Appraisal Fraud and Facts: Essential to Securitization Scam

The REMICS are mirror images of the NINJA loans — no income, no assets, no job

the borrower did not realize that the false appraisal and other deficiencies in underwriting had shifted the risk of loss to the homeowner and the investors

Editor’s Notes: Our economy and the economic structure in other countries is stuck because of the false appraisal reports that supported funding of at least $13 trillion (U.S. only) of loans that were so complex that the Chairman of the Federal Reserve, Alan Greenspan didn’t understand them nor his staff of more than 100 PhDs. They were intentionally opaque because complexity is the way you get the other side of the “deal” (the buyer) to accept your explanation of the transaction. It also is designed to avoid criminal penalties even when the scheme unravels. Getting a Judge or Jury to understand what really happened is a challenge that has been insurmountable in both civil and criminal cases and investigations.

As stated in the 2005 petition to Congress from 8,000 appraisers who did not want to “play ball” with the banks, the appraisers were faced with a choice: either they submit appraisal reports $20,000 higher than contract and earn more money for each appraisal and earn  more money through volume, OR they won’t work at all.

Developers, mortgage brokers, and the “originators” (sales organization that pretended to be the lender), sellers and homeowners needing cash in an economy where there wages and earnings were not keeping up with the cost of living —- all reacted with glee when this system went into action. As “prices” rose by leaps and bounds — fed by a flood of money and demands for more mortgages — everyone except the banks ended up crashing when the money stopped flowing. That is how we know that it was the money that made prices rise, rather than demand.

So most appraisers were both stuck and pleasantly enjoying incomes 4-10 times what they had previously received, and obediently submitted appraisal reports that were in fact unsupportable by industry standards or any other standards that a reasonable and rational lender would use — if they were lending their own money. By lending money from investors the risk of loss was entirely removed. The originators got paid regardless of whether the mortgage was paid, or went underwater or caused the homeowner to execute a strategic default.

By using the originators as surrogates at the closing, the appraisal report was accepted without the required due diligence and confirmation that would be present if you went to the old style community bank loan department. The fact is that there was NO UNDERWRITING involved as we knew it before the securitization scam. The “extra” interest charged to No DOC loans (usually 3/4%-1.5%) and the premium interest charged on NINJA (No income, no assets, no job) loans was sold to borrowers on the premise that the “lender” was taking a higher risk. But the truth is they didn’t do any due diligence or underwriting of the loans regardless of whether or not the borrower was submitting information that confirmed their income, assets and ability to pay.  Thus the premium for the “extra risk” was based upon a false premise (like all the other premises of the securitization PONZI scheme).

The normal way of judging the price of a loan (the interest rate) was the perceived risk composed of two elements: ability to repay the loan, and the value of the property if the loan is not repaid. The banks that foisted the securitization scam upon the world got rid of both: they did nothing to confirm the ability to repay because they didn’t care if the borrower could repay. And they intentionally hyped the “value” of the property far above any supportable level as is easily shown in the Case Schiller index.

This is where PRICE and VALUE became entirely different concepts. By confusing the homeowner and hoodwinking the investors with false appraisals, they were able to move more money into the PONZI Scheme, as long as investors were buying the bogus mortgage bonds issued by fictitious entities that had no assets, no income and no prospects of either one. The REMICS are a mirror image of NINJA loans.

The value of the property was not the same as the prices supported by the false appraisal reports. The prices were going up because of the sales efforts of the banks to get homeowners giddy over the the numbers, making them feel, for a few moments as though they were more wealthy than they were in reality. But median income was flat or declining, which means that the value was flat or declining.

Thus prices went up while values of the homes were going down not only because of the median income factor but because of the oversold crash that was coming. Thus the PONZI scheme left the homeowner with property that would most likely be valued at less than any value that was known during the time the homeowner owned the property, while the contract price and appraisal report “valued” the property at 2-4 times the actual value.

The outcome was obvious: when all was said and done, the banks would be holding all the money and property while the investors, taxpayers, and homeowners were all dispensable pawns whose losses came under the category of “tough luck.”

While this might seem complex, the proof of appraisal fraud is not nearly as difficult as the explanation of why the banks wanted false appraisals. In the civil actions for wrongful lending or wrongful foreclosure, the homeowner need only show that the lender intentionally deceived the borrower as to the value of the property.

And the lack of actual underwriting committees and confirmations is essentially the proof, but you would be wise to have an appraiser who can testify as an expert as to what standards apply in issuing an appraisal report, to whom the appraisal report is addressed (i.e., the “originator”). Then using the foundation for the standards apply it to the property at hand at the time the original appraisal report was issued. It might also help if you catch the “originator” getting a part of the appraisal fee (like Cornerstone Appraisals, owned by Quicken Loans).

The borrower testifies that they were relying upon the “lender” representation that the loan had been carefully reviewed, underwritten, confirmed and approved based upon market conditions, ability of the borrower to repay and the value of the property. After all it was the “lender” who was taking the risk.

Thus the borrower did not realize that the false appraisal and other deficiencies in underwriting had shifted the risk of loss to the homeowner and the investors whose money was used to fund the loan — albeit not in the way it was presented in the prospectus where the REMIC was the supposed vehicle for the funding of the loans or the purchase of the loans.

Everyone in the securitization PONZI Scheme got paid. When you look at it from the perspective described above then you probably arrive at the same conclusion I did — all that money that was made and paid and not disclosed to the borrower changes the dynamics of the deal and the undisclosed compensation and profits should be paid to the borrower who was the party with the real risk of loss.

And in fact, if you look at the Truth in Lending Act, THAT is exactly what it says — all undisclosed compensation (which is broadly defined by the Act) is refundable with treble damages. Why lawyers have not taken action on this highly lucrative and relatively easy case to prosecute is a mystery to me.

Because of the statute of limitations applied in TILA cases, the TILA cause of action might not survive, especially in today’s climate, although more and more  judges are starting to see just how badly the banks acted. I therefore recommend to attorneys to use alternative pleading and add counts under other federal statutes (RICO, etc) and state statutes of deceptive lending, and common law fraud. The action for common law fraud, is the easiest to prosecute as I see it.

The interesting aspect of this that will lead to early settlement is that the pleading is simple as to the elements of the cause of action and can easily survive a motion to dismiss, the facts are clearly going to be in dispute which makes survival on a motion for summary judgment a much higher probability, and in discovery you have a nuclear option: since your cause of action is for return or sharing of the unlawful booty that was paid, plus treble, punitive or exemplary damages, discovery into all the different parties who made money in the chain is far easier to argue than the usual defensive foreclosure case.

The other thing you have is the possibility of stating a cause of action to force the retention of the property, to protect the homeowner in the collection of damages rendered by the final verdict. A lis pendens might be appropriate, and the bond need not be much more than nominal because unless the bank or servicer has a BFP to buy the property, you can easily show that your client is already posting bond every month they pay the utilities and maintain the property.

The compensatory damages would be a measure of the difference between the actual value of the deal and the deal that was offered to the homeowner. In simple terms, it could be that the appraisal report was $250,000 higher than the actual value of the property. As a result, the damages include the $250,000 plus the interest paid on that $250,000 and where appropriate, the loss of the house in foreclosure, plus interest from the date of the fraud (i.e. the closing), attorney fees, and costs of the action.

This action might also have special applications in commercial property cases where the appraisals are known to have come in much higher than the owner or buyer had ever expected. In some cases the “appraisal” actually changed the terms of the contract on the assumption that the property was worth much more than the original offer.

%d bloggers like this: