that it was well understood by all — they even made up a song about it.

The analysis by the people at S&P omitted key steps so they wouldn’t be accused of knowing what was going on. It is the same as the underwriting of the loans themselves where the underwriting process was reduced to a computer platform in which the aggregator approved the loan — not he originator — and the investment banker wired the funds for the loan on behalf of the Investors, but the documents showed that it was the originator, who was not allowed to touch any of the money funded for loans, whose name was placed on the note and mortgage. Why?

Any good analyst would have and several did ask why this was done. They got back a double-speak answer that would have resulted in an unrated or low-rated mortgage bond, with a footnote that the REMICs may never have been funded and that therefore without other sources of capital they could not possibly have purchased the loans. Which means of course that the REMICs named in foreclosures over the past 5-6 years.

Some of the best analysts on Wall Street saw at a glance that this was a PONZI scheme and a fraudulent play on the word “Securitization.” Simply tracing the parties to their real function would and still will reveal that all of them were acting in nominee capacities and not as true agents of the investors or participants in the securitization scheme.

And the nominees include but are not limited to the REMIC itself, the Trustee for the REMIC, the subservicer, the Master Servicer, the Depositor, the aggregator, the originator, and the law firms, foreclosure mills and companies like LPS and DOCX who sprung up with published price sheets on fabrication of documents and forgeries of of those documents to convince a court that the foreclosure was real and valid. The whole thing was a sham.

If I saw it at a glance after being out of Wall STreet for many years, you can bet that the new financial and securities analysts at the rating agencies also saw it. Instead they buried their true analysis behind a mountain of fabricated data that in itself was a nominee for the real data and then crunched the numbers in the way that the Wall Street firms dictated.

The fact that there were algorithms that took the world’s fastest computers a full weekend to process without the ability to audit the results should have and did in fact alert many people that the bogus mortgage bonds were unratable because there was no way to confirm their assumptions or their outcome.

The government is very close, now that it is moving in on the ratings companies. They are close to revealing that this was not excessive risk taking it was excessive taking — theft — and that the rating companies should lose their status as rating companies, the officers and analysts who signed off should be prosecuted, and the receiver appointed over the assets should claw back the excessive fees paid to the ratings companies from officers of the ratings companies and, following the yellow brick road, the CEO’s of the investment banks.

We have found out, thanks to the greed and deception practiced by the banks on officers at the highest level of your government what will happen if the credit markets free up without the TARP money being used to free up those markets. It isn’t pretty but it isn’t apocalypse either. The proof is in. The mega banks should be taken down piece by piece and their function should be spread out over a wide swath of more than 7,000 community banks, credit unions and savings and loan associations — all of whom have access to the utilities at SWIFT, VISA, MasterCard, check 21, and other forms of interbank electronic funds transfer.

If the administration really wants a correction and really wants to increase confidence in the marketplaces around the world and the financial system supporting those markets, then it MUST take the harshest action possible against the people and companies who engineered this world-wide crisis. Eventually the truth will all be out for everyone to see. Which side of history do we mean to be aligned — the bank oligopoly or a capitalist, free, democratic society.

BY WILLIAM ALDEN, DealBook NY TIMES

DOCUMENTS IN S.&P. CASE SHOW ALARM Documents included in the Justice Department’s lawsuit against Standard & Poor’s provide a glimpse at the company’s inner working in the run-up to the financial crisis. “Tensions appeared to be escalating inside the firm’s headquarters in Lower Manhattan as it publicly professed that its ratings were valid, even as the home loans bundled into mortgage-backed securities, or M.B.S., were failing at accelerating rates,” Mary Williams Walsh and Ron Nixon write in DealBook. “Together, the documents show a portrait of some executives pushing to water down the firm’s rating models in the hope of preserving market share and profits, while others expressed deep concerns about the poor performance of the securities and what they saw as a lowering of standards.”

Some of the documents also showed some of the snark among the rank-and-file over the impending crisis. One analyst in March 2007 borrowed from the Talking Heads, creating new lyrics to “Burning Down the House,” according to the complaint: “Subprime is boi-ling o-ver. Bringing down the house.” In a confidential memo reproduced in the complaint, one executive said: “This market is a wildly spinning top which is going to end badly.”

At the heart of the civil case are the computer models S.&P. used to rate complex mortgage securities. The Justice Department claims that the faulty projections were not simply naïveté, but rather a deliberate effort to produce inflated, fraudulent ratings. “The complaint asserts that S.& P. staff chose not to update computer programs because the changes would have led to harsher ratings, and a potential loss of business,” Peter Eavis writes. But S.&P., which says the lawsuit is without merit, disagrees with the government’s characterization of the models. Catherine J. Mathis, an S.& P. spokeswoman, said the Justice Department had not “shown actual adjustment to the models or other changes that were not analytically justified.”

Indeed, the government faces an uphill battle in making its case that S.&P. intentionally inflated ratings. “The government will have to prove that ratings were in fact faulty, and published intentionally so as to deceive investors in the securities. In response, S.& P. could simply argue that the company was just as blinded by the financial crisis as anyone else, and that questionable e-mails are simply the work of lower-level employees who were not involved in the decision-making,” Peter J. Henning and Steven M. Davidoff write. “Even if the Justice Department can prove the agency acted to deceive investors, it still has to deal with something lawyers call reliance. In other words, did investors rely on these ratings to make their decisions?”

R.B.S APPROACHES SETTLEMENT OVER RATE-RIGGING The Royal Bank of Scotland said on Wednesday that it was in advanced discussions with authorities on both side of the Atlantic over settling accusations that it manipulated Libor. “Although the settlements remain to be agreed, R.B.S. expects they will include the payment of significant penalties as well as certain other sanctions,” the bank said.

A settlement, which could be announced as soon as Wednesday, is expected to include a penalty of about 400 million pounds, or $626 million, according to several news reports. “As part of the anticipated deal, R.B.S.’s Japanese unit is expected to plead guilty to a crime in the U.S., although the Justice Department isn’t expected to charge any individuals, according to one of the people briefed on the talks,” The Wall Street Journal writes. John Hourican, the head of R.B.S.’s investment bank, is also expected to resign, the reports said.

S&P Analyst Joked of ‘Bringing Down the House’ Ahead of Collapse
http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-02-05/s-p-analyst-joked-of-bringing-down-the-house-ahead-of-collapse.html

Case Details Internal Tension at S.&P. Amid Subprime Problems
http://dealbook.nytimes.com/2013/02/05/case-details-internal-tension-at-s-p-amid-subprime-problems/

Justice Sues S&P, But What Purpose are Ratings Agencies Serving Anyway?
http://business.time.com/2013/02/06/justice-sues-sp-but-what-purpose-are-ratings-agencies-serving-anyway/

S&P charged with fraud in mortgage ratings
http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2013/02/06/rate-f06.html

Hiding Behind Advice of Counsel No Better Than Ratings

Featured Products and Services by The Garfield Firm

NEW! 2nd Edition Attorney Workbook,Treatise & Practice Manual – Pre-Order NOW for an up to $150 discount
LivingLies Membership – Get Discounts and Free Access to Experts
For Customer Service call 1-520-405-1688

Want to read more? Download entire introduction for the Attorney Workbook, Treatise & Practice Manual 2012 Ed – Sample

Pre-Order the new workbook today for up to a $150 savings, visit our store for more details. Act now, offer ends soon!

Editor’s Comment:

In an article entitled “Legal Beagles in Cross Hairs” WSJ reports that the SEC and many others in law enforcement have on-going investigations into the role of attorneys not misconduct of their clients. For the most part it is an attorney’s solemn duty to represent and advocate the position of his or her client to the utmost of their ability without violating the law. Everyone is entitled to a lawyer no matter how reprehensible their conduct might have been when they committed the act.

But the SEC seems to be leading the way, starting with indictments and convictions of attorneys that kicks aside the clients’ defense of “I did it on advice of counsel.” in wide ranging probes law enforcement agencies are after the attorneys who said it was OK — upon receiving lavish payments, that what the Banks did in setting the securitization structure for the cash trail and setting up the securitization procedure for the document trail and then setting up the contents of the documents that would provide coverage for intentional acts of theft, forgery, fabrication and a variety of other acts.

The attorneys who gave letters of opinion to the investment banks blessing securitization of home and commercial mortgages as they were presented and launched are in deep hot water. This is especially true since the law firms that engaged in these “blessings” had lawyers quitting their jobs leaving behind memorandums to the partners that the law firm itself was committing crimes. The similarity between the blessing of the law firm and the ratings of Moody’s, S&P, Fitch is surprising to some people.

And the attorneys who suggested severance settlements conditioned on employed lawyers or other witnesses on a sudden onset of amnesia are also in the cross-hairs, getting stiff long-term sentences. These are all potential witnesses in what could be come nationwide probes that were blocked by “advice of counsel” claims and brings to mind those many cases where the lawyer for Wells, US Bank, or BOA was fined and sanctioned for lying to the court about facts which they most certainly knew or should have known — like the name of their client.

As these probes continue it may be seen as scapegoating the attorneys or as chilling the confidentiality of the relationship between lawyer and client. But that rule of confidentiality and the defines of advice of counsel vanishes when the conduct of the attorney or indeed a whole law firm is that of a co-conspirator. It is especially unavailable when you have a foreclosure mill that is forging, fabricating and filing documents on behalf of extremely well paying clients.

It would therefore seem to be an appropriate time to file complaints with law enforcement including police and regulatory authorities that are well-written, honed down to a sharp point and which attach at least some evidence beyond the mere allegation of wrong-doing on the part of the attorney or law firm. If appropriate lay people can file the same complaints as grievances with the state Bar Association that is required to regulate and discipline the behavior of lawyers. And attorneys for homeowners and judges who hear these cases are under an obligation to report evidence of wrongdoing or else face disciplinary charges of their own resulting in suspension or disbarment.

Legal Eagles in Cross Hairs

By JEAN EAGLESHAM

The Securities and Exchange Commission is intensifying its scrutiny of lawyers who gave a green light to certain mortgage-bond deals before the financial crisis or have tried to thwart investigations by the agency, according to people familiar with the matter.

The move is at an early stage and might not result in any enforcement action by the SEC because of the difficulty proving lawyers went beyond their legal duty to clients, these people cautioned. In the past, SEC officials generally have gone after lawyers only when accusing them of active involvement in securities fraud or serious misconduct, such as faking documents in a probe.

In recent months, though, some SEC officials have grown frustrated by what they claim is direct obstruction of a few investigations and a larger number of probes where lawyers coach clients in the art of resisting and rebuffing. The tactics include witnesses “forgetting” what happened and companies conducting internal investigations that scapegoat junior employees and let senior managers off the hook, agency officials say. “The problem of less-than-candid testimony … is a serious one,” Robert Khuzami, the SEC’s director of enforcement, said at a conference last month. The stepped-up scrutiny is aimed at both internal and outside lawyers.

Claudius Modesti, enforcement chief at the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board, an accounting watchdog created by the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, said at the same event: “We’re encountering lawyers who frankly should know better.”

The SEC enforcement staff has recently reported more lawyers to the agency’s general counsel, who can take administrative action against lawyers for alleged professional misconduct.

The SEC hasn’t disclosed the number of referrals. Only one lawyer has ever been banned for life from representing clients before the agency because of professional misconduct.

Earlier this year, Kenneth Lench, head of the SEC’s structured-products enforcement unit, said the agency needed to “seriously consider” charges against lawyers in “appropriate cases.” Mr. Lench said he saw “some factual situations where I seriously question whether the advice that was given was done in good faith.”

In July, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission gained the new power to take civil action against anyone, including lawyers, who makes “any false or misleading statement of a material fact.”

The agency, which oversees the futures and options market, hasn’t taken any action yet under the expanded power, according to a person familiar with the matter. A CFTC spokesman declined to comment.

“Frankly, I wish we had the power the CFTC has,” Mr. Khuzami said.

The SEC’s focus on advice provided by lawyers in mortgage-bond deals is part of the wider push by officials to punish alleged wrongdoing tied to the financial crisis. So far, the SEC has filed crisis-related civil suits against 102 firms and individuals, and more cases are coming, according to people familiar with matter.

Some former government officials say stepping up regulatory scrutiny of lawyers for their work on cases snared in investigations by the SEC could send a chilling message. “The government needs to be careful not to deter lawyers from being zealous advocates for their clients,” says John Wood, a former U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Missouri.

The only lawyer hit with a lifetime ban by the SEC for his work on behalf of a client is Steven Altman of New York. The client was a witness in an SEC investigation, and the agency alleged that Mr. Altman suggested in a recorded phone conversation that the client’s recollection of certain events might “fade” if she got a year of severance pay.

Last year, an appeals court rejected Mr. Altman’s bid to overturn the 2010 ban. Jeffrey Hoffman, a lawyer for Mr. Altman, couldn’t be reached for comment.

