TAMMY BALDWIN INTRODUCES RESOLUTION TO BLOCK BANK AMNESTY

MOST POPULAR ARTICLES

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

EDITOR’S COMMENT: That the resolution was even necessary shows how much pressure the Banks are using to get out of the corner they painted themselves into. The stage is set for the real facts to come out and they will continue to come out in large quantities of information and data that will show that the Banks didn’t just make mistakes — they took the honored traditions of Banking and turned them on their head using the irrelevant past as a means to deceive investors, consumers, homeowners, taxpayers, legislators and law enforcement.

The key fact that I see coming out is going to be relative to the Tier 2 yield spread premium that the Banks booked as trading profits. When investors get the data, they will be able to prove that the Banks skimmed a large chunk of the money intended to be used for funding mortgages. The amount loaned by the investors will not match up with the amount loaned to borrowers. Add that to the long list of intentional acts of fabrication, fraud and deception and those Banks are extremely vulnerable not only to civil attack for damages and injunctive relief but for criminal behavior. Remember that over 800 people went to jail when the savings sand loan crisis was revealed in the 1908’s. So far, in this case there have only been a handful of people.

If the full accounting for all money in and out is completed, there will be no doubt what happened. Whether the investors will recoup the money stolen from them by the Banks is for another day. But one thing is certain — if there was money coming in the Banks kept most of it and didn’t report accurately to either the investor lenders nor the borrowers. It is a certainty in my opinion that the account balances of borrowers on every type of loan will be affected and shown to be misrepresented when the Banks sought to enforce the debt. The balances will be reduced, in some cases below zero and in many cases the undisclosed profits and compensation is due back to both the investors and the borrowers under different laws. The Banks have created a double liability situation for themselves and I have no compassion for their situation.

The Banks are using their formidable resources to create a vehicle for amnesty in which the settlement is small and the liability for criminal or civil wrongs is effectively cancelled. Tammy Baldwin is running for Senate from her Congressional seat. She is running against the Banks and for America. Anybody in Congress who opposes this resolution will be an easy target in this election cycle. Aligning with the Banks now is seen by most as aligning with the forces of evil. Any politician looking to win an election this season had better take note.

Tammy Baldwin To Introduce Resolution Opposing Immunity For Banks In Foreclosure Deal

First Posted: 11/3/11 09:00 AM ET Updated: 11/3/11 09:00 AM ET

Tammy Baldwin

Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.)

WASHINGTON — Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) is set to introduce a resolution in Congress this week calling on the Obama administration and state attorneys general to ensure that any deal reached with the nation’s biggest banks on foreclosure abuses includes full investigations into what happened, awards proper compensation to victims and provides no immunity for potential wrongdoing.

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and the state AGs have been working with the nation’s five largest mortgage firms — Ally Financial, Bank of America, Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase and Wells Fargo — to settle disputes over potentially illegal foreclosure practices, such as the so-called robo-signing of foreclosure documents.

Baldwin’s resolution states that any settlement should follow three guidelines: 1) Banks that engaged in fraudulent behavior “should not be granted criminal or civil immunity for potential wrongdoing related to illegal mortgage and foreclosure practices,” 2) the federal government and state AGs should “proceed with full investigations into claims of fraudulent behavior by mortgage servicers” and 3) any monetary sum paid by the banks should “appropriately compensate for, and accurately reflect, the extent of harm to all victims.”

“We have to do the best we can to make innocent victims whole. But secondly, especially in light of the taxpayer bailout of the biggest banks, we owe taxpayers a solemn effort to do everything we can do to uncover what went wrong and whether laws were broken,” Baldwin said in an interview with The Huffington Post. “Part of that is to make certain this won’t happen again. That, to me, is one of the most basic responsibilities we have.”

According to news reports of a possible settlement between the parties, banks would pay around $2025 billion in return for immunity from state lawsuits.

“While I can’t discuss the details of our negotiations, I will say that we are negotiating a limited — not a broad — civil liability release. We are discussing additional ways to help homeowners while still holding the banks accountable,” said Geoff Greenwood, spokesman for lead negotiator Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller.

Baldwin’s resolution follows a letter she wrote to Holder on Nov. 1, in which she argued that the low sum being discussed in settlement talks would be insufficient to help underwater homeowners. Twenty-four of her colleagues in the House of Representatives joined her on the letter.

