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.

HAMP-PRA Program Explained

CHECK OUT OUR EXTENDED 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, Tennessee, Georgia, California, Ohio, and Nevada. (NOTE: Chapter 11 may be easier than you think).

Editor’s Note: The PRA (Principal reduction Alternative) portion of HAMP has not been utilized with efficiency by homeowners. First of all  it is a good idea to have several copies —digital and on paper — when you submit your modification proposal. The pattern that is clear. They claim to have not received it, they destroy the file because one thing was missing, etc. So be prepared to submit multiple times and get in writing that the foreclosure will not go forward while this process is underway. A demand letter from an attorney referencing the Dodd-Frank Act and its prohibition against dual tracking, will probably produce some results, especially if it is sent to every known party at every known address including the tiny letters in a font so light you can barely see it on the bank of the end of month statement.

Remember you are in all probability communicating with people who never owned nor funded the loan nor the purchase of the loan and that in order to clear the title on your client’s home you will need a “Guarantee of Title” from the title company and I think it is a good idea to get a judge’s order (a) approving the settlement and (b) declaring that these are the only stakeholders. That Order probably will require notice by publication for a period of weeks, but it is the only sure way of ending the corruption of your title. If you are not in court yet, then see if you can work into the agreement that you can file a quiet title action and that the party approving the modification will not contest it.

As you know, if you have been reading this blog for any length of time, I do not consider the lowering of the principal due as a reduction or a forgiveness. This raises tax issues but also raises your chances of getting a very good settlement.

Don’t limit yourself to the documents requested by the bank. The package you submit should contain a spreadsheet of calculations and the formulas used by an expert to determine a reasonable value for the property and a reasonable rate of interest and term. In your submission letter, you should demand that the party receiving it (which I think should include the subservicer, Master Servicer, Investment Banker and “trustee” of the investment pool) must respond in kind unless they accept the modification as proposed.

Realize also that modification is a sham PR stunt, but it can have teeth if you use it properly. The current pattern is the “servicer” or “pretender lender” tells you that in order to get relief you must stop paying on your mortgage. Their excuse is that if you are paying, there is nothing wrong. My position is that if you are paying, you are undoubtedly paying the wrong amount of interest and principal because of the receipts and disbursements that occurred off balance sheet and off the income statements of the intermediaries who claimed the insurance and bailout money as their own.

Thus your expert should provide a formula and estimate of the amount of money that should have been paid to investors but which is sitting in  custodial or operating accounts in the name of the investment banker or its affiliate. If that doesn’t bring down the principal then move on to the hardship stuff mentioned in the article below. But remember that if the expert is able to estimate the amount of principal that was mitigated by the subservicer (continuing to make payments after the loan was declared in default) and When the receipts occurred, this would reduce not only the principal demanded by demonstrate the extra interest paid on a principal balance that was misstated in the EOM statements and the notice of default and notice of sale (or service of process in the  judicial states). In such cases, which is by far the majority of all loans out there including those paid off and refinanced, the overpayment of interest and perhaps even an overpayment of principal.

This is tricky stuff. You need an expert who understands this article and has some ideas of his/her own. AND you need a lawyer who wants more than to simply justify his/her fee. You want a lawyer, obsessed with winning, and who won’t let go until the other side gives in. Remember these cases rarely if ever go to trial. Once the pretender lender takes you as a credible threat they cannot afford to posture any longer lest they end up in trial where it comes out they never owned or purchased the loan, the investor’s agents were prepaid by insurance, CDS and federal bailouts. Millions of foreclosures preceded you in which title was corrupted by the submission of a credit bid by a stranger (non-creditor to the transaction. The tide is turning — be part of the solution!

The Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP) was established a few years ago by the Departments of the Treasury and Housing and Urban Development to help homeowners who are underwater avoid foreclosure.

Since 2010, one of HAMP’s programs has been the Principal Reduction Alternative (HAMP-PRA). Borrowers who qualify for the program have their mortgage principal reduced by a predetermined amount (called the PRA forbearance amount).

A borrower qualifies for the HAMP-PRA program only if:

  • the mortgage is not owned or guaranteed by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac
  • the borrower owes more than the home is worth
  • the house is the borrower’s primary residence
  • the borrower obtained the mortgage before January 1, 2009
  • the borrower’s mortgage payment is more than 31 percent of gross (pre-tax) monthly income.
  • up to $729,750 is owed on the 1st mortgage.
  • the borrower has a financial hardship and is either delinquent or in danger of falling behind
  • the borrower has sufficient, documented income to support the modified payment, and
  • the borrower has not been convicted of a real estate related fraud or felony in the last ten years.

The end goal of the HAMP-PRA program is to reduce the borrower’s mortgage loan until the borrower’s monthly payment is reduced to a monthly payment amount determined under the HAMP guidelines.

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.

dc83f25e-2e87-11e2-89d4-040c9330702a_story.html

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

SHILLER: Principal Must be Written Down for Economic Recovery

Featured Products and Services by The Garfield Firm

——–>SEE TABLE OF CONTENTS: WHOSE LIEN IS IT ANYWAY TOC

LivingLies Membership – If you are not already a member, this is the time to do it, when things are changing.

For Customer Service call 1-520-405-1688

Editor’s Comment:  

We are looking into the abyss of economic failure. For economists, the people who know the facts, the ONLY answer left on the table is principal correction or principal reduction. We have tried everything else.

The reason is very simple. The Banks created a market where prices soared above values and like any other situation where there is a false spike in prices over values, the correction needs to be made. The free market has already arrived at the same conclusion —- nobody wants those mortgages even if they were valid and enforceable. The refusal to rush toward principal reduction is putting the banks in an all or nothing position. The market and the economists have spoken — if that is the choice the banks will get nothing.

But the word from the banks is that we can’t have principal reduction. The real reason is that their balance sheets will be wrecked by forcing them to admit that those assets they are reporting are pure fiction — an inevitable consequence of bank excess finally recognized by the rating agencies last week. But the banks are spinning the myth that if principal reduction (in other words REALITY) prevails then everyone will want to do it. Assuming that is true, why not?  Shouldn’t everyone want reality? The Banks have had their windfall, they have been paid enough to pay back the investor lenders, and they are driving the economy into a ditch with their unrelenting death grip on the purse strings. 

Americans must decide between the Iceland model in which their economy quickly recovered, and the American model where we continue to languish with no real prospects for recovery. The European attempt at austerity drove them further over the brink. In fact, every policy is now debunked that ignores the realities of the market place and the reality of the importance of the housing market in ANY economic recovery. There is only one thing left. It is the right thing to do.

We have exhausted every idea except for doing the right thing. Restore homes to people who were unlawfully and fraudulently induced into signing papers that never even recited the terms of repayment as it was recited to the real lenders and which never disclosed the multiple borrowers on each loan, most of whom were hidden from the borrowers. Write down the mortgages just as the banks have already done, as confirmed by trading in the marketplace. What is so difficult to accept here?

People get windfalls all the time when bullies take over markets. And yes many homeowners will want the benefits of a write-down that the rest of the world already accepts as true and necessary. The result will restore wealth and power to the middle class, revive the economy and restore our prospects. We will have the resources to repair our ailing infrastructure (an embarrassment to world traveling Americans), invest in education and job training, invest in innovation and get back some of that pride we once had in America.

The only people stopping this are those who are pandering to extremists who would rather see the Country collapse than to allow a “handout” to those undeserving deadbeat homeowners. The facts and reality leave them unpersuaded because fanning the flames of ideology is how many politicians achieve power and maintain it.

Like I said last week. It comes down to this: country or chaos. What is your choice?

Robert Shiller: Lenders Need To Write Down Mortgages To Solve America’s Housing Problem

By Mamta Badkar

Yale economist Robert Shiller says the housing crisis is a collective action problem.

This means, he argues in a New York Times editorial, that if all mortgage lenders were to act collectively and write down what was owed to them by individual homeowners everyone would be better off.

Shiller offers a few types of collective action to write down mortgage principles. One involves giving “community-based, government-appointed trustees a central role” in writing down mortgages, any idea proposed by Yale economist John Geanakoplos and Boston University law professor Susan P. Koniak.

Another proposed by Robert C. Hockett involves “eminent domain” which allows government to seize property with fair compensation to owners when it is done in public interest—and could apply to mortgages:

Professor Hockett argues that a government, whether federal, state or local, can start doing just this right now, using large databases of information about mortgage pools and homeowner credit scores. After a market analysis, it seizes the mortgages. Then it can pay them off at fair value, or a little over that, with money from new investors, issuing new mortgages with smaller balances to the homeowners. Taxpayers are not involved, and no government deficit is incurred. Since homeowners are no longer underwater and have good credit, they are unlikely to default, so the new investors can expect to be repaid.”

People are more likely to default on their mortgage when it is underwater i.e. when their homes are worth less than their mortgage. And  lenders lose money on foreclosures because of lower home values and legal costs. So it would be in everyone’s best interest according to Shiller if mortgage lenders were to take some such collective action.

BUY THE BOOK! CLICK HERE!

BUY WORKSHOP COMPANION WORKBOOK AND 2D EDITION PRACTICE MANUAL

GET TWO HOURS OF CONSULTATION WITH NEIL DIRECTLY, USE AS NEEDED

COME TO THE 1/2 DAY PHOENIX WORKSHOP: CLICK HERE FOR PRE-REGISTRATION DISCOUNTS

Bribery or Business as Usual?

Featured Products and Services by The Garfield Firm

LivingLies Membership – Get Discounts and Free Access to Experts

For Customer Service call 1-520-405-1688

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.


Another Ruse: Realtors Gleeful over Equator Short Sale Platform

Featured Products and Services by The Garfield Firm

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

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

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

Editor’s Comment:

Banks have adopted a technology platform to process short sale applications. It is called Equator, presumably to imply that it equates one thing with another, and produces a result that either gives a pass or fail to the application. In theory it is a good thing for those people who want to save their homes, save their credit (up to a point) and move on. In practice it essentially licenses the real estate broker to take control over the negotiations and police the transactions so that the new “network” rules are not violated. This reminds me of VISA and MasterCard who control the payment processing business with the illusion of being a quasi governmental agency. Nothing could be further from the truth, but bankers react to net work threats as though the IRS was after them.

Equator is meant as another layer of illusion to the title problem that realtors and title companies are trying to cover up. The short sale is getting be the most popular form of real estate sale because it is a form of principal reduction where there is some face-saving by the banks and the borrowers. The problem is that while short sales are a legitimate form of workout,  they leave the elephant in the living room undisturbed — short sales approved by banks and servicers who have neither the authority nor the interest in the loan to even be involved except as an agent of Equator but NOT as an agent of the lenders,  if they even exist anymore.

So using the shortsale they get the signature of the borrower as seller which gives them a layer of protection if they are the bank or servicer approving the short-sale. But it fails to cure the title defect, especially in millions of transactions in which Nominees (like MERS and dummy originators) are in the chain of title. 