In December, a federal grand jury in Los Angeles indicted lawyer David Tamman on 10 criminal counts related to helping a former client cover up an alleged $20 million fraud. Prosecutors claim Mr. Tamman changed and backdating documents, removed incriminating documents from investor files and lied to SEC investigators in sworn testimony.

“The truth is that my client was set up and made a scapegoat,” says Stanley Stone, a lawyer for Mr. Tamman, adding that his client acted under the advice and guidance of senior lawyers at his former law firm, Nixon Peabody LLP. “We’re going to prove at trial that what was done was not criminal,” Mr. Stone says.

A Nixon Peabody spokeswoman says Mr. Tamman was fired in 2009 “as soon as we learned that he was under SEC investigation and he failed to explain his actions to us.” The law firm has asked a judge to throw out a wrongful-termination suit filed by Mr. Tamman.

A criminal trial last year shows how the SEC could face daunting hurdles in bringing enforcement actions against lawyers for providing bad advice.

“A lawyer should never fear prosecution because of advice that he or she has given to a client who consults him or her,” U.S. District Judge Roger Titus in Maryland ruled when dismissing all six charges against Lauren Stevens, a former lawyer at drug maker GlaxoSmithKline PLC. GSK +0.19%

Ms. Stevens was accused by prosecutors of lying to the FDA and concealing and falsifying documents related to an investigation by the U.S. agency. The federal judge refused to let a jury decide the case, saying that would risk a miscarriage of justice.

Reid Weingarten, a lawyer for Ms. Stevens, couldn’t be reached. A spokeswoman for the Justice Department declined to comment.

Despite the government’s defeat, “the mere fact she was charged sends a strong signal to other lawyers about the risks of being seen as less than forthcoming in their representation s to the government,” says Mr. Wood, the former federal prosecutor in Missouri. He now is a partner at law firm Hughes Hubbard & Reed LLP.


Fitch cuts Ratings on Goldman, Deutsche, five other large banks

MOST POPULAR ARTICLES

COMBO Title and Securitization Search, Report, Documents, Analysis & Commentary CLICK HERE TO GET COMBO TITLE AND SECURITIZATION REPORT

EDITOR’S COMMENT: Why would regulatory challenges be a threat to the financial viability of the Banks? answer: because the challenges they are talking about drive a stake though the heart of lies perpetuated by those Banks. the result is that they could be required to tell the truth. If they tell the truth, then they have a double whammy — (1) they don’t actually have the assets they report on their balance sheet which would immediately put them in violation of reserve requirements causing the immediate takeover and dissolution of those Banks and (2) they have a huge liability which is also not properly reflected on their balance sheet for damages and buybacks and potentially punitive damages for lying to investors and borrowers. Overstated assets and understated liabilities would place the Banks in negative net worth position and that would cause them to collapse.

This would actually be more of a change in our political system than in our financial system, notwithstanding the scare tactics of TBTF (too big to fail), which is nothing more than a living lie. Dissolution of the mega banks would shift Market power back to the more than 7,000 OTHER banks, and cut the amount of Bank money in politics by about 95% thus breaking the Bank oligopoly. A more decentralised Banking system would result in more intelligent loans being available to credit worthy start-ups and expansion of small businesses, who account for more than 70% of all U. S. Employment. Employment would rise because new jobs would be created. As more people went back to work, more taxes would be paid, thus giving Federal, State and local governments desperately needed tax revenue.

So overall the rating agencies are in agreement: the Mega Banks may be in for hard times. The only reason it isn’t a certainty is they don’t know if the public has the political will to kick the incumbents out of office and restore “order” to our political and economic system.

Fitch cuts Goldman, Deutsche, five other large banks
http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/12/16/us-banks-ratings-fitch-idUSTRE7BE2AO20111216?rpc=71&feedType=RSS&feedName=topNews <http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/12/16/us-banks-ratings-fitch-idUSTRE7BE2AO20111216?rpc=71&feedType=RSS&feedName=topNews>

RATING AGENCIES: MARKETING TOOLS FOR WALL STREET

MOST POPULAR ARTICLES

COMBO Title and Securitization Search, Report, Documents, Analysis & Commentary GET COMBO TITLE AND SECURITIZATION ANALYSIS – CLICK HERE

EDITOR’S NOTE: I might as well take this opportunity to suggest a potential cause of action on behalf of homeowners and borrowers, whether or not they are in litigation or foreclosure. It might sound a little far out to say that the rating agencies have any liability to mortgage borrowers, taxpayers or governmental agencies that collect revenue. I maintain that such liability does in fact exist and that in addition the auditing firms that certified the statements of the large banks that faked the securitization of mortgages may have the same liability.

 The reason why there has been so much  legislation, both federal and state, on the subject of disclosure to consumer buyers and borrowers is the attempt by the Congress and the state legislatures to level the playing field. It is public policy in the country and in each state that borrowers should know as much as possible about both the identity of their lender and the terms of the transaction. It is the public policy of the federal government as well as every state government that consumers have a viable right to choose between alternatives in order to ensure healthy competition in the marketplace.

 The fact that the identity of the actual lenders was intentionally hidden from the borrowers and the fact that the terms of repayment to the actual lenders was also hidden from the borrowers is obviously a violation of many pieces of legislation that announced a public policy of the federal government and each state. We often write about and talk about the liability of the participants in the great securitization scam, but we never talk about the people who helped them withhold vital information from borrowers, taxpayers, investors and government agencies.

 Borrowers made several reasonable presumptions based upon prior history in the lending industry regarding the quality of their lender and the quality of the long product that was being offered to them as the best possible alternative. All of these presumptions were based on false information and led to the current mortgage crisis which in turn has led to the current economic crisis which in turn is leading the world into a double dip recession.

 Most theories of liability under the law are based upon the premise of a “reasonable man.” I doubt if anyone would argue that virtually none of the loans would have been consummated in the event that the borrowers and the investors actually had been provided with full disclosure. Many investors and many borrowers would have been alerted to the possibility that they were being misled in the event that the rating agencies had used independent judgment under the guise of a quasi-government agency. It doesn’t take a great deal of research to discover that there were people inside the rating agencies who wanted to use independent judgment but who were overruled by management in order to justify the rising fees they were charging to the originators of the bogus mortgage bonds and the bogus credit derivatives that were supposedly backed by the bogus mortgage bonds.

 My theory is that borrowers would have been alerted that something was wrong if they knew that the source of funding was coming from a Wall Street scheme that was rated at toxic levels. The media would have been alerted that something was wrong. Regulatory agencies would have been alerted that something was wrong. Warnings would have been issued about both the quality of the loan and the potential negative impact on the title to real property or personal property that was supposedly the subject of a perfected lien.

It is more than obvious that the investors certainly would not have advanced any funds if they had known the truth. While I can expand this theory, I believe I have made my point. If the world had  known the truth, the mortgage mess could never have taken place. It did take place because the ratings from the rating agencies created a misleading impression that the loans were subject to underwriting standards common to the industry.

 It would be interesting to see some enterprising law firm bring an action on behalf of borrowers, or on behalf of both borrowers and investors, against the rating agencies and the auditing companies that all made it possible. Without them, the great securitization scam would never have occurred and would simply be a theory rumbling around in the back of the mind of some Wall Street executive who was thinking “wouldn’t it be great if I could get trillions of dollars from investors without ever paying it back, get trillions of dollars in real estate without ever paying for it, and declare a loss that threatened the financial system enabling me to also get trillions of dollars in bailout money for a loss that never occurred?”

You Get What You Pay For

By SIMON JOHNSON
DESCRIPTION

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

Standard & Poor’s downgrade of United States government debt last month has been much debated, but not enough attention has been devoted to the fact, reported last week by Bloomberg News, that it continues to rate securities based on subprime mortgages as AAA.

Today’s Economist

Perspectives from expert contributors.

In short, S.&P. is suggesting that these mortgages are more creditworthy than the United States government — a striking proposition. Leave aside for a moment that S.&P. made a big mistake in its analysis of the federal budget (as explained by James Kwak in our blog). Just focus on all the things that can go wrong with subprime mortgages: housing prices can fall, people can lose jobs, the economy may fall into recession and so on.

Now weigh those risks against the possibility that the United States government will default. As we learned this summer, that is not a zero-probability event — but it would take either an act of Congress, in the sense of passing legislation, or a determination by members of Congress that they could not act. S.&P. finds this more likely to happen than some subprime mortgages’ going bad.

Now S.&P. might be right, of course. Or its assessment might be influenced by the fact that it is paid by the issuer of those mortgage-backed securities — which presumably wants a higher rating. The rating agency’s employees may want to do an accurate assessment; management can reasonably expect to make higher profits if its ratings please the paying customers.

Perhaps we should just disregard what S.&P. and its competitors say. But this is not so easy, because many investors are guided by rules — either self-imposed or created by regulators — that tie investment decisions, and thus these investors’ holdings, to ratings. Ratings changes undeniably can move markets.

How can we take seriously a rating agency that is compensated by the issuers of securities? This system has long outlived its usefulness and should be discontinued.

In a similar vein, let me ask why we should take seriously economic analysis offered up by a financial-sector lobbying group on behalf of its members — if, for example, it says that regulation of its members will slow economic growth? Surely, we should check the numbers in the analysis carefully and be skeptical of the policy recommendations.

A timely example comes from the Institute of International Finance, which calls itself “the Global Association of Financial Institutions” and whose board members are all from big banks. (Indeed, the institute is more than a mere lobbying group; in the recent Greek debt negotiations, it was in charge of coordinating the terms proposed by private-sector banks for their involvement in the debt restructuring.)

So what do we make of its policy recommendations? In a report released this week, “The Cumulative Impact on the Global Economy of Changes in the Financial Regulatory Framework,” for example, the institute asserts that additional capital requirements for its members could result in “3.2 percent lower output by 2015 in these economies than would otherwise be the case” (see Paragraph 5 of its news release accompanying the report).

In recent conversations with some policy makers from the Group of 7 nations, I was told that the institute’s previous, interim report on this same topic was largely without value (some said completely without value).

I hope these policy makers and others react the same way in this instance, because the institute refuses to acknowledge the vast cost imposed on society by the combination of big banks, high leverage and low capital that it endorsed through 2008 and that it defends today, with only minor modifications. (James Kwak and I wrote directly about these issues in “13 Bankers” — and we’re now hard at work on the sequel.)

The institute’s report is nothing more than lobbying masquerading as economic analysis. And just as S.&P. is paid for its ratings by the issuers, the institute is paid to represent the views of big banks. We would be wise to suspect that in both cases, the paying customer would prefer a particular outcome — irrespective of what the evidence says.

APPRAISERS AND CREDIT RATING COMPANIES ARE GETTING AWAY WITH IT TOO

COMBO Title and Securitization Search, Report, Documents, Analysis & Commentary COMBO TITLE AND SECURITIZATION SEARCH, REPORT, ANALYSIS ON LUMINAQ

EDITOR’S NOTE: In 1983 the nominal value of credit derivatives was zero. Today it is over $600 TRILLION. None of this would have been possible without the active complicity of credit rating companies who as quasi public agencies “assured” the quality of securities sold to both sophisticated and unsophisticated investors. People forget that in most cases behind every “sophisticated” investor are millions of unsophisticated investors who entrusted their money to these venerable institutions to manage their savings and pensions.

A full 1/4 of the $600 TRILLION in derivatives is related in some exotic way to the housing market. When appraisal companies put profit before their reputations, you would have thought that the world would have come crashing down around them. When appraisers of real property were given instructions on what value they had to come back with to make the deal work (or else they would never be hired again), you would have thought that licensing boards would have revoked their licenses and criminal investigations would have led to prosecutions.

The whole grand hallucination referred to as securitization of debt instruments, was achieved by deceit, cheating and outright theft. But the guards at the gate not only let the barbarians in, they are letting them out too. I’m probably too old to see the eventual outcome of having a country governed by banks. But our children and grandchildren will see it in living color, and as food prices and other commodities start to rise and as the value of money falls, they will feel the pain of our folly and our failure to correct a situation that still is correctable. The founding fathers of our country gave us the right the and the means to do it.

If you like what you see, and you think that things are all going in the right direction, then you don’t need to do anything. You are probably a banker or financier with tens of millions of even tens of billions of wealth stashed away, with provisions for every eventuality. The rest of us don’t have that luxury. We were steered into an economy of excess by people who made sure that we had the money in our hands to spend — but only if we spent it, leaving ourselves and our economy and our future in tatters. If you don’t like that picture and the picture painted by hundreds of economists around the world, with our noble experiment becoming a banana republic, then maybe you should do something about it.

Innovation has been the hallmark of American success. Innovation is what it will take to bring about the changes that are necessary to have a country that is governed, with consent of the governed, by people who value human rights for all more than intense concentrations of wealth for a few. Millions of Americans have fought and died and been injured or maimed fighting for our rights as set forth in the constitutions. We treat our returning vets as expendable, and we treat their predecessors as part of some dry historical landscape without meaning.  If we are truly patriotic, then we will end the tyranny of wealth, and return to a society where wealth is possible, where hope springs eternal and where our expectations are virtually guaranteed, that our children will live better than we did.

Think back and remember. IF you can’t remember then research. We did it before. Let’s do it again.

Hey, S.E.C., That Escape Hatch Is Still Open

By GRETCHEN MORGENSON

IT’S hard to say what’s more exasperating: the woeful performance of the credit ratings agencies during the recent mortgage securities boom or the failure to hold them accountable in the bust that followed.

Not that Congress hasn’t tried, mind you. The Dodd-Frank financial reform law, enacted last year, imposed the same legal liabilities on Moody’s, Standard & Poor’s and other credit raters that have long applied to legal and accounting firms that attest to statements made in securities prospectuses. Investors cheered the legislation, which subjected the ratings agencies to what is known as expert liability under the securities laws.

But since Dodd-Frank passed, Congress’s noble attempt to protect investors from misconduct by ratings agencies has been thwarted by, of all things, the Securities & Exchange Commission. The S.E.C., which calls itself “the investor’s advocate,” is quietly allowing the raters to escape this accountability.

When Dodd-Frank became law last July, it required that ratings agencies assigning grades to asset-backed securities be subject to expert liability from that moment on. This opened the agencies to lawsuits from investors, a policing mechanism that law firms and accountants have contended with for years. The agencies responded by refusing to allow their ratings to be disclosed in asset-backed securities deals. As a result, the market for these instruments froze on July 22.

The S.E.C. quickly issued a “no action” letter, indicating that it would not bring enforcement actions against issuers that did not disclose ratings in prospectuses. This removed the expert-liability threat for the ratings agencies, and the market began operating again.

At the time, the S.E.C. said its action was intended to give issuers time to adapt to the Dodd-Frank rules and would stay in place for only six months. But on Jan. 24, the S.E.C. extended its nonenforcement stance indefinitely. Issuers are selling asset-backed securities without the ratings disclosures required under S.E.C. rules, and rating agencies are not subject to expert liability.

MARTHA COAKLEY, the attorney general of Massachusetts, has brought significant mortgage securities cases against Wall Street firms — and she is disturbed by the S.E.C.’s position. Last week, she sent a letter to Mary Schapiro, the chairwoman of the S.E.C., asking why the commission was refusing to enforce its rules and was thereby defeating Congressional intent where ratings agencies’ liability is concerned.

“We wanted to make clear that we see this as a problem and important enough that we would like an answer,” Ms. Coakley said in an interview last week. “They are either going to enforce this or say why they are not. As a state regulator, we don’t enforce Dodd-Frank, but we certainly deal with the fallout when it is not enforced.”

An S.E.C. spokesman, John Nester, said that the agency would respond to Ms. Coakley.

Meredith Cross, director of the S.E.C.’s division of corporation finance, explained the agency’s decision to stand down on the issue: “If we didn’t provide the no-action relief to issuers, then they would do their transactions in the unregistered market,” she said. “You would impede investor protection. We thought, notwithstanding the grief we would take, that it would be better to have these securities done in the registered market.”

Unfortunately, the S.E.C.’s actions appear to continue the decades of special treatment bestowed upon the credit raters. Among the perquisites enjoyed by established credit raters is protection from competition, since regulators were required to approve new entrants to the business. Regulators have also sanctioned the agencies’ ratings by embedding them into the investment process: financial institutions post less capital against securities rated at or above a certain level, for example, and investment managers at insurance companies and mutual funds are allowed to buy only securities receiving certain grades.

This is a recipe for disaster. Given that ratings were required and the firms had limited competition, they had little incentive to assess securities aggressively or properly. Their assessments of mortgage securities were singularly off-base, causing hundreds of billions in losses among investors who had relied on ratings.

That the S.E.C.’s move strengthens the ratings agencies’ protection from investor lawsuits, which runs counter to the intention of Dodd-Frank, is also disturbing. Moody’s and Standard & Poor’s have argued successfully for years that their grades are opinions and subject to the same First Amendment protections that journalists receive. This position has made lawsuits against the raters exceedingly difficult to mount, a problem that Dodd-Frank was supposed to fix.

I asked Representative Barney Frank, the Massachusetts Democrat whose name is on the 2010 financial reform legislation, if he was concerned that the S.E.C.’s inaction was enabling ratings agencies to evade liability.

Mr. Frank said he believed the S.E.C.’s move was part of a longer-term strategy to eliminate investor reliance on ratings and remove, at long last, all references to credit ratings agencies in government statutes. Indeed, the S.E.C. proposed a new rule last week that would eliminate the requirement that money market funds buy only securities with high credit ratings. If the rule goes through, fund boards would have to make their own determinations that the instruments they buy are of superior credit quality.

Still, Mr. Frank said, the commission could do a better job of explaining that its nonenforcement stance is part of an effort to reduce reliance on ratings. “The message should not be lax enforcement by the S.E.C.; it should be a lack of confidence in the ratings,” he said.

The problem is that it could take years to rid the investment arena of all references to ratings. In the meantime, the S.E.C. is letting the ratings agencies escape accountability once again.

Moreover, investors are right to fear that the S.E.C. may be capitulating to threats by the ratings agencies to boycott the securitization market as long as they are subject to expert liability. After all, Moody’s and S.& P. have succeeded before in derailing attempts by legislators to bring accountability to asset-backed securities.

Back in 2003, for example, Georgia’s legislature enacted one of the toughest predatory-lending laws in the nation. Part of the law allowed issuers of and investors in mortgage pools to be held liable if the loans were found to be abusive. Shortly after that law went into effect, the ratings agencies refused to rate mortgage securities containing Georgia loans because of this potential liability. The law was soon rewritten to eliminate the liability, allowing predatory lending to flourish.

IT is certainly important that the S.E.C. work to eliminate references to ratings in the investment arena, and to reduce investor reliance on them. But Congress couldn’t have been clearer in its intent of holding the agencies accountable. That the S.E.C. is undermining that goal is absurd in the extreme.

Moody’s Gets Notice from SEC: May Lose Status as Rating Agency

Editor’s Note: Hard to say which way this will go, but it SHOULD go negative for Moody’s, Fitch and Standard and Poor’s. This was appraisal fraud at the OTHER end of the lending chain. Investors were misled as to the value of the security not only because the home appraisals were inflated, and not only because the viability of many of the loans ran from “sure to fail” to dubious, but because the amount of funding from the investors was far more than the amount of funding of the mortgages.

Deep in the pile of documentation, credit enhancements. etc. is the fact that investment bankers took money from investors and DIDN’T invest it. The ratings agencies all had people who realized this and reported it internally. The Triple AAA ratings came spewing out nonetheless because the rating agencies, like the property appraisers and mortgage brokers, were getting paid a premium to lie.

Moody’s Gets “Wells Notice,” SEC May Order Ratings Agency To “Cease And Desist”

Possible blockbuster news buried in Moody’s 10Q and discovered by Zero Hedge:

The SEC has hit Moody’s with a “Wells Notice” pertaining to the company’s application to be recognized as a ratings agency. Wells Notices are usually precursors to full SEC complaints (and most of them result in the agency going forward with charges). The SEC is preparing to file a “cease and desist”.

It’s not clear how broad the threat is here. It might just require Moody’s to re-file its application.  If the action could be a “cease-and-desist from being a ratings agency,” however, Moody’s is potentially screwed.

Here’s the complete language from the 10Q:

On March 18, 2010, MIS received a “Wells Notice” from the Staff of the SEC stating that the Staff is considering recommending that the Commission institute administrative and cease-and-desist proceedings against MIS in connection with MIS’s initial June 2007 application on SEC Form NRSRO to register as a nationally recognized statistical rating organization under the Credit Rating Agency Reform Act of 2006.

That application, which is publicly available on the Regulatory Affairs page of http://www.moodys.com, included a description of MIS’s procedures and principles for determining credit ratings. The Staff has informed Moody’s that the recommendation it is considering is based on the theory that MIS’s description of its procedures and principles were rendered false and misleading as of the time the application was filed with the SEC in light of the Company’s finding that a rating committee policy had been violated. MIS disagrees with the Staff that the violation of a company policy by a company employee renders the policy itself false and misleading and has submitted a response to the Wells Notice explaining why its initial application was accurate and why it believes an enforcement action is unwarranted.

And here’s the finding and commentary from Zero Hedge:

And now for today’s bombshell – literally at the very end of Moody’s 10-Q filed last night, we find this stunner:

On March 18, 2010, MIS received a “Wells Notice” from the Staff of the SEC stating that the Staff is considering recommending that the Commission institute administrative and cease-and-desist proceedings against MIS in connection with MIS’s initial June 2007 application on SEC Form NRSRO to register as a nationally recognized statistical rating organization under the Credit Rating Agency Reform Act of 2006.

Goldman Sachs Messages Show It Thrived as Economy Fell

Editor’s Note: Now the truth as reported here two years ago.
  • There were no losses.
  • They were making money hand over fist.
  • And this article focuses only on a single topic — some of the credit default swaps — those that Goldman had bought in its own name, leaving out all the other swaps bought by Goldman using other banks and entities as cover for their horrendous behavior.
  • It also leaves out all the other swaps bought by all the other investment banking houses.
  • But most of all it leaves out the fact that at no time did the investment banking firms actually own the mortgages that the world thinks caused enormous losses requiring the infamous bailout. It’s a fiction.
  • In nearly all cases they sold the securities “forward” which means they sold the securities first, collected the money second and then went looking for hapless consumers to sign documents that were called “loans.”
  • The securities created the intended chain of securitization wherein first the investors “owned” the loans (before they existed and before the first application was signed) and then the “loans” were “assigned” into the pool.
  • The pool was assigned into a Special Purpose Vehicle that issued “shares” (certificates, bonds, whatever you want to call them) to investors.
  • Those shares conveyed OWNERSHIP of the loan pool. Each share OWNED a percentage of the loans.
  • The so-called “trust” was merely an operating agreement between the investors that was controlled by the investment banking house through an entity called a “trustee.” All of it was a sham.
  • There was no trust, no trustee, no lending except from the investors, and no losses from mortgage defaults, because even with a steep default rate of 16% reported by some organizations, the insurance, swaps, and other guarantees and third party payments more than covered mortgage defaults.
  • The default that was not covered was the default in payment of principal to investors, which they will never see, because they never were actually given the dollar amount of mortgages they thought they were buying.
  • The entire crisis was and remains a computer enhanced hallucination that was used as a vehicle to keep stealing from investors, borrowers, taxpayers and anyone else they thought had money.
  • The “profits” made by NOT using the investor money to fund mortgages are sitting off shore in structured investment vehicles.
  • The actual funds, first sent to Bermuda and the caymans was then cycled around the world. The Ponzi scheme became a giant check- kiting scheme that hid the true nature of what they were doing.
April 24, 2010

Goldman Sachs Messages Show It Thrived as Economy Fell

By LOUISE STORY, SEWELL CHAN and GRETCHEN MORGENSON

In late 2007 as the mortgage crisis gained momentum and many banks were suffering losses, Goldman Sachs executives traded e-mail messages saying that they were making “some serious money” betting against the housing markets.

The e-mails, released Saturday morning by the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, appear to contradict some of Goldman’s previous statements that left the impression that the firm lost money on mortgage-related investments.

In the e-mails, Lloyd C. Blankfein, the bank’s chief executive, acknowledged in November of 2007 that the firm indeed had lost money initially. But it later recovered from those losses by making negative bets, known as short positions, enabling it to profit as housing prices fell and homeowners defaulted on their mortgages. “Of course we didn’t dodge the mortgage mess,” he wrote. “We lost money, then made more than we lost because of shorts.”

In another message, dated July 25, 2007, David A. Viniar, Goldman’s chief financial officer, remarked on figures that showed the company had made a $51 million profit in a single day from bets that the value of mortgage-related securities would drop. “Tells you what might be happening to people who don’t have the big short,” he wrote to Gary D. Cohn, now Goldman’s president.

The messages were released Saturday ahead of a Congressional hearing on Tuesday in which seven current and former Goldman employees, including Mr. Blankfein, are expected to testify. The hearing follows a recent securities fraud complaint that the Securities and Exchange Commission filed against Goldman and one of its employees, Fabrice Tourre, who will also testify on Tuesday.

Actions taken by Wall Street firms during the housing meltdown have become a major factor in the contentious debate over financial reform. The first test of the administration’s overhaul effort will come Monday when the Senate majority leader, Harry Reid, is to call a procedural vote to try to stop a Republican filibuster.

Republicans have contended that the renewed focus on Goldman stems from Democrats’ desire to use anger at Wall Street to push through a financial reform bill.

Carl Levin, Democrat of Michigan and head of the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, said that the e-mail messages contrast with Goldman’s public statements about its trading results. “The 2009 Goldman Sachs annual report stated that the firm ‘did not generate enormous net revenues by betting against residential related products,’ ” Mr. Levin said in a statement Saturday when his office released the documents. “These e-mails show that, in fact, Goldman made a lot of money by betting against the mortgage market.”

A Goldman spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The Goldman messages connect some of the dots at a crucial moment of Goldman history. They show that in 2007, as most other banks hemorrhaged losses from plummeting mortgage holdings, Goldman prospered.

At first, Goldman openly discussed its prescience in calling the housing downfall. In the third quarter of 2007, the investment bank reported publicly that it had made big profits on its negative bet on mortgages.

But by the end of that year, the firm curtailed disclosures about its mortgage trading results. Its chief financial officer told analysts at the end of 2007 that they should not expect Goldman to reveal whether it was long or short on the housing market. By late 2008, Goldman was emphasizing its losses, rather than its profits, pointing regularly to write-downs of $1.7 billion on mortgage assets and leaving out the amount it made on its negative bets.

Goldman and other firms often take positions on both sides of an investment. Some are long, which are bets that the investment will do well, and some are shorts, which are bets the investment will do poorly. If an investor’s positions are balanced — or hedged, in industry parlance — then the combination of the longs and shorts comes out to zero.

Goldman has said that it added shorts to balance its mortgage book, not to make a directional bet that the market would collapse. But the messages released Saturday appear to show that in 2007, at least, Goldman’s short bets were eclipsing the losses on its long positions. In May 2007, for instance, Goldman workers e-mailed one another about losses on a bundle of mortgages issued by Long Beach Mortgage Securities. Though the firm lost money on those, a worker wrote, there was “good news”: “we own 10 mm in protection.” That meant Goldman had enough of a bet against the bond that, over all, it profited by $5 million.

Documents released by the Senate committee appear to indicate that in July 2007, Goldman’s daily accounting showed losses of $322 million on positive mortgage positions, but its negative bet — what Mr. Viniar called “the big short” — came in $51 million higher.

As recently as a week ago, a Goldman spokesman emphasized that the firm had tried only to hedge its mortgage holdings in 2007 and said the firm had not been net short in that market.

The firm said in its annual report this month that it did not know back then where housing was headed, a sentiment expressed by Mr. Blankfein the last time he appeared before Congress.

“We did not know at any minute what would happen next, even though there was a lot of writing,” he told the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission in January.

It is not known how much money in total Goldman made on its negative housing bets. Only a handful of e-mail messages were released Saturday, and they do not reflect the complete record.

The Senate subcommittee began its investigation in November 2008, but its work attracted little attention until a series of hearings in the last month. The first focused on lending practices at Washington Mutual, which collapsed in 2008, the largest bank failure in American history; another scrutinized deficiencies at several regulatory agencies, including the Office of Thrift Supervision and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation.

A third hearing, on Friday, centered on the role that the credit rating agencies — Moody’s, Standard & Poor’s and Fitch — played in the financial crisis. At the end of the hearing, Mr. Levin offered a preview of the Goldman hearing scheduled for Tuesday.

“Our investigation has found that investment banks such as Goldman Sachs were not market makers helping clients,” Mr. Levin said, referring to testimony given by Mr. Blankfein in January. “They were self-interested promoters of risky and complicated financial schemes that were a major part of the 2008 crisis. They bundled toxic and dubious mortgages into complex financial instruments, got the credit-rating agencies to label them as AAA safe securities, sold them to investors, magnifying and spreading risk throughout the financial system, and all too often betting against the financial instruments that they sold, and profiting at the expense of their clients.”

The transaction at the center of the S.E.C.’s case against Goldman also came up at the hearings on Friday, when Mr. Levin discussed it with Eric Kolchinsky, a former managing director at Moody’s. The mortgage-related security was known as Abacus 2007-AC1, and while it was created by Goldman, the S.E.C. contends that the firm misled investors by not disclosing that it had allowed a hedge fund manager, John A. Paulson, to select mortgage bonds for the portfolio that would be most likely to fail. That charge is at the core of the civil suit it filed against Goldman.

Moody’s was hired by Goldman to rate the Abacus security. Mr. Levin asked Mr. Kolchinsky, who for most of 2007 oversaw the ratings of collateralized debt obligations backed by subprime mortgages, if he had known of Mr. Paulson’s involvement in the Abacus deal.

“I did not know, and I suspect — I’m fairly sure that my staff did not know either,” Mr. Kolchinsky said.

Mr. Levin asked whether details of Mr. Paulson’s involvement were “facts that you or your staff would have wanted to know before rating Abacus.” Mr. Kolchinsky replied: “Yes, that’s something that I would have personally wanted to know.”

Mr. Kolchinsky added: “It just changes the whole dynamic of the structure, where the person who’s putting it together, choosing it, wants it to blow up.”

The Senate announced that it would convene a hearing on Goldman Sachs within a week of the S.E.C.’s fraud suit. Some members of Congress questioned whether the two investigations had been coordinated or linked.

Mr. Levin’s staff said there was no connection between the two investigations. They pointed out that the subcommittee requested the appearance of the Goldman executives and employees well before the S.E.C. filed its case.