“These underwater homeowners owe roughly $750 billion more than their homes are currently worth,” she wrote. “This $750 billion stands in contrast to reports of a $20 billion settlement with mortgage servicers. We are concerned that this $20 billion will provide little help to the estimated 14.6 million struggling homeowners who are underwater. Indeed, many of these families have been victims of outright fraud, and they deserve justice and just compensation.”

Obama administration officials, such as Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, have repeatedly said they would like to see a quick resolution to the mortgage probe.

When asked why there is such a push for a settlement amongst some of the members involved in the probe, Baldwin replied, “What I’ve read is that there’s an interest in resolving this prior to the next set of elections.”

But, she cautioned, such a strategy could backfire. “I do fear that a settlement that is just a tiny drop in the bucket, given all the devastation that’s occurred because of this, would have strong political ramifications,” she said.

The negotiations originally involved AGs from all 50 states, but a handful of them have pulled out due to concerns reflected in Baldwin’s resolution.

New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman (D) has been the leading voice pushing for a narrower deal, expressing concern that the proposed settlement would preclude state AGs from fully investigating and prosecuting banks found to have committed wrongdoing. In late August, he was kicked off of the 50-state task force after he refused to go along with the quick settlement the administration and his fellow state AGs were working out. Since then, several other state AGs have backed Schneiderman’s position.

Congress is not directly involved in the negotiations, but Baldwin said it was important for the administration and the state AGs to hear from the people’s representatives.

“I get a lot of constituents calling my office who are underwater in their mortgages, who are paid up but can’t refinance, can’t get lower interest rates. They’re struggling financially because of the economy,” said Baldwin. “Their calls aren’t even responded to by the big banks. They’ll call [my office] and say, ‘How am I supposed to talk about these federal programs that are out there for refinancing and help for homeowners who are underwater, if my bank won’t even call me back?'”

Baldwin is running for the U.S. Senate seat in Wisconsin being vacated by Sen. Herb Kohl (D) and currently has no Democratic primary challenger. The GOP field is more crowded: former governor Tommy Thompson, Wisconsin state Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald and former congressman Mark Neumann are all running.

BANKS DEFRAUDING TAXPAYERS FACE FATE OF AL CAPONE

MOST POPULAR ARTICLES

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

EDITOR’S NOTE:  Somehow this particular article escaped me when it was published by Huffington Post. Like all the other allegations against the participants in the mortgage securitization hoax, the underlying theme is that the major banks simply lied about the ownership, value and nature of the mortgage assets. In this case the government paid them based upon their naked representation that the mortgage liens had been perfected and properly transferred.

 So far the banks have been successful, for the most part, in convincing the public and the courts that the mortgage liens have been perfected and properly transferred in all cases where claims of “ownership” were based upon securitization of debt. But in every case where professionals have been employed and have taken the time to carefully examine both the money trail and the document trail they have reached the conclusion that the documents and the handling of the money has been at best fatally defective and at worst fraudulent, forged,  and fabricated.

 The victims of this hoax include every taxpayer, consumer, homeowner and business in the entire country. As the lawsuits multiply and as the attorney general of each state comes to realize the political risk of siding with the banks, it will become obvious that we are all affected regardless of whether we are directly involved in the foreclosure process or merely suffering the results of collateral damage.

 The debates regarding the debt ceiling, spending and the tax code are mere distractions from the enforcement of existing tax liability of the participants in the massive securitization hoax. As taxpayers we have given the banks considerable resources to kick the can down the road. But the ultimate result cannot be disputed. Trillions of dollars are owed to the federal government, state governments and local governments on transactions that were either not reported at all or were reported with the intent to deceive those governments and deprive them of revenue.

The missing revenue together with the fraudulent receipt of payments from taxpayers for nonexistent or fraudulently represented mortgages and mortgage assets constitute all of the “deficit” that has been reported for all the governmental  entities that supposedly are in distress, bankrupt were subject to downgrade in their credit ratings.

 Simply stated, the deficit money is sitting on Wall Street or offshore under the control of those who control the Wall Street entities that perpetrated the grand securitization hoax. The same is true for individual consumers and homeowners. The scope of the securitization hoax included but was not limited to home loans, credit cards, student loans, auto loans and virtually every other kind of debt imaginable. Lately we have been receiving reports that the securitization hoax is expanding its scope to include life insurance. By inducing those who would otherwise not purchased life insurance (perhaps because they could not afford it) or who would purchase a contract from a life insurance carrier that was not involved in securitization, Wall Street is creating a vehicle which for the first time institutionalizes the motivation to deprive people of their lives.

 There are many permutations of the securitization hoax. The bottom line is that the vendor of the financial products sold to the consumer is not taking any risk, but is being paid, like an actor. In this way Wall Street is essentially the primary actor in the sale of financial products, like all mortgages or insurance, without being regulated or licensed by the appropriate federal or state agency.

The actors (pretender lenders) are either lending their licenses contrary to law or pretending to be licensed and getting away with it because of the apparent complexity of securitization. There is no need for complex analysis. Either they are a lender or they are not. Either they are a mortgage broker or they are not. Either they are an insurance broker or they are not. And if they acted as a lender when in fact their function was as a mortgage broker they have violated the law. And if they acted as a mortgage originator when in fact their function was a mortgage broker, they have violated the law. The administrative agencies regulating the various professions involved in real estate transactions have lots of work to do, lots of discipline to mete out, lots of fines to collect and lots of restitution to order.

 There are hundreds of millions of transactions in which worthless paper was involved which contained claims to obligations, notes and mortgages (which are interest in real property). The fact that these were fraudulent transactions does not take away from the fact that a profit was made, that documents should have been recorded, and that taxes and fees were due. The only question left is whether there are enough people left in government who are willing to use the tools available to them to correct the mess created by the securitization hoax.

Al Capone, the famed mobster, got away with almost everything including murder — until  he was taken down for tax fraud. It doesn’t matter how his reign of terror was ended. What matters is that it did end. And if government had followed through there would not have been anything to replace him. That is the challenge facing today’s government. And more importantly, it is the challenge to our Republic, where inch by inch, personal liberties have been taken away that are still guaranteed by our most basic law — the American Constitution.

___________________________________________________________________

The audits conclude that the banks effectively cheated taxpayers by presenting the Federal Housing Administration with false claims: They filed for federal reimbursement on foreclosed homes that sold for less than the outstanding loan balance using defective and faulty documents.”

Those violations are likely only a small fraction of the number committed by home loan companies, experts say, citing the small sample examined by regulators.”

Shahien Nasiripour

Shahien Nasiripour shahien@huffingtonpost.com

Confidential Federal Audits Accuse Five Biggest Mortgage Firms Of Defrauding Taxpayers [EXCLUSIVE]

Foreclosure Fraud

WASHINGTON — A set of confidential federal audits accuse the nation’s five largest mortgage companies of defrauding taxpayers in their handling of foreclosures on homes purchased with government-backed loans, four officials briefed on the findings told The Huffington Post.

The five separate investigations were conducted by the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s inspector general and examined Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo, Citigroup and Ally Financial, the sources said.

The audits accuse the five major lenders of violating the False Claims Act, a Civil War-era law crafted as a weapon against firms that swindle the government. The audits were completed between February and March, the sources said. The internal watchdog office at HUD referred its findings to the Department of Justice, which must now decide whether to file charges.

The federal audits mark the latest fallout from the national foreclosure crisis that followed the end of a long-running housing bubble. Amid reports last year that many large lenders improperly accelerated foreclosure proceedings by failing to amass required paperwork, the federal agencies launched their own probes.

The resulting reports read like veritable indictments of major lenders, the sources said. State officials are now wielding the documents as leverage in their ongoing talks with mortgage companies aimed at forcing the firms to agree to pay fines to resolve allegations of routine violations in their handling of foreclosures.

The audits conclude that the banks effectively cheated taxpayers by presenting the Federal Housing Administration with false claims: They filed for federal reimbursement on foreclosed homes that sold for less than the outstanding loan balance using defective and faulty documents.

Two of the firms, including Bank of America, refused to cooperate with the investigations, according to the sources. The audit on Bank of America finds that the company — the nation’s largest handler of home loans — failed to correct faulty foreclosure practices even after imposing a moratorium that lifted last October. Back then, the bank said it was resuming foreclosures, having satisfied itself that prior problems had been solved.

According to the sources, the Wells Fargo investigation concludes that senior managers at the firm, the fourth-largest American bank by assets, broke civil laws. HUD’s inspector general interviewed a pair of South Carolina public notaries who improperly signed off on foreclosure filings for Wells, the sources said.

