They Just Don’t Get It: Meltdown Primer

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Editor’s Analysis: Reynaldo Reyes, the asset manager for Deutsch that pretends to be a trustee of non existent unfunded trusts said it best: “it’s all very counter-intuitive.” In reality he was giving a clue. It isn’t that we haven’t yet unravelled the tangled web of deceit and exotic financial instruments and absurd risk taking. It all boils down to one thing: it doesn’t make sense, it was illegal from the start and it will never make sense. The reason it is counter intuitive is that there is no explanation except lying, cheating, stealing and cover-ups.

Whether you start from the top down, the bottom up or even start in the middle and spread out to the top and bottom, there is no connection between the money trail, the promises and representations made, and the document trail which proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that theft, breach of fiduciary duty, breach of contract, fraud, theft and cover-up were at the heart of what Wall Street called a securitization plan but which in practice was not securitization of credit but rather a PONZI s scheme completely dependent upon more investors buying bogus mortgage bonds. The crash didn’t happen because of mortgage de faults. It happened because investors stopped buying the bogus mortgage bonds. That is the red flag on all Ponzi Schemes. When people stop buying and start demanding their money back, the scheme collapses.

Under normal circumstances, the perpetrators — Madoff, Dreier, Stanford et al — go to jail, a receiver is appointed and the receiver does the best job possible of clawing back all the illicit gains, profits and accounts of the perpetrators. That is what should happen with he mortgage mess but that would mean admitting that the judicial system let millions of foreclosures go through the system because of bad lawyering, bad representation by pro se litigants and bad practices by the bench which failed to see the correct chain of title and then failed to inquire why not. —-

YES that IS the way it was. When I represented banks and HOA foreclosing on their liens, if I didn’t have my paperwork in order, the Judge sent me back to do it right — even if the other side didn’t show up. Why? Because the Judge understood that bad paperwork means bad title and that dozens of others could be effectively defrauded by allowing a bad foreclosure to proceed to sale, allowing an unproven creditor to submit a credit bid, and allowing a homeowner who legally still owned the home after the foreclosure to be evicted.

Back in those days certain presumptions applied — legal or informal — that the debt was real, the note was valid, and the mortgage was perfected. it was further correctly assumed that the borrower was in default.

The problem is that the old presumptions and assumptions remain while the facts are wildly different than the old-style foreclosures. Instead of the Judge being able to peruse the documents behind the mortgage, he must either accept the proffer of the facts from the lawyers for the foreclosing entity or have an evidentiary hearing, which he certainly doesn’t want on his calendar because all his other cases would pile up in a bottle neck. Thus lying in court became an acceptable substitute for having the right verifiable paperwork.

People ask me — how do I prove this? Lawyers ask me the same question. My answer is spend the daily rate for Lexus-nexus and get cases on point in your jurisdiction. They will say that where the facts and documents are uniquely within the knowledge and custody of the the defendant, the appropriate remedy is discovery and that the respondent to discovery has a higher duty to provide clear, concise and  extensive answers. In short, the burden of persuasion changes to the the foreclosing party — whether you are in a judicial or non-judicial venue.

Any other approach would have the Judge making findings in the absence of real evidence and actual facts, which is exactly the problem in the current judicial climate, although the tide is definitely turning in many states.

A quick look at the reality of the Ponzi scheme reveals the true nature of the illegality that the regulators and law enforcement faced, understaffed and underfunded against a well staffed and over-funded banking sector.

Let’s start in this article from the top. There the investment banking firm forms what appears to be a REMIC trust and they create a selling entity to put some distance between the investment banking firm and the actual sale. The sale takes place, to wit: the investors gives the investment banking money and the investor gets either a certificate (rarely) or some acknowledgment ina statement that the investor is now the proud owner of an interest in a REMIC trust governed by the REMIC provisions of the internal Revenue Code, which allows the REMIC trust to be a tax-exempt entity meaning the flow of funds from investments by the REMIC will only be taxed once even though it is coming through another entity. If that were true, there would be no problem. The problem is that it is not true and for the most never was true and never was the intent of the banks.

So to recap thus far, the money went from the bank account of the investors to the bank account of the investment bank or to an entity wholly controlled by the investment bank. Where it did NOT go was into a trust account wherein the Trustee for the REMIC pool would collect and disburse all funds, receipts and disbursements as set forth in the investor prospectus and pooling and service agreement.

If you look at the Taylor Bean and Whitaker setup, you’ll see, as Dan Edstrom has pointed out, that the money was instead put into a vast commingled account which they called a custodial account, but they never state for whom they are the custodian. And that is because they were skimming the money in a tier 2 yield spread premium and other “proprietary trading” also known as three pocket Monty — you take the money out of one pocket to transfer it to another pocket but on the way a few dollars drops into a secret third pocket. This vast Superfund was used as a TBW piggy bank as well as the source of funding for mortgages.

Without getting into the farce of “proprietary trading” being the cover for outright theft of investors money, let’s look at what happened next with the money.

People with the right connections were told to create mortgage origination companies. These companies would act as the payee on the note and the secured party on the mortgage or deed of trust, but they would never ever be allowed to touch the actual funding of the mortgage nor would they have the right to make a loan that would fall under the provisions of the assignment and assumption agreement signed with the aggregator (Countrywide, for example). SO XYZ company is created and they have a bank account and all that but the funding of the mortgage never touches the bank account of XYZ or any person associated with XYZ. The simple reason is that Wall Street being composed largely of thieves, understood that when the balances became high enough in the originators accounts, many if them would abscond with the money. So the wire transfer was made directly from the Superfund account (euphemistically referred to as a warehouse credit facility set up solely at the discretion of the aggregation (e.g. Countrywide.).

It was the coincidence of timing that convinced the closing agent and the borrower that the money had come from the “lender” identified on the disclosure paperwork and in the note and mortgage, when in fact, the originator was a mere nominee working for a fee. The originator could not under generally accepted accounting rules, book the transaction as a loan receivable because there was no offsetting entry debiting a cash account or other account over which the originator had control. The originator had control over nothing — the underwriting, funding, approval of the loan was left to the undisclosed aggregator using a computer system designed explicitly for this purpose. Without approval from Countrywide, the originator was not permitted to communicate approval of the loan.

The real lender were the investors whose money had been diverted from the REMIC trust into the Superfund. This created a common law partnership instead of a REMIC trust. This partnership with no name was the lender but the banks made sure that the true lender in an obviously illegal table-funded transaction was never disclosed. As far as the closing agent and borrower were concerned the coincidence of having the money there at the same time as the closing with the originator was proof of enough about what was going on. After all, who would send money for a mortgage transaction unless they thought they were getting a valid enforceable note and a mortgage or deed of trust securing the provisions of that note, which was valid evidence of the debt.

Unfortunately for the investors, the banks had other ideas than using the money the way they promised in the prospectus and pooling and servicing agreement, and they had other plans than protecting the investors enforceable rights under a valid promissory note, and they had a different idea about securing a note payable to the investors with the investors having a perfected mortgage lien against the property.

Bottom Line: The wire transfer receipt shows a loan emanating from the Superfund and that the money from the Superfund was advanced by the investors, but other than the wire transfer receipts there was not a shred of documentary evidence showing that the investors were going to be repaid under the terms of the mortgage-backed bonds in the REMIC because the mortgage bonds never made into the REMIC and their money never  made it into the largely or completely unfunded REMIC trust.

On the contrary, the documents produced by the originator under direction of the aggregator who was functioning under the thumb of the investment banks, all tell a wildly different story. According to the documents, the originator made the loan and assigned or sold it to the aggregator who sold it to the REMIC, which presumably protected the investors in a round about way even if it was a lie. The main problem with the bank’s version of the story is that XYZ never got paid for the loan or mortgage in a transfer or assignment transaction. And the aggregator never got paid by the REMIC trust for the loans either. The lack of consideration is not merely a technicality but rather part of a larger plot to steal from investors and homeowners.

The trust reposed in the banks by investors and homeowners alike basically was like putting red meat in front of a lion. The reason for the subterfuge was that the banks wanted to and did in fact get away with borrowing the loss of the investors by pretending to be the owner of the loans for a temporary period of time. By doing that they had what appeared to be ownership, proof of loss, albeit without any proof of payment. Now the insurers and credit default swap parties are hip to this trick and suing the investment banks.

The net result is that the actual financial transaction is largely undocumented, unsecured, and unenforceable in terms of method of repayment. The debt to investors (not the REMIC trusts) exists — less the insurance, CDS and bailouts received by the agents of the investors — but it is not documented. Conversely, the documented transaction lacks consideration of any kind, thus describing a financial transaction that never actually occurred. Any assignment therefore was pure lies and hype, since the reference was to originating documents that were procured by misrepresentation or fraud, without consideration, and obviously no perfected lien, which is not subject to nullification of instrument.

The banks and regulators and law enforcement don’t like my explanation because it would require them to do their work, and the people in charge of the banks to go to jail, costing a could of hundred millioin dollars to prove the case against the right people. Whether they like it or not, the regulators and law enforcement needs to do their job or face recriminations from the public once the true nature of this scheme is fully revealed. And make no mistake about it. I am not the only one who knows. The truth is coming out and that is why Judges are turning.

FHA Loan Sales Good News and Bad News

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Editor’s Comment:

With the Federal reserve and FHA and soon other agencies selling off their loans it is true that the homeowners will be getting calls inviting them to accept new mortgages at much lower rates and principal owed. But the reason is that the Banks have figured out is that if you can just get a signature from the homeowner who is getting screwed in foreclosure, the Bank’s potential liability for all their illegal activities is greatly diminished.

 

And the fact that the signature of the homeowner does absolutely nothing to clear up title in most cases. The payoff on the old loan was inevitably to a party picked at random from the list of participants in the securitization chains that were created on paper and then totally ignored. When the homeowner gouges to sell or refi his home in a few years, we will have another crisis on our hands because the title won’t be clear by any conventional standards of title analysis.

 

So this “opportunity” is much like the settlements that suddenly appear when the Master Servicer (not the sub-servicer with whom the borrower has transacted business) is ordered to open up its books. The fact is that they used Master Servicer or investment banking escrow accounts where the money from all investors was intermingled in a superFund account where the Wall Street banks kept the money on a tight leash and once again, as they do every 20-30 years or so, totally screw up the paperwork. The difference is that this time the paperwork was screwed up not only between themselves but with the consumers and government agencies.

 

This time, internal sources are telling me independently of one another, that the securitization chain was and is a paper tiger.  There never was  and is not currently anyting in the pools or trusts. In fact, the only thing on paper going into the trusts are bad loans already declared in default and they are going in years after the cutoff date allowed by law and the terms of the pooling and servicing agreement and prospectus. Pension funds are getting a shorter end of the stick than the homeowners, if that is possible. They bought and advanced funds for good loans and all they are getting in return are bad loans that never did conform to the restrictions in the PSA.

 

It isn’t just a technical matter that there was no acceptance of the offer of the assignment. That is a given. who would want a loan that was already declared in default unless they had some other way of satisfying the loan balance in some other way through a co-obligor — like a sub-servicer whose sole action to recover from the homeowner is through a cause of action called “contribution.” That obligation is clearly NOT secured. That action arises out of a contract between the lender and the sub-servicer. There is no contract, note or mortgage between the sub-servicer and the borrower.

 

The question remains in these sales is “what are they really selling.” What is it that the agency “acquired?” What warranties are they giving on the sale of the loans? From whom did they acquire the loans and what due diligence was performed besides taking the bank’s word for it that they owned the loan? Here is the truth: with the REMICs totally disregarded by CDO managers and all the money being in a co-mingled Superfund account it is virtually impossible to determine the indentity of the the “partners” in the loan from the SuperFund because it is impossible to determine the relative amounts of money advanced by pension funds and other investors at the moment the funding took place. What we DO know is that the the loans were sold forward but the loans that were sold forward were based upon paperwork that recited transactions that didn’t exist and never did and never would (thus making the forward sale a civil or criminal fraud). We do know that the claims of ownership from the banks and servicers were at best claims of conveience without substance. So what did the agencies buy and why did they not do their due diligence? Why are we doing the investigation that the FHA and Federal Reserve shold be doing? Why is the burden on the homeowner to discover facts that are readily available to the agencies and law enforcement? When will homeowners stop getting screwed?

 

If none of the elements of a perfected mortgage lien are present, why are we pretending they are there? If removing the illegal mortgage lien and leaving the parties to fight it out or settle the amounts due would revive the economy, why are we not doing that?

 

Why are we substituting new rules of evidence and civil procedure that are created by each judge for the long-standing laws, rules and procedures developed over hundreds of years of common law? How long will we let banks run the system?


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Bankers Using Foreclosure Judges to Force Investors into Bad Deals

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“Foreclosure judges don’t realize that they are entering orders and judgments on cases that are not in front of them or in which they have any jurisdiction. Foreclosure Judges are forcing bad loans down the throat of investors when the investor signed an agreement (PSA and prospectus) excluding that from happening. The problem is that most lawyers and pro se litigants don’t know enough to make that argument. The investor bought exclusively “good” loans. Foreclosure judges are shoving bad loans down their throats without notice or an opportunity to be heard. This is a classic case of necessary and indispensable parties being ignored.”

— Neil F Garfield, www.livinglies.me

Editor’s Comment:  About three times per week, something occurs to me about what is going on here and then I figure it out or get the information from someone else. The layers of the onion are endless. But this one is a showstopper. When I started blogging in October 2007 I thought the issue of necessary and indispensable parties John Does 1-1000 and Jane Roes 1-100 were important enough that it would slow if not stop foreclosures. The Does are the pension funds and other investors who thought that they were buying mortgage bonds and the Roes were the dozens of intermediaries in the securitization chain.

Of course we know that the Does never got their bond in most cases, and even if they did they received it issued from a “REMIC” vehicle that wasn’t a REMIC and which did not have any money or bonds before, during or after the transaction. Instead of following the requirements of the Prospectus and Pooling and Servicing Agreement, the investment banker ignored the securitization documents (i.e., the agreement that induced the investor to advance the funds on a forward sale — i.e., sale of something the investment bank didn’t have yet). The money went from the investor into a Superfund escrow account. It is unclear as to whether the gigantic fees were taken out before or after the money went into the Superfund (my guess is that it was before). But one thing is clear — the partnership with other investors far larger than anything disclosed to the investors because the escrow account was from all investors and not for investors in each REMIC, which existed only in the imagination of the CDO manager at the investment bank that cooked this up.

We now know that in all but a scant few cases, the loan was (1) not documented properly in that it identified not the REMIC or the investor as the lender and creditor, but rather a naked straw-man that was a thinly capitalized or bankruptcy remote relationship and (2) the loan that was described in the documentation that the homeowner signed never occurred. The third thing, and the one I wish to elaborate on today, is that even if the note and mortgage were valid (i.e., referred to any actual transaction in which money exchanged hands between the parties to the agreements and documents that borrower signed) they never made it into the “pools” a/k/a REMICs, a/k/a Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV), a/k/a/ Trust (of which there were none according to my research).

The fact that the loan never made it into the pool is what caused all the robo-signing, fabrication of documents, fraudulent documents, forgeries, misrepresentations and corruption of both the title system and the court system. Because if the loan never made it into the pool, the investment banker and all the intermediaries that were used were depending upon a transaction that never took place at the level of the investor, to wit: the loan was not in the pool, the originator didn’t lend the money and therefore was not the lender, and the “mortgage” or “Deed of trust” was useless because it was the tail of a tiger that did not exist — an enforceable note. This left the pools empty and the loan from the Superfund of thousands of investors who thought they were in separate REMICS (b) subject to nothing more than a huge general partnership agreement.

But that left the note and mortgage unenforceable because it should have (a) disclosed the lender and (b) disclosed the terms of the loan known to the lender and the terms of the loan known to the borrower. They didn’t match. The answer was that those loans HAD to be in those pools and Judges HAD to be convinced that this was the case, so we ended up with all those assignments, allonges, endorsements, forgeries, improper notarizations etc. Most Judges were astute enough to understand that the documents were fabricated. But they felt that since the loan was valid, the note was real, the mortgage was enforceable, the issues of where the loan was amounted to internal bookkeeping and they were not about to deliver to borrowers a “free house.”  In a nutshell, most Judges feel that they are not going to let the borrower off scott free just because a document was created or executed improperly.

What Judges did not realize is that they were adjudicating the rights of persons who were not in the room, not in the building, and in fact did not even know the city in which these proceedings were being prosecuted much less the fact that the proceedings even existed. The entry of an order presuming or stating that the loan was in fact in the pool was the Judge’s stamp of approval on a major breach of the Prospectus and pooling and servicing agreement. It forced bad loans down the throat of the investors when their agreement with the investment banker was quite the contrary. In the agreements the cut-off was 90 days after closing and required a fully performing mortgage that was originated utilizing industry standards for due diligence and underwriting. None of those things happened. And each time a Judge enters an order in favor of for example U.S. Bank, as trustee for JP Morgan Chase Bank Trust 1234, the Judge is adjudicating the essential deal between the investor and the investment banker, forcing the investor to accept bad loans at the wrong time.

Forcing the investors to accept bad loans into their pools, probably to the exclusion of the good loans, created a pot of s–t instead of a pot of gold. It isn’t that the investor was not owed money from the investment banker and that the money from the investment banker was supposed to come from borrowers. It is that the pool of actual money sidestepped the REMIC document structure and created a huge general partnership, the governance of which is unknown.

By sidestepping the securitization document structure and the agreements, terms, conditions and provisions therein, the investment banker was able, for his own purposes, to claim ownership of the loans for as long as it took to buy insurance making the investment banker the insured and payee. But the fact is that the investment banker was at all times in an agent/fiduciary relationship with the investor and ALL the proceeds of ALL insurance, Credit Default Swaps, guarantees, and credit enhancements were required to be applied FIRST to the obligation to the investor. In turn the investor, as the real creditor, would have reduced the amount due from the borrower on each residential loan. This means that the accounting from the Master Servicer is essential to knowing the actual amount due, if any, under the original transaction between the borrower and the investors.

Maybe “management” would now be construed as a committee of “trustees” for the REMICs each of whom was given the right to manage at the beginning of the PSA and prospectus and then saw it taken away as one reads further and further into the securitization documents. But regardless of who or what controls the management of the pool or general partnership (majority of partners is my guess) they must be disclosed and they must be represented in each and every foreclosure and Trustees on deeds of trust are creating huge liability for themselves by accepting assignments of bad loans after the cut-off date as evidence of ownership fo the loan. The REMIC lacked the authority to accept the bad loan and it lacked the authority to accept a loan that was assigned after the cutoff date.

Based upon the above, if this isn’t a case where necessary and indispensable parties is the key issue, I do not know of one — and I won the book award in procedure when I was in law school besides practicing trial law for over 30 years.

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Now They See the Light — 40% of Homes Underwater

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Editor’s Comment:

They were using figures like 12% or 18% but I kept saying that when you take all the figures together and just add them up, the number is much higher than that. So as it turns out, it is even higher than I thought because they are still not taking into consideration ALL the factors and expenses involved in selling a home, not the least of which is the vast discount one must endure from the intentionally inflated appraisals.

With this number of people whose homes are worth far less than the loans that were underwritten and supposedly approved using industry standards by “lenders” who weren’t lenders but who the FCPB now says will be treated as lenders, the biggest problem facing the marketplace is how are we going to keep these people in their homes — not how do we do a short-sale. And the seconcd biggest problem, which dovetails with Brown’s push for legislation to break up the large banks, is how can we permit these banks to maintain figures on the balance sheet that shows assets based upon completely unrealistic figures on homes where they do not even own the loan?

Or to put it another way. How crazy is this going to get before someone hits the reset the button and says OK from now on we are going to deal with truth, justice and the American way?

With no demographic challenges driving up prices or demand for new housing, and with no demand from homeowners seeking refinancing, why were there so many loans? The answer is easy if you look at the facts. Wall Street had come up with a way to get trillions of dollars in investment capital from the biggest managed funds in the world — the mortgage bond and all the derivatives and exotic baggage that went with it. 

So they put the money in Superfund accounts and funded loans taking care of that pesky paperwork later. They funded loans and approved loans from non-existent borrowers who had not even applied yet. As soon as the application was filled out, the wire transfer to the closing agent occurred (ever wonder why they were so reluctant to change closing agents for the convenience of the parties?).

The instructions were clear — get the signature on some paperwork even if it is faked, fraudulent, forged and completely outside industry standards but make it look right. I have this information from insiders who were directly involved in the structuring and handling of the money and the false securitization chain that was used to cover up illegal lending and the huge fees that were taken out of the superfund before any lending took place. THAT explains how these banks are bigger than ever while the world’s economies are shrinking.

The money came straight down from the investor pool that included ALL the investors over a period of time that were later broker up into groups and the  issued digital or paper certificates of mortgage bonds. So the money came from a trust-type account for the investors, making the investors the actual lenders and the investors collectively part of a huge partnership dwarfing the size of any “trust” or “REMIC”. At one point there was over $2 trillion in unallocated funds looking for a loan to be attached to the money. They couldn’t do it legally or practically.

The only way this could be accomplished is if the borrowers thought the deal was so cheap that they were giving the money away and that the value of their home had so increased in value that it was safe to use some of the equity for investment purposes of other expenses. So they invented more than 400 loans products successfully misrepresenting and obscuring the fact that the resets on loans went to monthly payments that exceeded the gross income of the household based upon a loan that was funded based upon a false and inflated appraisal that could not and did not sustain itself even for a period of weeks in many cases. The banks were supposedly too big to fail. The loans were realistically too big to succeed.

Now Wall Street is threatening to foreclose on anyone who walks from this deal. I say that anyone who doesn’t walk from that deal is putting their future at risk. So the big shadow inventory that will keep prices below home values and drive them still further into the abyss is from those private owners who will either walk away, do a short-sale or fight it out with the pretender lenders. When these people realize that there are ways to reacquire their property in foreclosure with cash bids that are valid while the credit bid of the pretender lender is invlaid, they will have achieved the only logical answer to the nation’s problems — principal correction and the benefit of the bargain they were promised, with the banks — not the taxpayers — taking the loss.

The easiest way to move these tremendous sums of money was to make it look like it was cheap and at the same time make certain that they had an arguable claim to enforce the debt when the fake payments turned into real payments. SO they created false and frauduelnt paperwork at closing stating that the payee on teh note was the lender and that the secured party was somehow invovled in the transaction when there was no transaction with the payee at all and the security instrumente was securing the faithful performance of a false document — the note. Meanwhile the investor lenders were left without any documentation with the borrowers leaving them with only common law claims that were unsecured. That is when the robosigning and forgery and fraudulent declarations with false attestations from notaries came into play. They had to make it look like there was a real deal, knowing that if everything “looked” in order most judges would let it pass and it worked.

Now we have (courtesy of the cloak of MERS and robosigning, forgery etc.) a completely corrupted and suspect chain of title on over 20 million homes half of which are underwater — meaning that unless the owner expects the market to rise substantially within a reasonable period of time, they will walk. And we all know how much effort the banks and realtors are putting into telling us that the market has bottomed out and is now headed up. It’s a lie. It’s a damned living lie.

One in Three Mortgage Holders Still Underwater

By John W. Schoen, Senior Producer

Got that sinking feeling? Amid signs that the U.S. housing market is finally rising from a long slumber, real estate Web site Zillow reports that homeowners are still under water.

Nearly 16 million homeowners owed more on their mortgages than their home was worth in the first quarter, or nearly one-third of U.S. homeowners with mortgages. That’s a $1.2 trillion hole in the collective home equity of American households.

Despite the temptation to just walk away and mail back the keys, nine of 10 underwater borrowers are making their mortgage and home loan payments on time. Only 10 percent are more than 90 days delinquent.

Still, “negative equity” will continue to weigh on the housing market – and the broader economy – because it sidelines so many potential home buyers. It also puts millions of owners at greater risk of losing their home if the economic recovery stalls, according to Zillow’s chief economist, Stan Humphries.

“If economic growth slows and unemployment rises, more homeowners will be unable to make timely mortgage payments, increasing delinquency rates and eventually foreclosures,” he said.

For now, the recent bottoming out in home prices seems to be stabilizing the impact of negative equity; the number of underwater homeowners held steady from the fourth quarter of last year and fell slightly from a year ago.

Real estate market conditions vary widely across the country, as does the depth of trouble homeowners find themselves in. Nearly 40 percent of homeowners with a mortgage owe between 1 and 20 percent more than their home is worth. But 15 percent – approximately 2.4 million – owe more than double their home’s market value.

Nevada homeowners have been hardest hit, where two-thirds of all homeowners with a mortgage are underwater. Arizona, with 52 percent, Georgia (46.8 percent), Florida (46.3 percent) and Michigan (41.7 percent) also have high percentages of homeowners with negative equity.

Turnabout is Fair Play:

The Depressing Rise of People Robbing Banks to Pay the Bills

Despite inflation decreasing their value, bank robberies are on the rise in the United States. According to the FBI, in the third quarter of 2010, banks reported 1,325 bank robberies, burglaries, or other larcenies, an increase of more than 200 crimes from the same quarter in 2009. America isn’t the easiest place to succeed financially these days, a predicament that’s finding more and more people doing desperate things to obtain money. Robbing banks is nothing new, of course; it’s been a popular crime for anyone looking to get quick cash practically since America began. But the face and nature of robbers is changing. These days, the once glamorous sheen of bank robberies is wearing away, exposing a far sadder and ugly reality: Today’s bank robbers are just trying to keep their heads above water.

Bonnie and Clyde, Pretty Boy Floyd, Baby Face Nelson—time was that bank robbers had cool names and widespread celebrity. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Jesse James, and John Dillinger were even the subjects of big, fawning Hollywood films glorifying their thievery. But times have changed.

In Mississippi this week, a man walked into a bank and handed a teller a note demanding money, according to broadcast news reporter Brittany Weiss. The man got away with a paltry $1,600 before proceeding to run errands around town to pay his bills and write checks to people to whom he owed money. He was hanging out with his mom when police finally found him. Three weeks before the Mississippi fiasco, a woman named Gwendolyn Cunningham robbed a bank in Fresno and fled in her car. Minutes later, police spotted Cunningham’s car in front of downtown Fresno’s Pacific Gas and Electric Building. Inside, she was trying to pay her gas bill.

The list goes on: In October 2011, a Phoenix-area man stole $2,300 to pay bills and make his alimony payments. In early 2010, an elderly man on Social Security started robbing banks in an effort to avoid foreclosure on the house he and his wife had lived in for two decades. In January 2011, a 46-year-old Ohio woman robbed a bank to pay past-due bills. And in February of this year, a  Pennsylvania woman with no teeth confessed to robbing a bank to pay for dentures. “I’m very sorry for what I did and I know God is going to punish me for it,” she said at her arraignment. Yet perhaps none of this compares to the man who, in June 2011, robbed a bank of $1 just so he could be taken to prison and get medical care he couldn’t afford.

None of this is to say that a life of crime is admirable or courageous, and though there is no way to accurately quantify it, there are probably still many bank robbers who steal just because they like the thrill of money for nothing. But there’s quite a dichotomy between the bank robbers of early America, with their romantic escapades and exciting lifestyles, and the people following in their footsteps today: broke citizens with no jobs, no savings, no teeth, and few options.

The stealing rebel types we all came to love after reading the Robin Hood story are gone. Today the robbers are just trying to pay their gas bills. There will be no movies for them.

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