Ohio Sues Rating Firms for Losses in Funds: Fraud Catching Up with Swindlers

NOW AVAILABLE ON KINDLE/AMAZON
WHY THIS IS IMPORTANT TO FORECLOSURE DEFENSE AND OFFENSE: OK I know the last thing you want to hear is how complex this scheme was. But if you can get over the intimidation factor, you will see how the lawsuits filed by individual homeowners, attorney generals, and class actions are picking apart the whole scheme, coming up with the inconvenient answers that Wall Street is working to avoid and that many government officials are too lazy or paid off or whatever to get involved.
So here we focus on the rating agencies and you might be asking why do I care if I wasn’t an investor who bought those empty bonds that funded my loan? The reason is that others with far greater resources than you are doing your work for you.
The SINGLE transaction, starting with the sale of the bond to the investor and then to the sale of the financial loan product to the homeowner and then ending with the false foreclosures and unconscionable proceeds of credit default swaps could ONLY have been achieved with the active participation from the rating agencies.
By selling their reputation for objectivity to the highest bidder, by misusing their skill in assessing credit risk,  the rating agencies enabled those bonds to be sold under the pretense that they were AAA sound investments. But for that the mortgage meltdown would never have occurred. But for that, you would not be in the upside down position, or delinquency, default or foreclosure in which you find yourself.
But for the free flow of free money there would have been no pressure to get rid of it in order to make Wall Street’s unconscionable profits. And without that pressure, housing prices would have remained relatively stable instead of shooting up to unprecedented (by any measure) unsustainable levels that were not reflective of what the homeowner would get when Wall Street’s scheme was over.
Your home loan was rated by these rating agencies. They looked the other way and changed underwriting standards from common sense to common fraud. The ONLY way the bonds sold to investors could have been rated so high was by rating the underlying mortgages and notes. No REAL analysis would have done anything except raise red flags bringing the rating down to junk. Just starting with the appraisal” on the house which was also a form of rating, no reasonable person could possible look at the history of housing prices and believe that the 30% jump in 4 months was sustainable. Nobody using their own money would fund a deal based on that. It is only because the originating “lenders” (i.e, straw-men, conduits) were not using their own capital that these loans were made.
We were all duped by the appraisers and the rating agencies who sold their integrity to the highest bidder. And in the process of tragedy of astonishing severity is unfolding, getting worse and fooling the American public — until it reaches each and every one of us, which it will.
At some point the homeowners should be suing the rating agencies and appraisers for their part in all this. The counterclaim is both fraud in the inducement and fraud in the execution. Fraud in the execution because you thought you were just taking out a loan when in fact you were purchasing a financial loan product that was a security promising you passive returns whose value was intentionally misrepresented. Fraud in the inducement because had you known the true value of the property you would never have assumed that you could cover the loan terms, which were also illegal and predatory.
The game is on. If you reach the truth before Goldman et al are done, you can stop it, reverse it, and set the country back on the path of confidence in an economy that is based upon something other than $500 trillion in derivative vapor.
November 21, 2009

Ohio Sues Rating Firms for Losses in Funds

Already facing a spate of private lawsuits, the legal troubles of the country’s largest credit rating agencies deepened on Friday when the attorney general of Ohio sued Moody’s Investors Service, Standard & Poor’s and Fitch, claiming that they had cost state retirement and pension funds some $457 million by approving high-risk Wall Street securities that went bust in the financial collapse.

The case could test whether the agencies’ ratings are constitutionally protected as a form of free speech.

The lawsuit asserts that Moody’s, Standard & Poor’s and Fitch were in league with the banks and other issuers, helping to create an assortment of exotic financial instruments that led to a disastrous bubble in the housing market.

“We believe that the credit rating agencies, in exchange for fees, departed from their objective, neutral role as arbiters,” the attorney general, Richard Cordray, said at a news conference. “At minimum, they were aiding and abetting misconduct by issuers.”

He accused the companies of selling their integrity to the highest bidder.

Steven Weiss, a spokesman for McGraw-Hill, which owns S.& P., said that the lawsuit had no merit and that the company would vigorously defend itself.

“A recent Securities and Exchange Commission examination of our business practices found no evidence that decisions about rating methodologies or models were based on attracting market share,” he said.

Michael Adler, a spokesman for Moody’s, also disputed the claims. “It is unfortunate that the state attorney general, rather than engaging in an objective review and constructive dialogue regarding credit ratings, instead appears to be seeking new scapegoats for investment losses incurred during an unprecedented global market disruption,” he said.

A spokesman for Fitch said the company would not comment because it had not seen the lawsuit.

The litigation adds to a growing stack of lawsuits against the three largest credit rating agencies, which together command an 85 percent share of the market. Since the credit crisis began last year, dozens of investors have sought to recover billions of dollars from worthless or nearly worthless bonds on which the rating agencies had conferred their highest grades.

One of those groups is largest pension fund in the country, the California Public Employees Retirement System, which filed a lawsuit in state court in California in July, claiming that “wildly inaccurate ratings” had led to roughly $1 billion in losses.

And more litigation is likely. As part of a broader financial reform, Congress is considering provisions that make it easier for plaintiffs to sue rating agencies. And the Ohio attorney general’s action raises the possibility of similar filings from other states. California’s attorney general, Jerry Brown, said in September that his office was investigating the rating agencies, with an eye toward determining “how these agencies could get it so wrong and whether they violated California law in the process.”

As a group, the attorneys general have proved formidable opponents, most notably in the landmark litigation and multibillion-dollar settlement against tobacco makers in 1998.

To date, however, the rating agencies are undefeated in court, and aside from one modest settlement in a case 10 years ago, no one has forced them to hand over any money. Moody’s, S.& P. and Fitch have successfully argued that their ratings are essentially opinions about the future, and therefore subject to First Amendment protections identical to those of journalists.

But that was before billions of dollars in triple-A rated bonds went bad in the financial crisis that started last year, and before Congress extracted a number of internal e-mail messages from the companies, suggesting that employees were aware they were giving their blessing to bonds that were all but doomed. In one of those messages, an S.& P. analyst said that a deal “could be structured by cows and we’d rate it.”

Recent cases, like the suit filed Friday, are founded on the premise that the companies were aware that investments they said were sturdy were dangerously unsafe. And if analysts knew that they were overstating the quality of the products they rated, and did so because it was a path to profits, the ratings could forfeit First Amendment protections, legal experts say.

“If they hold themselves out to the marketplace as objective when in fact they are influenced by the fees they are receiving, then they are perpetrating a falsehood on the marketplace,” said Rodney A. Smolla, dean of the Washington and Lee University School of Law. “The First Amendment doesn’t extend to the deliberate manipulation of financial markets.”

The 73-page complaint, filed on behalf of Ohio Police and Fire Pension Fund, the Ohio Public Employees Retirement System and other groups, claims that in recent years the rating agencies abandoned their role as impartial referees as they began binging on fees from deals involving mortgage-backed securities.

At the root of the problem, according to the complaint, is the business model of rating agencies, which are paid by the issuers of the securities they are paid to appraise. The lawsuit, and many critics of the companies, have described that arrangement as a glaring conflict of interest.

“Given that the rating agencies did not receive their full fees for a deal unless the deal was completed and the requested rating was provided,” the attorney general’s suit maintains, “they had an acute financial incentive to relax their stated standards of ‘integrity’ and ‘objectivity’ to placate their clients.”

To complicate problems in the system of incentives, the lawsuit states, the methodologies used by the rating agencies were outdated and flawed. By the time those flaws were obvious, nearly half a billion dollars in pension and retirement funds had evaporated in Ohio, revealing the bonds to be “high-risk securities that both issuers and rating agencies knew to be little more than a house of cards,” the complaint states.

%d bloggers like this: