Yves Smith Nails Obama on Failed Housing Policies

Editor’s Note: Yves wrote the piece I was going to write this morning. See link below. The salient points to me are mentioned below with comments. The principal point I would make is that Obama has been listening to people who are listening to Wall Street. The Wall Street spin is that this is just another housing bust. It isn’t. It is massive Ponzi scheme that was well-planned and executed with precision, sucking the life out of our economy. Normally Ponzi schemes (see Drier or Madoff) don’t get big enough to have that effect.

The bottom line is that the banks took money from investors under false pretenses and diverted the proceeds into their own pockets.

In order to cover that up they created false documents with false lenders and false secured parties, false creditors and false beneficiaries. They borrowed money from the lenders, then borrowed the identity of the lenders to declare it was the banks who were losing money from mortgage “defaults”, to receive proceeds of payouts from subservicers, payouts from insurance, payouts from credit default swaps and payouts from federal bailouts.

The plain fact is that under normal black letter law, the notes and mortgages were faked at origination based upon the false premise that the actual lender was named or protected. That was a lie. The loans are not secured and the investors have a mess on their hands figuring out who has what claim to what loan so they are suing the investment banks instead of going after the homeowners and striking deals that would undermine the hundreds of trillions of dollars in bets out there that is masquerading as shadow banking.

Instead the investors and the homeowners — the only true parties in interest — got screwed and the administration has yet to correct that basic injustice.

  1.  The proposals for the housing fix were predicated upon the fraud and other illegals activities of the parties in a mythological “securitization” scheme. They were not “unpopular” as Klein observes in the news. They were rejected because wall Street obviously rejected any plan that would take away their ill-gotten gains.
  2. Combat servicing operations using five times the staff of ordinary servicers are doing the work just fine. It was the lack of oversight and regulation that allowed the obfuscation of the truth by the servicers created for the sole purpose of covering up the fraud. These servicers never report the status of the loan receivable to anyone and they probably don’t have access to the loan receivable accounts. In fact, it is quite probable that no loan receivable account actually exists on the books of any creditor who loaned money through the vehicle of bogus mortgage bonds.
  3. Servicers were set up to foreclose, not service and not to assist in modification or settlement. Wall Street needed the foreclosure to be able to say to the investor, OK now the loan and the loss is yours, since we have drained all value out of it. Sorry.
  4. The administration had a ready tool available: enforcing the REMIC statute. They chose not to do this despite the obvious facts in the public domain that the banks were routinely ignoring both the law and the documents inducing investors to invest in non-existent bonds based upon non-existent loans.
  5. The CFPC had not trouble issuing a regulation that defined all parties as subject to regulation. Why did it take the formation of a new agency to do that? Treasury officials from the administration who argued that they had no authority over servicers were wrong and if they had done any due diligence, it would have been obvious that the banks were blowing smoke up their behinds.
  6. There are hundreds of billions of dollars, perhaps trillions of dollars in lost tax revenue that the ITS is not pursuing because the the policy of coddling the scam artists who manufactured this crisis. The deficit exists in large part because the administration has not pursued all available revenue, the bulk of which would have made a huge difference in the dynamics of the American economy and the election.
  7. Refusing the help the  victims by characterizing some of them as undeserving borrowers is like saying that a bank robber should be granted leniency because the bank he robbed was run poorly.
  8. The real issue is the solvency of the large banks which most economists and even bankers agree are in fact too big to manage, far too big to regulate. The administration is taking the view that even if the assets on the balance sheets of the big banks are fake, we can’t let them fail because they would bring the entire system down. That is Wall Street spin. Iceland and other places around the world have proven that is simply not true. The other 7,000 banks in this country would easily be able to pick up the pieces.

Yves Smith on Obama Failed Housing Policies

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Editor’s Comment: 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Before

The Congressional Progressive Caucus U.S. House of Representatives

Hearing On

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

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

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

Specifically, I will discuss the following:

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

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

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

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

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

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


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