The investigations dovetail with separate probes by state and federal agencies, who also have examined foreclosure filings and flawed mortgage practices amid widespread reports that major mortgage firms improperly initiated foreclosure proceedings on an unknown number of American homeowners.

The FHA, whose defaulted loans the inspector general probed, last May began scrutinizing whether mortgage firms properly treated troubled borrowers who fell behind on payments or whose homes were seized on loans insured by the agency.

A unit of the Justice Department is examining faulty court filings in bankruptcy proceedings. Several states, including Illinois, are combing through foreclosure filings to gauge the extent of so-called “robo-signing” and other defective practices, including illegal home repossessions.

Representatives of HUD and its inspector general declined to comment.

The internal audits have armed state officials with a powerful new weapon as they seek to extract what they describe as punitive fines from lawbreaking mortgage companies.

A coalition of attorneys general from all 50 states and state bank supervisors have joined HUD, the Treasury Department, the Justice Department and the Federal Trade Commission in talks with the five largest mortgage servicers to settle allegations of illegal foreclosures and other shoddy practices.

Such processes “have potentially infected millions of foreclosures,” Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation Chairman Sheila Bair told a Senate panel on Thursday.

The five giant mortgage servicers, which collectively handle about three of every five home loans, offered during a contentious round of negotiations last Tuesday to pay $5 billion to set up a fund to help distressed borrowers and settle the allegations.

That offer — also floated by the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency in February — was deemed much too low by state and federal officials. Associate U.S. Attorney General Tom Perrelli, who has been leading the talks, last week threatened to show the banks the confidential audits so the firms knew the government side was not “playing around,” one official involved in the negotiations said. He ultimately did not follow through, persuaded that the reports ought to remain confidential, sources said. Through a spokeswoman, Perrelli declined to comment.

Most of the targeted banks have not seen the audits, a federal official said, though they are generally aware of the findings.

Some agencies involved in the talks are calling for the five banks to shell out as much as $30 billion, with even more costs to be incurred for improving their internal operations and modifying troubled borrowers’ home loans.

But even that number would fall short of legitimate compensation for the bank’s harmful practices, reckons the nascent federal Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection. By taking shortcuts in processing troubled borrowers’ home loans, the nation’s five largest mortgage firms have directly saved themselves more than $20 billion since the housing crisis began in 2007, according to a confidential presentation prepared for state attorneys general by the agency and obtained by The Huffington Post in March. Those pushing for a larger package of fines argue that the foreclosure crisis has spawned broader — and more costly — social ills, from the dislocation of American families to the continued plunge in home prices, effectively wiping out household savings.

The Justice Department is now contemplating whether to use the HUD audits as a basis for civil and criminal enforcement actions, the sources said. The False Claims Act allows the government to recover damages worth three times the actual harm plus additional penalties.

Justice officials will soon meet with the largest servicers and walk them through the allegations and potential liability each of them face, the sources said.

Earlier this month, Justice cited findings from HUD investigations in a lawsuit it filed against Deutsche Bank AG, one of the world’s 10 biggest banks by assets, for at least $1 billion for defrauding taxpayers by “repeatedly” lying to FHA in securing taxpayer-backed insurance for thousands of shoddy mortgages.

In March, HUD’s inspector general found that more than 49 percent of loans underwritten by FHA-approved lenders in a sample did not conform to the agency’s requirements.

Last October, HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan said his investigators found that numerous mortgage firms broke the agency’s rules when dealing with delinquent borrowers. He declined to be specific.

The agency’s review later expanded to flawed foreclosure practices. FHA, a unit of HUD, could still take administrative action against those firms for breaking FHA rules based on its own probe.

The confidential findings appear to bolster state and federal officials in their talks with the targeted banks. The knowledge that they may face False Claims Act suits, in addition to state actions based on a multitude of claims like fraud on local courts and consumer violations, will likely compel the banks to offer the government more money to resolve everything.

But even that may not be enough.

Attorneys general in numerous states, armed with what they portray as incontrovertible evidence of mass robo-signings from preliminary investigations, are probing mortgage practices more closely.

The state of Illinois has begun examining potentially-fraudulent court filings, looking at the role played by a unit of Lender Processing Services. Nevada and Arizona already launched lawsuits against Bank of America. California is keen on launching its own suits, people familiar with the matter say. Delaware sent Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems Inc., which runs an electronic registry of mortgages, a subpoena demanding answers to 75 questions. And New York’s top law enforcer, Eric Schneiderman, wants to conduct a complete investigation into all facets of mortgage banking, from fraudulent lending to defective securitization practices to faulty foreclosure documents and illegal home seizures.

A review of about 2,800 loans that experienced foreclosure last year serviced by the nation’s 14 largest mortgage firms found that at least two of them illegally foreclosed on the homes of “almost 50” active-duty military service members, a violation of federal law, according to a report this month from the Government Accountability Office.

Those violations are likely only a small fraction of the number committed by home loan companies, experts say, citing the small sample examined by regulators.

In an April report on flawed mortgage servicing practices, federal bank supervisors said they “could not provide a reliable estimate of the number of foreclosures that should not have proceeded.”

The review of just 2,800 home loans in foreclosure compares with nearly 2.9 million homes that received a foreclosure filing last year, according to RealtyTrac, a California-based data provider.

“The extent of the loss cannot be determined until there is a comprehensive review of the loan files and documentation of the process dealing with problem loans,” Bair said last week, warning of damages that could take “years to materialize.”

Home prices have fallen over the past year, reversing gains made early in the economic recovery, according to data providers Zillow.com and CoreLogic. Sales of new homes remain depressed, according to the Commerce Department. More than a quarter of homeowners with a mortgage owe more on that debt than their home is worth, according to Zillow.com. And more than 2 million homes are in foreclosure, according to Lender Processing Services.

Rather than punishing banks for misdeeds, the administration is now focused on helping troubled borrowers in the hope that it will stanch the flood of foreclosures and increase consumer confidence, officials involved in the negotiations said.

Levying penalties can’t accomplish that goal, an official involved in the foreclosure probe talks argued last week.

For their part, however, state officials want to levy fines, according to a confidential term sheet reviewed last week by HuffPost. Each state would then use the money as it desires, be it for facilitating short sales, reducing mortgage principal, or using the funds to help defaulted borrowers move from their homes into rentals.

In a report last week, analysts at Moody’s Investors Service predicted that while the losses incurred by the banks will be “sizable,” the credit rating agency does “not expect them to meaningfully impact capital.”

*************************Shahien Nasiripour is a senior business reporter for The Huffington Post. You can send him an e-mail; bookmark his page; subscribe to his RSS feed; follow him on Twitter; friend him on Facebook; become a fan; and/or get e-mail alerts when he reports the latest news. He can be reached at 917-267-2335.

BAIR: INDUSTRY COULD BE REELING FOR YEARS TO COME

MOST POPULAR ARTICLES

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

EDITOR’S NOTE: They report this like $20 billion is a big number. The Banks caused tens of trillions of dollars in damages, stole $13 trillion from investors, stole some $5 trillion worth of property from homeowners who legally still probably own the property but don’t know it, and they are making a big deal out of $20 billion. That number is a rounding error on the real numbers.

 

Foreclosure Fraud Price Tag: $20 Billion

Foreclosure Crisis

First Posted: 06/ 6/11 09:52 PM ET Updated: 06/ 6/11 09:52 PM ET

React

WASHINGTON — The nation’s largest mortgage companies are operating on the assumption that they will have to pay as much as $20 billion to resolve claims of widespread foreclosure abuse, an amount four times what they had originally proposed, the top federal official overseeing the discussions told state officials Monday, according to people who participated in the conversation.

Associate U.S. Attorney General Tom Perrelli told a bipartisan group of state attorneys general during a conference call that he believes the banks have accepted the realization that a wide-ranging settlement to the months-long probes will cost them much more than the $5 billion offer they floated last month, according to officials with direct knowledge of the call. Perrelli said he’s basing his belief on his recent conversations with representatives of the five targeted firms: Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo, Citigroup and Ally Financial.

Three unresolved issues remain, these people said. State and federal officials have not agreed on the scope of banks’ release from liability that would accompany such a deal; negotiators continue to hammer out how much of the money pot will be split between restructuring borrowers’ mortgages and bank fines, and officials are not yet near an agreement on how the coalition of state and federal government agencies will monitor and enforce bank behavior in the wake of a settlement agreement.

The settlement talks are the result of state and federal investigations launched last autumn after widespread reports that the five largest mortgage handlers illegally seized the homes of an unknown number of homeowners and improperly accelerated foreclosure proceedings by failing to amass required paperwork, in some cases allegedly lying about it to local judges. Over the past couple months, government officials have been in discussions with the banks to resolve claims of past abuses and set new standards to govern bank dealings with distressed homeowners.

The banks seek a quick resolution, according to sources who have participated in settlement talks, as falling home prices, a continuing high rate of delinquent borrowers, stagnant home sales, rising unemployment and slower economic growth batters bank stocks. Shares of Bank of America, the largest mortgage servicer, hit a two-year low Monday. Citigroup fell more than four percent. The 24-company KBW Bank Index has fallen nearly 11 percent over the past three months.

Top officials in the Obama administration, like Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, have said they want a quick settlement, too. Bank regulator Sheila Bair, the chairman of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, told a Senate panel last month that a settlement must be reached due to “significant” damages the banks face from “flawed mortgage banking processes [that] have potentially infected millions of foreclosures.”

The industry could be reeling for years, Bair warned.

WHY? BECAUSE THEY WANT A FREE HOUSE — THE BANKS, THAT IS — NOT THE BORROWERS

SEE LIVINGLIES LITIGATION SUPPORT AT LUMINAQ.COM

EDITOR’S RANT: They turned the financial world upside down, taking our society with it. So it should come as no surprise that they would accuse homeowners of trying to get what the banks have been doing now for over three years — GETTING A FREE HOUSE. They never funded the loan and they never purchased the receivable. Yet somehow the government ignores the basic reality and offered window dressing to homeowners in the form of false modifications with servicers and other securitizers who only had the incentive to steal the house. Modifying the loan removes the only incentive they have to stay in the game.

Just because the real lenders won’t step in and make claims or settle with the homeowners who received some of the money that was advanced by the buyers of bogus mortgage bonds, doesn’t mean that that LEGALLY a disinterested third party can come in and say “OK, then I’ll take it.”


Big Banks Save Billions As Homeowners Suffer, Internal Federal Report By CFPB Finds

Elizabeth Warren

First Posted: 03/28/11 07:41 PM ET Updated: 03/28/11 07:58 PM ET

GET UPDATES FROM Shahien

NEW YORK — The nation’s five largest mortgage firms have saved more than $20 billion since the housing crisis began in 2007 by taking shortcuts in processing troubled borrowers’ home loans, according to a confidential presentation prepared for state attorneys general by the nascent consumer bureau inside the Treasury Department.

That estimate suggests large banks have reaped tremendous benefits from under-serving distressed homeowners, a complaint frequent enough among borrowers that federal regulators have begun to acknowledge the industry’s fundamental shortcomings.

The dollar figure also provides a basis for regulators’ internal discussions regarding how best to penalize Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo, Citigroup and Ally Financial in a settlement of wide-ranging allegations of wrongful and occasionally illegal foreclosures. People involved in the talks say some regulators want to levy a $5 billion penalty on the five firms, while others seek as much as $30 billion, with most of the money going toward reducing troubled homeowners’ mortgage payments and lowering loan balances for underwater borrowers, those who owe more on their home than it’s worth.

Even the highest of those figures, however, pales in comparison to the likely cost of reducing mortgage principal for the three million homeowners some federal agencies hope to reach. Lowering loan balances for that many underwater borrowers who owe less than $1.15 for every dollar their home is worth would cost as much as $135 billion, according to the internal presentation, dated Feb. 14, obtained by The Huffington Post.

But perhaps most important to some lawmakers in Washington, the mere existence of the report suggests a much deeper link between the Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection, led by Harvard professor Elizabeth Warren, and the 50 state attorneys general who are leading the nationwide probe into the five firms’ improper foreclosure practices, a development sure to anger Republicans in Congress and a banking industry intent on diminishing the fledgling CFPB’s legitimacy by questioning its authority to act before it’s officially launched in July.

Earlier this month, Warren told the House Financial Services Committee, under intense questioning, that her agency has provided limited assistance to the various state and federal agencies involved in the industry probes. At one point, she was asked whether she made any recommendations regarding proposed penalties. She replied that her agency has only provided “advice.”

A representative of the consumer agency declined to comment on the presentation, citing the law enforcement nature of the federal investigation into the mortgage industry’s leading firms.

The seven-page presentation begins by stating that a deal to settle claims of improper foreclosures “provides the potential for broad reform.”

In it, the consumer agency outlines possibilities offered by the settlement — a minimum number of mortgage modifications, a boost to the housing market — and how it could reform the industry going forward so that investors in home loans and the borrowers who owe them would be able to resolve situations in which borrowers fall behind on their payments without the complications of a large mortgage company acting in its own interest.

The presentation also details how much certain firms likely saved in lieu of making the necessary loan-processing adjustments as delinquencies and foreclosures rose. Bank of America, for example, has saved more than $6 billion since 2007 by not upgrading its procedures or hiring more workers, according to the report. Wells Fargo saved about as much, with JPMorgan close behind. Citigroup and Ally bring the total saved to nearly $25 billion.

The presentation adds that the under-investment far exceeds the proposed $5 billion penalty that has been on the table. People familiar with the matter say the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency wants to fine the industry less than $5 billion.

The alleged shortchanging of homeowners has prolonged the housing market’s woes, experts say, because distressed homeowners who are prime candidates to have their payments reduced aren’t getting loan modifications and lenders are taking up to two years to seize borrowers’ homes.

The average borrower in foreclosure has been delinquent for 537 days before actually being evicted, up from 319 days in January 2009, according to Lender Processing Services, a data provider.

The prolonged housing pain has manifested itself in various ways.

Purchases of new U.S. homes dropped last month to the slowest pace on record, according to the Commerce Department. Prices declined to the lowest level since 2003, according to the National Association of Realtors. About 6.9 million homeowners were either delinquent or in foreclosure proceedings through February, according to LPS.

A penalty of about $25 billion — based on mortgage servicing costs avoided — would have “little effect” on the five firms’ capital levels, according to the presentation, since the five banks collectively hold about $500 billion in tangible common equity, the highest form of capital. Those numbers notwithstanding, banks and Republicans in Congress have complained that such a large penalty would have a disproportionate impact on bank balance sheets, hurting their ability to lend or pay dividends to investors.

The presentation adds that given the extent of negative equity — underwater homeowners owe $751 billion more than their homes are worth, according to data provider CoreLogic — “we have gravitated towards settlement solutions that enable asset liquidity and cast a wide net.” The solution is an emphasis on reducing mortgage debt and enabling short sales, thus allowing borrowers to refinance into more affordable loans or to sell their homes and move on.

Top Federal Reserve officials and other economists have pointed to the large numbers of underwater homeowners as being one of the reasons behind high unemployment, as underwater homeowners are unable to move to where the jobs are. More than 23 percent of homeowners with a mortgage are underwater, according to CoreLogic.

The proposed settlement, as envisioned by the consumer agency, could reduce loan balances for up to three million homeowners. If mortgage firms targeted their efforts at reducing mortgage debt for three million homeowners who owe as much as their homes are worth or have less than 5 percent equity, the total cost would be $41.8 billion, according to estimates cited in the presentation.

If firms lowered total mortgage debt for three million homeowners who are underwater by as much as 15 percent and brought them to 5 percent equity, that would cost more than $135 billion, according to the presentation. That would include reducing second mortgages and home equity lines of credit.

In its presentation, the consumer agency said the new program, titled “Principal Reduction Mandate,” could be “meaningfully additive to HAMP” — the Home Affordable Modification Program, the Obama administration’s primary mortgage modification effort.

The CFPB estimates that there are about 12 million U.S. homeowners underwater, most of whom are not delinquent, according to its presentation. Of those, nine million would be eligible for this new principal-reduction scheme born from the foreclosure deal. The new initiative would then “mandate” three million permanent modifications.

News of the level of the consumer agency’s involvement in the state investigation would likely be welcomed by consumer and homeowner advocates, who have long complained of the lack of attention paid to distressed borrowers by federal bank regulators like the OCC and the Federal Reserve.

But Republicans will pounce on the news, creating yet another distraction for a fledgling bureau that was the centerpiece of the Obama administration’s efforts to reform the financial industry in the wake of the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.

Meanwhile, the banking industry will likely celebrate government infighting as attention is diverted away from allegations of bank wrongdoing and towards the level of involvement of Elizabeth Warren, a fierce consumer advocate and the principal original proponent of an agency solely dedicated to protecting borrowers from abusive lenders.

Warren is standing up the agency on an interim basis. It formally launches in July, at which point it will need a Senate-confirmed director in order to carry out its full authority. One of those areas will be how mortgage firms process home loans for distressed borrowers.

A spokeswoman for JPMorgan Chase declined to comment. Spokespeople for the other four banks were not immediately available for comment.

%d bloggers like this: