Quicken Loans Cut to the Quick for $3.5 million on $180k Loan

“[Customers and employees] accuse the company of using high-pressure salesmanship to target elderly and vulnerable homeowners, as well as misleading borrowers about their loans, and falsifying property appraisals and other information to push through bad deals….

A group of ex-employees, meanwhile, have gone to federal court to accuse Quicken of abusing workers and customers alike. In court papers, former salespeople claim Quicken executives managed by bullying and intimidation, pressuring them to falsify borrowers’ incomes on loan applications and to push overpriced deals on desperate or unwary homeowners.”

Internet Store Notice: As requested by customer service, this is to explain the use of the COMBO, Consultation and Expert Declaration. The only reason they are separate is that too many people only wanted or could only afford one or the other — all three should be purchased. The Combo is a road map for the attorney to set up his file and start drafting the appropriate pleadings. It reveals defects in the title chain and inferentially in the money chain and provides the facts relative to making specific allegations concerning securitization issues. The consultation looks at your specific case and gives the benefit of litigation support consultation and advice that I can give to lawyers but I cannot give to pro se litigants. The expert declaration is my explanation to the Court of the findings of the forensic analysis. It is rare that I am actually called as a witness apparently because the cases are settled before a hearing at which evidence is taken.
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See LivingLies Store: Reports and Analysis

Editor’s Comment and Analysis: Quicken is one of those company’s that looks like a lender but isn’t. They say they are the bank when they are not. And they have been as predatory or more so than anyone else in the marketplace, despite the PR campaign of Dan Gilbert, formerly of Merrill Lynch Bond Trading department, who now heads up the company after selling it and then buying it back. They also have an “appraisal” company that is called Cornerstone Appraisals, that shares in the appraisal fees a fact missed by every one of the lawsuits I have seen.

The Quicken two step generally involved the company as an aggressive originator and nowhere is their aggressiveness more apparent than in the lawsuit than in the lawsuit described below. The one fact that everyone still has wrong however is that there is an assumption that Quicken loaned the money to the borrower. In fact, Quicken was neither the underwriter nor the lender and never had a risk of loss on any of the loans it originated. It used the Countrywide IT platform to underwrite the loans, inflated appraisals to increase its fees, and lured borrowers into deals that were impossible — like the lawsuit described below where a piece of property was worth about 1/6th of the original appraisal amount. AND when even the borrower thought the appraisal was ridiculous and refused to sign the loan, they reduced the appraisal and loan so it was still more than 4x the value of the property.

After that the closing funds came from an investment bank, not Quicken Loans or even Countrywide. The investor money was applied to the closing but the investors received nothing of what they were promised. They didn’t get a note or a mortgage. THAT paperwork went to naked nominees of the investment bank so they could steal, trade and create the largest inflation of pseudo-dollars in the shadow banking world that we have ever known — ten times the actual money supply.

Quicken Loans arrogantly rolled the dice and ended up with punitive damages in the millions and a large fee award top the the law firm of Bordas and Bordas in Wheeling Ohio. The Bordas firm proved many points worth mentioning.

  1. Appraisal fraud was at the heart of the mortgage meltdown. If industry standards were applied as stated in the petition of more than 8,000 licensed appraisers in 2005, these deals would never have happened and none of the foreclosures would have happened. And let’s remember that the appraisal is a representation of the LENDER not the borrower.
  2. Cases taken on contingency fee represent a huge share of commerce in the legal profession. My opinion is that liability and damages are starting to form a pattern and that cases against lenders for wrongful foreclosure, slander of title, fraud, RICO and other causes of action will start settling like PI cases currently do, which is why so many lawyers go into personal injury law.
  3. Judicial recognition of the overbearing and egregiously fraudulent behavior of the banks against unwary or unsophisticated homeowners is at the brink of total acceptance.
  4. As courts begin to zoom in on these closings they don’t like what they see. None of it makes sense because none of it is legal.
  5. Courts don’t like to be played as the fool or tool of a gangster perpetrating a large scale fraud. They get testy when pushed, and that is exactly what happened in Ohio.
  6. Most importantly, plain old good lawyering will win the day if you are prepared, understand the material and practice your presentation. Jason Causey, Jim Bordas, and their legal team deserve many kudos for taking on a company whose PR image was squeaky clean and then showing the dirt underneath — just as the Trusts were gilded with a few good looking loans and the rest, underneath, were toxic waste.

“Quicken ordered an appraisal of the home that Jefferson was interested in refinancing and the appraisal request included an estimated value of the subject property of $262,500. The trial court would later conclude the value of the property was $46,000.

“Appraiser Dewey Guida of Appraisals Unlimited, Inc. valued the property at $181,700 and after Jefferson backed out of the process for a few weeks because of her concern that she would be unable to afford the payments, Johnson was able to close her on a $144,800 loan.

“Although Jefferson had initially received a written Good Faith Estimate for a loan in the amount of $112.850 with a 2.5 “loan discount points” and no balloon feature, this much larger loan actually charged her for 4.0 points, while only giving her 2.5, and had a balloon payment after 30 years of $107,015.71, the amount of which was not disclosed, according to court documents.”

 

  1. Quicken Loans ordered to pay $3.5M in mortgage case, appeals

    wvrecord.com › Ohio County

    Aug 7, 2013 – WHEELING – A judgment in a fraud lawsuit against Quicken Loans has only gotten bigger since an appeal to the state Supreme Court, so the 

  2. Mortgage Mess: Why Quicken Loans May Not Be as Squeaky Clean

    www.cbsnews.com/…/mortgage-mess-why-quickenloans-may-not-be-as…

    Feb 8, 2011 – Quicken Loans‘ lending practices may not be as exemplary as the company contends. A federal lawsuit starting in Detroit today and other legal 

  3. Ripoff Report | quicken loans directory of Complaints & Reviews

    www.ripoffreport.com/directory/quickenloans.aspx

    Ripoff Report | Complaints Reviews Scams Lawsuits Frauds Reported. Company Directory | quickenloans. Approximately 342 Reports Found Showing 1-25.

The Truth Keeps Coming: When Will Courts Become Believers?

If you are seeking legal representation or other services call our Florida customer service number at 954-495-9867 (East Coast) and for the West coast the number remains 520-405-1688. Customer service for the livinglies store with workbooks, services and analysis remains the same at 520-405-1688. The people who answer the phone are NOT attorneys and NOT permitted to provide any legal advice, but they can guide you toward some of our products and services.
The selection of an attorney is an important decision  and should only be made after you have interviewed licensed attorneys familiar with investment banking, securities, property law, consumer law, mortgages, foreclosures, and collection procedures. This site is dedicated to providing those services directly or indirectly through attorneys seeking guidance or assistance in representing consumers and homeowners. We are available to any lawyer seeking assistance anywhere in the country, U.S. possessions and territories. Neil Garfield is a licensed member of the Florida Bar and is qualified to appear as an expert witness or litigator in in several states including the district of Columbia. The information on this blog is general information and should NEVER be considered to be advice on one specific case. Consultation with a licensed attorney is required in this highly complex field.

Editor’s Comments and Practice Suggestions: On the heels of AG Eric Holder’s shocking admission that he withheld prosecution of the banks and their executives because of the perceived risk to the economy, we have confirmation and new data showing the incredible arrogance of the investment banks in breaking the law, deceiving clients and everyone around them, and covering it up with fabricated, forged paperwork. And they continue to do so because they perceive themselves as untouchable.

Practitioners should be wary of leading with defenses fueled by deceptions in the paperwork and instead rely first on the money trail. Once the money trail is established, each part of it can be described as part of a single transaction between the investors and the homeowners in which all other parties are intermediaries. Then and only then do you go to the documentation proffered by the opposition and show the obvious discrepancies between the named parties on the documents of record and the actual parties to the transaction, between the express repayment provisions of the promissory note and the express repayment provisions of the bond sold to investors.

Practitioners should make sure they are up to speed on the latest news in the public domain and the latest developments in lawsuits between the investment banks, investors and guarantors like the FHA who have rejected loans as not conforming to the requirements of the securitization documents and are demanding payment from Chase and others for lying about the loans in order to receive 100 cents on the dollar while the actual loss was incurred by the investors and the government sponsored guarantors.

Another case of the banks getting the money to cover losses they never had because at all times they were mostly dealing with third party money in funding or purchasing mortgages. It was never their own money at risk.

Three “deals” are now under close scrutiny by the government and by knowledgeable foreclosure defense lawyers. For years, Chase, OneWest and BofA have taken the position that they somehow became the owner of mortgage loans because they acquired a combo of WAMU and Bear Stearns (Chase), IndyMac (OneWest), and a combo of Countrywide and Merrill Lynch (BofA).

None of it was ever true. The deals are wrapped in secrecy and even sealed documents but the truth is coming out anyway and is plain to see on some records in the public domain as can be easily seen on the FDIC site under the Freedom of Information Act “library.”

The naked truth is that the “acquiring” firms have very complex deals on those mortgage loans that the acquiring firm chooses to assert ownership or authority. It is  a pick and choose type of scenario which is neither backed up by documentation nor consideration.

We have previously reported that the actual person who served as FDIC receiver in the WAMU case reported to me that there was no assignment of loans from WAMU, from the WAMU bankruptcy estate, or the FDIC. “if you are looking for an assignment of those loans, you are not going to find it because there was no assignment.” The same person had “accidentally” signed an affidavit that Chase used widely across the country stating that Chase was the owner of the loans by operation of law, which is the position that Chase took in litigation over wrongful foreclosures. Chase and the receiver now take the position that their prior position was unsupportable. So what happens to all those foreclosures where the assertions of Chase were presumed true?

Now Chase wants to disavow their assumption of all liabilities regarding WAMU and Bear Stearns because it sees what I see — huge liabilities emerging from those “portfolios” of foreclosed properties that were foreclosed and sold at auction to non-creditors who submitted credit bids.

You might also remember that we reported that in the Purchase and Assumption Agreement with the FDIC, wherein Chase was acquiring certain operations of WAMU, not including the loans, the consideration was expressly stated as zero and that the bid price from Chase happened to be a little lower than their share of the tax refund to WAMU, making the deal a “negative consideration” deal — i.e., Chase was being paid to acquire the depository assets of WAMU. Residential loans were not the only receivables on the books of WAMU and the FDIC receiver said that no accounting was ever done to figure out what was being sold to Chase.

Each of the deals above was complicated by the creation of entities (Maiden Lane LLCs) to create an “off balance sheet” liability for the toxic loans and bonds that had been traded around as if they were real.

Nobody ever thought to check whether the notes and mortgages recorded the correct facts in their content as to the cash transaction between the borrower and the originator. They didn’t, which is why the investors and the FDIC both now assert that not only were the loans not subject to underwriting rules compatible with industry standards, but that the documents themselves were not capable of enforcement because the wrong payee is named with different terms of repayment to the investors than what those lenders thought they were buying.

In other words, the investors and the the government sponsored guarantee organizations are both asserting the same theory, cause of action and facts that borrowers are asserting when they defend the foreclosure. This has been misinterpreted as an attempt by borrowers to get a free house. In point of fact, most borrowers simply don’t want to lose their homes and most of them are willing to enter into modifications and settlements with proceeds far superior to what the investor gets on foreclosure.

Borrowers admit receiving money, but not from the originator or any of the participants in what turned out to be a false chain of securitization which existed only on paper. The Borrowers had no knowledge nor even access to the knowledge that they were actually entering into a loan transaction with a stranger to the documents presented at the loan “closing.” This pattern of table funded loans is branded by the Truth in Lending Act and Reg Z as “predatory per se.” The coincidence of the money being received by the closing date was a reasonable basis for assuming that the originator was not play-acting, but rather actually acting as lender and underwriter of the loan, which they were certainly not.

The deals cut by Chase, OneWest and BofA are models of confusion and shared losses with the FDIC and other investors who participated in the Maiden Lane excursion. The actual creditor is definitely not Chase, OneWest nor BofA. Bank of America formed two corporations that merely served as distractions — Red Oak Merger Corp and BAC Home Loans and abandoned both after several foreclosures were successfully concluded by BAC, which owned nothing.

As we have previously shown, if the mortgage securitization scheme had been a real financial tool to reduce risk and increase lending, the REMIC trust would have ended up on the note and mortgage, on record in the office of the County Recorder. There would have been no need to establish MERS or any other private database in which trades were made and “trading profits” were booked in order to siphon off a large chunk of the money advanced by investors.

The transferring of paper does not create a transaction wherein a loan is proven or established in law or in fact. There must be an actual transaction in which money exchanged hands. In most cases (nearly all) the actual transaction in which money exchanged hands was between the borrower and an undisclosed third party entity.

This third party entity was inserted by the investment bankers so that the investment bank could claim ownership (when legally the loans already were owned by the investors) and an insurable interest in the loans and bonds that were supposedly backed by the loans. This way the banks could assert their right to proceeds of sale, insurance, and credit default swaps leaving their investor clients out in the cold and denying the borrowers the right to claim a reduction in the liability for their loan.

In litigation, every effort should be made to force the opposition to prove that the investor money was deposited into the a trust account for the REMIC trust and that the REMIC trust actually paid for the loans. Actually what you will be doing is forcing an accounting that shows that the REMIC was never funded and was never the buyer of the loans. Hence nobody in the false securitization chain had any ownership of the debt leading to the inevitable conclusion that for them the note was unenforceable and the mortgage was a nullity for lack of consideration and a lack of a meeting of the minds.

Once you get to the accounting from the Trustee of the Trust, the Master Servicer and the subservicer, you will uncover trades that involve representations of the investment bank that they owned the loans and in fact the mortgage bonds which were clearly pre-sold to investors before the first application for loan was ever received.

Thus persistent borrowers who litigate for the actual truth will track the money and then show that the cash transactions differ from the documented transactions and that the documented transactions lacked consideration. The only way out for the banks is to claim that they embraced this convoluted route as agents for the investors, but then that still means that money received in federal bailouts, insurance and credit default swaps would reduce the receivable of the actual creditors (investors) and thus reduce the amount payable by the actual borrowers (homeowners).

The unwillingness of the Department of Justice to enforce long standing laws regarding fraud and deceit, identity theft and other crimes, tends to create an atmosphere of impunity a round the banks and a presumption that the borrowers are merely technical objections of a certain number of documents not having all their T’s crossed and I’s dotted.

From a public policy perspective, one would have to concede that protecting the banks did nothing for liquidity in the marketplace and nothing for the credit markets in particular. Holder’s position, which I guess is also Obama’s position, is that it is better to allow average Americans to sink into poverty than to hold the banks and bankers accountable for their white collar crimes.

Legally, if the prosecutions ensued and the cases were proven, restitution would be ordered based not on some back-room deal but on approval of the Court. Restitution would clawback much of the capital of the mega banks who are holding that money by virtue of illegal transactions. And restitution would provide the only stimulus to the economy that would be fundamentally sound. Investors and borrowers would both share in the recovery of at least part of the wealth lost to the banks during the mortgage maelstrom.

I have no doubt that the same defects will appear in auto loans, student loans and other forms of consumer loans especially including credit card loans. The real objection of the banks is that after all this effort of stealing the money and the homes they might be forced to give it all back. The banks perceive that as a “loss.” I perceive it as simple justice applied every day in the courtrooms of America.

JPM: The Washington Mutual Story
http://www.ritholtz.com/blog/2013/03/jpm-wamu/

Bear Stearns, JPMorgan Chase, and Maiden Lane LLC
http://www.federalreserve.gov/newsevents/reform_bearstearns.htm

Mistakenly Released Documents Reveal Goldman Sachs Screwed IPO Clients
http://news.firedoglake.com/2013/03/12/mistakenly-released-documents-reveal-goldman-sachs-screwed-ipo-clients/

BOA Facing Fraud Suit from FHFA

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BOA lost in a bid to dismiss a lawsuit based upon the lies it told the Fannie and Freddie about the loans it was seeking guarantees for sale into the secondary securitization market. This follows closely my prior post about why the obligations, notes and mortgages should all be considered a nullity — worthless.

Unfortunately, Judge Cote said that the FHFA (Federal Housing Finance Agency) failed to state a strong enough case about loan to value ratios. Perhaps the agency will take another crack at that because appraisal fraud was an essential ingredient in this PONZI scheme.

If you read the complaint, it will give you a few ideas on how to frame your own complaints. Obviously it would be wise to beef up the allegations regarding loan to value ratios and the relationship of those to appraisal fraud. FHFA_v_BoA_Other

BOA Deathwatch: $2.43 Billion Settlement — Tip of the Iceberg

“If we know with certainty that misrepresentation to investors lies at the heart of the so-called securitization scheme, why is it so hard for Judges and lawyers to believe that misrepresentation to homeowners lies at the heart of the origination of the loans that were the most important part of the securitization scheme? In fact, why is it so hard for Judges and Lawmakers and Regulators to conceive and believe that Wall Street didn’t securitize the loans at all and only pretended to do so?” — Neil F Garfield, livinglies.me

EDITOR’S ANALYSIS: The settlement sounds big, but Bank of America has already announced that it had “put aside” another $42 billion for the defective acquisitions of Merrill Lynch, an underwriter in the fake securitization scheme, and Countrywide, a sham aggregator of residential mortgage loans.

The facts keep getting reported, but nobody seems to question the meaning of those facts or their consequences. The Wall Street Journal reports that dozens of lawsuits are still pending against BOA from insurers, credit default swap counter-parties and investor-lenders, each alleging that “countrywide wasn’t honest about the quality of mortgage backed securities it issued before the financial crisis. While it is true that pressure was exerted from Hank Paulson to make sure that BOA acquired Merrill and Countrywide to prevent a general financial collapse (you won’t have an economy by Monday if we don’t step in” (quote from Paulson and Bernanke to President George W Bush, it is equally true that BOA management pronounced the deals as the “deal of a lifetime.”

The very fact that BOA failed to peak under the hood before buying the car is ample corroboration of the handshake mentality being leveraged against each other as Banks scrambled to the top of the heap without concern for either their own companies or the country. Their lack of concern for their companies comes from the fact that they were receiving cash bonuses of pornographic size while those acquisitions went sour. Back in the days when management of the investment banks required general partnerships in which the partners could be personally liable, none of this could have happened. If the Bank fell, management didn’t care because they would still be rich whereas in the old days they would have been wiped out.

The settlement announced on Friday gives a very small percentage of money back to investor lenders and shareholders in the bank, both of which consist of groups of people who were largely investing for retirement. Next year, the writing on the wall is clear as a bell: either pension benefits are going to be slashed or there will be another major government bailout of the pension funds, some of which is already provided by law in government guarantees.

Either way, the people are going to be screaming at a continuation of an endless financial crisis that could be stopped on a dime by one simple magic bullet: admitting that the mortgage bonds were pure trash backed by no loans, and thus paving the way for the removal of the “mortgages” or Deeds of trust” that were recorded to secure the loans. But nobody wants to do that because ideology is still controlling the policies and the practical consequences of those policies is that more undeserving banks will be getting free homes for which they neither funded the origination nor the acquisition of the loans because the “originator” was never the lender.

Politically, the Banks are losing traction as representatives of both major political parties step away from the Banks, even while accepting huge donations from them. It is clear that the candidates who are receiving huge donations are probably bound by promises to back the banking industry as they desperate try to avoid the correct legal conclusion that virtually none of the loans were made payable to the lender, and none of the mortgages or deeds of trust were secured by a perfected lien.

It isn’t just that the the loan losses will fall on the Banks that were pulling the strings on the puppets at closings with the investors and closings with the homeowners; their real problems stem from the false claim that they were are holding valuable paper (mortgage backed bonds) whose value would not survive the worksheet of a first year auditor.

With only nominees on the note and mortgage and the obligation being owed to an as yet undefined group of investors whose money was used, contrary to written agreement and oral assurances, to be place bets at the window of the banks and hedge funds around the world and fund managers who were supposedly investing in triple A rated “Stable” securities that were “insured”, the investor lawsuits corroborate what we have been saying for 6 years: if the existing laws of property and contract are applied, neither the promissory note (at least 40% of which were intentionally destroyed) nor the mortgages (deeds of trust) are enforceable for collection or foreclosure.

The homeowner owes money to an undefined group of creditors, the balance of which is unknown because the Banks control the accounting and the accounting leaves out significant insurance proceeds, payments from credit default swap counter-parties, and federal buyouts and bailouts. The Banks are fighting to retain control of that accounting because if some third party starts auditing the money trail they are going to find that the “assets”  claimed by the banks are actually liabilities owed back to the parties that paid 100 cents on the dollar for the entire pool of mortgage bonds, none of which were actually backed by a legal obligation or an enforceable lien.

In short, if borrowers litigate they are fighting to get to the point where the banks and servicers are over a barrel and must settle — but only after making it as difficult as possible. Hence the strategy described in my seminars called “Deny and Discover”.

Because at the end of the day when  the number of cases won by borrowers exceeds the number of successful foreclosures (or perhaps far before that time) the assets are going to disappear and the liabilities are going to pop up in the banks. The consequence is that these banks will either have greatly diminished equity or negative equity — i.e., the BANKS will be Underwater! The FDIC and Federal reserve will thus be required to step in an “resolve these behemoth banks selling off the salable parts to smaller, manageable banks that are not so big they can’t be regulated.

As I survey the landscape, I see no hope for BOA, Citi, Chase or even Wells Fargo to survive the bloodbath that is coming, nor should they. The value of their stock will drop to worthless, which it is now anyway but not recognized, and the value of those regional or community banks and credit unions that pick up the pieces will correspondingly rise. The loans will vanish because the investors have no practical way of determining whose money went into any particular loan; the reason for that is that the money trail avoids the document trail like the plague. There were not trust accounts or other financial accounts in the name of the empty pools that issued the worthless mortgage bonds.

This is where ideology, law and practicality clash because of a lack of understanding of the consequences. The homeowners are getting a house not “free” but unencumbered by the originators who faked them out with false payees, false lenders and false secured parties. But the tax code already takes care of that. This isn’t forgiveness of debt. This reduction, in fact possibly overpayment of the debt was caused by the banks trading with investor money as though the money and the loans were the property of the banks, which they were not.

The effect on homeowners is that they will be required to recognize “income” from the elimination of the obligation, which is taxable and subject to Federal tax liens. The amount of that lien or obligation will be far less than the amount of the original loan, but the government will receive a portion of the savings through taxes, the investor-lenders will be compensated as the megabanks are resolved, and the crisis caused by a disappearing middle class will be over.

That will give us time to devote our attention to student loans and those “Defaults” which were also subject to false claims of securitization and in which the government guarantee was supposedly divided up without government consent as the originator, not caring about loan repayment, pushed students into larger and larger loans. What the participants in THAT fake securitization chain don’t realize is that under existing applicable law, it is my opinion that an election was made: either they had a loan receivable on the books for which there could be government guarantee, or they could reduce the risk by splitting the loans up into pieces and get paid handsomely for simply originating the loan. Simple logic says that the banks could not have both the guarantee from the government PLUS the elimination for risk through securitization in table funded loans that most probably also ignored the closing documents with investor lenders who advanced money for pools in which student loans were supposedly “assigned.”

FDIC ($677.4 Billion) Charges Banks With Fraud, Illegal Underwriting Practices

Has Obama Awakened?

Appraisal Fraud Alleged by this Blog

is found to be Centerpiece of this Action

Editor’s Note: The FDIC claims it studied a rough sampling of the securitized loans and alleges more than 60% of the loans packed into each deal contain material untrue or misleading statements.

In a resounding acceptance of the principles enunciated first on this blog, the FDIC, being the best regulator to file the charges, has moved against the big banks and servicers in the false scheme of securitization resulting in trillions in losses to the government, investors and homeowners.

Central to the allegations are that “defendants made untrue statements or omitted important information about such material facts as the loan-to-value ratios of the mortgage loans, the extent to which appraisals of the properties that secured the loans were performed in compliance with professional appraisal standards, the number of borrowers who did not live in the houses that secured their loans (that is, the number of properties that were not primary residences), and the extent to which the entities that made the loans disregarded their own standards in doing so.”

The allegations are so serious that it is unlikely that there will be any slap on the wrist coming out of this. The result of this lawsuit will have a profound impact on the housing market, the financial community and best of all, homeowners who have been using these allegations as defenses for years. It is apparent that the false premises upon which the bogus mortgage bonds were sold, combined with the complete avoidance of the supposed securitization scheme that was “in place,” has prompted this huge lawsuit. It is the tip of an iceberg where the administration is finally bringing the war to the door of the banks and will most likely lead to criminal charges as the cases progress.

 

The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. filed three lawsuits against big banks, alleging the lenders misrepresented the quality of securitized loans sold to the now defunct Texas firm, Guaranty Bank.

The FDIC took Austin, Texas-based Guaranty Bank into receivership back in Aug. 2009.

This week, the regulator filed multiple lawsuits in Austin, Texas, suggesting Guaranty suffered major losses from toxic RMBS loans sold and packaged by mega banks and other financial institutions.

Defendants named in the multibillion-dollar lawsuits includeCountrywideJPMorgan Chase ($38.04 0%)Ally Financial,Deutsche Bank Securities ($34.07 0%)Bank of America ($8.190%) and Goldman Sachs ($105.32 0%) among others.

FDIC, on behalf of Guaranty, claims the banks misrepresented loan-to-value ratios, underwriting criteria and appraisal amounts when selling, packaging and underwriting home loans that became collateral for mortgage securities sold to Guaranty.

Specifically, the FDIC alleges the financial firms violated federal and Texas securities laws by failing to fully disclose or truthfully represent the quality of mortgages backing the security certificates.

In the first case, the FDIC accuses Countrywide Securities, Bank of America, Deutsche Bank and Goldman Sachs of playing a role in the packaging, selling or securitization of mortgages sold off to Guaranty Bank for $1.5 billion. The suit says Guaranty Bank acquired 8 certificates in the transaction.

The FDIC claims it studied a rough sampling of the securitized loans and alleges more than 60% of the loans packed into each deal contain material untrue or misleading statements.

The FDIC is suing for an undetermined amount that is no less than $559.7 million in damages.

The bank regulator also sued Ally Securities, Goldman Sachs, Deutsche Bank Securities and JPMorgan Securities among others. In that suit, the regulator claims, the firms were involved in the packaging, underwriting and sale of eight RMBS certificates valued at $1.8 billion.

The FDIC alleged in court records that the “defendants made untrue statements or omitted important information about such material facts as the loan-to-value ratios of the mortgage loans, the extent to which appraisals of the properties that secured the loans were performed in compliance with professional appraisal standards, the number of borrowers who did not live in the houses that secured their loans (that is, the number of properties that were not primary residences), and the extent to which the entities that made the loans disregarded their own standards in doing so.”

In that complaint, the FDIC is asking for at least $900.6 million in damages.

The regulator also sued JPMorgan Securities, Merrill Lynch, RBS Securities and WaMu Asset Acceptance Corp., making similar claims about 20 RMBS certificates that Guaranty paid $2.1 billion to acquire. The FDIC is requesting at least $677.4 billion in damages.

FRAUD: The Significance of the Game Changing FHFA Lawsuits

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FHFA ACCUSES BANKS OF FRAUD: THEY KNEW THEY WERE LYING

“FHFA has refrained from sugar coating the banks’ alleged conduct as mere inadvertence, negligence, or recklessness, as many plaintiffs have done thus far.  Instead, it has come right out and accused certain banks of out-and-out fraud.  In particular, FHFA has levied fraud claims against Countrywide (and BofA as successor-in-interest), Deutsche Bank, J.P. Morgan (including EMC, WaMu and Long Beach), Goldman Sachs, Merrill Lynch (including First Franklin as sponsor), and Morgan Stanley (including Credit Suisse as co-lead underwriter).  Besides showing that FHFA means business, these claims demonstrate that the agency has carefully reviewed the evidence before it and only wielded the sword of fraud against those banks that it felt actually were aware of their misrepresentations.”

It is no stretch to say that Friday, September 2 was the most significant day for mortgage crisis litigation since the onset of the crisis in 2007.  That Friday, the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA), as conservator for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, sued almost all of the world’s largest banks in 17 separate lawsuits, covering mortgage backed securities with original principal balances of roughly $200 billion.  Unless you’ve been hiking in the Andes over the last two weeks, you have probably heard about these suits in the mainstream media.  But here at the Subprime Shakeout, I like to dig a bit deeper.  The following is my take on the most interesting aspects of these voluminous complaints (all available here) from a mortgage litigation perspective.

Throwing the Book at U.S. Banks

The first thing that jumps out to me is the tenacity and aggressiveness with which FHFA presents its cases.  In my last post (Number 1 development), I noted that FHFA had just sued UBS over $4.5 billion in MBS.  While I noted that this signaled a shift in Washington’s “too-big-to-fail” attitude towards banks, my biggest question was whether the agency would show the same tenacity in going after major U.S. banks.  Well, it’s safe to say the agency has shown the same tenacity and then some.

FHFA has refrained from sugar coating the banks’ alleged conduct as mere inadvertence, negligence, or recklessness, as many plaintiffs have done thus far.  Instead, it has come right out and accused certain banks of out-and-out fraud.  In particular, FHFA has levied fraud claims against Countrywide (and BofA as successor-in-interest), Deutsche Bank, J.P. Morgan (including EMC, WaMu and Long Beach), Goldman Sachs, Merrill Lynch (including First Franklin as sponsor), and Morgan Stanley (including Credit Suisse as co-lead underwriter).  Besides showing that FHFA means business, these claims demonstrate that the agency has carefully reviewed the evidence before it and only wielded the sword of fraud against those banks that it felt actually were aware of their misrepresentations.

Further, FHFA has essentially used every bit of evidence at its disposal to paint an exhaustive picture of reckless lending and misleading conduct by the banks.  To support its claims, FHFA has drawn from such diverse sources as its own loan reviews, investigations by the SEC, congressional testimony, and the evidence presented in other lawsuits (including the bond insurer suits that were also brought by Quinn Emanuel).  Finally, where appropriate, FHFA has included successor-in-interest claims against banks such as Bank of America (as successor to Countrywide but, interestingly, not to Merrill Lynch) and J.P. Morgan (as successor to Bear Stearns and WaMu), which acquired potential liability based on its acquisition of other lenders or issuers and which have tried and may in the future try to avoid accepting those liabilities.    In short, FHFA has thrown the book at many of the nation’s largest banks.

FHFA has also taken the virtually unprecedented step of issuing a second press release after the filing of its lawsuits, in which it responds to the “media coverage” the suits have garnered.  In particular, FHFA seeks to dispel the notion that the sophistication of the investor has any bearing on the outcome of securities law claims – something that spokespersons for defendant banks have frequently argued in public statements about MBS lawsuits.  I tend to agree that this factor is not something that courts should or will take into account under the express language of the securities laws.

The agency’s press release also responds to suggestions that these suits will destabilize banks and disrupt economic recovery.  To this, FHFA responds, “the long-term stability and resilience of the nation’s financial system depends on investors being able to trust that the securities sold in this country adhere to applicable laws. We cannot overlook compliance with such requirements during periods of economic difficulty as they form the foundation for our nation’s financial system.”  Amen.

This response to the destabilization argument mirrors statements made by Rep. Brad Miller (D-N.C.), both in a letter urging these suits before they were filed and in a conference call praising the suits after their filing.  In particular, Miller has said that failing to pursue these claims would be “tantamount to another bailout” and akin to an “indirect subsidy” to the banking industry.  I agree with these statements – of paramount importance in restarting the U.S. housing market is restoring investor confidence, and this means respecting contract rights and the rule of law.   If investors are stuck with a bill for which they did not bargain, they will be reluctant to invest in U.S. housing securities in the future, increasing the costs of homeownership for prospective homeowners and/or taxpayers.

You can find my recent analysis of Rep. Miller’s initial letter to FHFA here under Challenge No. 3.  The letter, which was sent in response to the proposed BofA/BoNY settlement of Countrywide put-back claims, appears to have had some influence.

Are Securities Claims the New Put-Backs?

The second thing that jumps out to me about these suits is that FHFA has entirely eschewed put-backs, or contractual claims, in favor of securities law, blue sky law, and tort claims.  This continues a trend that began with the FHLB lawsuits and continued through the recent filing by AIG of its $10 billion lawsuit against BofA/Countrywide of plaintiffs focusing on securities law claims when available.  Why are plaintiffs such as FHFA increasingly turning to securities law claims when put-backs would seem to benefit from more concrete evidence of liability?

One reason may be the procedural hurdles that investors face when pursuing rep and warranty put-backs or repurchases.  In general, they must have 25% of the voting rights for each deal on which they want to take action.  If they don’t have those rights on their own, they must band together with other bondholders to reach critical mass.  They must then petition the Trustee to take action.  If the Trustee refuses to help, the investor may then present repurchase demands on individual loans to the originator or issuer, but must provide that party with sufficient time to cure the defect or repurchase each loan before taking action.  Only if the investor overcomes these steps and the breaching party fails to cure or repurchase will the investor finally have standing to sue.

All of those steps notwithstanding, I have long argued that put-back claims are strong and valuable because once you overcome the initial procedural hurdles, it is a fairly straightforward task to prove whether an individual loan met or breached the proper underwriting guidelines and representations.  Recent statistical sampling rulings have also provided investors with a shortcut to establishing liability – instead of having to go loan-by-loan to prove that each challenged loan breached reps and warranties, investors may now use a statistically significant sample to establish the breach rate in an entire pool.

So, what led FHFA to abandon the put-back route in favor of filing securities law claims?  For one, the agency may not have 25% of the voting rights in all or even a majority of the deals in which it holds an interest.  And due to the unique status of the agency as conservator and the complex politics surrounding these lawsuits, it may not have wanted to band together with private investors to pursue its claims.

Another reason may be that the FHFA has had trouble obtaining loan files, as has been the case for many investors.  These files are usually necessary before even starting down the procedural path outlined above, and servicers have thus far been reluctant to turn these files over to investors.  But this is even less likely to be the limiting factor for FHFA.  With subpoena power that extends above and beyond that of the ordinary investor, the government agency may go directly to the servicers and demand these critical documents.  This they’ve already done, having sent 64 subpoenas to various market participants over a year ago.  While it’s not clear how much cooperation FHFA has received in this regard, the numerous references in its complaints to loan level reviews suggest that the agency has obtained a large number of loan files.  In fact, FHFA has stated that these lawsuits were the product of the subpoenas, so they must have uncovered a fair amount of valuable information.

Thus, the most likely reason for this shift in strategy is the advantage offered by the federal securities laws in terms of the available remedies.  With the put-back remedy, monetary damages are not available.  Instead, most Pooling and Servicing Agreements (PSAs) stipulate that the sole remedy for an incurable breach of reps and warranties is the repurchase or substitution of that defective loan.  Thus, any money shelled out by offending banks would flow into the Trust waterfall, to be divided amongst the bondholders based on seniority, rather than directly into the coffers of FHFA (and taxpayers).  Further, a plaintiff can only receive this remedy on the portion of loans it proves to be defective.  Thus, it cannot recover its losses on defaulted loans for which no defect can be shown.

In contrast, the securities law remedy provides the opportunity for a much broader recovery – and one that goes exclusively to the plaintiff (thus removing any potential freerider problems).  Should FHFA be able to prove that there was a material misrepresentation in a particular oral statement, offering document, or registration statement issued in connection with a Trust, it may be able to recover all of its losses on securities from that Trust.  Since a misrepresentation as to one Trust was likely repeated as to all of an issuers’ MBS offerings, that one misrepresentation can entitle FHFA to recover all of its losses on all certificates issued by that particular issuer.

The defendant may, however, reduce those damages by the amount of any loss that it can prove was caused by some factor other than its misrepresentation, but the burden of proof for this loss causation defense is on the defendant.  It is much more difficult for the defendant to prove that a loss was caused by some factor apart from its misrepresentation than to argue that the plaintiff hasn’t adequately proved causation, as it can with most tort claims.

Finally, any recovery is paid directly to the bondholder and not into the credit waterfall, meaning that it is not shared with other investors and not impacted by the class of certificate held by that bondholder.  This aspect alone makes these claims far more attractive for the party funding the litigation.  Though FHFA has not said exactly how much of the $200 billion in original principal balance of these notes it is seeking in its suits, one broker-dealer’s analysis has reached a best case scenario for FHFA of $60 billion flowing directly into its pockets.

There are other reasons, of course, that FHFA may have chosen this strategy.  Though the remedy appears to be the most important factor, securities law claims are also attractive because they may not require the plaintiff to present an in-depth review of loan-level information.  Such evidence would certainly bolster FHFA’s claims of misrepresentations with respect to loan-level representations in the offering materials (for example, as to LTV, owner occupancy or underwriting guidelines), but other claims may not require such proof.  For example, FHFA may be able to make out its claim that the ratings provided in the prospectus were misrepresented simply by showing that the issuer provided rating agencies with false data or did not provide rating agencies with its due diligence reports showing problems with the loans.  One state law judge has already bought this argument in an early securities law suit by the FHLB of Pittsburgh.  Being able to make out these claims without loan-level data reduces the plaintiff’s burden significantly.

Finally, keep in mind that simply because FHFA did not allege put-back claims does not foreclose it from doing so down the road.  Much as Ambac amended its complaint to include fraud claims against JP Morgan and EMC, FHFA could amend its claims later to include causes of action for contractual breach.  FHFA’s initial complaints were apparently filed at this time to ensure that they fell within the shorter statute of limitations for securities law and tort claims.  Contractual claims tend to have a longer statute of limitations and can be brought down the road without fear of them being time-barred (see interesting Subprime Shakeout guest post on statute of limitations concerns.

Predictions

Since everyone is eager to hear how all this will play out, I will leave you with a few predictions.  First, as I’ve predicted in the past, the involvement of the U.S. Government in mortgage litigation will certainly embolden other private litigants to file suit, both by providing political cover and by providing plaintiffs with a roadmap to recovery.  It also may spark shareholder suits based on the drop in stock prices suffered by many of these banks after statements in the media downplaying their mortgage exposure.

Second, as to these particular suits, many of the defendants likely will seek to escape the harsh glare of the litigation spotlight by settling quickly, especially if they have relatively little at stake (the one exception may be GE, which has stated that it will vigorously oppose the suit, though this may be little more than posturing).  The FHFA, in turn, is likely also eager to get some of these suits settled quickly, both so that it can show that the suits have merit with benchmark settlements and also so that it does not have to fight legal battles on 18 fronts simultaneously.  It will likely be willing to offer defendants a substantial discount against potential damages if they come to the table in short order.

Meanwhile, the banks with larger liability and a more precarious capital situation will be forced to fight these suits and hope to win some early battles to reduce the cost of settlement.  Due to the plaintiff-friendly nature of these claims, I doubt many will succeed in winning motions to dismiss that dispose entirely of any case, but they may obtain favorable evidentiary rulings or dismissals on successor-in-interest claims.  Still, they may not be able to settle quickly because the price tag, even with a substantial discount, will be too high.

On the other hand, trial on these cases would be a publicity nightmare for the big banks, not to mention putting them at risk a massive financial wallop from the jury (fraud claims carry with them the potential for punitive damages).  Thus, these cases will likely end up settling at some point down the road.  Whether that’s one year or four years from now is hard to say, but from what I’ve seen in mortgage litigation, I’d err on the side of assuming a longer time horizon for the largest banks with the most at stake.

Article taken from The Subprime Shakeout – www.subprimeshakeout.com
URL to article: the-government-giveth-and-it-taketh-away-the-significance-of-the-game-changing-fhfa-lawsuits.html

MERS: A FAILED ATTEMPT AT BYPASSING STATE AND FEDERAL AUTHORITY

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Fannie-Freddie’s Hypocritical Suit Against Banks Making Loans that GSEs Helped Create

Fannie-Freddie’s Hypocritical Suit Against Banks Making Loans that GSEs Helped Create

EDITOR’S NOTE:  Practically everything that the government is doing with respect to the economy and the housing market in particular is hypocritical. If we look to the result to determine the intent of the government you can see why nothing is being done to improve DOMESTIC market conditions. By removing the American consumer from the marketplace (through elimination of available funds in equity, savings or credit) the economic prospects for virtually every marketplace in the world is correspondingly diminished. The downward pressure on economic performance worldwide creates a panic regarding debt and currency. By default (and partially because of the military strength of the United States) people are ironically finding the dollar to be the safest haven during a bad storm.

 The result is that the federal government is able to borrow funds at interest rates that are so low that the investor is guaranteed to lose money after adjusting for inflation. The climate that has been created is one in which investors are far more concerned with preservation of capital than return on capital. In a nutshell, this is why the credit markets are virtually frozen with respect to the average potential consumer, the average small business owner, and the average entrepreneur or innovator who would otherwise start a new business and fuel rising employment.

 While it is true that the lawsuits by Fannie and Freddie are appropriate regardless of their past hypocritical behavior, they are really only rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. Ultimately there must be a resolution to our current economic problems that is based in reality rather than the power to manipulate events. The scenario we all seek  would cleanup the rising title crisis, end the foreclosure crisis, and restore a true marketplace in the purchase and sale of real estate. We have all known for decades that the housing market drives the economy.

 There is obviously very little confidence that the government and market makers in the United States are going to seek any resolution based in reality. Therefore while investors are parking their money in dollars they are also driving up the price of gold and finding other innovative ways to preserve their wealth. As these innovations evolve it is almost certain that an alternative to the United States dollar will emerge. The driving force behind this innovation is the stagnation of the credit markets and the world marketplace. My opinion is that the United States is pursuing a policy that virtually guarantees the creation of a new world reserve currency.

 The creation of MERS was a private attempt to substitute private business plans for public laws. It didn’t work. The lawsuits by the government-sponsored entities together with lawsuits from investors who were duped into being lenders and homeowners who were duped into being borrowers in a rigged market are only going to result in money judgments and money settlements. With a nominal value of credit derivatives at over $600 trillion and the actual money supply at under $50 trillion there is literally not enough money in the world to fix this problem. The problem can only be fixed by recognizing and applying existing law to existing transactions.

 This means that MERS, already discredited, must be treated as a nonexistent entity in the world of real estate transactions. Nobody wants to do that because the failure to disclose an actual creditor on the face of a purported lean or encumbrance on land is a fatal defect in perfecting the lien. This is true throughout the country and it is obvious to anyone who has studied real property transactions and mortgages. If you don’t have the name and address of the creditor from whom you can obtain a satisfaction of mortgage, then you don’t have a mortgage that attaches to the land as a lien. It is this realization that is forming a number of lawsuits from the investors who advanced money for mortgage bonds. Those advances were the funds that were used to finance pornographic Wall Street profits with the balance used to fund absurd mortgage products.

 This is basic property law and public policy. There can be no confidence or consistency in the marketplace without a buyer or a lender knowing that they can rely upon the information contained in a government title Registry at the county recording office. Any other method requires them to take the word of someone without the authority of the government. This is a fact and it is the law. But the banks are successfully using politics to sidestep the basic essential elements of law. Under their theory the fact that the mortgage lien was never perfected would be ignored so that bank and non-bank institutions could become the largest landholders in the country without ever having spent a dime on loaning any money or purchasing the receivables. Politics is trumping law.

 The narrative and the debate are being absolutely controlled by Wall Street interests. We say we don’t like what the banks did and many say they don’t like banks at all. But it is also true that the same people who say they don’t like banks are willing to let the banks keep their windfall and make even more money at the expense of the taxpayer, the consumer and the homeowner. There are trillions of dollars available for investment in business expansion, government projects, and good old American innovation to drive a healthy economy. It won’t happen until we begin to drive the debate ourselves and force government and banking to conform to rules and laws that have been in existence for centuries.

from STOP FORECLOSURE FRAUD…………….

Lets NOT forget both Fannie and Freddie, like most of the named banks they are suing, each are shareholders of MERS.

Again, who gave the green light to eliminate the need for assignments and to realize the greatest savings, lenders should close loans using standard security instruments containing “MOM” language back in April 26, 1999?

This was approved by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac which named MERS as Original Mortgagee (MOM)!

Open Market-

“U.S. is set to sue dozen big banks over mortgages,” reads the front-page headline in today’s New York Times. The “deck” below the headline explains that that the Federal Housing Finance Agency, which oversees the government-sponsored enterprises Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, is “seen as arguing that lenders lacked due diligence” in the loans they made.

A more apt description would probably be that Fannie and Freddie are suing the banks for selling them the very loans the GSEs helped designed and that government mandates encourage — and are still encouraging them to make. These conflicted actions are just one more of the government’s contributions to the uncertainty that is helping to keep unemployment at 9 percent.

Strangely the author of the Times piece, Nelson Schwartz, ignores the findings of a recent blockbuster

[OPEN MARKET]

Window Dressing: File a Lawsuit — Maybe It will Improve the View

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EDITOR’S COMMENT: YAWN! The government keeps filing lawsuits that COULD be big and COULD cause make corrections in the marketplace to reflect reality. But then they go nowhere, with discovery stymied by the Banks and then a settlement on the table that sells out everyone except the half dozen big banks that we allow to control the market, courtesy of our taxpayer money and our refusal to apply the same rules to them we do to the 7,000 other community banks and credit unions who could do the same or better job at handling the country’s finance sector.

Don’t get fooled. When someone comes out and says that securitization was an illusion, a ruse to defraud as many people in world population as possible, TEN we will have addressed the problem. When that special someone is willing to consider the idea that the banks never actually lost money and never needed a bailout, but that the top management diverted pornographic profits to off-shore havens then we will be on track to recapture the nation’s wealth, which currently is held hostage by Wall Street banks and the great majority of those in government who depend upon the mega banks for their political campaign expenses.

In the meanwhile, the lawsuits should be watched because deep inside each suit are some additional allegations, indicating the results of administrative investigations that you can use. When we get serious, the lawsuits will come fast and furious and aggressively pursued. Until then, all thee actions amount to little more than window dressing.

U.S. Is Set to Sue a Dozen Big Banks Over Mortgages

By

The federal agency that oversees the mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac is set to file suits against more than a dozen big banks, accusing them of misrepresenting the quality of mortgage securities they assembled and sold at the height of the housing bubble, and seeking billions of dollars in compensation.

The Federal Housing Finance Agency suits, which are expected to be filed in the coming days in federal court, are aimed at Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase, Goldman Sachs and Deutsche Bank, among others, according to three individuals briefed on the matter.

The suits stem from subpoenas the finance agency issued to banks a year ago. If the case is not filed Friday, they said, it will come Tuesday, shortly before a deadline expires for the housing agency to file claims.

The suits will argue the banks, which assembled the mortgages and marketed them as securities to investors, failed to perform the due diligence required under securities law and missed evidence that borrowers’ incomes were inflated or falsified. When many borrowers were unable to pay their mortgages, the securities backed by the mortgages quickly lost value.

Fannie and Freddie lost more than $30 billion, in part as a result of the deals, losses that were borne mostly by taxpayers.

In July, the agency filed suit against UBS, another major mortgage securitizer, seeking to recover at least $900 million, and the individuals with knowledge of the case said the new litigation would be similar in scope.

Private holders of mortgage securities are already trying to force the big banks to buy back tens of billions in soured mortgage-backed bonds, but this federal effort is a new chapter in a huge legal fight that has alarmed investors in bank shares. In this case, rather than demanding that the banks buy back the original loans, the finance agency is seeking reimbursement for losses on the securities held by Fannie and Freddie.

The impending litigation underscores how almost exactly three years after the collapse of Lehman Brothers and the beginning of a financial crisis caused in large part by subprime lending, the legal fallout is mounting.

Besides the angry investors, 50 state attorneys general are in the final stages of negotiating a settlement to address abuses by the largest mortgage servicers, including Bank of America, JPMorgan and Citigroup. The attorneys general, as well as federal officials, are pressing the banks to pay at least $20 billion in that case, with much of the money earmarked to reduce mortgages of homeowners facing foreclosure.

And last month, the insurance giant American International Group filed a $10 billion suit against Bank of America, accusing the bank and its Countrywide Financial and Merrill Lynch units of misrepresenting the quality of mortgages that backed the securities A.I.G. bought.

Bank of America, Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan all declined to comment. Frank Kelly, a spokesman for Deutsche Bank, said, “We can’t comment on a suit that we haven’t seen and hasn’t been filed yet.”

But privately, financial service industry executives argue that the losses on the mortgage-backed securities were caused by a broader downturn in the economy and the housing market, not by how the mortgages were originated or packaged into securities. In addition, they contend that investors like A.I.G. as well as Fannie and Freddie were sophisticated and knew the securities were not without risk.

Investors fear that if banks are forced to pay out billions of dollars for mortgages that later defaulted, it could sap earnings for years and contribute to further losses across the financial services industry, which has only recently regained its footing.

Bank officials also counter that further legal attacks on them will only delay the recovery in the housing market, which remains moribund, hurting the broader economy. Other experts warned that a series of adverse settlements costing the banks billions raises other risks, even if suits have legal merit.

The housing finance agency was created in 2008 and assigned to oversee the hemorrhaging government-backed mortgage companies, a process known as conservatorship.

“While I believe that F.H.F.A. is acting responsibly in its role as conservator, I am afraid that we risk pushing these guys off of a cliff and we’re going to have to bail out the banks again,” said Tim Rood, who worked at Fannie Mae until 2006 and is now a partner at the Collingwood Group, which advises banks and servicers on housing-related issues.

The suits are being filed now because regulators are concerned that it will be much harder to make claims after a three-year statute of limitations expires on Wednesday, the third anniversary of the federal takeover of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

While the banks put together tens of billions of dollars in mortgage securities backed by risky loans, the Federal Housing Finance Agency is not seeking the total amount in compensation because some of the mortgages are still good and the investments still carry some value. In the UBS suit, the agency said it owned $4.5 billion worth of mortgages, with losses totaling $900 million. Negotiations between the agency and UBS have yielded little progress.

The two mortgage giants acquired the securities in the years before the housing market collapsed as they expanded rapidly and looked for new investments that were seemingly safe. At issue in this case are so-called private-label securities that were backed by subprime and other risky loans but were rated as safe AAA investments by the ratings agencies.

In the years before 2007, “the market was so frothy then it was hard to find good quality loans to securitize and hold in your portfolio,” said David Felt, a lawyer who served as deputy general counsel of the finance agency until January 2010. “Fannie and Freddie thought they were taking AAA tranches, and like so many investors, they were surprised when they didn’t turn out to be such quality investments.”

Fannie and Freddie had other reasons to buy the securities, Mr. Rood added. For starters, they carried higher yields at a time when the two mortgage giants could buy them using money borrowed at rock-bottom rates, thanks to the implicit federal guarantee they enjoyed.

In addition, by law Fannie and Freddie were required to back loans to low-to-moderate income and minority borrowers, and the private-label securities were counted toward those goals.

“Competitive pressures and onerous housing goals compelled them to operate more like hedge funds than government-sponsored guarantors, ” Mr. Rood said.

In fact, Freddie was warned by regulators in 2006 that its purchases of subprime securities had outpaced its risk management abilities, but the company continued to load up on debt that ultimately soured.

As of June 30, Freddie Mac holds more than $80 billion in mortgage securities backed by more shaky home loans like subprime mortgages, Option ARM and Alt-A loans. Freddie estimates its total gross losses stand at roughly $19 billion. Fannie Mae holds $38 billion of securities backed by Alt-A and subprime loans, with losses standing at nearly $14 billion.

Details in New York: Devil is in the Foreclosure

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Submitted by “One Observer”

o Why would a non-performing loan be transferred into a Trust nearly 16 months AFTER the Trust’s closing date?
o How many other mortgages were not deposited in accordance to this Trust’s Pooling & Servicing Agreement?
o And if it contained non performing loans, why weren’t the investors notified and paid a higher interest rate?

In a letter to the New York State Attorney General Hon Eric Schneiderman, a consumer who is caught in the irrationality of the NY Foreclosure Courts, pleads for an investigation into yet another example of blatant securitization fraud.
• Merrill Lynch Banker ‘sells’ the ARM refinance mortgage as a cash flow enhancement product to estranged spouse. Estranged spouse decides to be sole signor on Mortgage and Note. Mortgage closes on November 1, 2004.
• Through information later obtained, this mortgage was securitized into the MERRILL LYNCH MORTGAGE INVESTORS TRUST SERIES MLCC 2004-G Pass-Through Certificates, CIK 1312848 under SEC file number 333-112231-36.
• This Trust had a closing of December 29, 2004 pursuant to its Pooling and Servicing Agreement.
• As of April 1, 2006, estranged spouse stops sending mortgage payments.
• In October 2006 an officer of the servicer PHH, Marc J Hinkle, assigns the Mortgage from MLCC (the ‘Depositor’ in the Trust) to Wells Fargo Bank, N.A., as Trustee (Trustee of what? It didn’t say).
• This begs the questions:

o Why would a non-performing loan be transferred into a Trust nearly 16 months AFTER the Trust’s closing date?
o How many other mortgages were not deposited in accordance to this Trust’s Pooling & Servicing Agreement?
o And if it contained non performing loans, why weren’t the investors notified and paid a higher interest rate?

• Sometime in late 2006, the firm Shapiro & DiCaro filed an Order of Reference to foreclose on this mortgage. Fortunately, some NY Judges ‘get it’ and the presiding Judge dismisses the motion as Plaintiffs do not submit evidence of standing and specifically had not submitted the requested Trust Agreement. One can speculate that if the Judge saw the closing date of the Trust Agreement, the Judge too would question why the mortgage was assigned AFTER it was in default and AFTER the Trust’s closing date by which all mortgages had to be transferred.
• Plaintiffs file an Appeal in 2007
• Plaintiffs withdraw the Appeal in 2008
• Plaintiffs file another Summons and Compliant in early 2008, that’s nearly two years after the first date of default.
• Suddenly, Plaintiffs motion to dismiss their complaint and it is dismissed.
• A second mortgage assignment is filed in June 2008, that is 3.5 years after the closing date of the Trust AND essentially assigning a non performing loan into a Trust whose very Pooling & Servicing Agreement disallowed such transfers as the mortgages were pooled into 2 Senior tranches. Adherence to the PSA determines whether there was a transfer effected or not because under NY trust law (which governs most PSAs), a transfer not in compliance with a trust’s documents is void.

Again, the questions raised are:
o Why did a non performing loan get transferred into a Trust belonging to an almost bankrupt holding company, Merrill Lynch? In June 2008, Merrill Lynch’s widely publicized financial problems due to the losses from its RMBS business led to the subsequent acquisition of ML by Bank of America.
o Was this untransferred and non performing loan and its losses, and I speculate many others due to the reason in the point above, included in Merrill’s calculation of operational losses and the adequate Basel and regulatory capital reserves set aside and reported?
o This assignment is from Wells Fargo Bank, NA, as Trustee to the securitized Trust. The assignment was again done by Marc J Hinkle, an officer of PHH, not the Trustee. There was no Power of Attorney attached to the assignment. So an agent assigns the ownership interest as agent for the owner before the owner is actually established established? Cart before the horse ?
• A THIRD foreclosure complaint is filed in mid 2008. The presiding Judge agrees with Shapiro, DiCaro & Barak’s reply to one of the Defendants’ Motions which stated that the many securitization issues raised above were not relevant to the Foreclosure Court proceeding. Consumer is dumbfounded by this decision–ie Plaintiff is not a ‘Person’, therefore, the means by which Plaintiff can claim standing has to be reviewed.

Again, this is just one mortgage marred with irregularities but it begs the question of how many others may have been fraudulently transferred into this and other toxic Trusts and whose investors knew nothing about this endemic toxicity?

The consumer is in communication with the SEC, the OCC and the NY AG’s Office,

Indeed, ‘unsophisticated consumers’ in foreclosure proceedings are not the foreclosuregate principals, it is the investors who are demanding answers and visibility into the lack of transparency these transactions were performed under.

Merrill Lynch is a vertically integrated firm and has a private label agreement with PHH since about 1997. ML created the mortgages (PHH created them under the MLCC name), underwrote the securitization, sold the bonds and resold them time and time again. In 2008 AIG held several toxic MLMI bonds and was bailed out by the FRB in what was called the Maiden Lane portfolios. Interestingly enough, in the example above, one of the bonds is part of Maiden Lane II. When the FRB auctioned these non-agency RMBS in April-June 2011, guess who bought the largest chunk? It’s Merrill Lynch all over again, along with JPM Chase. Guess it’s hard to resist the bargain they themselves created.

It’s getting more challenging for firms like Shapiro, DiCaro & Barak and the rest of the Shapiro mill to cover up their and their client’s ‘unclean hands’. Investors are demanding answers and it is the recent lawsuits like to AIG vs BoA on Monday Aug 8th and the Allstate vs BoA back in March that continue to pressure regulators to uncover and publicize these fraudulent transactions.

INVESTORS SUE FOR INFLATED HOME APPRAISALS, WHY DON’T YOU?

The model concluded that roughly one-third of the loans were for amounts that were 105 percent or more of the underlying property’s value. Roughly 5.5 percent of the loans in the pools had appraisals that were lower than they should have been.

In one pool with 3,543 loans, for example, the CoreLogic model had enough information to evaluate 2,097 loans. Of those, it determined that 1,114 mortgages — or more than half — had loan-to-value ratios of 105 percent or more. The valuations on those properties exceeded their true market value by $65 million,

EDITOR’S NOTE:  POINTS TO BE MADE:

  • Investors’ are proving the case for appraisal fraud, aligning themselves with borrowers. They are doing the borrower’s work. Get yourself copies of these complaints, discovery etc., send them to me and use them in your own case.
  • The little guy is starting to get attention. The court’s are getting the point that these loans were fraudulent. In my surveys I have found that appraisal fraud accounts for nearly all the loans 2003-2008, and that the amount of the fraud was a s much as 150% in some cases with an average of around 35%. The moment you closed, whatever down payment you made was lost and you were underwater.
  • The obligation to present a proper appraisal is on the lender not the borrower.
  • Just like the investors, borrowers were deprived of vital information about their loan that would have prevented any reasonable person from closing. Thus whether the Court’s like it or not, rescission, is a proper remedy, if not under TILA then under fraud statues and common law doctrines of fraud. Combine that with damages available, and the prospect of getting loan reduction and adjustment of loan terms comes into clearer view.
  • THE CONNECTION BETWEEN THE INVESTOR’S ADVANCE OF FUNDS AND THE HOME APPRAISAL IS PRESUMED AND ALLEGED. THUS THE ARGUMENT THAT THE INVESTOR WAS THE CREDITOR AND THE BORROWER IS THE DEBTOR IS CORROBORATED BY THE PLEADINGS OF THE INVESTORS.
June 18, 2010

The Inflatable Loan Pool

By GRETCHEN MORGENSON

AMID the legal battles between investors who lost money in mortgage securities and the investment banks that sold the stuff, one thing seems clear: the investment banks appear to be winning a good many of the early skirmishes.

But some cases are faring better for individual plaintiffs, with judges allowing them to proceed even as banks ask that they be dismissed. Still, these matters are hard to litigate because investors must persuade the judges overseeing them that their losses were not simply a result of a market crash. Investors must argue, convincingly, that the banks misrepresented the quality of the loans in the pools and made material misstatements about them in prospectuses provided to buyers.

Recent filings by two Federal Home Loan Banks — in San Francisco and Seattle — offer an intriguing way to clear this high hurdle. Lawyers representing the banks, which bought mortgage securities, combed through the loan pools looking for discrepancies between actual loan characteristics and how they were pitched to investors.

You may not be shocked to learn that the analysis found significant differences between what the Home Loan Banks were told about these securities and what they were sold.

The rate of discrepancies in these pools is surprising. The lawsuits contend that half the loans were inaccurately described in disclosure materials filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

These findings are compelling because they involve some 525,000 mortgage loans in 156 pools sold by 10 investment banks from 2005 through 2007. And because the research was conducted using a valuation model devised by CoreLogic, an information analytics company that is a trusted source for mortgage loan data, the conclusions are even more credible.

The analysis used CoreLogic’s valuation model, called VP4, which is used by many in the mortgage industry to verify accuracy of property appraisals. It homed in on loan-to-value ratios, a crucial measure in predicting defaults.

An overwhelming majority of the loan-to-value ratios stated in the securities’ prospectuses used appraisals, court documents say. Investors rely on the ratios because it is well known that the higher the loan relative to an underlying property’s appraised value, the more likely the borrower will walk away when financial troubles arise.

By back-testing the loans using the CoreLogic model from the time the mortgage securities were originated, the analysis compared those values with the loans’ appraised values as stated in prospectuses. Then the analysts reassessed the weighted average loan-to-value ratios of the pools’ mortgages.

The model concluded that roughly one-third of the loans were for amounts that were 105 percent or more of the underlying property’s value. Roughly 5.5 percent of the loans in the pools had appraisals that were lower than they should have been.

That means inflated appraisals were involved in six times as many loans as were understated appraisals.

David J. Grais, a lawyer at Grais & Ellsworth in New York, represents the Home Loan Banks in the lawsuits. “The information in these complaints shows that the disclosure documents for these securities did not describe the collateral accurately,” Mr. Grais said last week. “Courts have shown great interest in loan-by-loan and trust-by-trust information in cases like these. We think these complaints will satisfy that interest.”

The banks are requesting that the firms that sold the securities repurchase them. The San Francisco Home Loan Bank paid $19 billion for the mortgage securities covered by the lawsuit, and the Seattle Home Loan Bank paid $4 billion. It is unclear how much the banks would get if they won their suits.

Among the 10 defendants in the cases are Deutsche Bank, Credit Suisse, Merrill Lynch, Countrywide and UBS. None of these banks would comment.

As outlined in the San Francisco Bank’s amended complaint, it did not receive detailed data about the loans in the securities it purchased. Instead, the complaint says, the banks used the loan data to compile statistics about the loans, which were then presented to potential investors. These disclosures were misleading, the San Francisco Bank contends.

In one pool with 3,543 loans, for example, the CoreLogic model had enough information to evaluate 2,097 loans. Of those, it determined that 1,114 mortgages — or more than half — had loan-to-value ratios of 105 percent or more. The valuations on those properties exceeded their true market value by $65 million, the complaint contends.

The selling document for that pool said that all of the mortgages had loan-to-value ratios of 100 percent or less, the complaint said. But the CoreLogic analysis identified 169 loans with ratios over 100 percent. The pool prospectus also stated that the weighted average loan-to-value ratio of mortgages in the portion of the security purchased by Home Loan Bank was 69.5 percent. But the loans the CoreLogic model valued had an average ratio of almost 77 percent.

IT is unclear, of course, how these court cases will turn out. But it certainly is true that the more investors dig, the more they learn how freewheeling the Wall Street mortgage machine was back in the day. Each bit of evidence clearly points to the same lesson: investors must have access to loan details, and the time to analyze them, before they are likely to want to invest in these kinds of securities again.

Ratings Arbitrage a/k/a Fraud

Investment banks bundled mortgage loans into securities and then often rebundled those securities one or two more times. Those securities were given high ratings and sold to investors, who have since lost billions of dollars on them.

Editor’s Note: The significance of this report cannot be overstated. Not only did the investment bankers LOOK for and CREATE loans guaranteed to fail, which they did, they sold them in increasingly complex packages more than once. So for example if the yield spread profit or premium was $100,000 on a given loan, that wasn’t enough for the investment bankers. Without loaning or investing any additional money they sold the same loans, or at least parts of those loans, to additional investors one, two three times or more. In the additional sales, there was no cost so whatever they received was entirely profit. I would call that a yield spread profit or premium, and certainly undisclosed. If the principal of the loan was $300,000 and they resold it three times, then the investment bank received $900,000 from those additional sales, in addition to the initial $100,000 yield spread profit on sale of the loan to the “trust” or special purpose vehicle.

So the investment bank kept $1 million dollars in fees, profits or compensation on a $300,000 loan. Anyone who has seen “The Producers” knows that if this “show” succeeds, i.e., if most of the loans perform as scheduled and borrowers are making their payments, then the investment bank has a problem — receiving a total of $1.3 million on a $300,000 loan. But if the loans fails, then nobody asks for an accounting. As long as it is in foreclosure, no accounting is required except for when the property is sold (see other blog posts on bid rigging at the courthouse steps documented by Charles Koppa).

If they modify the loan or approve the short sale then an accounting is required. That is a bad thing for the investment bank. But if they don’t modify any loans and don’t approve any short-sales, then questions are going to be asked which will be difficult to answer.

You make plans and then life happens, my wife says. All these brilliant schemes were fraudulent and probably criminal. All such schemes eventually get the spotlight on them. Now, with criminal investigations ongoing in a dozen states and the federal government, the accounting and the questions are coming anyway—despite the efforts of the titans of the universe to avoid that result.

All those Judges that sarcastically threw homeowners out of court questioning the veracity of accusations against pretender lenders, can get out the salt and pepper as they eat their words.

“Why are they not in jail if they did these things” asked practically everyone on both sides of the issue. The answer is simply that criminal investigations do not take place overnight, they move slowly and if the prosecutor has any intention of winning a conviction he must have sufficient evidence to prove criminal acts beyond a reasonable doubt.

But remember the threshold for most civil litigation is merely a preponderance of the evidence, which means if you think there is more than a 50-50  probability the party did something, the prima facie case is satisfied and damages or injunction are stated in a final judgment. Some causes of action, like fraud, frequently require clear and convincing evidence, which is more than 50-50 and less than beyond a reaonsable doubt.

From the NY Times: ————————

The New York attorney general has started an investigation of eight banks to determine whether they provided misleading information to rating agencies in order to inflate the grades of certain mortgage securities, according to two people with knowledge of the investigation.

by LOUISE STORY

Andrew Cuomo, the attorney general of New York, sent subpoenas to eight Wall Street banks late Wednesday.

The investigation parallels federal inquiries into the business practices of a broad range of financial companies in the years before the collapse of the housing market.

Where those investigations have focused on interactions between the banks and their clients who bought mortgage securities, this one expands the scope of scrutiny to the interplay between banks and the agencies that rate their securities.

The agencies themselves have been widely criticized for overstating the quality of many mortgage securities that ended up losing money once the housing market collapsed. The inquiry by the attorney general of New York, Andrew M. Cuomo, suggests that he thinks the agencies may have been duped by one or more of the targets of his investigation.

Those targets are Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, UBS, Citigroup, Credit Suisse, Deutsche Bank, Crédit Agricole and Merrill Lynch, which is now owned by Bank of America.

The companies that rated the mortgage deals are Standard & Poor’s, Fitch Ratings and Moody’s Investors Service. Investors used their ratings to decide whether to buy mortgage securities.

Mr. Cuomo’s investigation follows an article in The New York Times that described some of the techniques bankers used to get more positive evaluations from the rating agencies.

Mr. Cuomo is also interested in the revolving door of employees of the rating agencies who were hired by bank mortgage desks to help create mortgage deals that got better ratings than they deserved, said the people with knowledge of the investigation, who were not authorized to discuss it publicly.

Contacted after subpoenas were issued by Mr. Cuomo’s office late Wednesday night notifying the banks of his investigation, spokespeople for Morgan Stanley, Credit Suisse and Deutsche Bank declined to comment. Other banks did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

In response to questions for the Times article in April, a Goldman Sachs spokesman, Samuel Robinson, said: “Any suggestion that Goldman Sachs improperly influenced rating agencies is without foundation. We relied on the independence of the ratings agencies’ processes and the ratings they assigned.”

Goldman, which is already under investigation by federal prosecutors, has been defending itself against civil fraud accusations made in a complaint last month by the Securities and Exchange Commission. The deal at the heart of that complaint — called Abacus 2007-AC1 — was devised in part by a former Fitch Ratings employee named Shin Yukawa, whom Goldman recruited in 2005.

At the height of the mortgage boom, companies like Goldman offered million-dollar pay packages to workers like Mr. Yukawa who had been working at much lower pay at the rating agencies, according to several former workers at the agencies.

Around the same time that Mr. Yukawa left Fitch, three other analysts in his unit also joined financial companies like Deutsche Bank.

In some cases, once these workers were at the banks, they had dealings with their former colleagues at the agencies. In the fall of 2007, when banks were hard-pressed to get mortgage deals done, the Fitch analyst on a Goldman deal was a friend of Mr. Yukawa, according to two people with knowledge of the situation.

Mr. Yukawa did not respond to requests for comment.

Wall Street played a crucial role in the mortgage market’s path to collapse. Investment banks bundled mortgage loans into securities and then often rebundled those securities one or two more times. Those securities were given high ratings and sold to investors, who have since lost billions of dollars on them.

Banks were put on notice last summer that investigators of all sorts were looking into their mortgage operations, when requests for information were sent out to all of the big Wall Street firms. The topics of interest included the way mortgage securities were created, marketed and rated and some banks’ own trading against the mortgage market.

The S.E.C.’s civil case against Goldman is the most prominent action so far. But other actions could be taken by the Justice Department, the F.B.I. or the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission — all of which are looking into the financial crisis. Criminal cases carry a higher burden of proof than civil cases. Under a New York state law, Mr. Cuomo can bring a criminal or civil case.

His office scrutinized the rating agencies back in 2008, just as the financial crisis was beginning. In a settlement, the agencies agreed to demand more information on mortgage bonds from banks.

Mr. Cuomo was also concerned about the agencies’ fee arrangements, which allowed banks to shop their deals among the agencies for the best rating. To end that inquiry, the agencies agreed to change their models so they would be paid for any work they did for banks, even if those banks did not select them to rate a given deal.

Mr. Cuomo’s current focus is on information the investment banks provided to the rating agencies and whether the bankers knew the ratings were overly positive, the people who know of the investigation said.

A Senate subcommittee found last month that Wall Street workers had been intimately involved in the rating process. In one series of e-mail messages the committee released, for instance, a Goldman worker tried to persuade Standard & Poor’s to allow Goldman to handle a deal in a way that the analyst found questionable.

The S.& P. employee, Chris Meyer, expressed his frustration in an e-mail message to a colleague in which he wrote, “I can’t tell you how upset I have been in reviewing these trades.”

“They’ve done something like 15 of these trades, all without a hitch. You can understand why they’d be upset,” Mr. Meyer added, “to have me come along and say they will need to make fundamental adjustments to the program.”

At Goldman, there was even a phrase for the way bankers put together mortgage securities. The practice was known as “ratings arbitrage,” according to former workers. The idea was to find ways to put the very worst bonds into a deal for a given rating. The cheaper the bonds, the greater the profit to the bank.

The rating agencies may have facilitated the banks’ actions by publishing their rating models on their corporate Web sites. The agencies argued that being open about their models offered transparency to investors.

But several former agency workers said the practice put too much power in the bankers’ hands. “The models were posted for bankers who develop C.D.O.’s to be able to reverse engineer C.D.O.’s to a certain rating,” one former rating agency employee said in an interview, referring to collateralized debt obligations.

A central concern of investors in these securities was the diversification of the deals’ loans. If a C.D.O. was based on mostly similar bonds — like those holding mortgages from one region — investors would view it as riskier than an instrument made up of more diversified assets. Mr. Cuomo’s office plans to investigate whether the bankers accurately portrayed the diversification of the mortgage loans to the rating agencies.

Gretchen Morgenson contributed reporting

Discovery Hints: Goldman Sachs may not be the only firm in SEC cross hairs

REGISTER NOW FOR DISCOVERY AND MOTION PRACTICE WORKSHOP 5/23-24

Editor’s Notes: These lawsuits from the SEC, the Class Action lawyers etc., are already producing fall-out — dozens of articles and production of secret emails etc. that can only help your case. Follow them closely as they will inevitably lead to admissible evidence of what you can only argue generally now.Use Google and other search engines and subscribe to securitization sites.

In motion practice your credibility will be enhanced if you can refer to other cases where government agencies, attorneys general, U.S. Attorneys etc. have filed cases alleging the same thing you are alleging. To the extent that it is truthful to say so, you can point to various elements of proof that are coming out of those cases. This will vastly enhance your ability to gain the Judge’s attention — but don’t try to prove YOUR case simply on the basis that it appears to be true in OTHER cases. Use these other cases to establish your foundation for discovery requests and why they MUST come up with all the documents, ledgers, accounting and bookkeeping data, distribution reports, emails etc. related to the pool in which your particular loan is located.

Goldman Sachs may not be the only firm in SEC cross hairs

The agency’s fraud suit against the Wall Street giant may foreshadow similar cases against other financial firms and trigger a wave of private litigation.

By E. Scott Reckard, Los Angeles Times

April 22, 2010 | 3:32 p.m.

The government’s fraud lawsuit against Goldman, Sachs & Co. could portend cases against other financial giants that turned subprime mortgages into complex securities while also accelerating a surge in private litigation against Wall Street.

In announcing the Goldman case, Securities and Exchange Commission enforcement chief Robert Khuzami said the agency was looking into similar transactions at other firms. As the SEC struggles to shed its image as the snoozing securities cop that missed Bernard L. Madoff’s vast Ponzi scheme, the agency is likely to bring additional cases, said Alan Bromberg, a securities law professor at Southern Methodist University.

“The SEC has become pretty aggressive, so it’s a good bet,” Bromberg said. Goldman, he said, was probably chosen as the first target because of its prominence. “It is the biggest and by most estimates the best firm on Wall Street.”

Goldman Sachs is accused of failing to disclose that a hedge fund that helped it create complex securities had actually placed a bet that the investment would fail. Goldman has said it provided full disclosure to sophisticated investors who knew that some other knowledgeable party was betting against them.

The suit against Goldman will undoubtedly encourage similar claims by investors, said Boston University securities law expert Elizabeth Nowicki.

Private lawyers “are going to start filing these suits like they’re going out of style,” she said.

It’s not unusual for SEC cases to pave the way for private lawsuits. For example, the SEC’s announcement that it was investigating conflicts of interest by securities analysts in 2001 triggered a wave of private litigation making the same allegation.

In the case of the mortgage-linked investments known as collateralized debt obligations, a variation of which is at the heart of the Goldman Sachs case, lawyers for investors had already begun their assault.

UBS, Morgan Stanley, Merrill Lynch and Deutsche Bank face private lawsuits alleging they misled investors in CDOs or similar investments. The firms, like Goldman, have denied any wrongdoing.

“The question is whether the SEC has uncovered the tip of the iceberg,” Nowicki said.

The issue is especially important, she said, because the high-risk investments caused such huge losses for financial firms and investors around the world, magnifying the effect of the collapse of the housing and mortgage markets.

“Without these devastating transactions we would have had a regular downturn in the housing markets and not a near depression,” said Nowicki, a former SEC attorney who practiced securities law on Wall Street and has testified as an expert witness in disclosure cases.

The financial crisis has spawned hundreds of lawsuits, with the targets shifting from the lenders that made dubious home loans to the Wall Street firms that transformed mortgage bonds backed by subprime loans into supposedly solid investments, Jonathan Pickhardt, a securities-law attorney, wrote in a recent legal journal article.

The suits that deal with CDOs include allegations that some of the firms creating and marketing CDOs stuffed troubled assets into them without disclosure, especially as mortgage defaults surged in 2007; improperly influenced CDO management firms that were hired to pick assets independently; and withheld key information from credit-rating firms.

The bar of proof appears higher in CDO cases than in the SEC’s suits last year against former executives of Countrywide Financial Corp. of Calabasas and New Century Financial Corp. of Irvine, two major companies brought down by the mortgage meltdown.

That’s because the suits against the executives, including Countrywide co-founder Angelo Mozilo, accuse them of misleading individual shareholders and other members of the investing public. Mozilo and the other defendants in these cases have denied the allegations.

In contrast, the participants in the CDO transactions were, as UBS put it in statements responding to two CDO-related lawsuits, “professional and knowledgeable” banks and sophisticated investors who knew what they were buying.

Making it tougher still to prove fraud, the transactions in the SEC action against Goldman and a private suit targeting Merrill Lynch involved so-called synthetic CDOs. Such creations don’t contain actual mortgage bonds. Instead they hold insurance-like instruments tied to a portfolio of mortgage bonds. The CDOs essentially sold insurance on the bonds. Other investors bought that insurance, betting that home-loan defaults would lower the value of both the bonds and the CDOs themselves.

As a result, the structure of synthetic CDOs required outside investors to bet that the CDOs would incur losses.

For example, in a case brought by Rabobank, a large Dutch financial firm, against Merrill Lynch, now part of Bank of America Corp., the Wall Street firm said the CDO contract contained standard language obliging investors to conduct their own research on the deal and not rely on information provided by Merrill.

scott.reckard@latimes.com

If the Bank of England wants this information, how can this court deem it irrelevant?

SEE ALSO BOE PAPER ON ABS DISCLOSURE condocmar10

If the Bank of England wants this information, how can this court deem it irrelevant? NOTE: BOE defines investors as note-holders.
information on the remaining life, balance and prepayments on a loan; data on the current valuation and loan-to-value ratios on underlying property and collateral; and interest rate details, like the current rate and reset levels. In addition, the central bank said it wants to see loan performance information like the number and value of payments in arrears and details on bankruptcy, default or foreclosure actions.
Editor’s Note: As Gretchen Morgenstern points out in her NY Times article below, the Bank of England is paving the way to transparent disclosures in mortgage backed securities. This in turn is a guide to discovery in American litigation. It is also a guide for questions in a Qualified Written Request and the content of a forensic analysis.
What we are all dealing with here is asymmetry of information, which is another way of saying that one side has information and the other side doesn’t. The use of the phrase is generally confined to situations where the unequal access to information is intentional in order to force the party with less information to rely upon the party with greater information. The party with greater information is always the seller. The party with less information is the buyer. The phrase is most often used much like “moral hazard” is used as a substitute for lying and cheating.
Quoting from the Bank of England’s “consultative paper”: ” [NOTE THAT THE BANK OF ENGLAND ASSUMES ASYMMETRY OF INFORMATION AND, SEE BELOW, THAT THE INVESTORS ARE CONSIDERED “NOTE-HOLDERS” WITHOUT ANY CAVEATS.] THE BANK IS SEEKING TO ENFORCE RULES THAT WOULD REQUIRE DISCLOSURE OF
borrower details (unique loan identifiers); nominal loan amounts; accrued interest; loan maturity dates; loan interest rates; and other reporting line items that are relevant to the underlying loan portfolio (ie borrower location, loan to value ratios, payment rates, industry code). The initial loan portfolio information reporting requirements would be consistent with the ABS loan-level reporting requirements detailed in paragraph 42 in this consultative document. Data would need to be regularly updated, it is suggested on a weekly basis, given the possibility of unexpected loan repayments.
42 The Bank has considered the loan-level data fields which
it considers would be most relevant for residential mortgage- backed securities (RMBS) and covered bonds and sets out a high-level indication of some of those fields in the list below:
• Portfolio, subportfolio, loan and borrower unique identifiers.
• Loan information (remaining life, balance, prepayments).
• Property and collateral (current valuation, loan to value ratio
and type of valuation). Interest rate information (current reference rate, current rate/margin, reset interval).
• Performance information (performing/delinquent, number and value of payments in arrears, arrangement, litigation or
bankruptcy in process, default or foreclosure, date of default,
sale price, profit/loss on sale, total recoveries).
• Credit bureau score information (bankruptcy or IVA flags,
bureau scores and dates, other relevant indicators (eg in respect of fraudulent activity)).

The Bank is also considering making it an eligibility requirement that each issuer provides a summary of the key features of the transaction structure in a standardised format.
This summary would include:
• Clear diagrams of the deal structure.
Description of which classes of notes hold the voting rights and what proportion of noteholders are required to pass a resolution.
• Description of all the triggers in the transaction and the consequences of them being breached.
• What defines an event of default.
• Diagramatic cash-flow waterfalls, making clear the priority
of payments of principal and interest, including how these
can change in consequence to any trigger breaches.
52 The Bank is also considering making it an eligibility
requirement that cash-flow models be made available that
accurately reflect the legal structure of an asset-backed security.
The Bank believes that for each transaction a cash-flow model
verified by the issuer/arranger should be available publicly.
Currently, it can be unclear as to how a transaction would
behave in different scenarios, including events of default or
other trigger events. The availability of cash-flow models, that
accurately reflect the underlying legal structure of the
transaction, would enable accurate modelling and stress
testing of securities under various assumptions.

March 19, 2010, NY Times

Pools That Need Some Sun

By GRETCHEN MORGENSON

LAST week, the Federal Home Loan Bank of San Francisco sued a throng of Wall Street companies that sold the agency $5.4 billion in residential mortgage-backed securities during the height of the mortgage melee. The suit, filed March 15 in state court in California, seeks the return of the $5.4 billion as well as broader financial damages.

The case also provides interesting details on what the Federal Home Loan Bank said were misrepresentations made by those companies about the loans underlying the securities it bought.

It is not surprising, given the complexity of the instruments at the heart of this credit crisis, that it will require court battles for us to learn how so many of these loans could have gone so bad. The recent examiner’s report on the Lehman Brothers failure is a fine example of the in-depth investigation required to get to the bottom of this debacle.

The defendants in the Federal Home Loan Bank case were among the biggest sellers of mortgage-backed securities back in the day; among those named are Deutsche Bank; Bear Stearns; Countrywide Securities, a division of Countrywide Financial; Credit Suisse Securities; and Merrill Lynch. The securities at the heart of the lawsuit were sold from mid-2004 into 2008 — a period that certainly encompasses those giddy, anything-goes years in the home loan business.

None of the banks would comment on the litigation.

In the complaint, the Federal Home Loan Bank recites a list of what it calls untrue or misleading statements about the mortgages in 33 securitization trusts it bought. The alleged inaccuracies involve disclosures of the mortgages’ loan-to-value ratios (a measure of a loan’s size compared with the underlying property’s value), as well as the occupancy status of the properties securing the loans. Mortgages are considered less risky if they are written against primary residences; loans on second homes or investment properties are deemed to be more of a gamble.

Finally, the complaint said, the sellers of the securities made inaccurate claims about how closely the loan originators adhered to their underwriting guidelines. For example, the Federal Home Loan Bank asserts that the companies selling these securities failed to disclose that the originators made frequent exceptions to their own lending standards.

DAVID J. GRAIS, a partner at Grais & Ellsworth, represents the plaintiff. He said the Federal Home Loan Bank is not alleging that the firms intended to mislead investors. Rather, the case is trying to determine if the firms conformed to state laws requiring accurate disclosure to investors.

“Did they or did they not correspond with the real world at the time of the sale of these securities? That is the question,” Mr. Grais said.

Time will tell which side will prevail in this suit. But in the meantime, the accusations illustrate a significant unsolved problem with securitization: a lack of transparency regarding the loans that are bundled into mortgage securities. Until sunlight shines on these loan pools, the securitization market, a hugely important financing mechanism that augments bank lending, will remain frozen and unworkable.

It goes without saying that after swallowing billions in losses in such securities, investors no longer trust what sellers say is inside them. Investors need detailed information about these loans, and that data needs to be publicly available and updated regularly.

“The goose that lays the golden eggs for Wall Street is in the information gaps created by financial innovation,” said Richard Field, managing director at TYI, which develops transparency, trading and risk management information systems. “Naturally, Wall Street opposes closing these gaps.”

But the elimination of such information gaps is necessary, Mr. Field said, if investors are to return to the securitization market and if global regulators can be expected to prevent future crises.

While United States policy makers have done little to resolve this problem, the Bank of England, Britain’s central bank, is forging ahead on it. In a “consultative paper” this month, the central bank argued for significantly increased disclosure in asset-backed securities, including mortgage pools.

The central bank is interested in this debate because it accepts such securities in exchange for providing liquidity to the banking system.

“It is the bank’s view that more comprehensive and consistent information, in a format which is easier to use, is required to allow the effective risk management of securities,” the report stated. One recommendation is to include far more data than available now.

Among the data on its wish list: information on the remaining life, balance and prepayments on a loan; data on the current valuation and loan-to-value ratios on underlying property and collateral; and interest rate details, like the current rate and reset levels. In addition, the central bank said it wants to see loan performance information like the number and value of payments in arrears and details on bankruptcy, default or foreclosure actions.

The Bank of England recommended that investor reports be provided on “at least a monthly basis” and said it was considering making such reports an eligibility requirement for securities it accepts in its transactions.

The American Securitization Forum, the advocacy group for the securitization industry, has been working for two years on disclosure recommendations it sees as necessary to restart this market. But its ideas do not go as far as the Bank of England’s.

A group of United States mortgage investors is also agitating for increased disclosures. In a soon-to-be-published working paper, the Association of Mortgage Investors outlined ways to increase transparency in these instruments.

Among its suggestions: reduce the reliance on credit rating agencies by providing detailed data on loans well before a deal is brought to market, perhaps two weeks in advance. That would allow investors to analyze the loans thoroughly, then decide whether they want to buy in.

THE investors are also urging that loan-level data offered by issuers, underwriters or loan servicers be “accompanied by an auditor attestation” verifying it has been properly aggregated and calculated. In other words, trust but verify.

Confidence in the securitization market has been crushed by the credit mess. Only greater transparency will lure investors back into these securities pools. The sooner that happens, the better.

GRETCHEN MORGENSON Takes the Lead in Media Coverage of Mortgage Meltdown in NY Times

NOW AVAILABLE ON KINDLE/AMAZON
Gretchen Gets It. The entire article is worth reading and even studying. If you get what she is saying, you can understand just how false this Waltz has been.

“The very design of the federal assistance to A.I.G. was that tens of billions of dollars of government money was funneled inexorably and directly to A.I.G.’s counterparties.” The report noted that this was money the banks might not otherwise have received had A.I.G. gone belly-up.

Goldman Sachs, Merrill Lynch, Société Générale and other banks were in the group that got full value for their contracts when many others were accepting fire-sale prices.

Ms. Tavakoli argues that Goldman should refund the money it received in the bailout and take back the toxic C.D.O.’s now residing on the Fed’s books — and to do so before it begins showering bonuses on its taxpayer-protected employees.

According to an e-mail message that Goldman sent to the New York Fed at the time, Mr. Geithner talked about the article with Mr. Viniar, Goldman’s chief financial officer, before calling me. When Mr. Geithner called, he said that Goldman had no exposure to an A.I.G. collapse and that the article had left an incorrect impression about that. When I asked Mr. Geithner if he, as head of the regulatory agency overseeing Goldman, had closely examined the firm’s hedges, he said he had not.

Probing, in-depth analyses of regulatory responses to the financial meltdown are worth their weight in gold. Mr. Barofsky’s certainly is. Yet in its rush to put financial reforms into effect, Congress seems uninterested in investigating or grappling with truths contained in such reports — and until it does, our country’s economic and financial system will continue to be at risk.

November 22, 2009
Fair Game

Revisiting a Fed Waltz With A.I.G.

A RAY of sunlight broke through the Washington fog last week when Neil M. Barofsky, special inspector general for the Troubled Asset Relief Program, published his office’s report on the government bailout last year of the American International Group.

It’s must reading for any taxpayer hoping to understand why the $182 billion “rescue” of what was once the world’s largest insurer still ranks as the most troubling episode of the financial disaster. And it couldn’t have come at a more pivotal moment.

Many in Washington want to give more regulatory power to the Federal Reserve Board, the banking regulator that orchestrated the A.I.G. bailout. Through this prism, the actions taken in the deal by Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner, who was president of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York at the time, grow curiouser and curiouser.

Of special note in the report: the Fed failed to develop a workable rescue plan when A.I.G., swamped by demands that it pay off huge insurance contracts that it couldn’t make good on as the economy tanked, began to sink. The report takes the Fed to task as refusing to use its power and prestige to wrestle concessions from A.I.G.’s big, sophisticated and well-heeled trading partners when the government itself had to pay off the contracts.

The Fed, under Mr. Geithner’s direction, caved in to A.I.G.’s counterparties, giving them 100 cents on the dollar for positions that would have been worth far less if A.I.G. had defaulted. Goldman Sachs, Merrill Lynch, Société Générale and other banks were in the group that got full value for their contracts when many others were accepting fire-sale prices.

On the question of whether this payout was what the report describes as a “backdoor bailout” of A.I.G.’s counterparties, Mr. Barofsky concluded: “The very design of the federal assistance to A.I.G. was that tens of billions of dollars of government money was funneled inexorably and directly to A.I.G.’s counterparties.” The report noted that this was money the banks might not otherwise have received had A.I.G. gone belly-up.

The report zaps Fed claims that identifying banks that benefited from taxpayer largess would have dire consequences. Fed officials had refused to disclose the identities of the counterparties or details of the payments, warning “that disclosure of the names would undermine A.I.G.’s stability, the privacy and business interests of the counterparties, and the stability of the markets,” the report said.

When the parties were named, “the sky did not fall,” the report said.

Finally, Mr. Barofsky pokes holes in arguments made repeatedly over the past 14 months by Goldman Sachs, A.I.G.’s largest trading partner and recipient of $12.9 billion in taxpayer money in the bailout, that it had faced no material risk in an A.I.G. default — that, in effect, had A.I.G. cratered, Goldman wouldn’t have suffered damage.

In short, there’s an awful lot jammed into this 36-page report.

Even before publishing this analysis, Mr. Barofsky had made a name for himself as one of the few truth tellers in Washington. While others estimate how much the taxpayer will make on various bailout programs, Mr. Barofsky has said that returns are extremely unlikely.

His office has also opened 65 cases to investigate potential fraud in various bailout programs. “When I first took office, I can’t tell you how many times I’d be having a sit-down and warning about potential fraud in the program and I would hear a response basically saying, ‘Oh, they’re bankers, and they wouldn’t put their reputations at risk by committing fraud,’ ” Mr. Barofsky told Bloomberg News a little over a week ago, adding: “I think we’ve done a good job of instilling a greater degree of skepticism that what comes from Wall Street isn’t necessarily the holy grail.”

Mr. Barofsky says the Fed failed to strong-arm the banks when it was negotiating payouts on the A.I.G. contracts. Rather than forcing the banks to accept a steep discount, or “haircut,” the Fed gave the banks $27 billion in taxpayer cash and allowed them to keep an additional $35 billion in collateral already posted by A.I.G. That amounted to about $62 billion for the contracts, which the report describes as “far above their market value at the time.”

Mr. Geithner, who oversaw those negotiations, said in an interview on Friday that the terms of the A.I.G. deal were the best he could get for taxpayers. He considered bailing out A.I.G. to be “offensive,’ he said, but deemed it necessary because a collapse would have undermined the financial system.

“We prevented A.I.G. from defaulting because our judgment was that the damage caused by failure would have been much more costly for the economy and the taxpayer,” Mr. Geithner said. “To most Americans, this looked like a deeply unfair outcome and they find it hard to see any direct benefit. But in fact, their savings are more valuable and secure today.”

The report said that while bailing out Goldman and other investment banks might not have been the intent behind the Fed’s A.I.G. rescue, it certainly was its effect. “By providing A.I.G. with the capital to make these payments, Federal Reserve officials provided A.I.G.’s counterparties with tens of billions of dollars they likely would have not otherwise received had A.I.G. gone into bankruptcy,” the report stated.

As Goldman prepares to pay out nearly $17 billion in bonuses to its employees in one of its most profitable years ever, it is important that an authoritative, independent voice like Mr. Barofsky’s reminds us how the taxpayer bailout of A.I.G. benefited Goldman.

A Goldman spokesman, Lucas van Praag, said that Goldman believed “that a collapse of A.I.G. would have had a very disruptive effect on the financial system and that everyone benefited from the rescue of A.I.G.” Regarding his firm’s own dealings with A.I.G., Mr. van Praag said that Goldman believed that its “exposure was close to zero” because it insulated itself from a downturn in A.I.G.’s fortunes through hedges and collateral it had already received. (Goldman’s complete response is here.)

The inspector noted in his report that Goldman made several arguments for why it believed it was not materially at risk in an A.I.G. default, but he is skeptical of the firm’s reasoning.

So is Janet Tavakoli, an expert in derivatives at Tavakoli Structured Finance, a consulting firm. “On Sept. 16, 2008, David Viniar, Goldman’s chief financial officer, said that whatever the outcome at A.I.G., the direct impact of Goldman’s credit exposure would be immaterial,” she said. “That was false. The report states that if the New York Fed had negotiated concessions, Goldman would have suffered a loss.”

The report says that Goldman would have had difficulty collecting on the hedges it used to insulate itself from an A.I.G. default because everyone’s wallets would have been closing in a panic.

“The prices of the collateralized debt obligations against which Goldman bought protection from A.I.G. were in sickening free fall, and the cost of replacing A.I.G.’s protection would have been sky-high,” she said. “Goldman must have known this, because it underwrote some of those value-destroying C.D.O.’s.”

Ms. Tavakoli argues that Goldman should refund the money it received in the bailout and take back the toxic C.D.O.’s now residing on the Fed’s books — and to do so before it begins showering bonuses on its taxpayer-protected employees.

“A.I.G., a sophisticated investor, foolishly took this risk,” she said. “But the U.S. taxpayer never agreed to be a victim of investments that should undergo a rigorous audit.”

Perhaps Mr. Barofsky will do that audit, and closely examine the securities that A.I.G. insured and that Wall Street titans like Goldman underwrote.

Goldman contends that it had a contractual right to the funds it received in the A.I.G. bailout and that the securities it returned to the government in the deal have increased in value.

For his part, Mr. Geithner disputed much of the inspector general’s findings. He also took issue with the conclusion that the Fed failed to develop a contingency plan for an A.I.G. rescue and largely depended on plans proffered by the banks themselves.

He said the report’s view that the Fed didn’t use its might to get better terms in the rescue was unfair. “This idea that we were unwilling to use leverage to get better terms misses the central reality of the situation — the choice we had was to let A.I.G. default or to prevent default,” he said. “We could not enforce haircuts without causing selective defaults and selective defaults would have brought down the company.”

Mr. Geithner also said that the “perception that this decision by the government, not my decision alone, was made to protect any individual investment bank is unfounded.”

Less than two weeks after the A.I.G. bailout, Mr. Geithner took the firm’s side when he criticized a Sept. 28, 2008, article in The New York Times that I wrote about the A.I.G. bailout. That article included Goldman’s statement that it wouldn’t have been affected by an A.I.G. collapse. Among other things, the article, like Mr. Barofsky’s report, questioned Goldman’s assertion.

According to an e-mail message that Goldman sent to the New York Fed at the time, Mr. Geithner talked about the article with Mr. Viniar, Goldman’s chief financial officer, before calling me. When Mr. Geithner called, he said that Goldman had no exposure to an A.I.G. collapse and that the article had left an incorrect impression about that. When I asked Mr. Geithner if he, as head of the regulatory agency overseeing Goldman, had closely examined the firm’s hedges, he said he had not.

Mr. Geithner told me on Friday that he spoke with Mr. Viniar that day to ensure that Goldman’s hedges were adequate. And, notwithstanding the inspector general’s findings, he said he still believes Goldman was hedged.

Probing, in-depth analyses of regulatory responses to the financial meltdown are worth their weight in gold. Mr. Barofsky’s certainly is. Yet in its rush to put financial reforms into effect, Congress seems uninterested in investigating or grappling with truths contained in such reports — and until it does, our country’s economic and financial system will continue to be at risk.

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