New York Judge Orders Release of Hidden Documents

This is just the beginning of what I have been predicting for 10 years. When the public finds out that the government itself is addicted to the false scheme of securitization — and that this has led to abandonment of policies and rules of law that have continued to depress the U.S. economy — the “movements” of Sanders and Trump will look like garden parties.

The mortgage loan schedules, assignments, and endorsements are all pure fabrication, illusion smoke and mirrors. This is why 10 years ago the banks were denying the existence of the trusts. They created a void between the investors and their money on the one hand and the homeowners and their homes on the other. They stepped into the void acting as principals when they were in fact rogue intermediaries.

“In the discovery battle in these suits, the government’s pleas for secrecy were so extreme that it asked for, and received, “attorneys’ eyes only” status for the documents in question. This meant that not even the plaintiffs were entitled to see the raw papers. This designation is usually reserved for cases involving national security or proprietary business secrets.”

THE FOLLOWING ARTICLE IS NOT A LEGAL OPINION UPON WHICH YOU CAN RELY IN ANY INDIVIDUAL CASE. HIRE A LAWYER.

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see http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/why-is-the-obama-administration-trying-to-keep-11-000-documents-sealed-20160418?utm_source=email
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Matt Taibbi is one of the few journalists in existence who has actually taken the time to gain some real understanding of the financial crisis that was revealed in 2008-2009. I would only add that this is like the tobacco litigation where the states became addicted to revenue from the tobacco companies in order to pay their “fines.”
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There are many reasons why the Bush and Obama administrations moved to “save” the TBTF banks at the expense of the rule of law and on the back of homeowners who were lured into unworkable debt masquerading as mortgage debt.
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And the outcome of this leadership by example is that the mortgages are treated as valid encumbrances, the mortgage bonds are treated as viable assets on the balance sheets of banks, and the one source that could save the economy — consumers — is being cutoff from any form of relief.
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This is like the Fortune 500 companies who have decided that their stock is their product, and the higher their stock price the better they are doing — even if it means that they artificially inflating their stock price by purchasing the stock at high levels with company funds. It’s like oil companies who continue to value the oil in the ground as though they were going to suck it all out and make a profit when we all know that oil is largely going to be left intact and not subject to sale or use. The bubble is here and this decision by a federal judge forces the hand of the Obama administration to lift the veil of secrecy on the pact between the TBTF banks and the U.S. government.
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THE SIMPLE TRUTH: The “Trusts” were nothing but names on paper. And the paper allegedly issued by the “Trusts” was as worthless as the Trusts themselves. The investors advanced money under the belief that it would mean their money was going through a “pass-through” entity to be managed by the Trust; but the money never went to the trusts and the trusts never acquired any assets from any source, leaving the trusts at best “inchoate” and at worst nonexistent depending upon the state.
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The mortgage loan schedules, assignments, and endorsements are all pure fabrication, illusion smoke and mirrors. This is why 10 years ago the banks were denying the existence of the trusts.
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They created a void between the investors and their money on the one hand and the homeowners and their homes on the other. They stepped into the void acting as principals when they were in fact rogue intermediaries.
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And to cover their tracks they funded loans with money they stole from investors, thus stealing the money and the debt, while at the same time defrauding the borrower and the courts with false claims of ownership leading to the pinnacle of their scheme — a forced sale of property that in fact they had no interest in, based upon a loan that they never funded or acquired. Getting to that auction is the first legal document in the whole fabricated illegal chain of documentation — and it gives them the right to use that foreclosure sale as proof that everything that went before the sale was true and valid. It wasn’t.
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About Those 1099 and Other Tax Filings from Servicers and Banks …

The problem for everyone involved is that in reality the investors made nothing and merely received a portion of their own money as though it had come from the trust. But it didn’t come from the trust because the trust didn’t even have a bank account. If the banks had disclosed the truth of the matter the investors would have known this is a Ponzi scheme. Imagine what would happen if someone claimed sub S treatment when the corporation they had formed did no business, had no bank account and never had any business activity, never had any assets or liabilities and never had any income or expenses.

THE FOLLOWING ARTICLE IS NOT A LEGAL OPINION UPON WHICH YOU CAN RELY IN ANY INDIVIDUAL CASE. HIRE A LAWYER. HIRE AN ACCOUNTANT OR OTHER QUALIFIED TAX ANALYST

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Few people can say they understand the Internal Revenue Code (IRC), and far fewer understand the statute that gave birth to the idea of a REMIC pass through entity (REAL ESTATE MORTGAGE INVESTMENT CONDUIT). The banks lobbied heavily for this section because it left open doors that could be exploited for the benefit of banks selling the “investment products” to the huge detriment of (1) the investors who advanced money into what turned out to be a nonexistent trust, (2) borrowers who were coaxed into signing “closing” documents as though the party named on the documents was lending them money, and (3) the US Government and the taxpayers who ultimately picked up the tab for a “bailout” of banks who had lost nothing from the actual “loans” nor the “mortgage bonds” because the banks were selling them not buying them. The bailouts from the US Treasury and the Federal Reserve in reality only added to the pornographic profits made by the banks by rewarding them with payments on losses incurred by others.

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Follow the money. Because of tacit agreements with Bush and Obama administrations the IRS has been granting repeated safe harbor extensions to the banks and servicers who have filed documents that  say that a REMIC was formed. Such filings were mostly false.  The problem is that the money and the acquisitions of “loans” MUST be through the trusts in order to get pass-through treatment. Without pass-through treatment, (like a sub S corporation) the cash received by investors is taxable income — even the portion, if any, that is attributable to principal. But the banks have been telling investors that they are getting the interest payment that they signed up for — according to the Prospectus and Pooling and Servicing Agreement. What they are actually getting is their own money back from the investment they  thought they made.

[NOTE: The part attributable to principal would be taxable because the notes themselves, even if they were valid, are not the source of income to investors as far as the investors know. The source is supposedly the REMIC Trust — an entity that was created on paper but never used. In reality the source was a pool of dark money consisting entirely of investor money. But the banks and servicers are reporting to the investors that the money they are receiving is “income”from interest due from the REMIC Trust that never operated. The banks and services are obviously not reporting the cash as part of a Ponzi scheme. So the investors are paying taxes on the return of their own money. Hence the part of the payment from the “borrower” that has been designated as “principal” is reported as “interest” in reports to the investors. In reality the money from “borrowers” merely dumped into a dark pool along with all the other money received from investors.  The entire “loan closing” and subsequent foreclosures are a charade adding the judgment from a court of law that is treated as giving a stamp of approval for everything that preceded the judgment.]

The problem for everyone involved is that in reality the investors made nothing and merely received a portion of their own money as though it had come from the trust. But it didn’t come from the trust because the trust didn’t even have a bank account. If the banks had disclosed the truth of the matter the investors would have known this is a Ponzi scheme. Imagine what would happen if someone claimed sub S treatment when the corporation they had formed did no business, had no bank account and never had any business activity, never had any assets or liabilities and never had any income or expenses.

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The forms filed with the IRS are fraudulent. The 1099 issued to borrowers who avoided deficiency judgments are fraudulent because they come from entities that had no loss and never had the authority to collect or enforce. In reality if the true facts were followed there would be no taxable event for getting their own money back from their “investment.” But the way it is reported, the investors are getting “income” on which they owe taxes. The real taxes on real income should come from the banks that stole a large part of the money advanced by investors. It’s like Al Capone — in the end it was income tax that brought him down.

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Instead the investors are being taxed for interest received and are exposed to more taxes when they get money reported as “principal.” Neither the investors nor the borrowers should be paying taxes on any money or “benefit” they reportedly received (because there was no benefit). So the end result is that the banks made all the money, paid no taxes, and are taking a deduction for payments made to investors and for waivers of deficiency on loans they never owned.

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I have been telling borrowers for years to send the IRS a latter or notice in which they flatly state that the  form filed with the IRS was wrong, fraudulent and inoperative. The borrower received no benefit from the bank or servicer that filed it. Hence no tax is due. Thus far I have seen no evidence that the IRS is attempting to enforce the payment of income taxes from people who have challenged the the authenticity of the report. The IRS apparently does NOT want to be in the shoes of the banks trying to prove that the bank who filed the form owned the loan when they already know that the transaction was not actually a loan and that the “loan closing” transaction was the the result of the unauthorized and fraudulent use of investor money.

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Eventually the truth comes out. The problem for the banks is that they stole money and didn’t pay tax on their ill-gotten gains. Every time a “servicer” “recovers” “servicer advances” they are taking more money from investors because every “advance” was taken from a pool of money that consisted solely of investor cash. When they “recover” it they book it as return of capital rather than pure income which is what it really is, even if it is illegally obtained.

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If they admitted what it was then the banks would be required to pay huge sums in taxes. But they would also be facing angry investors who, upon realizing that every cent they received was their own money and not return on capital “invested” into a trust, would press claims and in many cases DID press claims and settled with the bank that defrauded them. So the banks and servicers are attempting to avoid both jail and huge sums in back taxes that would put a significant dent in the “deficit” of the U.S. government caused by the illegal and fraudulent activity of the banks.

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Mozilo Goes free

Someone needs to go back to the Declaration of Independence. Government exists only by consent of the governed. People are withdrawing their consent on a daily basis now. Where do you think that will lead?

see http://www.housingwire.com/articles/37308-countrywides-mozilo-reportedly-off-the-hook-for-all-those-subprime-mortgages?eid=311685972&bid=1437193#.V2RJhpGUqsU.email

Revenge is not the point. But justice is important. Mozilo was, in my opinion, just a bag man for the mega banks, making Countrywide into a giant holographic image of an empty paper bag.

DOJ is continuing to follow the rules set informally by the Bush administration and later ratified by the Obama administration in which it was assumed that the foxes would help “find” the chickens and put them back in the hen house. It was absurd to all of us who were even reasonably well versed in the language and culture of finance and economics.

Here is what we missed: a DOJ prosecution would have enabled the free flow of information back to the White House where decisions could be made about (1) what went wrong (2) who did it and (3) how to claw back trillions of dollars in ill-gotten gains. Instead both Bush and Obama went to the foxes to ask where the chickens were. The foxes still had chicken blood dripping from their mouths when they said “I don’t know but we’ll help you find out.” Both the Republican President and the Democratic President were clueless about finance. They had to rely on people who at least said they understood what was going on. They went to people from Wall Street who were fat, happy and getting more jovial with each passing month.

Here is what COULD have happened: the absence of a clear definition of a real creditor could have been exposed, making all the mortgages essentially unenforceable. The notes would have been unenforceable because they named parties who did NOT give the loan nor did those parties represent anyone who did give a loan. An announcement of this sort would have toppled the derivative market which is all based upon smoke and mirrors and would  have stopped the progression of the current derivative markets being used as a free zone for theft from investors.

The DEBT would still have been enforceable in favor of the investors, instead of the unused Trusts and other conduits and “originators.” But the real debt owed by homeowners would have been the value of the home, not the imaginary price of the home. All those crazy mortgage products were a cover-up for what the Wall Street banks were stealing from investors. The investors were not just some financial institution; they were managed funds for people’s retirement and savings. In a cruel irony, Wall Street cheated the same people against whom they were foreclosing. They stole the retirement money, covered it up in impossible loans, and then foreclosed saying they were doing so on behalf of the investors — i.e., the same people who were losing their homes, their pensions, retirement and their savings. In short Wall Street banks’ schemes resulted in the middle class suing itself for foreclosure, thus losing both their retirement, pension and savings and then their home.

Wall Street Banks could have been pushed aside as investors and homeowners figured out creative ways to remove the bad mortgages from the title chain and replace them with real mortgages that were based upon principal balances that were economically realistic. Neither the investors nor the borrowers knew that the banks had created a culture of false appraisals creating the illusion of a spike in land VALUE by manipulating the PRICE of  real property. Foreclosures could have been reduced to nearly zero. And the stimulus of maintaining household wealth would have made the recession a much milder affair. Instead there was an epic transfer of wealth from the vast population of people who were sucked into investing in the scheme to provide the food, and vast population of people who were duped into accepting the illusion of mortgage loans whose value was zero.

Somehow the media has concentrated on transfer of wealth as though it means the rich must give to the poor. But anyone with a high school degree can do this arithmetic — the transfer clearly went from the populous to the fraction of the 1% who had concocted this epic fraud. Our population went from middle class to below the poverty line while Mozilo and his counterparts made hundreds of millions of dollars at a minimum. Some made tens of billions of dollars that has not yet been revealed. All of that money came from the middle class and then the theft was rewarded with more trillions of dollars from the Federal government. Until we claw that money back our economy will remain forever fragile.

Mozilo earned nothing. He merely followed the instructions of people who had his complete attention. A civil or criminal prosecution would have led to the specific people whose orders he was following and an unraveling of a scheme that even Alan Greenspan admitted he didn’t understand. In short we would have known the truth and we would have had much greater trust in our Government institutions and our judiciary, who blindly accepted the nutty premise that the party suing for foreclosure wouldn’t be in court if there was no liability owed to them. Between the outlandishly cruel and biased criminal justice system and the tidal wave of foreclosures that never needed to happen, people have an historically low opinion of government and the Courts; and it seems that ordinary people have a greater understanding of what happened to the country at the hands of Wall Street banks than the officials who serve in the positions where such banks and such behavior is supposed to be regulated and stopped.

Bottom Line: As long as the Federal government fails to reign in illegal derivative activity (masking PONZI schemes and other illicit behavior) Judges will not reject the erroneous premise that homeowners got greedy and are deadbeats for failing to pay their debts. And as long as THAT continues, our economy cannot recover and our society will continue splitting apart. Someone needs to go back to the Declaration of Independence. Government exists only by consent of the governed. People are withdrawing their consent on a daily basis now. Where do you think that will lead?

Pretender Mender: Foreclosure Crisis Continues to Rise Despite Obama Team Reports

Despite various “reports” from the Obama Administration and writers in the fields of real estate, mortgages and finance, the crisis is still looming as the main drag on the economy. Besides the fact that complete strangers are “getting the house” after multiple payments were received negating any claim of default, it is difficult to obtain financing for a new purchase for the millions of families who have been victims of the mortgage PONZI scheme. In addition, people are finding out that these intermediaries who received an improper stamp of approval from the courts are now pursuing deficiency judgments against people who cooperated or lost the foreclosure litigation. And now we have delinquency rates rising on mortgages that in all probability should never be enforced. And servicers are still pursuing strategies to lure or push homeowners into foreclosure.

For more information on foreclosure offense, expert witness consultations and foreclosure defense please call 954-495-9867 or 520-405-1688. We offer litigation support in all 50 states to attorneys. We refer new clients without a referral fee or co-counsel fee unless we are retained for litigation support. Bankruptcy lawyers take note: Don’t be too quick admit the loan exists nor that a default occurred and especially don’t admit the loan is secured. FREE INFORMATION, ARTICLES AND FORMS CAN BE FOUND ON LEFT SIDE OF THE BLOG. Consultations available by appointment in person, by Skype and by phone.

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Most people simply allowed the foreclosure to happen. Many even cleaned the home before leaving the keys on the kitchen counter. They never lifted a finger in defense. As predicted many times on this blog and in my appearances, it isn’t over. We are in the fifth inning of a nine inning game.

Losing homes that have sometimes been in the family for many generations results in a sharp decline in household wealth leaving the homeowner with virtually no offset to the household debt. Even if the family has recovered in terms of producing at least a meager income that would support a down-sized home, they cannot get a mortgage because of a policy of not allowing mortgage financing to anyone who has a foreclosure on their record within the past three years.

To add insult to injury, the banks posing as lenders in the 6 million+ foreclosures are now filing deficiency judgments to continue the illusion that the title is clear and the judgment of foreclosure was valid. People faced with these suits are now in the position of having failed to litigate the validity of the mortgage or foreclosure. But all is not lost. A deficiency judgment is presumptively valid, but in the litigation the former homeowners can send out discovery requests to determine ownership and balance of the alleged debt. Whether judges will allow that discovery is something yet to be seen. But the risk to those companies filing deficiency judgments is that the aggressive litigators defending the deficiency actions might well be able to peak under the hood of the steam roller that produced the foreclosure in the first instance.

What they will find is that there is an absence of actual transactions supporting the loans, assignments, endorsements etc. that were used to get the Court to presume that the documents were valid — i.e., that absent proof from the borrower, the rebuttable assumption of validity of the documents that refer to such transactions forces the homeowner to assume a burden of proof based upon facts that are in the sole care, custody and control of the pretender lender. If the former homeowner can do what they should have done in the first place, they will open up Pandora’s box. The loan on paper was not backed by a transaction where the “lender” loaned any money. The assignment was not backed by a purchase transaction of the loan. And even where there was a transfer for value, the “assignment turns out to be merely an offer that neither trust nor trustee of the REMIC trust was allowed to accept.

All evidence, despite narratives to the contrary, shows that not only have foreclosures not abated, they are rising. Delinquencies are rising, indicating a whole new wave of foreclosures on their way — probably after the November elections.

http://www.housingwire.com/blogs/1-rewired/post/31089-are-we-facing-yet-another-foreclosure-crisis

http://www.newrepublic.com/article/119187/mortgage-foreclosures-2015-why-crisis-will-flare-again

http://susiemadrak.com/2014/08/25/here-comes-that-deferred-mortgage-crisis/

CBO: principal reduction best for economy

Three cheers for Chris Hayes on MSNBC. In his new show, ALL IN, last night he reported and editorialized on the mistakes of giving banks relief and “screwing” homeowners since 2008. On his show he had Elliot Spitzer who took the administration to task for not doing something before this time. And to top it off DeMarco, the head of the former government sponsored entities (GSE), who has single-handedly blocked principal reduction is being removed and his replacement is an ardent consumer advocate currently a Representative from North Carolina. Things are changing.

The Congressional Budget Office is accepted as a non-partisan agency which has torpedoed both Democratic and Republican proposals on the economy. Upon request from Congress, the CBO studied the mortgage and foreclosure market and concluded that principal reduction should be the keystone of policy for Fannie and Freddie because it is a win-win that will return money to the taxpayers, spur the economy with an fiscal stimulus with a program that costs nothing, increasing GDP and employment. The CBO unequivocably recommended immediate implementation of large-scale reductions in mortgage principal.

The momentum is growing for the reduction of household debt just as this blog, numerous economists and financial experts have been virtually demanding. Iceland has proved the point. We have there a live experiment. Iceland has adopted a policy of continual reduction of household debt. The result was a healthier economy growing at a higher pace than any other country hit by the world- wide recession because consumer wealth, confidence and earnings increased allowing for consumption of goods and services that are in sharp decline in the U.S. and Europe. And the banks in Iceland are healthier and better regulated than at any time before the crash.

It is clearly a win- win situation for all stake holders. All this is providing fuel for the policy of principal reduction in household debt, including mortgages, forcing the banks to eat the difference. Of course Iceland also jailed the bankers who created the conditions that caused the Iceland economy to crash n 2008. Now you wouldn’t know it ever happened — but only if live in Iceland. Policy experts here and the CBO that measures past, present and future effects of economic policies are now moving away from the disastrous European experiment in reduced spending (“austerity”) which kicked the Euro economy when it was already down.

This means that homeowners will fight even harder to stay alive while the new policies go into effect and the right thing is done for consumers and homeowners in particular, that will provide trillions in fiscal stimulus for the economy with little negative impact on the banks who were using other people’s money to fund the mortgages, suffered no loss in mortgage defaults and only reported losses on bogus mortgage bonds backed by mortgage loans, which in turn were guaranteed by Fannie and Freddie 90% of the time. Those GSE entities under a single Federal Agency now guarantee or own more than 90% of all U.S. mortgages.

The remaining correction in describing the mortgages that were supposedly filed on record is that the mortgages were for the most part unenforceable, as is consistently alleged by investor lawsuits against investment banks that created and sold the bogus mortgage bonds AND that the “reduction” is really CORRECTION to adjust for fraudulent appraisals on which homeowners, the government and investors relied.

For the first time the reception of homeowners has changed from deadbeat to the ultimate resource to restore economic growth and who were screwed worse than anyone in the criminal enterprise that Wall Street called “securitization.” There was no securitization. Wall Street banks put the money in their own pockets instead of funding the so-called asset pools, “trusts” and other special purpose vehicles that the investors belied was receiving their money. The paperwork is all a sham from origination, where the “lender” never loaned a penny through assignments that conveyed nothing and were completely unsupported by value or consideration.

CONGRATULATIONS TO THE SOLDIERS IN THIS WAR AGAINST OPPRESSION OF THE AVERAGE CITIZEN.

Foreclosure Review Process Handed Over to the Banks

CHECK OUT OUR DECEMBER SPECIAL!

What’s the Next Step? Consult with Neil Garfield

For assistance with presenting a case for wrongful foreclosure, please call 520-405-1688, customer service, who will put you in touch with an attorney in the states of Florida, California, Ohio, and Nevada. (NOTE: Chapter 11 may be easier than you think).

Editor’s Comment: Along with members of Congress and millions of homeowners I remain deeply disappointed in the failure of the Obama administration to grapple with the mortgage meltdown. The current path will lead to more of the same and it never does anything but escalate when somebody gets away with theft, fraud and PONZI schemes.

The prior so-called “review” process involved people who were neither independent nor skilled nor trained to find wrongful practices and the damage caused by those wrongful practices. They were given inadequate information by the banks who continue to hide the fake securitization scheme and PONZI scheme.

The agencies are complaining that it takes too long to process the review. Let’s see. If John Jones was foreclosed by somebody who had no right to do so on a loan that was unsecured and paid down to zero, and then he was evicted, just how long is too long for the agency to slam the offending bank? Are you kidding? What kind of double-standard are we setting up here? If I do it, I go to jail. But if a bank does it then it is an error and here is $2,000 for your trouble. Now under the new settlement agreement, if I do it, the agency is telling me to determine whether I committed a crime or civil theft. Yeah, I’ll get right back to you on that.

Obama and his administration continue to buy into the bank myth that these were bad lending practices instead of being intentional acts of fraud, theft, forgery and fabrication. They still think the loan receivables are “out there” somewhere but they have no evidence to substantiate that belief because there isn’t any. Those loan balances were paid down long ago.

The plain truth is right in front of them and there is no good reason to say that this task is too onerous for the regulators so we are just going to turn it over to the banks that were guilty of the wrong-doing. Does ANYONE really think that a bank is going to review its files and declare that a terrible injustice has been done?

Everything is tied to this mortgage mess. Consumers have been slammed with most of their wealth siphoned off by banks who were acting intentionally to screw the pension funds and the people who rely on those pension funds. The loan balances, if adjusted to reflect payments by insurance, credit default swaps and bailouts — all promised to the investors — are far less than anything demanded and in many cases are zero.

Nobody wants to give a windfall to the homeowner and nobody wants to give a windfall to the banks. But our government has decided that between the two, the banks ought to get it in order to preserve stability in the financial system. The stability of the financial system is, in my opinion, secondary to the stability of our economy. Our debt and deficits collectively and individually are all tied to the wrongdoing of about 2 dozen banks.

And I strongly disagree with the notion that the break-up of the mega banks will destabilize the financial system. When the dust clears, we simply won’t have banks that are too big to regulate, as shown in this review process. There is no evidence that clawing back the money for the pension funds that invested in fake mortgage bonds issued by fake investment pools will destabilize anything except the lives of some people who really need to go to jail.

Quite the contrary, putting the money back where it belongs with the pension funds and doing an accounting for the money in and the money out related to these mortgages will produce mortgage balances, without “forgiveness” that are far lower than demanded in foreclosure or end of month statements. Underwater homes will be a thing of the past, and mortgage payments can be adjusted to the real balances enabling the consumers in a consumer driven economy to spend.

Justice is more in this case than simply doing the right thing. It is a fiscal stimulus that does not cost one dime. If we can spend a trillion dollars on a war for the security interests of our country, then why can’t we spend 1/10 of 1% of that amount on following the money trail and determining the identity of the stakeholders, the amount of their stake and the terms of repayment?

The precedent here is dangerous. If “I am too important to go to jail” actually works as a defense, then we have changed the rule of law in ways that will haunt us for hundreds of years.

Agencies Give Up and hand the Mortgage Mess Over to the Banks to Resolve

Major Economists Tell Obama to Reduce Mortgage Debt

What’s the Next Step? Consult with Neil Garfield

CHECK OUT OUR NOVEMBER SPECIAL

For assistance with presenting a case for wrongful foreclosure, please call 520-405-1688, customer service, who will put you in touch with an attorney in the states of Florida, California, Ohio, and Nevada. (NOTE: Chapter 11 may be easier than you think).

Editor’s Comment: I think Obama is stuck on the idea that correction of loans to reflect their true value is a gift to undeserving people — because that is the message he is getting from Wall Street. I have demonstrated on these pages that correction of loan principal is not a gift, it is paid in full, and even if you disagree with indisputable facts, it is the only practical thing to do as Iceland has clearly shown, with the only growing economy in Western nations.

Now we find out that Obama was given exactly that advice 18 months before he won reelection. Let’s see if he does it. He sought got the advice of seven of the world’s leading economists who all agreed that reduction of household debt — and in particular the dubious mortgage debt that Wall Street is using to make more and more profit, is something that the administration should do right away.

We can only guess why the administration has not done it, but I know from background sources that this ideological battle has been going on in the White House since Obama was first elected. What is needed is for Obama to take the time to get to know the real facts. And those facts show clearly that (1) the foreclosures that already were allowed to proceed did so on imperfected liens which is to say the right to foreclose was absent regardless of the amount and (b) the principal claimed as due on those loans was (1) not due to the people who claimed it and (2) far above the real amount that was due because the banks stole the money from insurance, credit default swaps and federal bailouts from investing pension funds and other managed funds.

The banks claimed ownership of loans they neither funded nor purchased and also had the audacity to claim the losses and then overstated the losses by a factor of 10. The insurance companies and counterparties on the credit default swaps, along with the federal government, paid the banks who didn’t have a dime in the deal and therefore lost nothing. The investors received small pittances in settlements when they should have received from their investment bankers (agents of the investors) the money that was received.

An accounting from the Master Servicer and the trustee or manager of the “pools” would clearly show that the money was received and not allocated in accordance with the contrnacts nor common law. As a result we are left with a fake loss that was tossed over the fence at the investors. Had they allocated the gargantuan payments received from multiple insurance policies on the same bonds and loans, the principal would be reduced anyway.

This is why I keep saying that you should use Deny and Discover as  your principal strategy and direct it not just to the subservicer who deals directly with the homeowner borrowers but also the Master Servicer who deals with the subservicer, the insurance companies, the counterparties on credit default swaps, and the federal government.

Following the money trial will in most cases show that the lien recorded was imperfect and not enforceable because the party who was designated as the lender was not the lender, hence “pretender lender.” Following this trail from one end to the other and forcing the books open will show that most loans were table funded (predatory per se as per TILA reg Z) — and not for the benefit of the investors, but rather for the benefit of the bankers (a typical PONZI scheme).

In an economy driven by consumer spending, the reduction in household debt will drive the economy forward and upward. The real total in many cases is zero after credits for insurance, CDS, and federal bailouts. If you leave the tax code alone, and let the “benefit” be taxed, the federal government will receive a huge amount of taxes that the banks evaded, but they would get it from homeowners, whose tax debt would be a small fraction of the mortgage debt claimed by the banks.

The problem can be solved. It is a question of whether the leader of our nation studies the issues and comes to his own conclusions instead of being led on a string by Wall Street spinning.

Failure to act will produce a wave of strategic defaults because like any business failure, the “businessman” — i.e., the homeowner — has concluded that the investment went bad and they will just walk away — resulting in another windfall to the banks who after cornering the world’s supply of money will have cornered the world’s supply of real estate.

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Tax “break” about to expire on debt “forgiveness”

Editor’s Comments on policy:

Depending upon what Congress does between now and the end of the year the waiver of a tax on debt forgiveness as ordinary income will expire. My take is that it should expire and that at the same time the debt should be reduced by virtue of payments received or due from  subservicers, Master Servicers,  insurers, and counterparties to credit default swap contract, where appropriate. This is because (a) it was never secured and (b) it was never funded or acquired for “value received” by the parties whose name appears as payee and mortgagee on closing papers and (c) the debts have been paid off multiple times by multiples sales of the same loan under the structure of an outright sale (of something they didn’t own), insurance, credit default swaps and even federal bailout.

The added reason is that the homeowners were defrauded: the appraisals were cooked and the borrower justifiably relied upon them as did the investors. So we are talking restitution here not forgiveness.

That would leave each borrower with a tax instead of a mortgage. It would also give back the money to the Federal government and investors. In many cases the investors are also the borrowers if they pay taxes or are depending upon a managed institutional fund that bought the bogus mortgage bonds. By converting the defective mortgage, note and assignments to a tax, the borrower’s liability would be reduced and payable in installments.

Obama wants as little Federal involvement as possible, but he is missing the point that a large scale fraud took place here that ended up corrupting the title records in all fifty states and in which investors suffered losses only because their agents, the investment banks, never shared the enormous profits they received from “trading” (Tier 2 yield spread premium), buying insurance in which the investment bank was the payee instead of the investors, and buying additional coverage from credit default swaps again making themselves the payee instead of the investors.

This is a mirror of the closings at which the loans were supposedly originated. Instead of making the investors or their REMIC the payee on the note or recording an assignment with actual payment in cash, the banks “borrowed” ownership from the investors and made a ton of money trading on it.

The Federal government MUST get involved here and straighten this out or there will continue to be uneven inconsistent opinions emanating from state and federal courts across the country making the title situation (and uncertainty in the marketplace) even worse than it is now.

The fact is that in most loans the amount received from Federal bailouts and the hedge contracts that were used, as well as the outright multiple sales of the same loans, have been paid in full several times over whether they are in foreclosure or not — and that includes the prior “foreclosures” that were put through the system based upon false, defective documentation and fraudulent representations to the borrowers and all others involved in the process.

The remedy I propose is indeed extreme if you look at it as a gift. But if you look at it from the point of view that the investors and borrowers were lured into the scheme by the same lies to support a PONZI scheme that collapsed as soon as investors stopped buying the bogus mortgage bonds, it is easy to see that the balance due from borrowers is zero. In fact, it is even possible that legally the overpayment left over after the investors are paid, might be due back to homeowners by virtue of the terms of the notes they signed. That might also be taxable but the homeowner would have the money with which to pay the tax.

This proposal would stimulate the economy by automatically reducing the amount of household debt based upon tax brackets, while also increasing revenue to pay back the Federal government for all the “favors” done for the banks. Whether the Feds decide to prosecute the banks for restitution would their choice.

As it stands now, as long as homeowners focus their strategy or DENY and DISCOVER and demand to see the actual transfers of money to prove ownership of the loan and the existence of an unpaid loan receivable, the decisions are already turning toward the borrowers, albeit slowly. One way or the other, this issue with taxation of the “forgiveness” of debt when in fact it was actually paid is going to surface.

Think about it. Comments welcome.

Tax break for struggling homeowners set to expire
http://money.cnn.com/2012/11/07/real_estate/mortgage-forgiveness-tax-break/

Obama Won: Now What?

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Now that Obama has won a second term he is unencumbered by the need to run for re-election. But he is still stuck with a Congress that is largely bought by the banks. There are a lot of things he can do administratively without Congress and that is the path he should take.

The first issue is of course what is best for the Country and he has answered that in both word and deed — developing the middle class to restore prosperity and the hope of the American dream. The biggest thing available to him is the fiscal stimulus that would result from resolving the foreclosure crisis which is ongoing along with the corruption of title throughout the United States creating uncertainty in real estate transactions that will haunt us for decades.

That resolution is going to involve a choice of one of two paths. The one most of his agencies are following is predicated upon the assumption that the loan closings were bona fide and for value. This assumption leads to such narratives as “reckless” lending by the banks etc and leaves some room for punishing them, and providing relief for homeowners — past, present and/or future — as to wrongful foreclosure or wrongful closings. The relief for people who “borrowed more than they could pay” is going to be minimal.

The second path is the path we have been advocating here for years. It is simple. If we assume that the loan closing was defective and fraudulent (fueled by fraudulent appraisals) then the administration has a free hand to fashion resolution and settlements that are in the national interest.

By defective I mean that the mortgages were never perfected and that therefore the amount “due” is not secured. AND we have the whole issue of what is the amount due on a loan receivable that was converted to a receivable from a bond that contained vastly different terms than the note that was signed to the order of the wrong payee.

If we force an accounting for exactly where the money came from, what route it took and how the paperwork does NOT match up with the road taken by the money, then the transactions with Federal Reserve and the resolution with investors (pension funds) as well as borrowers (homeowners) can be much more easily achieved administratively.

The first route might just lead to window dressing on a crisis that will erupt in the coming year as pension funds, now underfunded through losses on the so-called mortgage-backed securities (backed by loans that never made it into the pool), start announcing that they do not have enough money to meet the pension obligations that were promised or even vested. In short, another huge bailout is on the way if he moves in that direction, this time paying for the banks’ misbehavior by giving money to the pension funds again from taxpayer dollars.

The second route relieves the banks bulging pockets of off-shore and on shore funds taken during the mortgage meltdown and distributes it as restitution for fraud against the investors and the homeowners. As I have repeatedly said, the day will come that we will be required to grant amnesty to everyone and simply share the losses in some proportions that make sense.

In the courts meanwhile, we will continue to press for the DENY and DISCOVER  strategy of following the money and opening up that can of worms. We are making progress with that as more and more judges are starting to understand that the failure to register the the REMIC as the owner or payee on the note according to state laws regarding the recording of interests in real estate, is indicative of a systemic fraud that was intended to deprive the investors of the protections they were promised through insurance and credit default swaps (the banks pocketed that money) and eventually federal bailouts (the bank pocketed that money also).

Many lawyers and pro se litigants are understandably intimidated by the prospect of taking a transaction that was once fairly simple and straightforward and denying that it ever took place. Lawyers are afraid of looking stupid denying the obvious.

But that, according to our information here, is exactly what did occur. The transaction documented at closing was NOT the financial transaction that occurred in which money actually exchanged hands.  The REMICs were excluded from the paperwork because the banks hijacked the loans in order to get the insurance and credit default swaps payable to the banks instead of the investors who put up the money.

So we are left with an actual transaction in which money exchanged hands but which is undocumented except for the wire transfer receipt and the wire transfer instructions. At the same time we are left with a documented transaction based upon a loan that never occurred between the parties to that documentation.

Obama has a lot of political capital and the bank-bought politicians in Washington and state legislatures had better take notice: the demographics won this election for Obama and those demographic include people hardest hit by foreclosures or the threat of foreclosure. Despite all the money spent, the bank-owned politicians are in a far weaker position than they thought they would be this morning.

It’s time for the President to take the initiative and push for a final resolution of this crisis, lest it fester for decades.

Sheila Bair Paints Picture of President concerned with borrowers vs Team Concerned with Banks

Editor’s Note: Sheila Bair might have been thrown under the bus but she is still alive. Get her book if you really want to know about Obama and his team — it was a war in the White House. When Obama gets a second term I think we are going to see a large shakeout of old economic advisers who care about banks and new economic advisers who care about the country the people who live in it.

Sheila Bair Bashes Obama’s Economic Team — Here’s What She Has To Say About The President
http://www.businessinsider.com/sheila-bair-on-barack-obama-2012-9

CFPB Safe Harbor Rule Would Allow Homeowners to Fight Bad Mortgages

Editor’s Comment: The practice of disregarding normal loan underwriting standards creates a claim that homeowners were tricked into loans that they could never repay. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, built by Elizabeth Warren under Obama’s direction is about to pass a rule that addresses that very issue. The new Rule would allow homeowners contesting foreclosure to introduce evidence challenging whether the “lender” correctly determined a borrower’s ability to repay the loan.

The details of the test for the “safe harbor” provision that is being contested are not yet known. The objective is to separate those who are using general knowledge of bad practices in the industry from those who were actually hurt by those practices. It would provide the presiding judge with a simple, clear test to determine whether the evidence submitted (not merely allegations — so the burden is still on the homeowner) are sufficient to determine that the “lender” wrote a loan that it knew or should have known could not be repaid.

The game being indirectly addressed here is that the participants in the fake securitization scheme intentionally wrote bad loans and then were successful at entering into contracts that paid insurance, credit default swap and federal bailout proceeds to the participants in the scheme even though they neither made the loan nor did the forecloser actually buy the loan (no money exchanged hands).

Those who do not meet the test would have “frivolous” claims dismissed summarily by the Judge. But they would have other grounds to sue the “lender” or the party making false claims of default and foreclosure. Those who do meet the test, would defeat the foreclosure leaving the loan in a state of limbo.

The net legal effect of the rule could be that the mortgage is void and the note is no longer considered evidence of the entire transaction — because the risk of loss on the homeowner shifts to the lender, at least in part. This would clear the path for principal reduction and new loans that would correct the corruption of title in the county title records.

The rule is coming at the behest of the Federal Reserve, which has is own problems on how to account for the trillions they have advanced for “bad” mortgages or worthless bogus mortgage bonds.

The question remains whether the purchase of these bonds conveys some right of action to collect money that the investors advanced, and who would receive that money. It also leaves open the question of whether a mortgage bond purportedly owned by the Federal reserve or even sold by the the Federal Reserve changes the players with standing to bring lawsuits or other foreclosure proceedings.

This rule, when it is finally written and passed, won’t solve all the problems but it could have a cascading effect of restoring at least some homeowners to at least a better financial condition than the one in which they find themselves.

The issue that would be interesting to see litigated is whether the homeowners who meet the test now have a claim to recover part or all of the money they paid on the mortgage thus far or if they are given an additional credit for the overage they paid — another way of reducing principal.

The bottom line is that there is recognition at all levels of government agencies —Federal and State — that there are problems with the origination of the loans and not just with the robo-signed assignments, allonges endorsements and fake powers of attorney. This recognition is going to be felt throughout the regulatory and judicial system and will redirect the attention of Judges to the reality that Wall Street banks wanted bad loans so they could make millions on each bad loan through multiple sales of the same loans using insurance, credit default swaps, TARP and other schemes to cover it all up.

www.housingwire.com by John Prior

Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Director Richard Cordray told a House committee Thursday that mortgage lenders would still not be safe if the bureau elects to grant a safe harbor provision to the upcoming Qualified Mortgage rule.

“The safe harbor versus rebuttable presumption is a mirage,” Cordray said. “Even safe harbor isn’t safe. You can always be sued for whether you meet the criteria or not to get into the safe harbor. It’s a bit of a marketing concept there. The more important point is are we drawing bright lines? If someone were to say to me safe harbor or anything else, I would go with a safe harbor. But I don’t think safe harbor is truly safe. And I think it oversimplifies the issue.”

Rep. Michael Grimm, R-N.Y. then right away pressed Cordray on which he would choose: a safe harbor or rebuttable presumption. The director was forced to remind him the rule was still under development and would be finalized in January.

“I have not taken a position. I have discussed the issue,” Cordray said.

Mortgage industry lobbyists have been pressing the bureau since it overtook QM rulemaking responsibility from the Federal Reserve last year to install “clear, bright lines” and a legal safe harbor that protects lenders from future homeowner suits during foreclosure.

A rebuttable presumption provision allows homeowners to introduce evidence in court challenging whether the lender correctly determined a borrower’s ability to repay the loan before it was written. But a safe harbor allows a simple test for a judge to find if the mortgage met the QM rule, and frivolous suits could be dismissed early.

The Mortgage Bankers Association even showed the CFPB that attorney fees go up to an average $84,000 for a summary judgment from $26,000 if it’s dismissed. The risk of this increased cost would be passed on to borrowers, they claim.

Some consumer advocacy groups previously said such suits are rare, and a safe harbor could clear lenders from risks down the road rule makers cannot anticipate now.

Cordray repeatedly said in the hearing Thursday that his goal on QM and upcoming rules for the mortgage market is to protect consumers but not cut off access to credit. Forcing courts to define areas left gray by regulators is not something he would permit.

“As a former attorney general in Ohio, gray areas of the law are not appreciated,” Cordray said. “They’re difficult for people trying to comply. If we write rules that are murky, they’ll end up getting resolved in courts and it will take years and be very expensive. We are making real efforts to draw very bright lines.”

jprior@housingwire.com

Politics Diverting Us From the Real Issues

“The bottom line is that conservatives don’t conserve anything. They have their hand deeper into the public purse than anyone else. Liberals don’t liberate anyone either, providing the tools to prospects for progress and prosperity. The terms should not be used because nobody means what they say.” Neil F Garfield livinglies.me

Editor’s Comment: Romney’s latest gaffe is only a mistake in terms of him having said it, not that that he didn’t mean it. To set the record straight the 47% pay payroll taxes that the rich don’t pay, have incomes under $50,000 per year, and one third of them are seniors and disabled with incomes lower than $20,000 per year getting Social Security and similar benefits that they paid for when they were working. But isn’t really the problem.

The problem is that what Romney gave voice to was a feeling amongst the elite Democrats and Republicans who look at the bottom economic half of the country with disdain. Although they are working, paying Social Security and Unemployment taxes most of these people are treated as though they are trash to be taken out and cleaned somehow. Those taxes amount to over 12% of their income whereas the income from wealth, escape those taxes altogether.

And THAT is the reason it is so easy for banks to manipulate politicians, law enforcement and regulators into doing nothing about the cancer growing on our society — fake mortgages, fake foreclosures, fake evictions, and fake income and assets reported for the banks. Some of the media are picking up on the fact that the stolen money from investors is not being recognized as taxable income, which it is, and that the IRS isn’t pursuing hundreds of billions of income taxes that are due from the Banks. Talk about getting a free ride.

Today’s conference call (7 PM EDT) with members will touch on this along with the usual report on what is getting traction and what tactics and strategies might be used to confront the banks who are faking ownership of the loans when they neither loaned the money nor purchased the loan with money.

My take on the political landscape is this: I speak with people from the so-called far right political spectrum to the far left political spectrum. I speak to members of fringe groups too.

The overwhelming consensus amongst all of them from one end to the other is that government is corrupt, banks are corrupt and that our society is in the wrong hands mostly without candidates who will speak to these issues. We need a new crop of politicians who are no so encumbered with loyalties to the bank oligopoly because at some time, the ticking time bomb is going to blow. I speak of economic meltdown, caused by fabricated transactions and assets that our counted as part of our national wealth and GDP.

If you ask people specific questions about what is fair, just, moral, ethical and legal nearly all of them respond with the same answers. So why are we a divided nation? Why to we listen to sound bites instead of forcing the candidates to speak to us about our issues, about our stress and anxiety — whether we will have a roof over our heads, whether we will have food on the table, whether our children will be educated well enough so that they can fill the jobs that are ready to be filled. Right now there are 3 million such jobs.

You would think that someone would want to do something about it. Obama tried to put through a bill to do something about that but he didn’t push hard enough. Republicans scoffed at it because of their allegiance to the super rich whose boatloads of money are floating nearly all the republicans and many of the democrats in local, state and Federal elections.

But we can’t blame one or even a group of politicians if we, the Boss, as the voters who control who governs us, don’t do our job and get educated about issues, educated about candidates and exercise our absolute right to vote in the elections.

The current crop of incumbents doesn’t worry about our reaction because we don’t have any reaction tot heir stupid policies, bills and laws. We are a nation of apathy where vote turnout has been going lower and lower. The reason is the same as the unemployment situation. The figures would be worse if we added those back who simply gave up. Don’t give up your vote. Use it and mean it!

Why Hasn’t De Marco Been Fired?

Editor’s Notes: It is already well -established that write-down of principal is the only sane thing to do in these circumstances. De Marco standing as head of of the GSE’s refuses to consider that and even refuses to push for modifications, preferring foreclosures instead. Foreclosures are what is killing the economy, destroying lives and providing windfall upon windfall profits to Wall Street. Who is in charge — De Marco or Obama?

He is still talking as though there are deserving homeowners and undeserving homeowners. In any PONZI scheme, there are people whose greed is more than other “investors.” But they are all treated the same when it comes to getting restitution. It’s time to level the playing field. Fire DeMarco and start forcing modifications and settlements where people can pay some reasonable amount of monthly payment on a reasonable balance that does not carry forward the appraisal fraud at origination of the loan.

AND by the way, when will Obama or Romney address the criticism that they are not talking about foreclosure, which is the elephant in the living room?

occupy-homes-others-demand-foreclosure-action-freddie-mac-chicago-headquarters

Prosecute the Big Banks? Nothing’s Off the Table!

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Editor’s Comment:

Looks like Obama got the memo. Everyone dislikes the banks across all spectrums of ideology. The comment made that this is a man-made catastrophe shows that law enforcement is getting the point. And by announcing indictments in the fall and blaming the Banks and those who did the bidding of the banks as politicians, Obama scores major points from the far left to the far right. And of course there is the issue that criminal prosecutions will give borrowers far more credibility in court.

Prosecute The Big Banks? ‘Nothing’s Off The Table,’  

NY Attorney General Says

DAVID TAINTOR

PROVIDENCE, R.I. — Americans can expect to see tangible results this fall from the task force President Obama created to investigate the financial crisis, New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman told TPM Thursday.

Asked after his keynote speech to the progressive Netroots Nation conference here whether prosecutions from the task force are possible, Schneiderman said: “Nothing’s off the table now. Nothing’s off the table.”

The attorney general is one of five co-chairs of the “special unit” Obama announced at his January State of the Union address. More than 100 staffers and prosecutors have been deployed, Schneiderman said, mostly in Washington, but also in U.S. attorneys offices around the country. The group has been criticized by some for its lack of results thus far. In late May, Schneiderman told the Wall Street Journal he was seeking more prosecutorial firepower. The Journal reported that the group has issued more than two-dozen subpoenas and collected millions of pages of documents. Schneiderman wouldn’t specify how much man power will be necessary.

“I’m continuing to push for more, and faster, but I’m an impatient guy,” Schneiderman told TPM. “I think we’re going to get there.”

Schneiderman’s speech stopped short of specifics for the task force. He gave credit to progressive activists and the Occupy movement’s role in public discourse, saying “true change requires movement-building” and “officials don’t create movements, movements create leaders.” Schneiderman also said the public’s faith in the financial industry is at such a low that America needs a second New Deal.

“The markets didn’t crash because of an act of God,” he said later. “That was a man-made catastrophe. If we have any sense at all, we’re going to do what our predecessors did after the last big catastrophe in the 1930s and do some real re-regulations of the markets.”

While Schneiderman spoke to a mostly receptive crowd, a small group of demonstrators gathered in front of the stage holding “jail the bankers” signs. Schneiderman’s staffers said they thought group was friendly to the attorney general’s efforts to take on the financial industry. But Schneiderman said he appreciates activists who push public officials. “I understand the sentiment,” he said. “People have a sense that they’re not sure what happened, but they feel like somebody got away with something, and there hasn’t been accountability.”

Schneiderman remains an enthusiastic supporter of Obama’s reelection campaign. Introducing former President Bill Clinton at an Obama fundraiser this week, Schneiderman said, according to Capital New York, “Given how much is on the line for everyday Americans, why in the world would we hand over the White House to the same people that left our country in a much worse place than they found it? The same recipe for economic failure is what Mitt Romney’s serving. And I believe the American people will say, ‘Thanks, but no thanks,’ to a third term for George W. Bush.”

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Bribery or Business as Usual?

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Editor’s Comment and Analysis:

There is only one way this isn’t an outright bribe that should land the senator in jail — and that is proving that he received nothing of value. Stories abound in the media about haircut rates given to members of government particularly by Countrywide, now owned by Bank of America. Now we see it on the way down where others go through hoops and ladders to get a modification of short-sale but members of Congress get special treatment.

The only way this could be considered nothing of value is if the banks that gave this favor knew that they didn’t lend the money, didn’t purchase the loan and didn’t have a dime in the deal. They can prove it but they won’t because the fallout would be that there are no loans in print and that there are no perfected mortgage loans. The consequence is that there can be no foreclosures. And it would mean that the values carried on the books of these banks are eihter overstated or entirely fictiouos. The general consensus is that capital requirments for the banks should be higher. But what if the capital they are reporting doesn’t exist?

We are seeing practically everyday how Congress is bought off by the Banks and yet we do nothing. How can you expect to be taken seriously by the executive branch and the judicial branch of goveornment charged with enforcing the laws? If you are doing nothing and complaining, it’s time to get off the couch and do something with the Occupy Movement or your own private war with the banks. If you are not complaining, you should be — because this tsunami is about to hit the front door of your house too whether you are making the payments or not.

The power of the new aristocracy in American and European politics is felt around the globe. People are suffering in the U.S., Ireland, France, Spain, Italy, Greece and other places because the smaller banks in all those countries got taken to the cleaners by huge conglomerate Wall Street Banks. Ireland is reporting foreclosures and defaults at record rates. It was fraud with an effect far greater than any other act of domestic or international terrorism. And it isn’t just about money either. Suicides, domestic violence ending in death and mental illness are pandemic. And nobody cares about the little guy because the little guy is just fuel for the endless appetite of Wall Street. 

If Obama rreally wants to galvanize the electorate, he must be proactive on the fierce urgency of NOW! Those were his words when he was a candidate and he owes us action because that urgency was felt in 2008 and is a vice around everyone’s neck now.

JPMorgan Chase & the Senator’s Short Sale:

It’s Hypocritical –But Is It Corrupt?

By Richard (RJ) Eskow

There’s a lot we have yet to learn about the story of Sen. Mike Lee, Tea Party Republican of Utah, and America’s largest bank. But we already know something’s very, very wrong:

Why is it that most Americans can’t get a principal reduction from Chase or any other bank, but JPMorgan Chase was so very flexible with a sitting member of the United States Senate?

The hypocrisy from Sen. Lee and JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon overfloweth. But does the Case of the Senator’s Short Sale rise to the level of full-blown corruption? We won’t know until we get some answers.

People should be demanding those answers now.

When Jamie Met Mike

It’s not a pretty picture: In one corner is the Senator who wants to strike down Federal child labor laws and offer American residency to any non-citizen who buys a home with cash. In the other is the bank whose CEO said that the best way to relieve the crushing burden of debt on homeowners is by seizing their homes.

“Giving debt relief to people that really need it,” said Dimon, “that’s what foreclosure is.” That comment is Dickensian in its insensitivity – and Dimon’s bank offered real relief to the Senator from Utah.

The story of the short sale on Sen. Mike Lee’s home broke broke shortly not long after the world learned that JPM lost billions of dollars through trading that might have been illegal, and about which it certainly misled investors.

A Senator who doesn’t believe in child labor laws, and a crime-plagued bank that was just plunged into a trading scandal after losing billions in the London markets.

Why, they were practically made for one another.

Here in the Real World

This was also the week we learned from Zillow, one of the nation’s leading real estate data companies, that there are far more underwater homeowners than previously thought. Zillow collated all the information on home loans, including second mortgages, in order to develop this larger and more accurate number.

The new estimated amount of negative equity – money owed to the banks for non-existent home value – is $1.2 trillion.

Zillow found that nearly 16 million homeowners, representing roughly a third of all homes with a mortgage, were “underwater” (meaning they owe more than the home is now worth). That’s about 50 percent more than had been previously believed. Many of these homeowners are desperate for principal reduction, which would allow them to get back on their feet.

Banks can reduce the amount owed to reflect the current value of the house, which would lower monthly payments for many struggling homeowners. Another option is the “short sale,” in which the bank lets them sell the house for its current value and walk away. That would allow many of them to relocate in search of work.

But the banks, along with their allies in Washington DC, have been fighting principal reduction and resisting any attempts to increase the number of short sales. They remain out of reach for most struggling homeowners.

Mike’s Deal

But Mike Lee didn’t have that problem. Lee was elected to the Senate after buying his luxury home in Alpine, Utah at the height of the real estate boom. JPMorgan Chase agreed to a short sale, and it sold for nearly $400,000 less than the price Lee paid for it four years ago.

Sen. Lee says that he made a down payment on the home, although he hasn’t said how much was involved. But if he paid 15 percent down and put it $150,000, for example, then the Senator from Utah was just allowed to walk away from a quarter of a million dollars in debt obligations to JPMorgan Chase.

Let’s see: A troubled bank gives a sitting member of the United States Senate an advantageous deal worth hundreds of thousands of dollars? You’d think a story like that would get a little more attention than it has so far.

The Right’s Outrageous Hypocrisy

We haven’t seen this much hypocrisy in the real estate world since the Mortgage Bankers Association walked away from loans on its own headquarters even as its CEO, John Courson, was lecturing Americans their “legal obligation” and the terrible “message they would send” by walking away from their mortgages.

Then he did a short sale on the MBA’s headquarters. It sold for a reported $41 million, just three years after the MBA – those captains of real estate – paid $74 million for it.

The MBA calls itself “the voice of the mortgage banking industry.”

The hypocrisy may be even greater in this case. Sen. Mike Lee is a member in good standing of the Tea Party, a movement which began on the floor of Chicago Mercantile Exchange as a protest against the idea that the government might help underwater homeowners, even though many of the angry traders had enriched themselves thanks to government bailouts.

When their ringleader mentioned households struggling with negative equity, these first members of the Tea Party broke into a chant: “Losers! Losers! Losers!”

Mike Lee’s Outrageous Hypocrisy

Which gets us to Mike Lee. Lee accepted a handout of JPMorgan Chase after voting to end unemployment for jobless Americans. Lee also argued against Federal child labor laws, although he did acknowledge that child labor is “reprehensible.”

How big a hypocrite is Mike Lee? His website (which, curiously enough, went down as we wrote these words) says he believes “the federal government’s out-of-control spending has evolved into a major threat to our economic prosperity and job creation” and that he came to Washington to, among other things, “properly manage our finances”. Lee’s website also scolds Congress because, he says, it “cannot live within its means.”

As Ed McMahon used to say, “Write your own joke.”

Needless to say, Lee also advocates drastic cuts to Social Security and Medicare while pushing lower taxes for the wealthy – and plumping for exactly the same kind of deregulation which let bankers to run amok and wreck the economy in 2008 by doing things like … well, like what JPMorgan Chase just did in London.

“Give Me Your Wired, Your Wealthy, Your Upper Classes Yearning to Buy Cheap”

Lee has also co-sponsored a bill with Chuck Schumer, the Democratic Senator from Wall Street New York, that would grant US residency to foreigners who purchase a home worth at least $500,000 – as long as they paid cash.

The Lee/Schumer bill would be a big boon to US banks – banks, in fact, like JPMorgan Chase. If it passes, the Statue of Liberty may need to be reshaped so that Lady Liberty is holding a book of real estate listings in her right hand while wearing a hat that reads “Million Dollar Sellers’ Club.”

Mike Lee’s bill would also have propped up the luxury home market, offering a big financial boost to people who are struggling to hold to the equity they’ve put into high-end homes, people like … well, like Mike Lee.

Jamie Dimon’s Outrageous Hypocrisy

Then there’s Jamie Dimon, who spoke for his fellow bankers during negotiations that led up to the very cushy $25 billion settlement that let banks like his off the hook for widespread lawbreaking in their foreclosure fraud crime wave.

“Yeah,” Dimon said of principal reductions for homeowners like Sen. Lee, “that’s off the table.”

Dimon’s been resisting global solutions to the negative equity problems for years. He said in 2010 that he preferred to make decisions about homeowners on a “loan by loan” basis.

The Rich Are Different – They Have More Mortgage Relief

“The rich are different,” wrote F. Scott Fitzgerald, and (in a quote often misattributed to Ernest Hemingway) literary critic Mary Colum observed that ” the only difference between the rich and other people is that the rich have more money.”

And they apparently find it a lot easier to walk away from their underwater homes.There’s been a dramatic increase in short sales lately, and the evidence suggests that most of the deals have been going to luxury homeowners. Among other things, this trend toward high-end short sales the lie to the popular idea that bankers and their allies don’t want to “reward the underserving,” since hedge fund traders who overestimated next year’s bonus are clearly less deserving than working families who purchased a modest home for themselves.

Nevertheless, that’s where most of the debt relief seems to be going: to the wealthy, and not to the middle class.

Guess that’s what happens when loan officers working for Dimon and other Wall Street CEOs handle these matters on a “loan by loan” basis.

Immoral Logic

While this “loan by loan” approach lacks morality, there’s some financial logic to it. Banks typically have a lot more money at risk in an underwater luxury home than they do in more modest houses. A short sale provides them with a way to clear things up, recoup what they can, and get their books in a little more order than before. That’s why JPMorgan Chase has been offering selected borrowers up to $35,000 to accept short sales. You can bet they’re not offering that deal to middle class families.

There are other reasons to offer short sales to the wealthy: JPM, like all big banks, is pursuing very-high-end banking clients more aggressively than ever. That’s where the profits are. So why alienate a high-value client when they may offer you the opportunity to recoup losses elsewhere?

(“Sorry to interrupt, Mr. Dimon, but it’s London calling.”)

Corruption Or Not: The Questions

Both the bank and the Senator need to answer some questions about this deal. Here’s what the public deserves to know:

Could the writedown on the home’s value be considered an in-kind gift to a sitting Senator?

If so, then we have a very real scandal on our hands. But we don’t know enough to answer that question yet.

What are JPMorgan Chase’s procedures for deciding who receives mortgage relief and who doesn’t?

Dimon may prefer to handle these matters on a “loan by loan” basis, but there must be guidelines that bank officers can follow. And presumably they’ve been written down somewhere. Were they followed in Mike Lee’s case?

Who was involved in the decision to offer this deal to Mike Lee?

Offering mortgage relief to a sitting Senator is, to borrow a phrase, “a big elfin’ deal.” A mid-level bank officer isn’t likely to handle a case like this without taking it up the chain of command. So who made the final decision on Mike Lee’s mortgage?

It wouldn’t be unheard of if a a sensitive matter like this one was escalated to all the way to the company’s most senior executive – especially if that executive has eliminated any checks on his power, much less any independent input from shareholders, by serving as both the Chair(man) of the Board and the CEO.

In this, as in so many of JPM’s scandals, the question must be asked: What did Jamie know, and when did he know it?

Is Mike Lee a “Friend of Jamie”?

Which raises a related question: Is there is a formal or informal list of people for whom JPM employees are directed to give preferential treatment?

Everybody remembers the scandal that surrounded Sen. Chris Dodd when it was learned that his mortgage was given favorable treatment by Countrywide – even though the Senator apparently knew nothing about it at the time. The world soon learned then that Countrywide had a VIP program called “Friends of Angelo,” named for CEO Angelo Mozilo, and those who were on the list got special treatment.

Is there a “Friends of Jamie” list at JPMorgan Chase – and is Mike Lee’s name on it?

Were there any discussions between the bank’s executives and the Senator regarding the foreign home buyer’s bill or any other legislation that affected Wall Street?

Until this question is answered the issue of a possible quid pro quo will hang over both the Senator and JPMorgan Chase.

Seriously, guys – this doesn’t look good.

Was MERS used to evade state taxes and recording requirements on Sen. Lee’s home? 

JPMorgan Chase funded, and was an active participant, in the “MERS” program which was used, among other things, to bypass local taxes and legal requirements for recording titles.

As we wrote when we reviewed hundreds of internal MERS documents, MERS was instrumental in allowing banks to bundle and sell mortgage-backed securities in a way that led directly to the financial crisis of 2008. It also helped bankers artificially inflate real estate prices, encourage homeowners to take out loans at bubble prices, and then leave them holding the note (as underwater homeowners) after the collapse of national real estate values that they had artificially pumped up.

“Today’s Wall Street Corruption Fun Fact”: MERS was operated by the Mortgage Bankers Association – the same group of real estate geniuses who lost $30 million on a single building in three years, then gave a little lecture on morality to the homeowners they’d been so instrumental in shafting.

Q&A

I was also asked some very reasonable questions by a policy advocacy group. Here they are, with my answers:

If this happened to the average American, would they be able to walk away from the mortgage as well?

If by “average American” you mean “most homeowners,” then the answer is: No. Although short sales are on the rise, most underwater homeowners have not been given the option of going through a short sale. Mike Lee was. The question is, why?

Will Mike Lee’s credit rating be adversely affected?

This is a very important question. The credit rating industry serves banks, not consumers, and it operates at their beck and call.

The answer to this question depends on how JPM handled the paperwork. Many (and probably most) homeowners involved in a short sale take a hit to their credit rating. If Lee did not, it smacks of special treatment.

Given the fact that it was JPMorgan who financed the loss, does that mean, indirectly through the bailout, that the taxpayers paid for Lee’s mortgage write-off?

That gets tricky – but in a moral sense, you could certainly say that.

Short Selling Democracy

There’s no question that this deal is hypocritical and ugly, and that it reflects much of what’s still broken about both our politics and Wall Street. Is it a scandal? Without these answers we can’t know. This was either a case of the special treatment that is so often reserved for the wealthy, or it’s something even worse: influence peddling and political corruption.

it’s time for JPMorgan Chase and Sen. Mike Lee to come clean about this deal. If they did nothing wrong, they have nothing to hide. Either way the public’s entitled to some answers.


Pensioners Will Feel the Pinch from Illegal Mortgages and Foreclosures

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Editor’s Comment:

There are many people whose opinion produces the resistance of government to rip up the banks that got us into this economic mess. They all say government is too big, that we already have too much regulation and that Obama is the cause of the recession. Their opinions are based largely on the fact that they perceive the borrowers as deadbeats and government assistance as another “handout.” 

But when it comes down to it, it’s easy to make a decision based upn ideology if the consequences are not falling on you. Read any news source and you will see that the pension funds are taking a huge hit as a rsult of illegal bank activities and fraudulent practices leaving the victims and our economy in a lurch.

The article below is about public pensions where the pension funds and the governmental units took a monumental hit when the banks sucked the life out of our economy. TRANSLATION: IF YOU DEPEND UPON PENSION INCOME YOU ARE LIKELY TO FIND OUT YOU ARE SCREWED. And even if you don’t depend upon pension income, you are likely to be taxed for the shortfall that is now sitting in the pockets of Wall Street Bankers.

Think about it. If the Banks were hit hard like they were in Iceland andother places (and where by the way they still exist and make money) then your pension fund would not have the loss that requires either more taxes or less benefits. And going after the banks doesn’t take a dime out of pulic funds which should (but doesn’t) make responsible people advocating austerity measures rejoice. They still say they don’t like the obvious plan of getting restitution from thieves because the theives are paying them and feeding them talking points. And some of us are listening. Are you?

Public Pensions Faulted for Bets on Rosy Returns

By: Mary Williams Walsh and Danny Hakim

Few investors are more bullish these days than public pension funds. While Americans are typically earning less than 1 percent interest on their savings accounts and watching their 401(k) balances yo-yo along with the stock market, most public pension funds are still betting they will earn annual returns of 7 to 8 percent over the long haul, a practice that Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg recently called “indefensible.”

Now public pension funds across the country are facing a painful reckoning. Their projections look increasingly out of touch in today’s low-interest environment, and pressure is mounting to be more realistic. But lowering their investment assumptions, even slightly, means turning for more cash to local taxpayers — who pay part of the cost of public pensions through property and other taxes.

In New York, the city’s chief actuary, Robert North, has proposed lowering the assumed rate of return for the city’s five pension funds to 7 percent from 8 percent, which would be one of the sharpest reductions by a public pension fund in the United States. But that change would mean finding an additional $1.9 billion for the pension system every year, a huge amount for a city already depositing more than a tenth of its budget — $7.3 billion a year — into the funds.

But to many observers, even 7 percent is too high in today’s market conditions.

“The actuary is supposedly going to lower the assumed reinvestment rate from an absolutely hysterical, laughable 8 percent to a totally indefensible 7 or 7.5 percent,” Mr. Bloomberg said during a trip to Albany in late February. “If I can give you one piece of financial advice: If somebody offers you a guaranteed 7 percent on your money for the rest of your life, you take it and just make sure the guy’s name is not Madoff.” Public retirement systems from Alaska to Maine are running into the same dilemma as they struggle to lower their assumed rates of return in light of very low interest rates and unpredictable stock prices.

They are facing opposition from public-sector unions, which fear that increased pension costs to taxpayers will further feed the push to cut retirement benefits for public workers. In New York, the Legislature this year cut pensions for public workers who are hired in the future, and around the country governors and mayors are citing high pension costs as a reason for requiring workers to contribute more, or work longer, to earn retirement benefits.

In addition to lowering the projected rate of return, Mr. North has also recommended that the New York City trustees acknowledge that city workers are living longer and reporting more disabilities — changes that would cost the city an additional $2.8 billion in pension contributions this year. Mr. North has called for the city to soften the blow to the budget by pushing much of the increased pension cost into the future, by spreading the increased liability out over 22 years. Ailing pension systems have been among the factors that have recently driven struggling cities into Chapter 9 bankruptcy. Such bankruptcies are rare, but economists warn that more are likely in the coming years. Faulty assumptions can mask problems, and municipal pension funds are often so big that if they run into a crisis their home cities cannot afford to bail them out. The typical public pension plan assumes its investments will earn average annual returns of 8 percent over the long term, according to the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College. Actual experience since 2000 has been much less, 5.7 percent over the last 10 years, according to the National Association of State Retirement Administrators. (New York State announced last week that it had earned 5.96 percent last year, compared with the 7.5 percent it had projected.)

Worse, many economists say, is that states and cities have special accounting rules that have been criticized for greatly understating pension costs. Governments do not just use their investment assumptions to project future asset growth. They also use them to measure what they will owe retirees in the future in today’s dollars, something companies have not been permitted to do since 1993.

As a result, companies now use an average interest rate of 4.8 percent to calculate their pension costs in today’s dollars, according to Milliman, an actuarial firm.

In New York City, the proposed 7 percent rate faces resistance from union trustees who sit on the funds’ boards. The trustees have the power to make the change; their decision must also be approved by the State Legislature.

“The continued risk here is that even 7 is too high,” said Edmund J. McMahon, a senior fellow at the Empire Center for New York State Policy, a research group for fiscal issues.

And Jeremy Gold, an actuary and economist who has been an outspoken critic of public pension disclosures, said, “If you’re using 7 percent in a 3 percent world, then you’re still continuing to borrow from the pension fund.” The city’s union leaders disagree. Harry Nespoli, the chairman of the Municipal Labor Committee, the umbrella group for the city’s public employee unions, said that lowering the rate to 7 percent was unnecessary.

“They don’t have to turn around and lower it a whole point,” he said.

When asked if his union was more bullish on the markets than the city’s actuary, Mr. Nespoli said, “All we can do is what the actuary is doing. He’s guessing. We’re guessing.”

Vermont has lowered its rate by 2 percentage points, but for only one year. The state recently adopted an unusual new approach calling for a sharp initial reduction in its investment assumptions, followed by gradual yearly increases. Vermont has also required public workers to pay more into the pension system.

Union leaders see hidden agendas behind the rising calls for lower pension assumptions. When Rhode Island’s state treasurer, Gina M. Raimondo, persuaded her state’s pension board to lower its rate to 7.5 percent last year, from 8.25 percent, the president of a firemen’s union accused her of “cooking the books.”

Lowering the rate to 7.5 percent meant Rhode Island’s taxpayers would have to contribute an additional $300 million to the fund in the first year, and more after that. Lawmakers were convinced that the state could not afford that, and instead reduced public pension benefits, including the yearly cost-of-living adjustments that retirees now receive. State officials expect the unions to sue over the benefits cuts.

When the mayor of San Jose, Calif., Chuck Reed, warned that the city’s reliance on 7.5 percent returns was too risky, three public employees’ unions filed a complaint against him and the city with the Securities and Exchange Commission. They told the regulators that San Jose had not included such warnings in its bond prospectus, and asked the regulators to look into whether the omission amounted to securities fraud. A spokesman for the mayor said the complaint was without merit. In Sacramento this year, Alan Milligan, the actuary for the California Public Employees’ Retirement System, or Calpers, recommended that the trustees lower their assumption to 7.25 percent from 7.75 percent. Last year, the trustees rejected Mr. Milligan’s previous proposal, to lower the rate to 7.5 percent.

This time, one trustee, Dan Dunmoyer, asked the actuary if he had calculated the probability that the pension fund could even hit those targets.

Yes, Mr. Milligan said: There was a 50-50 chance of getting 7.5 percent returns, on average, over the next two decades. The odds of hitting a 7.25 percent target were a little better, he added, 54 to 46.

Mr. Dunmoyer, who represents the insurance industry on the board, sounded shocked. “To me, as a fiduciary, you want to have more than a 50 percent chance of success.”

If Calpers kept setting high targets and missing them, “the impact on the counties won’t be bigger numbers,” he said. “It will be bankruptcy.”

In the end, a majority decided it was worth the risk, and voted against Mr. Dunmoyer, lowering the rate to 7.5 percent.


Even the Chinese Know It

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Editor’s Comment:

AUSTERITY MEANS “PROTECT THE BANKS AND SCREW THE PEOPLE”

The Financial Times ran an article 2 days ago about the Chinese being encouraged to spend more aand save less. I’m no fan of China’s political system, or even its economic policies (which come to think of it are the same thing, as Von Mises points out). As we look around the world and see Iceland prospering, China’s growth slowing to a mere 8% while our REAL GDP is still negative or by the reckoning of most economists, headed into downward territory. These propering countries who have concentrated on stmulating the rate of commerce (i.e. the economy) are the countries that are reducing debt (Iceland is now at the point where more than 25% of household debt has been eliminated not with spending fiscal stimullus money but with pressure on the idiots that got us into this messs- the banks.

Then look at the countries who are effectively governed by the banks, directly or indirectly— like US and Europe. They stand in stark contrast to Iceland and China. We are headed into what is called a “double dip” recession as though we would have hands up with ice cream cones in them, but the truth is that these recessions is literally taking food, medicine, and clothes off the table while they send their children into schools that are no longer able to teach and are located in neighborhoods that are less safe from criminal activity and the occoasional warehouse fire all because of “austerity.” Such neighborhoods are also less familiar and less appealing than the ones they got thrown out of after being tricked into using a home in which generations of their family grew up as the source of cheap capial encouraging, cajoling and pushing them with literally midnight visits to get them to sign on the dotted line to purchase a defective, fraudulent loan products whose purpose was to fail.

As we look at those countries who have adpted the politics and economics of austerity (“less spending” or “spending cuts” as it is known in the U.S.) the consequences could not be more clear — austerity, spending cuts, less spending, get the government out of the way are all slogans  that are leading us into disaster. And they are all spoken by people who are owned and controlled by the banks. And at the risk of offending my readers with political statements, Obama was exactly right when he said that the purpose of government was not to turn a business profit like Romney said he did (my sources tell me that Mitt was a figurehead running for president and they were making him look good, not that he was actually of any value). Obama correctly points out that government’s purpose is to maintain a society in which everyone gets a fair shake and a fair shot at the brass ring. Thus government is not for the rich who already got wealthy but for those who have not yet  achieved wealth. And this is because history teaches that no society has ever endured without a strong middle class.

This country needs to revive its economy by having more people spend more money. The obstacles to that are that too many people have no money, no  credit and no jobs. This is the time to divert the corporate welfare of farm subsididies and oil subsidies and the like to those programs that will give all our citizens a fair shake and a fair shot at success.

Like Iceland, the way to increasing the value of our currency, the way to prosperity is to reduce household debt. And the biggest item here that not only decreases household debt but increases household wealth is to return the homes that were wrongfully foreclosed and not to give a pittance of money to the victims with a slap on the wrist to those who stole the home with a credit bid when they were not only not the creditor, but they had never invested a dime in purchasing the loan. That used to be illegal. Wait a minute, it still is illegal. So why are we allowing the banks to continue this charade and why does the government, including Obama’s administration, drag its feet in taking apart these monsters that destroyed our economy? Why is the administration assume that the 7,000 OTHER banks and credit union wolld not prosper and enter into tacit agreements to keep the government afloat while we wait for the stimulus to take effect?

There is no expert or pundit that says we are wrong. All the banks have been able to do is to roll out doomsday sayers who say that if we follow the law we will be headed for disaster. Well take a look.  Disaster is here. And the Dow Jones Industrial Average is not a proper indicator or substitutute for people who can’t put food on a table that is now located in a dwelling that the rest of us would not even consider — their car.

We choose instead to protect the banks at all costs and we call that austerity because where else is the money going to come from except the banks who siphoned it out illegally? That is our policy, our politics and our economics. And while our soldiers risk life and limb because their country called them to duty, their families were being foreclosed, some at the precise moment they were taking a shot in the leg or heart for us. Is this the society we sent them to fight for?


Az Sheriff Spends 2200 Hours on Birth Certificate — None on Foreclosure Docs

I know this is a very hot political topic and that to some people it matters a great deal where Obama was born. I question the idiocy of an Arizona sheriff spending 2200 hours of cold case time on a birth certificate from Hawaii. The amazing revelation to me is that this sheriff has shown that he could take apart the “layering” on hundreds of thousands of recorded documents filed in support of fraudulent foreclosures.

So here we have a sheriff sitting on mountains of eviction papers, serving those papers, and even forcing homeowners out of their homes at gun point, knowing full well that the evictions are based upon false declarations of fact in fabricated documents. And he could prove it and charge the culprits. Instead he limits his inquiry into a Hawaiian birth certificate. What am I missing?

Obama Still Has it Wrong

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Editor’s Comment: The only thing I would add to this article is the LAW. The law is that the responsibility for the viability of a mortgage is that of the lender, not the borrower, and that is simply because these transactions are so complex that only a lender with superior knowledge could properly evaluate the prospects for a loan. Legally, the borrower is entitled to rely upon and must abide by the decision of the loan underwriter. But in this case the loan underwriter was not underwriting. It was selling.

And THAT is why a forensic loan analysis emphasizing TILA compliance is so important will become more important as more information surfaces each week about the depth of the false declarations, false authority and outright fraud and forgery committed by the banks and servicers for their own benefit, to the detriment of both the investors who advanced funds into a black hole, and homeowners who put their entire future at the mercy of “fiduciaries” who were out for one thing — the signature of the borrower . They were willing to say and do anything to get it and they did exactly that.

Remember that in Florida alone, an army of 10,000 felons convicted of economic crimes was recruited as loan brokers or originators to pull the wool over the eyes of these naive borrowers. 60 Minutes ran an expose on how these sales people lied, mislead, and used every trick they could imagine to pressure the borrower into taking these loans.

In some cases, we have seen that the loan originator, hungry for his commission would appear at the doorstep the of the prospective borrower at midnight, demanding that they sign immediately. A significant percentage of these deals were foisted upon homeowners who had substantial equity or even homes with no encumbrance at all. Obama is wrong.

by Alan Jenkins, obamas-wrong-note-foreclosures

As Election Day nears, President Obama is regaining his populist mojo. His State of the Union speech was mostly pitch perfect, evoking core American themes of opportunity and optimism, and calling for “an economy where everyone gets a fair shot, and everyone does their fair share, and everyone plays by the same set of rules.”

But the President has repeatedly hit a wrong note in talking about the foreclosure crisis. Not only is his story inaccurate, but he is promoting a harmful narrative that will make it harder to fix the problem.

The President said in his State of the Union address that “we’ve all paid the price for lenders who sold mortgages to people who couldn’t afford them and buyers who knew they couldn’t afford them.” He repeated that theme a week later at a speech in Falls Church, VA, contending that people who did the “right and the responsible thing” were hurt by “lenders who sold loans to people who they knew couldn’t afford the mortgages; and buyers who bought homes they knew they couldn’t afford; and banks that packaged those mortgages up and traded them to reap phantom profits, knowing that they were building a house of cards.”

According to the President’s narrative, then, large numbers of Americans who are struggling beneath unsustainable mortgages willfully chose that fate and deserve roughly equal blame as do the lending and financial giants who cooked up the subprime scheme, targeted vulnerable communities, engaged in deceptive and discriminatory practices, chopped up and distributed faulty loans, and forced fraudulent foreclosures. A different class of “innocent, hard-working” people are the only ones paying the price in this narrative.

Let’s be clear. The foreclosure crisis was caused by reckless misconduct by the lending and financial industries, inadequate rules and enforcement, and staggering long-term unemployment. America’s long history of overwhelmingly successful homeownership went to pot because regulators looked the other way and unscrupulous corporations took advantage, not because working Americans suddenly became wildly irresponsible. Indeed, conscientious lenders like Self-Help Credit Union in North Carolina successfully made loans to the same group of working Americans over the same period with negligible default rates.

Am I saying that no American homeowner ever applied for a mortgage without a realistic plan to repay it?  Of course not. A key purpose of proper underwriting standards and regulations is to help lenders and buyers determine what’s mutually sustainable. But to divide American homeowners into “responsible” ones who’ve managed to stay current on their payments and supposedly “irresponsible” ones who’ve fallen behind is inaccurate and harmful.

After confessing that he and the First Lady—two Harvard-trained lawyers—had trouble deciphering their own first mortgage, the President has nonetheless failed to convey how many Americans were victimized by deceptive and predatory practices; how many families sacrificed all to pay the mortgage after one or both parents lost a job; and how many people facing foreclosure today would be successful homeowners if fair rules and vigilant regulators had been in place. He also leaves out how much each of us benefits when we help our neighbors avoid foreclosure, even if we’ve personally managed to stay current on our own mortgages.

The President’s flawed story erodes the public will to aid struggling homeowners and bolsters those who say that the foreclosure crisis should be allowed to “run its course”—why rally to help people you’ve told us are irresponsible? Yet, without a more ambitious policy agenda than we have now, we’ll see millions more Americans lose their economic security, families uprooted from schools and communities, senior citizens thrown into uncertainty or destitution, and the economy in continued chaos.

The President’s current story is also deepening the feelings of shame that keep too many Americans from seeking the advice that could help them save their homes or, at least, make a successful transition. Housing counselors say the stigma attached to foreclosure keeps many people in the shadows instead of accessing the services that exist. It doesn’t help when the Commander in Chief labels them irresponsible.

It’s time for a new, accurate story about homeownership, opportunity, and the American Dream. It’s a story that places blame where it belongs while recognizing that we each have economic and moral responsibilities. It’s a story about the solutions to the crisis that exist, including many that the Administration can take without any action from Congress. And it’s a story about why, in this crisis as in so many others, we are all in it together. As communicator-in-chief, the President should take the lead in telling that story.

Too Big To Jail: Thousands Protest Around Nation Against “Settlement” Proposed by Obama and AG’s

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Protesters Demonstrating in Front of Foreclosure Fraud Settlement Meeting in Chicago

By: David Dayen, firedoglake.com

Protesters have gathered outside a meeting taking place in Chicago today between officials with the Obama Administration and some state Attorneys General or members of their staff, aimed at reaching agreement on a low-ball settlement with leading banks over foreclosure fraud.  The proposed settlement would give homeowners a pittance in exchange for a broad release of liability from prosecution for the banks.

About eighty members of various community and faith groups in Illinois, including national groups like MoveOn.org, National People’s Action and The New Bottom Line, have gathered outside the Chicago O’Hare Hilton Hotel. They are holding a press conference there and protesting the proposed settlement. Later in the day, the protesters plan to visit the local offices of Illinois AG Lisa Madigan, who is on the executive committee which negotiated the settlement, and the Obama for America 2012 campaign headquarters.

The protesters object to the low dollar value of the settlement, estimated at $20-$25 billion, when there is currently $700 billion worth of negative equity – money owed on mortgages less than the value of the home – in America. They also object to the fact that there has been no meaningful investigation into the depths of foreclosure fraud by the Department of Justice or any federal regulator. Further, they oppose a broad release of civil and/or criminal liability for the banks for their conduct at all levels of the housing market. [EDITOR’S NOTE: SOMEHOW THE $700 BILLION FIGURE HAS BEEN ACCEPTED. I did the math. The figure is ten times that at $7 trillion].

The proposed deal will get circulated to the banks today. Many of the holdout AG offices did not send a representative to the Chicago meeting. But they have the information on the settlement, and for a variety of reasons the events of the next 24 hours are seen as consequential. There are even rumors, according to Rep. Brad Miller (D-NC), of an announcement on the settlement appearing in tomorrow’s State of the Union Address. “They have not said anything to us on the State of the Union, but there’s a sense that they may do something,” added Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH), an opponent of the settlement on a conference call today.

Miller ticked off a number of unknowns surrounding the settlement. “What investigation has there actually been? What claims are being released?” Miller Asked. “Where did this $20 billion number come from for damages? What mortgages does this apply to? Does it apply to securitized mortgages that the banks don’t really own? Will they be able to pass on the losses for their own misconduct? Which homeowners get relief? If it’s just a dollar figure that the banks have to hit, will they pick the most expensive houses for relief and increase resentment against those who get the breaks in America?”

Brown, Miller and the coalition arguing for a “fair settlement” want a thorough investigation, with the inclusion of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (at this point not a part of this settlement). “It’s hard to know what a meaningful settlement would look like when we don’t have full disclosure,” Brown said. “Instead of a thorough investigation and criminal prosecutions, we’re talking about not much more than a slap on the wrist. The banks are not just too big to fail, they’re too big to jail.”

Justin Ruben of MoveOn.org, a key coalition partner, cited new polling showing that found that 70% of Americans believe the banks have not been investigated enough on their foreclosure practices, and that 60% of those polls would be less likely to support the President for re-election if he gave the banks a sweetheart deal. By contrast, the President would gain support if he announced a real investigation into Wall Street’s practices. MoveOn has forwarded a petition asking for an investigation, and has acquired over 360,000 signatures.

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