The true owner of the obligation is a group of investor lenders who appear to have only one thing in common— they all gave money to an investment bank or an affiliate of an investment bank, where it was divided up and put into various accounts, some of which were used to fund mortgages and others were used to pay fees and profits to the investment bank on the closing of the “deal” with the investor lenders. As far as the county recorder is concerned, those deposits and splits are nonexistent. 

The investor lenders were then told that their money was pooled in a “Trust” when no such entity ever existed or was registered to do business and no attempt was made to fund the trust. An unfunded trust is not a trust. This, the investor lenders were told was a REMIC entity.  While a REMIC could have been established it never happened  in the the real world because the only communications between participants in the securitization chain consisted of a spreadsheet describing “closed loans.” Such communications did not include transfer, assignment or even transmittal or delivery of the closing papers with the borrower. Thus as far as the county recorder’s office is concerned, they still knew nothing. Now in the shortsales, they want a stranger the transaction to take the money and run — with no requirement that they establish themselves as creditors and no credible documentation that they are the owner of the loan.

This is another end run around the requirements of basic law in property transactions. They are doing it because our government officials are letting them do it, thus implicitly ratifying the right to foreclose and submit a credit bid without any requirement of proof or even offer of proof.

It gets worse. So we have BOA agreeing to accept dollars in satisfaction of a loan that they have no record of owning. The shortsale seller might still be liable to someone if the banks and servicers continue to have their way with creating false chains of ownership. But the real tragedy is that the shortsale seller is probably getting the shaft on a false premise — I.e, that the mortgage or deed of trust had any validity to begin with. 

The shortsale Buyer is most probably buying a lawsuit along with the house. At some point, the huge gaps in the chain of title are going to cause lawyers in increasing numbers to object to title and demand that it be fixed or that the client be adequately covered by insurance arising from securitizatioin claims. Thus when the shortsale Buyer becomes a seller, that is when the problems will first start to surface.

Realtors understand this analysis whereas buyers from Canada and other places do not understand it. But realtors see shortsales as the salvation to their diminished incomes. Thus most realtors are incentivized to misrepresent the risk factors and the title issues in favor of controlling the buyer and the seller into accepting pre-established criteria published by the members of Equator. It is securitization all over again, it is MERS all over again, it is a further corruption of our title system and it is avoiding the main issue — making the victims of this fraud whole even if it takes every penny the banks have. Realtors who ignore this can expect that they and their insurance carriers will be part of the gang of targeted deep pockets when lawyers smell the blood on the floor and go after the perpetrators.

Latest Changes to The Bank of America Short Sale Process

by Melissa Zavala

When processing short sales, it’s important to know about how each of the lending institutions handles loss mitigation and paperwork processing. If you have done a few short sales in Equator with different lenders, you may see what while your same Equator account is used for all your short sales at all the lending institutions, each of the servicers uses the platforms in a different manner.

Using the Equator system

When processing short sales, it’s important to know about how each of the lending institutions handles loss mitigation and paperwork processing. Many folks already know that Equator is the online platform used by 5 major lenders (Bank of America, Wells Fargo, Nationstar, GMAC, and Service One). If you have done a few short sales in Equator with different lenders, you may see what while your same Equator account is used for all your short sales at all the lending institutions, each of the servicers uses the platforms in a different manner.

And, my hat goes off to Bank of America for really raising the bar when it comes to short sale processing online. And, believe me, after processing short sales with Bank of America in 2007, this change is much appreciated.

New Bank of America Short Sale Process

Effective April 13, 2012, Bank of America made a few major changes that may make our short sale processing times more efficient.  The goal of these changes is to make short sale processing through Equator (the Internet-based platform) at Bank of America so efficient that short sale approval can be received in less than one month.

First off, Bank of America now requires their new third party authorization for all short sales being processed through the Equator system. Additionally, the folks at Bank of America will be working to improve task flow for short sales in Equator by making some minor changes to the process.

According to the Bank of America website,

Now you are required to upload five documents (which you can obtain at www.bankofamerica.com/realestateagent) for short sales initiated with an offer:

  • Purchase Contract including Buyer’s Acknowledgment and Disclosure
  • HUD-1
  • IRS Form 4506-T
  • Bank of America Short Sale Addendum
  • Bank of America Third-Party Authorization Form

And, now, you will have only 5 days to submit a backup offer if your buyer has flown the coop.

The last change is a curious one, especially for short sale listing agents, since it often takes awhile to find a new buyer after you learn that the current buyer has changed his or her mind.

Short sale listings agents should be familiar with these changes in order to assure that they are providing their client with the most efficient short sale experience possible.


Everything Built on Myth Eventually Fails

Featured Products and Services by The Garfield Firm

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

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

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

Editor’s Comment:

The good news is that the myth of Jamie Dimon’s infallaibility is at least called into question. Perhaps better news is that, as pointed out by Simon Johnson’s article below, the mega banks are not only Too Big to Fail, they are Too Big to Manage, which leads to the question, of why it has taken this long for Congress and the Obama administration to conclude that these Banks are Too Big to Regulate. So the answer, now introduced by Senator Brown, is to make the banks smaller and  put caps on them as to what they can and cannot do with their risk management.

But the real question that will come to fore is whether lawmakers in Dimon’s pocket will start feeling a bit squeamish about doing whatever Dimon asks. He is now becoming a political and financial liability. The $2.3 billion loss (and still counting) that has been reported seems to be traced to the improper trading in credit default swaps, an old enemy of ours from the mortgage battle that continues to rage throughout the land.  The problem is that the JPM people came to believe in their own myth which is sometimes referred to as sucking on your own exhaust. They obviously felt that their “risk management” was impregnable because in the end Jamie would save the day.

This time, Jamie can’t turn to investors to dump the loss on, thus drying up liquidity all over the world. This time he can’t go to government for a bailout, and this time the traction to bring the mega banks under control is getting larger. The last vote received only 33 votes from the Senate floor, indicating that Dimon and the wall Street lobby had control of 2/3 of the senate. So let ius bask in the possibility that this is the the beginning of the end for the mega banks, whose balance sheets, business practices and public announcements have all been based upon lies and half truths.

This time the regulators are being forced by public opinion to actually peak under the hood and see what is going on there. And what they will find is that the assets booked on the balance sheet of Dimon’s monolith are largely fictitious. This time the regulators must look at what assets were presented to the Federal Reserve window in exchange for interest free loans. The narrative is shifting from the “free house” myth to the reality of free money. And that will lead to the question of who is the creditor in each of the transactions in which a mortgage loan is said to exist.

Those mortgage loans are thought to exist because of a number of incorrect presumptions. One of them is that the obligation remains unpaid and is secured. Neither is true. Some loans might still have a balance due but even they have had their balances reduced by the receipt of insurance proceeds and the payoff from credit default swaps and other credit enhancements, not to speak of the taxpayer bailout.

This money was diverted from investor lenders who were entitled to that money because their contracts and the representations inducing them to purchase bogus mortgage bonds, stated that the investment was investment grade (Triple A) and because they thought they were insured several times over. It is true that the insurance was several layers thick and it is equally true that the insurance payoff covered most if not all the balances of all the mortgages that were funded between 1996 and the present. The investor lenders should have received at least enough of that money to make them whole — i.e., all principal and interest as promissed.

Instead the Banks did the unthinkable and that is what is about to come to light. They kept the money for themselves and then claimed the loss of investors on the toxic loans and tranches that were created in pools of money and mortgages — pools that in fact never came into existence, leaving the investors with a loose partnership with other investors, no manager, and no accounting. Every creditor is entitled to payment in full — ONCE, not multiple times unless they have separate contracts (bets) with parties other than the borrower. In this case, with the money received by the investment banks diverted from the investors, the creditors thought they had a loss when in fact they had a claim against deep pocket mega banks to receive their share of the proceeds of insurance, CDS payoffs and taxpayer bailouts.

What the banks were banking on was the stupidity of government regulators and the stupidity of the American public. But it wasn’t stupidity. it was ignorance of the intentional flipping of mortgage lending onto its head, resulting in loan portfolios whose main characteristic was that they would fail. And fail they did because the investment banks “declared” through the Master servicer that they had failed regardless of whether people were making payments on their mortgage loans or not. But the only parties with an actual receivable wherein they were expecting to be paid in real money were the investor lenders.

Had the investor lenders received the money that was taken by their agents, they would have been required to reduce the balances due from borrowers. Any other position would negate their claim to status as a REMIC. But the banks and servicers take the position that there exists an entitlement to get paid in full on the loan AND to take the house because the payment didn’t come from the borrower.

This reduction in the balance owed from borrowers would in and of itself have resulted in the equivalent of “principal reduction” which in many cases was to zero and quite possibly resulting in a claim against the participants in the securitization chain for all of the ill-gotten gains. remember that the Truth In Lending Law states unequivocally that the undisclosed profits and compensation of ANYONE involved in the origination of the loan must be paid, with interest to the borrower. Crazy you say? Is it any crazier than the banks getting $15 million for a $300,000 loan. Somebody needs to win here and I see no reason why it should be the megabanks who created, incited, encouraged and covered up outright fraud on investor lenders and homeowner borrowers.

Making Banks Small Enough And Simple Enough To Fail

By Simon Johnson

Almost exactly two years ago, at the height of the Senate debate on financial reform, a serious attempt was made to impose a binding size constraint on our largest banks. That effort – sometimes referred to as the Brown-Kaufman amendment – received the support of 33 senators and failed on the floor of the Senate. (Here is some of my Economix coverage from the time.)

On Wednesday, Senator Sherrod Brown, Democrat of Ohio, introduced the Safe, Accountable, Fair and Efficient Banking Act, or SAFE, which would force the largest four banks in the country to shrink. (Details of this proposal, similar in name to the original Brown-Kaufman plan, are in this briefing memo for a Senate banking subcommittee hearing on Wednesday, available through Politico; see also these press release materials).

His proposal, while not likely to immediately become law, is garnering support from across the political spectrum – and more support than essentially the same ideas received two years ago.  This week’s debacle at JP Morgan only strengthens the case for this kind of legislative action in the near future.

The proposition is simple: Too-big-to-fail banks should be made smaller, and preferably small enough to fail without causing global panic. This idea had been gathering momentum since the fall of 2008 and, while the Brown-Kaufman amendment originated on the Democratic side, support was beginning to appear across the aisle. But big banks and the Treasury Department both opposed it, parliamentary maneuvers ensured there was little real debate. (For a compelling account of how the financial lobby works, both in general and in this instance, look for an upcoming book by Jeff Connaughton, former chief of staff to former Senator Ted Kaufman of Delaware.)

The issue has not gone away. And while the financial sector has pushed back with some success against various components of the Dodd-Frank reform legislation, the idea of breaking up very large banks has gained momentum.

In particular, informed sentiment has shifted against continuing to allow very large banks to operate in their current highly leveraged form, with a great deal of debt and very little equity.  There is increasing recognition of the massive and unfair costs that these structures impose on the rest of the economy.  The implicit subsidies provided to “too big to fail” companies allow them to boost compensation over the cycle by hundreds of millions of dollars.  But the costs imposed on the rest of us are in the trillions of dollars.  This is a monstrously unfair and inefficient system – and sensible public figures are increasingly pointing this out (including Jamie Dimon, however inadvertently).

American Banker, a leading trade publication, recently posted a slide show, “Who Wants to Break Up the Big Banks?” Its gallery included people from across the political spectrum, with a great deal of financial sector and public policy experience, along with quotations that appear to support either Senator Brown’s approach or a similar shift in philosophy with regard to big banks in the United States. (The slide show is available only to subscribers.)

According to American Banker, we now have in the “break up the banks” corner (in order of appearance in that feature): Richard Fisher, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas; Sheila Bair, former chairman of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation; Tom Hoenig, a board member of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation and former president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City; Jon Huntsman, former Republican presidential candidate and former governor of Utah; Senator Brown; Mervyn King, governor of the Bank of England; Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont; and Camden Fine, president of the Independent Community Bankers of America. (I am also on the American Banker list).

Anat Admati of Stanford and her colleagues have led the push for much higher capital requirements – emphasizing the particular dangers around allowing our largest banks to operate in their current highly leveraged fashion. This position has also been gaining support in the policy and media mainstream, most recently in the form of a powerful Bloomberg View editorial.

(You can follow her work and related discussion on this Web site; on twitter she is @anatadmati.)

Senator Brown’s legislation reflects also the idea that banks should fund themselves more with equity and less with debt. Professor Admati and I submitted a letter of support, together with 11 colleagues whose expertise spans almost all dimensions of how the financial sector really operates.

We particularly stress the appeal of having a binding “leverage ratio” for the largest banks. This would require them to have at least 10 percent equity relative to their total assets, using a simple measure of assets not adjusted for any of the complicated “risk weights” that banks can game.

We also agree with the SAFE Banking Act that to limit the risk and potential cost to taxpayers, caps on the size of an individual bank’s liabilities relative to the economy can also serve a useful role (and the same kind of rule should apply to non-bank financial institutions).

Under the proposed law, no bank-holding company could have more than $1.3 trillion in total liabilities (i.e., that would be the maximum size). This would affect our largest banks, which are $2 trillion or more in total size, but in no way undermine their global competitiveness. This is a moderate and entirely reasonable proposal.

No one is suggesting that making JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, Citigroup and Wells Fargo smaller would be sufficient to ensure financial stability.

But this idea continues to gain traction, as a measure complementary to further strengthening and simplifying capital requirements and generally in support of other efforts to make it easier to handle the failure of financial institutions.

Watch for the SAFE Banking Act to gain further support over time.

AP Fannie, Freddie and BOA set to Reduce Principal and Payments

Featured Products and Services by The Garfield Firm

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

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

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

Editor’s Comment:

Partly as a result of the recent settlement with the Attorneys General and partly because they have run out of options and excuses, the banks are reducing principal and offering to reduce payments as well. What happened to the argument that we can’t reduce principal because it would be unfair to homeowners who are not in distress? Flush. It was never true. These loans were based on fake appraisals at the outset, the liens were never perfected and the banks are staring down a double barreled shotgun: demands for repurchase from investors who correctly allege and can easily prove that the loans were underwritten to fail PLUS the coming rash of decisions showing that the mortgage lien never attached to the land. The banks have nothing left. BY offering principal reductions they get new paperwork that allows them to correct the defects in documentation and they retain the claim of plausible deniability regarding origination documents that were false, predatory, deceptive and fraudulent. 

Fannie, Freddie are set to reduce mortgage balances in California

The mortgage giants sign on to Keep Your Home California, a $2-billion foreclosure prevention program, after state drops a requirement that lenders match taxpayer funds used for principal reductions.

By Alejandro Lazo

As California pushes to get more homeowners into a $2-billion foreclosure prevention program, some Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac borrowers may see their mortgages shrunk through principal reduction.

State officials are making a significant change to the Keep Your Home California program. They are dropping a requirement that banks match taxpayers funds when homeowners receive mortgage reductions through the program.

The initiative, which uses federal funds from the 2008 Wall Street bailout to help borrowers at risk of foreclosure, has faced lackluster participation and lender resistance since it was rolled out last year. By eliminating the requirement that banks provide matching funds, state officials hope to make it easier for homeowners to get principal reductions.

The participation by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, confirmed Monday, could provide a major boost to Keep Your Home California.

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac own about 62% of outstanding mortgages in the Golden State, according to the state attorney general’s office. But since the program was unveiled last year, neither has elected to participate in principal reduction because of concerns about additional costs to taxpayers.

Only a small number of California homeowners — 8,500 to 9,000 — would be able to get mortgage write-downs with the current level of funds available. But given the previous opposition to these types of modifications by the two mortgage giants, housing advocates who want to make principal reduction more widespread hailed their involvement.

“Having Fannie and Freddie participate in the state Keep Your Home principal reduction program would be a really important step forward,” said Paul Leonard, California director of the Center for Responsible Lending. “Fannie and Freddie are at some level the market leaders; they represent a large share of all existing mortgages.”

The two mortgage giants were seized by the federal government in 2008 as they bordered on bankruptcy, and taxpayers have provided $188 billion to keep them afloat.

Edward J. DeMarco, head of the federal agency that oversees Fannie and Freddie, has argued that principal reduction would not be in the best interest of taxpayers and that other types of loan modifications are more effective.

But pressure has mounted on DeMarco to alter his position. In a recent letter to DeMarco, congressional Democrats cited Fannie Mae documents that they say showed a 2009 pilot program by Fannie would have cost only $1.7 million to implement but could have provided more than $410 million worth of benefits. They decried the scuttling of that program as ideological in nature.

Fannie and Freddie last year made it their policy to participate in state-run principal reduction programs such as Keep Your Home California as long as they or the mortgage companies that work for them don’t have to contribute funds.

Banks and other financial institutions have been reluctant to participate in widespread principal reductions. Lenders argue that such reductions aren’t worth the cost and would create a “moral hazard” by rewarding delinquent borrowers.

As part of a historic $25-billion mortgage settlement reached this year, the nation’s five largest banks agreed to reduce the principal on some of the loans they own.

Since then Fannie and Freddie have been a major focus of housing advocates who argue that shrinking the mortgages of underwater borrowers would boost the housing market by giving homeowners a clear incentive to keep paying off their loans. They also say that principal reduction would reduce foreclosures by lowering the monthly payments for underwater homeowners and giving them hope they would one day have more equity in their homes.

“In places that are deeply underwater, ultimately those loans where you are not reducing principal, they are going to fail anyway,” said Richard Green of USC’s Lusk Center for Real Estate. “So you are putting off the day of reckoning.”

The state will allocate the federal money, resulting in help for fewer California borrowers than the 25,135 that was originally proposed. The $2-billion program is run by the California Housing Finance Agency, with $790 million available for principal reductions.

Financial institutions will be required to make other modifications to loans such as reducing the interest rate or changing the terms of the loans.

The changes to the program will roll out in early June, officials with the California agency said. The agency will increase to $100,000 from $50,000 the amount of aid borrowers can receive.

Spokespeople for the nation’s three largest banks — Wells Fargo & Co., Bank of America Corp. and JPMorgan Chase & Co. — said they were evaluating the changes. BofA has been the only major servicer participating in the principal reduction component of the program.

People Have Answers, Will Anyone Listen?

MOST POPULAR ARTICLES

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

CUSTOMER SERVICE 520-405-1688

Editor’s Comment: 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Before

The Congressional Progressive Caucus U.S. House of Representatives

Hearing On

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

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

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

Specifically, I will discuss the following:

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

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

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

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

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

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


Five Bad Reasons to Avoid Principal Correction (Reduction)

5 years ago it was obvious to anyone with the facts that the entire system or mortgage origination and mortgage foreclosures had been turned on it’s head, starting with one huge lie: that the value of the property exceeded the amount of the loan. It was in 2005 when 8,000 appraisers warned congress that their industry had been poached by the banks — unless they came back with an “appraisal” that was $20,000 higher than the contract amount, they would never see another dime of business. This one fact was the keystone for the largest economic crime in human history.

The answer is obvious. If a borrower had bribed an appraiser to submit a fair Market value that they both knew could never be sustained — and the obvious purpose was to defraud a lending institution not underwriting a loan under the mistaken belief that the collateral was adequate to repay the loan, the borrower and the appraiser would be punished, disciplined and prosecuted and rightfully so. The outcome of such a case would have been that the perpetrators would lose any license they had for appraisals, that the property would be foreclosed, and that the perpetrators would be ordered to pay restitution for the loss incurred by the lending bank.

The law is pretty simple and there is no protection for anyone to lie for the purpose of defrauding another person. There are no federal or state exemptions, no complexities that make prosecution difficult, just plain facts in which the money of the lending bank was converted into the money of the borrower, the appraiser and maybe their co-conspirators — the mortgage broker, the real estate broker and others. Indeed a perusal of the newspapers across the countries reveals just such prosecutions against borrowers, mortgage brokers and others who conspired to defraud the system (albeit the actual victim being unknown but nonetheless named in each indictment or information prosecuting people “low on the food chain.”

The facts in the mortgage meltdown are equally simple and we call for the same remedies, prosecution, discipline and punishment of the perpetrators. But in this case the perpetrators are the banks. They needed to inflate the appraisals in order to accomplish their twin objectives — closing another loan and making certain that even the “good” loans would fail. Now they confused the issue of title to the property and loan ownership beyond recognition if you look at THEIR paperwork instead of the traditional way record title is kept as notice to the world — through public records title registries.

By blaming the homeowners for the mortgage mess and by sleight of hand tricks played with investors, the Banks managed to steal the homes, steal the money of the investors and steal the bailout. They now seek to steal the non-existent mortgage bonds to fill their balance sheets with non-existent assets. The simple remedies that apply against the. Borrower and the appraiser who lied about the property value are said to present system risks, thus making old fashioned restitution for fraud inapplicable.

So here are the five major reasons the media, the pundits, the government agencies and of course the all-powerful Banks say that the most obvious remedy doesn’t apply.

1. The Banks didn’t commit the crime. It was the originators, the borrowers, the mortgage brokers, the appraisers — anyone but them. Not true. In fact not even close to true. The Banks put the pressure on by setting quotas in dollar volume without regard to quality. There are only two ways of enlarging the dollar volume of loans funded — (1) increase the number of loans and (2) increase the dollar amount of the loans. Since we know that the number of loans was decreasing by 2004-5, the only option left was to artificially inflate the value of the collateral which would enable the originator to fund a larger loan.

2. It’s not fair to reduce principal. But of course it is fair that banks get paid 100 cents on the dollar based upon an initial value and loan they tricked the borrower into taking. And it is fair that the banks get paid by the investors, paid by the insurers and paid by taxpayers all for the same loans even if they were not in default. The debt has been paid in full several times over. Allowing correction to a value of the collateral and the principal on the loan where the banks or investors get paid all over again, but at a realistic level is better than what the banks deserve — I.e., nothing.

3. Reducing principal will cause secondary problems that will disrupt the markets. First this refers to something bad happening if HELOCs or other secondary financing get paid off or modified. It is at best a muddled argument that is both wrong and at variance with the main argument that the borrowers are dead beats that don’t want to pay anything to anyone.

4. Correcting principal will cause disruption of the credit markets. Right. So by this logic, the fruit of fraud should always be sustained and allowed to prosper no matter who gets hurt. This logic certainly undercuts the notion of creating confidence in the credit markets.

5. Correcting principal to the value that should have been used when the deal was made will encourage people in the future to take out loans they nave o intention of repaying. This theory is advanced over the proposition that if Banks get away with this chicanery they might do it again. Here the borrowers did nothing wrong except believe the value that was used in the appraisal. Itmis the banks with a history if wrongdoing, not the borrowers.

Why Everyone Should Support Principal Corrections on Mortgages

First, let’s talk to the guy that says homeowners shouldn’t get a break because it would be unfair to him. After all he paid his mortgage and he is still paying his mortgage and nobody is helping him, right? Wrong. Everyone who has a mortgage is getting a federal subsidy. They get to pay less in taxes and the more they owe, the less taxes they pay. That is the interest deduction for home ownership. So the question is not whether homeowners should get help, because they all get help. And if the guy who still has his home doesn’t wake up to the fact that foreclosures mean fewer homeowners and fewer homeowners means that those who want to eliminate the home mortgage interest deduction will get more traction. They already have a number of people in high places who would like this federal subsidy eliminated because it does nothing for big business and big banking. Putting your support into whatever it takes for people to stay in their homes and pay on mortgages, even if they are lower, means more people that would join you in opposition to eliminating the interest deduction. Oppose them and it will cost you thousands of dollars in additional taxes.

Next, those who are ideologically opposed to any relief for someone who stops paying on a loan. They say that if we don’t hold the borrower’s feet to the fire, we will undermine the entire concept of credit because borrowers would think they could walk away from any debt and would do so. The evidence is in. Most borrowers don’t want to walk from their debt. They want the deal they were sold on by the banks — an affordable loan. They didn’t get it because the originators were not acting as banks. The originators were getting paid for signatures not good loans. What is undermining the credit industry is that nobody trusts the creditors and won’t take the deal on hedge products and swaps. It isn’t that the financial world trusts the borrower any more or any less. They don’t trust the banks because they corrupted the loan underwriting process and because it was the banks who screwed up real estate title and obscured the ownership of loans thus freezing the once liquid credit markets that were running very well on the Uniform Commercial Code. Now we are parsing words and splitting hairs — what is a possessor, holder, holder in due course, what is the effect of fabricated loans, assignments, substitutions, notices, auctions, credit bids, deeds and evictions? If you want confidence in the credit markets restored, we must show that we can control the banks so they can’t do this again.

The main reason everyone should support principal correction is that it is a correction. The values used were pure fabrication created to induce pension funds to throw money down a rabbit hole called a “REMIC POOL” and to induce the homeowner into thinking that he was getting the deal of a lifetime. That was fraud. And in this country when someone is defrauded we take the bounty away from the perpetrators and return it to the victims.

AG Settlement: 3 1/2 cents on the dollar

MOST POPULAR ARTICLES

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

EDITOR’S NOTE: Calculated Risk has the right idea but the wrong calculation. It is relying on published reports of underwater houses and the amount they are underwater. The true figure is at least $1.4 trillion, which would make the settlement around 1.75 cents on the dollar. And it does not include all the foreclosures that went forward even though the homeowner was seeking modification that would present affordable payments and a better return to investors than foreclosure.

This so-called settlement is nothing more than a public relations stunt. It insures that money and politics will continue to be mixed together. It is virtual amnesty. An attorney general is charged with protecting citizens of the state.

by CalculatedRisk SEE ARTICLE

I missed this last week from Adam Belz at the Des Moines Register: Iowa AG says mortgage settlement should be done by Christmas (ht Kevin)

Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller said Thursday a settlement between almost all state attorneys general and the five largest mortgage servicers should be finalized before Christmas, with or without California.

The deal, which Miller has been trying to negotiate since March, would release the five servicers – Ally Financial, Bank of America, Citigroup, J.P. Morgan Chase, and Wells Fargo – from legal claims on past home loan servicing and foreclosures. The deal would not prohibit individuals from suing the banks, or government prosecutors from suing banks over issues related to the packaging of home loans into mortgage-backed securities.

In return the banks will agree to pay for what Miller calls “substantial principal reductions” for homeowners who are underwater, and agree to a set of mortgage servicing standards, interest rate reductions, and cash payments to some homeowners who’ve alrady gone through foreclosure.

>And from Bloomberg today: Ex-Cuomo Aide Said to Be Among 4 Foreclosure-Monitor Candidates

Steven M. Cohen, who was the governor’s secretary, is one potential foreclosure monitor, according to the person, who declined to be identified because the negotiations are secret. That person said North Carolina Commissioner of Banks Joseph A. Smith Jr. is also a candidate, as did a second person who asked not to be identified.

Selection of a monitor is one of the final issues to be worked out between the banks and state and federal officials, said the people. Selection of the monitor is a key issue for the regulators because success of the agreement will largely depend on his or her work, one of the people said.

Other candidates are Nicolas P. Retsinas, a former assistant secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, and ex-Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. Chairman Sheila Bair, one of the people said.

The discussion of possible principal reductions is too optimistic. They are discussing something like a $25 billion settlement (including California) and only a portion would be for principal reductions. Currently, according to CoreLogic, homeowners with negative equity (including 2nd liens) are an aggregate $699 billion underwater. Even if the entire settlement went to principal reductions, the average underwater homeowner would only see a few percent of their negative equity eliminated.

The major impact from this settlement on the housing market would be to reduce the number of seriously delinquent loans – either by modifications (including principal reductions) or through foreclosures. Currently, according the LPS

DATA IRREFUTABLE: PRINCIPAL CORRECTION (REDUCTION) IS THE ONLY WAY OUT

MOST POPULAR ARTICLES

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

EDITOR’S COMMENT: We’ve been saying here for 4 years that ultimately the ONLY way out of the economic crisis is to use real data and skip the ideology, blame and politics. Nocera, pouring over data accumulated by intensive analysis, states that the data proves this point and more. What we need are economic policies that are based upon reality. Since housing is the leader in any recovery for dozens of reasons — from direct jobs and commerce to psychological (confidence) — the ever-increasing bubble in housing inventories flooding the market and driving down prices must be popped.

The principal driver of new defaults is the futility of paying on a loan for property that will never be worth the amount of the loan — i.e., underwater property. The foreclosure crash is causing the number of housing units waiting for a market to buy them to increase at a rate that few would have predicted because of their closely held belief that the mortgages were, in the end, valid debts. Whether true or not, the only tool available to stem the tide and fix the problem is to change the amount due from borrowers.

Last night, Beau Biden, Attorney general of Delaware who sued MERS last week, cast doubt on that assumption along with other suits by other attorney Generals, the principal regulators of banks and many lawmakers. In Biden’s words, the recording system in this country was “privatized” and with that went any possibility of a reliable method for tracing title. Biden, son of Joe Biden, VP, states that at least 25% of all foreclosures occur with the wrong party initiating the foreclosure. He predicted that without correcting the problems created by the Banks we will be “talking about the same problems in 5, 10, 15 and 20 years.”

The real facts are leading inexorably to the question of whether some, many or even all of the loans claimed to be securitized — mortgage, credit cards, student, auto and other consumer loans — were ever perfected and specifically whether the paperwork matches up with the deal and the obligations of the parties (according to law) at the time the loan transaction was consummated. If we do what is right for the country the problem is fixed. If we do what the Banks want, we stay with the problem indefinitely with no prospects for recovery.

Analysts, economists and finance experts are now arriving at the same conclusion — along with the only tool available to stop the foreclosure crash. In order to fix the economy we need to fix what ails it — principally housing. In order to fix housing, as prices continue into their death spiral, we must stop the glut of “defaults” and foreclosures. If we don’t do it now, we are condemning future generations to a world of hurt. It isn’t about ideology, it’s about survival.

It no longer matters what rationale is advanced to correct principal balances claimed as due — we just need to do it. But a key factor that Nocera and Goodman miss is that the balances claimed are not the balances due. The balances have been reduced by actual payments received by the creditors and their agents and then hidden and booked as Bank assets or Bank profits, cheating both the investors and the borrowers.

In fact, we have repeatedly seen in the distribution reports for investors, the same loan that is declared in “default” has the payments made by the servicer under separate contracts never revealed to the borrower and obscured to the investor. While foreclosure on the “default” proceeds, the creditor continues to get paid on a loan reported as “performing.” Hence the default was declared without any factual basis. And the foreclosures were processed based upon a defective assumption of delinquency and default from the servicer’s perspective — but not from the creditor’s perspective.

While complex, this is not beyond the understanding of bankruptcy and probate courts that tend to take a close look at the loan’s status as perfected lien, priority of liens etc. The payment by the servicer decreases the principal amount due from the borrower and cures or eliminates the default because the creditor has been paid. Since the creditor has been paid it can no longer claim the balance that was due before receiving the servicer’s payment. The same holds true for other payments received by the creditor or its agents on insurance, credit default swaps and other contracts without rights of subrogation.

These third party payments do not decrease the overall obligation of the borrower but they change the character of the obligation. No longer secured by the note and mortgage (if they were ever valid or perfected) these third parties  have unsecured claims in the same amount as the amount of the reduction of the payments and principal alleged as due.

Just applying normal rules of accounting and law, part of the borrower’s obligation changes from secured to unsecured, with the secured portion decreased by the same amount that the unsecured portion is increased.

More importantly, the parties change from the creditor who advanced the money to fund the loan to a third party who has covered that obligation. Hence, a principal correction (or reduction, if you must call it that) with the investor-lender may not be nearly as great as the current estimates of 30%-50%.

In fact, in some cases, the investor lender may be entitled to money from the Banks received from third parties but remain hidden in an exotic accounting system, for which the auditing firms may have exposure for liability. The principal in such cases would need not be “reduced” or ‘corrected” by fiat, in such cases, it would be reduced by arithmetic. The result is the same for the homeowner — a much lower amount due reflecting true values that should have been reflected in the initial transaction but were hidden by an appraisal process that was corrupt. 

This is why the OCC Review process MUST take into account an accounting for all money received and disbursed in relation to both the loan and the pool claiming ownership of the loan — because regardless of whether the loan ever legally reached the pool, the money DID reach the pool.

By sticking to the facts and applying arithmetic and simple established law, the number of people who consider themselves underwater will change from millions to perhaps a small fraction of that amount, if any. The impending new defaults would be eliminated and the foreclosures that did or are taking place can be corrected, while avoiding future foreclosures. The number of homes on the market or headed to market would vanish, this allowing free market conditions to allow prices to go wherever the market deems fit between arms length buyers and sellers.

To Fix Housing, See the Data

By

In Miami recently, I met up with Laurie Goodman, a senior managing director of Amherst Securities. I’d been trying to meet her ever since I’d read an article that she had written in March entitled “The Case for Principal Reductions.” But our schedules never seemed to mesh. So when I noticed that we were both going to be at a conference in Miami, I wangled a breakfast appointment. It was one of the more illuminating breakfasts I’ve had in a while.

The idea of helping struggling homeowners by writing down some principal on their mortgages — as opposed to reducing the interest or reconfiguring the terms to lower the monthly payments — is much in the air right now. Banks loathe the idea of principal reduction; they fear that people who are current on their mortgages will start defaulting just to get their principal reduced. They also don’t want the hit to their balance sheets.

But the states’ attorneys general who sued over the robo-signing scandal have made principal reduction the central plank of the settlement they are close to completing. The settlement will force the big banks to begin a sustained program of principal reduction, and will heavily penalize banks that don’t comply. From what I hear, the goal of the states is to prove to the banks that principal reduction will not cause the sky to fall — and is, ultimately, less damaging to bank profits than foreclosures.

Housing activists love principal reduction because they tend to see it as a just solution to an unjust situation — it’s a way of making the banks pay a real price for their sins during the subprime madness while allowing people to keep their homes. Conservatives, on the other hand, hate principal reduction. They believe that borrowers who made poor decisions by taking out mortgages they could never afford have to take responsibility for those decisions. If that means foreclosure, so be it.

Enter Laurie Goodman. One of the country’s foremost authorities on mortgage-backed securities, she is also one of the most data-driven people I’ve ever met; at breakfast, she was constantly pointing me to one chart or another that backed up her claims. “She’s not into politics,” says my friend, and her client, Daniel Alpert of Westwood Capital. “She is using data to tell us the truth.”

Her truth begins with a shocking calculation: of the 55 million mortgages in America, more than 10 million are reasonably likely to default. That is a staggering number — and it is, in large part, because so many homes are worth so much less than the mortgage the homeowners are holding. That is, they’re underwater.

Her second calculation is that the supply of housing is going to drastically outstrip demand for the foreseeable future; she estimates that the glut of unneeded homes could get as high as 6.2 million over the next six years. The primary reason for this, she says, is that household formation has been very low in recent years, presumably because of the grim economy. (Young adults are living with their parents instead of moving into their own homes, etc.) What’s more, nearly 20 percent of current homeowners no longer qualify for a mortgage, as lending standards have tightened.

The implication is almost too awful to contemplate. As Goodman put it in testimony she recently gave before Congress, the supply/demand imbalance means that housing prices “are likely to decline further. This may recreate the housing death spiral — as lower housing prices mean more borrowers become underwater.” Which makes them more likely to default, which lowers prices further, and on and on.

The only way to stop the death spiral is through principal reduction. The reason is simple: “The data show that principal modifications work better” than other kinds of modifications, she says. Interest rate reductions can lower monthly payments, but the home remains just as underwater as it was before the modification. And the extent to which a home is underwater is the single best indicator of whether the homeowner will default. The only way to change the imbalance between the size of the mortgage and the value of the home is to reduce principal.

Will widespread principal reduction cause homeowners to purposely default on their mortgages? Goodman has some ideas about how to reduce that likelihood, but she is also realistic: “A borrower will make a decision to default if it is in his or her best interest.”

One wishes that the country could make economic decisions that are in its best interest, decisions that use Laurie Goodman’s data-driven approach instead of being motivated by ideology. Goodman’s case for principal reduction is powerful precisely because it is not about just or unjust, or who’s to blame and who’s at fault.

It is about cold, hard economics. Three years after the bursting of the subprime bubble, principal reduction isn’t just a nice-sounding way to help homeowners. It is our only hope of finally ending the housing crisis.

NY and DE Examine Trust Documentation: Pandora’s Box Open

MOST POPULAR ARTICLES

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

click-here-to-register-for-seminar

 

WHY YOU NEED TO ATTEND GARFIELD CONTINUUM SEMINAR

If you don’t understand why the bundling of mortgages at the level of the investment banks is important to your case(s) involving securitized mortgages, then you don’t “get it” yet. It isn’t that you need to be an expert in securitization to win cases at the loan level and foreclosures, it is that you need to know key factors that affect the title, liability and ownership of the home, the obligation, note and mortgage. The inquiry referred to below runs to the heart of this issue.

WRONG QUESTION: People are asking where is my loan? What is the name of the Trust in which my loan is located? They should be asking what trust(s) or pools CLAIM to have an interest in your loan and do they really have it. That’s why the COMBO Title and Securitization Analysis, the Forensic Analysis and the Loan Level Accounting is so important. People ask “how do I prove which trust owns the pool?” Wrong question. The party seeking foreclosure needs to prove up ownership, not you. The real question is how do you turn the Judges head to see that your denial of the default, your denial of the mortgage, note and obligation is anything more than a delay tactic?

The banks and many “experts” are busy explaining securitization as though the loans were actually securitized. They were not. And THAT is of key relevance as to who can declare a default, whether they even know if there is a default, and the identity of the party(ies) who can enforce the obligation. It isn’t that you are required to prove THEIR case, it is all about knowing when to raise objections, what evidence to demand (knowing what the result will be) and creating insurmountable obstacles to the pretender lenders who don’t have a dime in the deal but want to foreclose anyway.

If you know the securitization scheme, because you have a report and analysis in your had, and you know how to use it because you have attended our seminar, you are standing in a much stronger position than simply quoting the blog. Knowing the truth is one thing, knowing what to do with the truth is another.

Here was have a story about how the only two states under whose laws these so-called trusts were created, are investigating to see if the trusts exists, and if so, what is in them. What they are going to find is that there is no trust because there is nothing in them. Your loan, although claimed by the trust, never made it into the pool. It never made it into the pool because (a) the mortgages, notes and closing documentation were defective in the first instance and (b) they never even made the attempt to cover their mess up with paperwork until they were challenged in court — years after the deadlines when they might have claimed any such right.

But they are also going to find that the money trail tells a a whole different story. The loan transaction wasn’t between the homeowner and the payee on the note. It was between the homeowner and the investor-lender. But the investor lender got an entirely different set of paperwork than the paperwork given to the homeowner at the closing of the loan. And the paperwork given to the investor-lender was rife with errors, lies and misleading statements. These offices of Attorney general in New York and Delaware are going to find that the entire chain is corrupted, that the only document in the registry of title in the County in which the property is located is a mortgage securing an obligation that does not exist — because it secures an obligation as described on a note signed by the homeowner containing the wrong parties and the wrong terms.

And so they are going to find out that there could be some type of enforcement of the undocumented obligation (not the note), but there won’t be because the investor-lenders are not interested in getting into pitched battle with homeowners, nor do they want to take a position in court that would be construed as an admission against their own interest. The admission would be that the mortgage documents were legal, valid and enforceable. The investors are saying that the mortgages were garbage and unenforceable when they sue the investment bankers for 100 cents on the dollar. The pretenders are trying to bootstrap their own intentional scrambling of the documentation into a right to claim property and take the homeowner out from his dwelling on the strength of defective documents — not on the strength of a case where the homeowner borrower money from them, owes them any money or even knew of their existence when the loan was closed.

Two States Ask if Paperwork in Mortgage Bundling Was Complete

By

Opening a new line of inquiry into the problems that have beset the mortgage loan process, two state attorneys general are investigating Wall Street’s bundling of these loans into securities to determine whether they were properly documented and valid.

The investigation is being led by Eric T. Schneiderman, the attorney general of New York, who has teamed with Joseph R. Biden III, his counterpart from Delaware. Their effort centers on the back end of the mortgage assembly lines — where big banks serve as trustees overseeing the securities for investors — according to two people briefed on the inquiry but who were not authorized to speak publicly about it.

The attorneys general have requested information from Bank of New York Mellon and Deutsche Bank, the two largest firms acting as trustees. Trustee banks have not been a focus of other investigations because they are administrators of the securities and did not originate the loans or service them. But as administrators they were required to ensure that the documentation was proper and complete.

Both attorneys general are investigating other practices that fueled the mortgage boom and subsequent bust. The latest inquiry represents another avenue of scrutiny of the inner workings of Wall Street’s mortgage securitization machine, which transformed individual home loans into bundles of loans that were then sold to investors.

It follows months of sharp criticism of the mortgage foreclosure process, which produced an uproar last year over shoddy paperwork and possible forgeries of legal documents by banks, other lenders or their representatives.

The slipshod practices in foreclosures led to further questions about whether all the necessary documents were delivered to the trusts and properly administered by them.

Some of the nation’s biggest mortgage servicers are currently in negotiations with a group of state attorneys general to settle an investigation into foreclosure abuses. The new inquiry by New York and Delaware indicates the big banks’ troubles may not end even if a settlement is reached in the foreclosure matter.

The stakes are potentially high. If the trustees did not follow the rules set out in the prospectus, they may be liable for breaching their duties to investors who bought the securities. That could expose the banks to costly civil litigation.

Spokesmen from Bank of New York and Deutsche Bank declined to comment about the investigation, as did representatives from the offices of both attorneys general.

A complex process that produced hundreds of billions of dollars in securities during the lending boom, the issuance of mortgage securities began with home loans, which were then bundled into investments and sold to pension funds, mutual funds, big banks and other investors. The bundles were created as trusts overseen by institutions such as Bank of New York and Deutsche Bank; they were supposed to make sure the complete mortgage files for each loan were delivered within a specified time and with the proper documentation.

After the securities were sold, the trustees disbursed interest and principal payments to investors over the life of the trusts.

The trusts were governed by the laws of the states in which they were set up. Roughly 80 percent of the trusts are governed by New York law with the rest by Delaware law.

The rules governing the securitization process are labyrinthine, and there are steps required if the investment is to comply with tax laws and promises made by the issuer in its offering document. If the trusts did not comply with tax laws, for example, the beneficial treatment given to investors could be rescinded, causing taxes to be levied on the transactions.

The terms of these mortgage deals varied, but many of them required that the trustee examine each of the loan files as soon as they came in from the Wall Street firm or bank issuing the security. For a file to be complete, it would typically have to include all of the information necessary to establish a chain of ownership through the various steps of the bundling process, as when the originator transferred it to the issuer of the security who then moved it to the trustee.

Complete loan files were supposed to be delivered to the trusts within 90 days in most cases. If the trustee found any missing or defective documents, it was supposed to notify the loan originator so that it could either cure the deficiency or replace the loan. Such substitutions are typically allowed only in the early years of the trust.

By asking for documents relating to this process, investigators are trying to determine if the trustees fulfilled their obligations to the investors who bought the mortgage deals, according to the people briefed on the inquiry.

HOW TO INTERVIEW A LAWYER

SUBMITTED BY ANN

http://stopforeclosurefraud.com/2010/03/20/choosing-an-attorney-who-understands/

Questions to Ask Attorney Before Retaining:

• How long has the attorney been practicing foreclosure defense?

• What are his/her strategies and tactics in that defense?

• How many foreclosure cases has the attorney defended?

• How many foreclosure cases has the attorney gotten dismissed?

• How many foreclosure cases has the attorney appealed?

• What are the names, case #s, court docket #s of those cases?

• Is the attorney a litigator? (“litigation” is filing motions, taking depositions, subpoenas and appearing in court for hearings and trial)

• Besides filing an answer or a motion for extension of time, what will the attorney do to defend the case?

• Does the attorney have a court reporter at every hearing in order to preserve issues in your case for appeal?

• Is the attorney willing to fight it all the way and not settle for a loan mod?

• Is the attorney familiar with all the hot topics of MERS, assignment fraud, signature fraud, HIDC (ownership to foreclose), securitization issues, etc.?

• Has the attorney ever been disciplined or suspended from the bar?

• Does the attorney offer bankruptcy as an integrated service?

• How do they charge? Hourly? One big retainer, pay as they bill? Small retainer, pay as they bill? Small retainer and set monthly payments? If paying initial retainer and a set monthly payment, how does that monthly payment transfere into actual billable hours? If billable hours do not use up monthly retainer, will there be a credit to future billing? (e.g. $1000 payment but that month billable was only $500, will the $500 carry over?

• Based on how they bill, will they charge for any copying, emails, phone conversations, etc. This is standard but with those that do a monthly set payment, they often will not charge for the incidentals.

• Will they provide you a copy of all pleadings, complaints, actions, filings, responses, etc. regarding your case?

Then go to the Court house and look at the attorney cases and observe him at Hearings. Case files are public info.

Recommended Reading and Resource Books

. Represent Yourself in Court by Paul Bergman Att.

. 23 Legal Defenses to Foreclosure by Troy Doucet

• Foreclosures by National Consumer Law Center

• Truth in Lending by National Consumer Law Center

• The Cost of Credit by National Consumer Law Center

• Consumer Law Pleadings by National Consumer Law Center

• 23 Legal Defenses to Foreclosure by Troy Doucet

• Structured Finance & Collateralized Debt Obligations by Janet M. Tavakoli

• Legal Research: How to Find & Understand the Law by Stephen Elias & Susan Levinkind

• Business Law by Robert W. Emerson, J.D.

• Civil Procedure: A Contemporary Approach by A. Benjamin Spence

• Creature from Jekyll Island by G. Edward Griffin

• Modern Money Mechanics by Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago

http://www.jurisdictionary.com

Yves Smith: Obama Pressing for a “Shock and Awe” Mortgage Mod Program, 3 Million in 6 Months

COMBO Title and Securitization Search, Report, Documents, Analysis & Commentary SEE LIVINGLIES LITIGATION SUPPORT AT LUMINAQ.COM

THEY STILL DON’T GET IT

EDITOR’S ANALYSIS: The plan is from Wall Street, the facts are fictional, and the result will be negligible. I commend Obama for getting more aggressive but his advisers are still not giving him the right information. If he had it, I believe he would be acting differently. He has a practical problem of putting the housing crisis behind us in a way that is politically possible. The answer is PRINCIPAL CORRECTION TO TRUE FAIR MARKET VALUES WHEN THESE DEALS WERE MADE. Anything less will maintain the current foreclosure climate for decades, keep unemployment in double digits, and prevent any real recovery from the economic meltdown they are still trying to hide.

It is really a matter of finding a true and understandable explanation for why so many people are getting the benefit of a downward correction in the principal. It is simple — they stole the money, no borrower would have signed documents on property that was worth half the debt. It was a lie and we are correcting that lie.

Obama Pressing for a “Shock and Awe” Mortgage Mod Program, 3 Million in 6 Months

Today, March 16, 2011, 2 hours ago | Yves SmithGo to full article

Given how well “shock and awe” worked in the Iraq war, I’d see the Administration’s use of that expression in the context of the mortgage mess as a Freudian slip.

I must confess to being surprised at the report by Shahien Nasiripour of Huffington Post, namely that the Administration is pushing for an even more aggressive-looking mortgage modification program than has been rumored. The reason I’m surprised is that this effort, even though it appears misguided on several fronts and falls far short of what is needed, represents an upping of the demands being made against banks. That is contrary to both the Obama Administration’s past behavior of making great sounding promises and walk them so far back as to wind up in a different country, and of inconveniencing the banks terribly much. But Shahien is an able reporter, so I’m sure he has the facts right.

The scorecard thus far appeared to be that the state attorneys general were the only group moving forward against the foreclosure fraud, but the bold promises of criminal prosecutions were quickly recanted. Instead, a 27 page outline of their settlement demands was leaked. As we discussed, it was a disappointment. Virtually all of it merely insisted that banks obey existing law. It has only two new requirements. One was ending dual track (if a bank is entering into a modification discussion or program with a borrower, it cannot keep moving forward in parallel with a foreclosure). The other was “single point of contact,” meaning having one person at the bank serve as case manager and be the interface with the borrower. We deemed that to be operationally unworkable even if the banks had their records and systems working well. And if they got those in order, borrowers would not need a designated person to make sure a modification request was handled properly.

There was also a rumor, which was connected to the AG negotiations, that the banks would be asked to make mortgage modifications at their own expense, and the number $20 billion was bandied about. The AGs and the Federal regulators seemed to be collaborating closely, which we also objected to; the state and Federal issues are very different. The idea that the banks would be pressured to make mods has gotten a huge amount of pushback in the media and from Republican legislators; there appears to be a full bore PR salvo underway.

Now notice all these ideas are being evaluated in a vacuum. We don’t know what liability the banks would be released from (the legal term is what form of release they would receive). Nor do we or the regulators have an even remotely adequate understanding of all the bad stuff the banks did. The media and anti-foreclosure attorneys have reported on various abuses, most importantly, servicer driven foreclosures, in which the borrower has either made all his payments, or perhaps been late on one or two, and impermissible application of payment, fee pyramiding and junk fees quickly drive a minor arrearage that most borrowers could correct into a foreclosure.

So despite my caviling, if the release covered only robo-signing and false affidavits, this deal (the 27 page term sheet plus a commitment to do mortgage mods) would be a very good deal for homeowners. But if it was a broad waiver, it would be a steal for the banks.

With that as an overlong but necessary background, the latest development looks like a ratcheting up of the effort against the banks, and perhaps a shift in who is in the driver’s seat among the Federal regulators. It had appeared that originally the Treasury was leading the cross-regulatory Foreclosure Task Force; it was the Treasury’s Michael Barr who spoke before the Financial Stability Oversight Council to launch it officially last November. Even then we deemed it to be an exercise in window-dressing that would make the bank stress tests look tough. It went from bad to worse when John Dugan of the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, the most bank friendly regulator, spoke at recent Congressional hearings and indicated that the task force reviewed 2800 loan files of delinquent borrowers (from the bank side only; as we have stressed, independent verification was impossible given the compressed time frame for the whitewash exams) and found all bank foreclosures to be warranted. Needless to say, those who have been paying attention to this story saw the results as proof of the lack of interest in getting to the bottom of bank abuses. And the OCC playing a prominent role seemed to be further confirmation.

So here are the highlights from the Huffington Post story:

The Obama administration is seeking to force the nation’s five largest mortgage firms to reduce monthly payments for as many as three million distressed homeowners in as little as six months as part of an agreement to settle accusations of improper foreclosures and violations of consumer protection laws….

The modified mortgages could cost the five financial behemoths — Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup, Wells Fargo and Ally Financial — as much as $30 billion…

t also could lead to reduced mortgage payments or lowered loan balances for nearly two-thirds of the 4.7 million delinquent homeowners who have yet to fall into foreclosure, according to data provider Lender Processing Services.

The aim is to ensure the number of assisted borrowers is spread throughout the country, and that banks modify both expensive and inexpensive mortgages, people involved in the talks said. Banks also would likely forgive mortgage principal in situations where a pre-determined formula dictated that it was the best way to modify a home loan. Balances on second mortgages and home equity loans — of which nearly half of all outstanding loans are owned by BofA, JPMorgan, Citi and Wells — would also have to be written down.

That would then kick-start the healing process needed to clear the large overhang of repossessed and soon-to-be-foreclosed homes that’s depressing house prices and sapping consumer confidence.

This is pretty bizarre. It reads like HAMP 2.0. Notice that the banks are NOT being required to make principal mods. The story simply states, “reduce monthly payments”. So the $30 billion is presumably for a combination of servicer costs, payment reductions, and some second mortgage writedowns (since the Administration has stressed that these modifications are to come out of the hide of banks, I am curious as to how a bank would compensate a securitization trust for a first mortgage mod).

But $30 billion for 3 million homeowners, even assuming every penny went to principal mods, is a mere $10,000 per borrower. If you assume the bottom end of the target participation range (1 million), the maximum dollar amount ($30 billion) and modest budget for servicer costs (10% of mod amount), the highest average you could expect is $27,000 per borrower. That’s helpful but unlikely to be outcome changing for borrowers in distress. So this exercise appears to be about maximizing participation rather than really rescuing anyone. So this exercise appears also to be a stress test 2.0: that the Administration can uses this initiative as a way to talk up real estate and put a floor under the housing market.

Why is this a terrible idea?

First, there is good reason to believe that mere payment reduction plans don’t work when the borrower is upside down. Homeowners are not dumb. Why should they struggle to keep a home if in the end they will still face negative equity if they need to exit in the next few years? What is keeping a lot of these homeowners in place is probably inertia: they like the house, their kids are in local schools, moving is disruptive, and exiting the house involves a lot of hassle and probable adverse impact on their credit record. A payment mod does not change the basic equation. By contrast, the one party known to have tried deep principal mods, distressed investor Wilbur Ross, has reported far lower redefault rates than for other types of mod programs.

And a lot of borrowers are upside down. A recent CoreLogic report found that as of fourth quarter 2010, 11.1 million homeowners had mortgage debt in excess of the value of their house. Moreover, the negative equity for those upside down by more than 50% was $450 billion.

So what is a puny $30 billion max (which will include servicer expenses) accomplish? By itself, nothing except some modification theater. In combination with principal mods, which would come from reduction in principal balances by investors, you could see a positive outcome. As we have stressed, when banks foreclose, the losses to investors are 70% and rising as home values continue to fall and foreclosure defense attorneys are making headway in local courts making arguments based on chain of title issues. All but a tiny sliver of subordinated bond holders would welcome deep principal mods. When you are looking at 70%+ losses, 30% to 50% would look like a screaming bargain.

Second, servicers have every incentive to make sure mods fail. They don’t get paid to mod. They do get paid to foreclose. Their income is based on fees based on principal balances (which is one of many reason they’ve rejected principal mods) plus fees they earn for various activities performed in foreclosures. Tom Adams estimates that servicing is costing 125 basis points today, versus income of 50 basis points coming from regular servicing fees based on principal balances plus 30 to 50 basis points based on late, junk, and foreclosure related fees. So having borrowers fail is economically attractive to servicers.

Third, servicers have never been any good at mortgage mods. Tom Adams again:
Giving a modification to a borrower, principal or otherwise, is basically underwriting a new loan. Obviously, many of the lenders have proven that they were not very good at that. However, at least they had staff and “guidelines” for making the loans.

Servicers have neither guidelines nor staff for loan underwriting. Principal modifications were just not contemplated by the securitization model.

I’ve visited dozens of lenders and servicers over a 20 year period and the only company I saw that had a real policy for modifications was Household Finance (now a part of HSBC). Their stated plan was a perpetual debt model (”generational”). They aggressively offered modifications, sometimes even for moderately delinquent borrowers. They claimed about a 25% re-default rate (I looked at data that more or less confirmed this). Of course, left unsaid was that they didn’t always mind re-defaults as they were an opportunity for additional servicer fees on a loan that was going south either way (investors wouldn’t have wanted to hear that).

The next closest thing to a modification plan was Litton, which was an advocate of short sales based on their confidence in their own valuation of the loans. Litton only serviced loans on which they were the residual holder, so they had an economic incentive similar to third party investors, as long as their was value in the residual (which is pretty unlikely now, for most deals).

As far as servicer factory floors – rather than sweatshops, they bore a resemblance to college dorms – young staff with a high turnover rate (20-40% in good times), lots of calling campaign contests, decorations, balloons, morale boosters. Typical call center stuff, though the mortgage servicers were more aggressive with the morale stuff than credit card, student loan, etc.

Very different from commercial loan servicing, where the concept of -re-underwriting, modification, workouts etc. are much more a part of normal business.

Note that Goldman is now trying to sell Litton….not that there is anyone who could possibly want to buy it.

Law professor and securitization expert Adam Levitin has argued that servicers should not do mods, that the task needs to be assigned to a third party. There have been approaches to compensate for the lack of servicer skills in this area, including having mortgage counselors play a prominent role as well as the NACA approach, where an independent group verifies and uploads key borrower documents and works with borrowers to prepare a household income and expenses spreadsheet which is a key input to a loan re-underwriting. But absent a new approach, why should a repeated failed experiment of unmotivated servicers doing mods lead to different outcomes? I much prefer his not quite a joke solution of having the banks spend the then rumored settlement amount of $20 billion on Legal Aid. The threat of borrowers chipping away at banks enough to develop class action theories or prove out the New York trust theory discussed on this blog (which would pave the way to asteroid-hitting-the-finanical system suits against trustees) might change their incentives.

Fourth, the six month timetable is nuts. Servicers are factories. As the late Tanta pointed out, it takes servicers six months to implement the software changes associated with meaningful new initiatives. Even if they did a full court press, the most they could compress it to is probably four months.

Although a lot of the chaos of HAMP mods appeared to be servicer “dog ate my homework” loss of borrower-submitted documents, there is every reason to believe that a lot of the screw-ups reflected deep-seated operational problems. Servicers are working with platforms, both software and procedural, that are already deficient and cracking under the volume of delinquent loans. Asking them to do something different, on an aggressive timetable, and in high volumes is just about certain to create a complete train wreck.

Even though we are deeply skeptical, the dynamics are curious indeed. The HuffPo account states that the Department of Justice is leading the negotiations with the banks, and HUD, the Treasury, and the FDIC are on board. The OCC, which recently seemed to be in the driver’s seat, has apparently been marginalized. And the upping of the rumored amount to be extracted from the banks, $30 billion (admittedly a maximum, we’ll believe that when we see it) is markedly higher than the earlier $20 billion that elicited all sorts of noise.

Even though the Foreclosure Task Force’s exam was cursory, and managed to find that all foreclosures were warranted, save in a very limited number of cases when an “intervening event or condition” took place. Nevertheless, that review found legal violations (and the language suggests they go beyond the poster child of robosigning). Of course, a literature search or database query of court filings would have shown the same thing. But Walsh’s testimony in February made no mention of Federal violations (click to enlarge):

Screen shot 2011-03-16 at 5.22.32 AM

So what is the Administration’s source of leverage against the banks? In theory, it has a ton, starting (as we have pointed out in meetings with the Treasury) violations of REMIC, the IRS rules that govern securitizations (the investors would be charged but the violations result from bank failures to adhere to their representations in the pooling and servicing agreements; they have a basis for litigation, and this is a nuclear weapon level of threat). We raised it twice in an August meeting with Treasury when officials, including Geithner, piously maintained that there was little they could do about servicers. The questions about using IRS violations to bring servicers to heel were pointedly ignored. And we knew then that the issue had already been raised directly with a senior enforcement officer at the IRS who knew the REMIC rules and was initially very interested. The result? The report back was that the matter had gone over to the White House, which said it did not want to use tax as a tool of policy. Ahem, didn’t Obama swear to uphold the laws of the land?

But the bottom line, and it certainly has been consistent with the Administration’s posture, is that it sees its authority over the banks as being narrow. But the Huffington Post article mentioned consumer law violations, and the 2003 FTC/HUD action against miscreant servicer Fairbanks was based on a broad range of violations. Perhaps the powers that be revisited some of the thinking behind that action. One can only assume they have a real smoking gun; this sudden show of spine (even if the effort falls vastly short of a sound course of action) is very much out of character (although Treasury has been bloody-minded in its Volcker rule negotiations with banks, so this is not completely without precedent).

The Administration’s argument may also be that if the banks do widespread mods, they can also get consumers to waive their rights to litigate. That may be the real rationale for a broad-but-shallow strategy. No Federal or state governmental body can waive a private party’s right to seek recourse. But do the banks buy that they have real liability from chain of title issues? They appear to be in deep denial on this front, given the lack of investor lawsuits. But we are told that the reason that those who have studied the question haven’t acted isn’t that they think they have a weak case, but if they prevailed, it would blow up the banking system, which isn’t exactly in their interest. But if they came up with a more limited basis for action, they might well proceed if only to pressure servicers to do meaningful principal mods.

But even with this new desire by the officialdom to press forward, it isn’t clear the other moving parts will line up. The Administration is also pushing the state attorneys general to wrap up their settlement. But that group appears to be fracturing, with defections expected on the Republican side and probable among some Democrat AGs as well (the article mentions New York’s Eric Schneiderman as a possible holdout; we are also told the Nevada AG Catherine Masto is not keen about the deal). The banks also want a pound of flesh to come from Fannie and Freddie, which makes sense given that we have gotten reports from readers of HAMP mods being approved by servicers and nixed by the GSEs.

This is all very curious indeed. My gut (and it could prove to be dead wrong) is that there is no negotiating space between the banks and the Administration, that the bid and offer are too far apart. The haste on the part of the Administration to wrap things up is not likely to help them in the absence of a real threat; undue eagerness to strike a deal is usually a sign of weakness. But the $30 billion may also be on the table to give room to negotiate down for the banks to save face. Since the Obama Administration has never been very good at negotiating, the results even on a level of bargaining are likely to be underwhelming.

BOA CORRECTS PRINCIPAL – $533K – IN BORROWER SETTLEMENT FOR BOA EXEC

Bank of America Takes $533,500 Loss on Barbara Desoer’s Home

Today, March 11, 2011, 6 hours ago | ceramic catGo to full article
FROM: http://blogs.wsj.com/deals/2011/03/1…_share_twitterBank of America Corp. is fighting an effort to force U.S. banks to reduce the amount some borrowers owe on their mortgage. But property records show that the bank was willing to take one heck of a hit when mortgage chief Barbara Desoer unloaded her Charlotte N.C., home in 2009 as part of a move to California.

Desoer and her husband Marc sold their 4,455-square-foot house in Charlotte’s exclusive Eastover neighborhood to relocation company Weichert Relocation Resources Inc. for $1.46 million on May 6, 2009, according to county property records.

Eastover is a highly sought-after address in Charlotte, can be seen from the giant bank’s downtown headquarters and is home to former Bank of America Chief Executive Hugh McColl and other bank executives.

The relocation company’s services were part of a larger benefits package that Desoer got so she could oversee the purchase of troubled mortgage lender Countrywide Financial.

Bank of America also paid out $1.5 million for costs related to the purchase of her new home in California and $1.1 million in tax costs, according to a 2009 securities filing.

The fine print included a promise by Bank of America to eat any losses if Desoer’s house in Charlotte was sold at a lower price.

On Nov. 20, 2009, Weichert sold it for $930,500–a 36% decline in just six months, property records show. Bank of America’s loss: roughly $533,500.

“It’s simply unfair and inaccurate to compare this benefit to principal reduction for delinquent mortgage customers,” Bank of America said in a statement. “Relocation benefits are customary and competitively necessary arrangements for most major companies when executives are asked to relocate with their family to another area of the country to oversee critical businesses.”

The company hasn’t disclosed the size of the bath it took on Desoer’s house. In the 2009 securities filing, Bank of America said the sale happened in December 2008 and was “based on the average of the appraised values of the residence as determined by two independent appraisal services.”

Change to Win, which is affiliated with the Service Employees International Union and owns shares in Bank of America, says Desoer’s perk is a big reason why the company should be forced to ban such home-loss subsidies for executives.

The group is asking shareholders to eliminate the policy at the bank’s annual meeting in May, telling directors that such a payment “insulates a narrow set of executives from the economic facts of life even while Bank of America’s own customers struggle to pay their mortgages as a result of the housing market collapse and broader financial crisis.”

The SEC ruled in a March 4 letter that the proposal can remain on the proxy, despite efforts by the bank to remove it. The proposal, the SEC said, “focuses on a significant policy issue of senior executive compensation.”

BOA SAYS NO TO CORRECTION OF PRINCIPAL: “UNFAIR AND UNEXPLAINABLE”

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

SEE modification-plan-sought-follow-the-money-not-the-paperwork

EDITOR’S NOTE: Moynihan is pulling out the old argument, trying to stir up people who have been paying their mortgage so he and the other mega banks won’t be required to cough up trillions of dollars they stole through fraudulent appraisals of property inducing people to get into “loan” transactions that were guaranteed to fail, which the mega banks were betting on, so they would win going both ways. They did the same thing to investors with fraudulent appraisals (ratings) inducing people to get into MBS transactions, which were guaranteed to fail, and which the mega banks were betting on, so they could win going both ways.

What he is saying is that it is too hard to explain to people who have been paying their mortgage payments why others, who were not paying their mortgage payments, are getting a break. What he means is that if they DID explain it as a clawback from a fraudulent series of transactions, millions more people, whether they were paying or not, would demand their money back too. They will realize that just because they CAN afford to take the loss on a fraudulent transaction, doesn’t mean they SHOULD take the loss any more than anyone else.

And THAT in turn would be the end of the mega banks and the grip on this country’s power structure. because it would deplete every bit of equity they have and remove them from the table of active players in banking, leaving the REST of the banking industry, consisting of over 7,000 banks and credit unions to pick up the pieces which will be remarkably easy to do, and will produce no catastrophe other than for the those who continue to benefit from a PONZI scheme that is remaining alive, morphing into the next great catastrophe.

See Simon Johnson’s extremely clear, well written analysis, with citations and back-up for everything he says and I say www.baselinescenario.com.

AND Moynihan is issuing a tacit threat: everyone who relies on dividend income and is expecting dividend income from BOA will be on the short end of the stick — kind of like the lowest people in every PONZI scheme. I’m not saying they should be punished for believing this drivel from Moynihan. In a nation of laws, however, it is no argument at all to leave “well enough alone” if it means that victims remain uncompensated because other people, possibly without knowledge of the tainted aspect of the money, will lose.  Such shareholders in the mega banks may also be victims, at least some of them, and they may have their remedies too. In the end, there won’t be enough money to go around to satisfy everyone, but one thing is for sure — in a nation of laws — the perps should do the walk, not the victims.

LLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLL

NY Times

Bank Chief Rejects Idea of Reducing Home Loans

By NELSON D. SCHWARTZ

Showing resistance for the first time against government pressure to write off tens of billions worth of mortgage debt, Bank of America executives said on Tuesday that the idea was unworkable and warned that it would be unfair to borrowers who had managed to stay current on their loans.

“There’s a core problem that if you start to help certain people and don’t help other people, it’s going to be very hard to explain the difference,” said Brian T. Moynihan, the chief executive of Bank of America. “Our duty is to have a fair modification process.”

All 50 state attorneys general, as well as a host of federal agencies, are pushing for a settlement over investigations into foreclosure abuses by major mortgage servicers that could cost the industry $20 billion or more. Much of that money would be earmarked to reduce principal owed by homeowners facing foreclosure.

But picking just who to help is among the thorniest questions facing government regulators, as well as the banks themselves. Even the most outspoken attorney general on the issue, Tom Miller of Iowa, acknowledged on Monday that too generous a program might encourage homeowners to walk away from properties where the value of the loan exceeded how much the underlying property was worth.

Indeed, industry experts estimate that nearly a trillion dollars worth of mortgage debt is “underwater,” a result of house prices having fallen since the original loans were made. Federal officials hope a settlement with the servicers will help individual borrowers and provide a cushion for the weak housing market.

Officials of Bank of America, the nation’s biggest mortgage servicer, argue that any effort to help troubled borrowers should not penalize borrowers who are underwater but have managed to make their monthly payments.

“There may be as much as $1 trillion worth of mortgages that are underwater,” said Terry Laughlin, the Bank of America executive whose unit, Legacy Asset Servicing, handles mortgages that are delinquent or in default. “What do you do for those borrowers that have a job but have negative equity and have paid on time and honored their obligations?”

“This is an unsolvable question,” he said. “It’s a very slippery slope.”

The comments by Mr. Moynihan and Mr. Laughlin came at a daylong meeting with investors and analysts in New York, the first of its kind for Bank of America since 2007.

Despite fierce criticism by regulators and political leaders that its efforts to help troubled borrowers have fallen short, Bank of America executives insist that the number of successful modifications the bank has completed is on the rise. The bank says more than 800,000 mortgages have been modified in the last three years.

Writing down billions of principal now could actually retard the recovery by encouraging borrowers to default, they argue. “It’s not that we don’t want to help troubled borrowers,” Mr. Laughlin said. “It’s a moral hazard issue.”

Late last week, the attorneys general presented the five biggest mortgage servicers, including Bank of America, with a 27-page proposal that would drastically reshape how they deal with homeowners facing foreclosure. It did not include a specific dollar figure, but government officials say they want to combine any overhaul of the foreclosure process with a monetary settlement that could finance more modifications for troubled borrowers.

The existing modification program created by the Obama administration, known as HAMP, has helped far fewer borrowers than originally promised. It also faces fierce opposition from Republicans in the House of Representatives, who voted last week to kill the program.

Mr. Moynihan believes investors who hold trillions in mortgage securities have to be involved in any settlement. It is not exactly clear what role they would play as part of the settlement with the federal government.

Officials at Bank of America, as well as other large servicers, declined to comment on the specifics of the 27-page proposal, and the industry has been cautious about fighting back too aggressively, mindful of the tales of robo-signing and other abuses that prompted the investigation by the attorneys general and federal regulators last fall.

What’s more, consumers and politicians are keenly aware that Bank of America and other financial giants have staged a remarkable turnaround since the government bailed out the industry after the collapse of Lehman Brothers in 2008.

“I think reasonable minds will prevail on this,” Mr. Moynihan said. “We do push back and we get to reasonableness.”

Still, the comments at Tuesday’s investor meeting are a preview of the arguments the industry is poised to make more forcefully in the weeks ahead as it negotiates with the attorneys general and other regulators behind closed doors. On Monday, Mr. Miller said he hoped a settlement could be reached within two months.

As the huge volume of loan losses recedes and the economy improves, Mr. Moynihan said his company had the power to earn $35 billion to $40 billion a year. Bank of America lost $2.2 billion in 2010, weighed down by special charges and the lingering effects of the housing bust and the recession on consumers.

He also reiterated his position that the long wave of acquisitions undertaken by his predecessors was over. “I can’t stress enough to you how much of a peace dividend we’ll get without mergers,” Mr. Moynihan said. “That peace dividend is effectively a permanent dividend.” The bank intends to resume payouts to shareholders in the second half of 2011.

THE PROBLEM WITH PRINCIPAL “REDUCTION” VS PRINCIPAL “CORRECTION”

COMBO Title and Securitization Search, Report, Documents, Analysis & Commentary COMBO Title and Securitization Search, Report, Documents, Analysis & Commentary

While Wall Street has us all thinking that this is so complicated that it can never be unraveled, the reverse is true. If the homeowner was the victim of a crime or misfeasance or malfeasance, then the homeowner has every right to restitution and redress of his grievances. If the homeowner was treated fairly and there were no material violations of the Federal and state lending laws, then there is no restitution or redress, because nothing bad happened. Anyone opposed to this plan of action is taking a position against our centuries old system of common law, statutes and procedural due process.” — Neil Garfield

The problem is that the Courts are looking at policy instead of legal precedent. The pretender lenders are doing everything they can, and doing it successfully, to make sure that the Court never considers or hears the factual question of whether the homeowner was harmed by a wrongful act committed by some or all of the people at the closing of the loan. This isn’t magic or rocket science. If the wrongful act occurred we all know that the law requires the wrongful actor to be punished and the victim is to be made as whole as possible given the reality of the circumstances.” — Neil Garfield

EDITOR’S ANALYSIS: The Washington Post editorial below hits the nail on the head as to the political and legal problems associated with principal REDUCTION. Where does it end? The current plan being discussed is too little, too late and carries political liability equivalent to a third rail. It also is probably not legal.

And THAT is why words make all the difference. Principal REDUCTION stands for the proposition that we are going to arbitrarily pick a number of people and reduce the balances due on the amount demanded, as evidenced by the promissory note. I see nothing but problems in such an approach. The principal problem is that it does not address WHY lowering the obligation from the amount stated on the promissory note is necessary or proper?

On the other hand principal CORRECTION stands for the proposition that the amount demanded is not the right amount and that we are going to correct it to  assure that it matches up with reality. There is no arbitrary or political decision necessary. The only basis for doing it would be that the amount stated on the note is wrong, or was procured by fraud, or some other long-standing legally recognized doctrine of law in which the borrower is the victim who has suffered damages that require redress.

If the Obama administration wants to propose a program of principal correction, it can do so by rule or regulation, just as the Federal Reserve can do in Reg Z. Given the fact that table-funded loans (i.e., all securitized loans for practical purposes) are improper and that the appraisals were false along with other violations of underwriting standards relied upon by homeowners and investors, they only need to state that upon proof of one or more of the violations of the consumer’s rights to disclosure and fairness, the terms of the obligation shall be adjusted to reflect terms of the transaction proposed to the borrower at the time of closing as opposed to the deal claimed by the pretender lender now.

If the mortgage is legally invalid and requires reformation or a substitute to make it valid, then the party seeking protection under the terms of the alleged mortgage must negotiate terms with the homeowner, same as any other case where such things have happened.

As in all other cases where such things have occurred before the latest mortgage foreclosure rampage, these things are self-evident if taken on a case by case basis. In some cases, the property will be foreclosed by a party who is in fact the creditor and has the right to do so. In other cases there will be adjustments to the terms of the obligation which might include a correction of principal (where the appraisal was inflated), interest rate (where the rate was not properly disclosed), term where the “reset” was not properly disclosed etc.

While Wall Street has us all thinking that this is so complicated that it can never be unraveled, the reverse is true. If the homeowner was the victim of a crime or misfeasance or malfeasance, then the homeowner has every right to restitution and redress of his grievances. If the homeowner was treated fairly and there were no material violations of the Federal and state lending laws, then there is no restitution or redress, because nothing bad happened. Anyone opposed to this plan of action is taking a position against our centuries old system of common law, statutes and procedural due process.

The problem is that the Courts are looking at policy instead of legal precedent. The pretender lenders are doing everything they can, and doing it successfully, to make sure that the Court never considers or hears the factual question of whether the homeowner was harmed by a wrongful act committed by some or all of the people at the closing of the loan. This isn’t magic or rocket science. If the wrongful act occurred we all know that the law requires the wrongful actor to be punished and the victim to be made as whole as possible given the reality of the circumstances.

LLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLL

A questionable plan to aid underwater homeowners

THE U.S. ECONOMY can’t truly recover until the housing market revives. Yet recent data indicate that prices, already off an average of 30 percent from their peak in 2006, have still not touched bottom. Lending conditions are tight, and mortgage rates are ticking up again. Nearly a quarter of mortgage borrowers are “underwater,” owing more than their houses are worth. Massive federal assistance – $1 trillion in Federal Reserve mortgage-bond purchases; dramatic expansion of Federal Housing Administration (FHA) loans; an Obama administration push to modify existing home loans – has slowed the collapse but not, apparently, ended it.

What more, if anything, should be done? The latest administration idea is to use the two government-controlled mortgage-finance firms, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, to help underwater borrowers. Under the plan, Fannie and Freddie, which back about half of all U.S. home loans, would identify creditworthy borrowers who are underwater but still current on their payments – and then turn their loans over to the FHA, which would refinance them in return for a write-off of at least 10 percent of the unpaid principal balance. Though the administration notes that this is no panacea, officials argue it could make a significant difference to between 500,000 and 1.5 million borrowers, reducing their debt and their risk of eventual foreclosure. Fannie and Freddie would absorb losses from the principal writedown, but proponents of the plan argue that Fannie and Freddie would be even worse off if foreclosures occur later – and the Treasury, which is covering the two entities’ losses, would be on the hook either way.

The entities and their regulator, the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA), are cool to the idea. In addition to the threat to Fannie and Freddie’s already disastrous bottom lines, an obvious drawback is moral hazard: If government starts paying off some people’s debt principal, what’s to stop others from demanding the same break? Preventing moral hazard, of course, limits any plan’s impact. Previous loan-modification efforts also have attempted to target that elusive cohort of distressed-but-capable borrowers, with disappointing results. Analysts at Credit Suisse recently described the potential benefits of the administration plan as “more symbolic and psychological than fundamental.”

Republicans in Congress have started to push back as well. On Monday, the incoming chairman of the House subcommittee that oversees Fannie and Freddie, Rep. Randy Neugebauer (R-Tex.), published a letter to FHFA noting that “the program targets performing loans” and asking “why it would be in the best interest of the U.S. taxpayer for Fannie and Freddie to write down principal on these types of loans.”

Mr. Neugebauer wants a public report detailing the potential costs of the program. More transparency might be a good idea before Fannie and Freddie proceed. Given the mixed results of past loan-modification schemes, a formal public statement of the potential costs and benefits of the latest one doesn’t seem too much to ask.

%d bloggers like this: